A friend asks if a beautiful palm has edible fruit:
“There is a palm tree in the front yard of a house we bought in Ocala about 18 months ago. This year, it produced large clumps of a yellow-orange fruit that has a tough skin and a large seed inside each one. Pictures are attached.
Can you tell us what this is, and how to protect and use it? (The fruits spoil almost a quickly as they ripen.)”
I wrote back:
“That’s a pindo palm! Great fruit. We stew them into an absolutely delicious jelly with sugar to taste and jar them. Best flavor ever. Also makes a great pancake syrup. You can also eat the fruit fresh. In the past, people have made wine from them as well. Butia capitata is the Latin name.”
They really are delicious. And it’s fun to say “Butia capitata.” Try it three times fast—I’ll wait.
I planted two in my North Florida food forest because I was so impressed with the flavor of the fruit. You can see one of them here:
Pindo palm fruit are not great off the tree, but the jelly … incredible. Coconut, pineapple, passion fruit—you taste notes of different tropical delights in it. Very, very good.
I once harvested about 50 pounds from the Ocala agricultural extension offices and made jelly with them. The fruits often just fall on the ground unused and are available for the asking.
And the aroma of the fruit is intoxicating.
“On the short walk from the pool to the house we rent in the ‘low country’ in South Carolina, Winter picked a berry from the tons of these little palm trees in the community and said, ‘Mom, smell this.’ Well, I’ve played that game before, and it’s not always fun. I was cautious at first, but then quickly began oohing and aahhing over the fragrance that in an instant transports you to the warm sunny place of your dreams. You cannot prevent the immediate inclination to hold in your hand a drink blended with ice and topped with a frilly paper umbrella.”
You’ll also find a recipe for pindo palm jelly in her post.
Pindo palms are often sold in ornamental nurseries across the Deep South. Their silvery foliage and cold hardiness make them very popular. I got my two trees from Home Depot and have encouraged many food-forest enthusiasts to add a few to their plans. You won’t regret it.
Ahh the powerful goji berry. These little, often dried, morsels are powerful fruits that I thought for a long time could only be grown in exotic places. These little monsters come packed with 18 amino acids and 8 of those are essential to your body, which means your body will not produce them on its …
Pears are thought of as a cold-climate fruit, yet they are more adaptable than you might think. One of the benefits of being a garden writer is the many comments and ideas I get from readers. Today we’ll focus on pear varieties, thanks to some insight from gardeners in the south.
These originally appeared on a survival plant post on pears I created here.
“Supposedly the ‘Chinese white pear’ (Bai li) cultivars Tsu Li (which is really ancient and supposedly good but quite slow to bear) and Ya Li (which need to be planted together, as they bloom earlier than even the pyrifolia Asians [‘apple pears’]) will both fruit with only 450 chill hours and are fireblight resistant.
I have had grocery Ya Li and am not impressed–crisp, watery, no flavor (that is also my opinion of most of the larger, pyrifolia types which someone must like because they are more expensive than aromatic, buttery European pears that taste like pears).
However, I found a delicious way to treat firm Boscs that also works with low flavor sand/oriental pears and Ya Li: Poach them in flavored syrup. The bland ones actually keep their shape better than good European types (turn a Seckel glut into pear butter instead). The flavor comes from the syrup rather than the pear, but hey, it works. (The French mostly use sweetened wine, but even stale coffee. In [Polish] Chicago, I can get blackcurrant juice or syrup and mostly use that. Vanilla and ginger blend nicely with most pears, even the aromatic ones that are mostly high chill and killed by fireblight.)
‘Warren’ is often recommended as a moderately low chill (NW FL and north), fireblight-resistant European sort similar to Bartlett, but I don’t have personal experience with it. Poached pears with vanilla ice cream may not be an option if the something hits the fan, but is nice in nicer times.”
And Carl responds:
“I have a lot of pear trees in Northwest Florida that are mostly grafted over pears I purchased in box stores or in flea markets. I pick varieties that were either developed in the deep south by normal people or were found after many years to do quite well.
Best fresh-eating pears and fire-blight-resistant so far for me are: Southern Bartlett (from Abbreville, LA), Golden Boy from Just Fruits and Exotics, and the Asian pear Olton Broussard from an old shipment to a nursery labeled ‘Oriental Pear.’ Kieffers and Orient pears for cooking/salads and for pollinating the Olton Broussards.
There are many new pears that I am trying out at the moment that are said to be very good. But the three I mentioned are about as sure of a thing as there can be in the South. The Olton Broussard may not fruit in zone 9 or during extremely warm winters in zone 8b.
The Hood is another good but early pear that is disease resistant and very low chill. It was university-developed unlike the other eating pears that I mentioned. See http://tandeecal.com/page10.htm — My Southern Pear interest group.”
Pear Varieties for the South
There are some nice field reports on pear varieties for the South at the link Carl provided. I recommend checking them out.
For North Florida (which also coincides with Southern Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, portions of Texas, and other subtropical areas), the University of Florida recommends:
The range of those pears probably goes a good bit farther north. For south of Gainesville, the only three pears recommended are:
Le Conte grows in the deep south and is apparently an excellent pear; however, it’s not as disease resistant as some varieties.
When I visited the Orange County extension office in Orlando to film my video on fruit trees for Florida, I noticed that the “Pineapple” pear was the only tree that was thriving. However, the trees were planted in a hot field.
I believe they would have done much better in a mulch-rich environment with a variety of other species, food-forest style.
Here’s that video:
In my North Florida food forest, I grew Flordahome, Pineapple, Hood, Kieffer, Baldwin, and other recommended pear varieties for the South, plus grafted branches onto some of them from an old productive pear tree of unknown variety growing in Gainesville.
People often don’t realize how far south you can grow pears.
It is good to see people having success. Don’t overlook pear trees — try some on your homestead!
Imagine homemade pear pie, pear sauce, canned pears, pear salsa … eating them fresh and sun-warmed from the tree. I never knew how good pears really were until I grew my own trees. Store-bought pears are a pale imitation of ripe fruit from the tree.
*Pear image courtesy Dave Minogue. CC license.
As a rule, when we grow plants, we follow some known practices. The practices may be based on our own experience, on the wisdom of our parents and grandparents, or on scientific research. Whatever the source, it is useful to examine the practices through the lens of the Laws of Nature, sometimes referred to as ecological principles.
The Laws of Nature are broad and substantive statements for how nature functions.
So the question becomes, “Are our plant-growing practices in harmony with or in conflict with the Laws of Nature?”
What other criteria would we use for how we treat our lands, the soils, and all ecosystems, if not the Laws of Nature?
I think of this as a pyramid, with practices on the top, undergirded by Laws of Nature criteria. Then, the practices and Laws are undergirded by our personal land-use ethics.
9 Laws of Nature
Below, I’ve listed nine Laws of Nature.
This list is not fully inclusive; some may seem to be more pertinent than others; and someone else may choose to describe them in a different manner. Nevertheless, they are all statements that hold true, with rare exceptions.
In my garden, if a practice violates a Law of Nature, I look for a substitute practice that is in harmony with the Law.
This broad topic has deep implications and is worthy of further study. The more we understand and apply these Laws, the more we can grow healthier crops, become healthier ourselves, and more fully appreciate the magnificence of nature.
#1: Everything in Nature Is Connected
It’s like a huge spider web. Every spot on the web is connected to the whole web. All the factors effecting growth and development—from the minerals in the air to the plant’s physiological processes to the soil microbes to hundreds of additional factors—are all part of the whole.
The implications of this concept are significant.
For example, apply too much nitrogen and the plants get a pretty green color, but at the same time produce an excessive amount of simple carbohydrates, which are ideal foods for the ever-present aphids.
Chemicals and other toxins that reduce soil microorganisms have impacts on soil mineralization and soil digestion processes, which all affect quality and quantity of production. For example, if your soil has a shortage of available calcium, a tomato plant is not likely to set fruit.
#2: Plants Are Designed to be Healthy
Like humans and other living organisms, plants have an immune system that makes them resistant to insects and diseases that are native to their environment. Plants become weak and sick when they become stressed because of environmental factors, inadequate nutrition, and/or exposure to toxins.
Chemical pesticides and fertilizers create plant and soil conditions that are not conducive to the desirable bacteria and fungi in the soil. The soil microbiome is part of the plant’s defense mechanism.
#3: Insects and Disease Are the Appropriate Response to the Existing Conditions
Insect problems and disease are the result of plant weakness, not the cause of plant weakness. When we improve the conditions, we improve plant resistance. Diseases are nature’s demolition crew and insects are nature’s garbage collectors. Both are appropriate when plants are stressed. Unhealthy plants actually send signals to the insects so they can perform their meaningful designed role.
#4: Mineral Nutrition Supports Plant Immunity
When plant growth is supported with proper mineral nutrition, plants will create higher-order compounds—for example, plant secondary metabolites like essential oils. This and other enzyme developments can lead to optimum levels of health and immunity.
The thousands of enzymes needed in metabolic processes each require a mineral “enzyme cofactor” to function. Without the mineral cofactors, enzyme pathways collapse and plants accumulate soluble compounds in plant sap, leading to pest infestations as plant health begins to fall apart.
#5: Microbial Metabolites Are More Efficient Than Simple Ions as a Source of Nutrition
The ultimate level of plant nutrition and immunity exists when plants can absorb the majority of their nutritional requirements as microbial metabolites. In this model, the soil microbial community serves as the plant’s digestive system. A complex community of soil microorganisms digest and break down organic residues and plant root exudates. In this digestive process, minerals are extracted from the soil mineral matrix and released in a bioavailable form that plants absorb and utilize very efficiently.
#6: When Fruit Quality Improves, Yields Increase
When management emphasis is placed on plant nutrition to improve quality, the immunity of the crop increases, creating higher yields, longer produce shelf-life, improved flavor, and reduced dependence on pesticides.
This fundamentally different approach to plant nutrition can lead to yield increases ranging from 10–30 percent. Yield increases come in not only bushels per acre, but also in higher test weights, increased protein production, and increased nutrition per acre.
#7: Healthy Plants Create Healthy Soil—an Investment in Their Own Future
It is commonly understood that healthy soils create healthy plants. The reverse is also true.
Healthy plants create healthy soils.
Healthy plants with high levels of energy can, at times, send as much as 70 percent of their total photosynthates (manifested as sugars, amino acids, and other compounds) into the roots, and then out through the roots and into the soil. Those root exudates are the fuel that feed the soil microbial community and lead to the rapid formation of organic matter.
This process, called carbon induction, is the fastest and most efficient way to sequester carbon and build soil organic matter.
It is an advantage to the plants to invest in soil building. Root exudates rapidly build humic substances. Humic compounds last in the soils for many years. In the end, the entire process ends up rapidly building soil health. It’s another win-win for nature.
#8: Genetic Variability in Plants Serves as a Buffering System
Plant variability allows for selective fitting of plant genetics to specific qualitative differences in the environment. It’s like an insurance plan, with the goal of increased probability of improved plant survival and growth. There are positive synergistic effects, above and below ground, that result from creating diversity through the mixing of species.
#9: Weeds Are a Barometer of Soil Health
We know that different crops have different soil, mineral, and soil biology requirements. So, too, with weeds. When compared to healthy domesticated crops, weeds are usually pioneering (first to enter) species that thrive in soils with imbalanced microbial and nutritional profiles. As soil health improves, crops will improve and weeds will lose their vigor. The weeds are no longer needed to correct the soil imbalances.
To sum up how nature functions in nine Laws certainly does not do justice to the topic nor does it show the magnificence of nature. Still, despite the inadequacies, the nine Laws are sufficient to provide guidance as to which gardening practices fit the Laws of Nature model.
The following list of gardening practices, which I use in my natural/organic garden in Northwest Arkansas, respect the Laws of Nature. Furthermore, the practices fit my personal land-ethics values.
I do these things to eat healthy food, to teach others, and especially for the children and future generations.
I hope you will consider joining in the transformation.
- Use no or at least minimum tillage. Never use a roto-tiller. Besides destroying the natural soil structure, roto-tillers will seriously damage the beneficial fungi in all kinds of soil situations.
- Keep the soil covered with a vegetable crop, cover crop, or some type of organic mulch at all times. This practice will promote soil microbial life.
- Keep something growing on the beds for as long as possible throughout the year. Where you can, grow crops specifically for deep-root penetration and/or high carbon production.
- Wherever possible, encourage diversity of species. Use companion planting where you can.
- Use organic fertilizers, compost (sparingly), bio-pesticides (if needed), filtered or structured water, foliar fertilizer sprays, natural biologicals for organic matter decomposition, and natural amendments (like paramagnetic rock) for plant fortification.
- Among all things, “communicate” with your garden through positive intentions. Remember: “Thoughts become actions. Choose the good ones.”
Thanks to John Kempf of Advancing Eco-Agriculture (www.advancingecoag) for some of the ideas included in this article.
Living in Florida, there are lots of tropical plants around, among them fruit trees. Our new property is on the border of Zone 8 and 9, so it is still possible to grow tropical fruits as well as some heat-tolerant stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches. We planted several different types of food-producing trees on our property in expectation of having a house there and enjoying the bounty.
Banana Tree Missteps
One of the first fruit trees we acquired for free was a banana tree. I planted it among some large palms in an area that I knew would get lots of water.
I gave it kitchen scraps from making salads and other plant-based foods, and it thrived.
I made the mistake of giving it some cooked bone scraps, and it promptly died.
My second gifted banana tree was planted on property that is still undeveloped land. We had other tropical plants growing there such as avocado, mango, and guava, and I created a barrier around the garden area with old logs and branches piled up on three sides. I thought this would be sufficient to keep it from getting too cold during the winter, but again, I was wrong, and this banana tree also bit the dust.
Read More: “The Top 10 Tropical Staple Crops”
That was almost a year ago.
When the hurricanes whipped through Florida in September, a friend of mine who had a yard full of mature banana trees lost most of them. So, while Mother Nature sometimes conspires against us, at least I am not the only one who has had problems keeping banana trees around
Another neighbor who lives about a block away had a stand of banana trees along his fence and these managed to survive the hurricanes, although the fence was completely ripped up. When I noticed that he was replacing his fence and taking out some of the banana trees, I stopped my car to ask what they were planning to do with them.
Read More: Build a Community in 9 Easy Steps
I was told that the trees were going to be discarded, so I offered to take them away with the help of my husband and his truck. About an hour later, we took the truck over and filled the back with banana trees!
