Grateful for our Harvest

As we winterize our gardens and prepare our kitchens for the holidays, a lot of us have been investigating how we can locally source our feast’s ingredients.  Here at the farm we have been preserving and processing our fruits and vegetables for storage through the winter.  There is a massive bounty to say the least.  Whether you grow it yourself or do your best to buy local, it all makes a difference, and let’s face it, it’s much more fulfilling and inspiring to cook your own, or  locally bought food, rather than using a can that came from… somewhere?

turkey-collage1

We grow many things. Including turkeys. This is not the first time that NW Bloom has raised turkeys -learn more about raising your own, use the links on this site and visiting the Mother Earth News website.

Here on the farm, from the moment the seeds go into the soil and the baby ducks and turkeys show up, everything receives the best care that we can offer.  The turkey that will be on the table here and those in a few of our friends’ homes were raised from chicks that got to bond with the other farm animals, occasionally believed themselves to be ducks, and had pretty much free range of the farm.  When feeding times came they would follow like a gaggle of children behind their teacher at school, waddling as quickly as they could behind us to keep up.  They knew they were loved and they lived fantastic turkey lives.

Not only will these turkeys provide us with  nourishment, but they have been an educational tool for all those involved.  Someone new to the process was out here at the farm for each harvest.  They got be present and help, as well as learned how to pluck and clean a large bird.  On Thanksgiving, when everyone sits down to enjoy the feast, the bird that is the center piece will give everyone that much more to be thankful for and will taste so much better because the experience has been so much further reaching than buying one frozen from the grocery store.

 

Columnar Apples: Compact tree with regular sized apples

Want edibles but only have a small patio?  Live on a house boat?  Have very limited space? Who says you can’t have apples? Columnar Apples are the answer.

columnar apple starkbros_comThese wonders will do surprisingly well in a large pot and produce 50+ lbs of fruit on one 8 ft column or trunk. Wait, what? Seriously, 50 pounds of apples from one teeny 8ft trunk with no branches. For real?

Most apple trees can grow 20 ft in height and width but Columnar Apples just grow straight up and sprout fruit from short spurs on the trunk!? Tell me more about Columnar Apples you say?

Well okay! Here are the bits you’ll need to know to make them grow:

  • They like full sun and moist well drained soil
  • It is hardy to minus 30° F or USDA zone 4
  • The flowers bloom in April
  • You will need another apple of any variety blooming at the same time to cross pollinate
  • The fruit will be ripe to eat in September

And like we said above, will produce up to 50 pounds on 1 tree!

They will have a very small branches with the length maxing out at less than a foot. The Northpole (similar to the McIntosh), Golden Sentinel (similar to the Golden Delicious) & Scarlet Sentinel (similar to the Golden Delicious but will be yellow-green with red blushes) are all good varieties to eat freshly picked or for baking and cider making.

Here’s another idea. Need a screen in your garden? Make it a screen of Columnar Apples each planted 2 ft apart to ensure good cross pollination and good neighboring! In conclusion, anywhere there is full sun and water there shall be Apples!

Growing Horseradish: A Ruben aficionado’s must have

Transplanting some healthy Horseradish.

Transplanting some healthy Horseradish.

Horseradish: an interesting herbaceous plant, with a pungent, mustard like root usually enjoyed as a condiment for a nice piece of steak or a hot Ruben sandwich. Some Ruben aficionados would even consider it a necessity to have a proper sandwich. Which can be quite troubling when there is none in the house. But this is not a problem for someone with a supply of bushy green horseradish growing in the garden. In fact even the young leafs are edible, making a spicy addition to a green salad or blanched as spinach substitute.

horsertadish_with comfrey

This troubled apple tree is getting some help from our Variegated Comfrey and now some Horseradish.

But growing these plants in the garden can have additional benefits beyond getting a kick of flavor on the dinner plate. Horseradish is known to be an aromatic confuser, or member of a group of plants whose strong smells disorient harmful bugs. Having one horseradish plant at each corner of a potato bed is enough to deter a number of potentially harmful bugs. Horseradish also produces essential oils that are known to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Indeed it was used in 1500s England only for its medicinal qualities. It can help prevent fungal infection in fruit trees like brown rot on apples and potato diseases. By planting a nice full ring around a fruit tree will have these effects in addition to excluding weeds from the area.

Horseradish is a quite a hardy plant and requires little maintenance other than harvesting the roots. It can survive poor conditions including low nutrient soils and enjoys wetter soils where other plants won’t grow. It does grow best in full sun but can grow in dappled sunlight provided by an open forest canopy.

