Tuesday, February 23, 2010

10 Unusual Edible Plants --notes

Here are my notes from a podcast recommended by hubby on "10 Uncommon Edible Plants for Every Backyard" see link at the bottom for full

Orach -- spinach substitute, red color, (what else?)

Calendula -- marigold family, medicinal properties, good for bees/pollinators, needs part sun in Texas,

Sunberry -- like garden huckle berry, similar to tomato plant, good for mock blueberry pie--not proven in Texas

Ground Cherry -- tomato like plant, grows waist high and busy with little paper lanterns hanging on it. Small fruit with tomatillo like skin. Good for munching. pineapple like flavor. small edible seeds. Very similar to tomato culture, so keep separated

Huzantle -- Mexico native, red aztec spinach, young leaves used as salad green, good in heat, seeds heads can be cooked and eaten like broccoli. Annual in north, could be perennial in far south. Very pretty red color, grows waist high

Asian Long Beans-- (green asparagus beans/yard long bean, Chinese red noodle) big pretty purple flowers loved by mason bees and hummingbirds, did great in heat, grows 14 feet long, (good for our arbor?) bad in frost, grows fast in heat, can grow sucessive generations in a single growing season, don't keep as well as green beans--not good blanched and frozen, eat as you grow fresh bean,

New Zealand Spinach -- good spinach substitute, high in iron, high in folate, good in heat, easy to seed/save seed/germinate/direct sow, looks and tastes more like traditional spinach than other spinach substitutes.

Amaranth -- superplant, used as green when young, very nutritious leaf veggie, many varieties, grows everywhere, 4-7 feet tall or taller, easy to harvest grains - no seed casing, high in protein as a grain, gluten free flour, whole grain as a cereal or mix into bread as a whole grain, some varieties can be used like popcorn, huge plant for mulch or compost when done with grain, deep root system good for soil nutrition, Hopi Red Dye version can be used as dye, mixed with honey--the grains can be used to make form able clay which can then be eaten,

Lambs Quarters -- widespread weed, good spinach substitute, high protein--especially seeds, seed can be added to flour, not good used alone as flour,

Buckwheat -- easy to grow at home, lots of biomass -- busy profile for mulch or compost, not a legume, leaves high in nitrogen for soil additive, great for bees and buckwheat honey, deep root system, easy to harvest grain, more protein than wheat, good for flour to make flatbread, plant after high nitrogen crop like peas (this will work well for us this year), can get second crop after harvesting first one in long summer areas,

other notes:
Amarath and long beans for three sisters style gardening

Source: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/episode-383-10-uncommon-edible-plants-for-every-backyard?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+survivalpcast+%28The+Survival+Podcast%29

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If you want to destroy my sweater...

Pull this thread as I walk away... (Weezer song "Undone")

I had a very nice Alpaca sweater. It was hand carried home from Bolivia by my sister in law after a mission trip. This poor sweater got attacked in the most unfortunate, obvious spot by a single moth and that one hole, right on my chest, was enough to keep me from ever wearing the sweater anymore. Rather than just trash it, I decided to recycle the yarn.

Once I figured out how to get the parts apart, it was a quick and fun process. Hubby even helped, he said it was fun in a bad sort of way "like picking a scab". huh.

I first attacked the seams and un-stitched the thread holding the parts together.

Just the front yielded a nice ball of silver yarn.

I got a little sloppy and cut a few of the decorative bands, only to realize that I could unravel those too. In the end, there was very little waste, just a few yards of yarn that had to be trashed.

I'm not sure what this will be in its new life, but I feel better (and a little bit nuts) about recycling the sweater.

Home-Made Pasta and Ravioli

With the power out, I got kind of bored so I decided to try my hand at making homemade pasta. First big issue... I had no recipe. I rely on google for anything new I try. No power means no google--gasp!

I used my perogie dough recipe as a start and made some modifications--with great success.

This was our first attempt at cooking with the dehydrated eggs from our food stores. I mixed 1 tbs egg with 1 tbs water and assumed that made about 1 egg's worth of egg-like goo.

Egg Noodles:

6 tbs dehydrated egg
6 tbs water
Mix until smooth.

To this add:
2 cups all purpose flour
~5 tbs more water until the dough holds together.

Mix and knead until smooth, then roll out to about 1/4 - 1/8 inch thick. Munchkin kitchen labor is optional.

Slice with pizza cutter into ribbons.

Place on towel to dry slightly.

Boil in lots of salted water until al-dente. We ate them with just a little butter and they were delicious.

For the Ravioli, I followed a similar pattern with fewer eggs in the dough (not sure why, it just seemed like the thing to do).

Ravioli Dough:
2tbs egg, 2 tbs water, 2 tbs powdered milk
~1 cup flour, more water to make dough.

1 cup cottage cheese, 1 fresh egg, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, ~1/4 cup bread crumbs

Roll dough as thin as you can (this dough was harder to work than the egg noodle dough).

Place ~2tbs globs of filling on half of dough at even intervals

flip second half of dough onto globbed half and seal between raviolis.

cut with pizza cutter.

Boil in salted water until they float.

We served these with spaghetti sauce and they were good. The thinner the dough the better they tasted.

Texas Blizzard

Sounds like a joke of a title, but we actually had about 8 inches of snow in Dallas on Feb 12th. It broke all kinds of records for snowfall in our area--and also made for some beautiful winter scenes--so uncommon in Texas.

Oak Tree


Crepe Myrtle

Potato Boxes



We lost power for more than 24 hours and got to practice our 'emergency prepardness'... and we did pretty darn good--with help.

