Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Local superfood spotlight: Wild Grapes

Wild grapes are in absolute abundance this year.  The vines have climbed from our back patio, over the arbour, up the side wall of the house and to the roof!  We climbed ladders to harvest, and now have pounds and pounds of wild grapes to make into jelly and juice.

Wild grapes, not to be confused with Virginia Creeper berries which often grow right next to the wild grapes (and are toxic!).  Identify them correctly by the grape leaf, the twining vines, and the tart taste of the grapes.  Once you do find them, you will start to see them everywhere - they are a bit of a bully and take over quickly, but are readily pulled down or pruned.

Nutritional highlights!  The darker the grape the richer in nutrition.  These are nutrient dense, as so many of the wild foods are - similar to black raspberries, they contain resveratrol that increases longevity, and high in antioxidants. Wild edible grapes contain vitamins B1, B6, C, manganese and potassium.  Eat them skin, seeds and all.  They are sweet-tart, a definite wild flavour compared to cultivated table grapes, but a delicious acquired taste.  Great for snacking on, and turning into fabulous syrups, drinks, juice, jelly.

The total result of our wild grape harvest amounted to 30 litres of juice!  Plus 12 jars of jelly!  Enough for the winter and more to share.

Our garden end of August

Here are a few snapshots of the garden at this time of year, when harvests are bountiful, flowers are their fullest, and weeds are not able to be kept up with anymore.   This heat and humidity has meant a productive year for tomatoes, beans, basil, kale, rosemary, and the tallest sunflowers we've ever grown...

Take a walk through our garden!  Enter through the garden gate and follow along...

 The marigolds are absolutely vibrant this year!

The dragon's tongue beans, a favourite, growing in the hooped bed.  Planted as a second crop after our salad greens from spring were done.

 Interplantings of nasturtiums, kale, beans, and greens.

There's always something to snack on - we grow lots of quick and ready to eat veggies for the kids, such as cherry tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, green beans.

Water conservation is so important, especially in a dry summer like this one has been.  Gravity fed basins of water in the garden for convenient watering, fed from the house rain barrels.

View of the newly glazed passive solar greenhouse, south facing of course - with our patio of figs, lemon verbena bush, and sea buckthorn plants, and cold frames for extra greens in spring and tomatoes in summer.

Pond area, nice place to seek shelter during the hottest parts of the day.  Habitat for frogs, toads, birds, fish, and even the visiting raccoons.

Alkanet flower in the newly planted dye plant section of the herb garden!  I hope to use the root for soap making at some point.

 Kale is abundant, our barn studio in the background.

We try to grow new varieties where space permits - these are heirloom red kidney beans that we got from Seeds of Diversity, a Canadian seed saving non-profit where we can find amazing varieties of heirloom seeds that are shared.

Speaking of heirlooms, here are some tomatoes we grew this season - cherokee purple, Nebraska wedding, Brandywine...

We try to interplant flowers wherever there is space, for beauty, pollinators, cut flower bouquets, and companion planting.

And the hops arbour is full and ready for harvest. Always more to do...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August Garden Flowers - the Yellow & Orange Edition

The garden is awash in orange and yellow blooms!  I counted more than 25 types of orange and yellow flowers, including herbs, veggies and wild flowering plants.  Here's a sampling of what is in bloom in our garden right now (mid August)...after a long drought this season, these vibrant flowers are still blooming surprisingly well.

NEW Fall 2016 Workshops Posted!

Wow!  The new line-up of classes at Little City Farm for the Fall 2016 (and some Winter 2017) is now posted. Loads of new topics and intensive series of classes, to gain hands-on skills for more self-reliant living!  Check out our workshop page here.

We are excited by a whole series of great Herbal Medicine Making classes this fall, including Autumn Wellness Remedies (immune boosting tinctures & fire cider); Winter Health Remedies (cough syrups and more); DIY herbal shampoos; herbal gift-making near the holiday season (felted wool soap, herbal salves and balms, herbal bath bombs & soaks).

There are a number of Soap Making workshop dates (sign up soon to claim your spot, these workshops fill up quickly!), as well as Goats Milk Soap Making - all favourite workshops around here.

Also our usual popular classes on Wild Edibles Foraging and Lacto-Fermented Foods are back for the fall season, with a focus on autumn plants and harvest.

NEW! And new this fall, a series of Waldorf-inspired Art Classes for both children (10 Thursday afternoons from Sept-Dec), and adults (6 Wednesday evenings in Oct-Nov)!  To bring mindfulness, appreciation of nature, joy and calm into our homes through the creative use of natural art materials.  Read our facilitator bios here, and more details to register for these exciting art classes.

NEW! Finally, coming this January 2017 - a 6-Part Organic Gardening Intensive, led by our famous local organic farmer Angie Koch from Fertile Ground Farm.  We are really looking forward to this session, which is limited to 10 participants so that this small group can work through individual garden plans and take 6 weeks to gain intensive organic gardening knowledge.  Sign up here!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Local Superfood Spotlight: Purslane

We love wild foods here, currently harvesting the last dandelion greens, lambs quarters, plantain, and loads of wild grape leaves.  Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is another wild food that is abundant, but many people are not so familiar with.  It grows wild on the edges of our garden and once it arrives it is plentiful (though not entirely invasive as it's easy enough to pull up by the shallow roots).  But it is delicious (like a rich spinach or chard) and needs to be used - plus, the health benefits of this local superfood are abundant:  it is rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, and contains a huge amount of omega-3 (some say more than any other leafy plant!).  It is good for our skin, urinary and digestive systems. It also has a perfect combination between antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, potassium, calcium, magnesium and carotene.  

A friend shared her purslane lemonade suggestion with us.  Since we love making herbal lemonades, and herbal-rich smoothies, this made a great addition to our summer drink selections.  Here is our variation on the purslane elixir.  If you can't find wild purslane it can also be grown indoors or in a greenhouse/garden bed as a microgreen. 

Purslane Elixir

You will need:
1-2 lemons
honey or maple syrup to taste
large handful fresh purslane
2 cups water
2-4 ice cubes

1) Put 2 cups water into blended.  Add juice of lemons and handful purslane, and ice.  Blend on high until smooth (about 1 minute).
2) Strain drink for lemonade consistency, or don't strain and drink as a rich green smoothie.  
3) Sweeten to taste.