Carlee’s Post: Keeping Summer Alive, Even in the Dead of Winter

    I have never really been a winter person. I didn’t even know that there were people who LOVED winter until very recently, and I’m still trying to understand the idea. Until I was eighteen, the winters of my life involved getting sick, staying inside, running to stand over the heating vents of the floor whenever they clicked on, and school, all things I was not a big fan of. Despite all the winter adventures I had like skiing, ice skating, and snowshoeing, nothing completely changed my mind. The summer on the other hand, is a great friend of mine. It’s full of good food, long sunny days, short cool nights, happy people on vacation, and herbs, bountiful, beautiful herbs. So it probably comes as no surprise that as soon as I was able, instead of staying in beautiful New England, I sought out warmer climates in places like Hawaii, California, and Texas. When I came home after three years of my ideal climate, I mentally geared up for the winter. It became my new mantra that I’d keep the summer alive in my body by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables all winter long. Today’s post was inspired by that idea. I want to share with you some methods you can use to enjoy the tastes of summer while the sun is out, and as the snow falls. These preparations include herbal honey, vinegar, and cordial. Recently I’ve seen fennel, dill, basil, and oregano at farmers markets, so I’ll be discussing the benefits of these great plants, all of which are suited to the recipes that follow. I’ve included suggestions of other herbs to use that all grow in our area, feel free to get creative, using things from your own garden too!

     You are probably very familiar with these four herbs in your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, where they truly shine. But did you know what else they’re capable of when used medicinally? Basil, which also goes by the names, St. Josephwort, and sweet basil, is a very fragrant plant with white to red flowers. When used medicinally, its soothing to the digestive system, and can stimulate an appetite. Basil has also been used to assist with headaches, whopping cough, and a wide variety of stomach complaints. Basil grows mostly in cultivated gardens. Fennel is a plant whose medicinal properties live in its root and seed. Its umbrella shaped flowering tops hold up soft yellow flowers that bloom from July to October. Dill is a plant whose flowers grow very similarly to fennel. It shares many properties with basil. It is antispasmodic, and soothes the digestive system. It is also a calmative, meaning it’s nourishing to the nervous system. It’s also commonly used as a tea, to calm the stomach. It has also been used to aid with bad breath, insomnia, and as an appetite stimulant. Oregano, like basil and dill is antispasmodic, calmative, and is used to aid with stomach discomfort. It has also been used for coughs, headache, colic, relief in abdominal cramps, the regulation of the menstrual cycle, toothache, and insomnia. An infusion made from oregano flowers is helpful to prevent seasickness. The oil of the Majorana horntensis variety of oregano can be used externally for varicose veins, gout, rheumatism, and stiff joints. Now that you know some of the medicinal properties of these great plants, I hope it will inspire you to seek them out at your local farmers markets, and cycle them into your diet through these recipes, or others you enjoy!

Herbal Honey

1.Chop up your fresh or dry herb. If the herb is very juicy, you may want to wilt the herb in a hot location (out of direct sun) for a day.
2. Per 1/2 cup of chopped herb (volume), add 2 cups of honey (volume). Bring to a gentle boil, shut off, and let cool.
3. Repeat at least once and up to 3 times each day for 3 days.
4. After the last heating, pour the warm mixture through a strainer and into jars.

Notes: When making a herbal preparation of any kind its important to be aware of the water content of the plant you are working with. This is because water in almost all cases encourages mold growth, and fermentation. Though this is unlikely to happen, its’ important to watch for signs like an unpleasant smell or visible mold. In the case of these things being present it’s best to throw away your preparation so you don’t get sick. When making an herbal honey, using dried herbs decreases this chance, though fresh herbs are still a completely viable choice, because the heating and cooling of the honey will extract some of the fresh herbs moisture content. A third method to decrease moisture content of the plant is to wilt the plants outside. This entails collecting your herbs and leaving them in a shaded place on a hot day, or with some type of covering like a box or basket. The heat of the sun will extract some of the water found in the plants, decreasing the chance that it will cause fermentation or spoilage in your honey.

