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Archive | Home and Garden

Fresh Market—the Cottage Food Law

BLOOM-Fresh-market-Apple_pie-webBy Vicky Babcock

 

The scent of lavender and sun-kissed strawberries wafts upon the breeze; farm fresh eggs tempt the palate; an array of colors and textures delight the senses. Welcome to your local Farmers Market! Tickle your taste buds with samples of honey, fresh fruit and—wait—is that fresh bread I smell?

If you’ve come to Market lately, you may have noticed a trend—small start-up businesses offering a variety of breads, flavored oils, baked goods, jams and jellies and other delicacies. Prior to 2010, these goods were rarely seen at Markets. Start-up costs were counter-productive. State regulation required licenses, licensed industrial kitchens and inspections, drastically cutting into the bottom line of most hopefuls. A business began in the red—many stayed there until quietly packing up shop and eating the costs—until 2010. That’s when Michigan adopted the Cottage Food Laws. The relaxed regulations make it possible for farmers to expand their line of products and for others to test the waters without getting in over their heads. With a small grocery list of staples, a person can begin operations.

However, rules do apply. Sales must be documented. Individuals cannot earn more than $20,000 a year. This changes on December 31, 2017 to $25,000 per year. You need to maintain sales records and provide them to a Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) food inspector, upon request. MDARD has regulatory responsibility for the Cottage Food Law.

Products must be labeled with your name and physical address as well as an ingredient list with a note of possible allergens and the following statement, “Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development”—this last in 11 point font or larger (about 1/8” tall). Products must be produced in your own kitchen with no animals or pets in the room. You cannot cook for yourself and for sale product at the same time.  Hand-printed labels are acceptable if they are printed legibly in durable, permanent ink and equal or greater to the 11-point font size.

Foods that are allowed under the Cottage Food Laws include:

• Breads and similar baked goods

• Vinegars and flavored vinegars

• Cakes

• Sweet breads and muffins that contain fruits or vegetables

• Fruit pies (cooked)

• Jams and Jellies that have been processed to be stored at room temperature

• Dried herbs and herb mixes

• Dry baking mixes, dip mixes and soup mixes

• Dehydrated vegetables or fruits

• Popcorn and Cotton Candy

• Nuts (coated or uncoated)

• Dried egg noodles

• Roasted coffee beans or ground roast

• Vanilla extract or baked goods or that contain alcohol (be aware that these products require licensing by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.)

Foods that are not allowed include:

• Meat and meat products

• Fish and fish products

• Raw seed sprouts

• Canned fruits or vegetables like salsa or canned peaches

• Vegetable or Fruit butters

• Canned pickled products

• Pies or cakes that require refrigeration

• Milk and Dairy products

• Hummus

• Cut tomatoes or chopped/shredded leafy greens

• Foccaccia style breads

• Sauces and condiments, including barbeque sauce, hot sauce, ketchup or mustard

• Salad dressings

• Pet foods or treats

All products must be wrapped or otherwise sealed. For example, you cannot sell slices of pie unless they have been individually wrapped for sale. Cottage Foods must be sold by the person producing it to the person consuming it face to face. You can advertise over the internet but you must do the actual transfer of product in person either at a Farmers Market or something similar or from your home.

For a more complete list of allowed or disallowed products or additional information on the Cottage Food Laws please Google™ Michigan Cottage Food Laws or check out the web page at http://www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-50772_45851-240577–,00.html

Here is a sample label for home product:  note that sub ingredients are required and any nuts must be identified such as, walnuts, almonds, etc. not simply nuts.

Ready to give it a try?  Try out our recipe below for a starter. See you at Market!

 

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI  CAKE

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tsps. Vanilla extract

3 cups  grated zucchini

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 tsps . baking soda

1tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking powder

½ cup chopped nuts

½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and zucchini in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder.  Add zucchini mixture to dry ingredients.  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.  Pour into 2 greased 5 x 9-inch loaf pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and remove from pans.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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How committed is your state to local foods?

Physician-Chef shares four reasons you should care

Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, respectively, claimed the top three spots in the 2014 Locavore Index, a ranking of each state’s (and the District of Columbia’s) commitment to promoting and providing locally grown foods.

