Saturday, February 6, 2010

seeds of sustainability

Each season I try and order a few new to me types of seeds. I don't need them but I enjoy adding to my seed banks for the future and I enjoy trying different  veggies and fruits out. I  also try and find varieties of   seed that does well in our local area  in order to increase production This year my selections were the chinese mosaic long bean, white rice bean, north Ga candy roaster squash, siamese dragon  stir fry mix,  and strawberry spinach. It will be fun seeing how each of the new  varieties do this  season in the gardens.

The other picture is of my complete seed order for the year. I purchased  eight packs and got one freebie. I am trying to find a decent snow pea to plant for our area  and I needed more alabama red okra seeds as  the deer ate  every single stalk I had planted last year. The last pack I ordered was a mesclun mix for salads as I haven't quite gotten the lettuce  seed saving  down to a science yet

 If anyone is interested I have a small stash of seeds that I would be willing to trade  for some different varieties of heirloom  seeds. I also know that  with the economy in the condition it is  some folks that want to begin gardening yet have no means of acquiring the seed.  If you are interested in some just shoot me an email. Seeds that I have available are  following. Unfortunately, for those out side the US, I do not know the laws for sending  seed out of country.

danvers half long carrots
tonda de parigi carrots (small round)
marketer cucumber,
fern leaf dill
edamame soy bean
wonder sweet pepper
moon and stars watermelon
echinacea purpurea
thai golden round melon
silk leaf tobacco
white dent corn (heirloom but forgot what)
waltham broccoli
snowball self blanching cauliflower
castor bean,
tigger melon
quinoa kaslala
longy cayenne pepper,
victoria rhubarb
catskill brussel sprout
chinese five color pepper (very hot)

Friday, February 5, 2010

cape gooseberry, goldenberry, poha, husk cherry

I  some how managed to have a few of these plants wind  up  in my gardens a few years back  and since then  they have become a mainstay in our garden beds. Here in the states they are not all that well known but resemble the japanese or chinese lantern plants. Most often the lanterns stay a pale beige/ yellow hue. The fruits within the small husk are when ripe an opaque orangey yellow color and contain oodles of tiny seeds. When not ripe they are green in color and poisonous. Within the paper husk is a lovely little fruit. Some say it is much like a muscadine, some say a tomato flavor. The only taste Ii can describe it as is a tomato crossed with pineapple flavor. I dunno but dang they are good.

The fruit is a close relative of the tomatillo and potato plant therefore they are part of the nightshade family(unripe berries are green in color and can cause sickness and the plants are poisonous, so dont eat the plants) it is often called a Cape Gooseberry. It is also sometimes called Husk Cherry, Peruvian Ground Cherry, and in Hawaii, Poha or Poha Berry. The Latin name is Physalis peruviana.
information on this plant

Native to Brazil, the plant now grows wild in much of South America and Hawaii and is cultivated in many temperate regions, including South Africa, where it has long been popular. This plant does well in unfertilized and poor soil types and can become invasive so plant accordingly. It is commonly used in jams and sauces, but can also be eaten fresh.

When the fruits ripen they generally will begin falling to the ground and will continue to ripen within there little husk. To harvest simply scoop them up. If you would like to store them for a while leave the fruits in the husk and they will store much better.

The fruits are good to eat plain, in jams and jellies or dipped into chocolate. They are excellent in a "fool" as well. Because of the piquant flavor they also go well with some meats and can be made into chutneys and added to salsas.

Here are a few recipes i have tried all of which I like quite well. There are a few others I have run across but as yet have not tried. These fruits are high in pectin therefore no pectin is required when making a jam . Nutritionally they are very high in vitamin c.

1 lb Gooseberries
3/4 lb Sugar
Stem n peel cover from berries and wash . Drain. Add sugar. Heat very slowly in a covered container until juice begins to form. Mash the fruits until you have them at the consistency you wish (i like chunky bits) Uncover and boil until juice sets when tested. Let cool a little then bottle in warm jars and seal.

1 pt berries, stemmed
Sugar to taste
2 - 3 tablespoons Water
1 cup Heavy cream, whipped
Put the berries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of sugar and the water. Cook very gently until the berries are thoroughly done and soft enough to mash. Put them through a sieve or food mill and add sugar to taste. Fold the gooseberry puree through the whipped cream. Chill for several hours, before serving.

