Nourish

Nourish – September ’15 Real Dirt

Preserving: Pickling, Canning, Dehydrating

Nancy, Nancy, Just How Fancy, Does Your Garden Grow?

The Dream of the Crop

Preserving: Pickling, Canning, Dehydrating

Britt Uecker, Horticulturist and Garden Educator at Grow Benzie

I didn’t grow up learning how to preserve food from my mother. I am self-taught and am living proof that at any age we can learn how to preserve produce all through the season. When I turned my passion of gardening into a career in Horticulture at Michigan State University I began my journey of really discovering the love of produce to it’s fullest dimensions. As the abundance of the farm presented itself I was literally forced to learn how to prepare, eat and then preserve the harvest as it was available. Contrary to some common belief, preserving does not happen at the end of the season, but rather it starts when our first crops come in in late spring and continues throughout.

Michigan is #2 for variety and high in the top 10 producers in the country; we are fortunate to live in such a verdant and beautiful state. If you do not grow enough of your own produce, farmers markets and farm stands are great sources for buying the goods you need. There are many benefits to preserving as produce is made available. When produce is at it’s peak season, it is at it’s absolute freshest, it is most nutritious, it is usually the most inexpensive, and keeps the money in the local economy.

I begin preserving with eating asparagus fresh mostly since it is nearly an 8 week season, and then pickling it. Some folks blanch and freeze it, I do not care for the texture, but it can be used for soups and casseroles. Then strawberry season is upon us, and I make jams, jellies and freeze the topped berries out onto cookie sheets then bag them into freezer bags for many later uses. This can be done with any berry. If it is too hot outside to steam up your kitchen, consider making jam later from your freezer berries when the temperatures become more mild and comfortable. I do something similar with cherries, often going out to a u-pick orchard for the best deal and a family outing. When I pickle, can, or make jams I make enough to last for two years so that I do not have to do every berry or pickle each season. As it is a labor of love.

Cherry season seems to be the 4th of July in the garden kicking off the beginning of the real garden season when everything else really starts to come in! I blanch and freeze most greens and green vegetables rather than canning, and I do enough to last until the next season begins. I calculate how many weeks there are until the next season, figure 1 pound of each vegetable per week and process accordingly. And as the tomatoes are bursting at the seams I have my latest favorite technique for processing them. I core and cut out any imperfection and throw them into freezer bags for dealing with them later, at which point I pile them high in a crock pot or roaster in the morning and let them cook down all day, then puree them (with an immersion blender) skins and all into a lovely almost-paste concentrate. It can then be canned or cooled and put into freezer bags for later use.

My family loves dried fruit, and the bulk of the work is in the pitting of the cherries. Using a mandolin or corer/slicer for apples and pears makes short work of it then laying them out onto the trays for 12-48 hours depending on the fruit. The investment of a good dehydrator can be a once in a lifetime purchase for some healthy snacking. One of my final seasonal duties is making sauerkraut and kimchi; fermented foods are particularly beneficial to our digestive tracts and overall health. I will make tangerine or orange marmalade sometimes in December when the citrus is in season and use it for gifts at Christmas time.

There is nothing like sitting down for a dinner in the middle of winter and pondering the bounty on my plate. It is absolutely possible to eat healthfully and locally all season long, and it is so worth it.

britt@growbenzie.org

Garlic. photo by MG Nancy Denison

Garlic. photo by MG Nancy Denison

 

Nancy, Nancy, Just How Fancy, Does Your Garden Grow?

By Nancy Denison, Master Gardener

It wasn’t a fancy garden we inherited with the house but a semi-fenced area on the only flat part of our back yard. Inside the 40x30ft area was a privet hedge, two 25ft rows of thorn-less raspberries, perennials, spring onions, garlic, and three slightly raised beds. I had only experimented (with moderate success) with planting a garden at our home in California but with the help my neighbor, Grace, and the space just waiting for me, I dove in.

In the past 24 years I have added comfrey for the raspberries (as a bee attractor), tarragon, chives, oregano, mint (ugh), sage, lavender, plus the annuals; basil, rosemary, and cilantro. This year I planted cilantro seeds twice with no luck, until a few weeks ago when I put the seeds in small containers and they are coming up nicely. I am able to use the basil most years to make several batches of pesto, which is always a nice treat in the middle of winter. I give away bunches of herbs to friends but there is still more than any one would ever use.

Vegetably speaking…I have experimented with various combos over the years but have found my favorites, and those that grow well, are the lovely zucchini, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, snap peas, lettuce and for the past few years, kale, beets and carrots. Rhubarb, which came from two different neighbors, is still looking good, though my husband has had enough! Maybe I will try freezing a bunch again for a winter surprise…

As all gardeners know, every year is unique and offers bountiful growth with some plants and some eaten to death by some critter. I have amended the soil for several years with the “lasagna” style of layering leaves, grass clippings, newspaper, and compost which breaks down over winter. Then I also add some good compost to the soil and mix in before planting in the spring.

I have learned to wait till the end of May before planting the young starts of kale, lettuce, broccoli, and tomatoes I get from the TC Farmer’s Market. I have yet to figure out why my bean, snap pea, zucchini seeds don’t germinate well and require multiple plantings before sprouting. I even tried to germinate the seeds this year in paper towels and plastic bags so they might have a better start, but alas, not so helpful. Then sometimes after the new shoots come up, some little visitor munches on the leaves to the point of destruction and I have to start again. I have some success with putting a thin band of aluminum foil around the stem of these little guys or egg shells and coffee grounds, which can deter some undesirables.

Carrots. Photo by MG Nancy Denison

Carrots. Photo by MG Nancy Denison

Lettuce has been a wonderful producer and I just love being able to pick, clean and eat. It lasts for a long time after being cleaned so we have many homegrown salads from June through almost the end of July. If only the tomatoes were ripe at the same time! I am able to get several cuttings from the broccoli plants which I use for broccoli salad with the large and small heads. Raspberries ripen in early July and are eaten as fast as we can pick. I have frozen them but usually I make a simple raspberry pie which everyone loves. My asparagus plants have been rather slow in producing, even though they are about 4 or 5 years old. This year I did get about 10 spears, though not at the same time, so I’m hoping next year will be even better.

The major pests I have to contend with are slugs and Japanese Beetles…not sure which I detest the most. Of course I pick them off when I can find them or pour salt on them to make sure they don’t find their way back. The beetles wreak havoc on the raspberries, roses and burnette as well as leaving grubs in the yard for spring animal feedings. I discovered a bait trap last year which worked well. This year I set it out early and have greatly diminished the population.

Being intrigued with the growing of potatoes, I decided, last year, to try a “potato tower” that was suggested in a Fine Gardening article. I assembled the chicken wire into a tower and then filled it with straw, and dirt and the starter potatoes in several layers. I had some success with it; however, most of the potatoes were delicious but quite small. So I have tried a different location this year with more sun and at this time both towers are looking good and the potato I just checked on was about three inches in diameter! Much better than last year.

Potatoes. Photo by MG Nancy Denison

Potatoes. Photo by MG Nancy Denison

A week ago I harvested the small patch of garlic which came with the garden, getting about 24 heads. I read that when the scapes are cut off on the garlic plants, more energy is sent to the bulb which causes them to grow larger. They are now cleaned and drying. I love how I can use them all year long. I also gathered up the beets that were ready, roasted them and used them in a salad. I even put more seeds in for a second harvest. I used to turn up my nose when it came to eating beets, but I am learning to like them in my old age!

Cleaned garlic. photo by MG Nancy Denison

Cleaned garlic. photo by MG Nancy Denison

While I await the zucchini and tomato invasion, I will continue to pull weeds, think about what I may have done right and what to do differently for next year…always a learning process, a stretching exercise for the mind and the body and peace for the soul.

 

The Dream of the Crop

By Jamie Gothard, MG in Training

It happens every year. The innocent dreams of a beautiful vegetable bounty turn into a nightmare featuring a mountain of fresh veggies. They seem to appear overnight and make you question what you were thinking when you innocently planted all of those seeds and small, innocent looking transplants. What in the world can you do about it? There are more answers than you think and some solutions even work best when there is an overabundance of vegetables available so don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

For starters, the internet has scads of recipes available for you to peruse and even include some that turn your zucchini into noodles, also known as zoodles! Who would have thought it was possible? Recipes such as these not only use your bounty quicker but also reduce calories if you’re into that. One great source is eatlocalgrown.com which includes zoodle recipes like Kung Pao Chicken Zoodles and Zucchini Noodles with Pesto among others. These recipes might be a fun way to use zucchini after zucchini bread has lost its appeal.

Another great valuable source for handling those ever appearing veggies is the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving. The 100th Anniversary Edition features tried and true canning, freezing and dehydrating ideas for fruits, vegetables (from apples to zucchini) and even meats. Not only does this book provide all information needed to figure out how to approach food preservation correctly, it also lists recipe ideas for those preserved food items as well. It is a worthwhile investment as it helps those who are new to food preservation succeed and provides new recipes to some previous editions so that those who are experienced with food preservation may even try new ideas.

Cucumbers are a vegetable with a habit of appearing out of nowhere and all at once. The Ball Blue Book guide has recipes such as dill pickles, relish, and sweet pickle spears. A plethora of cucumber recipes exist as well. For example, allrecipes.com lists 529 cucumber recipes alone so the possibilities seem endless. Several different recipes might come in handy since as soon as the cucumbers are picked and used, another few seem to appear out of nowhere.

Onions can be canned in various recipes and the recommendation from the Michigan State Extension for harvesting onions is to leave them in the ground for one to two weeks after the tops fall over on their own to allow them to develop thick skins. After that time, dig them up and spread them out in a dry, sunny location for three to seven day to allow them to dry before bringing them indoors for storage in a dry, warm location.

