Harvesting Between the Rows

I am working on making peace with weeds, especially the edible ones. All of the weeds have an important job. Probably the most important is clothing the soil (soil doesn’t like to be naked)! Weeds move in to disturbed areas, like our open gardens, and set up camp.

This spring I have been playing with ways to cook and dress up pig weed (wild amaranth). It is a super easy plant to grow, it comes up everywhere without encouragement. It also pulls out of the ground with out to much tugging, especially when it is young and the soil is loose, and in my garden there is an abundance of these plants!

Pigweed has so many great characteristics. It draws nutrients up from down deep in the soil, bringing nutrition to the plants that come up next. It shades the soil and helps keep it moist. It doesn’t seem to have pests, the leaf miners leave it alone, no worms on the leaves, no aphids, the deer don’t even seem to eat it.

Most important it is delicious. It tastes similar to spinach. I like it cooked better then raw, although the tiny seedlings can be used as micro greens!

The stems are my favorite part, especially when they get longer and fatter, but before they get tough. Pan-fried in a little oilive oil and seasoned with salt, they were reminiscent of asparagus. Chopped stems can be steamed like green beans. But the bulk of the greens are wonderful quickly stir fried until bright green and tender, they taste fresh and retain a little crunchy texture, or braised until they soften into a creamy mouth full of joy.

Simply top with butter or olive oil, maybe a splash of vinegar. Serve them with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce, or as I did last night, pour on a glaze of walnut oil and top with toasted walnuts.

You can dress it up with bacon or any pork product to add a layer of flavor. Our friend Roong said it is a familiar green from his home in Thailand, he braised some for us with a bit of bacon and onions. And when Gary Nabhan was here he cooked up the greens with some spices and used them to fill empanadas for dinner.

Yep, these weeds are turning in to one of my favorite garden foods, free, abundant, and delicious!

MAD Inspiration

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Winter is a time to reflect, to question and to envision a path forward. I found insight in this talk by Italian ethno-botanist Andrea Pieroni at the MAD symposium in Copenhagen.

Pieroni speaks about the language of food, science and culture. He believes science needs to step back and learn from traditional knowledge, that the scientific taxonomy of plants doesn’t tell us the human stories about communities of people, plants and their relationships. How plants are celebrated, prepared or eaten is often narrated in the context of traditional names of common plants. Andrea states that the cultural information becomes lost in the language of science.

Andrea’s challenge to build a platform to educate young people and all of us about where our food comes from inspires us.

We have built our vision of this educational platform on our farm, check out the 2015 workshops. Now we need you to share the vision, help us make 2015 Quillisascut Farm workshops the best ever! Sign-up, tell your friends, the table is set.

Here is Andrea Pieroni at the 2012 MAD Symposium.

Transplanting Carrot Tutorial

My sister has a lovely garden, last year she decided to try transplanting some of the tiny carrot plants. Some of you may have had this idea. Carrot seeds are small and planting a row can be tedious, maybe transplanting could solve the problems of weeds crowding out the baby plants and the need for heavy thinning later when the plants are established. I asked her to share her carrot transplanting experience with us.

Training Your Carrots To Sit
or
Don’t Transplant Your Carrots

Not all carrots will sit. One must practice patience and balance. Sorting through the carrots after they are clipped and scrubbed, the better students will show themselves. Don’t even try to train the hugging, the kicking, or the straight (where did THAT one come from?) carrots. Set them aside for other displays or possibly for eating.

To gain the properly trained carrots for sitting, plant your carrot seeds as usual. When they are about an inch to an inch and a half high, dig them up with a knitting needle. Poke a new hole for the transplant and place the baby carrot down in the new hole. Guide it in with the knitting needle. Because the hair-like roots have been moved, the carrot will grow in a new and unique shape. Early fall dig your special vegetables. Sort them carefully to find the ones bent at a 90 degree angle. These will sit the best. Be advised that the carrots must be screened and censored for X-rated forms and positions.

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As Janae said, all carrots are not as well schooled in sitting here are some of the rejects (or x-rated).IMG_0938

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Spring Greens


Winter Cress, Yellow Rocket, or Barbara’s Cress (Barbarea vulgaris, R. Br. member of a large family of plants, cruciferae, brassica and mustard) Named for Saint Barbara since the herb can be harvested during the cold winter months, Saint Barbara’s Day is December 4 and used as a salad green.

Surprising how quickly we forget the use of wild foods when it is so simple to fill our refrigerator with store purchased produce. Late in April, during the Intro to Farming workshop we wanted to include some fresh and foraged foods in our meal so Rick took a group of students to the nettle patch. It was a prosperous harvest, as they also came across a large area of Winter Cress that was beginning to form florets.

Rick had them harvest a shopping bag full of cress, along with another paper sack of nettles. Continue reading “Spring Greens”

Serviceberry Flower Infusion


I love ingredients so this idea of playing with Serviceberry flowers is my idea of fun.

Serviceberries are one of the tastier wild fruits at Quillisascut and the easiest for us to savor fresh from the bush (think about elderberries, rosehips, Oregon grape, and chokecherries which all need additional sweetener and you will understand the context of tasty) Serviceberries are slightly sweet with a hint of bitter almond. Last year I was eager to make bitters so I tried macerating the ripe berries in vodka and it did give a slight almond flavor to the infusion. Today while the trees are still flowering I steeped some of the flowers in vodka and others were infused in simple syrup. The flavor is wonderfully bitter almond! Continue reading “Serviceberry Flower Infusion”