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Archive | Home and Garden

Fresh Market: The Peach

 

By Vicky Babcock

 

BLOOM-fresh-market-peachesWho can resist the lure of a ripe peach on a summer afternoon? Not I, and certainly not my three-year-old grandson, who gorged himself on peaches while helping me pick and suffered not a whit. The sight of a peach still brings to mind that perfect summer day—Bryce’s face with bulging cheeks, the fragrant juice dripping slowly down his chin. He must have thought he was in candy heaven! He’s not alone—peaches are prized throughout the world.

Alexander the Great is credited with bringing the fruit to Europe after conquering Persia. Although peaches get their name from ancient Persia, they almost certainly originated in China, where they are highly prized. Peaches were brought to America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, although they were not commercially grown until the 19th century.

The Chinese held the peach tree in awe. It was considered a ward against evil spirits and an aid to immortality.

In Korea, the peach is seen as the fruit of happiness, riches, honors and longevity. The rare peach with double seeds is seen as a favorable omen of a mild winter. It is one in ten of the immortal plants and animals. (Wikipedia)

In Vietnam, where it is recognized as a sign of spring, it plays a part in their celebration of Tet.

Peaches are a low calorie choice, providing about 30 calories per medium fruit. A medium peach provides eight percent of RDA for vitamin c and about 140 mg. of potassium. If you can tolerate the fuzz, leave these lovely treats with the skin intact, as much of the nutritional value is contained in the peel.

All parts of the peach have their place in American folklore and folk medicine. It was thought that a baby that refuses to be birthed could be brought at once if the mother drinks tea made from bark scraped downward from a young peach tree. Peach tree bark scraped upwards is said to be a cure for vomiting and/or diarrhea.

A magical cure for warts involved cutting as many notches in a peach tree branch as one has warts. Peach tree wood is a favorite of many for making dowsing rods.

Kentucky lore holds that rubbing warts with peach leaves, then burying the leaves, will remove the warts.  Peach leaves were also used in Colonial times as a cure for worms and Hohman recommends the flowers for the same. According to lore, eating a peach that has been pecked by a bird can lead to poisoning. Peach pits were used as a cure for “gravel” (kidney stones), to stimulate hair growth and as a remedy for drunkenness. Charms can be made from the carved stones as well.

Note:  I include the folklore for color only. Consumption of peach pits strikes me as highly risky as peach pits, like many of the rose family seeds, contain traces of cyanide.   If you plan to plant your own trees, you might want to consider this bit of folk wisdom shared by Vance Randolph. “In planting peach trees, it is always well to bury old shoes or boots near the roots.” He goes on to state that not far from Little Rock, Arkansas, he has known farmers to drive into town to search refuse piles for old shoes to bury in their orchards.

Okay, I’m hooked. Does anyone have an old boot?

Peach & sweet onion salad

6 ripe peaches peeled and sliced
1 medium Vidalia onion, cut across the center and sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce

1/4 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
6 cups mixed baby salad greens, rinsed and crisped
2 cups fresh arugula, tough stems removed, rinsed and crisped

In a large bowl, gently combine the peach and onion slices.  In a small cup, whisk together the lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper.  Pour over the peach mixture and toss lightly to coat evenly.   Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.When ready to serve, combine the baby greens and arugula.  Divide among 6 salad plates and top each portion with the peach and onion slices.  Drizzle with some of the juices from the bowl and serve at once.  Makes 6 Servings.

Per Serving:  66 Cal; 0.0 g Total Fat; 16 g Carb; 0.0 mg Cholesterol; 17 mg Sodium; 449 mg Potassium; 4 g Dietary Fiber; 2 g Protein.

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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Create an outdoor resort in your backyard 

34_6008_WH.tifBLOOM-BackyardResortC(NewsUSA) This year, many people will spend vacations at home instead of traveling. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), with a few updates to your outside lighting, you can enjoy a mini vacation at home. Believe it or not, it’s easier and less expensive than you might think to transform your existing patio, deck or pool area into a lovely retreat. Rather than buying a costly designer patio set or lounge chairs that will lose their luster by next season, invest in a new lighting scheme that will enhance your existing outdoor furniture and amenities.

