Thursday, September 30, 2010

Garden Salad and Amaranth

There are few things as rewarding as making a salad for dinner directly from your garden! I love to take a walk through the garden before dinner, collecting things for the salad. It's relaxing as well as productive.

In the spring and early summer we are eating our own lettuce and spinach. These days I start the salad with iceberg lettuce. I know it's not as healthy as the darker green lettuces, but it's hubby's favourite, so I use it.

In addition to the lettuce I added a few nasturtium leaves from the garden. Nasturtiums are a bit peppery so be careful how much you use! The flowers are edible and make a beautiful garnish.

One of the things we grow that is great in a salad, is amaranth. Last year I grew "Intense Purple" amaranth in the flower garden but it gets big and the leaves got a bit big and tough for salad by the end of August. The smaller, newer leaves are more tender. This year I grew "Vietnamese Red" amaranth, as it is smaller but has the same intensity of colour.

Pictured here are both types.

Amaranth seed is used around the world as a grain source and I have read that the
roots are an excellent vegetable. In China the immature leaves and stems are used in stir fry and are a good addition to salad eaten raw.

Amaranth was used by the Hopi Indians as a source of deep red dye. Looking at my hands after collecting the seed today, I can see that it would make a good dye. I immediately thought of organic soap colour. Hmmmmm. I will have to give that a try!

I collected a large amount of amaranth seed today, for selling on the farm store.

Another usual addition to my salad is the malva moschata leaf. It's a mild edible leaf that is high in vitamin A. I often use it in salad with the violet leaves. Violet leaves are very high in vitamin C.

Chive flowers add a nice purple colour to salad. I don't have any growing right now but I did cut a few chive leaves to add. I like their mild onion flavour and some of mine are garlic chives. My chive seeds from this year are a cross pollinated mix of the two.

I don't think any salad is complete without raw peas. We grew these earlier in the spring and froze them without blanching, so they would be crisp in salads. I drop a hand full in a cup of very hot tap water and let them sit while I finish the salad. At that time they are perfectly thawed!

I added a tomato fresh from the garden, of course. We have a lot of tomatoes right now! This one is a paste tomato which is not as sweet, but meatier. I used it because it is what I had on hand.

I also added a small green bell pepper directly from our garden.

How can we have a healthy salad without broccoli? Raw broccoli or cauliflower are both excellent in salad and, being brassicas, are high in anti-oxidants. We did not grow either one this year, so have to use the ones from the frozen bag bought at the grocery store. It's still broccoli, even if we didn't grow it ourselves.

Don't forget to add the ground cherries! They are absolute delicious in salad!

Shelled sunflower seeds are good in salad too. I keep some on hand to add to things like salad and oatmeal. Impatiens gladuliera seeds are good for this, as well and taste like walnuts.

Last but not least is the cheese. I love parmesan and eat it on everything, including salad. I also add little pieces of cheddar or feta, if I have it.

We like ranch dressing, or sometimes zesty Italian or Caesar. I like to keep zesty Italian on hand for cooking too.

I have considered making a "salad garden" near the kitchen where I keep all my salad ingredients. I have not made this move yet, but might soon. It's a time thing. I HAVE NONE!!

Do you grow all of your salad ingredients? Don't you just love collecting fresh things that you grow yourself and eating them raw? What could be healthier than that?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homemade Tatertots

I got this recipe from Suzanne's recipe website: "Farm Bell Recipes".

Hubby made them today and they were delicious!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Pie, Juice and Jam Garden Collection

I have backlinked to my previous posts about the berries discussed here and to other sites with information.

Last fall I started a garden mainly for pie and wine berries and fruits. Knowing that most berry bushes take about three years before they start to produce, I looked around for something faster. I found the chichiquelites (garden huckleberries) and ground cherries (cape gooseberries). These are quick growing annuals, going from seed to berry in one season. These were great this year and we had a bumper crop. I have these seeds for sale on our new farm site, if anyone is interested.

This summer I began collecting other types of fruits and berries for later production.

Also fast producers are strawberries and rhubarb. Both are "next year" producers. We like plain rhubarb pie, but strawberry rhubarb is good too. Strawberry freezer jam is fabulous!

