Sunday, May 20, 2018

Morel hunting in Southeast Michigan

Our 2018 morel season yield so far.
The elusive morel has been sighted. It's a little late this year, but it looks like this season will bring an average harvest, barring a sudden weather change.
We've found morels in a lot of places, and my husband who is a certified hunter/gatherer, brings home the fungi. Also we're fortunate that we have great neighbors who don't like morels.
Many people are afraid of picking the poisonous variety, by mistake. This is a valid concern. The main difference is that the true morel has a hollow interior, including the cap and stem and the cap is not separate as in a typical mushroom. If you're new to morel hunting, please do plenty of research and become completely familiar with the fungi. Here's a link for a good start: www.mushroom-appreciation.com/morel-mushroom.html.
I just saw that the Michigan DNR has a hunting guide with map, for finding morels, at www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79136_79237_81034-408642--,00.html
If you'd rather buy morels, that's an option too. I found this retailer, based in Washington state, nwwildfoods.com/product/fresh-frozen-morel-mushrooms/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5oOIqqmU2wIVST2BCh3A1AFHEAQYAiABEgLgzPD_BwE

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Planting time comes to Southeast Michigan

It was a long winter and it felt good to get out and feel the sun warming the Earth today, on Earth Day. Today we planted peas, Swiss chard, spinach and onions. We still need to plant lettuce. In 2 weeks, we plan to plant more spinach.
Looking back to 2017, we are planting later this year. Last year, we planted the greens and onions in mid April, (and that was later than normal).
And last year, we planted broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage on April 22.
In Southeast Michigan, it is time, actually past time, to plant peas, potatoes, lettuce, onions, radishes and parsley, and of course the greens: spinach, Swiss chard, kale, etc...
Finding the right seed can be a challenge, especially if you desire organic and non-genetically modified.
There are many different types of seeds available. Not only are there different varieties of the same plant, there are different ways the seeds are produced. There are cultivar (cultivated variety which can be a hybrid or open-pollinated); genetically engineered; genetically modified; open-pollinated; hybrid; heirloom and of course organic. For more information on this, visit www.ezfromseed.org.

Here's some of the top seed and nursery catalog companies:
www.gurneys.com seed and nursery
www.seedsavers.org nonprofit heirloom seeds
www.burpee.com since 1881 seed and nursery
www.jungseed.com since 1907
www.johnscheepers.com since 1908
www.reneesgarden.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

6 steps for growing indoors, when winter won't leave

Since the cold weather has not loosened its grip on Southeast Michigan, I dug up some information for growing plants indoors. Hopefully, it will soon warm up enough that gardeners can work the soil and plant greens seeds outside.
Southeast Michigan is mostly in Plant Hardiness Zone 5 with a few areas in Zone 6. I think our yard is in the colder Zone 4, this year.
While I wait for the ground to thaw out, I've been sprouting Mung beans for my gardening fix.
For information on sprouting, visit organicgardening.about.com/od/vegetablesherbs/a/growingsprouts.htm
or www.verticalveg.org.uk/6-easy-steps-to-sprout-heaven

Here are the indoor growing tips:
1. The best containers are wood pulp pots or peat pots. You can also use plastic cell containers with covers or egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom and saran wrap on top. (Or reuse the annual flats from last year.) Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil, preferably a mix with sphagnum peat moss. Moisten the soil.
3. Plant a few seeds, not many, about 1/8 inch deep and pat the soil lightly. Then cover with plastic and place in a very warm place, out of direct sunlight.
4. Keep watered. Once the seeds sprout, move the pots to a bright spot, a south-facing window is best. Water often, but not too much or too fast. The plants are fragile. If they get too big for their containers, move them to bigger pots.
5. When it gets close to planting time, it's time to harden them by placing them outside during the day, to get used to it, but not in direct sunlight at first. Bring them in every night.
6. When it's warm enough at night, transplant to the garden. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot and put the plant in, supporting it with your fingers. Firm the soil gently around the stem. Water carefully.
For tomatoes, it takes 6-8 weeks before they'll be ready to transplant outside. For Southeast Michigan, wait until Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers outside, because they are very frost sensitive and will grow much better when it's warmer at night. Occasionally, there is frost after Memorial Day, so watch the weather and cover plants when there's a frost forecast.