Good Points:
1) had flashlights and candles ready within seconds of power failure
2) hot water and range top stove run on gas and were functional without electricity
3) doubled up on PJ's for kids and eventually all piled into our bed for warmth
4) open blinds allowed for plenty of light during the day
5) did fun activities like making homemade pasta to keep from getting bored during the day
6) both of our jobs were flexible to allow us time for this local emergency
7) we have GREAT friends, who loaned us a generator to hook up the blower to the gas heater so we had heat.
8) house only dropped by about 10 degrees overnight

Bad Points:
1) had to borrow a generator
2) Had no alternative heat source w/o electricity
3) Had no safe, long term light source, only candles and flashlights
4) Sandra did not have enough warm clothes to really bundle up
5) got kind of bored during the day, and would have gone nuts during the evening before bed
6) had no means of baking (very minor point)

It was kind of a fun experience, almost like camping at home. It really opened our eyes to what we need to work on and what seemed to work well for us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Daylily History

The daylilies I planted this weekend have quite a history, which I'm plugging in here, because I can think of no better place to track it (well, my paper garden journal too, but copy paste on the computer is so much easier). So from my MIL:

Curtis' great, great, grandpa, Ananias Kauffman, a man educated by the Kansas City School of Business, fell on hard times during the depression and went to work for the WPA, a federal work program that built roads in Missouri. While clearing land for a road one day, he dug up those lillies and instead of trashing them, he threw them in the back of his truck and brought them home to his wife and daughter-in-law, (my grandma). (Ananias' grandpa or great grandpa was Amish.)

They have been transplanted each time a move was made and passed on to the next generation. They are the generic, non-hybrid daylilles that grow wild in that part of the country.

Neat to have a history of the daylilis which now happily reside in North Texas and we'll see how they do in our little yard in Farmers Branch.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dried Herbs

Just before our first freeze back in early December 2009, I picked everything that was frost sensitive and put it in the garage. The veggies were dealt with quickly (see the pickled pepper blog), but there was a basket of random herbs that just sat... until now.

The basket contained Stevia, peppermint, and pineapple sage cuttings. Just sitting in the dark dry garage for 2 months let them dry very nicely. They kept the green color and were not as crisp as the herbs I dried in my dehydrator last year.

I was able to get a large baby food jar full of dried stevia, which I am enjoying in my tea right now.

I had more than a jelly jar's worth of dried mint. There is much more, but i"m not sure what to do with it. I'm just so-so on dried mint tea, it tastes a bit like hay to me. I also made a salad dressing with the mint for tonight's dinner. I'll see how the family likes it and may post the recipe if it is a winner.

Finally, my favorite... a jar of pineapple sage leaves and blossoms

The flowers kept their amazing red color, even dried, and they made such a pretty edition. The taste of the flower is really good, sweet pineapple-y and almost citrus-y.

I have found that my two favorite spices this year have been my home-made dried parsley and dried thyme. After finshing nearly a baby food jar worth of thyme, I've decided to try to make more of my own dried herbs and blends. No sense in wasting money on old store bought stuff when I have all of these wonderful things growing right in the yard.

Permaculture and Potatoes

We've been busy in the yard the last few weekends. We got two more truckloads of compost and created some new beds.

First was my potato coffins, I mean boxes... We used leftovers from our fence and to avoid any waste, we just used the board sizes as they were previously cut so the boxes are perfect coffin size, oh well.

The plan is to plant in the dirt below the bottomless boxes, then back fill with dirt and hay as the plants grow. We'll add front boards as necessary to hold in all of the dirt and stuff (and hopefully lots of potatoes). The idea is that the potato plant will make potatoes in any portion of the stem that is covered by soil, so ideally we could have up to 18" of potato growing stems instead of the pretty waist high potato plants I had last year.

The potatoes are not planted yet, they are biding their time in my kitchen window until this cool rainy spell passes (as of Feb 8th).

The other benefit of the potato boxes is that this will free up two big sections of the garden for other things... gee what to plant?!?

Most of the new dirt went to hubby's permaculture berry areas along the side of the house.

We put down a layer of cardboard to block out weeds and then dumped 8" of compost on top to create a planting area. This is a very low area of our yard, so the extra soil height will be a help.

Per hubby's design specs, we have planted:
3 Blackberries
30+ strawberries (Ozark Beauty, Quinalt, Sequia)
40 dayliles (heritage plants from Curtis' grandmother)
1 Celeste Fig tree (that was my addition)

Bare root Strawberries from Home Depot ~10 for $3.48, but most packages had 12 or more plants

Celeste Fig from NHG, $29.99, I could have gotten the same one a lot cheaper else where, but oh well.

All of this is behind the fence in the back yard. Directly in front of the same fence we also have a new berry area with:
2 blue berries
2 raspberries
5 Buddleia (4 white, 1 purple)

All of this fits into our plan of LESS LAWN, more edibles. While I tend to enjoy my annual veggies, hubby has been in love with the idea of permaculture... basically permanent plantings of things that you can eat--hence all the berries. I'm kind of excited about it too.

My permaculture addition is the asparagus bed. This is located next to our veggie garden, just to the east side of our back fence. There was a load of sandy top soil here from the fall, and I added and tilled in about 2 wheelbarrow loads of compost. I used boards across the bed to prevent smashing my pretty fresh soil when planting.

Here is a bare root asparagus crown. I got 18 Mary Washington and 3 Jersey Giant plants.