Suggested Herbs: Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop, Mints, Bee Balm, Thyme, Ginger

Herbal Cordial

1.Make a simple syrup by simmering 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water until clear.
2.Loosely fill a jar with fresh herbs or fruit.
3.Cover with the simple syrup and 1 1/2 cups or more of good quality, high proof vodka or other desired neutral alcohol.
4.Cover, shake, and let sit for at least one month or until desired flavor is reached.
5.Strain and store in the cupboard for special events and a delicious dessert!

Notes: Shelf life is 1-2 years. Enjoy over ice cream, fruits or add to baking mixes. When making an herbal cordial use only the aerial (above ground) parts of the plant.

Suggested Herbs; Anise, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Lemon grass, Mints, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, and all fruits, Vanilla

Herbal Vinegar

1. Chop up your fresh herbs. Loosely pack a jar and cover them with vinegar.
2. Let it sit for at least one month, strain, and use as desired.

Notes; Any culinary herb you enjoy the taste of will make an herbal vinegar with a hint of that flavor. Adding a whole sprig of the herb to the finished product is a beautiful addition and conversation starter. White distilled and Rice vinegars are a great choice to showcase the subtleties of your chosen herbs while apple cider vinegar is great for preparations with a more medicinal focus, particularly suited to tackle colds. Berries of all kinds are perfect for an herbal vinegar, and herbs for culinary use like basil, dill, oregano, and fennel will also create a delicious vinegar, that you can toss in salads, on pizza or roasted vegetables. Herbal Vinegar will last 6-8 months. When making an herbal vinegar use only the aerial (above ground) parts of the plant.

Suggested Herbs: Thyme, Chive Blossoms, Tarragon, Basil, Dill, Oregano, Fennel, Blueberries, Raspberries

All Recipes, as well as some notes and suggested herbs come from Body into Balance An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self Care, by Maria Noel Groves. Maria, is a New Hampshire based herbalist, registered with the American Herbalist Guild, feel free to check out her website wintergreenbotanicals.com for more information.

The Herb Book, John Lust

Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, Steven Foster, and James A. Duke

https://www.almanac.com/blog/natural-health-home-tips/making-herbal-vinegars

Do You Have Leftover Fruits and Vegetables?

By Brianna Bowlan, Seacoast Eat Local intern

Do you have an abundance of fruits and vegetables left from the Farmer’s Markets, or your own garden and don’t know how to keep them for the fall? Have you ever considered freezing them? Freezing fruits and vegetables is a great way to retain their freshness, nutrient content and they won’t go to waste.

raspberries

You can freeze peas, asparagus, green beans, strawberries, cherries, peaches, etc. The best way to freeze your vegetables is to blanch them first (generally, fruit does not need to be blanched). Blanching is the process of cooking the vegetable and then placing it in ice water to terminate the cooking. This process slows the loss of nutrients and keeps the vegetables more vibrant in color. Next, prep the food and place into a freezer-safe container; Make sure they are not touching each other. After completely frozen, place them into a heavy-duty freezer bag and get as much air out of it as you can. Put them back into the freezer, until you are ready to use them. More details on this process >

When the harsh New England winter hits us, you can still have fresh fruit and vegetables that are full of nutrients and flavor. It’s a nice way to have a little piece of summer while you buried deep in snow.

640px-Kale-Bundle

 

Sources:

Johnson, Abigail. “How to Freeze 20 Fruits and Vegetables.” Fine Cooking. Seacoast Eat Local, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2015.

Photos: Kale, Ali Express

Savor the Season: A Food Preservation Weekend, October 2 – 4

2014_08-Garden-and-orchard-at-Blueberry-CoveMountains of produce at the end of the gardening season? Learn to preserve it at Savor the Season – A Food Preservation Weekend at Blueberry Cove Camp, a fun-filled fall weekend learning traditional home food preservation methods hosted by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, October 2 – 4, 2015:

Savor the Season: A Food Preservation Weekend
UMaine Cooperative Extension and Master Food Preserver volunteers
Location: Blueberry Cove 4-H Camp & Learning Center, 22 Blueberry Cove Road, Tenants Harbor, ME
Dates: Friday, October 2 – Sunday, October 4, 2015
Cost: $325 (includes lodging and meals)

Savor the Season is a weekend event devoted to learning the latest, USDA-recommended methods and techniques of home food preservation. The focus will be on using local, seasonal ingredients and produce from the gardens and orchard at Blueberry Cove Camp and other local purveyors. The weekend features three educational programs, two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. These programs will include topics and demonstrations which range from making jam to drying fruits for leathers to canning salsas. Handouts will be included.