Potatoes can be canned as well according to the Ball Blue Book guide. Recipes vary from sweet, white or Irish and can also be frozen. To store them long term, Michigan State Extension recommends waiting until the potato vine dies, the skin is set (meaning it doesn’t peel from the flesh from the application of pressure) and the potato has reached the desired size. Once these indicators have been met, dig them up and cure potatoes starting at around 60 degrees and high humidity for two to three weeks followed by a lower temperature of around 40 degrees.

Squash is separated into two different varieties. Summer squash like zucchini, is harvested when it is immature. Winter squash, on the other hand, is harvested after it matures. Varieties like acorn, spaghetti, butternut and pumpkins all vary with regards to maturation but the rule of thumb provided by Michigan State Extension is to wait until the vines decline and they have been allowed to cure in the field for two to three weeks before harvesting to store.

Tomatoes should be allowed to fully ripen on the vine unless a killing frost prevents this from happening. If they have to be picked green, there are recipes such as fried green tomatoes and The Ball Blue Book guide even provides recipes for canning green tomatoes too. Of course, there are recipes for ripened tomatoes such as sauce, juice and salsa too. Michigan State Extension recommends storing tomatoes at temperatures below 50 degrees because they are sensitive to chilling injury once they have been picked.

The ideas are endless as far as food consumption and preservation is concerned so even when the vegetables start turning from dream into overwhelming nightmare, know that there are many options to consider. If all else fails, just wait until someone leaves their car with the windows down and slip some veggies into their seat while they’re gone. They will probably be thrilled with the gift.

Sources:

www.eatlocalgrown.com

Ball Blue Book guide to preserving, 100th Edition

Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program Training Manual

www.allrecipes.com


Nourish – July ’15 Real Dirt

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

U of M Medicinal Garden Opens August 2

Inspired at Greenspire

photo by Dwight Burdette, wikimedia commons

photo by Dwight Burdette, wikimedia commons

Matthaei Medicinal-Garden-map

U of M Medicinal Garden Opens August 2

By Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener 

Historically, most of our medicinal products have been derived from plants. Yet how often do our thoughts turn to the plant at the root of it all as we’re waiting at the pharmacy for a prescription to be filled? Since the 1870s, a time when medicinal gardens and the plants that grew in them were a part of a medical school education, awareness of the connection between health and medicinal plants has declined. According to Bob Grese, Director of the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and Professor of Landscape Architecture in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the goal of the University of Michigan Medicinal Garden is public education. The garden, Grese says, demonstrates the “relationship between plants and public health.”

The Medicinal Garden concept opened up partnerships between the Botanical Gardens & Arboretum, the U-M College of Pharmacy and the Department of Integrative Medicine at the U-M Health System. According to Grese, the medical and pharmacy staff believe that their students would benefit from a greater understanding of the botany behind medicinal drugs. The plants in the new Medicinal Garden are all backed by clinical science in pharmacy. Indeed, the medical and pharmacy staff were included in choosing plants for inclusion in the garden.

The Medicinal Garden’s location will be near the conservatory at Matthaei. The garden’s layout, with its curved, soft edges and free-form shape, will lead to a sense of “fun and unexpectedness, and should be welcoming to visitors,” according to David Michener, Associate Curator for Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Within the garden’s layout the plant bed design will be grouped by body function, such as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, women’s health, etc., with each bed containing plants that provide the basis of drug treatment for that function. Early medicinal gardens were filled with plants native to their locale. This gave rise to what we think of as Native American medicine, Chinese medicine, and the like, all across the globe.

Signage in the Garden will include information on plant origin, parts of the plant used in medicine, i.e. root, leaf or seed; the drug derived from that plant; and the diseases it treats.

While the garden will make the educational link between plants and human health, from a gardener’s point of view how do these diverse plants, many from different ecosystems and requiring different soil, moisture, and light, work next to each other in the same garden? The answer is: with a lot of effort, attentive care, and a trial-and-error approach. Tender plants that are not perennial in Zone 5, such as tea (Camellia), Schisandra vine, aloe, and Coleus will be kept in pots in the garden and then moved into the greenhouse for overwintering. Alternatively, some of the plants with aggressive growth habits will require close attention, either by being potted, having seed heads removed before they set, or planted apart and closely monitored for spread. These valuable plants include chamomile, sweet clover, and peppermint. Plants needing shade may have screening above to diffuse the strong sunlight. Finally, some plants are trees so will be pruned frequently to keep them to scale and not overwhelm their neighboring plants.

In designing the Medicinal Garden, the staff at Matthaei-Nichols along with College of Pharmacy and Medical School partners have tried to develop a space with plants that will serve as an educational resource and research base for U-M students and staff to study medicinal plants and wellness while also inviting the public to learn and be reminded of the plant-health connection all around us in our daily lives.

For those who may wonder… The Medicinal Garden will not include coca, the source of cocaine. Nor will marijuana or opium poppies be planted. Additionally, any plants that are known to cause an allergic reaction when touched will not be included.

The Medicinal Garden website is under construction and is looking at a launch date on or before July 15, 2015. The garden opening is scheduled for August 2, 2015. As with all gardens, it will not be complete on August 2, 2015, but continue as a work in progress as more is learned about each plant and its preferences.

If you plan a trip to the University of Michigan Medicinal Garden there are many other areas to visit at the botanical gardens. The Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden is located close to the Medicinal Garden, as is the Great Lakes Gardens, which feature Great Lakes native plants and their ecosystems; the Bonsai and Penjing Garden; the Gaffield Children’s Garden; the Conservatory; and hiking trails. With a number of display spaces and natural areas to choose from, Grese promises that there is “always something fascinating” to see at Matthaei.

Corey Hanson providing a tour at The Greenspire School photo by MG W. Miller

Corey Hanson providing a tour at The Greenspire School
photo by MG W. Miller

 

Inspired at Greenspire

By Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener 

On April 7, sixteen community members and MGs met at the Greenspire School on the grounds of the former State Hospital. We met Kevin Kelly, Head of School, who introduced us to the history and philosophy of Greenspire as well as a brief overview of the adolescent  mind, body and spirit.

Greenspire was chartered in 2011, is loosely based on the teachings of Maria Montessori while encompassing some of the principals of traditional education.  It is project based, experiential, multi-aged and environmentally focused.  It currently houses ninety five students in three buildings on 580 acres. 

Teacher Corey Hanson took us on a tour of the grounds which offers open classrooms, gardens, sugar shack, commercial kitchen, and a few rabbits and chickens.  The students are outside for at 45-90 minutes a day learning or taking care of projects.  The greenhouse work is currently helping local farmers with vegetable seed planting and growing food for use at the school.

What a wonderful opportunity for learning in such a beautiful environment.  Thank you so much, Kevin, Cory and Michele for the chance to see what Greenspire is all about!


Nourish – May ’15 Real Dirt

Contents (click on a title or scroll)

Container potatoes by MG Whitney Miller

Container potatoes by MG Whitney Miller

 

Vegetable Container Gardens for the Patio & Deck

By Julie Peltier 

Gardeners of all levels choose to maintain container gardens for several reasons, with the primary rationale being location. Site selection is made much easier with container gardens because of the ability to place in any location where light is readily available, and of course they are great if you don’t have space for a traditional garden or live in an apartment, etc… The harvest will be easily accessible and the soil, drainage, and pest issues may be much easier to manage.

You can raise substantial amounts of many edibles in containers on a patio, deck, porch or balcony. In addition, many nurseries and seed companies have even developed ‘dwarf’ varieties in order to help the plants succeed in small spaces.

 

GET MOVING!

With pots, you may be able to finesse a sun shortage. Place a wheeled pot trolley (available in garden centers) under a large pot and move it to follow the sun. For example, place it in the sun in the morning; in the evening, when you want to sit on the patio, you can simply move it out of the way.

 

BIGGER IS REALLY BETTER

The greatest challenge of container vegetable growing is watering. Since soil dries out faster in pots than in the ground, a larger volume of soil will take longer to dry out. It’s fine to mix compatible plants in a single large pot just like in a yard garden. Just make certain that your container has holes for excess water to drain away from the soil.

Note that plastic and fiberglass pots are preferable for a several reasons. They are light and, therefore easier to handle. In addition, they are relatively inexpensive and come in attractive shapes and colors. Plastic and fiberglass containers are easy to clean and reuse because they are not porous. Finally, they will require less frequent watering and tend to accumulate fewer salts and residues than unglazed clay pots.

Avoid container gardens made of treated wood, as it may contain chemical compounds that could be absorbed by your vegetables.

 

MEDIA

Ideally, potting soil should be a moderately rich mixture with a good base of clay loam – generally a mix of peat moss, potting soil and vermiculite, perlite, or clean sand. This combination will allow for proper moisture and nutrient retainage.

As is the case with most types of container gardens, your garden will do best in potting mixes made specifically for its intended use. Your local nursery will be able to provide information on a mix specifically designed for use in larger outdoor containers. You can also save money by blending your own vegetable container garden mix. Use equal parts of peat moss, potting soil, and vermiculite, perlite, or clean sand. Whether purchased ‘as-is’ or created at home – treat it the same and fill the containers to within an inch or two of the rim.

 

PLAN FOR WATERING

“Self-watering” containers have a reservoir beneath the soil topped with a grid through which the roots can reach down to the water. With these containers you won’t have to water as often, but you still have to keep that reservoir filled. Furthermore, in the hot summer, mature plants will empty that reservoir fast, so you may have to fill it daily anyway. A good approach for all types of containers by spreading mulch over the soil in pots just as you would in a garden, to keep moisture from evaporating. And be sure to have drainage holes in the bottom to avoid over-water and root rot.