Planting Rescued Trees in Winter
Knowing that winter is upon us and can drop the temperature at any time, we headed up to our property with the banana trees, a load of abandoned bamboo, several gallons of graywater, a few weeks of kitchen scraps (all plant matter), and some shovels. Along the way, we picked up a few bales of straw and potting soil—some with fertilizer, some without.
- We dug a trench about two or three feet deep and a bit more than a foot wide, then added the kitchen scraps (to provide moisture and heat from decomposition) and the potting soil.
- Next, we added the banana trees, placing them close together the way they normally grow.
- After that, we put the excavated dirt back in to hold up and secure the trees, and installed four-foot lengths of bamboo vertically around the hole and fairly close together.
- You may be wondering what the straw is for…. Insulation! We packed the inside of the bamboo enclosure with straw about three feet high, and then watered the enclosure with the graywater we brought.
Since that weekend, we have had some fiercely cold weather in Florida—two inches of snow in the Panhandle!
What about the banana trees?
They are still holding up, but even in the worst-case scenario where the tops are frozen, the bottoms should still be okay. We will trim them down at the end of February to give new growth a chance.
Once we get our ducks, the duck pond will go in nearby to feed the banana trees and the other tropical plants that will appreciate the fertilizer-rich soup that the ducks will produce. A chance meeting with a person in our area who will be moving this year brought us a free liner for the duck pond and loads of other materials that we can use to improve our homestead.
Banana trees, bamboo, pond liners, and more all came our way through a little communication!
The post Banana Trees: Tips for Planting and Growing (Even During a Cold Snap!) appeared first on The Grow Network.
You’ve been eating healthfully and sustainably as an apartment homesteader, and it’s been kind to your budget. But when most of the waste you produce is in the form of food scraps, you need to be reusing food waste rather than disposing of those food bits.
The first way that comes to mind for most people is to turn food waste into compost for your garden. Small-space composting can be an easy and cost-effective way to use your food waste.
But beyond composting, did you know you can both regrow plants from your scraps (buy once, grow forever) and eat those scraps in crafty recipes?
Check out my favorite tips and recipes below—along with a list of even more clever ways to put your food waste to good use.
Composting in Your Apartment
Everyone can compost, even in the small space of the apartment homestead.
You can use a five-gallon bucket with a lid—easily attained at any hardware store—or a regular plastic garbage bin with a lid.
Don’t let the “lack of space” excuse keep you from composting your food waste to help feed your future garden. There are cheap and easy compost containers that will fit under your kitchen sink or in a closet, or that you can make decorative to help inspire other apartment homesteaders to start their own sustainability journey.
If you’re worried about the usual culprits (bugs, using it quickly enough, and the obvious lack of space) that make composting in your apartment homestead difficult, check out this blog on The Grow Network: 5 Cheap and Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting.
Regrow From Scraps
If composting isn’t your thing just yet, why not start a whole garden of vegetables and fruit from your organic produce scraps?
From herbs and onions to leafy greens and lemon trees, you can regrow the produce you eat regularly with results that are both amazing for your homesteading prowess and kind to your homestead budget.
One of my favorite herbs to regrow is basil. I love fresh basil. I add it to Italian dishes or infuse water with it and fresh lemon slices.
You can regrow basil by simply stripping the leaves, leaving only a small stem. Place the basil in a jar of water with the stem submerged, and set it in a sunny but cool area in your apartment homestead. Change the water every other day and plant in a four-inch pot when the stems grow to approximately two inches in length.
Another easy plant to regrow is peppers. Simply save the seeds from a pepper you love and replant in a pot. Place the pot in a sunny area, and you’ll enjoy peppers (and hopefully fresh salsa!) again and again.
You can also save your tomato seeds. Rinse them and allow to dry, then plant them in a soil-filled pot. If you have a garden box, transfer your tomato plants there once the sprouts are a few inches tall. Otherwise, keep them potted and enjoy fresh tomatoes from your patio garden.
Here are some other things you can regrow from food scraps in your apartment homestead:
- Bok Choy
- Carrot Greens
- Garlic Sprouts
- Green Onions
- Sweet Potatoes
- Romaine Lettuce
Reusing Food Waste in the Kitchen: Recipes Using ‘Throwaway’ Scraps
There are so many ways to eat the kitchen scraps you would normally throw away! Just rethink “scraps” into more food! Check out these recipes for a few ideas.
Use your celery tops, onion skins, carrot peels, and other veggies to make vegetable broth. Add all vegetables to a large pot, add enough water to completely cover everything, bring to a boil, and let simmer for six to eight hours. Strain and store broth in the fridge.
Do you make your own almond milk? Grind up the leftover almonds and toast/dry in your oven to make almond flour. Use almond flour to make grain-free muffins, breads, or other baked goods.
One of my favorite recipes using almond flour is Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls—they’re also gluten free (which means you can kick the nasty pesticide-heavy wheat out of your diet and still enjoy your sweets):
Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls
2 cups almond flour
4 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp. honey (in dough); 1/4 cup honey (in filling)
1 tsp. cinnamon (in dough); 2 Tbsp. cinnamon (in filling)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix together almond flour, ground flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix in eggs and coconut milk. Then, mix in applesauce, 1 Tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
Form dough into a ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Lay a piece of wax paper down on the counter and grease with olive oil. Place the dough onto the wax paper, and roll out the dough into a thin circle.
Drizzle honey over the dough and shake the rest of the cinnamon over the top.
Cut dough into 2-inch strips. Using your knife (the dough will be sticky), roll each strip up and place in a baking pan.
Bake for around 25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.
You can turn potato skins you’d normally throw away into a salty snack you’ll crave.
Potato Skin Chips
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss leftover potato peels with olive oil and the seasonings you like.
Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15–20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Sprinkle with cheese and scallions or green onions.
If you make your own apple sauce, you probably have apple peels for days. The following recipe offers a perfect way to use them up:
Apple Honey Tea
The peels from 6 apples
3–4 cups water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Place apple peels in a sauce pan, cover with water, and add lemon juice and cinnamon. Boil for 10–15 minutes. When the liquid has become apple-colored, strain out the apple peels, add honey, and serve.
Kale stems can be too tough to eat raw.
Dry the stems and grind them into Super Green Kale Powder to add to shakes or salads.
Get Clever With Your Food Scraps
Not into the food scrap recipes? Here are a bunch of other ways to use your food scraps. Get creative!
- Infuse liquor with citrus peels for a yummy adult beverage.
- Sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal by running eggshells through it.
- Add crushed eggshells to your garden soil to give it a calcium boost.
- Run citrus peels through the garbage disposal to get rid of nasty odors.
- Use carrot peels to make carrot oil—an awesome addition to your natural, chemical-free beauty routine.
- Add citrus peels to white vinegar to use in cleaning. Infuse the vinegar with the citrus peels by letting them sit together for two weeks before straining the peels and transferring the citrusy vinegar to a spray bottle.
- Make citrus air fresheners.
- Use banana peels to shine your shoes.
- Use spent coffee grounds in your garden as pest repellent, fertilizer, or an ingredient in compost.
- You can also use your coffee grounds to help absorb food odors in the fridge. Put old grounds in a container and place it in the fridge to get rid of musty food smells.
- Coffee grounds can even be used to exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin!
Whichever ways you choose to use rather than toss your food “waste,” remember that the choice to go that extra step is a leaping bound on your journey toward personal sustainability in your apartment homestead.
(And when you’re ready to take another step and really say “goodbye” to unsustainable living, you’ll want to check out the next post in the Apartment Homesteader series, on growing your own medicine—or being your own Apartment Apothecary! Stay tuned!)
We have all heard about peak oil. But have you heard about “peak chicken?” Or peak almost everything else that composes the modern human diet—dairy, meat, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, vegetables, and sugar?
According to a study in Ecology and Society,1https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/ we’ve already been there and done that. We peaked on just about every food-related product considered critical to human survival, except farm-raised fish, in or before 2010.
Thank goodness for carp, catfish, and tilapia! If you don’t like those, you might want to start working on some new recipes and get used to them….
Once you get your head around the idea of peak food—meaning that food production is stagnant or declining—then do an Internet search for “world population clock.”
Sit back and watch as the world’s population increases before your eyes.
It is interesting to watch, until you do the math and realize that declining food production + increasing population = a big problem. Suddenly that population calculator looks a lot like a ticking time bomb, and the $60,000,000,000,000 (global public debt)2http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock/ question is: “When does it explode?”
The truth is that we don’t know if, how, or when the bubble will burst.
Reason to Worry
But according to the authors of the Ecology and Society study, we should be worried. Their findings show that 20 of the 27 key resources for human survival peaked within the 50-year period ending in 2010.
The fact that so much of our food supply peaked within the same time frame makes sense at an intuitive level. Growing food with current industrial processes requires adequate water and fertile land suited to maneuvering large equipment. When we run out of fertile land, we develop undesirable land by leveling or clearing the earth, adding synthetic fertilizer, and pumping in water for irrigation. That works until we exhaust our water stores and deplete easily accessible nitrogen sources.
As land, water, and fertilizer become less available, the natural result is that food production declines, prices go up, and distribution gets contentious.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in wealthy countries like the United States have been insulated from most of the deprivations of peak food.
- But if you live in rural Mexico, you probably already know what a 733% increase in the cost of a staple like tortillas feels like.
- Or if you’ve lived in parts of Venezuela in the last few years, you know what it’s like to go to the grocery store and find the shelves inexplicably empty.
- In India, farming-related debt is so high and weather events are destroying crops so frequently that suicide among farmers has reached epidemic levels.
These are just a few examples of peak-food-related issues already occurring around the world.
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Projections through 2022,3https://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/projections/USDAAgriculturalProjections2022.pdf “Although agricultural prices decline in the near term, continued growth in global demand for agricultural products holds prices at historically high levels.” This means that for those of us who live in the United States, Japan, or the EU, our days of food cost stability are numbered as developing countries are expected to outpace us on demand, economic growth, and strength of currency in international markets.
Additionally, the USDA’s Food Price Outlook, 2017-20184https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/ for the U.S. indicates that the most notable inflation increases in food have occurred, and will continue to occur, around the perimeter of the grocery store.
The Rise and Fall of Peak Nutrition
Poultry, dairy, eggs, seafood, and fresh fruits—the most nutritious foods available—are becoming less affordable, and this is expected to get much worse.
In response to price increases, such as the market price of beef going up 10 percent in two years in the U.S., consumers have already diverted their budgets from nutrient-dense natural foods to prepackaged, high-calorie foods, which tend to be less nutritious.
Just as it makes intuitive sense that peak food would follow quickly on the heels of peak land, we can also assume that trading fresh, healthy foods for processed foods to make ends meet will lead to peak nutrition—after which our collective public health will begin to accelerate in its decline.
So, is there anything we can do to change our food future?
In light of their disturbing findings regarding synchronous peak production, the authors of the Ecology and Society study suggest that we need a “paradigm shift” in our use of resources if we are going to be able to adapt to our post-peak realities.
That seems like a polite way of saying, “we need to radically alter our methods for growing and distributing food, or we’re in big trouble.”
The good news is that you, I, and other members of The Grow Network community are already starting to work on this. The peak calculations were based on data from the 2013 FAO Statistical Yearbook5http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3107e/i3107e00.htm. That report includes figures reported by international governments like Gross Domestic Product, and is dependent on financial information provided in tax returns and financial statements.
All the home-scale food growing taking place around the world is not included in determining these peak food calculations.
The study also does not take into consideration the black markets and barter markets that are already prevalent throughout much of the world, and may be used by two-thirds of the world’s population by 2020.
Unfortunately, for the same reasons that these data are not included in peak calculations, it is impossible to determine how much of an impact home food growers, barter economies, and black markets are making in relation to peak food.
Anecdotally, though, we know that there has been increased interest in home-based food production:
- Just look at the number of self-sufficiency publications showing up on supermarket and bookstore shelves over the last ten years.
- The number of farmers’ markets have increased by nearly 500% over the last 23 years, according to the USDA.6https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NationalCountofFMDirectory17.JPG
- There’s been an explosion in intensive growing practices—raised beds, vertical gardening, companion planting, permaculture, aquaponics—methods that use significantly less inputs than industrial agriculture while producing a superior product with excellent yields.
- The Obamas put a garden on the White House lawn, and Oprah started a farm in Maui.
These are all positive signs that a transition to more sustainable food-growing processes is already under way.
A 3-Step Solution
Taking a closer look at the details reveals that our current “peak food” problem is really more of a “peak industrial farming” problem.
What the Ecology and Society study makes absolutely clear is that we cannot feed the world using only industrial farming methods because they depend on resources that have peaked, or will peak, in the near future—such as constant nitrogen inputs, spray irrigation, and mono-cropping on cleared land.
However, we can continue to improve our outlook with regard to peak food by choosing to support a few clear, actionable solutions:
1) Diversifying What We Grow
2) Reintegrating Local Farming Into Our Communities
3) Supporting Community Food Security
Let’s take a closer look at these solutions…
#1. Diversifying What We Grow
The fact that our key resources list can be narrowed down to just 27 items that include corn and sugarcane is both an indictment of our modern diet, and a mandate for change.
The Case for Corn
Corn, for example, could be an excellent “calorie crop,” meaning that it has the potential to provide a high calorie-per-acre yield. It has culinary versatility: corn bread, polenta, grits, tortillas, eaten on the cob and off the cob, popcorn, and as a supplemental feed for poultry and pigs.
But less than 1 percent of peak corn grown today actually makes it to your table directly. The rest is inedible for humans as it is grown specifically to go into our cars as ethanol or to be used as feed for livestock like cows, which would never touch it if they tripped over it in the pasture. A good portion of the corn used in our human food supply is corn syrup that is arguably a leading contributor to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fields of monoculture corn swaying in the wind might even seem pretty—but don’t walk barefoot in those fields because they are loaded with toxic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that require protective gear to apply.
For the home grower, corn can be a fun food to grow as part of a balanced diet, if you have the space. You need to grow enough corn stalks for good cross-pollination or you need to hand-pollinate, and you have to take some extra precautions to prevent contamination from cross-pollination if you want to save your seeds.
But an even better option is to focus on more nutritious foods that don’t make the peak list.
