"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Photosynthesize yourself!

I was recently reading that my home state of Idaho has one of the highest number of skin cancer cases in the nation, our neighboring states of Washington and Oregon are right up there too. Could any of this possibly have something to do with poor nutrition and not getting enough sun?

"Not enough" sun?

Doesn't the sun cause skin cancer and what does diet have to do with it? Check out this video for an interesting perspective on this issue.

Pretty convincing wasn't he, now I know that the nutrient dense blue green algae mentioned in the video sounds absolutely delicious, and the powdered supplements...mmm, yummy. But before you run out and purchase those interesting products might I suggest an alternative? All of the wonderful cancer preventing nutrients he talked about readily appear in common garden plants like purslane, kale, chicory, parsley, and many other vegetables, herbs, and weeds that can easily be grown in an ordinary garden. Take a look -

Purslane is said to contain the highest levels of omega 3 of any vegetables (kale has some too) and is an incredibly great source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phenylalanine, and tryptophan...all of which go hand in hand with a little vitamin D from the sun to help a person feel great. Don't like the taste of purslane, try feeding it to your chickens and eating the eggs instead. I have read that chickens fed on purslane can lay eggs that have up to twenty times more omega-3 than your average egg. A cup of this plant contains all of the vitamin E, calcium, magnesium (one of the best sources), and potassium you need in a day and it also contains good amounts of vitamin C and A.

I have not planted purslane in the garden for years and years, it comes up on it's own and we consider it taboo to weed out this incredible plant even if it does appear in less than desirable places...we work around it. I never did have much luck starting it from seed so I let it do its own thing...and it seems to know what it's doing.:)

We first introduced this Golden Purslane to our garden many years ago and are also blessed to have a dark green variety that grows wild around here.

Chicory and kale are also supposed to be excellent sources of vitamins A, B complex, K, E, C, and both contain significant amounts of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and magnesium....iron too. Kale is pack full of certain cartanoids - pigments plants evolved to help protect their tissues against the harmful effects of solar radiation. It is one of the highest sources of the cartnoids lutein and zeaxanthin both of which are believed to help protect us from skin cancer. Chicory with its deep delving roots contains even more minerals, like calcium, than kale does.

This, new to our garden, Red Bore Kale is not only attractive to look at but has surprised us with it's nice flavor.

Mineral rich Italian Chicory is one of our favorite salad ingredients.

Parsley is so amazing I wouldn't even know where to start, let's just say that it contains everything listed above and is one of the very best plant sources of vitamin K and various antioxidants.

The new parsley is coming along nicely while a couple rows down...

the old parsley is flowering and preparing to set seed.

And the herbs and weeds - take that obnoxious little chickweed that loves to take over in a healthy garden bed...it is crying out to be consumed, practically begging for attention, yet most discard it with a curse. Chickweed is long known for its healing properties and more nutritious than many of the vegetables that it shares space with.

What a weed, tastes like corn silk and makes a nice addition to our salads....the chickens like it too.

Hardy herbs like, oregano, sage, thyme and so on all fit nicely into this category being jam packed full of antioxidants. Mr. Shiow Y. Wang says - "Oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and four times more than blueberries." and he should know, being a USDA biochemist and all....right?

So if you live in Idaho, or anywhere else for that matter, and believe any of the above information to be true, don't be afraid to get a little sunshine and please consider growing a garden full of these amazing plants...I know we are and will continue to do so. In our colder climate all of the above listed plants with the exception of purslane can be grown 365 days a year or close to it, provided you supply them with a little protection from the elements during the cold months...you know, the cold months pretty much being September through July around these parts.:)

While these thoughts make sense to us given our chosen lifestyle I do realize this may or may not be relevant to others depending upon their particular situation and/or beliefs about nutrition and it's effect on one's health. My intention in writing this post is not to argue the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry and the need for the products they sell, such as sunscreen, but instead to simply provide some insight for those like minded people who do wish to take a more holistic approach to these issues. Rather than searching far and wide for nutritional super foods it should be realized that these amazing supplements need not be any farther away than one's own backyard garden, herb bed, and the forests that surround us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everbearing Strawberries - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Please excuse me while I brag a bit...

We are in strawberry heaven, the tomatoes might be found wanting this year but the strawberries are making up the difference...not that one can really compare the two. We grow an extremely hardy everbearing strawberry plant that provides us with multiple crops of sweet berries and are thrilled with it's ability to set fruit in colder temperatures while at the same time producing numerous runners. Last year we grew one all by itself just to see how many new plants could be produced and by the end of the season counted over 60 babies. Babies begat babies that had begat baby plants...talk about vigorous reproduction. I took a picture of the whole sordid affair but of course I can't find it.

The first berries, while extremely numerous, are not very large but subsequent crops can be quite big, maybe 2-3 times the size of the originals. I will try to post pictures of them later this summer, but only if they really do look 3 times bigger....my wife says I tend to exaggerate a bit - perhaps I'll let you be the judge.:)

Unfortunately, the berries my wife is holding in the above picture were picked after a good rain last Tuesday night, we try to pick them before it rains if at all possible as wet weather tends to bloat the berries and take away some of that sweetness we so desire. Regardless, they still taste plenty fine going into smoothies and other tasty treats...it's raining again this Tuesday but we picked last night and the berries were much better.

