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Archive for October, 2008

Indian Acorn

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

  Leaching the tannin out of acorns

When I was a child, I used to play beneath a giant red oak in our backyard. I loved this tree. I would climb up in it’s branches, build horse stables for my Barbies around it’s trunk and I would gather the acorns and pretend I was of another era, foraging for my tribe. I loved that old tree: it seemed stong and wise.

Some interesting things about oak trees is that they can be found on nearly all earthly continents, especially America. We, as Euell Gibbons* proclaimed, are extremely blessed with several species of Quercus. Speaking of Native Americans, the early American cultures also knew the true value of the oak tree and especially it’s nutritious nut, but then so did Europeans and Asians as well. In fact, it has been said, overall, humans the world over have ate more pounds of acorns than grains.

Somehow, through the hourglass of time, Americans have lost the affinity for acorns. Koreans, on the other hand, still enjoy several dishes made from acorns. We have, in recent history, traded in this high-protien, high-mineral food source for GMO corn and soybeans!

Nutrition Facts-Acorns
Serving Size: (100 grams)


Amount Per Serving
Calories: 387


% Daily Value*


Total Fat 24g 36%
   Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carboydrates 41g 13%
   Dietary Fiber 0g ~
   Sugars 0g ~
Protein 6g 12%

Vitamin A 0%   Vitamin C 0%
Iron 4%   Calcium 4%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs

Acorns are quite varied in taste. If you live on the western side of the Mississippi, you may be so lucky to find Post or Live Oaks. Some say you can eat this nut raw (and some even find it tasty!;)) Oaks are ubiquitous in every Continental state in the US.  They can be divided into three broad categories: the black, red and white oaks. All have tannin, a bitter chemical, but the black and red oaks have just a minute amount more than the white (chestnut and live both fall under white), enough to render it completely unpalatable in its raw stage. I can eat a raw white oak acorn, but I even prefer to process the tannin out of them as well. Another major difference between the black/red oaks and the white oaks are the time span for bearing their fruits. Black/red oaks take two years to bear a ripe crop, whereas white bear every fall. For the most part, it takes an oak 20 years to bear its first batch of nuts.

I am going to veer off topic just for a second, if you are truly interested in tree foraging, I want to make a suggestion to help you learn to identify the trees in your area. Remember those leaf collections we had to put together in…was it 6th or 9th grade? Make a new one. Go out and gather leaves, press them, and mount them complete with notes on scientific and common names, habitat, life history and it’s usefulness. This way, if you study it or take it in the field with you, you have a real specimen to match up against a real tree.

OK, back to oaks. The white oak is easy to identify from the red or black. Look at a leaf and notice if the edges are rounded on the lobes or if their edges are pointy with bristly “hairs”, if the latter then you have a red or black oak. Just to throw you completely off, if you find an oak without bristles on the ends and yet the lobes are barely defined, you probably have a chestnut oak. You will find much variation depending on where you reside (i.e. East or West of the Mississippi).

Here are some examples:

Red or Black oak leaf

White oak leaf

Chestnutoak (or chiquapin-has good acorn)

A good local tree book should help you find your area’s unique oak trees.

How to process acorns

1. Determine type you have cached. Remember to check leaves when gathering, however, if you are picking up nuts in a mixed species area you may have both. Separate them by size (white oaks typically have smaller nuts). I always have leaves mixed in with my acorns because I either sweep them up (if on the patio) or rake them up and put them in a basket. You’ll have to pick through and pick out the nuts, but it is easier than just picking up nuts off the ground.

2. The shells are soft and easy to crack (and they often crack upon impact with the ground). Now, if you are really serious about this homesteading/self-sufficiency stuff, you just have to get over insect larva squeamishness. You are going to find acorns full of the white larva of the acorn weevil or moth (and just so you know this bug girl isn’t invincible, as I was preparing the acorns for this post, I opened one and out tumbled two of the little guys and, let’s just say, the acorn was flung across the kitchen!) Place all the good ones in a separate dish. Some may have discolored flesh, but they are still OK. You want to purge any moldy ones and ones that are dried out (it will look like sawdust when you open it).

3. Now, depending on your type, you are going to boil them. Some people grind the raw nuts up first (and I would recommend this if you are dealing with red or black oak acorns). Thankfully, I was able to gather a bunch of white oak acorns at the in-laws and so I left mine in the halves. Cover the nuts with water and start them to boil. Keep a tea kettle of water going as well and it will decrease the time spent between water changes. I generally taste a raw nut first (just a nibble!) to see how bitter it is. The ones I found were really not that bad, but still needed a bit of processing. In the first picture, you can see the water turning a brownish color. This is the tannins leaching from the acorns. As I said, red or black oak acorns are going to take a long time to leach (I tried a big batch of red oak acorns last year and it was a very long ordeal). This is why I prefer the white oak acorns better. Unfortunately, the white are also a favorite of the squirrel, deer, chipmunks, mice, moths, weevils…)

3. Boil and change water a couple of times and then start to taste the nuts. If the water is still really dark or the nut tastes bitter, keep boiling, changing water, boiling…eventually, the color of the water starts to lighten up some. When the taste is somewhat palatable (it will get better after roasting, I promise!), rinse your nuts under cold running water until water runs clear (the white oak acorns only took a minute). I, then, drain them well.