For more information, visit Burpee's guide to indoor seed starting

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Air plants are fun and easy

Photos by Julia, from Julia's air plant collection.
My boss/friend, Vicki, gave me an air plant recently, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with 
it. So I sat it on the kitchen counter, where everything goes when it is in the transition from arrival to placement.
 After a week passed, I wondered: Is this a live plant and does it require water?
The air plants on my kitchen counter.
Uh, yes, and thanks to Google and my friend, Julia, my air plant is now being watered.
Air plants are little plants that grow without soil. The proper name is Tillandsia, a genus of more than 650 species of evergreen, perennial flowering plants, native to Central and South America, the southern United States and the West Indies, according to Wikipedia.
In those climates, air plants grow outdoors, on trees. They are particularly plentiful on trees that are stressed, because it allows more sunlight on the plants. But according to most reports, the air plants don't kill trees. However, if there are too many, it can create further stress on the tree, and block light for the tree.
From Julia's air plant collection.
Air plants don't require frequent watering. They only need to be soaked for a few hours (or overnight) once a week. Allow the plant to air dry before placing it back in its container, according to Plantstr.
Air plants flower one time, and that's all. (usually between winter and spring), according to Hinterland Trading. Then, the plant will produce little leaves at the base, that grows into a second plant.
From Julia's air plant collection. Photos by Julia.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fresh apples and pumpkins

Michigan apple orchards are open with fresh apples and cider mills are pressing out the cider as the season kicks into gear.

Apple orchards and cider mills in Oakland County
• Ashton Orchards, 3925 Seymour Lake Road, Ortonville, 248-627-6671 - Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, pies, baked goods, seasonal produce, playground equipment. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday, August through October, then hours vary.

• Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill, 1479 Ranch Road, Holly, 248-634-8981, www.diehlsorchard.com - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Aug. 15 through Oct. 31. Weekends in November. Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, hayrides and corn maze. A museum wall is coming soon, commemorating more than 60 years of family ownership.

• Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill, 61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon, 248-437-0150 erwinorchards.com/wordpress/ - Orchard open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Aug. 18-Nov. 5. Cider mill is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours vary. Already picked and u-pick apples, cider mill, petting zoo, corn maze in season, seasonal produce.

• Fogler’s Orchard & .Farm Market, 3979 Rochester Road, (Rochester and Gunn Road), Rochester Hills, 248-652-3614, foglersgreenhouse.com - Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. Apples, corn, tomatoes, peaches, melons, u-pick raspberries, pumpkins and hay rides. Open now.

• Franklin Cider Mill, 7450 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-8261, www.franklincidermill.com-. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies, apples, pumpkins.

• Goodison Cider Mill, 4295 Orion Road, Rochester, 248-652-8450, goodisoncidermill.wordpress.com - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through November and weekends in December. Cider mill, apples, caramel apples, doughnuts, pies and Pistachio Nut Bread.

• Long Family Orchard Farm & Cider Mill, 1540 East Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 248-360-3774, www.longsorchard.com - Apples, cider and fresh produce. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily through October. U-pick hours vary.

• Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Oakland Township, 248-656-3400,www.paintcreekcidermill.net - Open all year, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cider mill, doughnuts, ice cream, cafe, by Paint Creek Trail.

• Rochester Cider Mill, 5125 N. Rochester Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-4224, www.rochestercidermill.com -Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, hours vary later in the season. Cider mill, doughnuts, pie, apples, produce.

• Yates Cider Mill, 1990 E. Avon Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-8300, www.yatescidermill.com - Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Labor Day, open through November. Cider, apples, ice cream, fudge, Dearborn brand hot dogs and Knackwurst, pony rides, petting zoo, river walk.

