Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Food From The Scrap Pile: A Tasty Science Experiment

Regrowing food from what might otherwise end up in the scrap-pile
can be fun, educational and may feed you many times over!
As a child I enjoyed growing an avocado tree from seed, potatoes from the eyes of an already potato (and even got several pounds of potatoes as a result) and even tried growing the tops of a pineapple. Although sadly I didn’t end up with more pineapples – Go figure our environment  It was part science experiment and part recycling of food scraps. More recently I have re-grown green onions from cut off ends I wasn't using and have also tried to plant the garlic that was growing in my pantry. Probably at one time or another I have tossed the seeds from whatever I was eating into dirt to see if it would grow.

It gets a little trickier now-a-days with anti-growth agents being added to food in grocery stores, but if you eat organically grown foods it becomes an option for sure! 

Carrot Tops (I have read that other root crops would work well for this too, like beets, turnips and rutabagas)
Ginger Root 
Green Onions/Leeks

Tomatoes from fresh seeds (Oddly I let several late season non-ripened tomatoes stay right in the garden and each spring I have several ‘volunteers” growing!)
Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes

Whole seed spices

Think of the possibilities use whole seeds from your spice or herb bottles, seeds from fresh fruits and veggies. Certainly some of these options allow the items to be started from seed then planted, others allow for the scrap to go right into the ground, and still others can be started in water. It's an endless way to re-used what Mother Nature has gifted us!

It would be an excellent way for my children to learn a little more about the garden. They watched with awe as the green scallions regrew on the window sill. So what's next? Waste not, want not.

Have you ever tried this? What are your success stories of food you have grown from scraps?

Friday, May 11, 2012

What's Blooming?

There's a lot that's green in my garden, and I'm thinking that it would be a perfect weekend to plant a few more items as well as getting out there for "the BIG weeding". In some ways I suppose the spring-weed is cathardic. You pull and pull all of those unwanted plants and overgrown areas to expose beautiful, black, rich soil only to later have it fill in with bits of color, fragrance and delight!

I stepped out this afternoon and realized how badly I need to weed, but also took stock of a few things.

I knew the one gooseberry plant was coming along quite nicely. It's snuggled up to the house and already has berries the size of my pinky finger. Bet we'll be eating gooseberries by early June!

Next I went to check on the current bush and found it pretty loaded.

Of course there are plenty of flowers blooming including the chive blossoms. I LOVE making chive blossom vinegar in the spring and love topping salads with the beautiful leaves as well. This area is in front of our fence along a path. It was an area that my husband didn't like to mow and I didn't care what was planted there so long as it didn't look overgrown and unkempt. It finally looks filled in and full of several goodies including gooseberries, raspberries, chives, alpine strawberries and many types of flowers.

My spouse always complains that several of my gardens are too "jungle-like" but I actually don't mind them being filled in. This is part of my herb garden which has many types of gourmet and medicinal herbs. It came along quite nicely this year with the mild winter. Originally we filled it in with some flowers, but i may move them out for more herb space!

How does your spouse feel about your gardens? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Composting Class: Ann Arbor

Mom, Dad and the whole family can get down and dirty with a little composting at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens during a green thumbs program. On Saturday, May 12 10:00 a.m. - noon, learn about the secret to making the most of your vegetable scraps and leaves by creating "super soil" for the garden.

The program cost just $5/person and you even get to decorate and take home your own counter-top compost bin. This is a great course for the kids to learn about contributing to a beautiful, healthy garden.

For more information or to register, call 734-647-7600 or visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum website.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Early Spring Finds and Easy Violet Blossom Jam

While the garden is just starting to pop up with some of the early spring plantings beneath my hoop house, I've been searching for springs bounty. So far I've come home with ramps for cooking and pickling, garlic mustard for pesto, wild onions and garlic, and violets for jam. I know there is a lot more out there starting to burst forth, I just have to find the time to go and get it!

Each year, I've been learning more about foraging too. I really do enjoy learning about what you can eat for free in nature. It's produced some wonderful foods and beverages, and my children enjoy heading out with mom to see what she can find.

