Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
Eat healthier. Save money. Create local jobs.
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Win a set of reusable produce bags!

produce bags

Farmer’s market season is here! If you’re participating in Locavore90, you’ll probably be making a handful of trips to your local farmers market or farmstand. Many farmers market frequent-flyers bring their own reusable grocery bags to the market to bring food home, but have you ever thought about using reusable produce bags as well? Whether you’re shopping at the farmers market or the produce section of Meijer, you can do your part to reduce use of plastic produce bags by bringing your own reusables from home.

In last year’s Farmer’s Report I shared that I wanted to focus on using more reusable packaging in 2013. As a key part of that commitment, Arcadia Farms is now using re-usable produce bags which have been handmade in the USA specifically for our farm by Kara from Love for Earth. Want to get your hands on your own set of reusable bags? Lucky you – we’re giving some away! (You can enter once per day!)

Click here to enter the giveaway!

I’m so impressed by the quality, selection and customization options offered by Love for Earth that I asked Kara if I could share a little bit about the work she does and products she offers. Here’s the scoop on what she does, why she loves it, and why you should check out her Etsy site for reusable produce bags and so much more!

What inspired you to start Love for Earth and begin selling reusable produce bags?

I was inspired by self interest, I suppose. I had wanted something to use for produce, but the grocery bags that were available were too heavy, not see through, and just difficult to use. I would get skeeved out at the thought of putting my produce on the conveyor belt on top of whatever germs or raw meat drippings or any other contaminants may have found their way to the grocery store conveyor belt, so the first set was for my own use. I couldn’t get out of the produce section without being stopped and asked ‘Where did you find those?’ and if I told people I made them, they would offer me money on the spot! I had just discovered a new website called “Etsy” and figured, what the heck, I’ll make some and see how they sell. Before I knew it, I was making produce bags 7 days a week and the store grew bigger than I ever imagined it would… and I love every minute of it!

How long has Love for Earth been making reusable produce bags?

I have been making and selling produce bags for a little over 5 years in some capacity, whether it was at a craft fair or to a stranger at the grocery store. The Etsy store has been open since 2009, although the name changed in 2010.

Your Etsy site talks about the industrial quality of your products. Can you share a little more about the steps you take to create high quality products?

I really want to provide the best quality I can. No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on something that will fall apart after a few uses. While even the best of us can run into problems out of our control (bad thread and a dull needle, for example) if there ever is an issue with anything from my store, customers can just send me a quick email or Etsy convo and I will replace it and honor the standard that I set for what I make. I try to source the best materials I can and have gravitated over the last few years to USA mills. I have sourced a few things from Canada or Europe, but I am steering away from places where I believe the quality might not up to my standards. Putting a bag or garment together is sort of like a recipe, you want to put the freshest and best ingredients in it so the taste is better. I think every little thing makes a difference when sewing, the needles, the thread, the ribbon, the zippers… the better parts you work with, the better the outcome will be.

Note from Katie: Although we’ve only started using our produce bags, I can tell by looking at them and working with them that the quality is great! Each one is slightly (only slightly!) different, which is part of the charm of buying something handmade by an artisan.

zip sandwich bag lunch zipper bags reusable napkins towells

What other products do you make that you’d like us to know about?

I make reusable produce bags, snack bags, storage bags, freezer bags, unpaper napkins and towels. I can custom make just about ANY reusable item one can think of. I make reusable puppy pads, I’ve made bread bags for bakers and bags for knitters to store their yarns. Anything is possible and customizing your bags or towels is easy to do… you can even choose the color or size.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?

