The warm weather and spring flowers are so welcome. I am enjoying daffodils, tulips, violets and cherry blossoms as I begin gardening.
The elderberry bushes in my backyard have produced well, providing berries for elderberry juice. I can the juice, and throughout the past months I have enjoyed adding a couple tablespoons of elderberry juice to my tea in the evenings.
Unfortunately I planted one elderberry bush in the corner of my garden. Last summer new shoots of elderberry plants were popping up all over the garden. The roots have extended throughout the garden space. We cut down that sprawling bush, and I planted new starts in defined areas of our yard.
My current task is digging up the shoots and roots that remain in the garden. If you plant an elderberry bush in your yard be careful where you plant it. Elderberry can be invasive.
Blueberries are appearing in the grocery store. They are from the southern states–it will still be a while before the Michigan berries are ripe. Even though they are not from Michigan the blueberries are lovely, and so I made a family favorite pie.
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter (5 +1/3 Tblsp.)
1 Tblsp. + 1 tsp. vinegar
Mix flour and salt. (I sometimes will use 1/4 cup rice flour and 3/4 cup unbleached white flour to reduce the amount of gluten.) Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix vinegar in 1/2 cup of cold water. Add water with vinegar a tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork. You want the dough to just hold together. Roll out and line a 9″pie dish. Preheat oven to 375°.
4 + 1/2 cups blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon minute tapioca
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
Mix the blueberries, sugar, tapioca and lemon juice. Pour into pastry lined pie dish. Drizzle the honey over the berries. Then prepare topping.
¾ cup flour
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ cup brown sugar
5 + 1/2 Tablespoons butter
Mix flour, salt and brown sugar. (Rice flour works well in this topping.) Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle this over the pie. Bake at 375° for 50 to 60 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned and berries are beginning to bubble.
My mother picked strawberries and wild blueberries with her mother, and so did I. My Finnish heritage has given me a an appreciation for berries, wild and cultivated.
Berries are abundant in Finland (37 types of edible wild berries) and an important addition to the diet. Enjoyment of berries is a family tradition.
According to a website about Finland: Nordic growing conditions are harsh yet productive. The berries and mushrooms that grow in Finnish forests are part of the traditional Finnish diet, and gathering them is a pastime for many families that has been passed down through generations. The fruits of the northern forests are coveted by gourmet chefs, and are increasingly exported.
When my children were little, thimbleberry jam had become popular in Upper Michigan. The wild thimbleberries grow along ditches and creek beds, sometimes not far from the rugged glory of Lake Superior.
When we visited Grandpa and Grandma in Upper Michigan, we joined them on excursions to find and pick the berries. We cleaned the berries as a family project. Grandma made jam and I learned how to make it too.
Thimbleberry jam is lovely treat during winter. It brings back memories of the summer, hiking in Upper Michigan.
I have gradually added to the berries growing in my back yard, discovering which ones flourish. Blueberries and thimbleberries don’t do well. I have strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries and currants. The grandchildren delight in picking them, especially the raspberries and currants.
Every Friday the FMF community writes for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Sometimes the first five minutes of writing stimulates more thought, and I continue on . . . Today’s prompt is: EXPECT
expect: to anticipate or look forward to the coming occurrence
The sweet cherry tree in my yard is laden down with fruit.
Everyday the cherries look a little bit riper.
But the birds are ready to feast now!
Robins and chickadees lunge at the tree.
So I am trying something new.
I have placed a large owl in the tree.
And a smaller one.
Someone said that hanging old CDs in the tree
Is a deterrent—they reflect sunlight and spin with the wind.
While I am willing to share some of the cherries with the birds, I expect enough ripe cherries to make a few desserts. I love cherry pie.
Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are familiar. We see them in the grocery store. God has created a multitude of other berries. I feel blessed to have elderberry bushes in my backyard. After reading about the benefits of elderberries I ordered bushes from nursery catalogues. Now I have four bushes and enjoy the different phases as these bushes produce fruit.
In June white lace flowers appear on the branches.
In July the berries begin to form.
The berry clusters ripen at a staggered pace. This bush has berries in different shades of ripeness.
When fully ripe the berries are a deep purple color—almost black.
When the berries are used for jelly or juice, all of the little stems must be removed first.
I pick the berries, remove the stems and freeze them until I have enough quantity to make a juice/syrup for the winter. My recipe for canning elderberry juice is here.
The practice of choosing one word for the New Year has been an inspiration for me. Last year my word was gracious, and having this word in mind I was more conscious of my conversation and actions. I paused a little more, seeking kind words. I have been thinking and praying about one word for 2016.
Relationships are on my mind. I would like to see greater depth in relationships and openness to new relationships. Could I grow and assist others to grow? In the book of Ephesians Paul writes about good work.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
The key words in this verse are in Christ Jesus. The good work is possible through Jesus. And so my life needs to be centered on Jesus, drawing strength from a vital relationship with Jesus. Jesus tells us:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. John 15: 1-2
Images from my garden come to mind. The fruit produced by the raspberry bushes in my yard is a delight.
In my relationships I desire positive growth, willing to be pruned. This means more time in prayer.
With these thoughts in mind, I have chosen the word fruitful. Have you chosen a word for 2016?
The mild fall weather is so welcome! Yard work is pleasant and I have found some fall raspberries to savor while I work.
Wilting vines And a layer of leaves Yard clean-up Sweetened by fall raspberries
My calendula is still blooming and my rosemary and thyme are still growing.
I plan to bring the rosemary and thyme inside for the winter. Last year they survived in a south bay window. But I have been also preserving the thyme in vinegar.
The thyme vinegar is good for salad dressings. I also add one or two tablespoons to vegetables and bones for broth that I prepare in my crockpot. The vinegar helps to leach out minerals from bones with the additional benefit of thyme.
I found this recipe for thyme vinegar in Early American Herb Recipes*.
A very delicious flavour of thyme may be obtained, by gathering it while in full perfection; it must be picked from the stalks, a large handful of it put into a jar, and a quart of vinegar or brandy poured on it; cover it very close—next day, take all the thyme out, put in as much more; do this a third time; then strain it, bottle it and seal it securely. This is greatly preferable to the dried thyme commonly used, during the season when it cannot be obtained in a fresh state.*
I followed the recipe. I put 3 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves in a pint of white wine vinegar. The next day I strained it and added fresh thyme. The following day I repeated the straining and added more fresh thyme. While I was adding thyme leaves and straining the vinegar I used canning jars. Then I strained it a final time, returned it to the original bottle and capped it.
*Alice Cooke Brown, Early American Herb Recipes, Japan: The Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1966. p. 114.
I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden, as one of the most innocent delights in human life. Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
This year the branches on my elderberry bushes are laden with abundant berries. The dainty flowers came first, adding a lovely lace among the green.
Flowers of the common elderberry can be steeped to make a tea, which is often recommended to relieve headaches. The flower cluster can also be battered and fried to make interesting fritters. *
I have three elderberry bushes at different stages of ripeness. It is true that having different varieties of elderberry—like Johns, Adams & York—encourages a good harvest for each bush. I will be picking berries all the way through August. When I pick the berries I cut the cluster of berries and remove the berries from the little stems. The stems and unripe berries can cause a digestive upset. I am freezing my ripe berries until I have enough to make a batch of elderberry syrup.
Elderberries have many benefits. In Israel, Hadassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual’s immune system. For more information click here.