Saturday, October 03, 2015

Glorious Goldenrod - Making Goldenrod Tinctures/ Shrubs / Medicinal Sipping Vinegars

Last year I was given a bottle of goldenrod apple cider vinegar from a friend.  It was delicious, healthful and simply prepared.  I used it in salad dressings and as a medicinal tonic diluted in water.  This fall I decided to make my own.

Goldenrod is a detoxifying herb, good for the respiratory system (for coughs and colds), anti-inflammatory, and has many more health benefits.  Contrary to popular belief, most people are actually not allergic to goldenrod but rather to ragweed (which blooms at the same time in similar areas).  Goldenrod has in fact been proven to help alleviate symptoms of such allergies.  It also happens to be prime forage for bees in the fall, so we let plenty of goldenrod flourish around the edges of our yard.

To harvest, I like to pick the goldenrod when the flowers are brilliantly yellow and just opened (or barely opened).  Once the flowers go to see it is too late for harvesting the blooms.  There is usually a small window of a a few days or so when the flowers are perfect.

Making Goldenrod Tincture with Apple Cider Vinegar
1) Fill a clean glass mason jar nearly full with freshly picked brilliantly yellow goldenrod flowers.
2) Then cover completely with apple cider vinegar to about 1 inch above the plant matter.
3) Cap tightly, set on a plate (in case of leakage).  Shake well to distribute plant matter.
4) Let sit at least 6 weeks, or longer, in direct sunlight (kitchen window).  Shake daily.
5) When ready, strain goldenrod out, reserve the liquid.
6) Store in dark glass bottles tightly capped.
7) Use in salad dressings, or other places you would use cider vinegar.  Or take daily as a tonic.

Herbal shrubs (or sipping vinegars are they are sometimes called) are another way to preserve medicinal herbs.  They are really made like a tincture, using apple cider vinegar (or other organic vinegars) but have sugar or honey added.  They are a spicy, hardy, delicious way to preserve the plant's properties - and can be added to spritzers, taken straight up, or mixed into herbal cocktails.  They have been made for more than a century, and are seeing a resurgence in popularity.  What a great way to have your "food and medicine" together.

How to make a herbal shrub?

Goldenrod Shrub (or other herbal shrubs)
1) Follow directions above for making Goldenrod Tincture.
2) After 6-8 weeks, strain out the goldenrod.  Compost the herbs, reserve the vinegar.
3) Now for every 1/2 cup vinegar, add 1 Tbsp raw organic local honey (or organic cane sugar).
4) Shake to combine well.  Store in dark glass bottle.
5) Store in fridge.  Serve with sparkling water, into wine/cocktail, or sip directly (1 Tbsp at a time).

Other amazing herbal shrubs can be made the same way - try fennel, rose petals, ginger root, cayenne & garlic (for winter flu fighting), holy basil, mint, and add infusions of fresh fruit such as strawberries, cherries and blueberries for colour and flavour.

Planting the winter garden!

We are a little late this year with our winter garden - the season just got away on us.  But yesterday we planted up the cold frame grow tunnel with winter hardy greens, and several days earlier the greenhouse bed was filled with new seeds as well.  We hope to have a good harvest of fresh greens from the greenhouse all winter long, and the grow tunnel will give us a head start in late winter with new greens coming up ahead of the rest of the garden.

We are always trying to experiment with stretching the growing season.  In our climate, we need to use hardy greens and vegetables for winter growing but it is definitely possible - not to mention the huge variety that we can provide.  Eliot Coleman suggests over 30 varieties to grow in the winter, as well as innovative planting methods, scheduling ideas and garden designs for winter, in his inspiring book The Winter Harvest Handbook.   There are the usual suspects - kale, chard, spinach, arugula - but then also many other interesting options such as mache, claytonia, cress, tat soi, mizuna, scallions, garlic greens, turnip greens, beet greens, hardy winter lettuces...

Yesterday we started with 3 kinds of spinach including a "winter spinach", wild arugula, mizuna, tat soi, 3 kinds of kale (red, green curly, and lacinato), hardy winter lettuces, beets and turnips for their leafy greens, mustard greens, mesclun mix.  The grow tunnel still has baby chard, kale, spinach, mustard, chives, oregano, red and green lettuces, and arugula already growing, so that is a nice head start.  We'll be keeping regular updates here on the status of the winter greenhouse and winter garden so please continue to read (and grow) this winter with us.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Medicine Pouch - Urban Wild Classes for Kids at LCF

What a perfect fall day, just right for our second outdoor class for kids as part of the Urban Wild series we are hosting this fall at Little City Farm.

For the Urban Wild series we are focusing on traditional skills / hands-on crafts that are inspired by nature - working with leather to make medicine pouches; working with birch bark to make food storage containers; making a dream catcher from dogwood and grapevine; making a bowl by burning and hollowing out a piece of wood; and so forth.  There are still a few spaces in upcoming sessions (the next four Thursday afternoons) so if interested contact us at: info (at)

The kids worked so industriously at their medicine pouches today!  We started with a quick brainstorm of what leather would have traditionally been used for, then what medicine pouches are all about. We soaked up the October sun's rays, while cutting, sewing, hammering/punching, piecing and designing our medicine pouches - each child with their own unique ideas to be incorporated in beautiful finished masterpieces that will hold their special treasures.  My daughter announced she is "never going to take off her pouch"!  The kids were certainly very proud of their creations.

Wild Smoothies! Urban Wild Kids Classes at LCF

We've had a great time with wild edibles lately!  Not only harvesting wild fall edibles for our household (more to come shortly about rosehips and goldenrod) but also hosting classes on the topic. 

For the first time this year we are including classes for children - and wild edibles is one topic that is so much fun to introduce to kids.  Our friend Jackie has been here to facilitate the "kids urban wild" series, and did a nice job of explaining simple methods for properly identifying, safely harvesting, and using wild edibles that are all around us.   The way she introduced the tastes of wild foods to the kids in the workshop was to make "wild smoothies".  First we all talked about the plant and how to identify it, then we walked around the yard collecting samples of the plant (so fun to see kids with little baskets traipsing around the yard picking wild greens), and tasted the leaves raw, then added them in the blender with smoothie ingredients to make delicious healthful wild blends.  The plants we included in our wild smoothies were common plants that are not easily over-harvested because they grow wild everywhere around us: dandelion, wood sorrel, lamb's quarter, and wild lettuce.  These can be added a small handful at a time, to taste (depending on how "green" you like your smoothie).

Wild Green Smoothie Base Recipe
1 banana
1 cup hemp milk (or nut milk of your choice)
1 Tbsp chia seeds or hemp seeds
1-2 Tbsp nut butter (hemp butter, almond butter, etc)
1 handful wild greens (dandelion is the most bitter, wood sorrel is lemon tasting, lamb's quarter like spinach)
3-4 ice cubes

Blend well!  Add more hemp milk to thin drink if it's too thick.  Add more banana if the flavour is too bitter.
Experiment with combinations of wild greens (nettle, fennel, dandelion, wild lettuce, wood sorrel, etc).
You can combine all manner of garden greens (chard, spinach, kale, pea shoots) with the wild greens to soften the bitter flavours.  Enjoy!