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...