Saturday, April 30, 2011

Finally Got Electricity Back!

Oh internet, how I missed you. I"m back to the land of the connected. A wind storm knocked out our power and several trees. I have so much to post about! Wintersown seedlings are almost all sprouted, fall sown seedlings in the ground have sprouted including turnip rooted chevril, sweet cicely, orach, magenta spreen, and so on... Onions, brassicas, and more are in the ground. It's beginning to look a lot like spring!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harvesting the Wild Monday

Wandering in our maple bush, hunting for spring flowers, I found the wild version of the stinking rose: Wild Leek - Allium tricoccum. It's protected in some parts of the country as it can take awhile for patches to mature so I harvested judiciously.

Wild leeks are early season risers.

To this, I added some dandelion leaves, daylily and horseradish shoots for a salad.

From left to right: wild leeks, daylily shoots, horseradish shoots and dandelion leaves.

There were lots of other nibbles popping up in the forest. It's a time of year filled with green tonics but be careful to make correct identification as sometimes a rosette by any other name might not be edible.


Wild Man Steve Brill on Daylilies

Northern Bushcraft Wild Edibles List

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Urban Garden Blog

Just a quick note to let you know that regular contributor and Ottawa city gardener Steve has a blog: I soiled myself. He's busy turning his yard into an edible oasis in the concrete desert.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making Maple Syrup by a Novice: Boiling

We started late, only put in ten taps and had variable weather. The buds on a silver maple broke the day after we finished with temperatures on the rise. Still we collected a fair amount of sap.Friday was a beautiful day to start the fire in the sugar shack.

Getting the fire going.

We inherited a sugar shack with evaporator pans and the whole bit but I have friends who boil theirs outside in a big pot on what is essentially a camp fire, and others who collect small quantities from their urban tree to boil up on the stove top. This does create a lot of sticky steam so not recommended for large amounts. I wonder if anyone has done this on their BBQ/outside cooking station?

Me adding some fresh sap from that day.

I'm no expert. This was my first time but the trick seems to be that you want to boil and boil and boil and boil. Then boil some more until it takes on the quality of hot syrup. If left to cool a bit, it will be thickened and ultra sweet like maple syrup of course. Oh and skim off the scum as you go.

Getting closer. It was this beautiful amber colour forever before it thickened into a deep caramel. We finished boiling inside.

Our haul produced a little more than three litres of syrup which was more than we were expecting. Not that I'm complaining. The syrup was left to cool then strained to remove the sugar sand* that accumulates during the boiling process. Then they were bottled for storage in the fridge. You can also can syrup which is what we would do if we had a larger quantity. Once again: the finished product.

Two litres of the good stuff.

* Apparently these are 'minerals and nutrients' which are filtered out to prevent the syrup from looking cloudy and because they taste like sand. According to one source, this is mostly calcium which seems like something you might want to keep but according to another, sugar sand can concentrate lead so you would want to get rid of this. I would like to look into this further but I have far too much bed digging and planting to do today. Woohoo!

Overwintered Harvest Monday

Tops and tails of parsley root

Once again, thanks to the previous owners, I got a harvest today of parsley root. It seems that a number of things thought it a tasty treat too but there was enough to share so I plan on cooking it up for dinner tonight accompanied by a side of parsley leaf salad.

Also our first bottle of maple syrup. The harvests are coming in at last!

Doesn't that pinch of hard work always make things taste fabulous? Actually it was quite zen watching the evaporators for a day in the woods while sugaring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Winner Is... No Snow Day

This was tricky. I was using my old yard as a gage as it's in town. Some of you *might* have had a complete melt beforehand but I think my old yard was a good middling estimate. Anyhow, looks like Roman's bet of April 6th has it. Please contact me so I can send your choice of book! Oh and happy birthday Roman!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sweet Harvest Monday

Is it maple syrup yet? Youngest 'checks' on our first tap.

Having acres and acres of rocky maple bush* is not only pretty in the fall, but it can be productive in the spring. Finally, a first Harvest Monday at my new property. I had hoped to show you a finished bottle of maple syrup but the weather did not cooperate today.
Some of our maple sugar 'bush.'

We started late in the year. The sap has been flowing for some weeks now on and off when the temperature was above freezing. According to our finding of mothes in our buckets, all too soon the season is coming an end. We started with only 10 taps this year though we inherited the equipment to do 4 times that amount, along with a sugar shack. Yay!
The garden partner (he's been promoted**) tapping a tree.

How to Tap a Tree by a novice:

1. Find a suitable tree: sugar maple, black maple are considered very good, other maples follow but you can also tap birch, black walnuts,*** and more I'm sure but the latter few will mean lots more boiling to get some syrup.
2. Drill a slightly uphill hole about 1.5-2 inches deep or stop when you start seeing sap on the sunny side of the tree about drill height.
3. Put in a spile/tap. You can make one with staghorn sumac (thanks Patty for forwarding me this great idea). Hammer it in so that most of the tap is going in to your collection bucket.
4. There are various containers you can use including a milk jug.

By the way, more and more of my city friends are tapping their well developed, beautiful maples or those of obliging neighbours. The room to grow and sunny exposure (relative to most forests) mean that urban maples can be big sap producers!


* For some reason, people in the country, call forests: bush. This makes me think of short multi-stemmed hedges instead of the cloud scraping, can't-reach-round-to hug trees found in some 'bushes.'

** He used to be the Non-Gardening Partner but after showing far than the normal interest in growing potatoes and hot peppers then spending weeks in the woods chopping and stacking fallen wood and THEN manning a booth at a seed fair for one of the sellers, I've decided that he deserves recognition for towing the growing line. Oh and he hardly ever complains about me talking plants anymore. Could I have worn him down? Or is growing good food just so much fun you can resist for long?

*** I've heard of other members of the walnut family being tapped as well like butternut. Also there is mention of using hickory though the process is different.


Tapping trees: nice pictures

Info on maple syrup production

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Can't hold in the excitement!

Spring, sweet spring!

Sugary post to follow.