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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rhubarb - Perennial Food, 3 Ways


Growing Rhubarb

Go ahead and get some roots and plant them.  My first rhubarb plants came from an old field in Massachusetts.  In some bygone time it was cultivated for rhubarb and had since been neglected.  I asked for permission to take some roots and those plant are still with me today.  They have traveled with me to Maine and continue to do well. 
I have found it easy to grow.  Plant it, keep it weeded at least until it is established and feed it with compost or rotted manure.  I is a heavy feeder, or likes that best.  

Cooking with Rhubarb

Sweet dishes are the most common and while strawberry is the most common addition to a rhubarb recipe, other berries can be pretty good too.  I have included a savory BBQ sauce recipe as well.  If you are not a big fan of sugary things, here is a tip for making low sugar rhubarb sauce.  Chop the rhubarb as you would for any recipe.  The smaller you chop, the quicker it cooks.  Larger pieces make for a chunkier sauce, your choice! 




Canning Notes:

Was your jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Boil for 10 minutes in water and set on a flat sheet or baking pan and put them in the oven at about 215 degrees to dry and keep sterile. Fill, wipe the lids with a damp, clean paper towel.  Then place the lids on the jars and snug the metal rings (not tight) onto the jars.  Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.  Since the lids are just snug, the small air space in the top of the jar will expand and escape under the water.  After the 10 minutes is up, remove the jars and place on the counter to cool.  The air will contract and, if the seal is good, the metal lids will "pop" down quickly creating a vacuum seal.  It's a good idea to check a canning book or website for further instruction.  Don't worry if  a good seal isn't made, just put it into the refrigerator and eat those first. 
Left to right - Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, Rhubarb Strawberry, Rhubarb Cranberry

Rhubarb Cranberry Jam or Sauce


Ingredients

2lb or 6cu fresh rhubarb
5cu granulated sugar
1/2lb cranberries
1/2cu water
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Makes about 5 standard size (1pt) jars 

Rhubarb does not have much pectin.  Adding some pectin according to package directions will help jell the mixture if a stiffer jam is desired. 

Prepare your jars and lids etc by sterilizing them (see above).
Wash the rhubarb and chop roughly into 2 inch pieces. Put a large, heavy, roomy pan with the sugar, cranberries and the water.
Bring VERY slowly to the boil to melt the sugar.
When it reaches the boil, turn up the heat and allow to come to a rolling boil, and boil until thickened and the setting point (see notes) is reached, which takes around 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice
Pot immediately in sterilized jars, and screw on the lids snugly while the jam is still hot.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Alternately, refrigerate and eat within a few weeks or freeze. 



Rhubarb Strawberry Jam/Sauce


5 one pint jars

Even though strawberries are the classic accompaniment with rhubarb, feel free to use whatever is on hand.  Try a frozen mixed berry package. So use whatever you wish.

Because rhubarb doesn’t have much pectin, add commercial pectin or apple juice to help set the jam. 

3 pounds or 8 cups rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups packed berries, fresh or frozen
1 cup water or apple juice
5 1/2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
pinch of salt

1. In a large pot, mix the rhubarb, berries, and the water or apple juice. Cook, covered, stirring frequently over moderate heat, until the rhubarb is cooked through and thoroughly tender. It should take about 20 minutes.

Put a small plate in the freezer.

2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and cook, uncovered, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface, until the jam is thick and passes the wrinkle test.

To do so, place a small spoonful of the jam on the frozen plate. Return it to the freezer and check it a few minutes later; if the jam wrinkles when nudged, it’s done. You can also use a candy thermometer; jam jells at approximately 220F.