Think about cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash. These are also versatile in soups, sauces, and pies, and they can be mashed, added to breads and pasta, roasted, and fried. Pumpkin and squash take space to grow, but there is no reason that they can’t be grown in vertical space. There are compact varieties of sweet potatoes like Bunch Porto Rico that can be grown in containers. These alternative calorie crops also store well without additional processing and they are relatively high in nutritional density, according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.7https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/95/andi-food-scores-rating-the-nutrient-density-of-foods
Mix these alternative calorie crops up with a long list of other highly nutritious foods that you can easily grow at home or pick up at your local farmers market, such as tomatoes, chard, beets, turnips, arugula, watercress, lettuce, and you will be on your way to post-peak food health and happiness.
A Not-So-Sweet Staple
Now for a not-so-sweet subject: sugar. Sugar is a staple of our diets … really?!
Why is something that significantly increases our chances of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease (according to the American Heart Association) a resource considered necessary to our survival? Sure, it’s got calories, but they are non-nutritive.
If you consume your calories as sugar, you must either overconsume other foods to make up the nutritive difference, or run a nutritive deficit. Both roads lead to poor health.
Currently, roughly 898,000 acres of sugarcane and sugar beets are grown commercially in the U.S. alone. That amount of land, replanted using intensive farming methods, could grow enough healthy vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy products to feed 400,000 people a healthy, balanced diet.
If you’ve got an incurable sweet tooth, how about satisfying it with a source that takes almost no land to produce, is good for you, and the production of which actually increases crop productivity in the immediate area? This is not some manufactured miracle sweetener that we will later discover causes cancer. It’s the oldest known sweetener on the planet, so revered at one time that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were buried with it in their tombs, while indigenous communities risked life and limb to extract it.
Of course, you guessed it: The miracle sugar alternative is raw honey.
Raw honey is loaded with good nutrition. It may also help reduce the intensity of seasonal allergies, which are expected to increase in length and severity as a result of climate change, resulting in greater losses in productivity. Keeping bees near your garden increases pollination rates and raises yields. Since every third bite of food we eat requires insect pollination, and most of this is done by honey bees, adding honey to our key resource list makes much more sense than sugar.
If you want to keep your own bees, try a top-bar hive. You can make it out of scrap materials and it does not require expensive extraction equipment. If you can’t keep bees, buy raw honey from your local beekeepers to encourage more beekeeping activity that benefits our entire food supply.
Or how about growing stevia? Stevia is an acquired taste, but once you adjust your palate, it becomes a viable alternative to sugar in beverages.
The leaves have negligible calories and can be boiled with teas and iced to make a sweet-tasting soda alternative. You can grow stevia from seeds obtained from a reputable supplier or you can grow it from cuttings. The plants do well in containers and can overwinter indoors in zones 7 and below with adequate light. When you harvest leaves by trimming the plants between leaf segments, similarly to how you harvest basil, the plants will become bushier and even more productive.
Corn and sugar are easy targets because there are delicious, available alternatives. But there are endless ways to diversify your diet:
- Swap rice for bulgur, quinoa, lentils, or split peas.
- Try goat or duck as a beef substitute.
- Use buckwheat and amaranth flour instead of wheat.
- Substitute sunflower seed meat for almonds.
Study your shopping list, identify the things you buy regularly, and then seek substitutes that can be grown in your community. You may be surprised at how much variety is available when you make the effort to look for it.
#2. Reintegrating Local Farming into our Communities
The expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never had more relevance than it does right now.
Checking Into Chicken
Chickens are fairly easy to raise at the home scale and they add fun and beauty to a landscape, so if you are seriously thinking about raising a backyard flock, now might be a good time to start. Make sure you know your LORE (laws, ordinances, rights, and entitlements) before taking the plunge. Also, talk to chicken owners you trust or do research to determine best practices in buying and keeping chickens in your area.
If it’s against the “LORE” for you to keep backyard chickens or you don’t have the space, how about rallying your community to turn underutilized common areas onto vegetable gardens and raise egg chickens or egg ducks there? Not only does this concept make common space meaningful again by doing something productive with it, but it can create opportunities for new farmers to enter the profession, and opportunities for residential “lawnscapers” to become organic “foodscapers.”
Laying Off Lawns
And this leads us to another method for countering peak food—let’s overcome our lawn addiction. North Americans devote 40,000 square miles of prime growing land to lawns.8https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/edible-ground-covers That is more land than we use to grow wheat or corn, it requires half the American residential water supply to grow, and it uses heavy doses of post-peak nitrogen and chemical products that end up soiling our waterways.
In the era of peak food, we really need to kick our lawn habit to the curb.
If you are a DIY type and you already take care of your lawn and landscaping, swap your holly hedge for blueberry bushes, replace flowers with flowering herbs, grow veggies anywhere you currently grow annuals, or build raised beds right over your lawn. Fruit trees like paw paw, jujube, Asian pear, mulberry, and elderberry are less needy than many ornamental trees like dogwood or flowering cherry, so use those as your starting points for planting a “foodscape.”
Surround the trees with a living mulch of Russian comfrey and borage. As the trees grow, prune them for good airflow and a less dense shade profile so you can grow shade-tolerant spinach, lettuce, and peas under the trees. If you have good southern exposure in front of your trees, plant fruit bushes there, plus herbs like chives, lemon balm, and mint to attract beneficial insects. You can also vine grapes up the trunks, making use of that vertical space.
If you are not the DIY type and you spend on lawnscaping, reallocate your budget toward foodscaping to support a new generation of growers.
Many professional farmers and landscapers are excellent machine operators, soil scientists, irrigation experts, and pesticide applicators. But they may not have the expertise to grow a variety of foods without the aid of heavy equipment or purchased fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
To beat peak food and take advantage of prime growing land located within our populated communities, we need more small-scale farmers and growers skilled in controlling pests without chemicals, adding fertility with organic inputs produced onsite, minimizing water usage through smart planting, and applying intensive planting methods to increase food production.
There are plenty of people who want to do this, but we need to create the economic opportunities for them to be able to make a living at it.
To get started, talk to your current landscaper about having them do the work for you. If they don’t have the skills and they aren’t willing to gain them, talk to your local agricultural or gardening extension office, farming schools, vendors at farmers markets, or nearby permaculture schools to find people who are able to help you.
To keep costs low, you can make agreements to let student farmers sell surplus crops and keep the profit in exchange for doing the work. There are also a lot of budding permaculturists who offer their consulting services at discounted rates to develop their resumes and client bases.
Finding ways to grow food in our homes and neighborhoods should be a priority for anyone concerned about peak food.
#3. Supporting Community Food Security
Planting food instead of lawns not only increases food production, but also raises awareness of the importance of doing so. A surprising number of people are not even aware of the issues surrounding peak food. An even more surprising number of people are aware of some of these issues but feel powerless to do anything about them.
By bringing food growing to the forefront of our daily lives, we create opportunities to share our knowledge and help others collaborate with us. Our window of opportunity to beat peak food gets smaller the longer we wait and as weather becomes more erratic and resources less available, so the sooner we spread the news and help others get involved, the more impact we can have.
If you have any doubts about the urgency of building food communities, look to China for guidance. The Chinese government has encouraged its food corporations, through loans and preferential economic policy, to purchase and accumulate companies from around the world that grow and process food products (e.g., Smithfield Foods). This is part of a concerted effort to ensure food security for China’s growing population. And, it might be a wise policy given the reality of peak industrial food.
Yet not all governments are this proactive, and even when food is stockpiled or production is secured, distribution systems may not be fully developed. Also, goods may be distributed with preference for specific populations, like wealthy cities and wealthy citizens.
Realistically, unlike the Chinese government, most of us here don’t have $5 billion to buy up 25% of the pork production in the U.S. “just in case.” But most of us do have some kind of grocery budget and/or a food-growing system in place. Instead of spending our money and resources to support a post-peak industrial food system, we need to redirect our efforts toward local and sustainable food-growing activities.
Home growers can set up food-swapping networks with other growers to exchange products and increase diversity. Non-growers can take their food budgets to the farmers’ market and buy direct from local producers, or pick up weekly baskets from a local CSA. Greater demand for local food means more local growers. More local growers means more food security when declining industrial farms can no longer meet the food needs of a growing population.
We can adapt our eating and growing habits, and make the paradigm shift required to overcome peak food, if we acknowledge the problem and meet the challenges individually, and in our home communities, through thoughtful effort.
We can reach critical mass and cause real change in our society.
But the clock is ticking….
(This is an updated version of a post originally published August 14, 2015.)
References [ + ]
When 30 pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers arrive at your doorstep, it’s hard not to begin eating them one cherry, one pound at a time. Juicy and perfectly ripe, these cherries were welcomed by my family and soon we were researching new and creative recipes for things to do with cherries so we could enjoy them now and months later as sweet preserves. One resource I enjoyed for both information, recipes, and even cute labels to print out for my preserves can be found on this Northwest Cherry Growers page.
My daughter requested homemade maraschino cherries, and since we all love those on our ice cream sundaes, she went to work making a healthy version with no sugar added. As these cherries marinated in the sweetened vodka mixture, I discovered the richly flavored vodka was perfect for a little nip every now and then, like, whenever I opened the refrigerator door!
These maraschino cherries are not the artificially bright red cherries from the grocery store but will definitely be an adult-friendly mix in with vanilla ice cream or eaten on their own.
Sugar-Free Maraschino Cherries
- 5½ cups (1.5lbs) Fresh Cherries, pitted with stems removed
- 1¾ cups Water
- 1 cup Vodka
- 1 tbs Stevia Extract
- 1 tbs Natural Cherry Flavor — We used the alcohol free brand from Frontier co-op, although with all this vodka, it didn’t make a difference.
- ½ tsp Almond Extract
Our first task was to pit all of these cherries. Rather than do this by hand, I purchased a cherry pitter that can handle 6 cherries at once. This is the one I chose. With as many cherries as we had, we needed to get through this task quickly, and this little gadget lived up to our expectations.
For more details about this particular recipe and complete instructions, click here.
Russian Pickled Cherries
Different and tasty!
- 4 cups sweet cherries I prefer dark, stems removed but pits left intact
- 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 cardamom pods lightly crushed with the side of a knife or a heavy pan to expose the seeds
- half of a cinnamon stick
- 8 scrapes of whole nutmeg on a rasp grater or fine microplane
- 2 whole allspice berries
- Optional, but tasty, 2 t. kirsch (cherry brandy)
In our research to find different ways to use cherries, besides the preserves detailed in this article, we came across this very unusual recipe. It takes a full month or so to let the cherries pickle, so be patient. It’s worth it.
Go to Foodie With Family for complete instructions. If you make these, my hunch is that you’ll be glad you did.
Homemade Cherry Ripe Bites
- 1/2 pounds pitted, fresh cherries
- 2 T. dry-roasted strawberry powder* or 2 T. goji berries
- 3/4 c. coconut flakes
- 1 T. coconut oil, melted
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted
Once more, my creative and Google-savvy daughter tracked down another winning recipe. We still have a few of these left in the freezer, and every once in a while the cold chocolate/cherry combination is just the perfect treat.
You’ll notice that dry-roasted strawberry powder is called for in this recipe. This, apparently, is something to be found on the grocery store shelves in Australia, where this recipe originates, but fortunately, we have freeze dried strawberries, which we put in a blender for a few seconds to make our own powder. If you don’t have freeze-dried strawberries, you can dehydrate your own and then blend to powder. Either way, this is a healthy, sugar-free recipe, which also happens to be a nicely sweet treat.
Get full instructions and more details here.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam
Without a doubt, this was our very favorite cherry recipe out of everything we tried. It’s from The Prepper’s Canning Guide by Daisy Luther, and that book is worth every penny. If you don’t have a copy yet, then today is the day to pick it up. It contains simple instructions for getting started with both water bath canning and pressure canning, but the real treasure you’ll find between the covers are the recipes.
Spiced Cherry Amaretto Jam calls for 4 pounds of 4 pounds of sweet cherries, sugar, amaretto, and a few spices, including cloves, that will make your tastebuds sing. We canned 8 jars of this and actually ended up making a second batch using kirsch in place of amaretto. That version was tasty, but we voted and the big winner was the amaretto version.
A few of the other recipes we’ve tried from Daisy’s book turned out just as good — Slow Cooker Plum Butter and Brown Sugar Peach Preserves with jalapenos, in particular. Daisy’s book is simple enough that my daughter picked up on canning quickly, and she is now the “Family Canning Queen.”
Brandied Cherry Jam
- 5 cups sweet or sour cherries, pitted
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, approximately 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons cherry brandy, such as Kirsch
Cherry Chocolate Muffins
There’s a funny story behind these muffins and it has to do with The Great British Baking Show. Are you familiar with this series? My family fell in love with the quirky, every day bakers, the even quirkier hosts and the 2 judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Strangely, the biggest fan of the show is my husband! He said, “I don’t even know why, but I could sit and watch that show all day long!” So, when his birthday came around, our daughter bought for him Paul Hollywood’s cookbook, How to Bake. Then she challenged her dad to begin baking, which he has! He now bakes Paul’s recipes for challah, White Cobb Loaf, and wholemeal bread.
With all those many pounds of fresh cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers, we wanted to make a couple of baked recipes that were out of the ordinary. The Cherry Chocolate Muffins turned out to be one of our favorite baked goodies in a long while. Very rich and buttery.
- 200 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 150 g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 200 g strong white bread flour
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Splash of milk
- 150 g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 470 g jar pitted morello cherries, drained
As a U.S. baker using our standard measuring units, you’ll need to convert grams into ounces using this Cooking Ingredients Conversion website. Be sure to jot down the U.S. measurements in your cookbook, so you can skip this time consuming step next time around.
Caster sugar is simply granulated sugar that has been ground to a super-fine consistency in a blender. Here are instructions for making your own caster sugar.
If you want to be 100% in compliance with Paul’s recipe and cannot find a jar of morello cherries, you can buy them on Amazon. However, we just used pitted fresh cherries and really liked the results. For full instructions, and because copying and pasting someone’s baking instructions isn’t kosher, you’ll find Paul’s recipe for Cherry Chocolate Muffins in his cookbook.
A second recipe from How to Bake by Paul Hollywood introduced our family to a fancy French word, clafoutis. I can tell you this, it’s not pronounced kluh-foo’-tiss.
A clafoutis is an egg-based recipe that would be perfect for a brunch. Of all the recipes we made with our shipment of cherries, this one was our least favorite, but I think it’s because we used too large of a baking dish and the final result was on the thin side. For a slightly sweet, elegant dish, it’s worth making.
