Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mushroom Hunting Is On!

With the rain and the cooler weather the kids and I have begun watching one of our favorite spots for puffball mushrooms. Last week we found many that were the size of my thumbnail, so we waited it out a week and headed back out. That's when we immediately found 2 giant puffball mushrooms approximately 20 feet apart and dozens of golf ball sized ones!

What does one do with puffball mushrooms - Well eat them! Just be sure to slice them open and verify that they are solid white flesh with no gills! I'm making soup now and will cook some more with a seafood recipe I found.

Puffballs don't dehydrate as well, so I'll likely cook it all up and freeze them for use in recipes later! That is if there is any left over to cook and freeze...

We'll start looking for Hen of the Woods now too...

Sorry Folks...

I'll admit it, this summer has been a complete blur. Sadly this one blog suffered as a result since I picked up a several good size client contracts. Combine that with being home with the kids and something has to fall through the cracks...

I promise to post lost of great content at appropriate times throughout the winter and also into the coming seasons! Happy hunting, gardening, canning, preserving and eating!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Farmers Market Resource

In the spring and summer months the kids and I try to get to one of the area farmers markets at least weekly. In doing so, we have found some excellent and healthy local favorites as well as discoverd new and unusual plants and food.  I ran across a couple of great websites that include information on South East Michigan area farmers markets that I thought I would include:
Stop by and visit a local farmers market - it supports the local community, is a great way to introduce kids to all kinds of foods, has the freshest foods and often provides a few surprises. If you have a favorite site that should be included please let me know, I would be happy to add it!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Try A Few Gardening Perennials For Food To Remember!

My grandparents on both side of the family really fostered my love of gardening - it was nothing to head out, at any time of the summer, and snack own way through picking. Radishes. Carrots. Rhubarb. Asparagus. Horseradish. Corn. Berries. Grapes. Fruits of all kinds! We ate and then either froze or canned the produce for eating during the winter months. I found it amazing to watch seeds grow to become food, but I was even more amazed to watch some things come back year after year!

If you haven't tried growing garden perennials, I highly recommend it. They are simple to grow and often produce some of the most delicious results! Here are some of my top garden perennials for you to try:
Asparagus: Find a full-sun place to grow the rhizomes in your garden and watch out. It will take a few years for them to get to the size you can harvest, however buying 2-3 year old root crops can speed that up a bit! We eat them all spring, harvesting them until July 4 - My grandparents taught us to allow them to go to seed after that! I like to grill them tossed in olive oil and serve them with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Garlic: It's not a true perennial, however Michigan gardeners can over winter several varieties or even use a cold frame to make it happen further. I like to cut the tops off full bulbs, brush on olive oil and roast them until the bulbs can be squeezed out onto toasted breads or crackers.

Horseradish: This was one of the must-haves in my family. While I do not like it straight from the jar, I do like it mixed into an applesauce mix or made into other types of sauces! As long as you harvest just the side roots, horseradish taproots will continue to produce a new harvest every year.
Kale and Collard Greens: A few years back while visiting my best friend I picked up a type of Collard Green - Sure enough it comes back yearly and adds beautiful green foliage with red stems. To eat them I like to wilt them in a pan with olive oil and serve up salted to taste or dress them with butter/olive oil, vinegar/lemon juice and salt or feta cheese. YUMM-O!

Rhubarb: This was another family staple in my grandparent's garden. As a child I really didn't care for it, but have now eaten a rhubarb crisp that is to die for - sweet and tart in one bite with a hint of crunch! I also had a tasty rhubarb jam that my kids devour.

What is your favorite garden perennial and how do you serve it to your family? Try planting just one of these options for your family memories and wonderful meals!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Perfect Spring Dinner With Asparagus Pesto?

I mentioned harvesting roadside asparagus a week ago...  The kids and I have certainly gotten a kick out of doing so since our asparagus bed isn't doing much of anything this year! We haven't hit the mother-load however we've gotten enough for side dishes or making a fritatta. I'm going have to look really hard for some more though and try out this realy easy, yummy sounding recipe.  How 'bout Asparagus Pesto served over a big pile of whole wheat pasta?

A good bunch of asparagus
Pine nuts
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Discard the woody ends of the spears then steam or boil the asparagus until tender when pierced with a knife. Next frain it and let it cool, then purée it with the typical pesto ingredients with: garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan.

Can't imagine anything more simple or a better representation of a perfect spring meal!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Making Wine From a Bounty of Dandelions

I recently read an article posted on AnnArbor.com about making dandelion wine. While I thought that was an insane idea, I happened to casually glanced across the street into my neighbors "dandelion garden" and changed my mind.  Why not try this recipe? The ingredients are mostly free with the exception of wine stoppers and yeast...

So I set out to pluck a gallon of dandelion flowers with my daughter in tow.

The writer said it would take approximately 2 hours to collect enough dandelions. I think we got lucky though in getting all that we needed within 40 or so minutes!  I suppose my only complaint about the entire process is that I have to wait so syinkin' long before sampling my endeavors!