“Creating a beautiful landscape doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Rick Wiedemer of Hinkley Lighting. “A few well-placed, low-voltage path or accent lights can make a huge impact on a well-manicured landscape.” No lawn is too small. “Even modest homes or those with limited yards or gardens can benefit,” he says.

All that is needed are some basic tools, a transformer (which reduces standard 120-volt household current to the safe 12-volt level), outdoor low-voltage copper cable and low-voltage lighting fixtures—all of which you can find at your local ALA-member lighting showroom.

“The best thing about using low-voltage lighting outdoors is you don’t have to do everything at once. I recommend purchasing a transformer that is larger than you immediately need,” says Lew Waltz of Philips Hadco. That way, when you are ready to install additional lighting, the larger transformer will already be in place and ready to handle the task. “You only pay for the energy consumed by the fixtures,” says Waltz. “In other words, a 600-watt transformer that only has 200 watts of fixtures on it, uses 200 watts of energy, not 600.”

When laying out your project, remember that a little light goes a long way outdoors. Consulting with a lighting professional at your local ALA-member lighting showroom can help you avoid making the common mistake of too many fixtures in one area. To find more information about lighting all areas of your home, go to www.AmericanLightingAssoc.com.

 

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Fresh  Market: Raspberry—Food for the gods

*BLOOM-Raspberries

By Vicky Babcock

 

It’s raspberry season! We can thank the Olympians for this flavorful fruit. Greek mythology credits the Olympians with the discovery while foraging for food on Mount Ida—so named for the nursemaid of Zeus. The nymph is said to be responsible for the rich red color—the berries, once white, were stained by her blood when she pricked her finger picking berries for the young god.

To dream of raspberries is a good sign as it means success in all things, happiness in marriage, fidelity in a sweetheart and good news from abroad (Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore).

Some European cultures believe that hanging raspberry brambles over windows and doors will offer protection to the house and its occupants. The practice is also used when a death has occurred in the family to prevent any wayward spirits from entering and stealing the soul of the dearly departed.

Raspberry leaves have been used for centuries as an aid to pregnancies. It is said that red raspberry leaves tone the uterus and the muscles of the pelvic region, ease morning sickness, ease the pain of childbirth and aid in the production of breast milk. While I found no scientific evidence to support these claims, red raspberry leaf tea continues to be used in homeopathic medicine today.

Raspberries are high in manganese and vitamin C, providing 62 percent and 51 percent of our RDA per cup respectively, as well as 33 percent of our dietary fiber. Research shows that raspberries are an antioxidant food, containing ellagic acid, which helps to prevent unwanted cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. Research also suggests that raspberries may have the potential to inhibit cancer cell growth and the formation of tumors (Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Lore).  A study in the June 2004 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology suggests that eating three or more servings of raspberries a day may lower age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) by up to 36 percent. ARMD is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

Nutrition aside, these little jewels are a treat to eat, sun-warmed fresh off the bush or cold from the fridge. But don’t wait—raspberries are fragile at best and do not keep well. Try them on cereal or salad.  Or try our fresh raspberry pie. To prolong your enjoyment, spread the berries out on a cookie sheet to freeze and then bag them up for the freezer for later consumption.

 

Fresh Raspberry Pie

For crust:  Stir together

1 ½ cups flour

½ cup vegetable oil

2 T. sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 T. milk

Stir ingredients together. Pat into pie plate, prick with fork. Bake in pre-heated 450-degree oven about 10 minutes. Watch carefully, as this burns easily. Cool. Prepare filling.

For filling:

2 T. cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 cups fresh raspberries

Jello™

Whipped topping

Bring to a boil water, sugar and cornstarch, stir in 1 small box raspberry Jello™. Gently stir in 2 cups fresh raspberries. Spread 2 cups of fresh raspberries into cooled pie crust and pour hot filling over the top.  Cool. Top with Cool Whip™ or other whipped topping.