- Large knob of unsalted butter for greasing
- 75 g plain flour
- 75 g caster sugar
- 300 ml full-fat milk
- 2 medium eggs, separated
- 2 T. kirsch
- 400 g ripe black cherries, pitted
- Powdered sugar for dusting
The next time you are looking for a special dish to bring to a potluck or breakfast/brunch, a clafoutis is eye-catching and just exotic enough to enhance your reputation as a chef par excellence.
We used up those 40 pounds of cherries!
When I first opened that huge box of cherries, I was a little dismayed. How on earth were we going to put them to good use? It didn’t take long at all to find amazing recipes of every kind. I want to thank Northwest Cherry Growers for providing me with the cream of the crop when it comes to fresh cherries.
The first day that you bring a fruit tree home from the nursery is an exciting one. Perhaps you’re imagining fresh, delicious fruit throughout the season. Maybe you’re already googling pie or jam recipes.
Too often, however, these trees end up with a lot of leaves and not much fruit – and it’s only then that many people ask themselves whether they should be pruning their tree.
Of course, pruning may not be the only issue at play here. You’ll need to know whether your tree needs cross-pollination or whether it is a self-pollinator. You’ll also need to have a bit of knowledge of caring for your tree with regular feeding and watering.
Which Trees Need Pruned?
The first thing you need to know is that not all fruit trees should be pruned on a yearly basis. Trees that do not require annual pruning include apples, pears, plums and cherries. This is because these trees produce their fruit on old wood.
It is only the older wood on these trees that develop stubby twigs called fruit spurs. These spurs take several years to develop and are a necessary part of fruit production.
These types of trees should never be heavily pruned, although light pruning is sometimes required. For example, if your tree is becoming overloaded with fruit, some light pruning will help thin production. Also, because fruit spurs require lots of light to stay healthy, it is a good idea to thin out some of the upper branches so that they do not shade the spurs.
You also may want to do a bit of light pruning to help with the shape and overall health of these trees.
However, other types of fruit trees do require yearly pruning, and these include apricots, peaches and nectarines. These trees will only bear fruit on wood that is one year old. When you are pruning these types of trees, you should cut back the older branches to encourage new growth.
When Is the Best Time to Prune?
Knowing when to prune your fruit trees can be a challenge, because there seem to be so many opinions on it. The truth is that there are several good times during the year to prune, and the time you choose will depend on what your goals are for your tree.
Winter pruning — The best time to do any heavy pruning or shaping is in late winter, after the tree is dormant for the season. This is because when the tree is out of dormancy, it will require all of its energy for new growth and fruit production.
Spring pruning — Spring pruning is a lighter pruning and should only be done after the fruit has set. Think of this more as thinning than pruning. By this type, you will be able to clearly see which branches are producing fruit and which are not, so you won’t have to worry about cutting off productive branches.
Additionally, if you are growing dwarf trees, light pruning will help to keep them more compact.
Summer pruning — By summer, your fruit tree will be in full leaf and it will be very easy to see if any branches have died over the winter. These should be removed to make way for new growth. The only live growth you should remove during the summer season are suckers that can grow from the root stock and divert the tree’s energy from fruit production.
If you have a fruit tree that has been neglected for a few years, you may notice that it has become overly bushy and does not produce good quality fruit. In order to get such a tree back to its peak performance, extreme corrective pruning will be needed.
The goal of such pruning will be to thin out the branches so that the remaining branches will receive proper air circulation and sunlight. In some cases, it is advisable to stretch out corrective pruning over two to three seasons.
Growing your own fruit trees can be an incredibly rewarding pastime, and understanding whether and when to prune is one of the main keys to helping ensure that your tree produces fruit year after year.
What advice would you add on pruning? Share your tips in the section below:
Most potatoes we eat today have 100 percent less vitamin A than potatoes did in the 1950s. One hundred percent. That may sound unbelievable, but it doesn’t end there.
An analysis of nutritional records done by Canada’s national newspaper found that potatoes also lost 57 percent of their vitamin C and iron, 50 percent of their riboflavin, 28 percent of their calcium, and 18 percent of their thiamine. Of the seven nutrients analyzed to determine nutrient density, only niacin levels increased in potatoes in the past 50-60 years.
This decline in nutrient density isn’t specific to potatoes. Broccoli in the 1950s had more calcium. Scientific American reported – shockingly — that it takes eight of today’s oranges to pony up the same amount of nutrients that one single orange had in the 1950s. What on earth is going on?
Nutrient density is the measurement of key nutrients in a predetermined amount of food. For example, the USDA’s “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference” indicates that 100g of “tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average” contains 237 mg of potassium, 1.2 g of fiber, and 833 IU of vitamin K. These numbers are averages, based on testing done on produce purchased around the country. Nevertheless, these averaged numbers help determine how nutrient-dense — how healthy — each type of food is. And it’s by comparing historic numbers with contemporary numbers that the decline in nutrient density can be tracked.
Agribusiness is called “agribusiness” for a reason: It’s about making money. And in its quest to make money, agribusiness has developed new varieties of vegetables, selecting for characteristics that impact the bottom line, rather than nutrient density. Cultivars are chosen for their disease resistance, suitability for the climate, maturity rate, high yields, and physical appearance.
Plants are growing bigger, but their ability to take up or process nutrients has not increased at a comparable rate. Also, as Scientific American points out, the high yields of commercial plants have a direct impact on nutrient density. It’s not unusual for commercially grown tomato plants to produce 100 tomatoes per plant. The plant itself is limited in how many nutrients it can take up and disperse among that many fruits.
Another problem that’s rooted in agribusiness is soil depletion. Intensive farming methods strip the soil of its nutrients. If the soil lacks nutrients, so too will the plants that grow in that soil. Just as the health of human beings depends on what they eat, the health (nutrient density) of vegetables depends on what they “eat” or absorb from the soil. The more nutrients they take up, the more nutrients their produce will have.
The only way to address soil depletion is to fertilize the soil. For agribusinesses that are not concerned with nutrient density, the high cost of fertilization may seem to be an unnecessary expense. But, as Scientific American points out, without re-mineralizing the soil, “each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”
The term “pesticide” collectively includes substances that control pests and/or weeds, including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Chemical pesticides are formulated to kill specific things, but once released into the soil, they also may kill beneficial microorganisms. Microbes are crucial to nutrient density because they recycle and release nutrients in the soil, which are then taken up by plants and distributed to the produce.
Once picked, vegetables start losing nutrients. Leafy greens lose their nutrients very quickly; some types of spinach may lose 90 percent of their vitamin C within 24 hours of being picked. While vegetables are in transport to grocery stores or sitting on grocery shelves, they continue to “respire;” that is, they continue to live by drawing from their nutrient stores. The longer the time between harvest and consumption, the more nutrients are used up during respiration.
Impact on Human Health
Insufficient nutrients may be one reason why we continue to crave food even after we’ve eaten full servings. And, some speculate that due to the decrease in nutrients, five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables daily is insufficient to meet our needs. Foods that are low in nutrient density may contribute to Type B malnutrition, which is prevalent in industrialized nations. While people with Type B malnutrition take in adequate calories and do not appear outwardly malnourished, the food they eat does not contain sufficient nutrients for health.
What Can We Do?
The solution? Plant a garden. Amend the soil with natural fertilizers. Besides producing healthier nutrient-dense produce, nutrient-dense soil creates a healthier plant. A healthier plant has:
- Increased pest and disease resistance.
- Higher and healthier yields.
- Produce that has more intense and complex flavor due to increased nutrients.
Soil that is rich in microorganisms and nutrients is good for plants — and good for us, too.
Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Why You Should Plant Fruit This Year On the Homestead Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! Going on 6 years of homesteading, I have learned some big lessons. Don’t get goats. Infrastructure is king. Don’t buy livestock on craigslist. But of all the lessons learned, one of the biggest regrets I have… Spending … Continue reading Why You Should Plant Fruit This Year!
Dehydrating pears is a simple and super delicious drying project. Dehydrating fruits intensifies the flavor and makes them portable, snackable, and easy to pack with you for day trips, camping, car snacks, long meetings, you get the idea. Dehydrated pears are sweet and chewy like pear candy and you’ll probably have to hide them from […]
When most people think of putting up food for winter, there are a few vegetables and fruits that immediately come to mind.
But a look through any good quality food preservation book—such as the ones published by Ball, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, or the USDA—can reveal some interesting options.
When I find myself with an overabundance of something from my garden and do not want to see it wasted at the end of the season, I am often inspired to search for creative ideas to preserve my harvest in new ways. Over the years, I have dug up a few possibilities that can surprise even some experienced home food preservationists.
Here are a few fruits and vegetables you may not have realized you can preserve:
1. Eggplant. Although there is no recommended method for canning eggplant and it is listed in the “poor to fair” category for dehydrating success, you can still enjoy your eggplant harvest all year long by freezing it. The trick is to use lemon juice in the blanch water. Add a half cup per gallon of water, process in small batches, and prepare only enough fruit for one batch at a time.
For eggplant that I plan to use for frying, I slice it one-third of an inch thick. If it is fresh from the garden and not at all overripe, I leave the skins on. Otherwise, I peel it. After blanching for 4 minutes and cooling the slices in an ice bath, I pat dry on towels and freeze in zip-top bags with wax paper between the layers.
For other uses—ratatouille, stews and casseroles—I peel the eggplant, cut it into chunks, blanch and cool in lemon water the same as with slices, spin dry in a salad spinner, and freeze in batches the right size for one recipe.
It has occurred to me that it would work well to bread it and fry it before freezing, but my garden harvest keeps me too busy for that. If you have time to do so before freezing and save yourself the trouble later, I encourage you to try it.
2. Onions and peppers. The happy surprise here is not that you can preserve them, but the fact that it is so ridiculously easy. To freeze onions, shallots and peppers of all kinds, just cut them to the size and shape in which you are most likely to use them—sliced, chopped or in wedges—put them in bags or containers, and toss them into the freezer. No blanching, no fuss. Just clean, peel, cut up and freeze. They will not be suitable for raw eating when they come out, but will be excellent for just about everything else, from casseroles to omelets to soups to stir-fries.
They can be preserved in other ways, also. Sweet peppers can be canned plain, pickled or in a variety of relishes. Hot peppers can be pickled, made into jam, or added to hot sauce. Onions, too, can be canned in vinegar, added to relishes and chutneys, and even made into marmalade!
Onions and peppers also dry very well, resulting in excellent culinary options for those off grid or with minimal freezer space.
3. Zucchini and summer squash. The truth is, you will never be able to achieve an exact duplicate of yummy fresh-out-of-the-garden squash. But if you cannot bear the thought of going without squash on pizzas and in frittatas and sautéed in olive oil for the winter months, try freezing some slices. Slice, blanch 3 minutes, cool in ice water, pat dry on towels, and pack in bags or containers with wax paper between the layers.
As with eggplant, you may do well to fry it first if you have the time.
You can also grate it and freeze it that way, for use in winter breads, cakes and cookies. I measure out what I need for my favorite recipes and freeze it in those quantities. It does not need to be blanched if it will be used in baked goods, where the texture of the end product does not matter, but be aware that it will become watery when thawed.
Do not can summer squash. Its texture does not allow for it to be safely canned by itself. There is an approved recipe for canning zucchini in pineapple and sugar, but the end result may not taste much like the vegetable you are trying to preserve.
4. Watermelon. Wait, what?! The books say you can freeze it, in seedless cubes or balls, either plain or packed into a container of heavy syrup. I admit I have never done this, and the reason is simple. I live far enough north that raising melons is iffy. When I do manage to raise a few successfully, I indulge in them right then and there.
The one method I have tried is watermelon rind preserves. It is a delicious way to use a part of the melon I would have thrown away anyway, and makes a nice winter treat.
Melons can be dried, but is not recommended. I know people who have done it, but because melons are almost all water, the result may not be satisfactory.
5. Greens. Canning greens is hard work, but the results taste great. If you have a pressure canner and are up for the task, canned greens are an excellent choice.
You also can blanch and freeze them, but you end up with a product that does not look anything like store-bought.
Another option for greens is to simply freeze as-is. If your intention is to use them in a way in which the texture is irrelevant, such as in a smoothie, and you will use them up within a few months, this is the way to go. Pack enough for a single usage into a zip-top bag, flatten to remove as much air as possible, and freeze.
6. Fruits and berries without sugar. Many people think it is necessary to make a sugar syrup for canning fruits and berries, but water or fruit juice can be used in most cases. I found a recipe for canning blueberries in water this year—I should note that I use canning recipes only from sources I know to be safe and reliable, and this one is from the National Center for Home Food Preservation—and was happy to can my home-grown blueberries using this healthy and hassle-free method.
It is wise to do some searching and read the side notes in order to find low-sugar and no-sugar options for canning fruit. Sometimes they can be found in the “special diet” section.
A word about experimentation—before you try it, ask yourself if the worst thing that can happen is about quality or safety. If it is about quality, and if you can afford the potential loss of losing the product, go ahead and try. But if it is about safety, do not risk it. What you stand to gain is not worth the possible cost.
Use this list for starters, use trusted resources, and have fun. You just never know what you might end up enjoying from your garden on a snowy January day.
What would you add to this list? Share your preserving tips in the section below:
How To Grow Square Fruit I have been gardening for years and have never come across something like this. I don’t know if I have had my head in the soil or I have literally never seen an article on how to do this but THIS IS SO COOL! Imagine growing perfectly square fruit. It …
HOW TO GROW FRUIT ALL YEAR ROUND
Do you want to grow Fruit All Year round? I know I do. As part of the new infographic, Monday’s I found one on growing fruit all year long. The infographic has 12 plants with info on how to grow them. It has the hardiness zones so you know what plants will grow in your zone.
I got really excited when I saw the Hass avocado on there. I thought I was wrong and maybe I could grow them here in Tennessee. Nope, they require zone 9-11 and I’m in a 7. Not to be discouraged there are plenty that is able to be grown in all zones. If you are really clever like Paul Wheaton you can try to grow a lemon Tree in Montana.
Growing Fruit fruit all year round means you have to find some that grow in the winter. Options are limited especially depending on your location. If you live in Austraila you will have more options thanWisconsinn. Persimmon is a potential fruit for your garden, along with cranberries and blackberries for the colder months. A good option for winter pies is the cactus pear.