Growing horseradish in your garden can be a fun and provide benefits to your garden plants while providing some good flavors for your meals.

Hippophaë rhamnoides: The Sea Berry or Sea Buckthorn

Hippophaë-rhamnoides

Hippophaë rhamnoides. Picture from wikipedia

Here at the Nursery we have a ton of interesting berry shrubs but one of the useful berries in stock is the Sea Berry or Sea Buckthorn. Our favorite of the Sea Berry is the Titan. It bears abundant crops of very large, bright orange berries that have a sweet and sour pineapple taste, are an excellent source of vitamins A, E and have 7 times more vitamin C than lemons. Like most berry shrubs the Sea Berry needs cross pollination so a male plant is required but 1 male can pollinate up to 8 females and is a good looker with its light blue-gray soft foliage.

This wonder can grow in most inhospitable soil situations including sandy beach conditions and is likely where it got it’s name. It is so adaptable to poor soils because it will ‘fix’ the soil you put it in by adding the nitrogen all plants need to thrive. So, not only does the newest growth become inundated with fruit in early summer, and thorns to protect said berries, it is hardy to minus 40° F or USDA zone 3, can yield up to 30 lbs from a full grown 8ft tall shrub and it will fix the soil and everything around it will benefit.

The best way to harvest the branches covered in fruit, and thorns, is to cut off the whole branch with the fruit on it and freeze them. Once they are frozen you can shake the fruit right off the branches. The thorns don’t have a chance to do any damage this way and it truly is the quickest way to harvest. The fruit is commonly used in preserves, candy, liqueurs and in juices it is absolutely delicious when sweetened. After thawing press the berries, strain off the juice, diluted to about 1/3 juice, 2/3 water and add sugar or honey to taste. Yummy!

Silver Vine, Hot Pepper Kiwi!!

hot pepper kiwiSometimes you find an interesting new (to you) plant that seems too good to be true​. Here at the Nursery we have been a little too excited about the Silver Vine, Hot Pepper Kiwi and can’t wait to try to the fruit, first hand.

This little number is a native to Vladivostok, Russia so it’s hardy to minus 35° F or below! That’s USDA zone 3!! Brrrrrr. It will do fine in partial shade, likes moist but well drained soil, is not bothered by pests or disease. One stout male ‘Pavel’ can get busy and pollinate up to 8 ladies. It gets the name Silver Vine for the silvery look the leaves get later in the Summer months.

One full size 10ft lady vine can produce up to 30 lbs. of bright yellow-orange kiwi berries about the size of a globe grape with a sweet’n'spicy flavor. We are told it’s like a sweet mild chili pepper. Imagine walking along the fence with one of these vines on it and popping them into your mouth as you stroll along in September. I can see it now, mmmmmm….

Picture courtesy www.permacultuurnederland.org

Picture courtesy www.permacultuurnederland.org

Well in our short relationship with this kiwi we have noticed this vine is a vigorous grower and is rapidly reaching as high as it can. Already it is taller than all of us here. The male is blooming and the female is dressed up with buds waiting for her moment to shine.

We will keep you posted as these babies progress. September can’t come fast enough!

Mugwort: A Magical Plant

Common Mugwort: Artemesia vulgarisMugwort - Artemisia vulgaris (wikipedia image)

(Available in our nursery in one gallon size)

It sounds like something from Harry Potter doesn’t it? Well we certainly think it has many magical medicinal properties, and is something you can easily grow in your own food forest! I first found out about it when I visited a local lady spa. There, they have a trough of Mugwort Tea to dump on yourself. It smells heavenly and we were told it’s a topical anesthetic with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Naturopaths continue to use the herb as a remedy for disorders of the digestive and reproductive systems. It can also be used to treat intermittent fevers with chills and shivering and is added to healing baths to ease discomfort from eczema, gout and arthritis. Its sage-like, spicy flavor makes a delicious seasoning for meat dishes too.  Mugwort also stimulates appetite, promotes good digestion, reduces fevers and relieves tension. When prepared as a tea (to drink), mugwort also provides an excellent source of minerals, especially calcium.  Also, you can use it to make ale! What more could you ask for?!

