Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


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Growing

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: http://www.localharvest.org  If you live in NE Ohio, check out localfoodcleveland.org or cityfresh.org.  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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A bit of Summer pickled in a jar

We opened the first of the jars of garlic-dill beans I canned last fall.  They were great!  They were also my first canning experiment.  We were pleased to see that they seemed to have canned well.  It was so nice to eat a crisp green bean on this snowy, cold night.  We belong to a Community Supported Agriculture group, or CSA, most of the year, and these were CSA beans.  My first attempt at canning was a success!  (Which is a relief.  Two of the three subsequent attempts were not successes.  Watch for more efforts to learn to can later this fall!)

This experiment was inspired by the directions on how to can found in the Simply In Season cookbook by Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lin, and their garlic dill green bean recipe. Simply in Season is one of my standard cookbooks, as are the other two books in the World Community Cookbook series.  For more information, check out: http://www.worldcommunitycookbook.org

Simply in Season was one of the first books recommended to me when I joined a CSA for the very first time.  Simply in Season helped to reorder my thinking about food and cooking to follow the seasons. The book is organized by season and has reliably delicious and easy to make recipies.  Since joining a CSA in 2006, I’ve reorganized my recipe collection by season too.  It makes cooking much more enjoyable and interesting for me.   What are your favorite cookbooks for vegetables?  What makes them so great?


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Coming Soon…

Check back here soon for continuing food and gardening adventures as my family and I strive to create an edible landscape on our property, support local food efforts, and chronicle our culinary experiments that will include those landscape edibles and our exploration of alternative grains and ingredients to accommodate various food restrictions.   So far we’re having a grand time.  Want to join us?