 

PROTECT YOUR OUTDOOR GATHERING SPOTS

Most containers will have drainage holes to keep the soil from retaining too much water and ultimately drowning the plants. However, these drainage holes may ruin the area beneath the planters by causing stains or other damage. Nesting the pot in a saucer doesn’t always help, because the saucer can also leave a mark. To help prevent harm to our outdoor gathering places use pot feet, in addition to a small dish, under the container’s drainage hole. With the right placement, the dish can be totally hidden. BE SURE to remember to empty it after watering/rainstorms to avoid overflow. You can also try “invisible” pot feet that are usually a series of rings that can be placed under the pot without being exposed, while still keeping the container elevated. If you do not care to hide your pot feet and dishes, you can accessorize with colors, designs and materials to help give your containers a little visual spice. Pot feet also benefit many plants’ root systems by allowing air circulation beneath the planter.

 

VEGGIE VARIETIES

Plant your vegetable container gardens the same time you would plant the garden. Depending on what types of vegetable you want to grow, you can start seeds in your containers, propagate seeds indoors and then transplant to containers, or purchase transplants from a garden center.

Of course, the veggies you choose to plant are totally subjective! Below are few favorites that tend to do well in container gardens:

  • Herbs (not a veggie, but they grow great in containers!)
  • Beets
  • Beans (bush, green and climbing work well)
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Greens (i.e. mustard, collard, kale, etc…)
  • Lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes – commonly the first vegetable people try to grow in a container because of its heartiness. Tomatoes are great for gardeners that don’t have many sunny locations. If you have had disease problems and don’t have room to rotate your plants, consider putting a tomato plant in a pot with fresh potting mix (see media section above). Also, try a determinate or ‘dwarf’ variety for a smaller growing plant. You will still need to stake or cage these varieties, but won’t need to prune as much.

As with most gardening, planting times for can be found directly on the seed packets, on tags in transplant containers, or online at http://migarden.msu.edu/vegetables.

After planting, water the soil gently but thoroughly to settle the seeds or transplants.

 

FEEDING

For nutrients, many gardeners choose to add a light top dress of either compost or a ‘dairy doo’ type manure product. These organic materials will add an abundance of organic materials to the soil, and act like a glue to help hold moisture and nutrients for the plants to absorb. Be sure to visit your local nursery to ensure that you are receiving quality materials that are properly composted. Improperly composted materials may pose health risks including exposure to pathogens and excess salts.

Fertilizers can also be used to enhance nutrients to specific plants (generally to increase size and color of the fruit, i.e. tomatoes) If you choose to utilize a fertilizer, be sure to look for a water-soluble formula intended specifically vegetable gardening (and eventually ingestion into your body). Always follow the manufacturer recommendations on the package.

 

PROBLEMS

Keep an eye out for weeds and other pests. While plants in containers usually aren’t as susceptible to disease as varieties grown in the ground, you’ll still want to watch for problems. Remove or treat any plants that show signs of disease or insect damage.

 

HARVESTING

This is by far the most satisfying step! Pick your vegetable crops as they reach a size where you will enjoy them. Most vegetables are more productive if you harvest early and often. Letting plants “go to seed” will often cause a drop in fruit set.

 

FALL CARE

At the end of the season, add the vegetable container garden soil to your compost pile. Reusing soil from year to year can spread disease, weed seeds, residues, etc… Thoroughly scrub the container to remove all soil remnants. Rinse in a solution of one part bleach to 9 parts water, then rinse thoroughly with clean water and store in a dry spot.

 

**You can find additional information on smart vegetable gardening online at www.migarden.msu.edu.**

 


Nourish – March ’15 Real Dirt

Contents (click on a title or scroll)

Nature’s Pharmacy: The New Medicinal Garden at MBGNA

Food of the Month: Maple Syrup

photo via wikimedia

photo via wikimedia

Nature’s Pharmacy: The New Medicinal Garden at MBGNA

Courtesy of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Click here to see the garden plans: Matthaei Medicinal-Garden-map

Throughout history, plants have played a critical role in health and medicine. Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum will celebrate this connection in the new medicinal garden, scheduled to open in 2015 at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. The first documented botanical garden on campus was at least in part a pharmaceutical garden; since that time there have been various iterations of gardens on the U-M Campus and greenhouse collections focused on ethnobotany and the study of medicinal herbs.

Interest in the practical and medical value of plants was central in the early history of the University as well as in the development of pharmaceutical industries in the state. The naturalist Douglas Houghton, for instance, named as the University’s first professor of geology, was also trained as a physician and established a flourishing medical practice in Detroit in the early 1830s. In his travels across the Michigan territory with Henry Schoolcraft, he did extensive botanical collecting, looking for plants of medicinal and economic value. Many of these plant specimens are now part of the collections of the University of Michigan Herbarium. Other local physicians studied and popularized the use of plants in medicine. The physician Dr. Alvin W. Chase, for instance, began publishing a series of books of medical and household recipes in 1859. In 1899, Dr. Julius O. Schlotterbeck of the Department of Pharmacy together with Dr. V. M. Spalding of the Department of Botany created a botanical garden of economic and medicinal plants on Central Campus. Traditionally, students in medicine and pharmacy had rigorous coursework in botany as a routine part of their training. In addition, Michigan developed a long track record of pharmaceutical companies such as Upjohn, Parke- Davis and Pfizer with a history of testing various plants for potential medicinal value. 

The new medicinal garden at Matthaei will celebrate this colorful history and share the connection between plants and modern medicine in the development of new drugs, dietary supplements, and the field of integrative medicine. Plants will be arranged by human organ system (e.g., cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal) and by condition (e.g., infectious disease, diabetes, cancer). It will feature plants that serve as the basis for current medicines and treatments as well as those used historically or in different cultures. For each group of plants, at least one poster child related to a well- known medicine will be included. These include such medications as Taxol, derived from the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), or aspirin, originally derived from the bark of the white willow (Salix alba). Only plants or the medicines derived from them with strong clinical evidence for effectiveness will be included. There will also be a section devoted to wellness featuring plants often recommended for their health benefits such as blueberries, cherries, green vegetables and the like. Interpretive signage and related web-based educational resources will bring together current themes of pharmaceutical research, integrative medicine, and an emphasis on health and well-being in a way that can be used effectively in teaching and for sharing with the general public.

photo via wikipedia

photo via wikipedia

Food of the Month: Maple Syrup

Michele Worden

Latin Name: Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) , red maple (Acer rubrum), or black maple (Acer nigrum) ) trees, although it can also be made from other maple species.

Botanical Family: Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae.

Description: Acer saccharum is a deciduous tree normally reaching heights 82–115 ft. tall. The leaves are deciduous, up 8 in. long and equally wide, with five palmate lobes. The fall color is often spectacular, ranging from bright yellow through orange to fluorescent red-orange. Sugar maples also have a tendency to color unevenly in fall. In some trees, all colors above can be seen at the same time. They also share a tendency with red maples for certain parts of a mature tree to change color weeks ahead of or behind the remainder of the tree.

Origin: Acer saccharum (sugar maple) is a species of maple native to the hardwood forests of northeastern North America, from Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario, and south to Georgia and Texas. This is the area where maple syrup is produced. Indigenous peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first groups known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar. Tribes developed rituals around sugar-making, celebrating the Sugar Moon (the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance.

The practice of sugaring was adopted by European settlers, who gradually refined production methods. Technological improvements in the 1970s further refined syrup processing. The Canadian province of Quebec is by far the largest producer, responsible for about three-quarters of the world’s output, exceeding $145 million per year. Vermont is the largest producer in the United States, generating about 5.5 percent of the global supply.

Cultivation (how and where grown): A maple tree needs to be about 40 years old before it can be tapped for maple syrup production. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Sap production is favored by warm spring days followed by cold nights. The first sap produced is light in color and gradually darkens until the sap is no longer palatable when the tree buds out and the sap turns green. The differences in color over time (and taste) result in the different maple syrup grades. Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, United States, or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency. Sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup. In Canada, syrups must be at least 66 percent sugar and be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup. In the United States, syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labeled as “maple”.

Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. Sap used to be collected in buckets, but now systems of tubing runs downhill to a collection tank on most farms. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water in an evaporator, leaving the concentrated syrup. Some farms use reverse osmosis filter system to remove the water without heating the sap to save energy.

Farms that make maple syrup are called “Sugarbush” and the building where the evaporation takes place is the “sugar shack”.

Fun Facts: 30-50 gallons of sap are needed to make 1 gallon of syrup!

Michigan has two Maple Syrup festivals. Both are held in the third or last weekend of April. In northern Michigan, a festival is held in Shepard Michigan. In southern Michigan, it is held in Vermontville.

Maple Syrup is the only sap that humans eat.

Nutrition: Maple syrup is a good source of calcium, iron, and thiamine and has many trace minerals that are important for health.

Culinary Uses: In colonial times, maple syrup was used instead of cane sugar or salt. Maple syrup is often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or oatmeal and porridge. It is also used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetener or flavoring agent. It is also used to make maple sugar candies. I like to use it to make a glaze for vegetables.

Medicinal Uses: Canadian researchers have identified several bioactive compounds in maple syrup that are believed to be anti-oxidant and anti-cancer agents.

Where can we find local maple syrup?: We have several maple syrup producers in Northern Michigan. A

directory can be found at http://www.mi-maplesyrup.com/directory/producers.htm

Impact on Culture: Maple syrup had a strong impact on native peoples’ culture through ritual and legend. It also became an important part of the early northern American colonist’s diet since cane sugar was expensive and scarce. Maple syrup and maple sugar were used during the American Civil War and by abolitionists in the years prior to the war because most cane sugar and molasses were produced by Southern slaves. Because of food rationing during the Second World War, people in the northeastern United States were encouraged to stretch their sugar rations by sweetening foods with maple syrup and maple sugar, and recipe books were printed to help housewives employ this alternative source.

