Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating

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Time to eat those weeds!


Violets and dandelions are ready to pick!  Steeping mine for a batch of jelly. Hope your spring tastes good!



Wild edibles from the blogosphere

This summer I have my hands full, which makes gardening and recipe creation difficult. Lately I’ve been fascinated with edible flowers. Check out this post on edible roses including the links at the end. I think rose ice cream is in my future.

On a related note I made dairy-free beet ice cream last week and shared it at my City Fresh stop. It was a hit.
I will try to edit this post soon to include the recipe. I’m blogging from a 4 inch screen at the moment

I hope your garden and/or kitchen are bringing you joy this summer.

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Dairy-Free part 2: Better than ever

Roses on a Fall Day


I’ve been way off the blogosphere lately. You might have noticed. We’ve been busy. Since my last post in early July we went through the growing season and I learned what to do with Ground Cherries (pie anyone?). We had a great City Fresh Season through our Community Supported Agriculture program. I successfully made compost for my yard – I grew dirt! And of course, I had a baby. She came one beautiful afternoon after a morning of working in the garden. She came fast enough to be born at home.  She wanted to be in the garden too I think. So, that’s what’s been going on here and why I’ve been fairly quiet. Honestly, that’s why I probably won’t have tons of posts coming up either.

But, I’m still working on a few new projects that will be worth sharing.  For starters, like many babies, she doesn’t tolerate cow milk in my milk.  I am dairy-free again, just like I was with my son when he was a baby.  I’ve noticed that the grocery landscape has changed a lot in the last few years.  There are many more dairy-free and gluten-free options.  Plus, almond milk is now in every store, and even combined with coconut milk 🙂  The store down the street has been running a deal on almonds.  I’ve been buying them by the pound and have successfully made almond butter, almond milk, and this week I plan on trying my hand at almond yogurt.  I think those will be their own post too.

Unlike the last time I was off of dairy, eating seems like a less work.  It helps that we have better tools this time, like the Allergy-Free Deserts cookbook.  We made the apple muffins this evening and they were delightful.  Now that I’ve cracked the code on a good flour blend, and have discovered the beauty of coconut oil, which I also didn’t have before, I feel like there’s nothing we can’t make.  We eat well.  I have no photos at this time; we’ve been eating all the evidence.  I hope to start blogging more, and flush out some of these stories and more.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope that all is well in your kitchen!

I even got my roses trellised.  Yay!



Spring is finally here for real, and that has meant time spent in the garden.  A lot is popping up around here, and I recently had a few good conversations with people who reminded me I should get posting again about our efforts to eat local and eat our weedies!

Growing our Local Eating

Eating locally and eating seasonally works for me. I like that every three months I change the batch of recipes I pull from (with a few year-round standards of course). I like that what I’m eating tends to be cheaper because its in season and locally available. I like that there is a rhythm. Eating local makes me more mindful of where our food comes from, how it is produced, and who produces it.  When we deliberately eat local, we put ourselves back into the food commodity chain. We make a conscious choice, not a mindless one, and that makes a huge difference in food production.

How do you start?  Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, start visiting a farmer’s market regularly.  To find a farmer, CSA, or market check out:  If you live in NE Ohio, check out or  Also, once you start going to farmer’s markets or subscribing to a CSA, the rest just sort of falls into place. You’ll hear about good CSAs and herd shares just by being around the farmers and asking questions, building relationships. The building relationships part is what is so cool. It doesn’t necessarily mean the farmers become your best friend, although, when that can happen it is a lot of fun. My first CSA was like that. But even if it is a mild relationship, a neighborly one, one where the farmer feels comfortable telling you about what’s happening on the farm, and you feel comfortable asking, that right there makes a HUGE difference in everyone’s food quality.

This is an exciting year for me as I get more involved with local CSA work!  I hope to get a chance to blog about it!

Growing and Eating Weeds

Cheeky Woodchuck

This has been an interesting year in our yard.  Last year was very wet, and as a result we got a lot of weeds this spring that I had never seen before.  They clearly loved the wet year last year, and were equally surprised by the extra hot (and cold) and dry spring we’ve had.  But, my violets are coming back, and the cheeky woodchuck, who ate every last one last year, is no where in sight!

Sorrel in my Iris Bed

The wood sorrel is blooming, and I have a host of new weeds to identify and figure out if they are keepers (edible and desirable to eat) or if they need to migrate to the compost pile.  I haven’t seen any purslane yet, and there is an unidentified weed in those beds, so I hope my favorite succulent comes back despite the competition.  My moss garden is spreading too, and I think in about 2 more seasons, my back yard is going to be quite edible and visually attractive.  This has been a slow process, but very fun.