If you want to make your own batch of dandelion wine, following is your basic recipe:

Ingredients and materials
Just over one gallon of dandelion flowers.

Day 1: (two hours)
  • 1 gallon of dandelion flowers picked on a dry day. (It is wise to stay away from roadways or areas that could be sprays however.)
  • 1 gallon of boiling water.
  • A clean 2-gallon container that can hold the flowers and water.
  • A cloth to cover the container.
Day 4: (two hours)
  • A 2-gallon non-reactive soup pot - Possibly stainless steel.
  • 3 oranges.
  • 1 lemon.
  • 1 small ginger root.
  • ½ cake of yeast (or a half package of dry yeast).
  • A jelly cloth (Whenever I strain I use an old t-shirt).
  • A fermentation container.
  • A cloth to cover the container.
Day 10: (one hour)
  • Coffee filters (or clean, old dish towels).
  • Colander.
  • Funnel.
  • Bottles.
  • Cotton balls.
I have a neighbor who is into beer brewing and he's lending me much of the necessary equiptment for this part of the process...  Ask around, you never know what you can borrow!
Day 31: (5 minutes)
  • A trash can.

Euell Gibbons Dandelion Wine Recipe:

1. Gather 1 gallon of dandelion flowers on a dry day. Collect the flower heads only. The stems will add a bitter flavor to the brew.

2. Put these in a 2-gallon crock and pour 1 gallon of boiling water over them.

3. Cover the jar and allow the flowers to steep for 3 days. Don’t go more than a day or two after the 3-day period. The flowers will rot, and you’ll have to start over.

4. Strain through a jelly cloth so you can squeeze all the liquid from the flowers - As I mentioned I strain most of my homemades through an old t-shirt.  Works well enough... Whatever fabric you use, it will get permanently stained yellow.

5. Put the liquid in a kettle, add 1 small ginger root, the thinly pared peels and the juice of 3 oranges and 1 lemon.

6. Stir in 3 pounds of sugar and boil gently for 20 minutes.

7. Return the liquid to the crock and allow it to cool until barely lukewarm. It should take about an hour to cool. Don’t wait too long before moving onto the next step, so as to avoid bacterial growth.

8. Spread ½ cake of yeast on a piece of toasted rye bread and float it on top.

9. Cover the crock with a cloth and keep in a warm room for 6 days.

10. Then strain off the wine into a gallon jug, corking it loosely with a wad of cotton.

11. Keep in a dark place for 3 weeks, then carefully decant into a bottle and cap or cork tightly.

12. Don’t touch it until Christmas or later - Many of the websites I found said the wine is best after a full year!

13. Enjoy!!!

For more information on wild edibles, check the local library. I took out a few books including "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" and found them quite interesting...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let the Currant Carry You Away

A couple of years ago while at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market the kids and I discovered red currants. Actually my son did. Samples were set out to try and when he tried them he insisted that I "needed" to buy them for him.

I couldn't figure out why he needed them, they sure tasted TART to me, but I indulged him. Within the next day and a half, he ate the entire quart. The next week I bought more and made some jam, which he also liked...

While currants aren't my favorite, I did plant a red currant bush in the yard. We didn't get any last year, as the birds ate them all, however I'm going to get them this year. I noticed too that the bush is laden with the flowers. It was those flowers that helped me to recognize the flowers. So where am I going with this post... Right now currants are in flower, so if you are out and about, walking in the woods be sure to look for them. I found an entire patch of wild currant bushes that I intend to keep an eye on as they blossom and ripen.

I believe the plants that I found today were black currant bushes...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Encourage Your Kids to Love Gardening

I posted this on my other blog, however it also merits mention here...Parents in the Ann Arbor area who would like their children to join in on children's gardening classes should check out my post about children's gardening classes at The Produce Station.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wild Asparagus - A Wonderful Treat if You Know Where to Look!

I was out and about today again - looking for this and that, and I decided to once again look for the wild asparagus I spotted growing last fall. The grass was blowing gently in the wind as I slowly meandered down the dirt road, scanning here and there, and suddely there it was.  Standing tall and proud (OK they were really only 6-8" tops!)  in the grass alongside the ditches was several thick and suculent asparagus spears! 

And so it's begun - the scramble for any and all wild foods along roadsides in the country!  I know we'll be eating well tonight!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Build A Greenhouse From Recycled Bottles!

I thought this greenhouse idea was appropriate for Earth Day - These kids made the entire greenhouse using recycled plastic bottles!  I'm not sure my neighbors would appreciate my doing this in my yard, but it does leave me wondering if possibly I could build a cold-frame lid from bottles instead of using plate glass which often breaks!

Be sure to check out the directions to build your own recycled plastic bottle greenhouse - Just try not to irritate your neighbors!

Here's another recycled bottle greenhouse...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Straw Bale Gardening - An Easy Raised Bed Technique for Clay Soil!