 Acorns after leaching process

4. After acorns are drained, spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Put this into oven (I had these at 350, but you could roast them at a lower temperature as well). Periodically, stir them with a wooden spoon. They will start to turn a lovely shade of chocolate and the smell will begin to resemble carob (to me anyway). You have to watch them because ovens vary. Just taste one now and again-you’ll know when you like the taste. As they roast, the nut will harden.

 Roasted acorns-they look a lot like coffee beans, don’t they?

5. Once they are roasted, the fun begins! There are so many ways to use acorns. They can be used as a coffee/chai substitute (just grind and brew) or made into flour (this is what I did). They can be chopped and used as any chopped nut would be in muffins, cookies or bread. Euell Gibbons makes a candied acorn (sort of like a praline). if you haven’t explore Prodigal Gardens website, now is the time. She has so many great things to make out of acorns and other wild foods (thanks to Tansy for turning me onto this site years ago).

 This time around, I used my coffee grinder to make my flour and plan to use a small amount to supplement some bread this weekend. I could have also used my hand grinder (or you can use a flat surface and pounding tool like our fore-bearers). Acorns (as well as the bark of the tree) have medicinal properties as well, but that’s a whole other post.

It does take some time to process the acorn into something you might want to eat, but it is well worth it. if you are lucky enough to live in areas with some of the more palatable raw acorn trees, please don’t rub it in! 🙂

 

 

*Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons

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I have to admit…I rarely write down recipes for my posts. The reason for this is that there are millions of cook books (literally), online sites including epicurious.com (one of my favorites) , family , friends and so many other places to find them at that I kind of feel like I am yelling against the wind.

However, today I am breaking my silence on recipes with this jewel that I have made for many many years now.

This soup recipe originally drew me in because of it’s inclusion of Italian sausage –one of my all time favorite meats. I think I have eaten, and liked, spicy Italian sausage all my life. I don’t remember a time I haven’t loved Italian sausage (but as I wrote in my pepper love post—please leave the green peppers off my grilled dog). And now that the weather is cooling down it is the perfect time to pull this recipe back out….though I have even been know to make it in the summer. Yum.

And, though I think this recipe is great just as it is, I would like to point out it is also an excellent jumping off point to develop your own sausage/bean/green item soup. So here goes:

Italian Sausage and Bean Soup

Take 4 Cups of chicken stock (or beef if you prefer) and add:

One can diced tomatoes —Italian style if you prefer

1/3 cup red dry red wine (which you can omit but it does add a little something to the overall flavor)

1 clove garlic minced

1 medium onion diced equally about 1/2 cup

1 tsp dried italian seasoning. I usually add a bit more seasoning than this as I add each individually not as a mix. Personal preference here.

1 pound Italian Sausage links —you can slice these first (before cooking) but I do it after the links cook and are about half way done so that they are firmer for slicing ease and also don’t fall apart.

Cook the above until the Italian sausage is done all the way through.

When the sausage is done add and bring to a light boil (just enough to warm them up):

4 cans drained white beans —more is nice I think. Great northern are recommended, I have also used cannelloni. If you use a different sausage change the beans to match (chorizo and black beans, bratwurst and??) . You can of course pre cook your own beans instead of using canned. Start with at least 1 and 1/2 cup dried at the minimum.

Then after the beans are warmed up, add some greens:

The recommended is a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thaw and drained. I don’t use frozen spinach (ick) so I add a very large bunch of fresh spinach or kale. You could use turnip, chard, beet greens etc. Whatever you want.

Cook just until greens are cooked. Your idea of cooked is fine. I like mine a bit less floppy than some people, my husband doesn’t mind his spinach very well dead.

Yum. I usually double the main ingredients, adding extra beans, sausage and greens since I like a “hearty” soup and besides that: my son digs out all the goodies leaving the broth behind. Brat 😀

In the summer you can add less beans and more veggies like zucchini (very good), yellow sausage or whatever you want.

Though this is a “recipe” — it is also a jumping off point. Cooking is not about following a recipe as much as it is making food that tastes good to you. And boy… do I think this tastes good to me! Right now I have fresh kale ready to go in the garden and a sheep about to be fresh Italian sausage in the next week or so. How much better can it get? 😀

Have a warm week everyone.

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Whole Grain Crackers

Fall is soup weather, there’s something so comforting about homemade soup on a chilly, windy day.  Generally, we eat homemade bread with our soup, but there are times when we get the urge for some crackers with our soup.  Like most things around here, when we get the urge we make our own.

Kathie’s Whole Grain Crackers
  • 1/2 C unbleached flour
  • 1/4 C rye flour
  • 1/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 Tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until it’s fine (use pastry blender or fork). Stir in milk a little at a time until it forms a stiff dough. Roll dough out very thin and cut into desired shapes. (Use a pizza cutter to cut into square crackers, if so desired)  Place crackers onto ungreased cookie sheet. Prick each cracker with a fork. Bake 5-6 minutes until lightly browned, if you roll the dough out thick it will take longer to cook. Cool on rack.