At the bottom of the heap are Arizona, Nevada and Texas, with the Lone Star State dead last despite the fact that it’s the nation’s No. 1 cattle producer and No. 3 for crops receipts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There are many good reasons to eat locally produced foods, the first among them that they’re very good for us,” says cardiologist and professional chef Michael S. Fenster, MD, (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), author of “Eating Well, Living Better” and “The Fallacy of the Calorie,” (Koehler Books; fall 2014).

“There’s a direct relationship between our food, our environment, our genetics and our health. Eating locally grown foods gives us our most nutritious meals, most flavorful meals. Few choices have as many personal ramifications as that which we decide to stuff into our gob.”

He offers four more reasons – “the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak”—to go localvore:

•  Money. Eating organically, eating fresh and finding the seasonal local foodstuffs can be expensive – if you do all your shopping at the supermarket, Dr. Mike says.

“Finding healthful produce at venues like a local farmer’s market can result in prices that are at least comparable, if not substantially less than, those at the megamarket, which has the additional costs of shipping from the nether regions,” he says.

Likewise, visiting a local fishmonger can result in tasty bargains compared to flash-frozen fish flesh. Shopping for what is bountifully in season, and thus locally overstocked, can mean big savings.

“Finally, by purchasing items produced locally, your money strengthens the local economy and helps sustain the people producing the types of food stuffs that you wish to sustain yourself upon,” he says. “That is the smiley face circle of life.”

•  Freshness: In some ways, it’s amazing we’re alive considering all the food we eat that’s dead, Dr. Mike says, noting almost 60 percent of the modern Western diet is prepackaged, preserved and processed.

“Any time we manipulate our comestibles in such a fashion, we add compounds that are not naturally found in them or remove parts that are,” he says. “Those pre-cut vegetables in the supermarket may be convenient, but they started losing nutritional value and flavor as soon as they were sliced and diced.”

Because local growers don’t have to add preservatives or pick produce weeks early to ensure they’ll produce will keep during shipping, local foods can be consumed at the peak of freshness and ripeness – when they taste their very best.

•  Rhythms: Our great hairy ancestors have always been omnivores.

“There is ample evidence that the reason we as a species became the smartest kids on the block is that we took advantage of a varied diet. This hardwired drive for diversity in dining is also one reason why restrictive diets that seek to severely limit what we consume almost always, ultimately fail,” Dr. Mike says.

By leveraging the seasonal and cyclic variations that naturally occur, your palate will never become dull and monochromatic, he promises. A pleasant dining experience directly lights up our primal happy-happy joy-joy place, an experience that contributes directly to overall well-being.

•  Sustainability: All the reasons for purchasing high-quality ingredients locally ultimately circle back and rest upon the concept of sustainability. In knowing where your food comes from, in being able to ascertain both what it contains and what it does not contain, you take a proactive step in determining your own health and wellness, Dr. Mike says.

By focusing on procuring the best for you and those who depend upon you, you act to sustain yourself and your family. By affecting such a posture, you deliver local impact.

“With enough people acting locally, the impact becomes regional and if enough people demand control over their foodstuffs then, like a crazy cat video gone viral, it can have a global effect.”

About Michael S. Fenster, MD

Michael Fenster, M.D., F.A.C.C., FSCA&I, PEMBA, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist. Also known as “Dr. Mike,” author of “Eating Well, Living Better: The Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food,” (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), he combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. A certified wine professional and chef, Dr. Mike worked professionally in kitchens prior to entering medical school and maintained his passion for food and wine throughout his medical career.

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Basil—The King of Herbs

DIG-Fresh-market-sweet-basil-plantFresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

Ah basil. Its heady aroma, its varied and intense flavors, its striking foliage.  How could one not love basil? Its popularity is world-wide, yet none more so than here, with our blend of cultures and cuisines. America’s love affair with basil most likely stems from its association with Italian cuisine, flavorful sauces and pesto. Yet basil was not always loved and it is not native to Italy.

