We visited a really neat little farm by Northfield called Old Orchard Farm. They had all kinds of animals. The kids got to feed the sheep and goats, pet the horse, and find eggs in the chicken coop. They held the eggs all the way home from Northfield to Wells. Clare was determined to turn her egg into a rooster. She had it tucked in her shirt. Unfortunately (for her) Miles ran it over with his toy lawn mower later that evening.
Our visit got me excited for the day that we can own our own small hobby farm.
I've teamed up with Mona at Sun Moon Yoga to create a new bar! It is called the Detox Lemon bar. It has the perfect combination of citrus essential oils for detoxifying, corn meal for exfoliation, and vegetable oils for cleansing.
This is our first time doing a bar in a plastic mold. Usually we pour into a slab mold and cut the bars. These bars were poured into individual molds which gives them those great finger grips on the top. The packaging turned out really cool. Mona and Roberta came up with some great labels. The bars are sold in pairs with the flat sides together so they kind of look like a lemon. I hope you check these out! They will hopefully be at the St. Peter food coop, but right now they are available at Sun Moon Yoga, our website, and the Mankato Farmers' Market.
That's right, stinging nettles are in season. So what do you do with stinging nettles you might ask? Good question. Well it just so happens that they are delicious and very healthy. Just go out in early spring and pick them when they are about 8 inches tall or less. Wear gloves because they can sting even when they're little. Take them home, chop them up and steam them for just a few minutes. This gets rid of the sting and turns them a brilliant green. Then what I like to do, and my kids too, is dip them in ranch dressing. And don't forget to drink the water from the pot. Nettle tea is also an excellent and very healthy beverage.
Before John and I got married our first joint purchase ever was a book called "Edible and Medicinal Plants of Minnesota and Wisconsin" by Mathew Alfs. This book has been well used for 7 years now and we will continue to use it. Here are a few things that Mathew Alfs has to say about the humble and under-rated stinging nettle:
"Nettles vitamins include: A, B1, B2, B5, C, D, E, K1, choline, and folic acid. Minerals include: iron, sodium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, silica, and potassium. Nettle is also extremely high in protein as well as possessing one of the highest chlorophyll contents known in edible North American wild plants."
He goes on for about three pages but you get the idea.
Another great way to use nettles is to add them to basil pesto to stretch the basil and also give it more nutrients. Since nettles have a very mild and neutral flavor they don't substantially change the flavor of the pesto.
I also like to make my own oil infusions and tinctures with the wild plants we harvest. I also plan on drying them for tea.
Harvesting wild edible and medicinal plants and learning about all the amazing benefits they have is one of my favorite things to do. It doesn't get any more organic than harvesting from the wild! Check back soon to see what we find on our next foraging outing!!
This day we harvested about two pounds of nettles and ate them all that evening. We made a cream soup with dumplings and nettles and it was very good. Most of the nettles were eaten by the kids though. They love to dip them in ranch dressing.
Nettles have a mild and rich flavor if that makes any sense. I think they taste like a combination of asparagus and artichoke. There's no bitterness or wild taste. They also don't get slimy like spinach does when you cook it. They maintain a little bounce if you don't cook them too long.
Get out and pick some nettles!!
Here is a picture of a tomato plant in a soil block. A soil block is just what it sounds like; a block of soil. The reason we plant this way is for a smoother transplant. We find that when we grow seedlings in little containers the roots get all wound up. When they grow to the edge of the container they just start circling the inside and form a big clump of roots. With soil blocks the roots grow to the edge of the soil block and meet with the air. This causes them to stop growing outward and develop more root shoots rather than longer ones. Then when we do put them in the ground, all of the roots that grew to the edge of the block just start right back up again and continue into the soil. It's easy to loose a couple of weeks worth of growing to a bad transplant. We've found that using soil blocks can eliminate any transplant shock if it is done right. The trick is using the right recipe for the blocks though. If they are too hard the plants wont grow, if they are too soft they fall apart. We use about a 2:1 ratio of peat moss to compost plus some other ingredients. That seems to work pretty well. It's basically a slight variation of Eliot Coleman's formula.
Spring is in the air, and in the house! Starting plants is always fun. We have broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, lavender, and collards. We are trying a new variety of Tomato this year. It's called the Cherokee purple. It has won numerous awards for taste across the country. It's an heirloom variety that was supposedly developed by horticulturists in the Cherokee tribe way back in the day. For us so far they have been great germinaters and are doing well under the lights. We'll be starting herbs soon and I'll be experimenting more with potpourri and tea making. I'm very excited about that. I hope my little lavender plants will work out for me. I've had a hard time growing lavender in the past. There is really only one variety that can handle the winters around here, it's called munstead. So far they are looking pretty good. When they first come up they look just like basil.
We are in the process of transforming our yard into our little piece of heaven. Last week we had a wonderful surprise. Our yellow lady slippers survived the winter. Last summer a friend had a plant in his yard and he had cut the tree down that was shading it so it started to die from too much sun. So we dug it up and planted it under our maples but with such a dry fall last year it withered up and looked dead. Well, I guess it wasn't. This year we have three shoots coming up. I can't wait to see if they bloom.