Earth Haven Farm BLOG
April 2020

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a member of the mustard family and has a noticeable garlic aroma — hence its name.  Also known as Hedge Garlic, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Garlic root, Sauce-Alone, Jack-in-the-Bush, Penny Hedge and Poor Man's Mustard.

This wild flower appears in shady hedgerows, waste placed and open woodlands, mostly on fertile moist soils, in early Spring sometimes growing to over a metre tall. Garlic mustard has leaves that are broadly heart shaped, stalked, with numerous broad teeth, and clusters of small white cross-shaped flowers.  The whole plant smells of garlic when crushed.  It is a biennial plant, so takes two years to complete its life cycle.  It grows young leaves in its first season, which it keeps over winter, and then flowers in the spring of its second year.

The fruit is an erect, slender, four-sided seedpod called a silique, containing two rows of small shiny black seeds which are released when the seedpod splits open.  A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which often scatter several meters from the parent plant.

The seeds have been taken like snuff to cause sneezing.  Garlic mustard is one of the oldest spices used in Europe.  Country people at one time used the plant in sauces, with bread and butter, salted meat and with lettuce in salads.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was used as a flavouring in sauces for fish and lamb and as a flavouring for salt fish.

Today, the chopped leaves are used for flavouring in salads and sauces such as pesto, and sometimes the flowers and fruit are included as well.  The leaves, best when young, taste of both garlic and mustard.

Its traditional medicinal purposes include use as a diuretic.  Garlic mustard was once used as a disinfectant and was sometimes used to treat wounds.

Those that know the weed well will tell you that the only reason this plant is deemed intolerable is because we are overrun with it from not using it.  If only we ate more of it, we likely would feel differently.

Beneficial Properties

Garlic mustard is good for you, hands down.  It is a most nutritious leafy green plant.  There are few other greens that are higher in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, zinc and vitamin E.  In addition, garlic mustard beats spinach, collards, turnips, kale, broccoli and domesticated mustard for all nutrients and is high in omega-3 fatty acids, manganese and iron with substantial amounts of vitamins A, C, E and some of the B vitamins.  In addition this wild weed contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, iron and manganese as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

How it Spreads

Garlic mustard, like other weeds, spreads by seeds that fall just a few feet from each plant.  With the help of animals and humans, it gets transported.  The first year the plant is small with inconspicuous leaves that blend well with other native plants.  They look like violet leaves or wild ginger leaves.

In the second year, a flower stalk shoots up and thousands of seeds are scattered.  This aggressive plant soon takes over as its roots exude chemicals that keep other nearby native plants from germinating.  This is a problem for areas that contain native plants, as the mustard will soon take over and will eventually ruin the natural diversity of an area.  This is why natural foraging is so important, because it helps control the spread.

Identification

One of the best ways to identify garlic mustard is by its unique underground stem that curves twice as it leads to the root.  The first curve is just below the leaves, bending the stem almost on a right angle.  The second curve is less acute and further down where it looks like the true root begins.  Young leaves can be difficult to spot because they can be rounded, kidney-shaped or even arrow-shaped, depending on the age of the plant.  Because of this, foraging novices may be best to look for the unique stem and pungent garlic aroma (crush the leaves and smell).

Once the stem gets large enough, it is easy to spot the changes in leaf shape.  The leaves closest to the ground are rounded or kidney-shaped and they become progressively more triangular in shape as they move toward the top of the plant.  Flowers appear on the top of the stem in clusters.  Each flower has four white petals and a six-stamen set-up that includes four long and two short.

Harvesting

Larger-rooted, second-year plants are best because they produce more food for the effort.  Leaves begin to multiply when temperatures range from the mid-50s during the day to the mid-30s at night.  This is usually around the same time that daffodils are blooming.