These strawberry plants have been growing on our property for many, many years, originally given to us by my Mom who grew them before that...and as such have had adequate time to adapt quite well to our conditions, making them very special to my wife and I. We do love our Fort Laramie everbearing strawberry plants.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wild Asparagus, Parsley, and Seeds

I really should post more often about our forays for wild edibles which happen on an almost daily basis...but the camera is never with, or no time to post, or, or, or...I'm full of excuses.:)

So early this past Sunday morning we set out along the local river in search of certain seeds that I have been waiting/wanting to harvest and were delighted to find not only those seeds but fresh asparagus as well. Because the river's water level has been so high the flooded asparagus has been slow to come on and, lucky us, we were able to snag a nice meals worth. Some went into a stir fry dish and the rest a tasty quiche...mmm.

Even better than the above treasures was finding "The King of all Asparagus" roots dangling precariously off the river's bank, unceremoniously ripped from it's home by the rapid currents but still alive and sending up shoots. Rather than leaving it to be washed away we liberated this 5-10 pound (I'm guessing, my wife ended up carrying it for a mile and a half and she said it was at least a 5 pounder) root from it's rocky embrace along the river's edge and have since planted the monstrosity in our gardens...can't wait to see what kind of stalks it produces.

This King of the River Asparagus root truly is much larger than this picture depicts.

Anyway, seeds is what we were out and about for and our timing was right on as we were able to collect both the wild parsley and lupine seeds I have had my eye on since early spring...especially the parsley.

I think it was around April that we noticed a large patch of parsley growing on a hillside meadow up off the river, we picked some for drying and hoped to come back in time for the seeds. We have since noticed three different varieties of this edible plant. I am not 100% positive on the below identifications but am pretty sure I got them right...there are a lot of different varieties of wild parsley out there and many of them look quite similar.

Lomatium macrocarpum - Large Seeded Biscuitroot (Desert parsley)

Lomatium triternatum - Nine - Leaf Biscuitroot (Narrow - Leaved Desert Parsley)
Lomatium grayi - Gray's Biscuitroot (Pungent Desert Parsley) This is the variety we elected to save seeds off of as I liked the way it looked and tasted.

From - http://onlinenevada.org/biscuitroot

"Biscuitroot was used as both a food source and for medicinal purposes by the American Indian tribes in Nevada , specifically the Paiute, Washoe, and Western Shoshone. It is known by several other names, including Cough Root. As a medicine, fernleaf biscuitroot was used for treating multiple illnesses, including chest colds, coughs, bronchitis, influenza, and pneumonia. The roots could be burned, and the smoke inhaled for treating asthma, or steamed and inhaled for treating nasal and chest congestion. As an anti-viral poultice, the boiled, crushed root was applied to open cuts and sores. Tea was made from the leaves and used in the treatment of colds.

As a food, biscuitroot was an important source for Nevada tribes, as they could use the leaves roots and seeds in various ways. Many species of Lomatium have thick, tuberous roots that can be ground into flour and used to make bread-like foods, resulting in the common name “biscuitroot.” The leaves are said to have a strong parsley-like flavor. Young seeds and sprouts were collected to be eaten raw, and the roots could be used dried and ground into a powder to flavor flours and soups, or boiled to make a nutritious drink. The root could be stored in dried form for later use."

For those interested -

“Of the three species of Peucedanum used by the Spokane Indians, the best, in size and flavor of bulbs, is the ‘Chucklusa’ (P. Canbyi, Coulter and Rose) (Lomatium canbyi)." -


Thursday, July 7, 2011

In the Garden & Woods

Strawberries are coming on like gangbusters, we picked upwards of 5 gallons yesterday. Our Fort Laramie everbearing plants come on strong in the spring with smaller berries that gradually increase in size as the season progresses....and they are sooo sweet. The benefit of selling strawberry plants is that there are always a lot of strawberries left for us.

Finally some peas, it took a little longer than usual but our Tacoma Afila peas are looking nice - quick, reliable, and they taste pretty darn good too.

Cabbage and fava beans aren't looking too shabby either.

All our storage onion varieties seem to be on track and the best news is that with a cool spring we are still eating off last season's onion and garlic harvest...still nice and cool in the root cellar.

Foxglove (Digitalis) growing around our fruit trees. It is said of foxglove that it helps to stimulate neighboring plants by making them more disease resistant and improving the storage quality of fruits and vegetables due to gaseous secretions and minute hormones that the plants supposedly emit. (?)

Every morning of late we have been going for an early run, just before sunrise, in the mountains, stopping to pick various herbs as we go along. This week we have been focusing on gathering Prunella (self-heal/heal-all), yellow clover, and elderberry flowers. We also have a patch of Prunella growing in the garden this year from seeds saved from the wild. Fascinating plant.

Soon the native St. John's Wort, now starting to flower, will be abundant enough to harvest.

The sage is flowering, purple.

And the Rowdy dog...just being rowdy. He is not allowed to dig in the yard so he takes every advantage while we are out in the woods.
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