Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blueberry picking!

We are so fortunate to have a no-spray (nearly organic) u-pick blueberry farm nearby!  It's an annual family outing and adventure for us to go picking, usually not just on one day but many throughout the late July to August. We love to have our freezer stocked with frozen blueberries for winter smoothies and baking, as well as dried for handfuls added to trailmixes, granolas - or, our latest favourite way to preserve fruit, as fruit leather!  Here is a quick oven or dehydrator method for making blueberry fruit leather.

Blueberry Fruit Leather - easy oven or dehydrator method

You will need:
  • 1 lb fresh or frozen blueberries (or other fruit - apricots, cherries, peaches, etc)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 170F (or prepare dehydrator sheets).
2) Prepare baking sheet (or dehydrator sheet) with parchment. 
3) Place ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Add a little water as necessary to help blend.
4) Pour blended juice onto prepared baking sheet or dehydrator screen.
5) Spread out evening, but leave a margin around the edges of the pan/sheet.
6) Bake 6-7 hours in oven (aprox the same in dehydrator) until juice is not sticky anymore.
7) Cut into sheets or strips, roll up in the parchment paper into snack sized portions.
8) Store in glass mason jars.  Enjoy!

Flower Essence workshop

The summer blossoms are in full beauty - all around the garden, though it's very dry from this heat wave, the flowers are gorgeous.  It was the perfect timing for hosting a Flower Essence workshop here.  Local plant spirit healing practitioner Heather Cain was here to lead this class, guiding participants through the understandings of how to approach plants (listening, asking permission to harvest, gratitude, and hearing what the plant is offering us) when looking for suitable blooms for a flower essence, then the how-to of making the essence, as well as how to choose the right essence to use for ourselves.  This fascinating herbal topic brings us into the realm of plant communication, plant spirit healing, and plant vibrational medicine or energy healing.  It brought a wonderful counterpoint to the practical hands-on herbal classes that I teach at Little City Farm.

First, after mindfully choosing blossoms that are vibrant, the blossoms are harvested very carefully, then placed into filtered or distilled water in a glass bowl and set in the sun for several hours.  The plant essence water is then carefully drained, and bottled into a "mother" essence (in a ration of 50:50 with brandy).  From this a stock essence is made by diluting the mother, and then a dosage essence can be made.  Read more about making flower essences here and here.

Here are some scenes from the workshop:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Local Superfood Spotlight: Black Raspberries

Move over goji and acai berry!  We have wild black raspberries here, and they are free, abundant, and packed with nutrition.  By now it's mid July, and it's proving to be a very bountiful berry harvest this year!  Currently, the black raspberries are in full production, growing wild along many ditches, park trails and roadways.  They line our back fenceline in huge bushes - a wild weedy patch, yet abundant in fruit.  We have have the pleasure of going out each morning for the past week to harvest huge bowls of berries for breakfast, with more than enough to stock up the freezer as well. 

Tips for harvesting:
Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) is related to the red raspberry (Rubus ideus), is native to North America and grows wild in many locations, including urban areas like parks, trails, river banks, ditches, and other abandoned lands.  The berries are ripe when deep dark red-black coloured, and should come off easily when plucked from the stem.  The stems and stalks are prickly with little thorns, so some careful picking is necessary in order not to get scratched.  But the slow careful picking is well worth it, as these black raspberries are amazing in luscious, rich flavour.  Here is an interesting site to tell you about the differences between red and black raspberries, as well as how to differentiate between a black raspberry and a blackberry.

Why are black raspberries a superfood?
Black raspberries (as well as blackberries and red raspberries) are extremely high in antioxidants, meaning they offer multiple health benefits including cancer-fighting properties.  The black raspberries specifically contain high levels of anthocyanins, which give them their rich, dark color. Anthocyanins work as antioxidants that help fight free radical damage in the body.  

How to use:
Eat ripe berries warm off the plant!  Feed to your kids!  Get them to help you pick.  Or freeze, dry or cook into jelly, jam, or syrup.  The black raspberry leaves can also be used for herbal tea, either hot or iced.  Steep a handful of fresh leaves (or 1-2 Tbsp dried) in 4 cups water that has just boiled for at least 10 minutes.  Sweeten with honey or maple syrup, or add fresh mint leaves to the tea blend for additional flavour.  All species of raspberry are medicinal, usually red or black raspberry is most common for women's tea (helps to regulate hormones, helps to tone uterus before labour and birthing, rich in minerals and calcium).