Maple products are considered emblematic of Canada, in particular Quebec, and are frequently sold in tourist shops and airports as souvenirs from Canada. The sugar maple’s leaf has come to symbolize Canada, and is depicted on the country’s flag. Several US states, including New York, Vermont and Wisconsin, have the sugar maple as their state tree. A scene of sap collection is depicted on the Vermont state quarter, issued in 2001.

Today, it is part of the All-American breakfast of pancakes! A family staple and treat. Would there be waffles and pancakes without maple syrup to put on them? Also, there are maple syrup festivals throughout the region in which the maple tree grows and has cold weather.

The maple tree itself has come to embody fall, with its bright colors. “Color tours” are common in the northeastern US and Canada as people travel to enjoy the changing leaves in the fall.

Appearance in Literature: Maple syrup and sugaring are favorite topics for children’s books. There are too many books to name! One is “Sugar Snow, a Laura Ingalls Wilder Book”.


Nourish – January ’15 Real Dirt

photo courtesy of pixabay/neu_alf

photo courtesy of pixabay/neu_alf

Food of the Month: Citrus Fruits

by Michele Worden

Latin Names: Citrus is a common term and genus (Citrus) of flowering plants in the rue family, Rutaceae.

Important species are Citrus aurantifolia – Key lime, Citrus maxima – Pomelo, Citrus medica – Citron, Citrus reticulata –Mandarin orange.

Important hybrids– Citrus × aurantium – Bitter orange, Citrus × latifolia – Persian lime, Citrus × limon – Lemon, Citrus × limonia – Rangpur, Citrus × paradisi – Grapefruit, Citrus × sinensis – Sweet orange Citrus × tangerina – Tangerine

Botanical Family: Rutaceae, or Rue family

Description: A citrus plant is a small tree or large shrub. Leaves are broad-leaved evergreen and waxy. Flowers are white, and five-petaled, and often strongly scented. The fruit is a hesperidium, a specialized berry. They contain a high quantity of juice. The most common citrus fruits are hybrids of oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and tangerines.

Origin & History: Believed to be Southeast Asia, between Indian and China, and has been cultivated since ancient times. Oranges were said to be taken from China to Europe by Arab traders a 1000 years ago. They were introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus.

Cultivation (how and where grown): Citrus is grown in subtropical climates; citrus trees are not generally frost
hardy. Major commercial citrus growing areas include southern China, the Mediterranean Basin, South Africa, Australia, United States, Mexico and parts of South America. In the United States, Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas are major producers, while smaller plantings are present in other Sun Belt states and in Hawaii.

The trees thrive in a consistently sunny, humid environment with fertile soil and adequate rainfall or irrigation

Citrus trees hybridize very readily depending on the pollen source. Thus all commercial citrus cultivation uses trees are produced by grafting, so that only the desired fruit is produced. A farm field with citrus trees is called a “grove”.

The trees flower in the Spring, and fruit is set shortly afterward. Fruit begins to ripen in fall or early winter months, depending on cultivar, and develops increasing sweetness afterward. Some cultivars of tangerines ripen by winter. Some, such as the grapefruit, may take up to eighteen months to ripen.

Citrus fruits pass from immaturity to maturity to over-maturity while still on the tree. Once they are separated from the tree, they will not increase in sweetness or continue to ripen. With oranges, color cannot be used as an indicator of ripeness because sometimes the rinds turn orange long before the oranges are ready to eat. Tasting them is the only way to know whether or not they are ready to eat.

The color of citrus fruits only develops in climates with a cool winter. In tropical regions with no winter at all, citrus fruits remain green until maturity, hence the tropical “green oranges”.

Fun Fact: Beekeepers travel to Florida to pollinate the orange groves, then move north as the weather warms in the spring to pollinate other crops, such as apples and cherries in Michigan.

Nutrition: Citrus fruits contain high levels of Vitamin C. One medium orange has 130% of the RDA of vitamin C.

Culinary Uses: Many citrus fruits, such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, and clementines, are generally eaten fresh. They are typically peeled and can be easily split into segments. Grapefruit is more commonly halved and eaten out of the skin with a spoon. There are special spoons (grapefruit spoons) with serrated tips designed for this purpose. Orange and grapefruit juices are also very popular breakfast beverages. More acidic citrus, such as lemons and limes, are generally not eaten on their own. Meyer Lemons can be eaten ‘out of hand’ with the fragrant skin; they are both sweet and sour. Lemonade or limeade are popular beverages prepared by diluting the juices of these fruits and adding sugar.

Lemons and limes are also used as garnishes or in cooked dishes. Their juice is used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes; it can commonly be found in salad dressings and squeezed over cooked meat or vegetables. A variety of flavors can be derived from different parts and treatments of citrus fruits. The rind and oil of the fruit is generally very bitter, especially when cooked, and so is often combined with sugar. The fruit pulp can vary from sweet and tart to extremely sour. Marmalade, a condiment derived from cooked orange and lemon, can be especially bitter, but is usually sweetened to cut the bitterness and produce a jam-like result.

Lemon or lime is commonly used as a garnish for water, soft drinks, or cocktails. Citrus juices, rinds, or slices are used in a variety of mixed drinks. The colorful outer skin of some citrus fruits, known as zest, is used as a flavoring in cooking; the white inner portion of the peel, the pith, is usually avoided due to its bitterness.

Medicinal Uses: Lemon juice is used as a home remedy to relieve the pain of bee stings. Citrus peel is sometimes used as a facial cleanser and astringent.

Oranges were historically used for their high content of vitamin C, which prevents a disease called scurvy. Scurvy is caused by vitamin C deficiency, and can be prevented by having 10 milligrams of vitamin C a day. An early sign of scurvy is fatigue. If ignored, later symptoms are bleeding and bruising easily. British sailors were given a ration of limes or oranges on long voyages to prevent the onset of scurvy, hence the British nickname of Limey.

Before the development of fermentation-based processes, lemons were the primary commercial source of citric acid.

Citrus fruit juices, such as orange, lime and lemon, may be useful for lowering the risk factors for specific types of kidneystones. Grapefruit is another fruit juice that can be used to lower blood pressure because it interferes with the metabolism of calcium channel blockers. Lemons have the highest concentration of citrate of any citrus fruit, and daily consumption of lemonade has been shown to decrease the rate of kidney stone formation.

Variety grown or eaten at school: notapplicable.

Impact on Culture: Growing oranges was a status symbol of the rich and royalty throughout history. Renaissance gardens featured citrus trees grown in tubs and wintered under cover of glass. An “orangery” was a feature of royal and aristocratic residences through the 17th and 18th centuries. The Orangerie at the Palace of the Louvre, 1617, inspired imitations that were not eclipsed until the development of the modern greenhouse in the 1840s. In the United States the earliest surviving orangery is at the Taylor House, Mount Airy, Virginia. George Washington had an orangeryat Mount Vernon.
In Victorian and Edwardian times, it became customary to give children oranges on Christmas day.
Appearance in Literature: “An Orange for Frankie” by Patricia Polacco is a story about a young girl waiting for her father to return from a trip and bring the family the Christmas oranges.

Nourish – Nov ’14 Real Dirt

Contents (click a title or scroll)

Why Chickens in the Garden?

Food of the Month: Pumpkin

 

Large poster

Why Chickens in the Garden?

Michele Worden

There has been a recent explosion of urban and suburban folks keeping chickens in their back yards. There are even schools that keep chickens in their school yard. Why has keeping chickens become so popular and moved off of the farm? Do chickens provide a benefit to home gardeners beyond eggs? To schools? And can anybody have chickens?

On Sunday October 19th, the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan held an event called “Chickens at the Opera House” to answer these and other questions. The featured speaker, Jessi Bloom, is the author of a new book titled “Free-Range Chicken Gardens” published by Timber Press. Her talk was entitled “What the Cluck?!” and talked about integrating chickens into your garden.

Chickens provide many benefits in a home garden. They provide IPM – integrated pest management – by eating bugs and weeds. Their waste is a powerful fertilizer; and chicken scratching can loosen and improve the soil. Chickens even keep the grass mowed and thus saves labor for the home gardener. The eggs (and meat) they produce are very nutritious – perhaps more so than eggs and meat from factory farms, and, as an added bonus, you know where your food came from.

But why chickens in school yards? Two area schools that keep chickens, The Children’s House and The Greenspire School, keep chickens next to their school gardens. Both schools are based upon the Montessori pedagogy. In Montessori, students keep animals as an aid to learning about animals (a living laboratory), and rotating chore assignments to care for animals (and the school garden) helps develop responsibility and character. In 2012, students at The Greenspire School hosted Poultry Palooza, a program of MSUE and 4H, and incorporated learning about chickens into their project-based learning curriculum. Sarah Payette of The Greenspire School says “there are so many cross-curricular connections that can be made by the students in raising chickens, from the life cycle of a chicken in science, to making deviled eggs in our cooking curriculum.” (The Greenspire chickens are named Olaf (little black one), Boo, Nugget, Henny, Buddah and Splash, and they are Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans. You can visit them on the Commons, in the school courtyard.) The Greenspire students also spent the latter part of the 2013-14 school year learning about permaculture and designing permaculture projects for their school landscape.

