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Wild Blueberries are Ripe

I went on a hike today in the South Cascade Range Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and everywhere I looked were more blueberries than I have ever seen before.  Yippee!!!  Wild blueberries and huckleberries are a bit more tart than their domesticated cousins but they are packed with flavor and have been dubbed “nature’s anti-oxidant super fruit“.

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Wild blueberries

From the Washington Trails Association here are some great places to find these berries.  The Wild Harvest blog has a great summary on rules on wild foraging; some areas require a permit and others do not.  As always be absolutely sure that you are picking and eating something edible.  If you are not familiar with the plants in the area then the best thing is to go with someone who really know what they are doing.  There are also a lot of great books on the subject but the safest way is harvesting with an expert.

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Here’s my yogurt with fresh berries.

You can use wild berries in all of your favorite blueberry recipes but just in case you want something that really calls for these treats, here’s a recipe for wild blueberry pie.

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Berries and great views that can’t be beat!

Blueberry Pie

First find a glorious hike and head for the hills.  Next gather your ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh wild blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pie crust
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Wash berries,  and stir with flour and sugar. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside.  Preheat oven to 400° and prepare your uncooked pie dough.  (You can use a store bought crust or use your favorite recipe to make your own fresh dough.) Put berry mixture in crust and dot with butter.  Cover with a layer of pastry dough and prick to let steam escape.  Bake until crust is brown, about 45 – 50 minutes.

Making Pickled Beets

It’s wonderful to pull out a jar of home-grown, home-canned pickled beets for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  They are very easy to make, so get your canning supplies ready…

First you pick the beets.

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Medium sized beets work best. 

Then you either cut the tops off to stir fry or, if you have goats or chickens, they love them too!

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Yum 

Once you’ve removed the tops and trimmed off the long tap root, simmer the beets until they are tender, which you can test by piercing them with a fork.  Peel them, then cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices.  I have a tool that gives them a pretty wavy edge.

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I got this tool at Fred Myers. 

Pack the slices into sterile jars and add in about a teaspoon of pickling spice.  Make up a pickling solution of 3 1/2 cups vinegar to 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt.  Be sure to use 5%, store bought vinegar as acidity levels can vary in homemade vinegar.  It’s the acid in the solution that will keep your food safe.

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Toasting the spices first can bring out the flavors.

Fill to within about a half inch of the top.  Then seal up and boil in a water bath for 30 minutes.  This will help to ensure that the beets are truly safe to eat.

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Let sit for at least two weeks for flavors to blend.

Enjoy!

Sun Tea with Fresh Herbs

Sunday it’s supposed to hit 90 degrees!!!  Pure heaven for this Arizona desert rat and high time to make sun tea.  My favorite way to make this popular summer drink is to take a couple of bags of high quality black tea and throw in a generous handful of fresh herbs.  You can use traditional mint or go wild with oregano or a fennel blend is nice too.  Let steep until a honey color then put in the fridge and serve over ice.

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Fresh mint, lemon balm and Lady Jane Grey tea

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Steeping tea

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Ready to refresh!

Zuchinni for Days!

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Here a zuke, there a zuke….

Today is National Zuchinni Day and our lovely hot summer is resulting in huge amounts of squash and zuchinnis pouring out of the garden.  What to do?  Get creative with these delicious recipes shared by P-Patchers.

From Karyn Brownson here’s a recipe adapted from allrecipes.com by members of the Eat, Drink, and Be Merry Cooking Club in Syracuse, NY.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper bake cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

1. Stir together in large bowl:

  • 2 c. shredded zucchini
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

2. Mix together in small bowl and add to mixture. Stir until combined.

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips, milk or semi-sweet – optional

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until about half full.

4. Bake about 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 5 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely

Here’s one Diane Brooks learned several years ago from reading My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South by Rosetta Costantino. Here’s what she does:

Dried Zucchini Slices

  • Wash and dry a very large zucchini (zeppelin size is OK as long as the seeds are immature)
  • Slice it into 1/4″ rounds
  • Dry in a dehydrator on low heat setting (90 -100 F).
  • Store in mason jar.

To use: drop the dried slices into a pot of soup and simmer till rehydrated. Most folks think they are mushrooms. They add a nice texture – a bit chewy.

Marc DeMartini made up this delicious recipe and ate it for lunch.

Lunch Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • One small shallot
  • Olive oil
  • Large clove garlic
  • Thinly sliced strands of zuchinni, (Trombocino variety is his preferred one to use)
  • 1 T Pesto
  • Chopped roasted chiles to taste
  • 2 T Ricotta cheese
  • Parmagiano to taste

Saute the shallot then add the garlic and zuchinni.  When it’s soft add the pesto, chiles and ricotta.  Cook a bit longer adding water if needed.  Serve over pasta with some parmigiano for a finish.

He has the Trombocino climbing a trellis at the back of the patch and is hoping to have it share the trellis with his late crop of string beans.

What are your favorite recipes?

 

 

Ryegrass Weaving

One of the craftspeople at Sturbridge Village was demonstrating how to use ryegrass to make woven straw hats. Rye grass stalks are split using a special tool then they are woven in a five or seven strand weave into a narrow band.  These bands are then sewn together in a circular pattern to create a hat.  This industry was a good income source for women and children in the 1830′s.

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Weaving the straw.

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This tool splits the stalk into long narrow pieces ready for soaking.

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Soaking straw

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Weaving the wet pliable straw.

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The finished product.

 

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!