 

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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Fresh Market: Cherries

BLOOM-Fresh-market-cherries-webBy Vicky Babcock

 

“Cherries on the ryse,” or on the twigs, was one of the street cries in London during the 15th century. These cherries likely were fruit from the native wild cherry, as the domestic cherry, introduced into Briton around 71 BC, disappeared sometime in the Saxon period.  It was not reintroduced until Henry VIII’s reign in the early 1500’s. Ancient lore holds that the Virgin Mary—prior to the birth of Christ—once wished to taste some cherries that hung high above her head. She asked Joseph to pick them for her but he refused saying, “Let the father of thy child present thee with the cherries.” As the words left his lips the branch of the tree bowed to the Virgin’s hand, allowing her to gather the fruit and thus, silently reproaching Joseph for his surliness. Thus, the cherry is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics: Embracing the Myths, Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore of the Plant Kingdom, Richard Folkard, 1884).

The ancient Lithuanians believed the demon, Kirnis, to be the guardian of the Cherry. In Germany and Denmark, tradition holds that evil spirits often hide themselves within old Cherry trees, causing harm to anyone who comes near. Folkard’s book also says that to dream of cherries denotes inconsistency and disappointment in life.

A relative newcomer to the States (1600’s), cherries have likely been consumed since prehistoric times.  Romans and Greeks prized the fruit as did the Chinese. Its royal color and its tart flavor likely earned it a place on the tables of nobles and kings.  The cherry tree probably originated in the territories of Asia Minor near the Black and Caspian Seas.

It turns out the sandy soil along Lake Michigan, as well as the tempering effects of the lake on the arctic air, create an excellent growing environment for cherries in our state.   Michigan has the honor of being the leading producer of the tart cherry crop in the United States, with about 75 percen of the nation’s production, which is almost exclusively centered in the Traverse Bay area. Most of these tart cherries find their way into pies and pie fillings, in addition to preserves, jellies, juice and dried fruit. We are also a big producer of sweet cherries and farmer’s markets and roadside stands are rife with these beauties in July. Peter Dougherty, the first European settler in the Traverse Bay area, is credited with the introduction of the tart cherry tree here. In 1852, he planted a cherry orchard on Old Mission Peninsula. Much to the astonishment of the natives and settlers, the grove thrived.

Consumption of cherries has been linked with reduction of uric acid in the body, bringing great relief from the pain associated with arthritis and gout. In a study done by the USDA, it was discovered that consumption of 2 cups of Bing cherries reduced uric acid by as much as 15 percent. Cherries also help reduce inflammation by reducing the amount of C-reactive protein produced. Powerful antioxidants in cherries—especially the dark sweet variety—help keep cancerous cells from growing out of control. They are an excellent source of potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure by keeping sodium and potassium in balance.  One cup of cherries contains as much potassium as a banana. Trouble sleeping? Tart cherries contain melatonin, a sleep aid, and in studies, two tablespoons of the juice were found to be just as effective as a melatonin supplement.

A cup of cherries comes in at less than a hundred calories, making it an excellent choice for your diet. Cherries contain many B-vitamins as well, which are essential for metabolism. So for a skinny choice, choose cherries!

 

Fruit Crisp

2 tart pie apples such as Granny Smith or Spies, peeled and chopped

2 Anjou pears, peeled and chopped

1 cup pitted dark sweet cherries

¼ cup sugar

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/3 cup quick cooking oats

1/3 cup flour

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter

½ cup pecan pieces

 

Combine fruits and ¼ cup sugar; spread in buttered 8×8 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except for pecans. Work together until crumbly. Stir in pecan pieces. Sprinkle mixture over fruit layer.

Bake in pre-heated 350 ◦ oven 50 minutes or until crisp is golden and bubbly.  Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

 

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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Top tips for growing tasty tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes like this giant SteakHouse can be both tasty and budget friendly.

Homegrown tomatoes like this giant SteakHouse can be both tasty and budget friendly.