Apparently the secret to incorporating chickens is creating a habitat for chickens and gardening using the design philosophy of permaculture. Jessi Bloom is a an award-winning landscape designer, a certified professional horticulturalist and certified arborist, as well as a long-time chicken owner with a free-ranging flock in her home garden. It is interesting that she practices permaculture design, which is a design philosophy that guides the creation of garden habitats as ecological systems, and emphasizes sustainability and (plant) self-sufficiency. (On a side note – I have heard proponents of permaculture talk about it as an alternative to horticulture, which made no sense to me as a Master Gardener. Jessi’s approach of applying horticulture principles in a permaculture framework made more sense to me and I embrace her ideas.) Since The Greenspire School has a core mission of teaching about environmental studies and sustainability, permaculture and chickens fit perfectly into their school environment and educational goals. (Greenspire also raises rabbits now, Mr. Thumper and Pumpernickel, with their chickens – there is apparently a symbiotic relationship between them too. And the resulting compost is wonderful stuff.)

Jessi did an informal survey of the audience and almost all of the 70-80 people in attendance were raising chickens. Many raised their hands and said they had issues of dead earth where chickens had been housed. Jessi talked about understanding the capacity of your space for chickens (prevent over-crowding) to determine how many your garden can support sustainably and also moving the area that the chickens are actively working to prevent “overgrazing”. Allowing chickens “free range” is a more sustainable option that confining chickens to a small, stationary, space. But who or where can you have chickens? That seems to vary all over the map. In the city of Traverse City there is a local ordinance that allows chicken coops in the city limits, but not roosters, who are perceived to be a nuisance. On Old Mission Peninsula, people with a Traverse City mailing address, but not in the city proper, are still not allowed to have chickens, even though the peninsula is more rural in character than downtown Traverse City. The lesson here? Check with your local township office to see what chicken ordinances exist in your area. Also, keep on good terms with your neighbors (perhaps free eggs?) so that existing anti-chicken ordinances will not be enforced should you choose to become part of the forefront of this growing movement!

photo via wikiemedia commons

photo via wikiemedia commons

Food of the Month: Pumpkin

Michele Worden

Latin Name: genus Cucurbita

Family: family Cucurbitaceae (gourd family along with winter squash like Acorn or butternut)

Description: Pumpkin is a fruit of one of the species Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima, and Cucurbita moschata, and is believe to be native to North America. They grow on a vine and can have an orange, yellow, white or green-blue shell, creased from the stem to the bottom, containing the seeds and pulp. They ripen in fall and are cultivated for agricultural (animal feed), ornamental and culinary uses.

Origin: Now found all over the world but believed to originate in North America.

Cultivation (how and where): Pumpkin is a warm season crop that needs a 70 F soil to germinate and grow. It also needs a very moisture retentive soil. Pumpkins are monoecious – they have both a male and female flower can be pollinated by the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, European honeybees or hand pollination to produce fruit.

Fun Fact: All giant pumpkins are Curcubita Maxima cultivars and are called ‘Atlantic Giants’. Every year giant pumpkin growers compete in contests to see who can grow the largest pumpkin. The current world record holder is Chris Stevens’s 1,810-pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin, which in October 2010. Another fun fact is that 95% of all pie pumpkin are grown in Illinois and processed in Morton, Illinois by Nestle.

Nutrition: For the flesh, the main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body. Seeds, or Pepitos, are good sources of protein, as well as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and potassium.

Culinary Uses: Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, oil from the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Parts of the pumpkin are eaten all over the world.

Flesh: Ripe pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In North America we eat it mashed in soups and purees and pies. Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini. In the Middle East, pumpkin is used for sweet dishes like halawa yaqtin. In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices in a dish called kadu ka halwa. In Japan, small pumpkins are served in tempura. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). In Thailand, small pumpkins are steamed with custard inside and served as a dessert. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a savory stuffing for ravioli.

Leaves: In China and Kenya the leaves are used as a vegetable and in soups.

Seeds: In Mexico and the U.S., the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack. The seeds are a popular sunflower seed substitute. Also, pumpkin can be used to flavor both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Pumpkin seed oil is a delicacy in Austria and Eastern Europe used in salad oil in desserts. It has a nutty flavor.

Flowers: In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil.

Medicinal Uses: The medicinal properties of pumpkin include anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti- inflammatory. Pumpkin seed oil contains essential fatty acids that help maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues and is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Seeds and oil have been a folkloric remedy for prostrate issues in men. Pepitas contain high levels of L-tryptophan that are believed to help with anxiety and depression.

Variety grown or eaten as school: In 2010 we grew a french heirloom called ‘Rouge d’Vif Etampe’ otherwise known as Cinderella Pumpkins. This year we grew New England Pie Pumpkins.

Literature: Pumpkins feature prominently in many stories such as the ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, ‘Cinderella’, and Harry Potter series (pumpkin juice) and many more.

Cultural: Across the US in the fall there are Pumpkin Festivals, giant pumpkin weighing contests, pumpkin chunking events (where pumpkins are thrown using a catapult). Pumpkins are carved as jack o’ lanterns for Halloween. Pumpkin pie is a featured food at Thanksgiving and Christmas feast.


Nourish – Sep ’14 Real Dirt

Contents (click to jump directly to a title)

Dried Herbs de Provence by French Tart- FT (https://www.flickr.com/photos/frenchtart/)

Herbalicious

Nancy Denison

Do you have a contained, orderly, easy to use little kitchen herb garden in clay pots right outside your kitchen door? Or maybe you have a wild, over grown space in your flower bed that fulfills your every herbal need for crafting, medicinal remedies and cooking. Whichever it happens to be, you have joined with your ancestors in using herbs as food and medicine for thousands of years.

Most herbs are easily grown from seed, cutting or bulb. We harvest herbs using leaves (sage, peppermint), flowers (chamomile, St John’s Wort), seeds (Fennel, Coriander), roots (Dandelion), fruits (Rose Hips), sap (Aloe, Clove) or bulb (Garlic). A basic herb garden could/should contain those herbs which you will use in your cooking or crafting activities. Some culinarians might suggest Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Chives, Sage, Dill, Mint and Tarragon as most useful in many recipes, fresh or dried. I inherited my herbal garden of tarragon, marjoram, chives, lemon balm, sage, comfrey and lavender, some of which I have had to replace over the years. But these, along with Basil, Cilantro, Rosemary or Parsley have provided more than enough choices for cooking, vinegars, and sharing with others.

Here’s a quick guide for some basic herbs:

· Aloe Vera – everyone should have at least one Aloe plant. It’s very easy to take cuttings, has cooling qualities, relieves inflammation, and heals burns, scrapes, wounds.

· Basil – many varieties to choose from; has strong effect on emotions, can ease fear/sadness. Great for sauces, salads as well as the classic pesto.

· Chive – one of first herbs ready for use in the spring. Good for digestion, high in Vitamin A and C. Can be harvested any time by cutting leaves. Chop, add to soups, salads, vegetables. Add to soft butter to garnish cooked meats, fish. The more pungent flowers can also be used for decoration or garnish.

· Dill – can grow anywhere, self-sows. Spicy green taste. Harvest feathered leaves when plant is large enough. Use flowers for pickles when just open or hang flower/seed heads upside down in a bag to collect seeds. Use with seafood, vegetables, pickles.

· Lavender – many varieties of this popular, useful herb. Can be used in cooking, garnish, as a tea and an insect repellant (cut stems and lay them around the outside of your home). Essential oil of lavender has been used for calming nerves.

· Rosemary – for remembrance, strengthening the memory. Our home in northern California had a 4 ft tall, 20+year old Rosemary plant that come with it…I was in awe! Great for seasoning meats, vegetables (especially eggplant and zucchini) and adding to breads and scones. Harvest branches any time but be sure to bring in Rosemary once fall arrives in our Northern climate.

· Sage – from the Latin salver, meaning to save or heal, sage was highly valued for its healing powers. Native Americans thought sage sacred for its purifying energy to bring a person or place back into balance by cleansing the body and mind of negative spirits and impurities. In cooking the leaf can be used in salads, teas, and to flavor meats.

· Tarragon – native to the Mediterranean. Tarragon was thought to cure the bites and stings of reptiles, venomous insects and mad dogs! Culinary-wise is valued for its use with chicken, salads, and sauces. It is rich in Iodine, Vitamin A and C. Hang Tarragon in stalks to dry, then strip leaves and place in airtight containers away from light.

Here’s an easy recipe for Aloe Vera medicated oil:

Slice leaves into one inch pieces. Place in glass jar. Cover leaves with any vegetable oil, seal. Allow to soak for 60 day, then strain. Keep oil in a labeled dark glass container. Will keep indefinitely. Be sure to check with a medical professional before using any herbal medication and in the meantime, have fun discovering the world of herbs!

Resources:

Bremness, Lesley ed, Herbs. Readers Digest Assoc. Inc. 1990.

Hemphill, John and Rosemary, Hemphill’s Herbs, Landowner Press, 1984

Knapke, Debra, and Peters, Laura, Herb Gardening for the Midwest, Lone Pine

Publishing, 2008.

Lima, Patrick, Complete Gardeners Guide Herbs, Firefly Books, 2012.

Small Ernest, and Deutsch, Grace, Culinary Herbs for Short Season Gardeners,

Mountain Press Publishing, 2002.

rhubarb via wikimedia.org

rhubarb via wikimedia.org

Leafy Green Tart Recipe

Cheryl Gross

Farmer’s Markets are bountiful with the harvest and leafy greens, such as chard and kale, are very popular. Juicing is one way to enjoy the benefits of leafy greens, pan sautéing is another. Making a tart with a leafy green makes it a healthy entree for lunch, dinner or even breakfast.

The following tart recipe began from The All New Joy of Cooking. It is what I refer to as a ‘zipper’ recipe. Once the basics are understood, ingredients can be ‘zipped’ in and out to create a different dish. The tart is assembled in three stages: the crust, the custard and the filling. The custard can be zipped by changing or omitting the cheese. The filling offers unlimited flexibility.