Apple orchards and cider mills near Oakland County
• Blake’s Big Apple Orchard, 71485 North Ave., Armada, 586-784-9710 and Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, 17985 Armada Center Road, Armada, 586-784-5343, www.blakefarms.com.

• Hy’s Cider Mill, 6350 37 Mile Road, Romeo, 810-798-3611, www.hyscidermill.com

• Middleton Cider Mill, 46462 Dequindre Road, Utica, 586-731-6699.

• Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard, 4900 32-Mile Road, Washington Township, 586-752-7888,millersbigred.com, open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

• Historic Parshallville Cider Mill, 8507 Parshallville Road, Fenton, 810-629-9079,www.parshallvillecidergristmill.com. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, through mid November.

• Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill, 714 Baseline Road, Northville, 248-349-3181,www.northvillecider.com, Cider mill, doughnuts, pies and other food products and wine from the Northville Winery, across the parking lot.

• Porter’s Orchard Farm Market & Cider Mill, 12060 E. Hegel Road, Goodrich, 810-636-7156, portersorchard.com. Open through Dec. 24.

• Spicer Orchards, 10411 Clyde Road, Fenton, 810-632-7692, www.spicerorchards.com. Open through Dec. 31. U-pick and already picked apples, raspberries, and seasonal produce, playground equipment, winery and ice cream.

• Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill, 2961 W. 32 Mile Road, Romeo, 586-752-2453, www.stonycreekorchard.com.

• Verellen Orchards, 63260 Van Dyke, Romeo, 586-752-2989, www.verellenorchards.com. Open daily, all year.

• Westview Orchards & Cider Mill, 65075 Van Dyke (M-53), at 30 Mile Road, two miles south of Romeo, 586-752-3123, www.westvieworchards.com.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Easy ways to preserve vegetables and fruits

Whether to can, freeze or dry produce, depends on what it is and how much effort and time a person wants to devote. Freezing is the fastest in prep time. Canning takes longer, but is better for maintaining vegetable or fruit texture. Canning is definitely best for salsa and pickles. Drying might be the easiest, but it has limited use, such as for herbs, mushrooms and fruit.

Easy freezing
It’s easy to freeze vegetables and fruits. Some don't require cooking or blanching. For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag in serving sizes and freeze. To freeze zucchini for making bread: shred or grate and freeze without blanching. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags. The quality and texture is reduced after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking.

Apples
To prepare apples, wash, peel and core. Then slice or cut into chunks or quarters. As you prepare apples, dip the cut pieces in a solution of 1 tablespoon each salt and vineqar to 2 quarts of water, to prevent darkening. Drain well, rinse and drain again. Then you can either pack plain, with sugar or with syrup. Leave a ½ inch head space for pint containers and 1 inch for quarts. When using liquid, place a piece of crumpled paper or plastic wrap on top to keep fruit under the liquid. For syrup, mix 1-1/4 cup sugar and 5-1/2 cup water to yield 6 cups of syrup.
When ready to use, thaw fruit in refrigerator or bowl of cool water. If cooking, thaw just enough to separate.

Blueberries
Blueberries can be put in the freezer with very little preparation. Remove stems and bad berries, wash in cold water, drain, pack in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

Blanching 
Most other vegetables and fruits require blanching, which is pretty easy. To blanch vegetables, you need:
* a large porcelain or stainless steel pan with basket strainer and lid, 2/3 full of water
* large bowl in the sink filled with ice water
* colander
* bags or plastic containers and a permanent marker
Bring the water in the saucepan to boiling. Meanwhile, wash and trim the veggies. Place the veggies in boiling water, close lid and time. See chart below for time. Then remove from the pan and drain quickly. Next, place in ice water for the same amount of time as boiled. When the time is up, remove and drain well in a colander. To remove more moisture, place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer. Here are blanching and cooling times for vegetables:

Vegetable blanching times - equal time in boiling water, then ice water, (Except for corn on the cob, most vegetables should be blanched 2 to 3 minutes).