Note: You can easily switch the flour varieties, if you don’t like rye use buckwheat, etc.

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Training and Milking Your Cow

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

Cow Bra

Cow Bra


Not recommending the bra, just thought it was too funny.

Cows are creatures of habit. A lot like dogs in their intellect, training your new cow shouldn’t be a big struggle. Treats are your key to teats.

I have mentioned before that my ladies were breeders for beef when I bought them. They had never been touched, down there, by a human before. The downside to buying a breeder, is that you might not have a record of if she has ever suffered from mastitis. With my ladies, training was different than it would have been with a hand milked cow. But when you are looking at prices, don’t forget the breeders.

Our oldest cow has attitude. I have read many articles about how you should stay away from any cow with attitude. I could care less what they say. We dealt with it and now she is a perfectly respectable milker. If you end up dealing with a lady with attitude, remember not to use sticks or anything like that to harm her. If she has a bad experience in where you wish to milk her, you may never get her in the stanchion again. First things first however, getting them into the stanchion.

Head in stanchion

Head in stanchion


We grass feed our ladies, the only time they get any grain is when we want to milk. The first thing is to get a bucket, the only one you will be using to tempt them. Take the bucket with some grain out to them. Shake it and call the name of the cow you want. They will all come to you, only allow the lady that you called to have a peak and a treat. You might have to push the other’s off of you. Don’t be scared to do this. My ladies have horns, and have only used them once on me, but I will talk about that one in a bit. Once you girl has her nose in the bucket, back up a bit, shake the bucket and call her name. Have her follow you to your stanchion. Pour the grain into the feed bucket of your stanchion, and she should go in. If not, close the stanchion and come back later that evening and do it again. Do not reward them if they do not go into the stanchion.

There in! Now what? If she has never been milked before, don’t just go grabbing things. Think about it, would you allow some other woman to walk up to you while behind bars and grab your boob? Ok, so some of you might say yes to that, kinky girls, but the answer is no. It should only take a few days to get your cow trained to enter a stanchion. I do not lock the heads down on my ladies as many homesteaders say to do, instead I give them enough grain to keep them busy while I milk. Luckily Dexters only take about 40 minutes to milk out. Ok, we got her in, now she has to accept us. For a cow to allow you to start your tuggin’, she has to accept you as her calf. With out that, she’s gonna kick the poop out of you. Just ask my husband.

Grab a brush, and start brushing their back. Talk to them, sing to them, anything, just so that they know your voice and that you belong there. Slowly start brushing out the tops of her legs, and carefully move to the under belly. Next grab your hot water and wash cloth, and gently tough the teat with it. If she doesn’t kick, try rubbing harder, then scrub it good and dry. If she hasn’t kick you yet, you are golden, for now.

Learning your cows body languages is a good thing. She will warn you when she is going to brush you off, not really a kick, or she needs to go potty. Learning these signs will save you a lot of milk. They will shift their weight on their hind legs, giving you a clue about what is going to happen. If she raises her rump, then she is going to pee on you.

Ok she isn’t kicking you, now you can start milking. First you need to prime her a bit more. Using your thumb and index finger, strip a little milk from each teat into a small cup, you want to clean out any bacteria inside of the nipple, never drink your first squirt. Look a the stripping, unhealthy milk lumps like cottage cheese amid a watery substance, it can also be a yellow or dirty brown color. If you see this, she needs treatment. If you have the all clear, place your bucket own, remember to watch for signs of kicking, and fill your bucket. If you don’t have the all clear, go ahead and milk her out, discard the milk somewhere where another animals will not be able to get it, and call your co-op or vet.

Repeat this routine every 12 hours. after a time you will be able to milk without a stanchion if you must. It took 3 days for me to train my ladies to go into the stanchion when called.

Now the attitude. I like horns, they are so useful. I have 2 polled calves, and two horned Dams. Disciplining the Dams is a whole lot easier. After the training was accomplished, a few months after the fact, my oldest lady decided that I was too old to still be nursing, she pushed me down. She has always threatened me, and I would just push her off between her horns. She would shake her head at me, but nothing more. She is bossy and a bully. I wasn’t as quick on my game as I should have been, and she got me. I feel right on my butt, my husband jumped in between us, grabbed her horns, and pushed her nose toward the ground. She tried to pull back, but my husband didn’t let up until she stop resisting. A lot like working with a horse, put the pressure on and only release once they did right. After that day, she hasn’t pushed me down since. Now my polled calf is another story. I am having to find other ways to get my point across, but she is determined to be just like her Mama. ~sigh~ we will see.

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Seed Swap

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill.

Every year I round up bloggers to participate in a seed swap and this year is no different. The way I do it is like a chain letter. After choosing the seeds you want, replace the packages with as many as you took*, send the envelope to the next person on the list, and put your name at the bottom. Half-full packets are fine so are flowers. I do however, insist on non-GMed seeds but I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir!

When you get the package please let us know you got it. Tell us who sent it to you and who you’re sending it to and, of course, provide links to the person who sent it to you, the person you’re sending it to, and to my personal blog Howling Hill. Lastly, let us know what you chose! Pictures are great but not necessary.