I really love what I do! I love the things I make and I love that in some small way I am making a difference as far as pollution and waste is concerned. Every time someone chooses a reusable product over a disposable, that is one less disposable bag or paper napkin that is ending up in our landfills, our oceans and cluttering our otherwise beautiful Earth. I am happy that more and more people are jumping on the reusable wave, and they are doing it for various reasons, but the end result is less trash our children and grandchildren are stuck with decades from now. Not to mention, you can save a small fortune going to reusables. Every time I go to the wholesale club for groceries, I cringe at the jumbo pack of paper towels for $30 and I am so glad I no longer have to throw money away like that. Every one of those paper towels will be used for a few seconds and tossed in the trash, and I love being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Where to Get It

Interested in getting your hands on some reusable products from Love for Earth’s Esty store? You can check them out – or make a custom order – at www.loveforearth.net. I’m personally hoping to pick up a Lunch Zipper Bag set for Owen’s school lunches next year.

 
 

Asparagus Guide

Have you heard about Locavore90? Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to eat a locavore (local-only) diet for 90 days (or as often as reasonably possible). Sound like a lot of work? It won’t be. Click here to learn more about what we’ve done to make it simple.

Asparagus in Bowl

May is asparagus season. Several years ago our family went through an asparagus “phase” where we ate it three or four times a week. (That’s when Owen was too young to realize he could not like certain foods!) These days we don’t eat it as often, partly because we just got sick of sooo much of it and party because we prefer to buy it in season. Now that the time is right, I’m hoping to buy a large quantity of asparagus – some to enjoy now, and some to save for later. After making some phone call and poking around the internet, here’s what I discovered about buying and preserving in-season, local asparagus in Southwest Michigan.

When to Get It

Asparagus is in-season during May and sometimes as late as the first week of June.

Where to Get It

As part of our family’s Locavore90 Commitments, we’re gearing up to buy all of our food from sources within 100 miles of our home in Portage. To start my search for local asparagus, I went to my go-to resource for finding local food – www.localharvest.org. I did a quick search for farms within 100 miles of Kalamazoo which sell asparagus. For your convenience, I dumped all of that info in a handy spreadsheet which you can download by clicking here.

Keep in mind that just because a farm is listed on this spreadsheet doesn’t automatically mean that they have asparagus for sale. It just means that they indicated on Local Harvest (or I heard through word of mouth) that they have asparagus. For some small farms like mine, the food being grown may be reserved for CSA members or some other kind of arrangement. With that in mind, be sure to call ahead before you show up expecting to bring home so green goodness.

Calling ahead is just what I did. For my convenience, I chose the farms that are closer to my home and contacted them to get availability and pricing. Spring is a super busy time for farmers so I had some difficulty getting phone calls back. Once I received all the information I could get, I discovered a few farms with great prices but had major difficulty finding pesticide-free asparagus. There may be farms on the spreadsheet above which have pesticide-free asparagus for sale, but of the ones I contacted (and the ones that called me back), I didn’t find any. (NOTE: Bear-Foot Farms can get pesticide-free asparagus very early in the season – I missed it – and Bishop’s Sunny Ridge farm has very small quantities of naturally raised asparagus available for non-CSA customers.)

So… I know this is going to wound some of you… but… I decided to go ahead and buy conventionally raised asparagus. I’m certain that someone out there has naturally-raised asparagus for sale in our area, but if I wait too much longer to hear back from farmers, I’m going to miss out entirely.

Local Asparagus Sources

Of all the farms I contacted, here are the winners for best price:

Rajzer’s Farm Market in Decatur: $1.50/pound {269.423.4941}
Bishop’s Sunny Ridge Farm in Paw Paw: $1.75/pound {269.655.0091}
Harvey’s U Pick Farm in Tekonsha:  $1.80/pound {517.767.3408}

How to Save Money

Besides doing some comparison shopping to find the best price (you’re welcome) buying in bulk is another way to save money on asparagus. A bulk purchase helps you save because it provides you with the impetus to ask the seller for an additional price break. (“If I buy 20 pounds, is there any way you could give me a bit of a price break?”). When asking for a discount, remember to be respectful – this farmer has invested a lot of time, money and effort into producing your food. Expecting a 40% discount is probably unreasonable at best, insulting at worst. My advice is to ask without suggesting an amount and just take what you can get (even if it’s 0%).