Some sources suggest that basil derives its name from the terrifying basilisk—a creature in Greek mythology, half lizard, half dragon, whose stare could cause madness and death. Perhaps this is the source of the belief, first recorded by scribes dating pre-206 BCE that basil “exists only to drive men insane.” It is also the first known written record of basil in any context. Both the Greeks and the Romans associated basil with hatred. Western European lore claims that basil belongs to the devil and for basil to grow well, one must curse the ground it is planted in. The French idiom, “semer le basilica,” to sow the basil, is synonymous with going off on a rant. Nicholas Culpeper believed it was poisonous. He also adhered to the belief that basil could produce scorpions and that smelling too much basil could create a scorpion inside the brain. Conversely, basil is held by some to protect against scorpions and the herbalist, John Gerard, noted that those who ate of basil would feel no pain from a scorpion sting. There are as many advocates of basil as there are detractors.

Native to India, the word stems from the Greek “basileus” meaning “king.” Jewish folklore suggests that it adds strength while fasting. It is sacred to the god Vishnu in its native country and the goddess of love in Haiti. In Hindu, holy basil, or “Tulsi,” is a symbol of love, fidelity, eternal life, purification and protection.

Basil is a member of the mint family. Its essential oils show both antifungal and insect repelling properties and components of the plant have been proven to be toxic to mosquitoes. The herb is an excellent source of Vitamin K and manganese, and a good source of Vitamins A and C. It is heart healthy, being a good source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and also prevents free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the bloodstream. Only after it has been oxidized does cholesterol build up in blood vessel walls. Because free radical damage is a contributing factor in other conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, basil may help to lessen the progression of these conditions as well. Studies have shown that components of the oil can act as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting an enzyme called “cyclooxygenase.” Many common over the counter non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen work by inhibiting this same enzyme.

Basil is best consumed fresh, as drying changes the flavor. For cooked dishes, add this herb at the end of the heating process to maintain flavor and nutrition. For future use, try freezing basil in ice cube trays with water for soups and sauces. Or try our recipe for pesto below.

 

Pesto 

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, (about 2 cups, packed) washed and dried

3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled

1/3 cup raw pine nuts

¾ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

In a food processor, pulse basil, garlic and pine nuts briefly—do not over process.  Add cheese and pulse a bit more.  Blend in olive oil and add salt to taste.

Great on sandwiches or over pasta.  Refrigerate.

Makes about 1 cup.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

 

 

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Grow your own backyard paradise in a pot

By Melinda Myers

 

Create a backyard escape with the help of container gardens. Whether you’re looking for a visit to the desert, an English garden or tropical paradise, a few planters can help create the mood.

Reduce your workload and increase your enjoyment with a bit of planning and proper planting.

Select a container with drainage holes and one that mimics the color and feel of the location you are trying to recreate. Use troughs, stone or other containers made from neutral colors when growing succulents. The container should complement, but not overpower the simple beauty of the desert plants.

Keep things warm and natural when going for a more tropical feel. Wicker, bamboo and other natural materials work well with the lush foliage and vibrant colors of tropical plants.

Add a few terra cotta, metal and basket type containers when creating an English cottage setting. Set them on your patio, steps or in the garden to create a focal point.

Keep your plants looking good throughout the season with the proper planting mix. Look for potting mixes with good drainage and water holding abilities, like Schultz Potting Soil Plus (schultz.com). Check the label as some mixes contain enough fertilizer to last the entire season and water-retaining crystals to reduce the need to water.

Use a cactus mix that provides the perfect growing conditions for cacti and succulents. The potting mix should retain the moisture and nutrients the plants need, while providing the excellent drainage that is a must for these plants.

Plant any orchids added to your backyard tropical paradise in a potting mix designed for these plants. Use an orchid mix that has excellent drainage and aeration, yet retains the moisture and nutrients these beauties need to thrive.

Check your planters daily and water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist. Allow cacti and succulents to go a bit drier.

Mulch the soil in tropical, herb, vegetable and annual container gardens. Spread a thin layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or twice shredded bark over the soil surface. Use fine pebbles for cacti and succulents that like things hot and dry.

And don’t forget about garden accents. A wattle fence and arbor of twigs and branches work well for an English garden setting, while a water feature can enhance a tropical paradise themed garden, and some southwest garden art can complete the desert scene you’re going for.