(NAPS)—Americans are crazy about their tomatoes! Tomatoes are the #1 vegetable grown in gardens all across the nation.

More and more, they’re grown at home—for a number of reasons. Not only is homegrown produce tasty and fresh, it could save you thousands in grocery bills every year. Fortunately, it’s easy to grow tomatoes, even if you haven’t got a green thumb, with these simple tips:

Plant

1) Sow seeds indoors, into individual containers, 1⁄4” deep and one to two seeds per cell. Keep moist and under good-quality light. Seedlings emerge in seven to ten days at 70 to 75 degrees F. When seedlings have at least two pairs of leaves, acclimatize in a sheltered place outside for a week.

2) Pre-grown plants are a great alternative to homegrown seed-lings. Grown and nurtured by trained horticulturists, plants should be available at the optimum time for planting into the garden.

3) To reduce disease, set plants 1-1⁄2 feet to 2-1⁄2 feet apart if a bush or compact variety, 3 to 4 feet if a full-vining garden type, in a sunny area with average soil. Tomatoes are vines and can be planted deep, up to the two topmost sets of leaves.

4)Water thoroughly but not too often, early in the day so that plants will dry off before evening; 1 to 2 inches per week is best during the growing season.

5)Mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Use newspaper, grass clippings, salt hay, or straw to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

6)Use slow-release fertilizer at planting time to nourish young tomato plants and again when first fruits form.

Protect

7)All tomatoes benefit from staking and caging. Emerging fruits gain improved air circulation and reduced ground pest problems.

8)Scout plants for harmful insects and disease often. Remove insects simply by picking them off or use natural soaps and beneficial insects.

Pick

9)Pick tomatoes when fully colored and soft to the touch. Pick regularly to keep plants productive. Almost-ripe tomatoes can be ripened in brown bags or spread on newspapers at room temperature.

10) Exciting new varieties, such as Burpee’s SteakHouse tomato, can be enjoyed with any meal and to flavor cooked dishes, soups, sauces, stews, ketchup, paste, juice, quiche and pies. You may care to try them in curries, casseroles and chutney, too.

Learn More

For more information, gardening ideas, videos and non-GMO seeds and plants, visit www.burpee.com or call (800) 888-1447.

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Garden-tainment creates lasting memories for guests

by Melinda Myers

Summer is filled with parties, gatherings, picnics and more. We all want to make these occasions special and memorable for our guests.

Many gardeners tend to schedule events around peak bloom or harvest in order to share the beauty and flavor from their garden.

Unfortunately nature does not always cooperate. It seems we are saying “you should have been here last week” or “come back next week when the flowers will be at their peak.”

No need to worry. It may be considered cheating by the purist, but isn’t it all about creating a great space and event for our guests? Consider adding some fun flower accents. Metal flower sculptures like daisy bouquet stakes, hollyhock stem stakes or aluminum fiddleheads insure color throughout the season.

Or make it fun with faucet handle flowers (gardeners.com), which are sure to spark some conversation amongst your guests.

You can also add some extra color with a bit of floral paint. Use garden colors to paint seedheads of flowers past their prime. Just cover the stem and leaves to insure only the seedheads get painted for a more realistic look. It might fool your guests or give them a good idea for their own garden.

Or stop by your local garden center. Many have flowering planters and large size annuals that you can use to fill in voids and add color to the garden.

Pot a few of these up and use them as centerpieces on the tables. A search of the garage or visit to a thrift store may find reasonably priced fun items you can convert into containers.

Keep your guests comfortable and the mosquitoes at bay with the gentle breeze of a fan. Mosquitoes are weak fliers and the gentle breeze of a fan can keep them away. Or step it up with the help of geranium oil. It’s natural, fragrant and can help repel mosquitoes.

And be sure to include fresh-from-the-garden flavor in your beverages and dishes. A pot of basil or mint near the party means guests can flavor their own lemonade tea or mojito. The hollow stem of lovage, cut down to size makes a great straw for your tomato juice or bloody Mary. Your guests won’t forget the fun of sipping their drink through this celery-flavored straw.