The other way that buying in bulk saves you money is simply because it reduces your overall cost for a long period of time. You could buy 3 or 4 pounds of asparagus now while the price is cheap ($1.50/pound)… but if you want asparagus again in September, you’re going to pay a little bit more ($3.00/pound). Instead, why not buy a bulk amount and preserve some for future use?

How to Preserve It

Asparagus can be preserved in several ways including canning, drying, freezing, and pickling/fermenting. My family’s favorite way to enjoy asparagus is steamed and tender-crisp, so I’m opting to preserve our extra asparagus by freezing it. (I personally find canned asparagus to be too mushy.) If I didn’t have 10,000 projects on the horizon I’d love to experiment with pickled or lacto-fermented asparagus as well. You can be sure that I’ll be sharing all about my asparagus-freezing adventure soon! Meanwhile, to learn more about the options – and make the best choice for your asparagus mother lode – check out the resources below.

Preserving Asparagus Three Ways – Freezing, Drying and Lacto-Fermenting

How to Preserve Asparagus Well

Grow Your Own

The best way to get locally raised asparagus is to grow your own! For a guide to growing your own asparagus, click here.

 
 

Frost! (And Other Updates)

There’s a reason why the last frost date in Michigan (the reasonable date on which you can plant outside in the spring without worrying about frost harming your plants) has been moved to May 18. Last night (May 12/13) we had a visit from good ole Jack Frost! Pretty strange considering the old Last Frost Date was May 10 and we’ve been having beautifully warm weather before this sudden cold snap. Then again, this is Michigan, and it wouldn’t be spring if you didn’t have to trade your flip flops for the winter coat all in the same week at least one time…

I’m not sure if you would call it impatience or optimism, but it was sooo warm last week that I couldn’t resist the urge to plant out at least one warm-weather crop. My original plan was to transplant just three golden zucchini plants… I planted six. Here’s what I did to keep these little guys cozy over the very cold weekend (and right through last night’s frost).

Row Cover

On Friday afternoon I covered the raised bed with a plastic row cover. The row cover is attached with utility clips to hoops made from PVC pipe. The zucchini share a bed with radishes which actually prefer the cold weather. Fortunately these are the Rat’s Tail radishes which I’m growing not for the root but for the edible seed pods. The row cover will warm them up substantially in sunny conditions, causing them to bolt (grow faster and produce a flower). Bolting is bad for regular radishes because it alters the taste and texture of the root, but in the case of these radishes, a little extra heat will just move the I-want-seed-pods process along a smidge faster.

row cover

This row cover was put in place to protect golden zucchini plants from May frost.

Cloches

In theory, a row cover should be enough to keep my precious golden zucchini plants from being frost-bitten. But since I got a little overzealous and planted out six instead of three, I decided to bring in some insurance. Enter the cloche (pronounced “klohsh”). A cloche is a tool that originated in France to keep plants from being harmed by frost and to force their early growth. The cloche is typically bell shaped and made from glass. Here’s a picture of a classic cloche.

classic French garden cloche

{Image Credit}
betterlivingthroughpermaculture.com
Click on the image for a DIY cloche idea.

I’m not fancy enough to have beautiful French cloches like the one above so I used my own micro-farm-style cloches: mason jars.

diy cloche

The zucchini plants get double frost protection – glass cloches made from mason jars and a plastic row cover.

diy cloche

The upside down jars keep the plants warm and safe from frost.

The zucchini plants were covered from late on Friday afternoon all the way through this morning (Monday). When I first placed them over the plants, it was chilly and windy but the sun was shining, and they looked like like the picture above. When I retrieved the cloches this morning, the plants looked like this:

diy cloches

The “after” shot is pretty much the same as the “before”!

diy cloche

Despite a smidge of mud on one leaf, this plant
(just like the others) looks great!

So based on my experience, the combination of row cover and cloche worked beautifully! My zucchini plants are ready for spring!

Other Plants in the Garden

Everything else that is planted out in the garden is frost tolerant – lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, peas, carrots (teeny tiny seedlings), beets (just now coming up), onions, strawberries and a few other things I can’t think to name right now. There is one sad exception: The potato plants.