This handy new infographic lays out all the best options for home-grown fruit, so that you can match your soil type and climate to your preferred fruits and create a calendar that matches your needs. Get planting today, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of fresh air, lush surroundings, and healthy fruits whose sweetness is embellished with a hint of accomplishment.
How to grow fruit all year round by team at Happy to Survive.
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See larger image The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden For every gardener desiring to add apples, pears, cherries, and other tree fruit to their landscape here are hints and solid information from a professional horticulturist and experienced fruit grower. The Backyard Orchardist includes help on selecting the best fruit trees and information about each stage of growth and development, along with tips on harvest and storage of the fruit. Those with limited space will learn about growing dwarf fruit trees in containers. Appendices include a fruit-growers monthly calendar, a trouble-shooting guide for
One of the ultimate lessons I have picked up in life is that some of the things that I find annoying are in actuality extremely useful.
Take, for example, the neighborhood fruit and nut trees, which make a mess on my property and attract hordes of birds and insects.
It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that these annoying facets of my local neighborhood in fact have a high potential for becoming a viable food source. Many times these plants come in the form of trees and overgrown bushes.
Let’s look at three trees we normally don’t think of when we hear the word “fruit.”
1. Mulberry tree
The beauty of mulberry trees is that they produce tons of fruit without much care needed, and they don’t seem to be bothered by yearly weather conditions. As evidence of this, I have a pear tree in my yard that only sporadically produces fruit due to erratic springtime weather. But no matter how cold the winter or how hot the summer, the mulberry tree continues to produce.
My neighbors have had a half dozen of these trees on their property for years, and I have gratefully been allowed to reap their benefits right along. The fruit can be a variety of colors (from white to deep purple), depending on the variety.
Given the large amount of fruit produced by these trees, traditional picking methods aren’t that cost effective when it comes to the amount of time needed.
What I did to help speed up the process was to get a large tarp and place it under a targeted limb. Then I would ascend a ladder and grab the branch and give it a good shake. The ripe fruit then fell on the tarp, where I could safely harvest and process it.
2. Black walnut tree
If you live in an area with these fast-growing trees – they grow in cold and hot climates — then you are undoubtedly aware of their fruit. The large green husked fruits drop from the trees throughout the summer months and are just waiting for you to come by on your lawnmower. While the fruit may have an unpleasant odor, the walnuts you find within are just as good as any walnut you’d get from a grocery store.
Growing up in the northeast, I have always had these trees around me. Harvesting them isn’t much of a concern for any small time forager, as the trees consistently produce tons of fruit no matter the weather. The trouble is that you need to know how to access the nuts within.
The one way I have seen that makes it easiest to get the green hulls off the fruit is to gather them all on a tarp and then let nature take its course. The green exterior will eventually turn brown and will soften in the sun after only a few days of exposure to the elements.
From here, a little experimentation is needed to figure out how to get to the nuts within. (Click here for more details.) Traditional hand-held units don’t work. People employ just about any method: from placing the walnuts in a bag and rolling over them with a car or pounding a bag full of nuts with a hammer.
A word of caution concerning black walnuts is that they can be detrimental to the surrounding environment. They are extremely fast growing and can choke out other local fauna within only a very short time.
3. Sand cherries
I opted to add these fruits several years ago as a viable addition to my growing homestead. The variety I decided on growing is exceedingly hardy to the harsh winter conditions in my region. Another bonus is that they only require a little upkeep to get them producing year after year.
Most varieties tend to grow as a bush, although some can grow as large as a small tree when they reach full maturity. The fruits are smaller and can be tarter than the traditional cherries you may be familiar with from the store. In some cases, people will opt to grow these bushes for an ornamental purpose, as the multitude of flowers found on each branch can be very visually appealing.
In my experience, several of these bushes will produce an abundance of fruit that can be used for a variety of uses. They do have pits in them, so you will need to remove them before consumption. Picking these fruits requires much the same effort as picking raspberries or other fruits found on bushes. All you really need is a bowl, clothes you aren’t overly concerned about, and a bit of time.
There are other varieties of fruit and nut trees around that may be considered to be a pest – but have gift-giving abilities. Persimmons and elderberries are two varieties that I have never had extensive experience with, although I know they have great potential as a food source in the right region.
Other viable options to consider that may already be in your area are crab apples and blackberries. Crab apples do not deserve the bad rap they have gotten over the years, as the fruit produced by these trees, while smaller than traditional apples, are still just as good as any other local variety. And while blackberries may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to harvesting potential, they can be exceedingly invasive and have thorns that may make them seem like a nuisance unless you are prepared.
The addition of any of these plants will be of benefit to your ecosystem, as long as the surrounding environment can support their addition. A lot of times you will find that nature has a way of over producing, and will give you more than you can adequately harvest at one time. This isn’t an issue, though, as any local food source you add for yourself will likewise be of benefit to the local wildlife who rely solely on what they can forage for survival.
No matter the choice you make, if you have the space and are interested in adding additional variety to your own homesteading potential, then any of these plants would be an ideal option.
What lesser-known fruit trees would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:
It’s apricot season! If you have access to an apricot tree, you know they can produce plenty of the sweet tart little guys. Where we live, apricots are a luxury, only producing on years where there is a mild enough spring not to freeze all the blossoms. And this year is one of those! I’ll be posting a few different ways to preserve them over the next couple of days so you can get some variety in how you preserve your apricot harvest this year. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to can a lot of apricots is to make apricot nectar. It’s so pretty, and tastes fantastic!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Fresh apricots
- Fruit Fresh (optional)
- Lemon Juice
- Food sieve or strainer (like you’d use for making apple sauce). Here’s a great one I’ve used, or this one makes it SO easy if you have a Kitchenaid mixer.
- Jars and canning lids
- Canning funnel
- Water bath canner
Step 1: Pick and wash your apricots.
We only hire the best 5 year old help around here.
And I set up the washing/halving station outside to save some mess in my house, so we’re washing in a big mixing bowl like this one.
Step 2: Halve the apricots, discarding the pits and trimming off any damaged parts.
Hire the kids for this part!
I put the cut apricots directly into a mixture of 2 quarts water and 2 TB Fruit Fresh to keep them from browning while we cut the rest. This is entirely optional, but does help preserve the color.
Step 3: Cook the apricots.
Put the apricot halves in a pot, adding enough water so they don’t stick to the pan, and boil them until soft. Apricots that are more ripe will soften faster.
Step 4: Run the softened apricot mixture through your food sieve.
I use my Kitchen-aid with the strainer attachment to make this super easy!
Step 5: Pour strained apricot nectar into a pot and keep it hot while you’re preparing to can it.
At this point I also put the canning lids I’ll be using into a small pot of water and heat them so they’ll be ready to put on the jars and get the canner filled with hot water as well.
Step 6: Fill jars.
Measure 1/2 cup sugar and 1 TB lemon juice into each clean quart jar. A canning funnel makes this step lots less messy! Add apricot nectar to slightly more full than the 1″ headspace you want to end with, and stir it up with a wooden spoon or long handle of any kitchen tool. Air is released from the sugar pile as you stir which will lower the level of liquid in the jar slightly. Don’t stir with metal as it could damage your jars.
Step 7: Put lids on jars.
Wipe the jar rims clean of any residue, apply the hot lids, and screw them on finger tight.
Step 8: Process jars in a water bath canner.
Process 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. I processed mine 20 minutes because we’re at about 5,800 ft. I also set up my canning station outside using a Camp Chef Explorer stove which saves a ton of mess and heat in the house! One of my canners is this larger style that will process 9 quarts at a time instead of the standard 7. Remove from canner and let cool.
Step 9: Enjoy!
If the apricot nectar is too thick for your liking or you just want to mix it up a bit, you can add water, or it is fabulous mixed with apple or pineapple juice. Yum!
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One of the best things about summertime is sitting on your front porch with a nice, cool, fruity drink in your hand: lemonade, watermelon smoothies, or even some old fashioned soda pop. Lately, a different kind of drink has become quite popular in some circles: the shrub.
I must clarify that I am not referring to a short bushy plant used in landscaping and the subject of Monty Python jokes (oddly enough most articles on shrubs always seem to mention Roger the Shrubber in some way or another.). Oh, no. I’m referring to a tasty, fruity non-alcoholic vinegar drink.
If you have never heard of a shrub, or tasted a drinking vinegar before, you might feel skeptical. That’s fair; I was skeptical at first, as well. Drinking something -on purpose – that’s mostly vinegar doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time, no matter how much sugar or fruit or whatever is in it. It wasn’t until a friend of mine tried some at a Colonial Heritage Festival and swore up and down how good it was that I thought to reconsider.
Shrubs have been around for a long time, and were very popular in 17th Century Europe and in Colonial America. At that time, shrub syrup was made by steeping fruit (usually berries) in vinegar for a period of time as a method of preservation. Modern shrubs are made slightly differently, but nonetheless, I always enjoy these older kinds of recipes because trying them out feels like a discovery, a way of reconnecting with the distant past.
READ MORE: Connect with the past by collecting and reading old cookbooks! Here’s a list of reasons why this is a great idea.
I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I really like fancy beverages. When I heard about how easy it was to make shrubs at home, I gave it a whirl. It’s cherry season, and since I’ve already done cherry jam, cherry preserves, and cherry pie filing, I decided to do something a little different. Cherry shrub syrup appeared in my fridge.
But then I thought, why stop there? Since shrub syrup is so easy to make, why not make a variety of shrubs?
So I did.
Shrub-making is an excellent way to use any fruit that might not be quite at its best. I had some iffy-looking nectarines in the fruit bowl on my counter, so I made a nectarine shrub. And I had some freezer-burned strawberries in my freezer, so I made a strawberry/ balsamic shrub. The mint I had growing in my backyard didn’t have anything wrong with it, per se, but I made a lemon-mint shrub with it anyway. In addition to the citrus flesh, peel the zest and add that to the mixture, as well. The simplicity and versatility of something like shrub syrup lends itself to all kinds of possibilities, including the occasional “adult beverage“, if you’re so inclined.
How To Make A Shrub Syrup
The really appealing thing about shrub drinks is how easy they are to make.
1 cup fruit, roughly chopped. Stone fruit should be pitted, berries or cherries can be lightly crushed.
1 cup sugar (plain white granulated sugar is easiest, but you can experiment with brown sugar)
1 cup apple cider vinegar. Red wine, white wine, or other fruit-based vinegars make good substitutions. Avoid plain old white vinegar.
Combine your fruit and sugar in a bowl. At first, it will look rather clumpy. Keep it in the fridge for a day or two, taking it out every so often for a good stir. The sugar acts as a desiccant, and will draw out the liquid from the fruit. When it’s ready, your concoction will begin to look like fruit floating around in syrup.
Sometimes this will take a day or two, or the process could take only a few hours. The graphic on the right shows the progression from plain cherries to your shrub syrup, moving clockwise. Strain with a simple wire mesh strainer into a separate container, and add your vinegar. Voila! Done!
Hot Tip: Save the sugared fruit! It makes a great addition to plain yogurt or oatmeal, or can be eaten straight as a snack. Especially popular with children.
Your shrub syrup will keep in your fridge for several months. If it becomes slimy or looks like it’s beginning to ferment (watch for signs of bubbles!), discard immediately. For best results, wait for the shrub to mellow in the fridge for a few days before using. This will allow the sharp vinegar flavor to meld with the fruit and sugar. Serve with club soda, still water, or, if you feel like it, use as an ingredient in the cocktail of your choice. Two to three tablespoons of shrub syrup is more than sufficient to flavor a full-sized glass of club soda.
The Popular Reception
As a word of warning, not everyone I’ve met likes this kind of drink. My husband thought I was playing a joke on him when I handed him a glass of nectarine shrub, and a friend of mine politely declined her invitation to taste it at all. My older kids disliked the flavor immensely when I used a little of balsamic vinegar in addition to the apple cider vinegar. However, my 3-year-old likes it a lot.
Even with concerns that the acid in the vinegar is probably not the best for your teeth, it’s not any worse than soda pop or Crystal Lite, and has a lot less sugar, too. If you’re concerned about the effects of vinegar on your teeth, just rinse your mouth out with water.
On the whole, I found the shrub drinks from the original recipe to be a little too vinegary for my taste. As an intellectual exercise, I made another version of the cherry shrub, this time using more fruit and less vinegar. The resulting drink was much better received by all parties, and I liked it better myself. I call it the “Crystal Lite” version, because the smaller amount of vinegar adds just enough tartness to bring out the sweetness of the fruit, but not enough to make you question why you thought drinking vinegar was a good idea in the first place. It probably is some kind of testament to our sugar-obsessed society that my kids liked this version so much better. Perhaps it isn’t very traditional, but I can’t seem to feel bad about it.
Cherry Shrub, Crystal Lite Version
1 1/2 cup sweet northwestern cherries, pitted
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 T. Balsamic Vinegar
Lime wedges and/ or mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Use the same instructions as above. This version of the shrub is much more reminiscent of a regular soft drink, particularly when served with club soda. However, it has much, much less sugar than traditional soda pop, and uses no artificial colors or flavors.
If you’ve ever tried making a shrub syrup, what kind have you tried?
Fruit-loving foragers unite! Just when you think you have tried all berries possible, there always seems to be one more to spark some interest. Do you remember ever singing about going “’round the mulberry bush” as a young child? Well, these berries are more than just part of a youthful song. Those berries are real, and they are perfect for a refreshing summer snack, jams, pies and all sorts of other baking and cooking ideas. Let’s take a look at this tasty berry.
These berries look a lot like large blackberries, but mulberries grow on trees – despite what the song says — instead of bushes. It only takes a few years from seed for Mulberry trees to mature into a good, fruitful tree.
There are black, red and white mulberries. When ripe, red mulberries turn into a dark purple or black color. The white type turn from green to their white shade when they are ready to be picked. Black mulberries turn from green to black.
The red mulberry is native to North America, although it is mostly found in areas such as the Niagara Escarpment now and is classified in Canada as endangered (although common in the US). The black mulberry is native to Eurasia, and the white variation comes from Asia where silkworms eat mulberry leaves.
Mulberries have two types of leaves, and both can be found on a single tree. The leaves are classified as lobed and unlobed. Mulberries are similar to blackberries in taste, but yet still very different. Mulberries aren’t as tart as blackberries, but rather sweet. They are full of vitamin C and iron. They boost the immune system with phytonutrients and carbohydrates.