3. Ladle the jam into clean jars, cover, and store in the refrigerator or process as above. 


Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce


4 c. chopped rhubarb
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 c. water
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
3 Tb. Dijon mustard
2 Tb. cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2-1 tsp. hot pepper sauce or red chili flakes (or to taste) Careful not to over do the heat. 
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring often (especially towards the end of cooking), until the rhubarb is tender.
Blend until smooth using an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender or food processor to blend).
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for about a week or freeze for longer storage.
Makes about 6 cups




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Edible Plants: Elderberry



Blanche always does a great job explaining her subjects.  Here she is on elderberries.  There is one comment I would like to add. My experience is elderberries do not like wet feet.  Very damp is ok, but not in standing.
jiovi permaculture nursery



Friday, April 22, 2016

Turkey Tail Mushrooms, The Hidden Health Benefits

The Hidden Health Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Kaitlin Krull




Origin and information
Trametes versicolor, or the Turkey Tail mushroom, is a woodland fungus that gets its common name because its colorful, fanned top looks more or less like a turkey’s tail. The Turkey Tail is one of the most common woodland fungi, found predominantly in forests and wooded areas throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Usually found on dead trees, logs, and stumps, this mushroom helps to decompose wood and bring nutrients back to the earth.

In addition to its environmental properties, there are several significant health benefits for people who are brave enough to safely consume Turkey Tail mushrooms. With medical origins in both Chinese and Japanese herbalist practices, this fungus can be brewed as a tea and consumed other ways in order to combat a host of ailments, including chronic pain and other recurring illnesses, including cancer.

Top medical uses for Turkey Tail mushrooms
Although the use of natural ingredients such as mushrooms is not currently FDA approved, Turkey Tail mushrooms are increasingly used to fight off illnesses by those interested in Eastern medicine and other unconventional health practices. At Modernize, we were intrigued by their growing popularity and wanted to find out more. Here are just a few of the many current medicinal uses for Turkey Tail mushrooms.

The primary and most popular use of Turkey Tail mushrooms is for cancer patients, specifically those undergoing chemotherapy. Many patients agree that consuming this fungus not only alleviates the negative side effects of chemotherapy, but also increases the efficacy of chemotherapy for a variety of types of cancer. This is because of the presence of the polysaccharide K, commonly referred to as PSK, in Turkey Tail mushrooms. This carbohydrate is thought to lessen pain and boost the immune system. Although not yet approved by the American FDA (although clinical trials began in 2012), the use of PSK has been endorsed by the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry for over 30 years for this particular reason.

In addition to boosting the immune system during chemotherapy and alleviating pain in cancer patients, it is thought that Turkey Tail mushrooms may also be able to fight off viral liver diseases such as Hepatitis B and other viral illnesses. This is because, at the cellular level, Turkey Tail mushrooms contain strong anti-viral properties. When ingested, the cells from the fungi attack the viral cells in patients’ bodies and may even prevent the development of cancerous cells.

Although much more research needs to be done in order to clarify the specific medicinal properties of Turkey Tail mushrooms, it is widely accepted that these fungi strengthen immunity and help promote healthy living. For this reason, health food stores and other retailers currently sell Turkey Tail capsules that can be taken as daily supplements. Claiming to promote positive liver function and boost the immune system, these kinds of products are the modern equivalent to a hot, brewed mug of Turkey Tails. Whether or not you believe the hidden health benefits of Turkey Tail mushrooms, their popularity has grown exponentially over the last several hundred years and thousands of people support their healthy claims.





Monday, April 18, 2016

Oregon State University - Free Online Permaculture Course




Permaculture course description:


Permaculture design is a method of landscape planning that can be applied to anything, from a home garden or farm to a city block or entire village. This free permaculture course uses design principles from nature itself and takes into account such things as how indigenous people used the land; how water, fire and wind flow through the land; and how soil, water, vegetation, buildings and habitats can be managed in a stable and enduring way.

A multidisciplinary approach

Permaculture design is an ethically based, whole-systems design approach to create sustainable human settlements and institutions. Although rooted in horticulture and agriculture, permaculture design also touches on regional planning, ecology, animal husbandry, technology, architecture and international development.

Learning outcomes

In this free permaculture course, you will learn about the process, ethics and principles of permaculture design while diving into climate-specific design elements through interactive technology, videos, graphics, and readings. The course is designed to benefit everyone regardless of your learning style, time commitments or available technology.