Leafy Green Tart

Pat-in-pan Tart Crust:

1 3/4 C unbleached flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/3 C milk

Stir the ingredients until well blended. Pat into an 11 inch tart pan and up the sides. Prick the crust with a fork and bake in a 425° oven for 12-15 minutes and crust is beginning to brown.

Custard:

3 eggs, whisked

1/3 C cream or half and half

1 C parmesan cheese OR 1 C crumbled feta cheese OR half parmesan and half feta

OR an equivalent cheese of your choosing.

Mix together in a bowl and set aside.

Filling:

2 TBS Olive Oil

1# of chard OR spinach leaves OR 12 oz kale leaves.

1/2 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 TBS fresh basil, chopped or 1 1/2 tsp dried

1/4-1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper

Clean the greens and if using chard or kale, remove the stems, dice and slice the leaves into ribbons. In a skillet large enough to hold the leafy greens (or cook in batches) heat the oil and add the onion (and stems) cooking on medium till they begin to soften. Add leafy green and cook… spinach just a few minutes till wilted; chard 8-10 minutes and kale 12-15 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic near the end. Season with basil, salt and pepper.

Add the filling to the custard and the custard to the baked shell, spread evenly and return to a 350° oven. Bake 25-35 minutes until filling is golden and firm. Serve at room temperature.

Chard works well with all parmesan. Spinach works well with all feta. Kale works well with half of each.

Notes: I have made a sweet version with rhubarb (stems NOT leaves!). Add 2-4 TBS sugar to the crust, add 3/4 to 1 C of sugar to the filling and omit cooking 3 C of diced rhubarb.

Am contemplating adding bacon to a leafy green. Or caramelized onions and mushrooms for the filling. Certainly a summer squash version might be nice to try too…

Enjoy!

Sun Gold Tomatoes  by MG Mike Davis

Sun Gold Tomatoes
by MG Mike Davis

Preserving the Harvest: Tomatoes

By Cheryl Gross

September brings visions of BLTs, Caprese salads, fried green tomatoes, and many favorite summer menu items, thanks to Farmer’s Markets and our gardens abundant tomatoes! What to do with all that bounty?

First, decide how YOU use tomatoes throughout the year. Hummm…. spaghetti sauce long simmered or ‘rustic/fresh’? Added to stews and soups? Topping for pizza crusts? Some of each may feed your family during the long winter season. Knowing how you will use tomatoes in your kitchen makes it much easier to decide the preservation method.

Canning is a wonderful adventure. Making homemade stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spaghetti sauce is very satisfying. Shelf stable and lasting a year, canning requires exceptional attention to ‘detail’ with recipes to ensure a safe food product. Today’s tomatoes contain lower acids than tomatoes of the past, so following current canning recipes and methods are crucial. Grandma’s recipes may not be the safest given what we know now. Multiple resources are available to ensure quality, safe, tomato canning. Generally speaking, cooked tomatoes with added acid can be preserved in sterile canning jars in hot water bath.

According to the USDA’s Complete Guild to Home Canning, Agricultural Information Bulletin, No. 539 c. December 2009 to can Tomatoes-Whole or Halved (packed raw without added liquid) do the following:

Quantity: Approximately 21 pounds of tomatoes are needed per canner load of 7 quarts. Thirteen pounds are needed for a canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 15-21 quarts at an average of 3 pounds per quart.

Procedure: Wash tomatoes. Blanch (dip in boiling water for 30-60 seconds till skin splits), place in cold water. Slip skins and remove cores.

Add: 2 TBS of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 tsp citric acid per quart (half of the amount for pints) to prepared (sterilized) jars. Fill the hot jars with raw tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch head space. Press the tomatoes in the jars until the spaces between the tomatoes fill with juice. Add more tomatoes as needed to remove air bubbles and keep the head space at 1/2 inch. (Add 1 tsp of salt to jars, if desired) Wipe jar edges and seal.

Process in boiling water that covers the jars by 2 inches for 85 minutes.

Research recipes for canning tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce from recent, research based publications, such as the USDA or other reliable sources. (See the MGANM August Meeting Notes article for additional resources.) Gather all necessary tools: canning pot or pressure cooker, glass canning jars, lids, rims, and jar-handling tongs to insert and remove jars from boiling water.

Alternatively, tomatoes can be frozen. Freezing requires a deep freezer to maintain a constant temp. Frost-free freezers, as part of refrigerators, thaw to reduce frost and can only hold frozen food for three months safely.

If you have the proper equipment and space, freezing is an effective alternative. All tomatoes preserved are to be in peak condition. Old or over ripe fruit is to be avoided. Underripe will lack flavor.

-Fresh tomatoes: Blanch (dip in boiling water for 30-60 seconds then plunge into ice water). Peel, core, quarter and place into zip lock freezer bags, quart or gallon sized. Lay flat to freeze. Use in stewed or rustic sauces. Add quarters to stews and soups. Reduce liquid from frozen fresh tomatoes to deepen flavor. Add to chili and simmer.

-Fresh tomatoes: Blanch (dip in boiling water for 30-60 seconds then plunge into ice water). Peel, core, quarter and place into a food processor or blender. Puree. Freeze in quart or gallon storage bags. Alternatively, seed after blanching, and process only the tomato flesh. Freeze in quart or gallon bags. Use in sauces, soups and stews.

-Roasted tomatoes: Core and quarter tomatoes (blanch and peel, if you prefer). Place in a 9 x 13 pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450° until reduced and browned. Cool and freeze in quart or gallon freezer bags. Alternatively, add an onion or two, sliced, to tomatoes before roasting. OR add fresh thyme springs to tomatoes before roasting. OR add peeled whole garlic cloves to tomatoes before roasting. Thaw and use roasted tomatoes in stewed sauces, fresh sauces, soups, pizzas, etc. Roasted tomatoes add a depth of flavor to recipes and take less space for storage.

-Dehydrate/ dry tomatoes: Core and slice tomatoes (1/4 inch thick). Place in a dehydrator. Dry according to dryer instructions until tomatoes are dry, but flexible. Place in freezer bags and freeze. Add to simmered sauces, and soups to rehydrate and deepen tomato richness. Lay on pizza crust or flat breads for rich tomato flavor without the moisture.

 

Submitted by MG Sonia Clem

Submitted by MG Sonia Clem

MGANM August Meeting Notes: Beans, Tomatoes, Pickles, Oh My!

by Nancy Denison

Jennifer Berkey from MSU-E came, fully armed, with pressure canner, jars, guidesand methods to guide us as we begin to reap the harvests of our gardens. Safety is the prime factor in the process of preserving, whether through freezing, cold or hot pack or drying. The boiling water method and pressure canning methods are the only USDA approved home canning processes. Freezing is quick, helps to retain flavors and colors and doesn’t heat up the house as canning would. Drying removes moisture from items through oven drying or food dehydrator. Use of fresh fruits or vegetables in any preserving method is of utmost importance for safety and taste. Thanks so much, Jennifer for sharing your expertise with us!

 

Contact Jennifer at berkeyj@anr.msu.edu or 231.922.4821

 

Other food preservation sources are:

National Center for Home Food Preservation

Michigan Fresh, MSUE

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (1991). Ball Corporation. (see on Amazon)


Nourish – July ’14 Real Dirt

rhubarb via wikimedia.org

rhubarb via wikimedia.org

Rhubarb and Raspberries…mmmmm

by Nancy Denison

 

My rhubarb plants are quite prolific and the “season” seems to last all summer.  Even with the plethora of rhubarb recipes, my family does get a little tired of eating it.  Here are a few recipes, in case you need them!

 

Rhubarb Bread —-preheat oven to 350

1.5 C brown sugar              2/3 C oil         ….combine in bowl, stir well till smooth

Add and blend till moist:    1 egg       1 C buttermilk     1 tsp salt, baking soda, vanilla      2.5 C flour

Fold in:     2 C diced rhubarb                     ½ C chopped nuts (if desired)

Turn batter into 2 greased loaf pans

Combine 1 TBSP soft butter and ¼ C granulated sugar until crumbly.  Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes, turn onto racks to cool before slicing.

 

Rhubarb Bars

Combine in mixing bowl; 1 C flour and 1/3 C powdered sugar.

Cut in 1/3 C butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs

Pat the crumb mixture into the bottom of an 11x7x1.5” or 9x9x2“greased baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 12 minutes

In separate mixing bowl beat together; 1 C sugar, ¼ C flour, 2 slightly beaten eggs and 1 tsp vanilla

Stir in 3 C finely diced rhubarb.

Pour mixture over warm crust in baking pan.

Return to oven and bake for 35 minutes more.  Let cool. Store in refrigerator.  Makes 16 servings.

 

Frozen Rhubarb Yogurt

2 C stewed rhubarb- cooled

½ C plain low-fat yogurt (I used vanilla)

3 TBSP granulated sugar

2 TBSP orange juice

(I had strawberries in the house so I added some of those as well)

Puree rhubarb till smooth in food processor or blender.  Blend in yogurt sugar, juice.

Pour mixture into prepared ice cream maker tub and freeze according to instructions of pour into a shallow metal pan, cover and place in freezer for 3-4 hrs. or till almost firm.  Break up mixture and process in food processor till smooth.  Freeze in airtight container for 1 hr. or until firm.

Makes 4 C.  105 cal. per each 1/2 C serving.

 

Easy Fruit Pie- using raspberries or any combo of fruit

Ingredients; 1- 9” pie crust- graham cracker or pastry

½ C sugar

1 T corn starch

1 C water

1 – 3oz pkg. fruit gelatin- strawberry, raspberry, etc.

