I briefly mentioned currants in my recent post Pickin’ and Preserving and wanted to share my thoughts about this wonderful fruit. The following paragraphs were taken from a post I wrote last summer.
“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 one is just beginning to ripen.
I have had a couple of readers mention that they love currants and now I am curious. Have you ever had currants? Where do you get them? How to you eat/preserve them? I would love to hear from you.
This post isn’t really about sitting on the beach or playing in the sand but I thought I would show you where we spent some time relaxing and celebrating Independence Day. Unfortunately by the time I remembered to snap a picture the beach umbrella had been blown down by the wind.
We decided to give our beach a little upgrade this summer, so when we had the stone delivered for the barn floor we also had a load of beach sand delivered. The sand was dumped on the beach and since we haven’t yet had time to spread it we haven’t been able to sit on the beach.
Yesterday my husband fixed that. He just took the tractor bucket and pushed through the middle of the pile of sand forming a small peninsula of sand in the pond. We then spent the late afternoon swimming and relaxing on the beach. It was a very enjoyable day.
Now what the title of this post is really referring to is our garlic harvest. It started today. If you are not familiar with how garlic grows, it is a bulb that grows under the ground. In order to harvest garlic it must be dug out of the ground. While 7000+ garlic plants may seem like a huge number, it is not nearly enough to be able to afford any fancy planting or harvesting equipment. Thus we dig each individual bulb by hand.
Despite the brutal temperatures today we were able to get one of our three varieties harvested. We only had two and 1/4 rows of this variety, Red Toch, planted – probably between 1400 and 1500 bulbs. We were thrilled to be able to move them directly from the field into the barn to keep them out of the hot sun.
Once they were all harvested my husband began tying them into bundles and hanging them from the rafters. Our barn was finished just in time and we are so grateful to have it.
While I have several posts that I am working on and would like to publish soon, this really is a busy time for us. If I seem to be MIA for a while there is probably no need to send a search party. If you do, however, decide to send one make sure they bring a shovel. LOL!
We are not the only ones who enjoy spending time at the pond.
Thanks for visiting and until next time be well. 🙂
I just thought I would do a quick post about what we have harvested in the past week.
Strawberries – Since we began picking strawberries we have harvested nearly 50 quarts of strawberries. After I froze enough to keep us in homemade jam through the year we began offering them to family and friends. We have had a lack of rain so the berries are not big this year but they are delicious. Due the dry conditions we are not certain that the plants will continue to produce berries much longer.
Garlic Scapes – Several people who visited the farm this week went home with some garlic scapes. We cut, bundled and delivered scapes to a local retailer and are having scapes for dinner tonight.
Oregano – It was time to start picking oregano before it blossoms. Oregano is a very prolific herb that is spreading throughout, and making a nice ground cover in our prayer garden. Since I will not be ready to can spaghetti sauce for at least a month I will dry the herbs as I harvest them and they will keep well until I am ready to use them. When it flowers the bees are very attracted to it.
I find that air drying herbs works well. I have a couple different methods for doing this. One is to tie the herbs in a bunch, like I have done with the oregano in the above picture, and hang then where they will get good air flow until the leaves completely dry. Once they are completely dry I remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.
Basil – Basil is another herb that I use in my spaghetti sauce. It is an annual so we plant a few plant each year. It is not very large yet but picking some of it now will encourage it to grow more and discourage it from flowering too soon. Since the basil stems were pretty short I decided it was best to dry them on our drying screen (shown in the photo below).
The drying screen is simply made of a wooden frame with screen stapled together. The frame that we used actually came as packaging from a table that we had purchased. I saved it because I knew there was a better use for it the just throwing it away. The screen that we used was part of a roll of screen that I had picked up for a couple dollars at an estate sale.
Since the drying screen does not have legs I usually put a box under each end so there is good air flow all the way around. Depending on the temperature, leafy herbs will usually dry in a few days on the drying screen. They are then stored in air tight containers until we are ready to use them
Plantain Leaves – When you see plantain you may think of a fruit similar to a banana that grows on trees (Musa paradisiaca) but we can’t grow that here. Apparently plantain trees grow best in zones 8 through 11 and require 10-15 months with temperatures above freezing to bear fruit. That doesn’t happen in Michigan.
