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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:

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.

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

Next winnow it to separate the grains from the chaff.

Winnowing is fun!

Here is the final product; lovely golden flax seeds.

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.

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.

You can see why these fruits are also called "rose tomatoes"

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.

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

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!

Freshly picked rose hips

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
Seeded and ready to dry.

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.

 

 

Greenhouse Build

The goats are long gone but the shed remains. It’s now my “she shed” and this year I added on a greenhouse.

Existing structure
Corrugated plastic and fencing boards
Shelving and a plastic door that can be rolled up in warmer weather.
Planted seeds during a snowstorm with heating pads under the trays.
Grow lights helped with light and warmth.
Happy plants ready for planting!

Edible Flowers

Many of the flowers that grace our yards are edible.  They can be used as accents in a salad or as garnish on a main dish.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Edible flowers

Chive

I like to use chive flowers in salads to lend a slightly onion flavor.  Here’s a recipe for omelets with chive flowers.

Edible flowers

Lavender

Lavender cookies are fragrant and delicious.

Edible flowers

Rose

Candied rose petals are a sweet my daughter likes to make.

Edible flowers

Calendula 

Have you ever made homemade calendula cream?  It’s easy to make and fun for kids to create.

Edible flowers

Elderberry flowers

These can be dipped in batter and fried to make fritters.

Edible flowers

Sage

Sage flowers can be sprinkled over a dish to give a mild sage flavor.

Edible flowers

Johnny Jump Ups

I like to put these on cakes to decorate them.

Oregano!

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

My family loves Italian style food so we go through a ton of the herb oregano each year. Luckily it’s very easy to grow; you can start it from seed or buy a plant at most local nurseries.  It does best in full sun and doesn’t like to be water logged but do be aware that it self seeds quite easily.

Right now is a good time to harvest oregano!  This flavorful Mediterranean herb is best harvested on a warm, dry morning right before it blooms. To harvest and dry cut it three inches above the ground then bunch it and hang it in a cool place with good air circulation.  Be careful not to make the bunches too big or the stems in the middle might rot.  Once dry I store it in the basement in mason jars and bring up just enough to last a week or so as the heat and light in the kitchen can make it lose flavor quickly.

In addition to adding oregano to the usual pizza and spaghetti sauces here are some other interesting ways to use this prolific herb.

Oregano Infused Simple Syrup 

Ingredients:

1 C. water
1 C. sugar
2 C. fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the oregano to the syrup. Boil for 60 seconds and let it steep for 30 mins as the syrup cools.
  3. Pour the cooled syrup through a strainer into a glass bottle jar.
  4. Store syrup in the refrigerator.  Small amounts can be added to sparkling water or it can be used in cocktails.  I think it pairs well with vodka.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

Oregano Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Four chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • Juice and zest from two lemons
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup green olives with brine
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a frying pan, add chopped garlic and chicken.  Cook until the outside of the chicken begins to brown.  Add the lemon juice, zest and olives and turn down the heat.  Cook slowly until the chicken is almost done.  Add the chopped oregano and finish cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with a fresh sprig of oregano.

Oregano Herb Butter

Finely chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh oregano mix with one cube softened butter. Roll into a log on wax paper then wrap in the paper, put in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until needed.  Can also be immediately but should be refrigerated if you need to store it.  This butter can be used to baste meat, season veggies or on bread.

Oregano Olive Oil Cubes

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil.  Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it.  Once frozen put in freezer bags.  This can be used in salad dressings, to baste meats or veggies or anytime fresh tasting oregano is needed.

Baked Feta with Oregano

Take a block of feta and cover it with 4 cloves crushed garlic and 4 T fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle with 1/4 c olive oil and top with a large tomato.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with bread or crackers.

Herb Crust for Grilled Meats

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil and other fresh herbs to taste. Cover meat to be grilled with this mixture then cook over a hot fire.  This will both add a nice flavor to the meat and keep it moist.

Do you have other favorite ways to use oregano?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Lavender Wands

Lavender

Lavender

I love lavender!  I use it in cooking, sachets and many other ways.  The flowers on my bushes are just beginning to bud out now; over the coming weeks I will share some of my favorite ways to use this versatile herb.

Here is how to make lavender wands.  These make great gifts and can be hung in closets to scent clothes and perhaps repel a few moths.

First gather a bunch of lavender with long stems and tie the bunch together right below the flowers.