  1. Bake or use already prepared pie crust
  2. Mix together sugar and cornstarch, then add to water in small saucepan
  3. Boil till thick and clear
  4. Add pkg. of gelatin, stir and cool
  5. Fill crust with berries
  6. When gelatin mixture is cooled, pour over berries, then store in refrigerator, serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

 

Some years I have lots of raspberries and need to use them up even if they don’t look so good.  This recipe fills many needs!


Nourish – March ’14 Real Dirt

Contents

Feed Me…Feed Me
Food of the Month: Kale

fertilizer book cover

Feed Me…Feed Me

by Nancy Denison
During my final ten years of teaching first grade and kindergarten, I had a fish tank in my classroom.  It had a calming effect, was science related and it was a lot of work.  Once a month I had to clean it but usually I stretched it to a quarterly cleaning.  By then it was pretty gunky but that gunk was like liquid gold.  Into a bucket went the sucked up gunk off the bottom. I added about a third of the old water, mixed it all together and voila, an organic plant fertilizer, which fed my school and home indoor plants!

I don’t have the fish tank anymore, but I still have lots of indoor plants, so now is the time to investigate what’s available for my (and your) collection.  Indoor plants need the same food as outdoor/garden plants; Nitrogen (healthy foliage), Phosphorus (root growth) and Potassium (big, healthy blooms).   Some fertilizers are synthetic, some are sold in granular/crystal form, liquid, stick or tablet form, and some are organic, made from seaweed, fish emulsion or earthworm castings.As a general rule, use indoor fertilizers every two weeks from February/March to August/ September.  During the darkest days of winter fertilizers are not beneficial due to the reduced light and temperatures and in fact could be detrimental to most plants.  Advantages to fertilizing are increased growth, greener leaf color, and flowering and more disease/insect resistance.  Disadvantages can take the form of leggy or overgrown plants and the loss of lower leaves.  When applying fertilizer, always follow label instructions and try to make sure the solution runs out of the bottom of the pot to reduce the chance of root burn.

Most garden centers carry several varieties of indoor fertilizers.  At Garden Goods in TC, I found the granular-time release Osmocote, liquid Miracle Grow and water soluble, seaweed based Maxsea among several other brands/forms of fertilizers.  I’m attempting a little experiment with all three and some spider plant cuttings, so I hope to be able to report my fertilizer findings in a future Real Dirt.  In the meantime, here are a few fertilizer recipes from me and “America’s Gaster gardener”, Jerry Baker…

For lush foliage:

½ TBSP Bourbon (or other whiskey)

¼ tsp instant tea granules

1 multi-vitamin with iron tablet

Mix all together with one gallon warm water

For flowering houseplants:

½ TBSP each Vodka, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide

¼ tsp instant tea granules

1 multi-vitamin with iron tablet

Mix with one gallon warm water.  When fertilizing, add one cup mixture with one gallon warm water.
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kale by srqpix on flickr

Food of the Month: Kale

by Michele Worden
Introduction:  Do you eat kale?  Kale is a hot commodity, a trendy food right now.  Kale chips compete with tortilla chips in convenience stores, and for the first time baby kale leaves are available in clamshell containers in major grocery stores.  Read on if you want to know more about Kale, the ‘Superfood’, and why everyone needs more kale.  As a bonus, try the immune system boosting Kale Smoothie recipe at the end.

Latin Name:  Brassica Oleracea

Family:  Brassica or Cole (cabbage) family, includes cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and radishes

Description:  Leaf plant (non-heading, unlike it’s cousin the cabbage), which can have curly leaves or flat leaves.  Color can be purple, greenish blue, dark green, brown or green with red veins.

Origin:  Believed to be Asia Minor or Europe; it has been in cultivation for 2000 years, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.  It was a favorite food of the Romans and Greeks.  In the Middle Ages it was a common green vegetable in Europe.  English settlers brought kale to the Americas in the 1700’s.  Today it is eaten all over the world.

Cultivation: (how and where grown):  Kale is a biennial, which means it produces yellow flowers in its second year and then dies.  It is a cold weather crop and overwinters in the garden.  It tastes sweeter after a frost because the carbohydrates in the leaves are converted to sugar in cold weather.  In hot weather kale becomes bitter.  Like all brassicas, kale seeds germinate in 3-5 days with close to 100% germination rates, making it a great plant for school gardens or science experiments because kids see quick results.  It is also easy to harvest the seeds and save them.

Fun Fact:  Students love to eat kale grown in school gardens.  It is a favorite activity to go in to the garden after a frost and taste the kale to see if it has gotten sweeter.  I always plant it so students have a snack in the garden during outside activities.

Nutrition:  Kale is famous as a “Super Food” because it is rich in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, micronutrients and cancer-preventing agents.  It is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables anywhere.  Kale is extremely rich in vitamins K, A, C and minerals such as manganese, copper, calcium, and B6.  It is high in fiber, which aids in digestion and lowers cholesterol.  A serving size is 1-1/2 cup and should be eaten 2-3 times per week to achieve the health benefits.  Kale is also one of the few vegetables that have a small amount of protein.  See this link for a more detailed nutrition profile:  http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.phptname=foodspice&dbid=38#nutritionalprofile.

Note:  Kale does contain oxalates, so persons with kidney problems many have trouble with oxalate crystals (kidney stones) if they eat too much kale.  This is not usually a problem with healthy kidneys.

Culinary Uses:  Most nutritious when steamed but can be eaten raw in salads, boiled in soup and added to stir fry’s.  In the Netherlands it is served in a traditional boiled dish called “boerenkool”.  In Ireland, it is served with mashed potatoes in “Colcannon”.  (A milk, potato and kale meal was nutritious enough to keep an Irish peasant healthy and strong even though his diet lacked much meat.)  In China, Taiwan and Vietnam is added to beef in stir-fry.  In Portugal, it is part of a traditional soup called “Caldo Verde” made with a spicy sausage.    Kale is served with Christmas Ham in northern European countries.  My favorite way to eat kale is in the kale smoothie recipe at the end of this article!  A cure for the common cold?  It packs a vitamin C punch to the cold virus.

Medicinal Uses:  There has been a lot of research on kale’s cancer preventative as well as cancer treatment benefits.  Kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.  Kale’s cancer preventive benefits have been linked to its unusual concentration of two types of antioxidants, namely, carotenoids and flavonoids.  To read more see:  http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38#nutritionalprofile.

Chopped kale is sold in cans for older people or babies as nutritionally dense and easy to digest food.  The high fiber in kale helps lower cholesterol.

Variety grown or eaten in schools:    Scotch Blue Curled and Red Russian, because they are pretty!

Impact on Culture:  A winter staple that sustained many villages over the winter when food was scarce in Europe – thus saved lives throughout history.  Believed to have sustained slaves in the old south.  Slave diets were poor except for the kale and collard greens they were allowed to grow that may have prevented malnutrition. In Germany, they have kale tours and festivals in the winter.  In Scottish literature, writers tell stories about kale variety rivalries between villages.

Farm-Fresh Mean-Green Smoothie

Springtime gives us an abundance of greens and warm days gardening in the sun, making it a perfect time for a fresh take on smoothies to cool you off! By blending in kale, this all fruit smoothie packs an extra punch of protein (2g in one cup of kale) and nutrients (206% daily need for vitamin A and 10% Daily need for Calcium), but besides the fun green color you will hardly be able to tell that it is in the mix. To try it for yourself, blend:

3/4 Cup Juice (Orange, Apple, or Grape)

1/2 Apple or Pear

1 Banana (Fresh or Frozen)

1 Cup Kale (Stems removed)

1/2 Cup Water

4 Cups Ice

For the best success blending, add ingredients to your blender in the order listed. If you find it necessary, blend the orange juice, apple and banana before adding the kale, water and ice. If you want to make a lot for later or to serve at a party, blend everything except for the ice to make a smoothie mix that can be refrigerated for 4-6 hours. Then simply fill you blender half full, add ice, and blend, adding more ice as needed to reach your desired smoothie texture (freezing your banana adds extra creaminess).

Recipe adapted from vitamix, Kale and Pear Green Smoothie https://www.vitamix.com/Find-Recipes/K/A/Kale-and-Pear-Green-Smoothie
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Nourish – Jan ’14 Real Dirt

Contents

Flowers to the Rescue
The Carrot

Flowers to the Rescue

by Nancy Denison

Etlingera "Elatior"

Etlingera “Elatior”

“Health …is the complete and full union between soul, mind and body; and this is not a difficult…ideal to attain, but one so easy and natural that many of us have overlooked it”, Dr. Edward Bach.

Dr Bach, (1886-1936) was an English physician who became increasingly dissatisfied with conventional medical systems of treatment and went on to study immunology.  He was more interested in the people he treated than their disease and concluded that with illness, personality is more important than symptoms and should be considered in determining treatment.  Dr. Bach believed that illness was the effect of disharmony between the body and mind and the symptoms were the outer expressions of a negative emotional state.

While working at the London Homeopathic Hospital (1919-1922), Dr. Bach merged the earlier principals of homeopathy by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann with his own knowledge of traditional medicine to develop the Seven Bach Nosodes.  These were oral vaccines which cleansed the intestinal tract with excellent effects on the general health of the patient.

In 1928 Dr. Bach used the plants, Impatiens, Mimulus and Clematis, as he did his other oral vaccines, prescribed them according to his patients’ distinct personality and discovered quick and positive results.  By 1930 he was seeking out and preparing more flower remedies with continued success in treatment.  In 1932 he revealed his first of twelve remedies; 1933 brought the seven helper remedies and 1934 the final nineteen remedies to complete the program. These thirty-eight remedies were to cover all characteristics of human nature and all the negative states of mind which trigger illness.  Dr. Bach died in November 1936, at the young age of 50. Today the Bach Centre at Mt Vernon, Oxfordshire, England continues the work of Dr. Bach, training, advising students and preparing the mother tinctures.

