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Preserving

Last Tuesday we met at Edie’s – a small, intimate group – we started by touring Edie’s front yard which is grass, infused with food! She has 3 hazelnut trees, and we managed to find a few growing (just planted last year, when she harvested 25 nuts!), blackberries, basil, blueberries, corn, tomatoes… we all decided Edie and Howard have mastered the art of “quick and dirty” but effective gardening!! Just a few of the tips we learned are:

1. You need to grow 2-3 varieties of blueberries for cross pollination. Blueberries also love water, so they pack pine needles around the roots so they don’t dry out!

2. PVC tubing makes lovely “hoops” (wish I brought my camera to show you!) that can be covered in plastic and moved around to create mini-green houses around your yard. This is how Edie starts all her seeds in the Spring!

3. Edie “pinches back” her basil about SIX times per season!! She gets an amazing yield this way, for her pesto! If not pinched back, basil will go to seed. Edie also keeps her basil covered by her PVC hoop “greenhouse” for all of June (and again as soon as it cools off – Sept?)

4. Using urine-soaked straw over your compost significantly accelerates it’s composting!! (likes the nitrogen). Also reduces your water consumption so that you can use valuable water to grow your food instead!

5. “Jubilee” corn and other old varieties haven’t been modified… Edie just planted corn in mid-July with some peas and beans; if we get some more heat she should be able to harvest the cobs that are growing. We also discussed that most “GMO” corn is genetically bred/cross bred for increased sweetness and to delay onset of starchiness (when it gets over ripe) not “modified” per say… anyone else know about this?

6. You can make an amazing water collection system with a series of garbage cans connected by PVC tubing and placed on a decline so the water fills the highest bucket first, overflowing into the 2nd, and so on. Edie still had 3 cans-full of water, and uses a watering can to hand water everything (Howard prefers to sprinkler!).

7. To prevent mosquitoes from laying larvae in the rain water buckets, place a thin layer of vegetable oil… they disappear!

8. Tomatoes don’t like too much water… water about 2x/week, if over-watered they start to split.

9. Use wire to keep the quail off until the seedlings are hand-height or so… they tend to leave the larger plants alone! Who knew?

10. When making pesto, you can add in any greens (kale, chard, spinach) to use them up!

11. Get at those dandelions this time of year! If you take them out now (by hand) you won’t have many come Spring!

Edie grew up on a farm, and then had a farm on Saltspring for many years – attending market with organic berries, garlic, corn… She claims “I’m a peasant… I’m just happiest with my hands in the dirt”. And her grocery bill is significantly reduced from all the growing she does!! She tries a new crop every year – last year was chickpeas… amazing! They grow 1 pea/pod and it took 2 of them 2 hours to pick a small jarful! This year was edamame beans. She serial plants everything, and does a TON of preserving – she has jars & jars of dehydrated kale chips that stay crispy all winter. WOW! Just covered with a little oil, lime, chili, and nutritional yeast mixed up like a salad dressing.

Edie brought out a “sample” from her cellar – sour cherries in a light syrup, peaches canned with honey (1/2c to 4 c water), blackcurrant jam, blackberry jam (Pomona’s pectin for all jams), brandied cherries! sour cherry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, pear ginger, then the savory corn relish, hot salsa, dill pickles, pickled beets, zuchinni relish, mustard beans… YUMM! She plans to share some recipes with all of us!

Then for the fun part – eating! Dawn shared her most treasured huckleberry jam (she picked the berries at Silver Star just recently for the first time in 30 years!!!), Kristy brought goat cheese with her refridgerator pickles (see RECIPES section), and I brought some apricot jam from last year. Edie shared some dehydrated tomatoes and zuchinni… and we devoured most of the crackers as they came out of the oven!! Apparently huckleberries are quite rare now, as many naturally occurring bushes are becoming “mummified” (white appearance). Look for a low bush (knee high) with a usually-reddish leaf and a blue to blue-black or purple-red colored berry!

Tonight’s final tip: The THRIFT store at Schubert Center: while not open all the time (call them to inquire), this apparently is home to some amazing kitchenware, wool, and other vintage textiles, etc.

As for the “best food for your body” – Dawn says huckleberries (because you have to climb a mountain to get them!), Kristy says probiotics (while purchasing Bio-K… this is expensive, and we will look at fermented food options at our next meeting!), and Edie says “everything in moderation”!

I was so honored to spend an evening in such good company. As I’m going through a “non-foodie” phase in my own life, being in your company re-inspired me to finally process that basil in my fridge (some browning!) into pesto, give that cracker recipe another try (my kids devoured the entire plate!), and cook up some yummy blueberry and blue-berry peach sauce to add variety to our usual oatmeal & pancakes this week. Thank you, thank you, to my amazing foodie club!!

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