So start your vacation this year with a trip to the garden center. Invest in a few containers, the right potting mix and plants. Then plant your way to the retreat of your dreams.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

 

 

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Bringing Indoor Comfort Outside

DIG-Outdoor-spaces

Make outdoor space an extension of your home

 

(Family Features) The arrival of summer, along with its sunny skies and beautiful weather, beckons homeowners to create a space to entertain guests and enjoy the great outdoors. Design an outdoor living room that merges style and function, and incorporates elements of indoor comfort.

Whether entertaining for two or 10, the warmer weather provides an abundance of opportunities to lounge in peaceful, open-air surroundings. New offerings in decor and design breathe indoor inspiration into your outdoor spaces, creating a beautiful extension of your home for all to enjoy.

“It’s easier than ever to bring the comfort and style of your favorite indoor spaces into your porch, patio and other outdoor areas,” said Aimee Beatty, in-house stylist with Pier 1 Imports. “From comfy throw pillows to trendy rugs, colorful artwork and cheery curtains, new outdoor products boast durability and so much style that your patio will be the neighborhood’s go-to summer hot spot.”

Beatty shares some of her stylish secrets to make your outdoor space an elegant living space worth sharing.

 

Arrange away

Treat your outdoor area as you would your living room. If space is limited, use sectionals to create seating in whatever arrangement fits best. If there is more room, add an investment piece, such as the Echo Beach Dining Table from Pier 1 Imports. This high-quality piece is made from handcrafted, all-weather synthetic rattan and offers plenty of space to arrange chairs just as you would in your dining room. Finish the look by layering your favorite accessories, such as handcrafted trays, detailed lanterns and a colorful floral arrangement to create a cheerful centerpiece that makes your guests feel welcome.

 

Tie it all together

To let you in on a little secret — outdoor rugs tie everything together and really bring a space to life. Simply layer a rug, such as Pier 1 Imports’ chic Wavy Geo Rug, with a beautiful seating collection, colorful cushions and pillows, and you’ve got an outdoor area that makes everyone comfortable and happy.

 

Embrace the bold

Some might be afraid to create a statement outside because — it’s outside. But an outdoor living space lends itself to adventures with color and pattern, providing the opportunity to be bold and to go beyond your comfort zone. When shopping for the outdoors, remember — anything goes.

 

Make it uniquely yours

Mix and match with color and patterns, and personalize your space with accents such as outdoor artwork, planters, umbrellas and more. A smart combination of accessories really transforms an outdoor space from simple to fabulous.

 

Be bright, all night

The sun may still be shining when the guests arrive, but you’ll need something to light up the night and keep the party going all evening long. Create a delightful, welcoming atmosphere with a variety of outdoor lighting options, such as string lights, paper lanterns or floating LED candles placed around the patio. Fashion an elegant glow with lanterns in various sizes, such as the Scroll Trim Lanterns from Pier 1 Imports.

 

Serve in style

Al fresco entertaining always focuses on food, drinks and friends. A self-service food station or bar enhances the casual tone, freeing guests to grab refreshments whenever they please. This also allows you, the host, to focus on the fun at hand. Look for serving and drink carts that maximize space, such as the Rania Serving Cart from Pier 1 Imports, which has three levels so there’s plenty of room to stash an ice bucket, drink dispenser, snacks, lawn games and more.

 

So let the warmth of the season bring many memorable moments to your life and stylish elements into your outdoor spaces. For more great decorating ideas, visit www.pier1.com.

DIG-Outdoor-service

Outdoor-Friendly Materials

Have you ever wondered how some products are suitable for the outdoors while others can only be kept inside? Various processes and materials give outdoor furniture and decor durability and weather-resistant appeal.

 

Synthetic Fibers

Ever think about all the abuse from the elements outdoor pillows, seat cushions and umbrellas suffer? Between the sun, rain and everything in-between, fabrics made for outdoor use are designed to withstand the elements, keeping your newly designed patio fresh for all the parties to come. Synthetic fibers used in these fabrics are designed to bead water, resist stains and maintain their color. With this in mind, you can lengthen the lifespan of such materials by covering them when not in use and avoiding prolonged exposure to rain or sun.