If you plant some strawberry babies now you'll get a few berries in the spring. You will also get all the plants you could possibly want in the form of runners by fall for producing berries the following year! They reproduce at an astounding rate! If you want the large berries like the ones you buy, plant June bearing. The everbearing ones are here and there and smaller.

I planted three 20' rows of strawberry babies this past spring. I had the plants, so I put them all in. Some I got in a trade and the rest I got from cleaning out my MIL's garden. I'm overwhelmed at the invasively growing strawberry bed now! It's taking over the entire garden and the runners are so thick, I'm going to have to clean them out next week! I'm turning them back as they try to grow out into the field and lawn. I don't know how we are going to pick berries in that next year!

If you plant some rhubarb now, you'll get some big enough for small cuttings next year. I got several pies from just two large plants this year, so I planted an entire 20' row of rhubarb roots in July. It's growing well and I might get a small cutting from them before the frost takes it all. It's a lot of rhubarb, I know, but I had the roots from cleaning out my MIL's, so I planted them. I can always sell the extra stalks and give some to the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen in town.

I think, sometimes, I tend to overwhelm the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen with produce. I don't know what they did with the boxes of zucchini I gave them this year. I think I'll plant less next year, but I always say that...

This is the row of rhubarb that I planted this summer. It's planted right against the green onions at the other end and the basil at this end, since both of those will be gone next year. It goes all the way down behind the onions.

One of the most interesting berries I planted this year is the 'Haskap' honeyberry "Borealis'. They were recently developed by the Univ of Saskatchewan. Here is information about them. My Haskap berry bush baby was a gift from Mike and Joyce, followers and friends who lives sort of nearby. They came for a visit one day and brought it with them. (Thank you Mike and Joyce!) I only have the one of that variety so it gets special attention!

You need two different varieties of Haskap honeyberries to get the large berries which are very similar to blueberries, or so I have read. I have since received some honeyberry seeds for 'Borealis' and 'Bluebell' varieties in a trade from a freind, Evelyn in Alberta (who also sent the Saskatoon berry bush mentioned below. Thank you Evelyn!). I have the honeyberry seeds sprouted and growing in the kitchen. The seedlings are tiny now and I think I will keep them indoors under lights for the winter this year. I don't know if that's a good idea or not. Perhaps I will plant a few of them in the garden and keep a few indoors, just to be safe.
I realize that they are hybrids and probably won't all breed true to the parents. It's ok. I like experimental gardening!

I also received three salal bushes a short time ago from Michelle in BC at "My Green Thumb" (Thank you Michelle!) who also sent me some delicious salal jelly she made and loganberry seeds, which are now planted indoors but not up yet. I may need to winter sow those. The salal jelly tastes surprisingly like grape, with lots of flavour!

The salal bushes arrived green and in good shape, all the way from the west coast! They died back some after planting but are still green at the base, so hopefully they will come back next spring and grow. They came in the mail all the way from BC, so they can't be blamed for dying back a bit, poor things!

Another unusual bush I received, from Eveylyn (above), is a Saskatoon bush (also called serviceberry) which is doing very well and has grown some throughout the summer. It is even spreading! These berries have all the antioxidant properties of blueberries. Here's the info about them. Scroll down to the "Nutrient and Potential Health Benefits" section. I only have the one bush, so I'm paying close attention to it, too and it's spreading!!
Another berry with good health benefits is the goji berry! Goji berry bushes are slow growers at first but are suppose to do well in drought conditions. With the berry garden in my thoughts, I planted some goji berry seeds awhile back.

I don't use goji berries to make pies but they are a good addition to the berry garden, anyway. I will have some of this seed for sale on my site shortly. My goji berry bushes are fairly small due to a poor start. In addition to being slow starters, mine were left in the tiny pots most of the summer that year, not having started the berry bed yet, and were transplanted a few times, walked on and generally neglected. They'll get a chicken manure boost this fall and will, hopefully, get much bigger next year!
Two years ago I planted three little red raspberry runners that were very big this year. We had a lot of raspberries and I made some raspberry jam that went over well. I got another runner in a trade this year and added it to the ones I have. I am also getting some runners now from my big ones that I will dig out and transplant. I am working on making a 20' row of raspberries too. My garden is 20' long. See my previous post on "Our Raspberries" for recipes.