Since potatoes are planted out so early, my novice-farmer brain assumed that they are frost tolerant. But as I was coming in from the garden this morning I noticed that many of the leaves looked very frost bitten and dark. What a giant bummer because they have been coming up SO nicely (about 4 to 6 inches each)! One of the garden tasks I was planning for this afternoon was hilling potatoes. After doing some quick research it appears that I just need to trim the dead/damaged leaves and the plants should continue to grow just fine. Next year I’ll throw a row cover over these too!

potato plants

Here are the potato plants before last night’s frost. They don’t look as cheerful this morning…

The only thing planted in the Fenceline garden right now is turnips… or perhaps I should say “was” turnips. These are frost-tolerant and were coming along nicely… until one or two certain four-legged creatures who are otherwise quite lovable dug half of them up. Not. Happy. Time to get that electric fence fixed

The other heat-loving plants have been hiding out in the greenhouse snuggled together on the shelves near the heater which came back into action for the weekend. After today the heater should be going into hibernation until fall.

Also the blueberry bushes are starting to blossom! This is exciting but also a bit sad because I was planning to transplant them to their permanent home before they blossomed. (They are currently in large pots inside the garden fence.) I suppose that task will now have to wait until fall, which is ok, because I’m still not sure where I want to put them.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

Did you have any frost issues in your garden? Is anyone out there going to be adventurous and transplant heat-loving plants before the actual last frost date? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Locavore90

grocery shopping

Guess what? I’ve been keeping a little secret (ok, a big secret) and I’m super excited to finally spill the beans! For the last several months I’ve been hard at work planning a community-wide program that revolves around our core values – saving money, eating healthy and buying local. The program is called Locavore90 and I’m thrilled to finally be able to share it with you!

Locavore90 is a FREE program that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to eat a locavore (local-only) diet for 90 days (or as often as possible). Southwest Michigan already has a fabulous culture of local eating! The goal of this program is to spread that message even farther, as well as to give tips, tricks and support to those who are already eating local but want to do it more or for less money.

So here are some questions you might be asking:

  1. Yikes… won’t that be a lot of work?
  2. What is a locavore?
  3. Why in the world would I want to be a locavore?
  4. How does Locavore90 work?

So glad you asked…

What is a Locavore

A locavore is a person who eats a local-only diet. For purposes of the Locavore90 Challenge, local-only means food raised within 100 miles of your home. (For more details – and exceptions to the 100 mile rule – click here to read our family’s Locavore Commitments.) A locavore also eats food that is in season. That means no watermelon in May. Why would you give up watermelon in May? So glad you asked… read on to find out.

Why Would I Want to be a Locavore?

locavore90

Being a Locavore isn’t for everyone. It’s only for those who are concerned about health, who love great tasting food, who want to save money on groceries, would like to contribute to environmental health and love to see their local communities thriving economically.

Here are six great reasons to eat a local-only diet as much as possible.

  1. Food Tastes Better. There’s no denying that food harvested at the peak of freshness tastes better. Many eaters also believe that naturally grown (organic) food tastes better than the alternative. A naturally grown, in-season tomato will always taste worlds better than a cardboard counterfeit shipped from out of state in April.
  2. Food is More Nutritious. After produce is harvested, something begins to happen: It loses nutritional value – dramatically. The older your produce is, the more nutrients it has lost. Locally grown food was likely harvested within the last 24 hours so it comes to you as a more nutritionally complete food than anything from California ever could.
  3. Food is More Varied. Local farmers are not bound to produce only varieties that will sell well at Wal-Mart or that can travel long distances before spoiling. As such, you’ll discover tasty delights at the farmers market you never even knew existed… and soon won’t be able to live without.
  4. You Save Money. Produce is always less expensive when it is in season. When you add buying in bulk to buying in season, you have potential save good money on good food. Many farmers will give you great discounts when you buy in bulk or buy frequently as a regular customer. We’ll give you tips and tricks to help you stretch your local-only dollar.
  5. The Local Economy is Sustained. According to Eat Local First, on average, produce purchased from chain stores results in 15 cents reinvested into the community for every dollar spent. When you buy directly from local growers or stores which stock from local sources, that amount increases to 45 cents for every dollar. That’s 30% better for the Southwest Michigan economy.
  6. The Southwest Michigan Environment is Helped. Many small farms have sustainable practices that focus on improving soil fertility and habitats, as well as eliminating the use of pesticides. These practices can have a dramatic impact on our water sources. In addition, buying local reduces our collective carbon footprint because food travels shorter distances from farmer to consumer (and skips a lot of transfers in between!).