 

Acrylics and Melamine

Outdoor drinkware and dinnerware made of acrylic and melamine provide much of the same great style as their glass counterparts without the breakability. A nice set of acrylic drinkware and melamine dinnerware, such as Summer Quench Turquoise Goblets and Trellis Dinnerware, both from Pier 1 Imports, will keep your outdoor soiree safe and fun throughout the evening.

 

Synthetic Rattan and Wicker

Wicker may be the traditional material for outdoor furniture, but this new generation of synthetic wickers and rattans is not your grandmother’s porch furniture. All-weather chairs, tables and more are woven of synthetic rattan or wicker over durable, rust-resistant frames, making them durable and easy to clean. This approach offers the flexibility to incorporate a woven look into furniture of all styles — from traditional to global, modern to whimsical — without sacrificing durability and longevity.

 

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It’s strawberry season!

DIG-Fresh-market-strawberriesFresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

In our state, we look to the robin for the early announcement of Spring. These brave, hardy birds often appear when the snow is still on the ground. They bring us hope and a promise that winter will soon loose its grip and warmer days are ahead—a promise that the earth will again yield new growth. For the Seneca Indians, the strawberry is linked with Spring and rebirth, as it is the first fruit to ripen in the season. The Seneca believe that strawberries grow along the path to the heavens and that strawberries bring good health as well.

Modern science supports this belief, as studies have shown several benefits to the consumption of the fruit. Among the findings: eating the berries can help prevent memory loss and reduce heart disease and cancer, aid to resist infectious diseases and counter inflammation. Components of the berry aid in absorbing calcium and contribute to healthy bone structure. One test concluded that subjects who ate nitrate rich foods such as strawberries before exercise burned, on average, about 100 more calories than others who did not. This may be because consumption of nitrate rich foods can increase the blood flow to muscles by as much as seven percent, increasing oxygen and making it easier to exercise.

The goddess Venus was said to have cried strawberry tears upon the death of Adonis. The association with the goddess of love probably arises from its heart shape and red color. It is said that if one splits a double strawberry in half and shares this with someone of the opposite sex, love will grow between them. Strawberries were considered an aphrodisiac in France and a soup made from the fruit was served to newlyweds.

The Brits used crushed strawberries and the juices to reduce sunburn and mild blemishes and, in parts of Europe, the fruit is considered sacred to the Virgin Mary. The Romans considered the fruit a cure-all—it was believed to relieve depression and to cure inflammations, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones, gout, fainting spells and diseases of the blood, liver and spleen. It was also used to mask halitosis.

The strawberry is a member of the rose family. It is the only fruit whose seeds are on the outside. An average strawberry contains approximately 200 seeds. It is low calorie, containing about 45 calories per cup. Its fresh, tart/sweet flavor makes it a favorite to many and its nutritional value makes it a favorite to moms and health providers.

Look for strawberries from mid May to mid to late June. Check local farmers markets or food markets that cater to local produce for the freshest berries. Enjoy these treats as they are for a guilt-free snack. Toss them into salads or cereals or muffins. Or try out our recipe for a refreshing summer drink. Any way you slice them, you can’t go wrong with strawberries. Bon Appetite!

Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie

1 large can frozen lemonade

1 16-ounce tub frozen strawberries in syrup

Fresh strawberries (about 2 cups), rinsed, caps removed

1 cup vanilla or strawberry yogurt

1 ½  cups water

Ice (about 8-12 cubes)

Sugar to taste

Blend first five ingredients. If mixture is too strong, add additional water. Add sugar to taste. Add ice and process until desired consistency.

 

 

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Fruitful container gardens

DIG-strawberries-in-a-potBy Melinda Myers

Picture yourself harvesting a few fresh strawberries for your cereal in the morning or perhaps picking a few apples from your own backyard tree to cook up into a pie. It is possible, even if you garden on a balcony or small lot. And even if you have plenty of space, you will still appreciate the fun and convenience of reaching out the backdoor and harvesting some homegrown fruit.