4 lb berries
3 Medium sized onions
3 cups Brown sugar, tightly packed
1 1/2 cup Cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup Dry white wine
1 cup Seedless raisins
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoon Dry mustard
1 teaspoon Ground ginger
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Wash the berries . Chop or grind the berries and onions together and place them in pan with the remaining ingredients. Cook this mixture uncovered over low heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens, about 2 hours. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal immediately.

sunflowers for food and oil

Sunflowers are some of the easiest plants to grow and have an assortment of uses around a homestead. Not only are they a nutritious and delicious snack but they can be hulled and used in salads, made into nut butter, fed to livestock, serve as bird feeders and made into oils. Sunflower seeds contain calcium and iron and have no cholesterol in them. The fats in sunflower seeds are mostly polyunsaturated linoleic acid.

Sunflowers are direct sown into the soil once all chances of frost have passed. Plants seeds 1/2 to 1 inch in the ground and watch them grow.The giant varieties do have a tendency to grow to height of 12- 14 feet which does make the seed heads susceptible to being windblown and knocked over. For the giant breeds i mound the soil at the base of the plant in an attempt to give them a sturdy foundation . Sunflowers have about a 90 or so day harvest time so they can grow in most any zone.

Sunflowers can begin being harvested when the back of the seed heads turn yellow or when the center flowers turn brown.Simply cut the heads off , leaving a piece of stem to hang them in a well ventilated place to finish drying. Cover them with netting, paper sacks with holes or cheesecloth to catch falling seeds as they dry.

They can be allowed to dry on the stalk, but you'll have to cover them this way to keep the birds from eating them all before you can harvest them for yourself. If you grow sunflowers for the purpose of feeding birds, you can either leave them in the ground, or harvest the heads as above, then hang them in the yard or garden when they are ready. This method has an advantage in that you can dole out the heads over the winter, instead of seeing the seed all eaten within a few weeks.

When the seeds fall easily from the head, they are dry and the seeds are ready for roasting. If you have a lot of plants to rub, wear some gloves  as it will
Remove the seeds and remove any debris from them.

From here what I do is take the seeds that are cleaned and soak them in a 1/4 cup salt to a quart of water solution for about 12 hours. Then I place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and slow roast them in an oven set on the lowest setting until they are dry and ready for storage. This generally takes between 3 and four hours. Stir them a couple of times during the roasting process. If you intend to store them for any length of time, put them in jars while still warm and close tightly. They keep very well in a cool dark place. Some variations call for mixing a teaspoon of melted butter with a cup of seeds while they are still warm from the oven, (these are for immediate eating only ) or roasting them until they are browned instead of just dry.

To make nut butter 
Start with raw seeds, and shell them by putting them in a cloth bag or wrapping them in a cotton cloth, then pound (gently!) with the flat side of a hammer, or something similar. Don't smash them, just crush them. When they're mostly crushed, pour them into cold water and stir a time or two to let the loosened hulls rise to the top. Skim these off, and stir again, as many times as it takes. When nothing but sunflower kernels are left, (you may have to pick through them) pour off the water, and spread to dry.Put them in a food processor and let it do the work. ( you can use a blender.) More labor intensive, is to use a clean glass jar or bottle and crush the seeds against the bottom of a bowl. It takes more time, but connoisseurs claim that the butter tastes better when it's hand made. If the butter seems dry and clumpy, add a little oil, about a quarter teaspoon, at a time, until you get the right consistency. Keep mixing until the butter is as smooth as you want it. You can add salt or not, but salt will help it keep better. store it in the refrigerator.

 to make  sunflower oil
A number of oil seeds can be grown here are some:
Corn 129 lbs of oil/acre or 18 gal/acre
Soybean 335 lb of oil/acre or 48 gal/acre
Flax 359 lb of oil/acre or 51 gal/acre
pumpkin seed 401 lb of oil/acre or 57 gal/acre
sunflowers 714 lb of oil/acre or 102 gal/acre
peanuts 795 lb of oil/acre or 113 gal/acre

As you can see sunflowers  per acre produce more any other oil producing plant but for peanuts. For those in the northern  states or places with a short grow season peanuts are near impossible to grow. Sunflowers on the other hand  are a viable  option  for most everyone.

For a good tutorial on making a home made seed huller and   oil press for  the sunflowers, I refer you to  Rodale's press. An article from 1979  explains the easiest methods of making both and for a  reasonable price, if not  at no cost.