How Does Locavore90 Work?

Even if you can’t make the entire 90 days, making a commitment to a local diet in smaller ways can still have a positive impact on  your health and your community.

Step 1: Join

To join, simply enter your email address in the Join Locavore90 box on our website (Click here and look in the right-hand column). You’ll get lots of support, including monthly meal plans, recipes, information about local sources for food, info on great deals to save you money and tips for preserving in-season produce so you can include more local foods into your diet after 90 days. We’re starting the challenge on June 2, 2013 but you can absolutely join us even after that date.

Step 2: Create Your L90 Commitments

Locavore90 is meant to be challenging without being burdensome. We realize that the balance between those two points is different for each family so I’ve designed the program to allow you to make your own rules called Commitments. You Locavore90 Commitments are the guidelines your family pledges to follow with the goal of incorporating more local foods into your diet. Click here to get started. (Don’t worry –your Commitments are private!)

Step 3: Do It!

Before each month begins, you’ll receive a meal plan for the entire month via email. The meal plan takes the guess work out of what’s in season and how to prepare it. Meals are family-friendly. (If I can find the time, I’m also hoping to create a foodie-friendly meal plan for those of you who are a bit more adventurous about what you eat!) If you don’t like what we’ve picked, you can select a substitute recipe from the online library. I’ll also share tips on local sources and ways to save money.

Step 4: Relax

You’ll receive tons of support to help you keep your Locavore90 commitments (including the opportunity to join a Locavore90 Facebook group if you want). But at the end of the day, the only person keeping track of your progress is you (and probably your family). No pressure.

After 30, 60 and 90 days, be sure to reward yourself! You’re doing something great for your health and your community. I’m not promising that you won’t miss watermelon in June, but you will be reaping all the benefits of eating in-season and your tastebuds will thank you for it!

Won’t That Be a Lot of Work?

I’ve invested a lot of time into developing a program that takes the guesswork out of local eating and that does a good chunk of the planning up front for you. But even with that being the case, eating local is likely to mean a change to your routine. You might have to drive somewhere to pick your milk up for the week… you might build weekly trips to the farmers market into your weekend… you might start using a meal plan where before you’ve always just decided on your drive home what you’ll make for dinner. The thought of making these changes might make you groan at first thought, but I think the health, taste and community benefits will make you feel good about it before long. And remember, YOU set the pace. YOU track yourself. No pressure.

And heck, you might even grow to like weekly farmers market visits… I know I do!

Are You In?

Locavore90 officially kicks off on June 2, 2013. (If you sign up now you’ll get the meal plan before June begins. The Recipe Library will debut around the same time.) Before then, I’m hoping to spread the word about this program and get as many people on board as possible. I’ll also be doing some prep work through this blog talking about local sources not only for fruits and veggies, but also sustainably raised meat, eggs, milk, cheese and any other food stuff I can track down! We’ll be talking about what’s in season, where to buy, how to preserve it and so much more. And as you might expect, I’ll be sharing our family’s personal Locavore90 journey with you per my usual transparent fashion. It’s going to be a great summer and I hope you’ll help me by sharing about Locavore90 on Facebook, Twitter and over coffee with your friends. Are you in?