There is a social hour to meet and gather with other members of the group before dinner on Friday night and Saturday night. Meals include breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. A highlight of the weekend, these homemade meals will feature locally grown, raised, and produced fruits and veggies, meats, cheeses, breads, and other seasonal delights.

For more information: http://umaine.edu/cumberland/programs/savortheseason/

Preserving Your Produce

By Caitlin Porter, Seacoast Eat Local Intern

With summer upon us, and temperatures rising, local produce is as abundant as ever. Tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, greens, beets, radishes, and many more fruits and vegetables are available at the markets and farm stands. However, it is easy to get carried away when shopping (or berry picking!) and end up with more produce than you know what to do with. Preserving your produce is a great way to be cost-effective and save money by not throwing away spoiled produce.

Produce is not shelf stable and will go bad relatively quickly. There are many ways to preserve fruits and vegetables so that you can enjoy them during their off season, or when you begin to run low. Preserving food through canning, freezing, and dehydrating can make it last much longer while preserving the amazing flavors and nutrients.

Here are the basics:

Canning includes making jams, preserves, jellies and pickling. There tends to be a concern for food safety with canning but there is no reason to worry if you follow a recipe and take the necessary steps. Start with the Home Canning Guide and find plenty of tested recipes at the National Center for Home Food Preservation

canning

Freezing is, in my opinion, the easiest method of preservation. However, not all things can just be placed in the freezer. For example, many greens need to be blanched before freezing. Following this guide will show you how to freeze and then thaw your fresh produce. Frozen berries are a great addition to yogurt and smoothies!

Photo courtesy flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/joe57spike/5707168747/
Photo by Joe Lodge

Dehydrating (drying) is the process of removing water from a food. This is a great method because dehydrated foods require no refrigeration. This guide has great info on how to prep foods for dehydrating, as well as 3 methods: natural sunlight, oven, and electric dehydrator. Kale chips are a great snack for the whole family!

kale

Sources:

https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/348/348-597/348-597.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/canning.aspx

http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_freeze_veg.pdf

MOFGA’s Farm & Homestead Day, June 13

F&H-Day-CollageMOFGA’s Farm & Homestead Day: A Hands-on Skill Sharing Event
Location: Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Unity, ME
Date: Saturday, June 13, 2015
Time: 9am – 3pm, rain or shine
Fee: Free and open to the public

Farm & Homestead Day at MOFGA is a free, volunteer-driven event offering hands-on workshops based on re-skilling for resiliency. If you’re thinking of trying to raise goats for the first time or just want to learn how to make a fence, this is the place to be. The ever-popular fiber-arts area will feature spinning, weaving, carding, and felting, as well as treadle sewing machines. Other workshops this year include splicing rope, tying knots, making round poles, scarfing wood joints, riveting, goat-milking, cheese-making, blacksmithing, knife sharpening, and much more! Please bring a dish to share for the Potluck Picnic Lunch– and something to add to the Stone Soup Kettle (fresh or dry ingredients).

Come dressed to participate and ready to get your hands dirty! 

Bring family and friends! Many activities are kid-friendly or specifically for kids. Learn skills that will allow you to throw off the shackles of consumer dependency and be more self-reliant. Gates open at 7 a.m. for sunrise mowing.
 No pre-registration necessary.

For more information: www.mofga.org

Planting a Preserving Garden, April 28

thumbnailPlanting a Preserving Garden
UMaine Cooperative Extension
Location: Kittery Adult Education, Traip Academy, 12 Williams Ave., Kittery, ME
Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Time: 6–8pm
Fee: $15, pre-registration

Early spring is the perfect time to plan your garden with growing food for preserving in mind. Come learn from University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers and Master Gardeners how to plant a preserving garden. Participants will learn the best produce varieties for canning, how much to plant for your household size, and other tips to maximize yield and overall garden health.