It’s my opinion starting and maintaining seed swaps is very, very important for a variety of reasons including the freedom from corporate takeover of our food stuffs, biodiversity, and a whole host of other reasons my tired brain can’t think of right now. However, there are some seeds which need not be planted ever including anything from American Seeds, Inc, Gold Country Seed, Inc, and Heritages Seeds all of which have been bought out by Monsanto.

If you’re wondering at all why it’s important to seed swap, I can recommend a few documentaries to you, including The Corporation and The Future of Food.

I’ve not yet watched the above movie though I heard it’s awesome.

I shut the comments off on this post so I don’t have to try and keep track of two different lists of people. I don’t want to not lose anyone in the process! If you want to sign up for the seed swap please go to my personal blog and leave a comment.

The last couple years I’ve done this the seeds were supposed to come back to me but the package never made it to New Hampshire. This means the package is sitting somewhere and I don’t know where. I can only track the package if everyone links as I’ve requested and, AND if you send the seeds out after you choose what you want. In the past years I’ve been reluctant to put a deadline on doing so but this year I’m going to. After getting the package you have two weeks to choose and send it out again.

*For example, if you take three packets of cucumbers, two morning glories, and five tomatoes, replace with ten packets of whatever. You can take a few seeds instead of whole packages just replace with the same number of seeds you took.

Facebook Howling Hill!

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now what?!

a lot of us homesteaders and non-homesteaders preserve food every summer to use during the winter. it’s fairly easy to put away large amounts of canned green beans, tomatoes, corn, pickles, etc. but once it’s done, then what? when i first started doing this, we’d run out of tomato sauce in a month and have 20 jars of green beans to get us through the next 6 months. i needed a way to create a system to use my stored goods throughout the year in rationed out manner.

first, i made a chart in word to show what i had put away. i included canned goods, frozen goods and dried goods. (i need to add a fresh goods list to keep track of winter s quash, potatoes, garlic and onions). here is an almost complete chart from this year’s stash:

CANNING TOTALS 2008

Canned Goods

Qts.

Pts.

½ Pts

Notes

applesauce

8

31

Apple pie filling

2

Apricot preserves

6

Beets

3

13

Butter

14

Cherry pie filling

2

Grape Juice

2

Grape Jelly

4

Green beans

11

17

2

Ketchup

11

Pickles, dill

7

Pickles, sweet

27

Pickled zucchini

7

Relish

4

1

Salsa, peach

1

4

Tomato sauce

8

12

Tomato juice

19

FREEZER TOTALS 2008

Food Item

Pint

Gallon

2gal

Notes

Corn

1

32 cups

Okra

2

32 cups

Blackberries

1

16 cups

Zucchini

4

128 cups

Cherries

2

1 pit/1unp

DRIED TOTALS 2008

Tomatoes

1/2

8 cups

Apples

2

Still drying

once i completed that chart, i made another chart. this chart lists each month of the year across the top and all the preserved foods down the side. i put X’s through the months that the food would not be needed (because it will be freshly available or there is enough of other goods to not worry about it). this chart looks like this:

Item

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

applesauce

6

6

6

6

6

6

Apple pie filling

X

Apricot preserves

1

1

1

Beets

1

2

2

1

2

2

Butter

X

X

X

X

X

X

Cherry pie filling

Grape Juice

Grape Jelly

1

1

Green beans

5

6

6

5

6

6

Ketchup

1

1

1

1

1

1

Pickles, dill

1

1

1

1

1

Pickles, sweet

2

2

2

2

2

22

Pickled zucchini

1

1

1

1

1

Relish

1

1

Salsa, peach

1

1

1

1

Tomato sauce

3

4

3

4

3

4

Tomato juice

3

2

3

2

3

2

Frozen Corn

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

Frozen Okra

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

Frozen Blackberries

2 c.

2 c.

2 c.

2 c.

2 c.

2 c.

Frozen Zucchini

16 c.

16 c.

16 c.

16 c.

16 c.

16

Frozen Cherries

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

4 c.

Dried Tomatoes

1 c.

1 c.

1 c.

1 c.

1 c.

1 c.

Dried Apples

Item

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

applesauce

6

5

X

X

X

X

Apple pie filling

X

X

Apricot preserves

1

1

1

Beets

2

1

2

1

2

1

Butter

X

X

X

X

X

X

Cherry pie filling

X

Grape Juice

X

Grape Jelly

1

X

1

Green beans

6

X

X

X

X

X

Ketchup

1

1

1

1

1

1

Pickles, dill

1

X

X

X

X

1

Pickles, sweet

2

2

2

2

2

2

Pickled zucchini

1

X

X

X

X

1

Relish

1

1

Salsa, peach

1

X

X

X

Tomato sauce

3

4

X

X

X

X

Tomato juice

2

2

X

X

X

X

Frozen Corn

4 c.

4 c.

X

X

X

X

Frozen Okra

4 c.

4 c.

X

X

X

X

Frozen Blackberries

2 c.

2 c.

X

X

X

X

Frozen Zucchini

16 c.

16 c.

X

X

X

X

Frozen Cherries

4 c.

4 c.

X

X

X

X

Dried Tomatoes

1 c.

1 c.

