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.