Broccoli, 3 minutes
Cabbage, 3 minutes (cut into wedges)
Corn on the cob, 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans, 3 minutes
Peas, 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other tender greens, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)
Zucchini slice, blanch 3 minutes

Tomatoes
Tomatoes taste better when sliced in half, and baked or roasted on a cookie sheet, (350 degrees for 30 minutes for large tomatoes). Or you can blanch them for 30 seconds.

Do not freeze too much at one time in your freezer. It could raise the interior temperature. Leave space between packages so air can circulate freely until frozen.

Can if you can
Canning takes some time. It’s more fun when you undergo the canning process with good friends or family, plus it’s less work. You will have the sweet, or sour rewards all winter long, so much better than store-bought. You will thank yourself and your canning buddies. Hot water bath canning (boiling in jars without a pressure cooker) is good for high acid foods, like tomatoes, pickles and relishes. It’s also good for sugary spreads, jams and jellies. You need to buy jars, lids and a big stockpot with wire canning rack. The pan needs to be 3-5 inches deeper than your canning jars. For other foods, like green beans, a pressure canner is needed. For further information, find the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It is a very good, easy-to-follow reference guide, and costs approximately $10. It is available at freshpreserving.com

For an easy salsa recipe, see my recipe page on the right or visit gardentogarden.blogspot.com/p/recipes.html

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

6 tips to ease weeding

When the weeds are larger than the intended vegetation, it's time, or past time, to take action. Last summer, my daughter, Elizabeth said, "Mom, I leave some weeds to create shade for the vegetable plants." She is a smart gardener and has professional experience, having managed a farm-to-table garden in Texas and now with her community garden in Missouri. Both of those locations receive a great quantity of sunshine, unlike my more shady Michigan garden, where weeds are not welcome, 
Here are some ways to reduce weeding and ease the chore.
1. Mulch to prevent weeding. You can use a number of items. I am heading out to the garden this weekend to rake water weeds from the pond for mulch. Other materials you can use, to avoid buying expensive bags of mulch include wet newspapers, straw, grass clippings, leaves, aged manure and aged compost. Manure should not be fresh.
2. Cover it up. Place cover down where you aren't growing anything, like in walkways and borders around the garden. We laid strips of old carpet one year. Black plastic with mulch on top, is good for the walkways. Rototilling between the rows is efficient for keeping the weeds under control, but it needs to be done every three weeks. If you use want to use weed block or landscaping cloth, don't bother buying the cheap woven kind, the roots of the weeds get stuck, creating more work. There's a bonded type, if you want to spend the money.
3. Hoe hum. Hoe the little weeds, that are less than once inch and pull the larger weeds. Hoe 3 to 4 inches deep. I really don't like to hoe, so I usually wait until the weeds are big enough to pull.
4. Wear your thinking cap (or a hat that won't fall off). Weed when the soil is moist or water beforehand and wait a few hours. Remember to water after you weed. I take a tool and loosen the soil before pulling weeds. A tool like the hula hoe which looks like a hoop on a stick or the mini rake or a pronged tool can help loosen the soil. You can use a hand trowel to dig up the big weeds. I do my best thinking while weeding.
5. Garden yoga. My friend Mickey told me her trick to weeding includes the three yoga poses of weeding, (no kidding). Bend over and pull. If you do that too many times, you'll feel it for a week. Squat down on your haunches. I can only do this for a few minutes. Kneeling. This works great until you need to move. You can add various yoga poses, like crossing your legs while stretching over to pull weeds, maybe meditate a bit too while you're down there. You can do a leg stretch in between weed pulling as well. The main thing is to change positions to prevent continuous repetitive motions.
6. Back exercise. Here's a quick back exercise that is like the reverse of bending over. If you don't have any health problems preventing it, lean back against a flat wall, press the small of the back against it with feet flat on the ground and hold for a minute or two. Repeat a few times everyday. If you have persistent problems, of course, visit a health professional. They can recommend exercises, or treatment.