X

X

X

X

Dried Apples

X

X

X

X

then, i divided up what i had into however many months i needed it for. for instance, with applesauce, i have 31 pints and 8 quarts. i count the quarts as 2 pints each so i have a total of 47 pints. we generally don’t eat applesauce during the summer (jul-aug) because there are enough apples and other fruits freshly available that it is not needed. therefore, we can have 6 jars a month every month except for june which is when strawberries and mulberries ripen so we have less that month. as i use up a jar, i put a tally in the box next to the number i am granted. that way, i know how many i’ve used.

each month, i’ll do a recount. i’ll check my stash to make sure no jars have come unsealed and if we’ve used less than we expected to, i write down how many we used. if we ran out too quickly, i make notes to try to preserve more the next year. ideally, i’d like to have 2 years worth of preserved foods but right now, i’m doing good to supply part of 1 year.

since i’ve started this system, it has made using up the food much more balanced. i keep the lists posted on the fridge so that other family members know what is available as well. that way, no one has any excuse for eating up all the frozen blackberries (ahem, dh!) in one week.

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Jack and I had to take an obligatory out-of-town trip to the doc’s yesterday, and afterward we had some time to linger in the area.  Fishing a crumpled piece of paper from the inner recesses of his wallet, he headed out to what he told me was “a farm someone told me about.”  I thought maybe he was meaning some neat little family-owned farmette with goats and chickens, which would have been great.

Instead, as we arrived,  I realized he had found a global sustainability Demonstration Farm called ECHO.  We were too late for the tours, and only got a glimpse of what lay behind the roped off areas shrouded by glorious stands of native trees and test clumps of bamboos.  But we did find the bookstore and reading room, and as soon as we walked in, I could just about hear the angels singing.  There in front of us, in a fairly small area, were walls and racks, floor to shoulder, of books on every subject any local sustainability or homesteading-minded  freaks like us  afficionados would swoon over…wooo hooo!!  I tried to maintain some dignity, but it was hard not to squeal at each new find. 

Thankfully, my husband is used to this tendency in me, and he was pretty excited himself, so we were like two kids in a candy store.  On the shelves were books specific to every sort of animal, no-till farming and management, agroforestry, unusual-to-us plants and fruits suited to our climate, reports on field trials of some particular ones, instructional DVDs, practical kits for things such as learning how to do your own tree grafting, top bar beehive books, instructionals for tropical/subtropical/arid&more climates, about 100 Storey Guides on every subject imaginable, cookbooks, plant-related crafts, actual seed packets…and the list could go on and on. 

We stayed an embarrassingly long time 😉

I love when we discover unexpected finds like this!

One of the things we were excited to note during our Book Glut Free-for-all was more than one book on the subject of a particular subtropical tree, Moringa oleifera.  Our hearts skipped a beat…this is a tree we had researched earlier in the year and, with some difficulty, finally found a supplier.  We went on a day trip a few months back just to purchase one — as an experiement.  We had run across mention of Moringa when looking for plants good for permaculture, and having seen something in print on the internet somewhere on this tree, had noted it was being used effectively as an animal forage plant — something we’re very interested in.  2007 had been a year of extended drought in our area of Florida, and because we’re aiming to have our own piece of land someday, we’d like to think outside the box as far as future sources of livestock feed supplementation.  Trees often fill the bill for that situation in other parts of the world, with plants such as poplar trees (the leaves in particular) doing extended duty as both windbreak and drought-tolerant fast-growing animal fodder.

The interesting thing about Moringa is its many other uses.  The more we read, the more we realized we’d love to see if this tree would thrive in our location.  Some of the many advantages it is reputed to have are:

1.  Fast growth.  About 7 full cuttings per year can be had from managed plots of mature plants.

2.  Its ability to incorporate into a permaculture plan — it makes a great partial shade plant under which to nurse other plants to maturity.

3.  Its leaves are edible for humans and  some animals alike, namely most livestock.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  Incorporating them into the diets of beef and dairy cattle increases birth weights, milk production, and weight gain. It’s pictured below (the leaves at the top of the pic)

4.  It has traditional medicinal uses, and is being researched heavily.  It is utilized by relief workers in underserved areas of the world to address malnutrition, especially in expectant and nursing mothers and at-risk infants and small children.  It is heavily promoted in such areas as a critical and cheap native source of concentrated nutrition, and is regularly added to local foods to amp up the nutritive value.  (This is cost effective in comparison with having to purchase additional supplements) Unlike some other plants, Moringa has been well-received by the native residents as they are educated about its multiple uses, and it is being further incorporated worldwide into local cuisines.

5.  Its edible parts include not only the leaves, but also the pods, seeds, bark, and tips of new branches.

6.  It can be incorporated into the construction of living fences.

7.  It can be used as a green manure crop if tilled under at a young stage.

8.  It can be easily propagated from seeds and cuttings.

9.  Its seed powder can be used for effective and inexpensive water treatment.

10.  Fresh Moringa juice contains a naturally-occurring growth hormone which can increase plant yields 25-30% for many well-know crops.