Strawberries are excellent container plants. Grow everbearing or day neutral varieties, so you will be harvesting strawberries throughout the growing season. Reduce your workload and increase success with a self-watering hanging basket (gardeners.com). Or dress things up a bit more with a decorative container. The haystack hanging baskets have the beauty of the coco fiber lined planters, but require half the watering. The AquaSav™ liner is a combination of coir and recycled plastic designed to conserve moisture. This means better results with less watering.

But don’t stop there. Add some dwarf fruit trees to your patio plantings. A dwarf apple, peach or pear will provide beautiful spring flowers, nice foliage for the summer and fruit for you to enjoy. Select self-fertile varieties, those that only require one plant to produce fruit, if space is limited. Grow your dwarf trees in large weather-proof pots with drainage. Those in cold climates will need to provide some winter protection, but the first harvest will make that extra bit of work well worth the effort.

Or try your green thumb at growing lemons, limes and other citrus in a container. The fragrant flowers and glossy green leaves are a beautiful prelude to the tasty fruit. Even cold weather gardeners can put their green thumb to the test by growing a Meyer lemon, Kaffir lime or other citrus in a container. Just move the potted plant indoors for the winter and back outdoors next season once the danger of frost has passed.

And don’t forget the blueberries that are high in antioxidants and flavor. These nutritious beauties require moist well-drained acidic soil. Something most gardeners do not have. This makes growing them in containers, where you control the soil, a good option. Blueberries provide seasonal interest with their nodding white bell-shaped flowers in spring, colorful fruit in summer and yellow, orange or red color in fall. Though only one plant is needed to bear fruit, keep in mind that your harvest will more than double if you grow two.

So survey your patio, deck, balcony or garden for space to add a container or two of fruiting plants that are sure to add beauty and flavor to your garden and meals this season.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Fresh Market: Rhubarb

By Vicky Babcock

DIG-Fresh-market-rhubarb

It is January. In an old shed near Wakefield England, a group of men move carefully among the rows of rhubarb, plucking the pink stems by candlelight.  Most of the shed is in darkness and the atmosphere is hushed.  There is an air of reverence here, as if some rude cathedral.  If one listens quietly, states the farmer, Janet Oldroyd-Hume, one can hear the rhubarb grow.  Is this some sacred rite from pagan days gone by—some obscure celebration of the solstice?  No.  It is the harvest of the forced winter crop, cast in darkness to encourage rapid growth.  Oldroyd-Hume relates the tale that led to this remarkable scene.  In 1817 or thereabouts, the legend goes, workers digging a trench in Chelsea inadvertently covered some rhubarb roots with soil. Upon removing the soil, they discovered that the rhubarb, seeking daylight, had grown long pink stems. “Luckily, it was Chelsea,” Oldroyd-Hume quips, “so they tasted them.”   Ian Jack-the Guardian, January 2008.

Welcome to the Rhubarb Triangle—a 9 square mile area between Rothwell, Morley and Wakefield famous for its forced rhubarb.

Most rhubarb, as is Michigan’s crop, is grown naturally and harvested in the early to late Spring.  The bright red stalks, native to China and dating back over 5,000 years, add a festive look to pies and jams and its tart distinctive flavor makes it an excellent choice for sugared desserts. Rhubarb was given the sobriquet, “pie plant” as it is a vegetable, but is treated as a fruit.

Before sugar’s introduction to the world, rhubarb was treated primarily as a medicinal plant—its roots are a powerful laxative that is still used today.  As sugar became more available and popular to Europeans, so too did rhubarb.   The vegetable lost favor during wartime sugar shortages—people grew tired of eating the plant with little or no sugar and so turned to other more costly fruits to round out their diets. It’s been reported that, for a brief time during WWI*, it was advised to use rhubarb greens as a food source in Briton—this was quickly rescinded as it became abundantly clear that the leaves are toxic to both humans and animals.

Ben Franklin was said to be responsible for the introduction of rhubarb to North America in 1772.  And Marco Polo wrote extensively about this medicinal herb.  In the late 1800’s, Russians brought the stalks to Alaska to treat scurvy as the plant is rich in vitamin C. Rhubarb is low in calories and high in fiber, making it a highly desirable plant for our diet as is.  However, few of us can tolerate the bitter stems without a touch of sugar.