Students who complete all course activities should expect to spend between two to four hours each week on course work.



Permaculture questions and discussion


Letters:

Quite often we receive letters on a variety of subjects.  Answering them is fun and sharing them sometimes is a good thing.  Here is another one. 

Hi,
 
We live in NW New Mexico, in zone 4b-5a (elevation: 7000 ft); it snowed 6 inches yesterday/this morning.  Our soil PH is about 7.5, and I use the term “soil” loosely, as it’s quite nutrient poor (love the high desert climate; its soil … well … it’s a challenge).   We moved onto our homestead property last April, and got do to a bit of gardening last year (although it was late to be starting seeds; I couldn’t resist).  Veggies and herbs did pretty well, poor soil considered, until they were eaten by elk in the early fall.  All in all, last year was “the year of observation” to learn the sun, wind, water, etc. patterns;  we’ve selected a site and are now moving forward with the first steps of our orchard/food forest.   We’re looking at the big picture: a long-term orchard for our own consumption and food preservation, pollen producers for future bees (next couple of years), possible food production for chickens (arriving next month) and wildlife.  We found a year-round spring directly adjacent to our property, which accounts for the bear, elk, mountain lions, coyotes, rabbits, turkeys, owls, hawks, and you-name-it living on the property.
 
While obviously I’m able/willing to do some soil amendment and such, I’d ultimately like to create a sustainable situation without pretending I live in zone 7, have dark, rich, Midwestern-US soil, and that it rains a lot here.  Bottom line is that we’ve got high desert temperature fluctuations, poor native soil, an average last-hard-frost date of May 25, and an average growing season of 130 days.  I feel sorry for, but refuse to emulate, those in our community who cry about their apple, peach, almond, etc. trees “blooming pretty” but failing to produce fruit year after year.


Sorry for the rambling, but I wanted you to sort of get a picture of our situation.  We’re looking at Jiovi’s food forest plants collections, and keep coming back to collection #3.  What are your thoughts about those plants given our location/situation?  I’m also considering buying some goji seeds to germinate and grow indoors until planting them outside next spring.  I’ve got a south-facing passive solar wall of windows, in which I successfully grew (and harvested!) tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and lemons all winter, so they should be pretty happen inside until hardened off and planted outside.  I am lucky, indeed, but want to think hard about starting the food forest so that I have a maximum success.
 
Thoughts?
Many thanks,

 
 


8:15 AM (4 minutes ago)
 
Hi from jiovi and Foxgreen Farms,

You have some challenges.  We have them too.  About 12 miles from the on-grid farmhouse, the "wilderness" location of Foxgreen Farms has poor soil and a similar climate.  After removing the trees and shaking all the stumps to save what soil there was, I planted a field mix of grasses and clover.  I would skip the grass in the future except for annual varieties.  That all depends on your future use.  The clover does more to  build the soil and the grasses can get weedy.  Having said that their roots are fibrous and repeated cutting of it all is building the soil. You could always plant grasses later if you want forage. Not sure if you have access to wood chips cheap.  If you do they are great to use for mulch and biomass the fungus/mushroom/worm love.  

The plants.  All of the plants in the collection are good for your area regarding zone temps.  The elderberries, seaberries, nanking cherries, and service/juneberries can all take a little shade.  Not too much but a partial day is fine.  The others like full sun best.  As far as bee forage, the black locust might be a good addition.  Here is a great resource for bee forage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_American_nectar_sources_for_honey_bees  Black locust is highly rated.  

For chickens, the siberian pea is one they like.  Honey locust too.  The honey locust isn't as good for bees but it has all the other qualities black locust has, except for the honey potential.  It does have far more use when it comes to food production for people (small pods) and especially animals.  It's very productive.  