Where to Find Them
You will be able to find mulberries at the end of spring or beginning of summer. Remember, mulberries grow on trees. These trees can usually be found at the edge of a wood, in neighborhoods and along fences, usually near water such as a creek. They seem to grow anywhere, even in places other plants won’t.
Mulberries are aggressive and tireless growers, especially in moist, rich soil and lots of sun. They like the sun.
Mulberry trees can become quite large over time. Although white and red mulberries are found in the United States, white mulberries are far more rare.
As with all types of plant or berry foraging, try to locate fruit away from busy roads or places where chemicals have been sprayed. Plants and trees near such areas will absorb the car fumes and dust. You will want the healthiest and most organic food possible.
The fruit on the trees will ripen at different times, so you can gather fruit regularly throughout the season. Mulberries are very fragile and make traveling with them very difficult. They are better to eat right away, after washing.
Picking by hand is still the best way to get the fruit. Be aware: The skin of Mulberries is very thin and you will most likely end up with stains on your hands and fingers (and anything else you touch). Another way you can harvest mulberries is to place a tarp under the tree and gently, but firmly, shake the branches with the ripest fruit. Mulberries will fall readily when they are ripe. Gather up the tarp and place berries in a container. Pick one that will be easy to carry, and rinse the berries when you get home. If presentation of the food is important, then take off the small green stems before eating (although you can eat them, too).
Note: Make sure you only pick mature fruit, as mulberries can act as a laxative when they are not ripe and can be slightly toxic.
Remember the thin skin on the berries? Take care when transporting mulberries home after harvesting. Their own weight can crush those underneath, which can create a big mess if you aren’t ready. Keep this in mind when you are planning harvesting containers.
You can store mulberries at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They only will last a few days at room temperature, and up to a week in the fridge.
Doesn’t just reading about mulberries make you want to grab a basket and spend a day searching for the sweet jewels of nature? Why not make foraging for mulberries part of a family adventure, and enjoy all the yummy bounty you find? The unique look and taste of the mulberry quickly makes this fruit an absolute favorite. You’ll be able to make up a new verse to the childhood mulberry song, maybe one about how good the berries taste!
Do you have any mulberry foraging tips? Share them in the section below:
It happens in households across the United States every day. A trip to the grocery store is unpacked at home with the goal of simply getting things put away and the chore completed.
Fresh, shiny new cans of fruits and vegetables are placed in the front of the pantry shelves, pushing to the rear their more senior shelf mates. Perishables like pickles, butter and produce likely get the same treatment, smothering into obscurity the current “close to expiration” refrigerator residents.
The result? A lot of nutritious and nourishing food ending up spoiled and relegated to the wastebasket or compost bin.
And although this example of poor inventory control and rotation is unfortunate, when this same scenario plays out in your rather expansive stockpile, the results can be devastating to your preparedness and your wallet.
A scattered approach to your inventory organization can also lead to missing essentials or considerable overstocks of certain items.
To help you avoid such an avoidable catastrophe, we have compiled a list of mistakes often made — mistakes that could lead to disaster when you most need your stockpile.
1. Not keeping inventory.
This does not have to be an elaborate system which consumes a considerable amount of your time and effort. A simple legal pad strategically hung from the door of your storage area or pantry will suffice.
The end-game here is to simply be able to tell, at a glance, what exactly you have and what you are missing.
Divide the sheet into columns which represent major categories of food. Then simply list what you have, the quantity that was stocked and the date. If you are feeling particularly ambitious and want to refine your document, a straightforward spreadsheet or graph paper document could include details like expiration date and shelving location.
The keys here are to keep the process simple and be diligent in using it. All the planning and design effort in the world will be useless if it simply hangs there unused.
2. Not making it visible.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? There is a tendency for people to forget that which they cannot see. This means that if you have a case of canned green beans stuffed in a plastic tote and shoved back to the rear of your bottom pantry shelf, more likely than not you will forget it is there.
Whenever possible, keep your stocked inventory items visible. There are a ton of ready-to-install options available in the marketplace, but a touch of ingenuity and some handiwork can produce some great solutions for things like vertical can storage and the like.
Keeping things visible makes future stock checks prior to the grocery run much easier.
3. Not using it.
It often surprises me when I learn of stockpilers who do not regularly use their own inventory. In these cases, the stockpile inventory is seen as an “emergency only” resource and hence, is locked up and off-limits.
While we are not saying to eat up your stock to the point that your inventory dwindles, we are recommending that the food you put away into stockpiles be used and replenished on a regular basis.
No matter how well canned or preserved, food in any of its forms has a viable shelf life. Before going to the grocery store, draw from your stockpile inventory and replace it with a fresh purchase that has a more advanced expiration date.
Don’t forget to put that new stock in the back of the rotation and note the addition to your inventory sheet.
4. Not protecting it.
The locations and conditions of your stockpile are every bit as important as the inventory levels or organization. Food that has been damaged by a leaking ceiling or wall or chewed on by a winter-hungry rodent is of little use to the human inhabitants of the home.
Cool, dry and dark are the three precepts to follow when at all possible. Certain produce such as potatoes and onions do well in root cellars but, depending on humidity levels, can root prematurely.
Lastly, if your pantry or stockpile area is vulnerable to rodent visitors, consider using quality, tight-sealing plastic totes to protect your bags of grains, pasta and the like from visiting diners.
What stockpiling advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Fruit trees are no longer just a decorative plant in Venezuela; they are now the only source of food for some people.
A major food shortage that has emptied supermarket shelves and forced some in the city to eat dogs and cats has led others to forage – and some are doing it successfully.
For these Venezuelans, the primary source of food now is mango, coconut and papaya trees.
“Sometimes when there’s nothing in the fridge, I grab two mangoes,” 13-year old Juany Iznaga told Reuters. “Mangoes help a little; they fill you up.”
In recent years it was common to get the fruit only when wanting a sweet treat. Often, fruit would rot.
Now, Venezuelans are regularly using long poles to knock mangoes and other fruit such as papayas off trees. The nation’s economy has collapsed.
“Now we can’t throw anything away, not even the skin,” Iris Garcia said of mangoes.
In fact, a black market for fruit has developed in Venezuela. As supermarket shelves empty, many people are making ends meet by selling fruit on street corners.
“This work is easier,” Josue Moreno said. Moreno quit his job at a bottled water factory to sell coconuts on the street. “Coconuts take care of themselves; you don’t have to do anything.”
When he worked at the bottled water plant, Moreno made just $7 a month on the black market rate, Reuters reported.
Another man, Adrian Vega, is eating a diet of crackers topped with mangoes.
“And by the looks of it,” he told the news service, “I’ll be eating mangoes for several more days because that’s what we have.”
Do you think such a scenario could ever happen in the US? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Anyone can have beautiful fruit trees on their property, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space.
It is called “espalier trees,” a growing method that goes back to 1400 BC, when it was used in ancient Egypt. Espalier, if you’re curious, is just a fancy French-Italian way to say “grow flat.”
Your espalier apple tree would be pruned in such a way that it would lay flat against the wall or fence. They would be grown similarly to grapes in a vineyard, and it’s not limited to apple trees. This way of training trees works well on just about most trees, including peaches, pears and figs.
There are several reasons homesteaders grow espalier trees:
- The trees grow in tight spaces.
- The heat of a wall protects them from frost.
- They are easy to pick.
- You can grow more varieties of trees in a given area.
- Many people consider them artistic and visually appealing.
One other great reason to grow espalier trees is to provide air flow, which helps prevent disease. You also have an easier time to inspect the tree and fruit, making it simpler to maintain and pick off pests you may not have seen in a full tree.
Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees are preferable. Spur-bearing apple trees are the best fruit producers when grown this way. Their slower growth and stature make it a great candidate. These trees will produce as much fruit as a full-sized tree.
This growing process can take years to complete, but that is just the nature of the game when dealing with fruit trees. In addition to the three, here is a list of supplies you will need:
- Wire cutter
- Pruning shears
- 12-gauge wire
- 3/16-inch eye bolts
- Masonry wall mounts for eye bolts if using a concrete wall to anchor
- Drill gun with 3/16-inch drill for eye bolts
Below is how you can espalier at home. As a quick note, the basics of the process are to prune the tree into the desired shape, which is typically three arms on each side. Get as basic or creative as you like.
Mark the wall that you will have your tree against. Make one vertical line (about five-feet long) representing the tree, and then make three horizontal lines (12-feet long) bisecting the vertical line (so you have six feet on each side) representing your branches.
The first horizontal line should be about 18 inches from where the crown of the tree will be, the second horizontal line at 35 inches from the crown, and the third line at 54 inches from the crown.
Of course, these figures can be adjusted for your situation.
Place your eye bolt anchors at the ends of the horizontal lines you made, and string your wire through as tightly as possible. You are going to train your tree to put new branches along the wire with ties as they grow.
Now you have the basic idea of the future shape of your tree. Dig your hole as per the directions that came with your plant, at the base of the vertical line. The scary part is about to happen. Use pruning shears to cut 2-4 inches above the lowest wire off your tree. Don’t worry, this is the way things have to be. Even if you have a 6-foot tree, go ahead and cut it.
As your tree starts to grow new limbs, only keep the two limbs closest to the bottom horizontal wires. Prune all other side branches, and just let the leader grow to the second set of horizontal wires. Repeat the process of cutting side branches, just leaving the two branches closest to the horizontal wires.
Make sure not to wait too long to train the side branches. Working with them when they are soft and bendable assures you don’t damage the branches. Soon you will have some great looking espalier trees and more fruit in smaller spaces!
Have you ever grown an espalier tree? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
My kids love bananas. Until they don’t. And they never tell me when the banana consumption will spontaneously shut off, so occasionally, I’m left with a bunch of over ripe bananas. When there are 4-5 of them, we make this amazing super simple banana applesauce bread. It does help rotate some of your food storage items, but the recipe itself is not food storage friendly without some substitutions. I’ll cover those at the end so you can make this out of food storage if you want to!
This bread is dense, moist, and can be cut and toasted without falling apart. It’s the perfect way to use up those bananas.
Super Easy Banana Applesauce Bread Recipe
Makes 2 loaves
- 4 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 4-5 bananas)
- 1 can or pint jar applesauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, eggs, bananas, and applesauce. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture just enough to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
Bake for 60-65 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
For some bonus preparedness fun, bake your banana bread in a solar oven!
Slice and enjoy!
Baked loaves can be frozen if you can keep the kids away from them long enough to justify saving one for later!
To make this recipe food storage friendly:
Substitute 1 cup oil for the butter
Substitute whole egg powder for eggs (4 TB powder + 8 TB water = 4 eggs, or follow mixing directions on your egg powder)
Substitute 2 1/3 cup freeze dried bananas. To use freeze dried bananas for banana puree: Measure 2 1/3 cups dry bananas, loosely packed in the cups. Crush or puree them dry into a powder. Add enough liquid to get back to 2 1/3 cups and let sit 10 minutes to fully hydrate.
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How much food does your family eat in a year? The answer may surprise you, unless you’ve been planning a garden to feed them. Deciding how much to plant can make the difference between a lean year and a fat one. Careful planning and recordkeeping are essential if you want to live off your land.
When planning your homestead, it can be useful to know a total goal for food production. According to the USDA, the average American eats about 825 pounds of food a year, plus sweeteners. About 275 pounds of the average diet are derived from fresh and preserved fruit and vegetables. This number only accounts for edible food weight, however; in reality, you must grow much more. The USDA documents that nearly twice as much food is grown. The extra weight is comprised of parts not used, spoilage and wastage. Assuming you will do better than the average Joe at using up all the parts of what you grow, you should account for a 30 percent loss rate. That means you will need to grow at least 360 pounds of fruits and vegetables per person. You may also need to grow food for livestock, which is not accounted for here. If you plan to be truly self-sufficient, the remaining food sources will be whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs, legumes and/or meat.
If you account for our homesteader average loss, then, you will need to produce around 1,200 pounds of food per person to be completely self-sufficient, divided up into the appropriate categories to provide complete nutrition. Here’s a quick breakdown of the average American diet, in pounds (2013 values):
|Food Source||Per Capita Pounds / Year (primary weight)||Per Capita Pounds / Year (adjusted for measured loss)|
|Meat, fish, eggs, nuts||311||163|
|Fats and Oils**||98||63|
|Added Sugar / Sweetener||128||75|
*Not including rice. **2010 values.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, be aware that they will account for 25 percent of your food, and should not take up 80 percent of your labor. It is important to be sensible about the crops you intend to grow. Your climate and the lay of your land can have a huge impact on yields; some crops will do better than others, and you may have the time and resources available to more easily preserve or store some foods and not others. Plan to grow a diverse nutritional base from crops that yield a lot on your land, rather than providing unlimited variety.