When you are harvesting in a natural area that you are trying to preserve, it is important to take the whole plant.  Use a digging stick or a pick-shovel to uproot the mustard — roots and all.  Keep roots with some dirt separate from the leaves if possible.  The best way to achieve this is to place the plants in a container with roots down.  The best time to harvest is usually after a light rain, as more dirt will stick to the roots.

If you are harvesting in an area that is not already overrun with mustard, you don’t have to be concerned about taking the whole plant.  Use sharp and clean scissors to cut the leaves.  Gather all of the leaves and cut the cluster at one time.  Place the leaves in a clean plastic bag and spray a bit of water inside before tying shut.  Harvesting this way leaves the roots intact and you can return to the same spot to harvest over and over as needed.  Be careful not to let the plant go to seed if you do not want it to spread.

Be very careful about tossing unwanted roots into your compost bin—they can often regrow and will spread seeds.  If you wish to compost them you can cook them first in the microwave; this will kill the seeds.  On the other hand, if you wish to have more plants, simply throw out roots in the desired area, rake them a bit underground and water.  Soon you will have mustard plants springing up.

If you are interested in preserving natural areas, learn how to forage for garlic mustard.  You will have an abundant supply of nutritious greens and be making a great conservation effort in the meantime.

Using Garlic Mustard

Leaves: It is best to keep the leaves in water and to use them right away.  You also can place them in your fridge where they will keep for up to 10 days.  When you are ready to use, simply remove the leaf stems.  Because it has a bit of a bitter taste, it is best to chop leaves up into smaller pieces before using.

Stems: If desired, you can use the upper stems–usually about four inches.  Find the place where the stem still snaps cleanly and remove about an inch more.  What remains should be good to eat.

Roots: The roots are edible but need to be fairly large.  The core can be woody or crunchy and the outer rind will be mildly sweet.  First-year roots are more tender than second-year and both have a slightly peppery taste.

Flowers and Buds: You can use these like you would the leaves.  They add interest and texture to any dish.

Seeds: Some people use seeds for condiments or spices.

Eating Garlic Mustard

Garlic mustard is not one of those plants that most of us will bite into and eat freely.  It is strong and fairly bitter and therefore better in small bits.  Garlic mustard connoisseurs delight in its bitter, garlic and peppery taste that seems to commingle well together.

Garlic mustard is an enjoyable addition to any salad when it is chopped in fine shreds.  You also can go ahead and throw in some of the flower heads and buds for good measure.  Some recommend pairing garlic mustard with meat dishes and meat sandwiches, as well as bean dishes, eggs, quiche and soups.  Garlilc mustard pesto is delicious any way it is served. The key is to start with a little and add more as you desire.

If you wish to eat the leaves as greens, you can place them in a pot of boiling water for about six minutes and then eat like you would spinach.  Add a little lemon juice and salt for a delicious side dish.  You also can steam and sauté the leaves and stems for about 10 minutes.

 

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Kale

Kale is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence.  Kale is a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.

There are many different types of kale. The leaves can be green or purple, and have either a smooth or curly shape.  The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.

Kale is loaded with all sorts of beneficial compounds, some of which have powerful medicinal properties and is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

A single cup of raw kale (about 67 grams or 2.4 ounces) contains :

  • Vitamin A: 206% of the daily vitamins (from beta-carotene)
  • Vitamin K: 684% of the daily vitamins
  • Vitamin C: 134% of the daily vitamins
  • Vitamin B6: 9% of the daily vitamins
  • Manganese: 26% of the daily vitamins
  • Calcium: 9% of the daily vitamins
  • Copper: 10% of the daily vitamins
  • Potassium: 9% of the daily vitamins
  • Magnesium: 6% of the daily vitamins

It also contains 3% or more of the daily vitamins for vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), iron and phosphorus

This is coming with a total of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) and 3 grams of protein.

Kale contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic-acid.

Kale is loaded with powerful antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol

Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants.