Blueberries in Bloom

A friend asked me over the weekend how to get started with edible gardening.  Obviously, one way is to research edible plants, seek them out and plant them.  But, for those of you like me, who are low on funds, or time, or both, I’m finding this patience-method to work.  We spend time every year identifying what we want to eat (Sorrel, Purslane, Violets, Lambs Quarters), and what we can’t or won’t eat.  We pullwhat we won’t eat, and encourage what we will eat.  Every year we’ve gotten new edibles, and so far the ones we encourage seem to come back every year.

Garlic is Growing

But how do I know what is edible?  Well, I don’t.  But, the Geographer, who is also trained in Ecology does.  He spent a good chunk of his teenage and adult years studying plants.  Books like A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants or A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs can help.  What I find even more helpful is calling up our friends, the Foraging Family, and asking them, or using their well photographed blog as a resource.  They’re doing a series on wild edible recipes this year-definitely worth checking out!

Growing Miscellaneous

And of course, the gluten-free life is always there too.  In recent weeks we have had tons of success with tortillas, and soon I will have a whole post just for bread- I’m close to perfection here I think.  But, as those of you with complicated food restrictions know, it can be difficult to keep up with all this cooking, especially if you don’t feel well.  I haven’t been full strength now for a few months, but for a joyous reason– we’re growing here too!  We are expecting another little sous chef this fall!   My plan of keeping up the blog hasn’t been as easy as I thought.  Nor has cooking something a week out of Allergy-Free Deserts.  That said, in the last several weeks I have made 1) zucchini bread- it tasted JUST like my grandma’s- so good! and 2) Maple cookies- they were very good. My first batch didn’t work out for some reason, but the second batch, which I baked after letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge came out great.  Very similar to my ginger cookies I worked out over Christmas.

So what’s growing with you?  Love your CSA, your edibles?  Feel free to share your spring triumphs with the rest of us!

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Where do you garden?

Hi All.  I’ve been on a break from blogging while I tend to my little garden and other summer adventures.  I probably won’t blog regularly again until September, but when I’m back, here’s just a few things I’ll be ready to talk about:

  • The many uses for sorrel and purslane- I have quite a crop of them both this year!
  • That post about other easy birthday cakes, and I’ll add in a post about an amazing fruit tart I’ve found
  • My continuing adventures to develop a great egg-free, gluten-free bread.  I’m experimenting more with amaranth and its going well.
  • Canning my new preserving adventure.
  • (and for those who have asked, no, I didn’t have time to make the solar oven this year; it will have to wait for summer 2012)

So in the mean time, get out there and encourage a few edible weeds, join a CSA, start eating seasonally, or just get to know a farmer on a first-name basis.

Where are you having your gardening adventures this year? Let us all know, and may you all be having a great summer!



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It’s Violet Season!

We’ve been busy in our corner of the world.  We’ve been managing to get out in the yard/garden in between the raindrops.

Despite the constant rain, we do finally have spring in NE Ohio and all the flowers to go along with it.  I haven’t had enough rain-free days in a row to get my annual spread of corn gluten in my front lawn, and the flowering plants are taking advantage of it!  Corn gluten is a beneficial addition to organically grown lawns.  It provides a feeding of nitrogen and blocks the germination of seeds in the lawn for up to 60 days.  Plus it is non-toxic and compatible with an organic lawn.  Even still, it is full of nitrogen, which we don’t need running off of our lawn and into the area waterways and Lake Erie.  So, I wait for a few dry days in a row, and watch the violets from the back yard, creep their way into the front.  Really, that’s not so bad.  It looks like I might, maybe get a window of opportunity later this week, which would be perfect- the dandelions haven’t gone to seed yet.  If I can get the corn gluten down before that, I will consider this year a success.  And remember friends, that according to website of Paul Tukey and his great book The Organic Lawn Care Manual, this is one of three acceptable times of year to bag your lawn clippings rather than mulch them back to the soil.

The real treat lately has been all of the blooms and flowers!  Here’s just a sample of the blooms around our house.

A Yard Full of Violets

Quince and Forsythia

We are lucky that our yard has so many violets this year.  We definitely have more than last year, which is what we wanted.  We started violet season with our favorite pasta dish for violets, “Sicilian Corkscrews with White Beans” from How to Eat Supper.  We sprinkle the pasta with violets rather than parsley.