I found another very interesting post on creating a raised bed on top of a straw bale - it's of course call "straw bale gardening" and helps promote healthy beds and plants! This would work REALLY well in our heavy clay soil, so it is pretty appealing.  Have other Michigan area gardeners tried this type of gardening technique?  How difficult/easy is it to grow a garden on a bale of straw?  What are your thoughts on this?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Window Farming - Will it Work For Me?

I saw this post on Window Farming on NPR and thought WOW, what a great idea. I'm not sure what, if any of it I will implement, but I have serveral really great windows with light enough to sustain several strings of plants for gardening. I like to do this especially in the cold gray months of winter, however have wondered how successful I would be. At any rate, it's food for thought...

What do you think? Would you sacrifice windows and sunlight in exchange for clean fresh air and salad greens?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Extend Your Growing Season With an Easy to Create Hoop House

The kids and I went over to Growing Hope last weekend to participate in their Seed Starting Squad. I actually have never been there, even though they are minutes from the house, but thought this would make for a nice weekend project. While we were there though we got to tour their beautiful (and large) hot house - It was inside that where I found a great idea for a quickie hoop house. 

I've been thinking about creating a micro-climate where I can extend my growing season, and thought this might be the answer to what I was searching for - The best thing was, we had almost EVERYTHING hanging around in the garage and my home office!  I should note too, that this type of hoop house works with raised bed gardens that have a wooden walls surrounding the beds...

Directions for a Basic Hoop House:
  • Get several 10' lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe
  • A package of 1/2" galvanized 2-hole pipe strap (Look in the plumbing section of your local home improvement store)
  • Screws
  • Clear heavy duty drop cloth (we found a 10'x25' one at Lowes)
  • 1" binder clips or other clips to secure the plastic 
  • A screw driver and scissors 
  • Two sets of hands are necessary to create this hoop house
At the ends of the beds add the pipe strap, you will actually need to srew one side in most of the way and start the second screw - Insert the pipe and tighten the screws. Next add the pipe strap to the second side of the bed only make sure it is slightly loose. Bend the pipe over the bed inserting it into the pipe strap and tighten the screws.  Continue doing this at your desired distance down the beds - In my case there is approximately 5-6' between supports, although I'll admit a 4' distance might have been ideal, so I might alter my hoop house at the end of the season!

Next drape the plastic over the hoops and clip into place.  I opted to cut a separate "doorway" for the ends so that weather permitting I can open the top of them to let some of the hottest air escape. No need to fry the little plants lazing in the warmth...

Obviously this is new to me, but I already have plans in mind for improvements in future hoop houses.  It sure dies make a nice, and inexpensive hoop house though, if I had to purchase everything it would have only cost around $15. It even held up to some pretty strong March winds, although it is somewhat sheltered sitting between tow homes.

So get out and extend your growing season with this easy, and quick, hoop house. You're seedlings and plants will enjoy it, and possibly so will your children!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Signs of Spring...

The local paper AnnArbor.com asked a quick Facebook poll today "What signs of spring have you seen?" Many people responded with funny or creative comments such as:

The long lines outside of the recently opened Dairy Queens.
The first robin of spring.
Having to re-fill the bird feeder!
Honking geese.
Puddles and dirty snow mounds, but kids are outdoors wearing shorts.
Undergrads in flip-flops.

And the list goes on and on. But what have you seen specifically in your own yard?

On Sunday while I was cleaning the debris from the front yard I realized several pansies in my one pot have appeared to over winter while being covered by some pine boughs, I also found worms crawling sluggishly on the sidewalk, and just today as I was re-filling the birdfeeder I saw two honey bees lazily flying around looking for something to eat! On the south side of my neighbor’s house, several of her bulbs are beginning to pop, and when we stopped by the farmers market this weekend, pussy willow bunches were for sale!  My family has also boiled down a bunch of Maple sap that we collected - and are continuing to collect - to make some wonderfully home made Maple Syrup.

So what have you observed? Have you bought your spring seeds yet? Anyone getting the itch to get dirty and play in the garden?

I will admit, I did take my garden hoe out to my raised beds and poked around some - Nothing but frozen chunks of dirt on Sunday, but I'm certain one day VERY soon things will be rearing to grow!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Maple Syrup Time!

... Or it's about that time... The days are getting warmer with cool nights...

A few years back my family attended the Sap to Syrup event through Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation. It was a fun, informative event that sent us out to make our own maple syrup last year. If you are interested, the program is running again this year - just be sure to register early for Sap to Syrup the event is running Saturday March 6!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Get FREE Shippping from the Gardeners Supply Company

If you enjoy the products from the Gardeners Supply Company and plan on ordering anytime soon, be sure to that their "Why Do I Garden Survey" to receive free shipping.

Survey responses will help them better serve the gardening community!!! As a token of their appreciation participants will receive FREE SHIPPING on any order placed on or before March 31, 2010.