Mugwort is a vigorous grower and can get up to 7 feet tall. It will spread out in a cluster very easily but is also easily maintained. We have quite a few clusters coming up around the mugwort we planted last year in our food forest. So we decided to do a little propagation:

  • First, I dug up 2 clumps about 6″ in diameter.
  • Second, I filled a few 1 gallon pots with some good 3-way potting soil.
  • Third, I used the dandelion weeding tool to create a hole or plug space for the little tap roots to live in.
  • Lastly, I watered them in and wah-lah, mugwort for everyone!CArmin propogates Mugwort!For more information about Mugwort and it’s many uses (including edibility rating) be sure to check out one of our favorite resources.

Miniature green eggs!

Joy: Over the winter holiday break our two youngest pullets finally started laying. This is always exciting for me — its like the girls hit puberty and have finally graduated into being apart of the mature lady flock.  Silly I know, but I hug and congratulate them like Margaret from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret the classic coming of age book by Judy Blume.

First, on Christmas day our pretty girl the Silver laced Wyandotte laid her first smallish brown egg after 8 months; what a present!  I’ve been hearing her cackle and sing about those eggs at 10am sharp every morning.

Next on New Year’s Eve day, I found two of the sweetest eggs I have ever seen– miniature green ones!!  Our shy little grey bantam Ameraucana (or Easter Egger) was nesting in a bale of hay in front of the horse stall.  I hope she learns to lay in the nesting boxes like everyone else, and quick!   The eggs are so small that I think I’ll need 2-3 for every one regular egg called for in recipes.

Isn’t it adorable? So tiny compared to our brown leghorn’s egg!

Growing Chicken Treats = Red Elderberry

This is one plant that I absolutely love to have around just for my chickens. Sambucus racemosa is a Pacific Northwest native shrub and is super easy to grow, thriving in all kinds of growing conditions (sun or shade, dry or moist soil, etc).  Every bird within a mile radius knows when the elderberry fruit is ripe and comes for it.  Most farmers will tell you that it will grow in pastures because livestock won’t eat it…because the stems and leaves are toxic and most animals know better than to eat it. It can actually become weedy, but it is easy to control and I don’t hesitate to cut it down entirely and let it regrow if it gets too big for the space it volunteered  to grow in.  The Sambucus genus’ edibililty factor varies from species to species.  The red berries are edible if cooked but not nearly as sweet as other species and varieties- see these for sale: purple, blue golden etc..  Another benefit for this plant: the large white clusters of flowers are frequented by hummingbirds and butterflies!

Chickens find shelter and food under the elderberry shrub

I let several red elderberry shrubs grow in the larger animal’s sacrifice area behind the barn where the chickens have been hanging out when the fruit is ripe.  This is a treat they can’t always reach so I give them a hand.

and our little call duck needs some too!

Do you have a plant that you love to grow just for your chickens?

Edible Flowers

I love this time of the year, not only because gardens are at their peak, but because it is when some of my favorite flowers are blooming AND we can eat them!  It is also a great time to introduce children to the idea of eating flowers because they get so excited about it.  In fact, I have to watch out because my kids will eat all of the flowers leaving none for me or the bees.  They also have a fun time showing other kids when they come to visit.

Here are daylilies, nasturtium and borage flowers- all edible!

Edible flowers can make a salad more delicious and beautiful - I made this yesterday for dinner with a friend and it all came from my garden (well, with the exception of the almonds)

Here is a list of other edible flowers/part and links to more info (from wikipedia):
Do you have a favorite edible flower?
A few words of caution: if you don’t know what a plant or flower is, or you don’t know if it is edible, do not to eat it.  If you have allergies or medical problems,  do your research.  I often use this great site to check on the edibility rating of specific plants.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

I’m really proud of myself for making something so pretty and delicious.  This is a simplified recipe from a book I checked out from the library, and is super quick and easy to do if you are having a BBQ and need a quick side dish.
The ingredients you will need (the quantities depend on how many people you are feeding):
  • Sweet potatoes – sliced into 1/3- 1/2″ pieces
  • Onion- thinly sliced
  • Cheese – a crumbly mild one (I used feta)
  • Cilantro- fresh and finely chopped
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
To prepare:  Slice the sweet potatoes and brush with olive oil, then sprinkle on the salt and pepper and set aside.  Slice the onions so they can be thrown on the grill too!  Have cilantro, cheese and and lime ready.
To cook: Place the sweet potato on upper rack of the grill and let cook for about five minutes on both sides or until the BBQ marks are present.  The onions only need half of that time so add then when you flip the potatoes.  Also check to make sure the sweet potatoes are soft.  Place potatoes and onions in a large shallow bowl then drizzle lime juice and toss.  Then add cilantro and cheese on top!  Easy peasy!