Bunched lavender

Bunched lavender

Bend the long ends over the flowers to cover them and make a little cage for them.

Almost done!

Almost done!

Now tie the ends with ribbon and trim any loose ends.

Ready to hang in a closet or place in a drawer.

Ready to hang in a closet or place in a drawer.

For more of a wand shape cut the stems longer.

Et voila!

Longer stems

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carmelite Water

Here’s a soothing tonic for stressful times. Carmelite Water or Eau de Mélisse, has been used since the Middle Ages to settle nerves.

Here’s how to make a simplified version using readily available ingredients:

  • Two cups white wine
  • One cup lemon balm leaves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Harvest fresh lemon balm
Place ingredients in a mason jar and put in fridge to steep for 24 hours.
Decant and enjoy!

Lemon Balm tea

Lemon Balm tea

Do you have lemon balm, (Melissa officinalis) coming out your ears this time of year?  Mine is ready to take over the entire perennial bed.  In addition to tasting great it’s also supposed to decrease stress and increase mental function so it’s time to get cooking!

Here are some of my favorite ways to use this abundant herb.

Iced Lemon Balm Tea

Ingredients for one glass:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup balm (fresh lemon, leaves)
  • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • ice
  • 1 lemon balm sprig for decoration

Directions:

Put leaves in boiling water, add sugar and let steep until desired concentration is reached.  Squeeze in juice from one lemon, adjust sugar, add ice and sprig – enjoy!

Hot Lemon Balm Tea 

Ingredients for one teapot full of tea:

  • 1/2 cup lemon balm
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (grated)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups boiling water

Directions:

Put leaves and zest in pot, add boiling water.  Let steep about 5 minutes, add honey to taste.

German Erdbeer – This is a summer wine often imbibed at picnics

  • 1 pounds of fresh strawberries
  • 2 cups lemon balm leaves
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 bottle white wine

Directions:

  1. Halve the berries, then place them in the bottom of large punch bowl or glass pitcher.
  2. Sprinkle the powdered sugar over them.
  3. Add the lemon balm leaves to the berries.
  4. Pour wine over the berry mixture, cover, and cool in the fridge.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of lemon balm

Lemon Balm happily growing

Lemon Balm happily growing

Lemon Balm Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves loosely packed

Directions:

  1. Stir together all 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container, removing lemon balm leaves.
  4. Cover and chill 4 hours.

Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month or kept frozen for up to one year.

Fancy Fruit Cup

This one is so simple I hate to even call it a recipe.  Cut up your favorite fruit into equal size pieces.  Add chopped lemon balm and drizzle with honey.

Ginger Bug!

This zesty fermented drink is the base of a great ginger ale or beer.  You can also use it for rhubarb or other flavored sodas.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Making it is a easy as chopping up some ginger, putting it in a jar, adding dechlorinated water and some sugar.  The recipe calls for two teaspoons of ginger, two cups water and two teaspoons of sugar but I just tossed in equal amounts of ginger and sugar and splashed some water in.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Each day give it a good stir and add two more teaspoons of sugar and ginger.  After about a week it will start to bubble and you’re all set.  You can have it as is or I have been cutting it with some soda water.  You can also make a naturally bubbly soda with this starter but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

It's a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice.  The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it's tangy and just a touch sweet.

It’s a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice. The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it’s tangy and just a touch sweet.

Rhubarb Crisp

The rhubarb is exploding out of the ground – it’s time to make a crisp!  There are many ways to eat this tangy plant but my favorite way is in a crunchy, nutty, sweet and sour dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh rhubarb stems
  • 1/4 cup tapioca or flour for thickening the juices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • One cup flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • One cup nuts

Here’s how to make this tasty dish:

Harvest rhubarb stems by pulling them firmly up and out of the base of the plant.  Trim the leaves and the ends off so you are left with the ruby stems.

    • Wash and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch wide.
    • Put the cut pieces into a baking dish, set the oven to 375 degrees
    • Sprinkle tapioca or flour and, depending on the amount of rhubarb and the degree of your sweet tooth, about one cup sugar over the cut rhubarb
  • Streusel topping directions:

    • Mix melted butter, oats, remaining sugar, nuts and flour together so it is a crumbly mixture.
    • Sprinkle this over the cut rhubarb
    • Dust with cinnamon

    Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the dish is bubbling, the top is brown and the rhubarb is soft.

    Ready to bake!

    Let cool a bit then serve as is or with ice cream or milk.