11.  As a medicinal, there is anecdotal evidence of its use for treatment and alleviation of blood sugar issues, hypertension, cancer prevention and tumor shrinkage (and many more…)

We were delighted to see this plant being promoted, and to find more literature besides what we’d read on webpages on the internet.   Moringa is known worldwide by many different names, over 400 to be exact, as it’s been used through the milennia by many cultures.

Its leaves are easily dried and powdered, and the pods are said to have an asparagus-like taste when cooked. The flowers are not edible raw, but are incorporated into meals usually by frying or sauteeing, and are said to have a mild mushroom taste when cooked. The green leaf powder has been described as having a mild green flavor, sometimes tending toward bitterness depending on varying factors. It’s often used in soups, sauces, dips, noodles and flours. The fresh, attractive leaves are stripped of their stems and  used raw in salads or slaws, whole or chopped in entrees/egg dishes/vegetable dishes.

There is not a lot of documentation of Moringa’s use in the United States, but it is grown in some parts of California and Florida on a limited scale.  It is said to be hardy in areas that don’t have really hard freezes, and is adaptable to many colder areas if raised in a pot and kept indoors during the colder months.

In our short experience raising a single Moringa in a pot, it seems to be a pretty hardy plant, and doesn’t like a lot of wind. It also prefers some shading from direct sunlight.  It would be much more comfortable if planted in-ground, we think, here in our climate…we’ll do that as soon as we decide where we want it permanently. I’ve tasted the leaves, but have yet to cook with them. They are delicate-looking, but quite hardy, and should be harvested when they are green, but not yellow.  We have experimented with drying some of them, and they dry easily if left in a shady place simply exposed to the air. It only takes about three days for them to dry by themselves, after which time they can be rubbed across a screen to separate the small stems from the leaves that easily crush to powder.

Here are some internet links, all sorts, to learn more about Moringa, for those who might be interested:
http://www.moringa.net/recipe.htm

http://74.125.45.104/search?q=cache:lDdg7m3vG3EJ:www.echotech.org/mambo/index.php%3Foption%3Dcom_docman%26task%3Ddoc_download%26gid%3D170+echo+technical+note+on+moringa&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

http://74.125.45.104/search?q=cache:3W7ucQMoPZoJ:www.echotech.org/mambo/images/DocMan/MorWaterTreat.pdf+echo+technical+note+on+moringa&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us

http://etherwork.net/blog/?p=520

http://www.moringasupreme.com/about_moringa_uses.html

Click to access MoringaR.PDF

http://www.treesforlife.org/our-work/our-initiatives/moringa

http://morselsandmusings.blogspot.com/2008/02/moringa-omelette.html

http://www.miracletrees.org/moringarecipes.html

http://www.moringafarms.com/growing_it.htm

http://crisonthesidelines.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/malunggay-noodles-how-to-make/

Seed Swamp Reminder: Howling Hill is doing her annual seed swap, so stop in at her link (sidebar) to sign up and swap 🙂

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

Almost every October since we met, my husband and I spend a few days camping and salmon fishing in the wilds of Northwest Michigan (lower peninsula). Most years, we don’t bring a lot home, but the few days and nights spent in the fresh air, with no schedule or concrete plans, does our souls (and sometimes our relationship) wonders.

This year was an unusual exception. Because of the abnormal warm temperatures and lack of rain, the salmon run was a few weeks late (we are usually there right at the tail end of the up river migration). Nearly every cast resulted in a catch (although bringing them in is a whole skill in and of itself). We ended up landing about 20 fish, but, for legal (and ethical) reasons,* we only brought home four big specimen, which is plenty for us. We cut two into steaks and the other two we smoked.

Now, let me get the disclaimers out of the way before I go on. One, I am not a huge fish fan. I don’t like the smell and I am not fond of the taste. I do like “fleshy” fish (so salmon counts here) the best, but I still wouldn’t rank them in my top ten favorite food items. Second, many fish are over fished and our oceans, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water are quickly being depleted according to some (and I believe this). Wild salmon are particularly vulnerable to over fishing and water pollution. I am not suggesting by this post that you run out and fish. Salmon are not native to the Great Lakes and are carefully monitored by Michigan and Indiana DNR. However, there are still a multitude of problems with sport fishing and I have touched on one particular issue that gets to me on my personal blog. Here I just want to talk about the benefits if you happen upon one of these fish. Third, there is that whole mercury level thing (sadly) to consider, so if you are pregnant, female, a child, a human, canine etc. be aware of the claims.

Now that I have that off my chest, I am going to tell you about one of the ways we prepare fresh caught salmon. And, for this picky fish eater, I love it! Second, because these beautiful creatures gave us their lives for nutrition, I don’t want to waste their nutritious carcass (or lives for that matter), so let’s make fish stock while we are at it. I’ll let you know what you can substitute for salmon if you aren’t in a salmon area of the country (maybe you can find something more local from the list). If you live by an ocean, you are really in luck!

Senior’s Fried Rice with Smoked Salmon (he actually made this one up!)

Smoked salmon (or other fleshy fish, list to follow. It also doesn’t have to be smoked, but it‘s really good!)
4 eggs
Celery, Carrots, Peas, Onions, Peppers
Asian vegetables
Whatever veggie you like really
Sea salt
Pepper
Mustard seed
Cumin (or curry, Asian spices, or whatever you like)
Soy sauce
Long grain rice

Basically prepare your rice and set aside. Scramble your eggs and set aside. Sauté your vegetables in olive oil (or fish oil) until heated thoroughly, but still crisp. Add spices and soy sauce. Add rice and eggs and stir and heat.