These include beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols

Kale can help lower cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.  Yet, cholesterol has many important functions in the body, as it is used to make bile acids, which are substances that help the body digest fats.  The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system whenever you eat a fatty meal.  When all the fat has been absorbed and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.

Kale is one of the world's best sources of vitamin K, which is critical for blood clotting, and kale does this by "activating" certain proteins and giving them the ability to bind calcium.  The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2 which is found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

Kale is very high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

Kale is a good source of minerals that most people don't get enough of, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are powerful nutrients that protect the eyes from the consequences of aging. Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

How to Eat

Adding kale to your diet is relatively simple.  Use it in any recipe or salad that calls for leafy greens.

A popular snack is kale chips, where you drizzle some extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil on your kale, add some salt and then bake in it an oven until dry.

It tastes absolutely delicious and makes a great crunchy, super healthy snack.

A lot of people also add kale to their smoothies in order to boost the nutritional value.

Many people that are into juicing will use juiced kale as their base and then add in other vegetables, such as carrots, beets, celery, nettle, etc.

At the end of the day, kale is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.

If you want to dramatically boost the amount of nutrients you take in, consider loading up on kale.

 

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Wild Leeks or Ramps

Allium tricoccum is a North American species of wild onion widespread across eastern Canada and the eastern United States, appearing in mid-April and lasting until mid-May.

Early settlers and Indigenous peoples regarded them as a spring tonic, relying on their restorative qualities after long, hungry winters.

Foraging Ramps

Look for ramps underneath dense deciduous forest canopies in well-drained soil that's rich with organic matter with north-facing slopes.

They're easily recognized by their 1, 2, or 3 broad leaves measuring 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long.

Unfortunately for ramps, they're super-trendy these days. Chefs, foodies, and other ramp-lovers flock to the forests by the thousands for a chance to bask in their gourmet-ness. Over picking and careless harvesting is taking a toll on ramp populations putting them at risk.  The implications of over-harvesting are having huge implications on the demand for these delicacies.

Traditionally, Indigenous peoples dug ramps by leaving the roots. This is done by cutting off the bottom of the bulb with a knife while it's still in the ground. Sustainably harvesting of ramps takes more time that just yanking them out by the handful.

The most sustainable way to harvest ramps is to cut only one leaf, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole.  In fact, the leaves are the best part, anyway, and taking only leaves is the best way to ensure the colony will remain viable.

DO NOT take more than you need.  Leave a good size patch behind so that they will provide you with food for the next year.

Storing & Preserving Ramps

Both leaves and bulbs can be eaten. They're best used fresh, but both can be put away for eating later in the year. 

The easiest way to store ramp bulbs is by freezing:  Simply cut off the greens, clean the dirt off the bulbs and cut off the roots (if your ramps still have roots). Then spread the bulbs out on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper, making sure they are not touching and then freeze. This prevents them from sticking together. 

Once they're frozen, put them in jars or plastic containers, seal tightly and put in the freezer for up to six months. You can also wrap them individually in wax paper and store frozen in sealed jars.

Bulbs can also be pickled using similar recipes as for pickled onions.

The greens won't last long fresh and deteriorate when frozen. They can be dried, but they lose a lot of their flavor.  Best way to preserve the greens is by making ramp compound butter or ramp pesto.  Use any pesto recipe and substitute in the ramp green.  Either can be stored in the refrigerator in the short term or frozen for use later.

For short term storage put ramp greens in the refrigerator as soon as possible. They should be stored un-cleaned. If a refrigerator is not immediately available ramps can be kept with the bulbs submerged in a bucket of water and placed in a cool shaded area. 

The leaves will start to wilt in the refrigerator after 4 days or so and in the bucket after a day or so depending on temperature.

Cooking & Eating Ramps

Ramp bulbs and leaves can be diced and used just as you would use onions, green onions, leeks, chives and garlic, but they are much more potent.  They pair well with any pasta recipe, eggs, mushrooms, potatoes, stir fry or raw green salad.

