The New Year Starts With New Seeds

RadishSeedPacketHappy New Year!! My new year started off with some seed purchases. This year, as with other years in the past, we’re bringing in some new open-pollinated varieties to try.  We’ll certainly have a disappointment or two, but hopefully we will also find a real keeper to excite us.

This year we will be growing a new root crop — we are trying Rutabagas as another root crop to store for Winter eating.  I have also located some Stinging Nettle seeds and will scatter those here and there, hoping to start a patch that will naturalize in the woods. And this year, we will be growing a small patch of Quinoa to see if this grain is worth our time and garden space.

One of my 2013 goals is to produce even more food than before. This means I will have less time to devote to the flowers that are contained in the perennial beds that surround us. Many of the perennial flowers I grow need to be divided every couple of years — a daunting task with so many plants. I had hoped to dig many of the perennial flowers out of the large front bed during Autumn and then fill the holes and simply haul in a broader mulch cover. But with all of the rains we had, that project didn’t happen. Hopefully I can arrange this during the 2013 Spring season but as we gardeners know too well — Spring is crammed full of garden activities.

The exciting goal for 2013 at Wood Ridge Homestead is to begin seeding the understory of a small food forest area. This area is located along one area of our woods edge, just inside our deer fencing. To grow more food without expanding the veggie gardens has appeal, especially in an area where mature Oak trees are. Whether we can actually establish a new growing zone as part of this wooded area remains to be seen. We have already been working this food forest some — during 2012, we planted some PawPaw trees, grafted Persimmon trees, and Hardy Kiwi vines in this area. So here’s hoping that we can succeed with an understory of greens that will enable us to grow more foods!

The 2013 Seed List is now posted (although I may add a few more newly purchased seeds). This listing is our seed inventory for vegetables and is a partial inventory listing for herbs and flowers. Do you keep a seed inventory? I find it’s so helpful because I don’t have to rummage through the seed packets!

Seed Package

Cooking With A Rocket Stove

A rocket stove provides an efficient heat source that can be used for cooking and for radiant heating. A rocket stove is a very simple design that uses a wood fire in a combustion chamber and a vertical chimney that serves to direct the fire’s heat upward.

A small rocket stove is generally used for cooking, using small scraps of wood at no cost.  The larger rocket stoves are mass heaters that operate in a similar fashion as a wood stove does. There are some commercial rocket stoves on the market and most of them are small cooking stoves. Many rocket stoves and rocket mass heater stoves are hand made and there are design plans and videos online to be researched if rocket stoves appeal to you.

Our small StoveTec rocket stove gives us the ability to cook outdoors using fallen branches from our woods. When we want to cook with our rocket stove, we fire the rocket stove up and within a minute, we have a fire to cook on. We cook on our rocket stove with cast iron and we are preparing a meal from dead tree limbs we collect from the woods. On days when we’re outside and can’t be bothered with watching a pot of food on the stove top, we fire up the rocket stove and cook a meal outside while we’re nearby. It’s a convenient method to cook with and it uses a natural resource to provide the energy to cook with.  A few walks into the woods with some ties and we have bundled enough dead wood to cook with. Free energy. And a good meal.

Hunting The Ramps

Ramps emerging on April 1, 2011

Last year, some young Ramps were transplanted in our woods.

Many were planted near our stream and a half-dozen were planted about 50 feet from the stream, deeper in the woodlands.

This morning, I went on my second Ramp expedition and discovered Ramps growing in both of the patches!

Ramps grow in the Appalachian Mountain region and in this region of the Shenandoah Valley, I am hoping to naturalize Ramps in our woodlands.

Ramps are found in forests and wooded stream areas. Since Ramps have the ability to multiply naturally, a mature and established stand of Ramps provides successful foraging.

Our Ramps began as purchased transplants from an area in West Virginia where Ramps typically grow wild. Hopefully, in a few years, we will have an established patch or two of Ramps.

For more about Ramps, read my blog post from last year.

Edible Flowers: Columbine

Do you eat flowers? Some of the well-known edible flowers include chive blossoms, daylilies, and nasturtiums, but there are hundreds more! Many flower-producing plants grow in the wild and in  gardens and most people overlook blossoms as a source of food and nutrition. If edible flowers have not been sprayed with chemicals, they make a wonderful addition to a salad or as an edible garnish for a meal.

Columbine - Aquilegia flabellata. A perennial woodland plant which requires dappled shade or full shade and grows in poor soil. The native species, usually referred to as the Eastern Red Columbine, is a perennial woodland plant which can self-seed and create a small colony of columbines.

Columbines are hardy in Zone 6 or higher, but they are a relatively short-lived perennial. Since Columbines have the ability to self-seed, the perennials will create a naturalized patch if permitted.

Many cultivated varieties of Columbine have become popular in gardens since they have been bred to produce large purple, white, and pink flowers.

My patch of cultivars cross within themselves and I find the mix of colors very attractive. The Hummers do too!

Columbines are edible. Leaves from the Columbine plant are edible when thoroughly boiled. Flowers are edible raw and taste slightly sweet. The flowers can be added into a salad or as an edible garnish. Tea can be made from flower blossoms.

The Columbines belongs in the botanical family of Ranunculaceae which is known for a number of mildly toxic plants, so caution should be exercised when or if you decide to consume this plant.

More …

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Warning: Many flowers are edible, but few people realize this. Edible flowers that are not well-documented are worth researching to learn more about their safety, contraindications, and nutrient value.

Sampling new flowers should only be tried with caution and/or under the supervision of an experienced forager. Never eat ANY flower bud, petal, or plant part without researching the plant. And always make sure that the plant has been correctly identified with all of its characteristics.

I cannot take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants.  As stated above, always seek advice from a professional before using any foraged plant for food or for medicinal purposes.

Eastern Red Columbine

Columbine_WildNestled in one of my woodland garden areas are several Eastern Red Columbine plants. They are a relatively new addition to my property and I am so excited that they transplanted successfully for me.

These Columbine are Native to the eastern United States . The red and pale yellow tubular blooms are attractive to Ruby Throated Hummingbirds.  I like the Eastern Red Columbine because the flowers are edible. They’re sweet!

The Eastern Red Columbine can be seen along roadsides and creekbeds in May. I spotted mine alongside a dirt road in the country near Bloomery, West Virginia a few years ago. There were enough Columbines in clumps along the road to lift one or two plants and not harm the roadside planting.

EasternRedColumbine

Native Eastern Red Columbine, Acquilegia canadensis, is a perennial from the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) Family. Although the plant and blossoms appear delicate, they are sturdy woodland plants that prefer average to poor soil rather than fertile soil.

EasternRedColumbine2

Columbines will rapidly increase if allowed to self-sow. Let the blooms mature to form seed pods. If left untended, the pods will burst open and the seeds will self-sow near the parent plant. To grow columbines in another location, collect the seed pods. Transfer the seed pods to an area where you wish to sow, then open the pods and scatter seeds on soil. Columbines are very easy to propagate by direct sowing.

Columbine

Last weekend, on a trip to central Pennsylvania, I went to Penn’s Cave with some friends. What did I spot nestled amongst the ferns and mosses growing on the rockface before entering into the cave? Blooming Eastern Red Columbine! In the photo below, the Columbine appear hidden because of the lush greenery on the rocks.

PennsCavePA