Easy, easy recipe! And, even if you don’t like fish well, this dish is quite delicious and nutritious. Even my kids gobbled it up.

Now, I had husband keep all the bones and juice when he was deboning the smoked meat. I then took all the scraps from the vegetables in the dish, the bones and a bit of smoked skin, some herbs (rosemary, thyme and bay leaf), and water to cover and simmered the mixture for about 40 minutes. I did not notice any sort of “fishy” smell and, in fact, the smell reminded me of a Thai food restaurant (one of my favorite “ethnic” foods). Fish stock (which is actually a broth) is chock full of minerals and vitamins and will be a wonderful addition to winter foods. I let it sit for 15 minutes (to let solids settle), strain and then I freeze it in small quantities (I use jelly jars and leave space for expansion). It should, ideally, be used up in six months.

So what if you don’t live up here where salmon fishing is easy? What can you use instead? Some people say not to use “fatty” fish like salmon anyway (although I am a firm believer some fats are good for you and some are especially good for children). One thing you can do is ask your butcher/fish market for the heads and bones of fish he filets for sale. He should know to cut off the gills (and the guts too, but you never know!) Out of one head and a few bones you can make quite a bit of stock (to me, a little goes a long way). Or you can purchase (or fish for) whole fish and filet them yourself (another post!) saving the heads and bones for the stock. Just like chicken broth, you can use any scraps of vegetables you have around. In fact, it is one of those ‘anything goes” kind of things!

Salmon substitutes: any lighter flesh colored fish such as Pollock, tilapia, grouper, halibut, trout, red snapper, sole will make a milder tasting stock. Otherwise, feel free to substitute any fish (bass, perch, bluegill) but the darker the flesh the more “fishy” tasting the broth will be. I would also avoid catfish, but that is because I am not sure about that one. In fact, I probably left out a bunch of species. Salmon is the only fish I actually fish myself and I rarely purchase fish.

Fish stock can be added to stews, chowders, soups, sauces and stir fry. It can be made into dressings for greens and salads. It can be added to anything a chicken broth might be added with similar results (but different taste) Me? I am imagining using my salmon stock this winter in some great Thai dishes!

*If the fish is not hooked in the mouth, it is considered a “snag”. We release all non-mouth catches as well as fish that have any snag marks or hooks in other parts of their bodies (we removed line and hooks before release). Sadly, “snagging” fish is an action that others participate in and it is not only illegal, but greedy, in my opinion).

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Getting Some

I once read that if you come out after a rainstorm and noticed that your plants had grown quite a lot that you might have a nitrogen deficiency. Now, I don’t know if that is true but more than once my plants, watered persistently by me, have sat and done nothing. Like school children refusing to obey the teacher. Then, after we finally get a rain storm, the plants grow exceptionally well not for just one day but for a few days following as if to say “You weren’t doing it right but the rain knows how and it has saved us.”

My broccoli raab and purple cabbage planted this past month or so are two such examples. Both sat and pouted until our first good fall rain. And now? Well, they have to be three times the size they were three days ago!

Before I heard the nitrogen tid-bit I always thought it was because of the chlorine in public water….an oft repeated statement I am sure you have heard too…..but that didn’t address when we used well water.

A third theory I have come across on this issue is that the rain water passes through ozone and becomes a form of hydrogen peroxide through bonding. It then falls to earth, oxygenating the plants and soil which in turn improves their growth. Of course there are differing opinions on hydrogen peroxide and it’s helpfulness to plants and animals, including humans, but that’s best left to someone else to cover. And since I am not a scientist and have not done official studies on this subject I’m going back to theory number one about nitrogen in the rain. (it actually comes in the form of nitrates but let’s keep this a bit more simple so I don’t get confused trying to write about it!)

When I began gardening years ago I started out organically right from the start. And though I didn’t quite understand the complete idea of using cover crops to help improve my soil I did understand how to use manure and also the concept of NPK. Of course every gardener has been bombarded with the NPK issue and though I would like to point out that there is more to soil health than just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium they do seem to play a fairly large role compared to most other minerals and nutrients. Nitrogen in particular is one we are always trying to get more off…but not too much…so that we will have big plants with lots of growth to give us more “bang for our buck”. Every year I have at least one row of tomato plants that has light green leaves until they get a few small infusions of added nitrogen. As with anything though too much nitrogen can be a bad thing but some, especially in new gardens, is usually needed.

Coming from an organic perspective, the problem then becomes, exactly how to get all that nitrogen? Especially when first starting out and not having years of good soil improvement already in place. I mean…let’s face it..there’s not a one of us who is going to dig a new bed and then just plant it with cover crops for two years before ever putting in our first veggie. Really…it’s laughable to think that isn’t it? No person I know is that patient. Also, in this day and age, there seems to be a larger and larger deficit of good manure. It’s like gold and your lucky if you can find it—especially for free. Before we had our own animals to supply some for us we usually had trouble finding it. And of course everyone seems to know just how valuable it is and more often than not when we did find it—we would have to pay them for us to load it. Free stall cleaning anyone?