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Spring 2013 Video Update

Despite the fact that I’ve been planting tons of seeds, the garden still looks a little barren. For this week I wanted to give you a video tour of what the farm looks like this spring. It’s not very glamorous right now (especially because I nee to do some picking up and mowing!) but in high summer it is going to be wonderful! Here’s a little peek into what the farm looks like today and what we’ve been up to in the garden…


Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

It's Been One Year

One year ago today I walked away from this office (it wasn’t always this empty)…

office

And came home to this one…

cucuzzi 3

One year ago today I traded Saturday afternoon voicemails like this…

Click to hear voicemail from Owen

For moments like this…

hugelkultur bed

Owen is helping me put the hoops in place for our row cover.

One year ago today I traded a secure management position and salary with lots of zeros on the end for the uncertainty of creating something new (out of dirt, no less!) and making just enough to keep my startup hobby-turned-business from going into the red as it gains momentum.

Thank God for my supportive, encouraging, hard-working husband and others who recognized the value in my transition.

A few weeks ago I received an encouraging email from myself… sent from what now is the past into what at the time was the future. (You can do the same thing by using www.futureme.org.) The email chronicled how much I love the people I worked for and with but also how ready I was for a slower-paced lifestyle. The email closed with this: “You made the right decision. You did a great thing. You made a dream come true and left behind a world of tail-chasing turmoil. Thank you for wanting more out of life than $[insert salary here] a year can buy.” Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I miss being able to buy whatever I want. But I’ve experienced first-hand that you can’t put a price on peace.

Farming is all about seasons. Life is that way too, although seasons stretch beyond the confines of months and weather patterns. Some are short. Some are long. All of them, eventually, end. Today-Me is so grateful that One-Year-Ago-Me didn’t try to force life – my career, my health, my family, my identity – past it’s seasonal boundaries. In my 8-year season as an HR Director, I loved my work and the work-family I served. I thought for sure that I would feel torn and nostalgic after leaving. In reality, I’ve not had even one day of looking back longingly. No one is more surprised than me.

When I look back on that season of my life, I feel lots of things, but regret is never one of them. Life, like food, is best in season. And in this season, right here is where I’m meant to be. Thanks for being such a huge part (yes, YOU, dear reader!) of enabling me to bloom where I’m planted.

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Calling All Weed Experts!

Last year I had it in my heart to clear the “Woods” (lightly wooded portion of our 1 acre property) of the abundant weeds growing amidst the trees. Unfortunately I didn’t have it in my schedule nearly as well as I had it in my heart. This year will be different! My goal is to work on pulling weeds during this and next week. I know that nature abhors a vacuum so I’m convinced that if I pull all (realistically, most) of the weeds some other weed will just take up residence. With that in mind, I’d like to sow some kind of beneficial ground cover shortly after the weed-deed is done. (In time I’d like to develop this area into a food forest.)

In the best-case scenario this ground cover would provide food – either for us or our animals. I’d also settle for a ground cover that adds nutrients (like nitrogen) to the soil or attracts beneficial critters (like bees). Any suggestions?

Alas, before the new ground cover goes in, the established weeds must go. Because I’m curious about which native plants are growing here, and because I’d hate to get rid of a beneficial ‘weed’ unwittingly, I was hoping someone out there could help me to identify the weeds growing in my yard.

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1

Mystery Weed #1 Closeup

Mystery Weed #1 Closeup

90% of the green you see in this picture is Mystery Weed #1. It's currently occupying an area near the garden that I would like to replace with new ground cover.

90% of the green you see in this picture (foreground) is Mystery Weed #1. It’s currently occupying an area near the garden that I would like to replace with new ground cover.

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2

Mystery Weed #2 Closeup. This weed is not nearly as prevalent in the yard as Mystery Weed #1.

Mystery Weed #2 Closeup. This weed is not nearly as prevalent in the yard as Mystery Weed #1.

Mystery Weed #3

Either this stuff is new this year or I've just never been observant enough to see it. It's all over the place, including encroaching on the northern edge of the Main Garden.

Either this stuff is new this year or I’ve just never been observant enough to see it. It’s all over the place, including encroaching on the northern edge of the Main Garden.

