Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stinging Nettle Tea... and more uses

Every year I try and remember to harvest some stinging nettles to dry and add to my homegrown tea batch along with the chamomile, oat straw, calendula, and native mint harvested in other seasons.
Stinging nettle is really quite an amazing plant. I've always known it was rich in iron and calcium but went looking for other nutrient qualities and found a huge wealth of information on the topic. I learned nettles are also rich in magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, sulphur, beta-carotene, B complex vitamins and Vitamin C! AND nettles are 10% protein which makes them higher in protein than any other vegetable. What an amazing plant and it requires no work to grow and is free to pick (I'm sure some gardeners would even pay you to get rid of it!) As if any other reasons were needed, it's also great for ridding the lungs of mucus and for colds in general. A true cleansing herb. Another thing I learned is that they are dioecious plants, meaning some entire plants are male and others female. Be careful if you find some and decide to try it as the stings are painful and the stingers cover the plant down to the bottom of it's stem. I usually either use some scissors and cut low or use my pincer fingers to grab the very bottom of the stem down at ground level. Inevitably I always get stung, but the stings don't last long. If I remember to I grab my gloves on the way out. Once they are dried or cooked they lose their ouch factor.
I found a simple recipe I may try. I've never really cooked with them, although I have mowed them and raked them into a pile to sit for a bit before giving them to my chickens to eat since I read somewhere long ago that they aid in egg production. I can't vouch for the truth of that but can tell you they were quickly gobbled up!

I just had to come back and post about how silly I felt for not cooking with these leaves after all I read today so I added some in place of spinach greens to my homegrown potatoes simmered with turmeric and home grown and canned stewed Taxi tomatoes. The cooked nettle leaves are a really beautiful deep green and very earthy (in a good way) tasting. I'll be cooking with them more. Free greens! Their cooked color reminded me I've seen them used as a natural dye before too. Forgot about that.
This next photo is just for the food porn aspect of things! haha! Isn't that perfect little potato so beautiful in the stewed tomatoes?

In addition to consuming stinging nettles for food and tea, they can be made into a fertilizer as well! Check out this link at Moj Vrt!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dilly Green Beans via live vinegar: The no-cook, live mother way.

So it's Sunday during Holiday Week and the dilly beans which I started this past summer, left out on my countertop with a thin cotton towel over them catch my eye and I start to imagine that, weeks upon weeks later, they MUST be ready. I've been watching what I would call a vinegar mother form on top of them. It's really pretty (for ferment freaks like me I mean) and I decide to sample them today. They are great. GREAT I tell you. I want to document them on my garden blog so I look to see what exactly other people call a vinegar mother so I can prove to you it is safe for consumption since I really don't expect anyone to take my word for it. I either really suck at finding stuff on the internet or there isn't much about it. Then I consult my go-to fermentation book Wild Fermentation because I *know* the author has written about dilly beans his father makes and I'm *sure* he must have something about that mother in there but NOPE! So I'm showing off what I have whilst having no idea if I should. The beans are great, we have all eaten them and they aren't making us sick or anything?! haha! The mother is in a word: Gorgeous. I took a bunch of photos but I'll only trouble you with a few.

This first photo is the top of the mother once set back over her beans.
And these two following photos are of the mother, removed from her jar, and placed upside down on a plate. See how the rim which sealed the jar sticks out from the bulk of her to form a lid? Really beautiful. Ethereal even.

I think I'll do this same thing next year, but add some spicy peppers to the mix. I'll definitely also do some lacto-fermentation and then preserve what we don't eat quickly enough in vinegar.

I should note that I did buy an organic white vinegar to start these beans, perhaps the higher quality vinegar makes a difference?

I'd love input. What do you think?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December: Final Harvests and Clean Up BURNs

First... the beautiful things growing in the garden right now.


Turnips? Not sure (dang it!)


A final harvest of tomatoes! Amazing year! I'm making tomato paste as I type.