So, if we don’t have a few years before our soil will be well built up with green manures, or our own livestock, and we’re having trouble begging or buying animal manure—just how do we supply our plants with nitrogen? First let me say that we don’t need to start worshiping the Goddess of Bagged NPK —- the Petrochemical Temple of Plant Growth —or in other words the Devil in Disguise (disguised in a bag that is) because there are other ways to acquire our desired nutrient. Some of these are more commonly used than others but a few easy to use forms are (a very small amount of this information is taken from The Rodale Book of Composting and The Humanure Handbook — but most comes from my own experiences) :

Alfalfa: Most home gardeners don’t realize that you can go down to your local feed store or Tractor Supply and buy bagged alfalfa for about $10 a 50lb bag. Easily spread around in cube or pellet forms this is a great..albeit slightly pricey way to get more nitrogen. Though on a pound for pound basis it is about the same as buying a bale of alfalfa—depending on where you live of course. Ask around and give people your name. Often we would have “oops—some bales got ruined” or “oops—someone left the bag of pellets out and they got wet” scenarios. Maybe they’ll remember you and give you a call.

Cotton seed meal is another livestock feed product that is an excellent nitrogen source. It can however, be heavy on the chemicals by the very nature of the “cotton” part. If you know where it comes from and it’s organic—great stuff.

Dried Blood—of course. This one is expensive if you buy it though you can sometimes get in in bulk form from fertilizer dealers (even those listed for, and carrying mostly, petrochemical fertilizers). We capture blood in a bucket when butchering, and with some water added to thin it out, get just enough to water a specific area with it. Sometimes we just dump it on our compost pile since it is usually in need of nitrogen resuscitation.

Grass clippings—immediately turned into the soil. Once these boogers dry they are no longer a great nitrogen source so turning them in or keeping them moist is a must.

Hair—supposedly hair has as much nitrogen as 100 to 200 pounds of manure. Get them from hair salons and keep them wet (wet wet wet—they suck up lots of moisture) and mix well to aerate or they will matt. Nothing like having a big fat felted sheep wool matt in your compost pile. Try turning that over! Also, again, ask around. Some people shear regularly—especially show sheep—but do not use the wool. Get it free from them if the hair salon thing grosses you out like it does me or you just want more.

Weeds—some have very high nitrogen amounts. Treat them similar to grass and make triple sure they aren’t seeding or worse: spread by root pieces.

Lastly I am going to add a very controversial nitrogen source. Human urine.

However I felt in this day and age that it needs to be said since it is an excellent, and not well used, FREE source of nitrogen. If China has flashed into your mind—remember they also use composted and uncomposted feces. Please remove that image. Used responsibly human urine is a fine fine source of nitrogen for your organic garden. Catch it in a bucket or however you want to, dilute it 1 part urine to 10 parts water (approximately) and pour around the base of your plants and trees or add undiluted to your compost pile that is not heating up correctly. Some things to remember when using human urine:

Never use urine from sick individuals or those taking large amounts of medicines. Though it is highly unlikely for disease to be spread through urine (usually feces are the main culprit) we should play it safe since it can occur—though in frequently. Besides—you know if you are sick and how many of us would spread urine from other people? Especially sick people? Probably none of us. Also, medicines are known to linger – for long times. If you still would like to use those two urines to be extremely environmental please use them around non food plants (please). Lets always play it safe – just in case.

Keep your urine use to plants whose edible parts are off the ground…like tomatoes or apples. You can use it on your lettuce, carrots, beets etc but it is probably best to wait a period of time before eating them to be safe (as long as you are following the first recommendation too). People have done it and it is generally considered safe. However, I wouldn’t tell people that you did it –even if it was used while they were seedling months ago….people get kind of ikked out by that 😀

And always dilute it…it can burn your plants. But your compost pile will love it “hot”.

P.S Howling Hill is doing her annual seed swap and wondered if any body was interested. Go over to her place to start signing up to trade and swap.

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Leaf Gifts

Here in northwest Montana, the trees are shedding their leaves in anticipation of the winter ahead.  While the colors are something worthy of admiring, all that raking is something no one really looks forward too.  Though in my search to let nothing go to waste, I’m looking forward to using those gifts from the trees as something useful rather than a dreaded chore.  Consider using those leaf gifts in the following ways:

  • Rake the leaves into your vegetable garden and till them in, providing a little organic matter to decompose over the winter.  Do becareful of leaves from trees with diseases and fungal problems, lest you bring those problems into your veggie beds. 
  • Save the leaves in barrels or trash cans and use for next years mulching needs (again beware of disease and fungus).  Those leaves work well in covering your newspaper pathways too.
  • Compost those leaves.  I keep a barrel full of leaves close to the back door to put in my worm bin throughout the winter, as additional food and brown matter for my worms.  I also put leaves in my traditional outdoor compost bins as well.  I’ve found that when aged with a bit of manure, composted leaves make excellent fertilizer.  You can also make leaf mould with little more than leaves and moisture.

In the end, these are great, free ways to amend your soil and hopefully increase your harvest.

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