Nutritional Facts

One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked leeks has only 31 calories. While low in calories, they are high in nutrients such as pro-vitamin A, carotenoids, including beta carotene.

Your body converts these carotenoids into vitamin A, which is important for vision, immune function, reproduction, and cell communication.

They’re also a good source of vitamin K1, which is necessary for blood clotting and heart health.

Meanwhile, wild ramps are particularly rich in vitamin C, which aids immune health, tissue repair, iron absorption, and collagen production. They offer about twice as much vitamin C as that of the same quantity of oranges.

They are also considered to be a good source of manganese, which helps to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and promote thyroid health.

Ramps or leeks also provide small amounts of copper, vitamin B6, iron, and folate.

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Raspberries

Earth Haven Farm grows black and yellow (golden) raspberries.  Each year we sell root stock in the spring for farmers and gardeners wishing to start their own berry patch.  Every summer we offer fresh picked berries for sale to our customers.

If you are interested in growing your own berries, here are a few facts to consider.

In a small space, raspberries yield a phenomenal quantity of ravishing berries—and they fruit year after year with proper care.  Raspberries can be harvested all the way from midsummer through to the first frost.  See our tips on how to plant, grow, harvest, and prune raspberries!

WHEN TO PLANT RASPBERRIES

  • Start with one-year-old raspberry canes from a reputable nursery.  Plant the early spring once the ground thaws out and can be worked.  See your local frost dates.
  • In mild areas, you could also plant in late autumn to give the plants a head start.
  • Plant potted transplants in the spring after threat of frost has passed.

CHOOSING AND PREPARING A PLANTING SITE

  • Raspberries grow best in a sunny position but also, unlike many fruits, they will also grow successfully in a partially-shaded spot.  The more sun, the more fruit. 
  • The planting site needs rich and well-drained soil, great air circulation, and shelter from wind.  Avoid a wet area, as well as a windy spot, as raspberries do not like to stand in water nor totally dry out.
  • Every year, feed your raspberry plants with a couple inches of compost or aged manure; dig in a couple weeks before planting.  (A good rate is about 3 ½ cubic feet of compost per 100 square feet.)
  • Plant far from wild growing berries; otherwise you risk spreading wild pests and diseases to your cultivated berry plants.

HOW TO PLANT RASPBERRIES

  • Before planting, soak the roots for an hour or two.
  • Dig a hole that is roomy enough for the roots to spread.  If you’re planting multiple bushes, it’s easiest to dig a trench.
  • Whether you’re planting bare-root or potted plants, keep the crown of the plant 1 or 2 inches above the ground.
  • Canes should be spaced 18 inches apart, with about four feet between rows. 
  • Fill the soil back in, and tamp it down with your foot. 
  • Once the canes are planted, cut them down to 9 inches tall to encourage new growth.  (Yes, it will look like a broken branch sticking out of the ground!)
  • Depending on the variety you plant, you may need to fashion a support to hold up canes.  Many grow to head-height.
  • A trellis or a fence are good options.  If you have a row, drive in two six-foot posts at the end of the row and stretch galvanized wire between the posts.  Summer-fruiting raspberries need three horizontal wires and the fall types could do with two wires.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRUNING

All raspberries will need pruning annually! Raspberries are perennials, however it’s important to realize that their branches (or canes) which bear the fruit live for only two summers.  During the first year, the new green cane (primocane) grows vegetatively.  The cane develops a brown bark, is dormant in winter, and during the second growing season is called a floricane.  The floricane produces fruit in early to mid summer and then dies.  New primocanes are produced each year, so fruit production continues year after year.  It’s your job to prune out those dead canes each year.

NUTRITIONAL FACTS

Raspberries  are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Raspberries can range in color from the popular red and black varieties to purple, yellow, or golden.

The fiber in raspberries can also help manage or prevent:

  • blood pressure.
  • cholesterol levels.
  • obesity.
  • heart disease.
  • stroke.

 

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