For more information: https://maineadulted.coursestorm.com/kittery/course/planting-a-preserving-garden

From Scratch: Herbal Seasonings, April 18

From Scratch: Herbal Seasonings
Betz Golon, Herbalist and UMaine Master Food Preserver
Location: University of Maine Cooperative Extension Cumberland County 75 Clearwater Dr, Suite 104, Falmouth, ME
Date: Saturday, April 18, 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Fee: $40

Betz Golon is the herbalist at Common Folk Farm, where she creates herbal blends and seasonings. Betz has served as the herbalist for Shaker Village in New Gloucester for over twenty years. Betz will show how to “salt” herbs, create herb pastes, dehydrate vegetable/herb blends and produce beverages all from the home garden. Everyone will participate in demonstrations and leave with recipes and samples.

For more information: http://umaine.edu/cumberland/programs/from-scratch-your-maine-kitchen/

Master Food Preserver Program — Now Accepting Applications

remsberg_11081030753-250x166Do you enjoy the art and science of food preservation? Would you like to develop expertise in food preservation? Consider becoming a Master Food Preserver! The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is now accepting 2015 Master Food Preserver Application. Any Maine resident 21 years or older is eligible to take the Master Food Preserver course. The application deadline is May 1, 2015. All applicants will be informed of selection status by May 22, 2015.

Master Food Preserver Volunteers serve to extend UMaine Extension’s education programs in food preservation to adults and youth. This program includes 10 three-hour kitchen lab sessions throughout the growing season from June – September held in Falmouth and Gorham focusing on food preservation techniques including canning, drying, freezing, fermenting and winter storage techniques. After successful completion of the program, graduates serve at least 20 hours as Master Food Preserver volunteer resources in the community to provide the public with research-based information from UMaine Extension and USDA.

For more information: http://umaine.edu/food-health/food-preservation/master-food-preservers/

Growing & Preserving, February 26

thumbnailGrowing & Preserving
with Michelle McCarthy, Sanford Community Adult Education
Venue: 21 Bradeen Street, Suite 201, Springvale, ME
Date: Thursdays, February 26, March 5 & 12, 2015
Time: 6:30-8pm
Fee: $39, pre-register

It’s not rocket science! So you’ve been thinking of growing some of your own vegetables… or you have signed up for a CSA share… or you’ve been eyeing those gorgeous veggies at the local farmers’ market and you want to take advantage of stocking up on them when they are IN SEASON. Now what? However you get your veggies, you can’t eat them all at once, so you need to come up with a plan to preserve them for later or give them away, or worst case… you’ll eventually compost them ;-( If you’re afraid you won’t know what to do with your harvest, and truly HATE wasting those beautiful, delicious, nutritious veggies… join me for an overview of lessons learned. My husband and I started outwith a CSA share and now we grow a very large number of vegetables on a very very small plot of land. We’ve learned a lot about square foot gardening, trellising, blanching/freezing, dehydrating, canning, lacto fermenting, and good old fashioned root cellaring. We’ve learned a lot about bugs, organic pesticides, soil, composting – and much more. You’ll be inspired! Join me for this 3 session class and I’ll share what we’ve learned so you can get started.

For more information: https://maineadulted.coursestorm.com/sanford/course/growing-preserving

Seacoast Food Swap at Joinery, February 16

10351681_1545517469018612_575454578768916139_nThe next Seacoast Food Swap takes place at Joinery Restaurant on Monday, February 16th (President’s day) at 7pm — come swap, talk, and drink some fine drinks:

Seacoast Food Swap
Venue: Joinery Restaurant, Newmarket, NH
Date: Monday, February 16, 2015
Time: 7–8pm
Fee: Free

A food swap is part silent auction/part village marketplace/part fun-loving open house where your homemade edible creations (breads, preserves, special concoctions, canned goods, etc.) become your own personal currency for use in swapping with other participants. We welcome everyone, as long as you bring something edible that you made, grew, or foraged yourself.

On the day of the swap, please bring your hand crafted goods and arrive promptly at the start time. The first half-hour of the event is dedicated to swapper sign-in and set-up, and we’ll begin swapping once everyone’s settled in. If you have any questions whatsoever, please send a private message or an email to [email protected]

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/446105802211905/