And so…These remedies, as clearly stated in all Bach literature, are not meant to take the place of medical attention but to work in subtle harmony with “conventional” treatment.  The essences are safe, with no chance of overdose; will not interfere with any other form of treatment; have no side effects and can be used as often as needed until symptoms are gone.

Dr Bach divided the thirty eight remedies into seven categories which embody essential conflicts which inhibit us from “being true to ourselves.”  These categories are: fear, uncertainty, loneliness, insufficient interest in present circumstances, over sensitivity to influence and ideas, despondency or despair, and over-care for the welfare of others.  Within each category, there are specific forms which can be treated with one or more remedies, such as fear- in the form of terror, everyday fears, fear of losing one’s mind, etc. Bach’s (and others) books contain descriptions of the remedies and the emotional and mental issues for which each is needed so the reader must recognize how s/he feels at that moment.  It may be difficult as the descriptions are not always complimentary and depict the need in the most negative state, so it may be useful to ask a friend who can be objective to help pinpoint the best remedy.

Once your remedy has been selected, it is recommended to take two drops in a cup of water and sip at intervals, holding the dose in your mouth for a few moments before swallowing.  One may also apply drops directly to the tongue or rub behind the ears, temples or wrist or add to lotions, oils or bath water. Usually these remedies work “undramatically and gently” so one would easily adapt.3  If no change occurs in two weeks you may need to review the remedies to add or change your choice.

In producing a remedy, blooms are picked for peak extract and preserved by mixing a1:1 combination of extract and brandy which becomes the “mother”.  Drops of the mother are then diluted with additional brandy and bottled as stock, then further diluted with water when used.

The remedies are divided as: twelve “Healers” (e.g., Chicory, Clematis, Vervain…); seven “Helpers” (e.g., Gorse, Heather, Olive..); a second set of nineteen “Healers” (e.g., Aspen, Crabapple, Holly…) and a first aid “Rescue Remedy” comprised of Cherry Plum, Clematis, Impatiens, Rock Rose, and Star of Bethlehem;  which is used quickly after an emotional shock, accident, or illness.

Dr. Bach’s aim was to help people understand themselves and use that understanding to benefit others.  The best way to help others is to become all we can be, “to realize our own true nature- our greatest potential for good.”1   Bach believed that good health is simply a state of mind, thus if we are strong spiritually and mentally, we are able to deal with the external world with clarity, flexibility and balance.

References:

  1. Bach Flower Remedies for Beginners. David Vennels, Llewellyn Publications, 2001.
  2. Illustrated Handbook of the Bach Flower Remedies.  Phillip M Chancellor, Vermilion, 1971
  3. The 38 Flower Remedies.  Wigmore Publications Ltd. 1993
  4. “The Spirit of Dr. Bach, the Bach Flower Therapy”. BachWiki, 2/21/07
  5. Other; bachcentre.com, edwardbach.org

Bottled Bach Remedies are sold at Oryana Co-op in Traverse City

The Carrot

Michele Worden

carrots post size

Latin Name:  Daucus carota

Family:  Apiaceae (same as parsley, celery, dill, cilantro, Queen Ann’s lace)

Description:  It is a biennial plant which grows a rosette of leaves in the spring and summer, while building up the stout taproot, which stores large amounts of sugars for the plant to flower in the second year. The leaves are dissected and the flowering stem grows to about 1 meter (3 ft) tall, with an umbel of white flowers.  The carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange in color, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh. The most commonly eaten part of a carrot is a taproot, although the greens are edible as well.  Different cultivars of carrot have different shaped taproot.

Origin:  It is a domesticated form of the wild carrot Daucus carota, native to Europe and southwestern Asia.  The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged and more palatable, less woody-textured edible taproot.  The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have come from Iran and Afghanistan, which remains the center of diversity of D. carota.

In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for these, such as parsley, fennel, dill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is in the 1st century. The modern carrot appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 8–10th centuries.  Some believe there is evidence that carrots were eaten by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Cultivation (how and where grown):  Carrots grow best in full sun but tolerate some shade.   In order to avoid growing deformed carrots it is better to plant them in loose soil free from rocks. The seeds, which are 1-3mm in diameter, should be sown about 2cm deep or sown on surface.  Carrots take around 4 months to mature for eating but flower the next year if left in the ground.  Carrots seeds are very small and seedlings are difficult to thin.  To deal with this in home gardens, carrots seeds are often mixed with sand to space out the seeds, or mixed with radish seeds to grow two harvests in the same space.  Once the radishes are harvested, the carrots grow at the appropriate spacing.  Carrot flowers are pollinated primarily by bees – honeybees or mason bees.  Carrots are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Common SwiftGarden DartGhost MothLarge Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character.

Carrots are grown in temperate climates and China, Russia and the United States are the largest producers.  Eastern carrots from Iran and Afghanistan were purple or yellow.  Western carrots developed in the Netherlands were primarily orange.  The color orange was an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence.

Fun Facts:  The city of Holtville, California, promotes itself as “Carrot Capital of the World”, and holds an annual festival devoted entirely to the carrot.

Nutrition:  The domestic carrot gets its characteristic and bright orange color from β-carotene, which is metabolized into vitamin A in humans when bile salts are present in the intestines.  One hundred milligrams of carrots contains over 100% of the RDA of vitamin A.  Lack of vitamin A can cause poor vision, including night vision, and vision can be restored by adding it back into the diet.  However, only 3% of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil.  Massive overconsumption of carrots can cause carotenoids, a benign condition in which the skin turns orange. Carrots are also rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.

Different colored carrots contain different nutrients.

  • Orange carrots contain beta carotene, with some alpha-carotene, both of which are orange pigments. High in Vitamin A essential for well-being, healthy eyes.  These carrots are from Europe and the Middle East.
  • Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls and lutene, pigments similar to beta carotene, which help develop healthy eyes aid in the fight against macular degeneration and may prevent lung and other cancers and reduce the risk of astherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Red carrots are tinted by lycopene, (another form of carotene) a pigment also found in tomatoes and watermelon; lycopene is associated with the reduced risk of macular degeneration, serum lipid oxidation, helps prevent heart disease and a wide variety of cancers including prostate cancer. Originally from India and China.
  • Purple carrots (usually orange inside) have even more beta carotene than their orange cousins, and get their pigment from an entirely different class, the anthocyanins, these pigments act as powerful antioxidants, grabbing and holding on to harmful free radicals in the body. Anthocyanins also help prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting and are good anti inflammatory agents.  Some people say these will be the next superfood. These originate from Turkey, and the Middle and Far East.
  • White carrots lack pigment, but may contain other health-promoting substances called phytochemicals, natural bioactive compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and dietary fiber to protect against disease. One might say these are the least healthy of carrots. They originate from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan.
  • Black carrots contain anthocyanins, part of the flavonoid family with antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are currently under investigation as anticancer compounds, as free radical scavengers in living systems, as well as inhibitors of LDL (the bad) cholesterol and the black carrot anthocyanins are especially active.  It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungicidal properties and oil made from its seed can help control scalp itchiness and provides essential nutrients for hair growth. The ancient black carrot has been making a comeback, not so much for culinary purposes but as a source of natural food colorants. These originate from Turkey, and the Middle and Far East.

Culinary Uses:  Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways.  They may be pulped, chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods.  A well-known dish is carrots julienne.  The greens are edible as a leaf vegetable, but are rarely eaten by humans.  Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.

The north Indian carrot is pink-red and sweet.  In India carrots are used in a variety of ways, as salads or as vegetables added to spicy rice or daal dishes. The most popular variation in north India is the Gaajar Kaa Halwaa carrot dessert, which has carrots grated and cooked in milk until the whole mixture is solid, after which nuts and butter are added. Carrot salads are usually made with grated carrots in western parts with a seasoning of mustard seeds and green chilies popped in hot oil, while adding carrots to rice usually is in julienne shape.

Ever since the late 1980s, baby carrots or mini-carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food available in many supermarkets.

The sweetness of carrots allows the vegetable to be used in some fruit-like roles. Grated carrots are used in carrot cakes, as well as carrot puddings, an old English dish thought to have originated in the early 19th century. Carrots can also be used alone or with fruits in jam and preserves. Carrot juice is also widely marketed, especially as a health drink, either stand-alone or blended with fruits and other vegetables.

Medicinal Uses:  Carrots are high in Vitamin A essential for well-being, healthy eyes.   As a folk remedy, the roots are used to treat digestive problems, intestinal parasites, and tonsillitis or constipation.

Variety grown or eaten at local schools:  Purple Haze, Snow White, Amarillo, Napolini, Cosmic Red, and several others

Impact on Culture:  The carrot is said to be the second most popular vegetable after potatoes. The word “carrot” has become a common slang word that means “reward” in the English language, such as in the expression “Dangle a Carrot” in order to motivate someone.

Appearance in Literature:  The most famous book about carrots was a children’s book published in 1945 – “The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss.   It has been in continuous publication for over 60 years.  It is a story about persistence and optimism.  The book opens with the words: “A little boy planted a carrot seed. His mother said, ‘I’m afraid it won’t come up.” Despite the skepticism of his parents and, particularly, his older brother, he persists and “pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.” The book concludes simply “And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would.” However, the singular carrot is so large that it fills a wheelbarrow.

“The Carrot Principle” by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton is a well-known management book that talks about how to use recognition rewards to reduce employee turnover and achieve organizational goals.


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