The USDA publishes a guide for planning for vegetable growing. The guide comes complete with formulas and worksheets to help you figure out what you will need to grow. The following chart from the guide sums up per-person annual yields and plantings for several popular vegetables; note that amounts for preserving are IN ADDITION to fresh-eaten produce. If your family won’t eat something, or if you know it won’t easily grow, substitute the equivalent amount of something else nutritionally similar. Also note that these are average yields; if you practice biointensive gardening, or if you live in climates not suited to the vegetable listed, then you will experience different yields.
|Vegetable||Estimated need (lbs)per person||Approximate rowlength toplant per person||Approximateyield (lbs) per foot of row||Amount of freshproduce (lbs) neededFor 1 quart preserved *|
|Fresh||If Preserving||Fresh||If Preserving||Canned||Frozen|
|Asparagus||6||6||10 ft||10 ft||0.6||4||2-3|
|Bean, lima (bush)||2-4||4-5||7-13 ft||13-17 ft||.30 (shelled)||4-5||4-5|
|Snap, Dry & Pole Beans||8||8-15||8 ft||8-15 ft||1||1.5-2||1.5-2|
|Beets||5-10||10-15||5-10 ft||10-15 ft||1||2.5-3||2.5-3|
|Broccoli||8||8-10||10 ft||10-13 ft||0.8||–||2-3|
|Cabbage||10||10-15||5 ft||5-8 ft||2||3 (sauerkraut)||–|
|Carrots||5-10||10-15||5-10 ft||10-15 ft||1||2.5-3||2.5-3|
|Cauliflower||8||8-10||10 ft||10-13 ft||0.8||–||2-3|
|Chard||3-5||5-6||2-3 ft||3-4 ft||1.5||2-6||2-6|
|Corn, Sweet||12-24 (ears)||24-60 (ears)||6-12 ft||12-30 ft||2 (ears)||4-5||4-5|
|Cucumbers||5-10||10-15||5-10 ft||10-15 ft||1||1.5-2||–|
|Onions||5-10||10-15||3-7 ft||7-10 ft||1.5||2-3||2-3|
|Peas, pod||3-5||5-10||4-6 ft||6-13 ft||0.8||–||4-5|
|Peas, shelled||3-5||5-10||6-10 ft||10-20 ft||0.5||4-5||4-5|
|Peppers||3||3-10||2 ft||2-7 ft||1.5||2||2|
|Potatoes||50-100||50-100||25-50 ft||25-50 ft||2||5||–|
|Pumpkins, Rutabaga||10-20||10-20||5-10 ft||5-10 ft||2||2-2.5||2-2.5|
|Spinach||2-5||5-8||3-6 ft||6-10 ft||0.8||2-3||2-3|
|Squash, summer||5-7||7-10||3-4 ft||4-5 ft||2||2.5-3||2-3|
|Squash, winter||10-20||10-20||5-10 ft||5-10 ft||2||2||3|
|Tomato||20||20-40||8 ft||8-16 ft||2.5||3||–|
|Turnip||5-10||5-10||3-5 ft||3-5 ft||2||–||2.5-3|
Unfortunately, the guide did not address popular fruits. Yields for fruit can be harder to predict, but a thorough guide was published by Penn State and is available here.
Some average yields for fruit-bearing plants are listed below to aid in your planning:
(lbs./100 sq. ft.)
Effective planning can guarantee your family won’t go hungry. Don’t expect everything to happen in a single growing season; take copious notes and make adjustments each year to grow the most efficient crops for your land. With care and diligence, you can produce enough food for a year.
What advice would you add for growing enough food to feed a family for a year? Share your advice in the section below:
One of my favorite memories from my son’s early childhood was coming home one day and finding him hosting a kiddie cocktail party in our garage. Ever hospitable, he had provided each of his little friends with a bottle of water or juice. The kids, ages 3-5, were standing around, sipping their drinks, and, so help me, it truly looked like quite a sophisticated gathering, minus any tipsy behavior!
While my kids were growing up, we always kept a bottle of juice on hand in the fridge, since, sometimes, kids want something other than water or milk. I knew to stay away from sugary drinks and always opted for juices that contained only natural sugar from the fruit itself, such as Mott’s® and my creative offspring turned them into slushies and frozen juice pops.
This week my family revisited our juice cocktail party days with Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice. It’s a new flavor with no added sugar and a ton of Vitamin C. It’s slightly sweet and tart and, mixed with chilled, diet lemon-lime soda, was refreshing on a warm spring day in Texas.
Try Mott’s — Enter a giveaway!
Here at The Survival Mom, we spend a lot of time talking about saving money and raising smart, healthy, and prepared kids, and this giveaway will help you do both. Mott’s® is sponsoring a social media sweepstakes to promote their products, and winners receive a $100 Walmart gift card!
TIP: A Mott’s individual juice box inside a zipped plastic bag is a handy drink to add to a kid’s emergency kit. The natural sugars will give her a boost and the drink will help keep her hydrated.
To enter this contest, post a photo with Mott’s Apple Cherry Juice and tell why it is perfect for meal time (give the new Apple Cherry juice a try!). Share it on Instagram and/or Twitter, and use the hashtags #MottsMoments and #sweepstakes to make your entry official. Both hashtags are required. This sweepstakes ends on June 2, 2016.
Last, register your social media share at THIS LINK. Be sure to include your Instagram or Twitter handle (mine is @TheSurvivalMom on Twitter and thesurvivalmom on Instagram), name, and email in order for Mott’s to contact you if you win. And I do hope at least one of my readers is a winner!
The Survival Mom and juice bottles
If I were to tell you only about this fun sweepstakes, I wouldn’t be The Survival Mom! Here are a few survival tips you can use:
- For food storage purposes, bottled juices are shelf stable, unopened, for at least 3 months. Store in a cool, dark location.
- Over the years, I have repurposed empty juice bottles in a couple of different ways. I refilled them with water for a stash of emergency water, but usually, I reuse them to store dry foods, such as rice, cornmeal, and oats. The plastic bottles are made of food safe PET material. To extend the shelf life of the food so it doesn’t lose flavor, texture, or nutrients, I keep it stored at the coolest temperatures possible and in a dark location.
- Empty juice bottles are also handy for keeping a small supply of pet food and kitty litter in the trunk of the car. Unlike a cardboard box or paper bag, the heavy duty plastic won’t rip and the tightly capped bottle insures that spillage is unlikely.
- In an extreme scenario, juice provides additional nutrients your body needs that plain water doesn’t. For example, the Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice contains 120% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.
- Any mylar drink pouch can be repurposed to store small amounts of food, laundry soap, or other dry goods. Click here for complete instructions.
How about you? Have you tried the new Mott’s® Apple Cherry juice? What do you look for in a fruit juice for your family and is it part of your food storage?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mott’s®. The opinions and text are all mine.
Growing Fruits All Year Long There is no denying when it comes to the fact that fruits are good for our body. Some fruits have their health benefit “specialties” but regularly including them in one’s diet will ensure an all around health boost. But, even better than just consuming fruits would be growing them in … Continue reading Growing Fruits All Year Long!
Summer brings with it all the summer fruits – like peaches! Peaches have great antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, they’re full of fiber, and they can even help prevent ailments from digestive issues to certain kinds of cancer!
Here are 30 different ways you can use peaches with links to recipes:
2. Peach salsa
3. Peach butter
12. Peach preserves
13. Peach muffins
15. Canned peaches
17. Peach pound cake
18. Peach smoothie
19. Pickled peaches
20. Peach caprese
22. Peach meatloaf
23. Peach stir fry
How To Grow Fruit All Year Round Eating fruits help provide nutrients that our body needs but growing them at home is another story. Having fruit trees right in our backyard adds physical activity to our daily routine and also gives us more control over the chemicals that get into the fruits. However, not a …
How to Grow Fruit All Year Long
(This article was shared with us by happytosurvive.com)
Everybody knows that fruit is good for us, but it is a rarer thing to hear the specific health advantages of home-grown fruit. In fact, taking to the garden to produce your household fruit supply is an all-round health-booster, promoting physical activity, giving control over fertilizers and pesticides, and hopefully encouraging greater consumption of the good stuff. Thankfully, it is not as tricky to keep a supply of local fruit running from autumn through to summer as one might imagine.
Raspberries, blueberries and peaches, for example, should come to fruition just in time to liven up summer cocktails, and it’s possible to harvest those raspberries after just one year of cultivation. Your peach tree will need to go somewhere that the sun can reach it, whereas berries tend to be able to handle a bit of shade.
The exotic persimmon may not immediately leap to mind as a potential fruit for your garden, but along with cranberries and blackberries it can be relied upon to brighten up the colder months. The cactus pear is a good option when thinking ahead to winter pies for those with sandy soil.
And it’s never a bad time for a banana. Keep the crop protected in cold times, and those banana plants will reward you all year round – and without the risk of alien predators leaping out at you!
If you’re worried that you don’t have enough space to make home-grown fruit work, think again. Potted fruit trees and trellises for wall-grown bushes are great ways to maximise space and brighten up a cramped yard. Pruning actually encourages a greater yield, making a smaller plot both manageable and, ahem, fruitful.
Our handy new infographic lays out all the best options for home-grown fruit, so that you can match your soil type and climate to your preferred fruits and create a calendar that matches your needs. Get planting today, and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of fresh air, lush surroundings, and healthy fruits whose sweetness is embellished with a hint of accomplishment.
How to grow fruit all year round by team at Happy to Survive.
A few years ago, I attended a class taught by Marta Waddell, a Master Gardener in Arizona. I’ve referred to my class notes over and over again, and decided they were good enough to pass along to you!
February isn’t too early to think about gardening! It’s the perfect time to start planning, especially since some plants need to be started inside weeks before the final frost.
- Practice eating what’s in season locally. This will get your family used to eating seasonal produce, and, therefore, what you can grow in your own garden.
- Learn what herbs might help your family’s health issues.
- Marta recommends Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman.
- If you’re worried about too much shade in your garden area, plant dwarf trees rather than full-size trees.
- All heirloom plants are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated plants are heirloom.
- Try more than one variety of each vegetable to see what gives you the best results.
- Calorie crops, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, use much less space than grains.
- For survival, study what the poorest farmers in third world countries grow: Sorghum, peanuts, and chickpeas are three such crops.
- Another good book for those living in harsh desert climates is Extreme Gardening by David Owens.
- High quality tools are a must. Keep a bucket filled with sand and a bit of motor oil mixed in to clean off dirty gardening tools.
- Solarize your garden area to get rid of weeds a few weeks before planting season. Clear out weeds or scalp mow your garden beds. Moisten the ground well, and cover with a large sheet of clear plastic. Weight the plastic down around the edges with rocks or bricks. Weed seeds will germinate, but the heat will kill them. Leave the plastic sheet on for 6-8 weeks. This will reduce the rate of weed seed germination by 60-80%.
- A wire mesh trash can is good for sifting compost.
- Test the germination rate of your seeds yourself. Place ten seeds on a wet cloth. Cover and wait ten days. If eight seeds have sprouted, your germination rate is 80%. If only 5 have sprouted, the rate is 50%, and so on.
- Store seeds in the refrigerator in an airtight container. “Frost free” will draw moisture from seeds.
- It isn’t legal to save seeds that have been patented.
- Heat and moisture are enemies of seeds. The seeds may sprout, but they won’t grow anything. Stored properly, some seeds can last 5-10 years, but most will last just 2-3 years. Younger seeds will grow better.
- Mail order companies are best when it comes to buying seeds because they store their seeds in optimal conditions.
- Just because a nursery is selling certain plants does not mean that particular variety grows well in your area. They are selling what they know people will buy.
- Never work the soil when it is wet or very dry and have your soil tested so you will know what additives it needs.
- Recyling your kitchen waste by adding it to a compost pile is great but won’t necessarily result in balanced soil.
- Transplant when it’s either a cloudy day or at dusk.
- Plan your garden so you’re planting for a staggered harvest. Otherwise, you may be harvesting tons of zucchini, for example, during a single week and then have to wait several more weeks for another zucchini harvest.
- Don’t water at night, and be sure to water the soil, not the leaves.
- Consider using gray water or water from rain barrels. Drip hoses are good for raised beds.
- A couple tablespoons of oil or a teaspoon of soap in a rain barrel will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- The best pest control is the eyes and hands of the gardener. Use soapy water to get rid of many types of pests. (Don’t use a soap that contains citrus oils/ingredients.) Planting marigolds in the vegetable garden is another way to deter pests.
- Another of her favorite books, The Edible Ornamental Garden by John E. Bryan and Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon.
Originally published June 13, 2011.
Feeling hungry for some gardening adventures this winter? What could pass time and fill your belly with healthy food better than growing your own fruit? You can grow fruit anywhere in the house. If there is a sunroom, porch, conservatory or just a few empty window sills, you can do it.
It may surprise you to know that many types of fruit, like peaches and nectarines, often grow extremely well indoors. Indoor fruit tends to flower and fruit sooner than usual.
Growing Fruit Plants
You can easily grow fruits organically indoors, and you will be able to enjoy fresh fruit year-round, as well as the fresh fragrances of nature. Saving money is also a bonus of growing your own fruit. All you need is a sunny window or area, some containers or pot and some healthy soil. Plants will need to be transplanted into larger pots or containers as they grow bigger, and fruit shrub and trees will need to be pruned.
Here are some fruit ideas to get started on your indoor fruit supply.
- Mulberries: Known as a slow-grower, mulberries are beautiful to look at and great to taste. The black mulberry ripens usually in early summer. They like indirect, but bright sunlight with good ventilation. Mulberries do best between temperatures of 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 13 to 21 degrees Celsius.
- Cape Gooseberries: A vigorous-growing, bush-like fruit plant, gooseberries love direct sunlight. The plants grow up to 12 inches or more across, with cherry-sized fruits.
- Figs: Figs are more of a tree fruit, but are easily grown indoors. They enjoy sunny areas, but don’t like to be in direct sunlight. Figs need pruning in the winter and summer. Negro Largo does very well in pots. This fruit does best in temperatures between 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 to 18 degrees Celsius.
- Grapes: Grapes are a perfect healthy snack, and it’s great to have them handy. They are not only good for their fruit, but grapes also provide decoration and shade. Grapes need good ventilation and pruning each winter. If you start from seeds it will take a long time to grow, but if you purchase a grape plant you will be one step closer.
- Strawberries: Here is one of the easiest fruits to grow indoors. They are sweet, pretty, and taste great. Strawberries love sun and will grow well in pots. This fruit needs very little room to grow, adds vibrant color to the room and is known to be quick-producing.
- Watermelon: This favorite fruit can be grown indoors, believe it or not! All you need is a large pot and a warm, sunny room. The vines will need training to grow vertically, and the plant will need the support of twine, lattice or wood sticks since the fruit is very heavy.
Growing Fruit Trees
When growing fruit on trees indoors, you should start with a dwarf fruit tree from a local nursery or garden center. Buying a tree will save years of waiting for delicious fruit, as tree seeds can take up to 10 years to grow from seeds. It will add color, freshness and be easy to handle inside. Fruit trees also smell great and last for many years.
Besides buying fruit trees from nurseries, you also can buy them through the mail. However, the trees often show up with bare roots, so they need immediate care and planting. Follow these simple, short instructions to plant your fruit tree.
- Grab a pot large enough for the tree to have growing room, making sure the pot also has holes for drainage.
- Fill the pot with a clean, light soil. Do not use soil from your yard.
- Plant the tree in new dirt up to the line on its stem from where it is discolored from the “old dirt.”
- Water the tree thoroughly.
- Place tree in a sunny, warm location.
- Enjoy the blossoms on your fruit trees. You may need to help pollinate your blossoms to get fruit. Using a soft paint brush, or something similar, brush the insides (especially the “stamens”) of each blossom.
- Keep bugs and other harmful critters off the stems by taking a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and rubbing each stem.