Violets in a Bowl

A Violet Meal

Most years, this makes for a fresh pasta dinner, with the violets bringing a fresh, green, almost lemon taste.  This year we were surprised at how they tasted; they were kind of watered down.  This year I had so hoped to make violet jelly, using the recipe found at Prairie Herbs as suggested by my Foraging Family friends, but now I’m not so sure.  I just don’t think the flowers will add any flavor to the jelly.  Maybe I’ll let it go for this year, and let the violets go to seed instead.  (I don’t use corn gluten in my back yard!).  It must be all the rain that makes them taste so watered down.  Either way, they are still so pretty to look at.

A Violet Bite


Just another March in Cleveland: Garden Daydreams

In light of the current situation in Japan, March in Cleveland doesn’t seem so bad.  The recent flooding we’ve been dealing with feels small compared to a tsunami.  We did get a foot of snow a few days ago, which melted 24 hours later.  Today was sunny, but cold, but it will be in the 50s by the end of the week.  Welcome to March in Cleveland.

March is a great time to think about the garden.  Yes, I’ve been enjoying my baking, and I’ll have more baking and cooking posts soon, but it is nice to step outside and dream about what spring will bring.  My daffodils are sprouting and so are the irises.  All signs that the snow has to stop falling eventually.

Today was an especially good day to reflect on the coming spring, and all my aspirations for an edible yard.  I spent a bit of time hacking away a the last of the overgrowth in my yard while my little one played in the sandbox.  We moved into our house, which sits on an average sized city lot, just a little over 3 years ago.  We bought the house in winter and had no way of assessing the vegetation, until the spring, when we were first delighted by all the flowers and things that were budding, and then overwhelmed by vines and how big, weedy, and overgrown everything was.  We moved in when I was pregnant, and I spent every morning between mid-March and early June pulling weeds and hacking at overgrowth.  Then I had a baby and didn’t touch the yard again until the following spring, but I was writing a dissertation, so honestly, not much got done that year too.  Then I graduated and my baby was more of a toddler, so dealing with the overgrowth could begin. I spent every evening last summer pulling out ivy, relics from past owners, Rose of Sharon trees, and other out of control plants.

The overgrowth did reveal a few hidden treasures.  Once we hacked away at the glossy buckthorn, we found a high bush blueberry bush that was amazing.  LM’s sandbox is right under it, so we nibbled blueberries all summer while playing in the sand.  We also found a cherry tree, that sadly, needed to find a new home.  Once we got some of the worst of our creeping weeds out of the way we discovered purslane and wood sorrel, edible “weeds” we were happy to encourage as edible ground cover in the flower beds (beats that frustrating creeping Charlie!).  As we opened up the tight corners of our yard, the corner with overgrown forsythia, which I had been hacking away with from the start, rewarded that hard work by revealing what we thought was an ornimental quince tree actually could bear fruit.  We had lots of quince last fall.  The tree just needed the forsythia out of the way.  It was that very corner I was working in today.  I spent most of February cutting down those forsythia bushes keeping them at bay is just too hard, and we have 3 more forsythia bushes in the yard anyway.  This year the quince will have a properly opened space, which I hope will make up for the fact that it was planted in the completely wrong place for its light requirements.  I will also put in a yard waste compost pile in part of that corner.  I am so excited to be starting a compost pile.

My daydreams for the 2011 Garden?

  • We are currently assessing the weed beds that are in the shade.  I think we’re going to build a raised bed for shade plants and put the rest of the area into a moss ground cover.  I’m considering a moss patio as well.  (See You Bet Your Garden for an example.  Their podcasts have even more information).
  • I’ve decided to spread out the violets growing in my back yard to encourage a more consistent covering of the yard.  We will keep plain grass in the front yard, but we will encourage our back yard to be a larger mix of wood violet.  I want enough to have on salads, and to make violet jelly, like my foraging friends do.  Wood violets only grow to be about 4 inches high, so if I can get all the other plants that grow taller than that out of the yard, I might not have to mow the backyard at all.
  • I’ve been reading Lee Reich’s Uncommon Fruits, which has me considering what our planting plan will look like once I’m done clearing out the weeds and overgrowth.  I want to read his more recent Landscaping with Fruit.  We like the idea of adding in fruit to the landscape (mainly showy, and native plants).  We have a subscription to a community supported agriculture group, so we don’t need a veggie garden, but it is wonderful to have fresh fruit in the yard in the summer.

How about you?  Any garden plans this Summer?  Don’t worry.  Spring really is coming.  Before you know it we will be up to our eyeballs in zucchini.