My son and mother-in-law harvesting the dried-on-the-vine Kentucky Wonder beans last weekend

I collected the open seed pods of garlic chives (should be seeing quite a few of those popping up everywhere... oops again)
I'm amazed how much our garden produced for us this year. A year I assumed would be a slow flop just kept going and going and going. Yesterday I decided to make a fun push to finish the garden clean up and burn any bulky stuff that remained around (such as corn stalks and massive rotting tomato vines). In the midst of the day my 3.5 year old helper and co-gardener took a nap so I stopped for a few minutes and looked around with my baby on my back and found so many beautiful little spots in our yard and garden. I spent the most time with these three views:


Texas Tarragon

Our native lawn

Then I thought with excitement about my garden next summer. I'll have a crawler and a wild boy by my side planting and watching and watering and playing. This area below is the children's garden spot. I may make a few changes to it, we'll see how it evolves in my brain. I enjoy looking at it as an empty canvas!

My youngest son and I had to wait for big brother to wake up before starting the burn pile on fire. In the mean time we sampled some of the greens around the garden. Z's favorite? The bitter mustard greens! He chewed on this baby leaf for a long time. Isn't he the perfect picture of a future gardener?

At the end of the day: The burn. I'm a sucker for a bonfire, as are both of my boys! There is something so primal and pure about gathering around flames.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kentucky Wonder Beans, Dried

I have learned that there is something about growing my own dried beans that makes me think of them as more than food. They are beautiful, shining, glorious lovelies worthy of art haha!

This summer we had a great run of Kentucky Wonder beans fresh and crunchy and green right off the vines. I love this particular variety for it's reliable and delicious abundance. This year we had done beans so many different ways and for so many meals that we... I'll admit it... we got sick of them! ACK! I even preserved some in cans and in vinegar. So the last pods remained on the vine and there they rested. Until this weekend. My mother-in-law, Kathryn, and my son and I went about bringing in the remaining pods of beans and then Kathryn shelled them! (oh thank you!!) We ended up with 4.5 cups of dried BEAUTIFUL beans.After soaking them for 24 hours with a glug of vinegar I drained and rinsed them before placing the beans in a large stock pot, covered them with a few inches of water, added a tablespoon of sea salt and a smoked turkey leg for good measure. I cooked them, uncovered, on medium heat on the stove top for 3 hours and let me tell you: They are good. They are fantastic. I searched around to see if they were worth cooking as a dried bean and didn't find much so really I just went ahead and tried and I'm so very glad I did. I will ALWAYS grow enough to have a large batch of these dried beans from now on. They have a nutty flavor and a very creamy texture. I highly recommend them if you have never tried it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I only had but a few moments to slip out today and check out the frost, but oh what a beautiful few moments they were! Once I got everyone dressed and ready to head out the frost had mostly melted. We'll see what lives and what does not. I can already see our giant bush of false salvia is toast... funny how I was just thinking it needed a trim!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The December Garden

I've been working on this post for over 2 weeks now, so really I should call these photos the November/December Garden. November was interesting to say the least. Fruit trees in bloom, tomatoes and corn continuing to grow. December came in quietly and quickly. Stillness in the garden. Stillness in my garden mind. Craziness in my world as I continue to adjust to mothering two very busy children while reminding myself at every turn that this time in my life is simply a season and it will pass. It will pass and I will treasure these moments with my sweet young children (and celebrate the passing of time as well).

winter tomatillos

corn's last hoorah
which, by the way, is perfect and tasty

languishing yet lasting carrots
cilantro... or should I say coriander? for which I have plans green green long grass
ravaged potato tops. these are ever sprouting no matter how much I harvest
bolted leeks
cauliflower and broccoli babes, purple haze carrots
beet greens and chard, well harvested. somethings or others under the bird protection - I neglected to write down what I planted. so far looks like carrots and somethings.
mustard greens. gorgeous, succulent, bitter mustard greens.
parsnips, spinach, somethings all under cover for migrant bird protection

This has to be my most pathetic winter garden I've ever had. I've just never been so busy before! Big plans for summer though. I'll have a crawler/walker and a 4 year old in the sun and dirt. That somehow sounds easier than 3.5 and barely moving in the cold and mud LOL. We shall see!