Archive for Harvest

2017 Honey Harvest

 

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

[by Keith Rowand]

Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the hives, I store the frames separated by hive location and date.  Once I remove enough full frames, I start extracting the honey into buckets and jars, all the while keeping the batches as separate as possible.

Flowering plants blossom at different times throughout the year, tempting bees and other pollinators with nectar of different characteristics (color, smell, taste, viscosity).  Those floral nectar differences are reflected in the resulting honey; as flowers change the honey changes. In the past couple of years the honey has been dark in the early spring (autumn olive and tulip poplar in April/May),  then became lighter in color as the bees moved  to wild berries and brambles (May/June),  and lighter yet as they finish with basswood, linden, and clover in June/early July.   2017 has been different – for the first time in several years black locust has bloomed in glorious quantity.

Black locust honey is among the sweetest of honeys and very light in color.  I won’t say that I sell black locust honey, because so many other things blossom at the same time and the bees gather whatever they can. What I can say is that the early 2017 honey is lighter and sweeter for which I credit black locust.  Early autumn olive did not make it into honey frames, while tulip poplar was stretched out over several weeks.  Linden, basswood, berries, and clover will be in later honey batches.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement.  Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)

Batch A
Black locust, tulip poplar, early wildflowers.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.6%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, Washington, near Goat Hill Farm, harvested June 24.

Batch B
High black locust content, with tulip poplar and wildflowers.  Thicker with beeswax scent.
Color: White
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Tiger Valley Rd (June 24) and Jericho Rd (June 8).

Batch C
Predominately black locust; very sweet with butterscotch and vanilla tastes.
Color: Extra White
Moisture Content: 18.2%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, June 24 of selected frames.

Batch D
Some autumn olive, with black locust and some tulip polar; creamy with caramel.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.5%
Origin: Jericho Rd, Huntly, June 8.

 

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.

The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!

Happy to share my recipe below.

bread & butter 3

Read more

For the Love of Purslane

When my neighbor went to Turkey a few years ago, she was fortunate to spend time with a Turkish family, and taste true Turkish cuisine prepared at home. She also had a grand time at the Istanbul Bazaar and came back with amazingly fragrant spices, some of which she gifted me. She really enjoyed many vegetable dishes and was particularly intrigued by a vegetable she never had before… and had I ever heard of it? such a funny name:  purslane?

Basil & purslane both like hot summer weather

Purslane & basil both like hot summer weather

I burst out laughing, and told her I’d bring her a big basket the following morning, wanted to harvest it when it was cool. Which I did. Fair is fair: a basket of “weeds” for a basket of spice.

Because, as you know, many Americans consider purslane (Portulaca oleracea) a weed. In fact, many don’t even know it’s edible. It’s a cousin of the ornamental  moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), sometime also called purslane. Don’t confuse the two  when buying seeds (you are unlikely to find Portulaca oleracea plants for sale)

Yet – it is. It’s also nutritious, mild (vaguely lemony) & crunchy – and for me it grows when lettuce does not. In the garden, it’s an annual succulent. It self-sows (and how!) but does not germinates until it is quite warm. In poor soil, it can look “weedy” indeed. But in good garden soil, it becomes a handsome plant that hugs the ground. Pick often to delay flowering and to encourage more leaves.

Leaves, stalks, buds, flowers and seeds are all edible. But the younger, firmer, leaves are preferable – so pinch out shoots to harvest (and encourage branching at the same time).  I dislike the texture of the tiny seeds, so I swish my harvest in a large bowl of cold water to dislodge the seeds that sink to the bottom of the bowl.

A cultivated “improved” version of purslane exists. The pale-golden green leaves are fleshier than the ones growing wild in my garden, but also more fragile and the plant is not as robust. I prefer the unimproved version.

So how do you eat purslane? Read more

Lard: make it at home. A pictorial guide.

Despite Thomas Jefferson’s efforts 200 years ago, olive trees don’t grow in Virginia. Erratic winter weather with nightly lows in the single digit temperatures followed by days at 70F — as well as hot muggy summers — don’t make happy olive trees. Anything below -10C (14F) will severely damage even a mature olive tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love olive oil. And I used quite a bit of it along with avocado oil and nut oils. But in the last few years, I have been switching part of my cooking  fats to … lard, specifically home-rendered lard from locally pastured pigs. Here, in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, what other cooking fat is locally available to me? in such abundance? and so easy to make at home? Read more

Postcard from the Garden

favas & garlic scape

Fresh fava beans & garlic scape: that’s what’s for dinner

Spring Salads

 

Greens, Herbs & Edible Flowers

Greens, Herbs & Edible Flowers

A wonderful spring for salad!

Tom Thumb Lettuce, Red Sail Lettuce, Red and Green Oak Leaf lettuce, Lamb’s Quarter, Johnny-jump-ups and other violas, lemon balm, monarda leaves, anise hyssop leaves, arugula flowers, mustard flowers, chive blossoms, Bachelor’s Button petals,  dill, purple basil, thyme blossoms, cilantro blossoms, dried cherry tomatoes (from last year’s harvest – marinated in olive oil)… and the ones that make the plate “pop”: Shirley poppy petals.

Growing Ginger In Virginia

 

Nothing could be simpler than growing ginger in Virginia.

It’s almost true.

Just dug baby ginger in the fall

 

Ginger is reasonably ornamental – a reed-like plant with clear green leaves. While it can be grown in the vegetable or herb garden, it is not out of place with ornamental plants – provided you can dig them out easily enough — without damaging bulbs or perennials. Don’t plant them with daffodils!

A small clump of ginger growing with other tropicals and annuals

 

So yes, it is tropical – but that not necessarily a reason not to grow it. We grow many other plants from the tropics and treat them like annuals. You can do the same with ginger.

I have grown it for years in my garden – small yield but it was mine! Ginger requires a long frost-free growing season — about one year for mature ginger, 8 months for baby ginger. That’s more than our climate allows… except that you can start ginger indoors. farmers do it in high tunnels (aka hoophouses). I start it my greenhouse, but a very sunny window or sun room will work. With a warm early start in late winter, appropriate temperatures at all times, abundant water, and judicious shade, you can grow ginger to a harvestable size. Read more

Postcard from the Garden

November 6 – first hard freeze, down to 26 this morning. Good thing I harvested all the baby ginger that was growing outside. I still have some in a tub taken to the greenhouse. Let’s see how long it keeps growing.

Ending The Summer Garden

October 31. Let’s call it over. Hurricane Sandy passed through: let’s consider it done with the summer garden – wasn’t that much left any way, between the summer heat and drought, and our early October frost (Oct 12).

The storm uprooted our old apple tree. The wind flattened the Michaelmas daisies, the titonias and the flamboyant dahlias. It also blew over the peppers: they were still going strong – and I have been growing lots of peppers this year.

Some of the pepper plants in August

I picked another peck of green, wax and Merveille de Piedmonte beans on Sunday before the storm. Will harvest all remaining peppers in the next couple of days as it is too muddy now. It’s should be a another decent harvest since  the last few weeks were Indian summer after all – if dry.

And so this year – a brief run down on failures and successes: Read more

When You Have Green Tomatoes

 

Just dug and cleaned baby ginger

When I have green tomatoes and baby ginger, I make Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger. Because, I have pickled green tomatoes and made green tomato relish in the past… but we don’t eat that much of it.  So the pickles and the relish languish on the shelves. Jam, we eat. Read more