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Hydrangeas!

Each morning I take a walk and take pictures of whatever flowers are in season. The last few weeks have I have seen so many different shapes, sizes and colors of hydrangeas.  These showy flowers come in mop or pom-pom heads or in lacecaps and they can be tucked in to a pot or allowed to climb up a tree.

A lot of species are white but the garden varieties can be pink, blue, red or purple.  The color changes according to soil pH; an acidic soil produces blue and a sweeter soil, with pH above 6, will produce a pinker flower.

The flower heads can be dried for bouquets.  The plant is mildly toxic so no parts are edible; just a feast for the eyes.

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Pink edges

 

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Sky blue

 

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Pink and blue on one bush

 

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Lime green

 

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Deep purple

 

 

 

 

Old Sturbridge Village

I admit it – I absolutely love living history museums.  Walking down the road in Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts I was an 1830′s farm wife in town to trade butter and cheese for a new tin lantern and a pair of leather shoes.  This effect is strengthened by great care to detail and actors who have often actually done the trade they are demonstrating for many years.  “How long have you practiced this trade?” I asked the shoemaker  “Oh, about 30 years or so.” he replied enthusiastically.  Watching the hands of the potter my daughter and I were transfixed by his ability to pull pots out of mounds of native red clay and the tinsmith made the difficult task of bending sharp sheets of metal to his will look effortless.  The 200 acre setting on the Quinebaug River is peaceful and lovely.  Even with determined effort and a full afternoon we only made it through a small part of the village and will save the river walk and boat ride for the next visit.

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Approaching the village.

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Women gardening

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Laundry day at the farm.

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The potter creating daily use crockery.

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Handmade shoes

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A natural dye display in the fiber house.

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A prosperous merchant’s home.

Rose Hips

Growing up in the desert in Arizona rose hips always sounded so exotic but now that I live in the Pacific Northwest I can find these vitamin C rich tasty fruits everywhere. While all bushes make hips, Rosa rugosa is the variety that has the biggest, sweetest fruits.

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You can see why these fruits are also called “rose tomatoes”

They are ripe now and can be easily harvested. Be careful of thorns and make sure that no chemical sprays have been used.

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This will be ready to be picked in a few more days. Hips are ripe when soft to the touch.

Rose hips contain 25 percent more iron, 20 to 40 percent more Vitamin C (depending upon variety), and 25 times the Vitamin A, and 28 percent more calcium than oranges!

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Freshly picked rose hips

Here are my top three favorite ways to use these tasty and healthy fruits:

  • Rose hip tea – you can use fresh or dried hips to make this comforting beverage. Just soak 3 to 4 hips in boiling water for 10 minutes then add honey or agave syrup to taste. This is great on a cold winter night.
  • Dried rose hips – split hips, remove seeds and spread in a clean area until dry. Once thoroughly dry put in jars or bags. If not completely dry they will mold. These can be added to recipes or just eaten as is.
  • Rose hip jelly
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Seeded and ready to dry.

 

To make the jelly:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rose hip juice
  • 2T lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • One package of pectin

Directions:

  1. Wash the hips
  2. Remove the seeds
  3. Put fruit in pot and just cover with water
  4. Cook until soft then mash with a potato masher
  5. Put the fruit in a jelly bag or line a colander with a couple of layers of cheese cloth and strain out the liquid. To have clear jelly let the juice run out without putting pressure on the bag. This can take several hours.
  6. Combine the juice with pectin and lemon juice.
  7. Bring to a boil. Add sugar, boil hard for 1 minute.
  8. Pour into sterile jars then water bath can for 5 minutes.

 

 

Dahlias!

These showy flowers are very easy to grow from tubers planted in the spring and they brighten up the mid-summer garden with amazing blooms.

Thanks to The Garden Hotline for this great info:
“Dahlias ARE edible! The petals from the flowers are delicious in salads. They taste like a sweet lettuce. They do not keep well so put them on just as you are serving the salad. You can also eat the tubers… kin to Jerusalem Artichokes… They are a South American plant and the tubers have been eaten for a long time there!
In our temperate climate they can often be left in the ground to overwinter but if you have a cherished plant it’s a good idea to dig up the tubers in fall and store them in a cool dry place to replant the following spring.”

The range of shapes, sizes and colors make this a great flower for almost any garden.  They last a long time when cut too so work well in bouquets.

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Oregon Grape Jam

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Oregon grape laden with berries

Walking to work last week I had jam on my mind and my eye open to see what fruits were ripening.  The Oregon Grape in the park near our house was a luscious deep purple blue color and the berries were just a bit soft to the touch. On the way home I picked some berries then made jam with my harvest. This deep blue jam has a great flavor and pairs nicely with sourdough bread or vanilla ice cream.

The two species we have growing in the Seattle area are the tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and low Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa).   The berries from both of these can be used to make jellies, jams or fruit leather.