Then add some color and a gourmet touch to your salads with a few edible flowers. Nasturiums, roses and calendulas are just a few to consider. Just be sure they are edible and pesticide-free before serving them to your guests.

Use fresh-from-the-garden or container herbs for grilling, salads and your main course. And consider drying a few herbs or starting cuttings from your plants to use as party favors.

Don’t let the sunset put an end to your celebration. Light up the evening with solar illuminated planters, solar pathway lighting and decorative fiber optic lights. Or go old school and set votive candles in a mason jar or tucked safely in the garden.

So set aside some time to take a walk through the garden and plan a party or two for you, your family and friends to enjoy its beauty.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Fresh Market—Farm Fresh Eggs

By Vicky Babcock

Eggs—or what some refer to as “cackleberries”—have been called nature’s perfect food.  And why not?  Packaged in its own perfect wrapping, each egg contains a multitude of nutrients necessary to good health. Egg yolks are the richest source of choline, important for brain function and health.  Eggs contain selenium, an antioxidant, as well as B12, B6, folate, vitamins A and E and lutein, which protects against macular degeneration and cataracts.  Eggs are packed with muscle-building protein and, even better, they taste great!

*BLOOM-Fresh Market eggsUnfortunately, not all eggs are created equal. Living in a farm community, you’ve likely had a chance to sample farm fresh eggs from pastured, free-range hens.  You can’t help noticing the darker color and fuller flavor from these liberated chicks.  Obviously they’re better for you.  But do you know how much? In several studies shared by Mother Earth News comparing conventional store eggs to pastured, free-range eggs, they found free-range to have one third less cholesterol, one quarter less saturated fat, two thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene and four to six times more vitamin D.

These are all good reasons to buy local. Can you buy organic, free-range eggs from local grocers? Sure, but the term may be deceptive. For eggs to be labeled, “free-range”, the hens need to have access to the outdoors. This can be a small slab of concrete, not a good source of natural nutrients. “Cage free” is another deceptive term used by sellers.  A warehouse or pole barn with poultry packed toe to toe could be considered “cage free”.  And beware of eggs labeled, “vegetarian fed.” These are most certainly not free-range as chickens are not vegetarians.

Are there any benefits to conventional, store bought eggs? Yes.  You can be sure they’ve been washed, a process that removes the bloom, an egg’s natural protection from bacterial contaminants. Large commercial farms usually replace the bloom with a coating of edible mineral oil.  Does this mean that eggs should not be washed? No, we highly recommend washing eggs prior to cooking as you would any farm produce. However, allowing the bloom to remain intact for storage will increase the shelf-life of your eggs.  Refrigeration is also an important factor in shelf-life, although there are those that hold that eggs do not need refrigeration.  If you do decide to go that route(not recommended), be sure to check your eggs before using by placing them into a bowl of water.  As one source puts it, “If it doesn’t sink, it’s going to stink!”

 

Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

1 pound mild ground pork sausage

1 pound hot ground pork sausage

1(30-ounce) package frozen hash browns

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded  (8 oz.)

6 large eggs

1 cup milk

Fresh basil, chopped (about ½ cup loosely packed)

Combine sausage and cook in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until sausage is crumbly and no longer pink. Drain well.

Prepare hash browns according to package directions, using 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir together hash browns, sausage, and cheese. Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.  Stir together eggs, milk, basil and remaining salt. Pour evenly over potato mixture.

Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes.

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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Eight ways to get the most out of your trip to the farmers market

Young woman at the market(BPT) – This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways.

Here are eight tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:

* Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.

* Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season’s harvest. Clean out your fridge’s produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals.

* While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase – they’re better for Mother Nature. If you’ll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.

* You’ll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day’s produce.

* Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.

* Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you’re picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.

* Unpack bags as soon as you’re home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you’ve purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don’t forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.