I did some trading with friends and acquired a couple of gooseberry bushes and one giant gooseberry bush. (Real gooseberries, the green kind, not "cape gooseberries", which is another name for ground cherries). This is not a picture of my gooseberries. I haven't gotten any berries from mine yet, but this is what they look like when I do get them.

This is the giant gooseberry bush. It is drowning in ground cherries, poor thing! I`ve had to fight them off and protect it all summer! We are all drowning in ground cherries!
I found four more gooseberry bushes growing wild on the property and moved them to the berry garden to live with their relatives. I want a large amount of gooseberries next year!

This is an old farm where we live, so I could find just about anything growing here! I'd love to find a buried leather bag full of old coins! Maybe I should get a metal detector! ...Maybe not. I'd get tired of digging up machinery parts. I know the previous owners planted machinery parts all over the place and I just don't understand why. Were they hoping to grow a good crop of tractors? I have large barrel garbage cans near the gardens that are just full of small, odd bits of macinery.
Along with these wild gooseberry bushes, I also found a lot of wild blackberry bushes in that back corner while fencing. These are the first ones I've seen here. I know they are blackberries because they had very large and delicious fruit on them in late August, when I discovered them. I am going to make a row of blackberries in the pie and wine garden too! They fruit later than most other berries, in late August, so this will be a good thing.

On a side note...I have come to hate fencing! It has consumed my entire summer, so I am glad to say that some good did come from it. I found some blackberries! It's not over either! I've still more to do. Buck got out again today. I swear that dog is worse than a goat!! He is too big and heavy to jump high and he doesn't seem to climb, but he digs with huge, flat feet that make great shovels! He can find a way out in the most strongly fenced area. I have seen him systematically checking the fence for a way out. Any tiny little weakness in the fence is taken advantage of. I am starting to think that there is no such thing as Buck proof fencing! He also digs big holes all over the place, but we are, so far, ok with that. We've have stoicallly accepted it as part of his charm. He falls into them a lot more often than we do. lol. Silly boy!

In addition to the above mentioned berry bushes, I have also received six black mulberry babies (four of which are still growing), two black elderberry babies and two current babies in trades this spring. All are doing well except for two mulberry bushes, one elderberry bush and the currents. They seem to have disappeared, but I am hoping they will come back next year. I can't blame them for hiding after the giant puppy walked on them! They were doing ok in spite of that, then one day they were just gone. I am hoping they will come up again in the spring.

This is the largest of my black mulberry bushes. They get huge and I have them growing only about 2' apart. They are getting big now, so I will move them in the spring while they are still dormant.

Ditto for the elderbery bush. This is an elderberry bush but it`s not MY elderberry bush.

Mine is just 1`tall, but it will grow!

I, myself, bought and planted a lavender in the pie, juice and jam garden, not so much for pies but for jelly, juice and drying for sachets/pomanders. Its just one little plant but I have rooted others by laying down the branches and covering them with dirt. They grew roots and I will separate them into their own spots in the spring. I will do the same thing in the spring when they all begin to grow. I am hoping to acquire a 20' row of lavender in the pie garden too.

My berry garden is a "lasagna" garden that is a couple of years old. Every spring I add chicken manure to it and as much mulch as I can come up with. Grass clippings are my main source through the summer, then it gets a generous helping of leaves in the fall. I have also added shredded paper this year, since I had it anyway and Buck found the stash of bags of shredded paper. That was great fun!

I used to keep bags of shredded computer paper for chicken litter and I had quite a few bags left. They make good mulch but it looks odd since it's so unnaturally white. If it works well, I will continue to add it as mulch to the garden. Being made from wood pulp, the paper will need to be supplemented with manure. Wood uses up the nitrogen in the soil as it decomposes so it's not that good for the garden without the chicken manure.

All in all, I think I have accumulated a good assortment of berries for my pie and wine garden! I am excited about what it will produce next year! I can't read about or hear about an edible berry without trying to find someone to trade for one and trying to grow it in my garden! I am obsessed!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Garden Plants in the Kitchen

Malva Moschata is a well known and common perennial. While it is popular in the flower garden, did you also know that it is edible? The leaves are a good addition to salad. They are mild tasting and have more vitamin A than spinach! The seeds are edible, as are the pods and the flowers.