*Note:  Although many sources state WWI, others state WWII.  I even found a reference to Americans being advised to eat the leaves as opposed to the British.  One of the sources that I would have trusted most contradicted itself within the same article.

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

3 cups bread cubes

3 cups chopped rhubarb

1 ½ cup sugar

¼ tsp. salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 stick melted butter or margarine

Combine—spoon mixture into 8×8-inch pan.  Bake at 375º 40 minutes.  This is delicious warm from the oven, but can be reheated or eaten cold.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called  Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718. Like us on facebook for updates.

 

 

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Spring into fresh produce faster with early season gardening tricks

DIG-Spring-into-fresh-produce-faster1(BPT) – Warm weather begs green thumbs across the country to break out their gardening gloves and till the soil for the season’s plantings. Whether this is your first year tending a home garden or it’s something you’ve been doing for decades, gardening offers many rewards, including time spent outdoors, the ability to feel closer to Mother Nature, and of course, the fresh fare plucked just steps from your kitchen.

DIG-Spring-into-fresh-produce-faster2Anyone can have a successful home garden no matter where they live by following a few steps from professional gardeners. Consider these three important tips for starting your garden right so you can enjoy fresh produce faster, thanks to the experts at Outdoor Essentials – makers of garden beds, compost bins and other gardening necessities.

Step 1: Research appropriate early plantings

Springtime is ideal garden time thanks to milder weather, and a good place to start is by researching proper plants for your region’s early season. If you have questions, consult your local nursery or call your local extension office for specialized advice.

In general, good early plantings include brassicas, a family of plants that includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Additional cool-season crops to consider include radishes, beets, peas, potatoes and carrots. These plants will thrive early in the season and produce yields quickly.

In addition to quick-producing plants, the early season is the best time to plant other varieties that take a long time to mature. Onions, for example, require a lengthy growing season and should be planted early so that in late summer, gardeners can enjoy the maximum yield possible.

Want produce quicker? Consider purchasing starter plants, also called plant starts, rather than relying on packets of seeds. These are the small plants that have already germinated and have a basic root system. These are easy to transfer to your own garden and, with proper tending, will grow quickly and produce fruit faster.

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth

After months of not being used, your garden’s soil is likely compact and will require some tilling to loosen the dirt and encourage plant growth. You can do this with a garden rake; for large gardens, some people prefer to rent a power tiller.

People who live in smaller homes, a townhouse or condo might prefer to use raised garden beds. Stylish and functional, raised garden planters from Outdoor Essentials eliminate the need to bend over to tend garden, a benefit that has made them vastly popular. Raised garden beds can be used virtually anywhere outdoors, including on a deck or patio, and they can be moved, too, if necessary.

Whether you create a garden plot in your yard or add a few raised-garden planters to your patio, make sure the dirt is nutrient-rich and ready for your plants. Typically it’s wise to mix black dirt in with your soil to ensure that plants grow strong. If you’ve had trouble growing in the past, consider getting your soil tested to verify pH levels.

Step 3: Tend daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor

For best results, tend your garden on a daily basis. Check for soil moisture and water as necessary. Make sure to pluck weeds and watch for pest infestations. If done daily, it should only take a few minutes to verify the health of your garden. Plus it’s fun to watch plants grow and flower.

As fruit and vegetables mature, it’s time to enjoy the season’s first harvest. The healthy fresh fare tastes even better knowing you grew it yourself, plus it cuts down on grocery bills. If you find you have too much of one type of produce at once, share with neighbors, coworkers and friends—everyone loves fresh garden delights.

Keep in mind that as plants grow, you need to make sure they don’t overcrowd each other. This can limit growth and yield production. If your garden starts to look overgrown, you may need to pluck out a few plants to open up space and encourage proper growth and healthy root systems.

Spring to it! The mild, moist weather and longer days of the early gardening season make the conditions ideal for plant growth. With a few simple steps and a watchful eye, you’ll be enjoying fresh produce at almost every meal. For more garden inspiration, visit www.outdooressentialproducts.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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