The plantain I am referring to is know as common plantain (plantago major) and common it is. It pops up seemly everywhere and you would probably recognize it even if you don’t know it’s name. Along with not knowing it’s name you may not be aware that plantain had many health benefits and is often included in list of the top weeds that we should be eating. Although we have not yet included plantain in our diet I have been harvesting it for medicinal purposes for several years. The following website includes a photo and information about plantains medicinal uses https://usesofherbs.com/plantain.
We have been growing marshmallow for several years now and in the fall I harvest some of the roots as I use it in my Hair Care soap. Last year I also harvested some of the leaves, dried them and stored them. I enjoyed marshmallow tea a few times and have begun harvesting and drying the leaves so I can replenish my herbal “medicine cabinet”.
I actually started this post last week intending for it to be a short summery of our weeks efforts but as the time passes we are harvesting more and more produce. Before I wrap it up I will quickly add –
Blueberries – We are picking fully ripened blueberries and not having to worry about the birds getting them first. If you aren’t sure why click here to read about our blueberry patch update.
and last but not least
Currants – I have been waiting for months for these little berries to be ready. In my opinion they are a superfood and I intend on doing a separate post on them and how I am preserving them.
I am going to wrap up this post now before the list gets any longer. As I head to the farm to pick berries I wish you all a blessed day.
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I am so excited!!! Over the last two weeks the vista of our farm has been transformed. WE HAVE A BARN!!! Something we have been wanting since we bought the farm.
As garlic growers one of our challenges each year has been finding space for the garlic to cure for several weeks after it comes out of the ground. The space needs to be dry, out of direct sunlight and have good airflow. We have been very innovative over the last few years to accomplish this, but as our crop size increased each year it became more and more apparent that what we needed to do it right was a barn.
I thought about making this a post about the entire process – including why township ordinances prevented us from building a barn and how we overcame that obstacle, securing the funds, finding a builder, etc… I instead decided just allow you to share in our excitement and give you a photo tour.
On June 14 my husband hung the building permit as the builders (JP Construction)started working. Woo Hoo!!!
The site as the work was just beginning.
Drilling into the ground where the footings would be set. The footings are set 48 inches underground.
At the end of the first day all of the posts were set. The rest of the boards that are up are acting as bracing.
I wasn’t around much for the actual building but each evening I would check it out and photograph the progress. Little by little our dream was becoming reality.
Various stages of construction – getting closer every day.
View from the loft looking toward the front of our property. This photo was taken before the barn was finished. The 2×4 boards that were bracing the barn have now been removed and we have an unobstructed view.
View from the dormer over looking our pond.
Arriving at the farm.
View from the back of the barn.
My husband has been working on putting in the gravel floor and there are a few finishing touches that we will add, but the barn was finished none too soon, as we will be digging garlic in July and we now have the perfect place to hang it for several weeks while it cures.
Our locally grown (Saint Clair County, Michigan) Garlic Scapes are now available at Neiman’s Family Market in Saint Clair, Michigan. Check out their website here.
What are Garlic Scapes???
They are the seed heads produced by hardneck garlic varieties. They appear in the spring, and if left to grow they will flower and produce dozens of tiny garlic bubils (seeds). Most growers cut the scape off the garlic plant in order to allow the garlic to put more energy into growing a bigger bulb. If cut early the scapes are tender and delicious. They are said to have the same nutritional value as garlic bulbs, and although they possess a milder flavor when cooked, they are a culinary delight. They are great roasted, grilled, stir fried, sautee’d or used raw in dips, salads and pesto. To discover great garlic scape recipes simply do an internet search for garlic scape recipes or try the pesto recipe at the bottom of the page. They are only available for a short time in the spring but can be preserved by freezing or pickling.
Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices 1⁄3 cup walnuts 3⁄4cup olive oil 1⁄4to 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper
1. Place the scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated.
2. With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. Also freezes well; the cheese can be added to the pesto after it has thawed.
Makes about 3⁄4 cup.
Remember Garlic Scapes are only available for a few weeks so stop by Neiman’s and grab a bunch or two. (While you are there you might just want to sneak back to the bakery department and treat yourself to one of the best doughnuts around 😉 )