Many people grow this in their flower gardens as it is so beautiful and blooms all summer long. It can be slightly invasive and reseeds generously. It sometimes grows wild in the fields, having escaped from a nearby garden. It is an easy to grow perennial, doing well in sun or partial shade and needs a lot of water.

It also comes in white, for your moon garden.

Another flowering plant that can be brought into the kitchen is the garden jewelweed, impatiens Glandulifera. Like the malva moschata above, the flowers and seeds are edible. The flowers can be used to make wine or jelly and the seeds, when dried, taste much like walnuts. Use them in baking in place of nuts or sprinkled on a sundae.

The pink garden jewelweed grows to be 6-8 feet tall and blooms all summer long! Its a beautiful annual. Once you have it, you always have it, as it reseeds generously! It has "touch-me-not" seed pods, like it's cousin, the wild impatiens Capensis. When the wind blows, a bee lands or it gets shaken, the seed pods burst and spray the seeds everywhere. You have to close your entire hand over the group of seed pods to catch them as they burst. Be careful, it's a bee magnet. Mine are always full of the big, yellow fuzzy bumblebees. It does well in shade and likes wet feet.

Violets are another plant that can be used in the kitchen. Violet jelly is a nice purple colour when made with purple violets. I grow the purple violets, white ones and yellow ones. The leaves are mild tasting, good in salad and high in vitamin C.

The flowers are edible and can be sugared for cake decorating!

Violets like to grow in the shade and make a good ground cover.

Also in white for your moon garden!

*****You can purchase the malva moschata, pink or white and the impatiens glandulifera from my seed store. See the column on the left.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our Farm Store

Now Worldwide! Our on-line farm store is open now and ready for business! We don't have all of the seeds in stock yet as some of them are still growing and ripening outside, but many are ready.

I am gearing up now to make soap and grated M&P soap base.

My two books: "Making Organic Soap at Home" and "Making Organic Wine at Home" are both for sale on the site, too! I have another book at a publisher that is an extended cookbook. It's a large book with 13 chapters with tips on various parts of the home and DIY stuff. The cooking and recipe section is huge. There was a bit of back and forth discussion on the name but I believe it's called, "The Healthy Homemaker's Handbook". I don't know when the first print run will take place. It is suppose to be soon, though. It will be sold in the US. If I want it sold in Canada I will have to find a distributor. I wonder if I can distribute it, myself? Something more to think about. I may sell it in our new farm store, if I can work that out with the publisher.

I am thinking of selling "Shaggy Mane Mushroom Starter" too. Shipped within Canada only, as I don't know how the border would treat it. It will be a liquid that is poured on the prepared ground. Any feedback on this? Would anyone be interested in it? It's just an idea I have had for a couple of years.

Take a look around the new site, use the shopping cart, just don't actually buy anything unless you want to, as it is live. You can cancel any purchase before paying.

We are only shipping to Canada and the US for now, but will be including worldwide shipping soon. I just need the time to write and program the site with the shipping charges for the various areas. Between fence building, working, harvesting, preserving, weeding, seeding, etc, etc, I've had very little time to work on the site.

I did our farm site myself. I would like to add another section called "Web Design for Small Businesses" as a way to help those who are homesteading and trying to make a living at home. It's just an idea. If you think you might be interested in a site like mine in the future, please give me some feedback in this area. How much you would be willing to pay for how many pages, etc. etc. (I just have to be careful not to take on too much at once. ) If I have to quit one of my outside jobs to work from home, then that's just what I will have to do. (It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it) :-)

We are so excited about this new adventure! This is a test year for us. We realize that a business like this needs a few years to grow, but we are hopeful. We know, of course, that the Lord is ultimately in control of every aspect of our lives and we don't know how this will go, but we are trusting Him to work things out the way He wants them to be. "All things work together for good to those who love God... In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy path." This is a verse that we take to heart and depend on, so we acknowledge Him in all our ways. Whatever comes, it will all be for His glory, regardless of the outcome.