My new favorite though is violet blossom jam. We made violet jelly last year, straining the violet blossoms out after they soaked overnight. This year though, I left them in, and made a freezer jam recipe. Maybe it was the laziness of not wanting to pull the canning items out of the basement, but it ended up being pure genius! I actually think I prefer the violet blossom jam to the jelly we made last year. If you can imagine a cross between a kiwi, melon and strawberry flavor with a hint of light floral as an aftertaste, then you can imagine how wonderful the violet blossom jam is.

The jam takes very little time to make too. In fact this year it took me even less time, since I bribed my daughter to pick the flowers initially. Picking the stems off the violets was the most consuming part of the process for me.

It's wonderful though, and I encourage anyone out there to try it and let me know how it turns out. Hurry though, violets are the gems of spring and won'tr be here in this abundance for long.

Violet blossom freezer jam is like spring in a jar!
Violet Blossom Jam Ingredients:
2 cups, loosely packed violet blossoms. Remove their stems.
The juice from 1 lemon
1-1/2 cup water
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg. pectin

Place the violet blossoms and 3/4 cups of the water into a blender and blend well. Next add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to the blender and notice that the liquid turns from purple to fuchsia. Next the sugar and blend until the sugar is dissolved.

Next add the remaining 3/4 cups of water and a package of pectin into a non-reactive pot and bring it to a boil. Continuing to boil hard for 1 minute. Pour the hot pectin mixture into the blender with the pulverized violet blossoms and sugar and blend until thoroughly smooth.

The "jam" may now be poured into small jars or small storage containers. Once it is cool, add lids to cover and store in the freezer.

This recipe makes approximately 4 pints of violet blossom jam.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's Popping Up?

I've been out in the yard inspecting the various beds. Most are still sleepy but the crocus, daffodils and tulips are all starting to wake up. Love spring blooming flowers. I have to remember though to snap photos of what is where so I can add  colors for next spring!

What's coming up in your gardens?

Spring crocus flowers are a sure sign of favorable weather!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Has Sprung!

I found this image on Facebook yesterday and just about spit my coffee out. Gotta love some good gardening humor!

So how many of you have begun preparing your garden? I'm lucky to have raised beds located between the houses that warm up rather quickly so I amended the soil, pulled anything that shouldn't be there, watered then draped the lastic over the hoops we installed later year. It's warm enough to do without BUT the nights are sure chilly! I even dropped in some lettuce, spinach, radish seeds, peas and am taking a chance on swiss chard! Mother Nature is sure being awesome this (early) spring.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Will The Change in Hardiness Zones Alter Your Garden Planning?

Like many Michigan gardeners the especially mild winter has raised hope for starting the garden early this year. The trouble is though, that I KNOW we're still likely to have a hard freeze, some snow and possibly a lot more winter. I was interested however when a friend on Michigan's west coast mentioned that her area changed planting zones. Did mine? So I set out to discover and answer to my query.
Gardeners throughout Michigan will notice a change in their planting zones in 2012.
Source: USDA Agricultural Research

Sure enough, my zone has changed from Zone 5 to Zone 6a. An altered planting zone...  What???  What does that mean?  What new plants can I add to my collection that I don't already have, or that I have been dreaming of... I don't know the answer to that just yet, but it is interesting to notice the shift in zones throughout the United States. Changing our hardiness zones is nothing new though, as recently as 2006 there was a big shift in hardiness zones from the 1990's.

So how will our gardens change? Will you try something new in your garden planning that you may not have been able to plant in years past? To find out your current USDA planting zone based upon zip code information, be sure to visit the USDA website.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Michigan Winter Farmer's Markets Are a Big Deal!

Did you know that Michigan is in the top 10 states with the most winter farmer's markets? We have 33 this year, which is a 58% increase over last year. Hopefully that means that more folks are feeding their families and eating healthier.

Where do you go to buy produce in the winter? Do you visit any local farmer's markets year round?

To find a Michigan Farmer's Market that runs through the winter please be sure to visit the Michigan Farmer's Market Association website.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm Baaaackk

I'll admit, it's sometimes difficult to keep up with blogging, especially when the kids keep me busy or I have been busy with other blogs. I am going to be blogging more on this platform now though, since I have been picked up as a gardening contributor for the Prime Parents Club! So sit tight fellow Michigan gardeners and let's see what pop-up.  I promise to have plenty of great content and engaging conversation!