Summer is in full swing and we are well into all of our summer farming activities, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. While most of the planting is done, we like to stagger the planting of some crops to extend the growing season, so my husband might yet plant a row of carrots or some more beans.
Since I’m not sure I could write an interesting post about weeding or watering, I thought I would share with you what we have harvested so far this year.
Rhubarb – We stopped picking rhubarb after a late season frost, but I was able to put some in the freezer for future desserts.
Asparagus – Our asparagus crop was certainly not what we had hoped for. Heavy spring rains severely stunted growth this year but we enjoyed it fresh for a few weeks and I froze most of our excess.
Dandelions – If you have been following my blog you know that I have used dandelions for making soap and that we liked it so much I went dandelion hunting in order to be able to make a second batch.
With dandelions being so plentiful in the spring I’m not sure why we have not yet added them to our diet as well. http://www.moneycrashers.com/eating-dandelions-health-benefits-leaves-greens-roots-flowers/
Mint – Peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint have been picked, dried and stored for use as mint tea, oil infusions, soap, culinary uses, and maybe a bottle of mint vodka. I dry mint and most other herbs by either hanging it in a bunch or laying it in a single layer on my drying screen.
Oregano – I’ll use lots of oregano when I make spaghetti sauce in August/September so I picked and dried a lot.
Strawberries – The weather seemed to have an ill effect on the strawberry crop as well. The berries this year were small so even if there were as many berries as last year the crop size was still reduced. I did make 8 pints of strawberry jam, a strawberry rhubarb pie, and I have several quarts in the freezer.
Elder Flowers – We have been trying to grow elder berries for about the last five years. It has proved to be a challenge first to get the bushes to grow since the neighborhood deer seem to consider them a delicacy. I’d guess we have planted somewhere around 15 elder berry bushes, and out of 15, two have been able to grow large enough to produce fruit. Even though they are large enough to produce fruit I have not been able to harvest the berries for the past two years because the birds get the fruit before I do. Over this past winter I learned that elder flowers have wonderful medicinal properties. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-elderflower.html So I have harvested the flowers for tea and tincture and although I may not be able to make elderberry wine, I won’t have to battle the birds to harvest the medicinal properties of elder.
Tart Cherries – Despite three early morning frosts while the fruit trees were in full bloom our cherry tree produced a nice crop. The first batch that we picked I decided to make into juice. The next batch was made into a cherry pie (one of my husband’s favorites). We told our next door neighbor to pick some so he too could have cherry pie, and even after that I was able to pick enough to freeze another batch of cherry pie filling. This was probably one of the best cherry harvest’s we have had from this tree.
Garlic Scapes – I put up 6 pints of pickled scapes before our scapes went to market https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/06/26/garlic-scapes-at-nino-salvaggio-international-marketplace/
Thyme – I don’t often use thyme in cooking but I grow lots of it because the bees like it. I am aware that thyme is said to have many medicinal properties and decided I should have some dried thyme on hand. http://www.healthline.com/health/health-benefits-of-thyme#1
Currants – “You are a better person than I am,” my husband said to me as I was picking currants. “These berries are worth their weight in gold,” I told him. It has only been in the last year that I have come to really appreciate the value of currants. They are indeed a super food. http://www.madaboutberries.com/health-benefits/health-benefits-of-blackcurrants-and-redcurrants.html In the past I have made currants into jelly and wine. Last summer I began making juice from them and found this to be like an energy drink. In order to preserve the vitamin C I make raw juice. I simply wash the berries then blend them, stems and all, with some water in my nutri bullet blender. I then pour the blend into a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. My husband likes the juice with nothing added, but I like to sweeten mine with a little bit of our raw honey. We have been drinking the juice regularly, but I have also been able to put some in the freezer.
Picking currants can be a long and monotonous chore, but currants are not something that I can just pick up at the grocery store, and if I was able to find them at a farmers market I’m sure they would be priced beyond my budget (have you checked the price of gold lately?). Fortunately currants will stay ripe on the bush for quite a while so I can pick a quart or two a day and go back for more a day or two later. We also grow 4 different varieties which ripen at different rates, so while I am about finished picking two varieties, one variety is coming into it’s prime and the last on is just beginning to ripen.
Plantain – It grows wild everywhere and unless you have applied a weed killer to your lawn you can probably find it growing there. I have been using plantain for medicinal purposes for a few years as a topical by infusing it in oil to make a balm and by infusing it in alcohol to make a tincture. http://www.naturallivingideas.com/plantain-benefits-uses/ When my husband and I both came down with a cold, I discovered that I was out of tincture so I used fresh leaves to make plantain tea. Plantain, like dandelion, is a plant that we should probably add to our diet.
Blue Berries – Our blue berries are currently ripening. We weren’t sure if we would have a good blue berry crop this year because last fall we moved all of our blue berry bushes to our fenced, field garden. One thing was for sure, if we were going to get any berries at all we would have to protect them from the birds. The bushes have adapted well and my husband put in some wooden stakes and draped netting over it to deter the birds. It is a bit of a challenge crawling on our hands and knees under the net to pick the berries but we appreciate them even more.
Blue berries are the easiest fruit to deal with post harvest. A quick rinse, since we don’t use and chemicals on them, then I freeze them on a tray. Once they are frozen I put them in freezer bags. We use blue berries mostly in pancakes but I have also discovered that they are wonderful when baked into a loaf of banana bread.
Swiss Chard – This happens to be our favorite leafy green vegetable. We start picking it when it is young and tender and it just keeps coming back. We think of swiss chard as a hardy spinach and use it in the same ways that we would use spinach.
One of my favorite ways to use swiss chard is in an omelet with crumble bacon or sausage and asiago cheese. YUM!
Stinging Nettle – Believe it or not I actually planted this “weed” on our farm. Since it is competing with other weeds or wild flowers that grow in the area it is slow to spread, but each year I am finding more. I had used nettle leaf in capsule form for allergies for years, and when I was finally able to harvest my own I began making tea and tincture with it. Nettle is another “weed” that we would do well to add to our regular diet and if our crop ever gets large enough I suspect we will.
Lettuce – While the rest of the salad vegetables lag behind we have been able to harvest some of the several varieties of lettuce that my husband planted. So combined with some store bought veggies we are enjoying our lettuce as salad. It also complements sandwiches and burgers.
When I clean leafy greens such as lettuce or swiss chard I put them in a bowl of cold water and add about a 1/4 cup of vinegar. I give it a swish and let it set for 5-10 minutes. The vinegar will kill any bugs that might be on the leaves. I then rinse each leaf individually before using it in my meal.
I expect that the next thing that we will harvest will be garlic so watch for a post on that soon.