Friday, April 30, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday

Busy, busy day. Tomorrow I am shearing my alpaca and I am running around the barn finishing last minute details. I am excited for shearing day. I will post more on shearing in another blog.

But for today...I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I have been working like a crazy person trying to get some jewelry done before the expo on Sunday.



The fiber beads on these earrings were dyed in grape kool aid and embellished with seed beads.



Made from alpaca/crystals.






This necklace is not finished. I have to add the ribbon. I really like the black alpaca beads.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Food Foraging Confessions


Yes, I love to food forage. The thrill of discovering delicate violets, plump blackberries and ripe crab apples is exhilarating From early spring until the late October I have my own treasure hunt. I scour the woods on our property for various items to cook, freeze or can. As we have only been in our house for two years I am still learning the types of foods that can be foraged on our property. Last year for our Alpaca Farm Day event we served a fantastic blackberry ice cream made from the wild berries we picked here on our farm. Taima and I picked handfuls of violets in May which we dried for tisane and made into jam. We even sugared some of the violets for embellishments on cakes and pastries. In the past I have foraged for wild grape leaves for Waraqa Inab (stuffed grape leaves with meat/rice).
However, I have had some disasters in my foraging experiments. I made crab apple jam which did not jell as well as I had hoped, but tasted wonderful. I tried to harvest wild onions too early and only yanked off the tops. I attempted to make grape juice from wild grapes unsucessfully. I gathered about two full buckets of grapes, smashed them, let them sit for several hours for the tartrate to settle at the bottom of the pitcher only to end up with some pretty nasty tasting liquid. I am determined to make grape jelly and will try again this summer.
This year for my guide I am using the The Forager's Harvest A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer. I also recommend by Mr. Thayer "The Nature's Garden." The guides are excellent. Each edible is clearly identified with descriptions and photos. He has a great sense of humor and is a treat to read for pleasure even if you aren't interested in foraging.
He opened my eyes to the variety of food that can be found in your own backyard. It is truly amazing what can be harvested. Foraged food is healthy and chocked full of vitamins. There are some foods that I will never try and are probably for more advanced foragers. But who knows..Maybe one day I will. But today I am on the hunt for Jerusalem artichoke.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Curse of Garlic Mustard



It is hard not to admire garlic mustard. It is incredibly hardy, deer resistant and a prolific spreader. Garlic mustard is a biennial flowering plant in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is native to Europe. It has a garlic smell when the leaves are crushed. It grows to about 2 feet and has a cluster of white button like flowers. The leaves are heart shaped with toothed edges. The seed pods are mature in mid summer and can produce hundreds of seeds. Garlic mustard is a self seeder. This plant was introduced to the US in the mid-1800's as a culinary herb. The mild garlic flavor is delicious in pesto, salads, or chopped and tossed into soups.
Garlic mustard has an invasive species and crowds out other native woodland plants such as trillium or wild ginger. It is also detrimental to the white butterfly (Pieris virginiensis). Several species of spring wildflowers known as toothworts, also in the mustard family, are the primary food source for the caterpillar stage of this butterfly. Invasions of garlic mustard are edging out toothworts, and the chemicals in garlic mustard appear to be toxic to the eggs of the butterfly.

The best way to remove garlic mustard in small areas is to hand pull it being careful to remove the root. Mowing is another option. You can mow the garlic mustard when the plant is young in early spring before the seed pods develop. Round up is also effective but will kill everything around it as well. I have chosen to hand pull my infestations and then burn it in my fire pit. I am also eating it. It is quite delicious. Pick the tender younger leaves for munching on. To remove it from an area permanently I work in small sections at a time. If you choose to pull it out manually you may need to check every few weeks to be sure that it entirely gone. Seeds can last up to 5 years in the ground. Grr.


Here are some recipes if you want to eat it.

GARLIC MUSTARD PESTO

3 cups garlic mustard leaves, washed, patted dry, packed in measuring cup
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup walnuts
1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Romano cheese (or just use more parmesan)
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine garlic mustard leaves, garlic and walnuts in a food processor and chop. Or
You can divide the recipe in a half and use a blender. With motor running, add olive oil slowly.
Shut off motor. Add cheese, salt & pepper, and process briefly to combine. Scrape into
refrigerator container and cover.

This makes 2 cups, enough to use as sauce for 2 lbs. of pasta. It's good on crackers as an appetizer.


KEBABS

1 1/2 lb ground beef or lamb
2 cups chopped garlic leaves
1 onion finely chopped
salt/pepper to taste

Knead ingredients or place in a food processor to combine. Form meat mixture into 2 inch shaped footballs or mold onto a skewer and grill. Eat with salad and pita bread.