* Every week, try something new. By all means, enjoy your familiar favorites, but also add in new items like kohlrabi, chard or broccolini. Not sure how to prepare something new? Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat. Spice-filled marinades or rubs are a perfect complement to produce. Throw your veggies on the grill to bring out the freshness. On its website, www.simplyorganic.com, Simply Organic offers numerous flavorful fresh produce recipes.

Here’s a tasty recipe to try on your grill today:

Adobo Grilled Asparagus

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 8 to 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:

 

Use organic ingredients where possible.

2 ounces slivered almonds

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Simply Organic adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic paprika

Directions:

In a dry 8-inch skillet, toast the almonds, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly golden, about five to eight minutes. Remove and pour the almonds into a small bowl and set off to the side. In a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, adobo seasoning and paprika. Preheat your grill. Real wood charcoal tastes best, but gas works fine. Avoid briquettes; they make food taste like lighter fluid. Aim for medium-high heat. If your grill lid has a thermometer built into the lid, it should read about 375 degrees. Once hot, lay the asparagus perpendicular to your grill grates and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning once until fork tender yet still firm. Serve on a platter topped with toasted almond slivers.

 

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Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

Maple’s Sticky Gold

On a hot morning in July 2012, Michel Gauvreau, an accountant with Veragrimar, arrived to inventory a warehouse full of maple syrup owned by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The building, located in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, held around 16,000 barrels of syrup, stacked six high and hundreds deep. Each full barrel weighed 650 pounds—a value of $1,800, nearly 13 times the price of crude oil. This particular warehouse held about 1/10th of Quebec’s annual production, a vast sea of the nation’s “sticky gold.” It was not a setting for drama, yet unbeknownst to the principal players, the scene had already been set.

BLOOM-maple syrup tooMichel was scaling the barrels when he nearly fell as a barrel shifted beneath his weight. Catching his balance, he rocked the barrel. Empty. The first of many.  Gauvreau notified the Federation, who arrived to investigate. Upon opening a barrel, they found not a brown, goopy liquid redolent with the wintry scent of vanilla, caramel and childhood; it was thin, clear, and odorless. It was water.

Sixty percent—six million pounds—of syrup had vanished, about $18 million dollars, wholesale. The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist was a blow to Canada, which makes approximately 80 percent of the world’s production. It would be months before the Federation would have any answers. To siphon off and transport that amount of syrup alone would have required more than 100 tractor trailers.*

Canada prides itself on its maple syrup and its maples, and the maple leaf is an icon featured on their coins, military uniforms and their country’s flag. Ten species of maple are native to Canada and markets there produce maple sugar, maple butter, maple pork rub, maple vinaigrette, maple coffee, maple tea and yes, maple perfume.

On a smaller scale here in Michigan we have our own maple industry and it’s Pure Michigan! According to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, our state ranks fifth in maple syrup production in the country with an average production of about 90,000 gallons per year. Maple sap collection usually begins in February and runs about six weeks, although in the U.P. it can run well into April. Temperatures play a part in the production, as the tree needs a combination of warm days and freezing nights for the sap to run. Timing is also important, as the sugar content is highest in late winter to early spring. When the trees come into bud, the sap is unpalatable. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Native Americans introduced European settlers to the practice of collecting and reducing the sap, although the settlers refined the process. Its discovery is uncertain; however, popular lore speaks of an Indian chief who carelessly embedded his hatchet into the trunk of a maple tree. The tree yielded its sap, which was collected by the chief’s squaw and used to cook their meal. This pleased the chief and so began our love affair with maple syrup, most often used today to enhance the flavor of our pancakes and waffles.

Unlike sugar, maple syrup contains an abundant amount of naturally occurring minerals, including calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium. It is also a source of antioxidants, which have been shown to aid the immune system, lower blood pressure and slow the effects of aging.

Michigan made maple syrup can be found in farmers markets throughout the State from June through August—or until the last pint is gone. Better hurry though, the Michigan Maple Syrup Association tells us that maple syrup is one of the few Michigan crops where demand exceeds supply!

*For more on this story, Google “The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist,” by Brendan Borrell. Much of the information in this article was gleaned from this source.

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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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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