 

90% of the patch of green in this picture is Mystery Weed #3. These tiny guys almost look like lettuce seedlings to me.

90% of the patch of green in this picture is Mystery Weed #3. These tiny guys almost look like lettuce seedlings to me.

Well there you have it. Who has thoughts or guesses as to what these puppies are? Anyone know of a good resource for identifying native plants/weeds? And don’t forget, if you have ideas on ground cover for this shaded area, I’d love to hear those thoughts as well!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.    

 
 

Sweet Violet Velly (Jelly)

DSC04039

In the year or so that I’ve been blogging I haven’t spent much time talking about foraging although it’s a topic that interests me greatly. In general, foraging (as it pertains to food) is the act of making use of (exploiting) naturally occurring (wild) resources. Foods found while foraging are often things that used to be eaten many generations ago but have somehow been forgotten in the area of microwave meals and processed foods. A forager is could be described as a cross between an opportunist with a foodie! I’ve very pleased that today we get to talk about foraging… and the surprisingly sweet results of this week’s foraging adventure.

It all started when I noticed a Facebook friend talking about making jelly from sweet violets. The cute little purple flowers on her page looked an awful lot like the cute little purple flowers I spy all over the “Woods” (wooded section of our 1 acre property) each spring. After close examination I determined that they are in fact violets – cool! After even more digging, I discovered that both violet flowers and leaves are edible and the entire plant has health benefits. To name a few, violets can be used as:

  • A sedative, to help you relax or sleep
  • A laxative
  • A diuretics to address high blood pressure
  • A relief for coughing
  • An anti-inflammatory and painkiller, especially for joint pain
  • A treatment for various skin diseases
  • A source of antioxidants, especially beta carotene and vitamin C (140 ml of violet leaves ahs the same amount of vitamin C as four oranges!)

Even with all of those exemplary health benefits to boast, do you want to know the best part about violets? They are growing – uncultivated and for free – in my backyard. No work. Lots of benefits. Win.

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So what’s a girl to do with these edible flowers? My initial introduction to the edible nature of violets came via a Facebook post about violet velly (jelly) so I determined that would be the best place to start. (Plus, I’ve never made jelly before so I was looking forward to adding that learning experience to my endeavor.) But in the process of all my violet research, I uncovered several other ways to make use of this free foraging resource. This list is not all-inclusive, but here are some other ways I’m hoping to experiment with violet blooms and leaves:

I’m not sure how much longer these pretty petals will last so I intend to harvest as many blossoms and leaves as I can before the week is over. Whatever I don’t have time to use fresh I’ll plan to dehydrate for future use. Meanwhile, take a gander at the violet velly I made yesterday – my very first batch of jelly ever! Ain’t it perty? We tried some this morning and Ryan and I both agreed that it’s quite tasty.

sweet violet velly jelly

Violet Velly (Jelly) – Two 12 oz Jars

Want to make your own? Here’s the recipe I followed (slightly modified) which I found here thanks to the folks here.

Violet Velly

Yield: 4 ½ cup jars or 2 12 oz jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups pesticide-free fresh violet flower petals
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 package pectin (1.75 oz)
  •  2 cups sugar

Directions:

1. Rinse and drain flower petals. Place in heat-proof glass bowl. Bring water to a boil and pour over petals. Cover and allow to steep overnight, or for up to 24 hours.

2. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve: use a spoon to press all the liquid from the plant material (compost or discard the flowers when you’re through). The liquid will have a greenish or blueish tint at this point. You can refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

3. Combine strained liquid with lemon juice in the saucepan. It will turn purple. Whisk in the pectin and the sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil, whisking to ensure the sugar and pectin dissolve thoroughly, then turn heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes (or until the jelly has reduced a bit and thickened).

4. Skim off any foam and then ladle into your clean, hot and sterile jars, leaving 1/8? head space. Wipe lids and screw on the the rings, then process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.

5. Remove jars and allow to cool for 24 hours.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 
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