Here’s how to make the jam:

Prepare the Oregon Grapes

  • Collect berries that are a deep blue purple color and slightly soft 
  • Wash and pick through your harvest removing leaves, stems and any berries that are over or under ripe
  • Put berries and enough water to just cover in a pot and cook until soft.  This usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes
  • Run the cooked berries through a food mill to separate out the seeds and skins from the pulpy juice

Turn fruit into jam

  • Measure how many cups of berries you have, you will need an equivalent amount of sugar
  • Check how much pectin you will need and measure this out.  I like to use Pomona Pectin
  • Get your canning jars and lids ready for filling
  • Add the amount of calcium water needed to your fruit mixture
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add in the well mixed pectin powder and sugar
  • Bring to a second boil and pour into waiting jars
  • Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes
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Ripe and ready to pick

Enjoy!

 

 

Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market  is bursting with fresh produce, regional foods and specialty items.  National Geographic calls it the number one market in the world but Pike Place is still my favorite.

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Maybe one of the best!

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Some farmers bring produce to market via bicycle.

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I had no idea there were so many different types of rice and grains.

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Fries taken to the next level.

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Olives and savory treats for everyone.

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Luscious desserts

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All sorts of fresh meats and sausages.

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The Canadian Mounties are omnipresent via cardboard cutouts.

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So much to see and taste.

 

Garden Fresh Potato Salad

A summer staple for my family is a hearty garden fresh potato salad.  We have this sustaining dish with almost every outdoor meal and prepare it for guests as well.

Walking through the garden I found onions, nasturtium flowers, peas, purple potatoes and new eggs from the hens. Ready for 4th of July picnics it’s time for a fresh as can be garden potato salad!  Best of all you don’t need to leave your yard and head to the grocery store. 

Directions:

  • Roam your garden and pick what’s ripe.
  • Make the vinaigrette dressing with a dollop of Dijon mustard, a clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, a bit of salt and olive oil.
  • Quarter and boil your potatoes, drain them and put them in the bowl.
  • I add the eggs in with the potatoes to hard boil as the cooking time is about the same. Peel and slice the eggs.
  • Add in whatever other tasty items you can find in your garden.
  • Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy.
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Fresh garden potato salad

 

July in the Garden

This glorious hot summer is bringing out the plants in full force!  Just harvested the wheat and oats and the tomatoes are coming along nicely.  What is doing well in your garden this year?

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Oats

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Ripening tomatoes

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Oregano

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Rose hips

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Yarrow

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Squash

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Sunflowers

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Grapes

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Ok, not a garden plant but food for the soul!

Time for Raspberry Jam

Summer is finally here and the raspberries are ripe and ready!  Turning the berries into jam is an easy, almost magical process that brings back the flavors of summer deep into winter.

Of all the jams I make raspberry is by far the one that people like the most. This is great as it’s also the easiest to prepare and I’ve never had it not turn out tasting delicious.

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Step 1: Find berries to pick in your backyard or at a nearby U-pick.

When picking the berries look for ones at their peak of ripeness that easily come off the bush.  If they are too ripe they will give an off-flavor to the jam and if they are under-ripe they will lack flavor.

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Step 2: Mash the berries and scoop them into a cooking pot. 

To make firm jam I usually add in pectin.  Pectin is a white powder,  usually derived from citrus fruits, that helps the jam gel.  Some fruits, like apples, are naturally high in pectin so it does not need to be added but for most berries, I do like to use it.

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Step 3: Add in pectin, bring to a boil then add sugar and cook a bit longer. 

When making the jam, be sure to stir it continuously.  If you don’t, it will scorch and all your hard work will be for nothing.  I once spent hours pitting cherries then slowly cooking them to make a conserve.  The phone rang and in seconds I had a big mess of burned cherries that couldn’t be saved.  I nearly cried as I took the pot out to dump on the compost heap.

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Step 4: Ladle into jars, cap and you’re all set.

It’s important to sterilize your canning jars or you will pry the lid up and be greeted with a layer of mold.  To sterilize them place the jars in a canning rack then lower the rack into hot water and boil for 10 minutes.  If you don’t have a canning rack you can submerge them in a big pot of water but sometimes the jars will break.

The final step, of course, is: Enjoy!

Flax!

Flax seeds add a nice nutritious nutty flavor to many dishes and the fibrous stalks can be spun into fiber.  Growing this plant in the Northwest is so easy that it’s almost seen as a weed.

First grow the flax:

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Picture from: www.flaxandhemp.bangor.ac.uk/

Once it has matured and the seed pods are fully formed, harvest it and let it dry in a dark place.  Once the seed heads are dry lay them on a cloth and crush the seed heads to release the small seeds.

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Crush the seed heads on a cloth to catch any loose grains.

Next winnow it to separate the grains from the chaff.

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Winnowing is fun!

Here is the final product; lovely golden flax seeds.

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These can be added to your favorite foods or saved to plant next year.

To learn more about how to process the stalks into fiber visit here.