When growing fruit trees, you can try starting with citrus fruit like lemons and limes. Citrus trees are easy to care for and grow. They love sun, a regular watering schedule, humidity and fertilizer. You can also try peaches, nectarines and mulberries.
During the summer and warm months, let your trees enjoy the sun outside, but bring them indoors before the cold hits.
There is no need to dread the colder months if you’re a lover of fruit. Growing it indoors is the best way to enjoy nature’s freshness year-round.
What advice would you add on growing fruit indoors? Share your tips in the section below:
Whether you’re growing trees on your homestead as a hobby, to get you and your family to eat fresh organic fruits and veggies, or to save on those trips to the grocery store, it is important to have some knowledge regarding what kind of crops you can grow on your land. Most people just want to grow their own produce so they’re satisfied that they’re having organic fruits that have little to no side effects. Additionally, some people want to get into the habit of growing their food so they have knowledge and practice in case of a disaster and
Are you looking for something new for your gardening tastes? Why not try figs? Figs are well-known as being easy to grow indoors. They only take one or two years to mature and fruit, which is great for those gardeners who don’t feel like tending a plant for years before they get to taste their hard work. There are many varieties, and most figs are simple to grow and care for, but the most common indoor fig is the Negro Largo.
You will not only get fruit, but also have a lovely, decorative plant to enhance your home. It’s perfect for a little exotic or tropical touch during the long months of winter.
The leaves are dark green, oblong, and are two to five inches long. There is a healthy single trunk, with a full canopy and the tree itself can grow up to 18 feet tall but you won’t want that size in your home. This is where you will need to prune the tree to control its size. Besides pruning, you can also keep the pot size small, as this will help control tree size. Let’s start at the beginning.
How to Grow Your Figs Indoors
Starting figs from seeds can be done with care and patience. For first-time growers, or those who want a head start, select a tree from your local nursery or greenhouse. Once you find your tree, bring it home and follow the instructions below.
- Choose a planter and make sure there are holes for drainage in the bottom. Remember to add about two inches of soil.
- Remove the fig tree from its small pot and remove all the clumps of dirt by hand. Place it in the new pot and fill the rest with dirt.
- Water the fig plant until water comes out the draining holes, but don’t allow the fig to sit in the extra water. You will need to regularly water your fig tree, at least once a week.
- Prune your tree when it reaches the size you want. You will also be able to shape the tree to your own style.
- It is recommended to fertilize your fig tree once a month in the spring and summer, and once every two months in the autumn and winter.
Note: If you notice a sticky substance on the fig’s leaves and branches, there is probably an infestation of insects. The common pests for figs are spider mites and mealy bugs. They will blend in with the bark and be hard to see, so take a cotton swab and soak it in alcohol, then wipe down the branches of the fig tree. You can also treat with neem oil.
Caring for Your Fig Tree
You can use a variety of pots or containers; figs don’t seem to mind. There are wood, ceramic and clay variations. Try to avoid very heavy pots, because they are only going to get heavier with the dirt, tree and water. Mulch can be added on top of the soil to help keep it moist. Soil needs to be a light type, and not too rich. A mix of compost, builder’s sand and vermiculite will be good for drainage.
Figs like sunlight and warmth, so the plant needs to be put in a warm, sunny place. It is not recommended to place the tree in direct sunlight, though, as this can cause leaf loss or scalding. Yes, it is true that you can have too much of a good thing!
If your fig tree does experience “leaf drop,” it means the tree is under stress. This stress can be from:
- temperature changes
- not enough light
- too much water, or too little
- low humidity
Temperatures should be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 Celsius. Keep figs away from drafts, as cold drafts will hurt the fig trees.
Re-pot the fig tree when its roots fill the pot. You will need to increase the size of the container as the tree grows. Be gentle, because fig trees don’t seem to like being moved often.
You won’t always have to prune your tree. It tends to do well after initial pruning and seems to be at its best at six to eight feet tall.
Your indoor fig tree will add character to your home, and the green leaves and tasty fruit will be a constant reminder of warmer days. By gathering a little bit of knowledge, and the right amount of care, you will be successful in bringing a new little fig tree to fruit.
What advice would you add on raising a fig tree? Share it in the section below:
Certain food trends bring you back to the phrase, “Everything old is new again.” Bee keeping, backyard chickens, whole foods and local foods have become downright trendy.
Of course, those who are homesteaders and “do-it-yourselfers” know that many of the old ways are the best ways.
Shrubs or vinegar-based fruit juices are no exception. While today they pepper gourmet magazines and food websites, they were alluded to in the Bible, have roots in many places across the world, and were commonly found in American homes during the colonial times. They were also a common method of preserving foods prior to refrigeration, making them a common and popular choice of drink in early America.
Shrubs or switchels, as they are also called, are vinegar-based fruit juices. Very simply, they are a mixture of fruit, vinegar and sugar that is consumed both plain, and sometimes used as a base for a cocktail. From China to England, they have a history in many cultures spanning the globe.
They truly came into their own in America with the early colonists. There are some very interesting places in history where shrubs show up in American history. A recipe for shrubs is chronicled in Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin’s papers, according to the American Philosophical Society. During the War of 1812, Captain James Dacres, an English Naval captain, battled the American ship USS Constitution. Historians discovered that as the battle raged on, he fantasized about serving Americans this drink when they surrendered. Like Coca-Cola today, shrubs were seen as the epitome of American drinks. He apparently dreamed about rubbing the Americans’ noses in their favorite drink, as they lost the battle to Britain. However, as history played out, Americans sank his ship.
Shrubs also played a role in the American temperance movement, as they were lauded (at least the non-alcoholic version) as a refreshing alternative to an alcoholic drink.
During this time period, it was also seen as somewhat of a preventative medicinal concoction. Today, we again recognize the benefits of vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, for a variety of ailments. Historically, sailors used it to prevent sickness at sea.
Of course, they would not have been consumed had Americans and folks around the world not preserved fruit this way as a means of storage. This was also a primary function of making shrubs prior to refrigeration. The “Canning Across America” website offers a great recipe for canning strawberry shrubs:
Spiced Pickled Strawberries
Adapted from The Complete Book of Pickling, by Jennifer MacKenzie
- 6 pints strawberries, hulled (preferably on the smaller side and just a touch under-ripe)
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 cups cider vinegar
Puncture strawberries with fork tines and cut any large ones in half.
Combine remaining ingredients together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over prepared berries.
Cover the berries and let stand at a cool room temperature for at least six hours or overnight.
Prepare water bath canner, jars and lids.
Re-heat berries, gently stirring occasionally until strawberries are heated through but still hold their shape.
Gently spoon strawberries and hot pickling liquid into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space as necessary. Wipe rim and place hot lid on jar, screwing band down until fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner and return to a boil. Process for 10 minutes.
Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in hot water for an additional 5 minutes.
Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface or a cooling rack and let stand undisturbed until completely cool, about 24 hours. Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.
Makes approximately 6 pints.
Use Up What You Put Up: Strawberry Shrub
- 2-3 tablespoons pickled strawberry syrup (and whole fruit if you like)
- 12 ounces sparkling water or club soda
Stir together in a tall glass, with or without ice, and enjoy. Add more syrup to taste.
You do not have to can shrubs. You can make them for immediate consumption and refrigerate them. The Ultimate History Project website offers a great recipe for non-canned shrubs.
Recipe for Pomegranate Shrub
3-4 large pomegranates
1 3/4 cups of sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a clean glass (or other non-reactive) bowl. Roll the pomegranates on the counter to loosen the seeds, then cut them into quarters. Invert the quarter and pop the seeds out into the colander.
2. Pick out any of the white pith that fell into the seeds, as it will lend a bitter note to the finished product if you don’t. Pull the ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze the pomegranate seeds as hard as you can. Keep squeezing and twisting until you have only the inner kernels left in the cloth. Throw that away. You should have about two cups of liquid.
3. Mix the liquid with the sugar (use more if you like it sweeter). Stir to try to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.
4. Add the vinegar to the mixture, pour the whole into a clean bottle, cap it securely and shake it. Place it in the refrigerator and let it sit for 2 weeks. Shake it whenever you think of it.
5. Finally, uncork it and give it a sniff. It will smell very vinegary. Mix a small amount with seltzer water and taste it. It will seem extremely sour to the modern palate but mixed with seltzer or vodka in the right proportions, it is indeed, very refreshing. If you find it too sour, simply add more sugar and let it sit for another day.
Note: To make this recipe with any other fruit, just chop up the fruit very coarsely, mix it with the sugar and let the mixture sit on the counter or in the fridge for several hours until the juice oozes out of the fruit. (Blemished fruit is great for this!). Then, strain the fruit through a sieve and mix the resulting sugary juice with the vinegar. Some people cook the fruit for a time with the sugar to produce the syrup. Both methods work perfectly well.
Like other canned and preserved foods, there is a deeper appreciation mid-February for food that was preserved by one’s own hands. How delicious and refreshing a berry-flavored preserved drink is, watching the snow fly! Whether consumed as fruit drink or a base for cocktail, it is a nice glass of history and summer to imbibe, when the only signs of spring are a silly groundhog.
Have you ever made shrubs? What tips would you suggest? Share your thoughts in the section below:
“Cooling Off With Switchels and Shrubs. “The Ultimate History Project.” UHP, nd. Web. 4, Nov.2015
Cotner, Meg “How To Make A Shrub Syrup.” “Harmonious Belly.” Self published 19, July, 2012.Web. 4, Nov.2015.
“Difford’s Guide For Discerning Drinkers.” “Class Magazine.” “Odd Firm of Sin Ltd.” 9, Aug.2011.Web. 4, Nov.2015.
Jung, Alyssa (Adapted). “Thirteen Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.” Reader’s Digest.”Life Rich Publishing.N.D. Web.4, Nov.2015.
Kim. “Strawberries +Vinegar=Shrub, A Beverage Revelation.” Canning Across America.” N.P.16, July, 2012. Web. 4, Nov.2015.
If you make a lot of jam at your house, you probably go through a lot of pectin, whether it come as a powder in a little box or in a mylar pouch as a liquid. But do you know what pectin is or where it comes from? I confess I never thought about it much until one day when I was at the grocery store in the act of purchasing about ten boxes of the stuff. The cashier made a comment like, “I used to really like jam until I found out what pectin is made of. But I guess that doesn’t stop most people.”
I shrugged it off and didn’t reply but of course after I comment like that I had to wonder. What is pectin made of? Bugs? Bovine entrails? One quick Google search later, and I had the answer and it wasn’t anything weird that my imagination came up with. Pectin is technically a set of polysaccarides that are found in most fruits, most commonly in apples and citrus fruits. Commercial pectin is derived from what’s left over from making apple and orange juice.
TIP: Here’s a list of great apple recipes to make — you’ll end up with plenty of peels for your pectin!
Maybe the cashier got a little queasy at the thought, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. On the contrary, I wondered if I could do the same at home. After all, jam has been around since long before mankind had the technology to refine pectin into a powder and package it in brightly-colored boxes. What did people do before you could get pectin at the grocery store?
In the not so distant past, there were two methods for thickening jams and jellies. The first was to allow your mixture of fruit and sugar to cook down for so long that it resembled sludge and much of the fruity goodness in the jam was lost to the heat. The second was to extract pectin from apples in much the same way it is done commercially today, albeit on a smaller scale.
Most recipes and tutorials found online for making your own pectin call for 3-4 whole apples (usually granny smith or another sour baking apple). But there is an alternative that you may find more efficient with your resources. The peels and cores of the apple contain the highest concentrations of pectin, so it is possible to use just these parts of the apple.
My neighborhood is in the throes of apple season right now. Apples are just ripening and many people I know are making applesauce, apple pie filling, apple crumble, and all sorts of other apple-related treats. This also means lots of apple cores and peels in a giant pile on the counter. Don’t throw them away – use them for pectin!
How I make pectin from apple peels
Before we get started, I will have to confess that making and using pectin in this way is pretty unscientific: no exact measurements or cooking times here. Boxes of pectin usually come with recipes that outline precisely how much fruit and sugar need to be added to your jam to ensure it sets up perfectly. When you make your own pectin, you’re introducing many more variables: the variety of apples you’re using, the concentration of pectin found therein, time spent cooking down and boiling off, etc. There is going to be a lot more trial-and-error in using this method for jam-making. But, for me, that just adds to the fun.
Last summer my mother-in-law gave me an extremely large quantity of apples, and my sisters-in-law and I made them into pie filling. At my insistence, I had them save all the cores and peels. They thought I was weird for doing it, but I didn’t care. This was for science. I stored them in the freezer in regular grocery sacks. Pectin made from year-old deep-frozen apples has indeed resulted in satisfactory jam. I haven’t done a controlled study of how long you can store your apple peels in this way, but you’re probably safe for up to a year.
When I’ve been in the mood to make a batch of apple pectin, I take one grocery sack-full of apple peels and cores and dump it it into my 6 quart stock pot with enough water to cover it. Then I cook the apple mess on medium-high heat until it resembles chunky applesauce. A gentle simmer is considered better than a rolling boil; the full process will take several hours. You don’t have to stand there watching it like a hawk the whole time, but do keep an eye on it and stir it every so often. You will need to add more water as the mixture cooks down to prevent burning.
Ideally, you should wait until the liquid in your cooked apples passes the alcohol test. This is an ingenious method to test how concentrated your pectin is and how effective it will be in jam making. Spoon a little bit of your liquid pectin into a small container of alcohol. Upon exposure to the alcohol, the pectin will clump up. If you can fish out a big clump with a fork (please see the pictures in the linked tutorial) then you have been successful!
I usually find that I need to strain the solids away from the liquid before I can start testing my pectin, however. The mixture gets to be really thick – that is what you want – but it is difficult to use a spoon to scoop up only liquid with no solids. So, straining.
I do this by lining a strainer with cheesecloth and placing it over a large bowl. If after testing I find that my pectin still has a while to go before it will react the way I want it to in the alchohol, I put the liquid back on the burner and cook off more of the water to make it more concentrated. When completed, your liquid pectin will be fairly thick, not unlike corn syrup. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
This kind of pectin can be used just as you would any other liquid pectin. I would not necessarily recommend using it for freezer jam, but any recipe for cooked and bottled can will do. I find that the set is usually a little looser than what you find with commercial pectin, but it’s still quite nice. If nothing else, it’s fun to try as an intellectual exercise.
Have you had experience with making apple pectin? What was your experience?