As far as animals, my challenge is moose.  Having said that, they don't do too much damage and definitely have preferences.  There are tons of ideas about deer etc protection in the garden.  One of the best things is to change-up the site.  They don't like differences, it spooks them and as long as there is food other places, they will choose not to be where they are uncomfortable.  A dog being around helps.  Just it's presence is good, it doesn't need to be out at night.  The other thing is placing, say, 5 gal buckets around and moving them randomly to different spots.  Again, the new things in the animal's eyes makes them uncomfortable.  I think I might set up a clothesline type thing or two, and hang buckets and some reflective tape.  I could just slide them up and down the line.  That in combination with a solar or battery powered motion light or two might help a lot.  Those things wouldn't be as effective when they are super hungry in the fall and winter.  

Another animal problem we have had in the past is mice.  Deep snow over a long period has them tunneling on the ground surface and they can chew a ring around the tree/shrub.  A hardware cloth ring, tree tube, or a spray made from garlic and hot pepper works.  The garlic and hot pepper needs to be reapplied so if the snow is deep, that wouldn't be practical in the winter.  

The only other thing I can think of is enhancing a habitat away from your plants they like.  When I thin the forest or clear a field, I keep in mind the sun and new sprouts from the stumps.  More of them and, again, the animal will prefer to stay away and eat that stuff.  

It's always a good idea to test the soil so you know, in detail, what it needs.  As you know, soil farming is the key to everything doing well.  Once the soil has the biomass and dampness it needs it is largely self regulating.  Consider having lots of comfrey growing.   Chickens like it, it is a bioaccumulator, and multiplies like crazy....a good thing for such a useful plant. 

I am just thinking of the top of my head so I hope I have helped some.  One of my goals for jiovi plants is to have them specifically successful in cold climates.  The only one which is still a question mark in my area (zone 4-5) is the Paw Paw.  I think it will survive but the fruit production might be minimal.  

The collection is a good one.  If you want to adjust it in any way.... add plants, change plants, etc.  send me another email with what you want.  I'll price it out with as much of a discount as the collections have or more.  I would be glad to customize it for you.  Keep me up to date on your efforts and adventure.  All the Best - Tom

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Visit to the Vinyard

Have you asked yourself "Can I grow wine grapes in my climate?".   The varieties here are all extremely hardy.  They are great in zones 3 through 7.  Are your winter temperatures below -40 degrees?  Probably not.  So the answer is yes you can grow high quality grapes in your area.  
The photos below are of a visit to our grape grower in the middle of April.  It is a beautiful place and our relationship with them is one we hope to have for many years.  














Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Seabuckthorn buds in the spring. Updated. Originally published April 2014



Five Horizons of Appreciation!

All around me I am thankful for the new warmth of the air and land.  The fifth horizon, the one of stars and skies and of friends and contemplation are gaining strength as well. 

Sea Buckthorn Spring Buds

Some time ago Mont-Echo answered a question for me about Sea Buckthorn buds.  I asked if there was anyway to tell the sex of a plant by the winter buds.  She said that often, but not always, the male buds are larger.  I did some observation on the plants I have here in Mansfield and it seems to have proven to be true. The buds haven't fully matured yet, but yes, the plants with the larger buds over the winter seem to be developing the signature male flower "purses".  The female plants do not show any signs of flowers yet and that is understandable.   Even fully flowering buds are nearly invisible.  They are very small.  
Here are a few photos I took today.
Male spring buds with round "purse-like" flowers (unopened)
Taken same day, different plant.  Buds on female Sea Buckthorn


.

Another potential female plant
This one is sort of inbetween looking, I vote for female.  Close up below.




Male Seaberry buds in very early Spring.

Himalayan Seeds

I was very lucky recently to obtain some seaberry seeds from the Himalayas.  I have just planted some and will update as they germinate!
Here they are.......


Plant Sales:

Plant sales have been very good.  The next ship date is April 19th. 
All these are available by clicking here or typing www.jiovi.com into your browser. 

A Couple of Other Thank You's

Doug Wallace left a nice comment recently.  I hope to review his work soon, but in the meantime visit The Gaia Health Blog  it has lots of great information.  
I also want to thank Carl from Quebec.  I hope we can work together promoting the value of Seabuckthorn in both our countries!