My foray into foraging…

(Friendly caveat: I’m not advising anyone to forage. This blog post is about my experiences as a novice forager.)

Within the last six months, I’ve gotten into eating wild food. More importantly, I’ve learned the joys of sustainably foraging. As a lot of you know, organic gardening is a huge part of my life.  Eating with the seasons, caring for the health of our Mother Earth, and growing the food that nourishes my little family is an inherent part of my identity. Foraging is just another facet of that. 

I have a wonderful friend who is from the Appalachians. She has a degree in biology, she’s an organic farmer, a homesteader, and a consummate steward of our planet. She knows more about our local flora and fauna than anyone I know. Megan is teaching me how to identify edible fruits and plants and how to harvest them sustainably. If I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t be foraging. It can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing or where it’s legal to do so.

I’ve learned enough to do some basic foraging for things that are pretty easily identifiable. 

So far, I’ve found wild ramps…

…morel mushrooms…

…tasty little wild strawberries…

…and wild black raspberries…

Recently I’ve spotted some sweet patches of blackberry bramble, and I’m salivating at the thought of eating them still warm from the sun. 

Foraging is the ultimate way to eat with the seasons. It’s exciting, it’s cost-effective, it’s a wonderful way to get outside, but it’s imperative to be safe. Eating things that grow wild can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Go with a knowledgeable guide or do a lot of reading on the subject before eating something you’re not sure of. And if you’re not sure, DON’T EAT IT. And don’t forage on private lands or in parks that prohibit it. And don’t eat things from roadsides or other places that have been sprayed with herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides. (I know I’ve mostly just said “don’t,” but this is about my experiences as a novice forager and advice I was given.) 

I just want you to be safe, my lovelies. 

Until next time,

Jenna the Happy Forager

Yay for Gloria Jean’s Coffees!

Who doesn’t love coffee? Better yet: Who doesn’t love awesome coffee? Better still: Who doesn’t love awesome, coffee that comes from a company who cares? Answer? You do, of course.

I’ve been drinking Gloria Jean’s coffee for what seems like forever. It wasn’t a trip to the mall without a delicious GJ iced coffee in hand as I rifled through clothing racks (sale, of course) or leafed through new CDs. It was tradition. And it’s still as good as I remembered…if not better.

This morning, in fact, I enjoyed a Red Velvet Cupcake iced coffee with coconut milk and lightly sweetened with a coconut palm sugar syrup. I had a cupcake for breakfast (well kinda)! See how happy I am?

image1-4

And what makes this coffee taste even better is that Gloria Jean’s Coffees has been working with the Rainforest Alliance since 2007. Their entire line of flavored coffees, regular and decaf, contains Rainforest Alliance Certified beans. They support a healthy planet, stronger forests and an improved quality of life for farming communities. The eco-nerd in me is glowing. For more information on Gloria Jean’s Coffees and the Rainforest Alliance, click here.

From the  Classic Origin Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to the Limited Edition Red Velvet Cupcake, GJ knows their beans. And look how cute their camping-inspired mugs are!
image1-3

Maybe it’s the caffeine talking, but I’m in the mood for a couple of java-themed posts for my coffee-loving friends out there in the blogosphere. (You’re actually sipping a hot cuppa right this very minute, aren’t you?) I’ll be doing one on the perfect vegan iced coffee featuring the Gloria Jean’s Red Velvet Cupcake and then another on a homemade BBQ sauce featuring the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

If you want to be uber prepared for the upcoming recipes or just can’t wait to get your hands on some of this amazing Gloria Jean’s Coffee, click here. Until next time, my friends…

Gimme a Beet!

Hi, friends. It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, and I wished time didn’t move so quickly, but owning a business plus working full-time is more than I bargained for. And, while I planned on writing a nice, long out-from-under-this-rock-called-life re-emergence post… (you get the picture).

I’ve never, ever successfully grown a beet. I’ve tried and tried. Detroit Dark Reds just don’t work. Perhaps it’s our climate, perhaps it’s the soil, perhaps it’s me. I threw in the towel…but only for a nano-second. I opted for another variety: Chioggia. Their candy cane stripey-ness called to me. I needed to try. And guess what? Can you guess? Can you? Can you?

IMG_1459

My Very First Chioggia Beet

I couldn’t be any more excited. I could just scream. I was so impatient that I plucked it from the ground this afternoon and immediately cut into it. It’s a beauty. I’m proud. I win.

Until next time (which I promise won’t be too long from now),

Jenna

How Does Our Organic, Urban Garden Grow: An Update

20140603-221047-79847218.jpg

Things are looking pretty good around here! I posted a while back about how Spring was treating us in sunny Zone 9, and now it’s time for an update. A month is like a jillion years to a gardener, so here goes…

The Kentucky Wonder beans have been nothing but amazing. For the past two weeks, I’ve gotten a small handful every day. For three plants, that’s pretty good! The wax beans are also going strong.

20140603-220605-79565876.jpg

The heirloom crookneck squash, on the other hand, was a total bust. Powdery mildew invaded and stunted the growth of the plants. I waved the white flag pretty early because I knew the pot could be put to better use. This is the best they’d ever look.

Crookneck Squash Babies

The same failure goes for our cukes. I swear I’m going to give up on even trying to grow them. The only time we have luck is when the plants are volunteers. I don’t know what it is. I suspect the humidity and salt air is the downfall, but who knows? This was our one delicious, crunchy, crowning jewel:

20140603-220031-79231070.jpg

I also grew an “onion.” Laugh it up. It’s OK.

20140603-220134-79294766.jpg

The heirloom lettuces and Swiss chard ended up in the compost heap after a good run. I tried to save seeds from some of the bitter, bolted babies, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps they’ll self-seed in the fall.

20140603-220345-79425078.jpg

But, the tomatoes. The TOMATOES. I’m pleased as punch. And, I know, a gardener should never count their peppers before their picked, but I’ve got to toot this horn! I’ve been harvesting a bunch of yellow currant tomatoes every single day.

20140603-220502-79502222.jpg

I even harvested the first Thai Pink Egg yesterday. All of our 24 plants are doing pretty well. A few have yellowing leaves here and there, and the tomatoes from one of our Martino’s Roma plants have blossom end rot (none of the others do, even in the same bed), but still, I’ve never had such a successful season. I guess I should knock on some wood.

And, surprisingly, the carrots are still going strong. Succession planting has been our best friend.

Here’s yesterday’s harvest:

20140603-220951-79791277.jpg

All in all, this is our best season yet. Disaster could certainly strike at any minute, but for now, I’ll bask in the glory of our organic gardening endeavors.

 

 

 

Big Things are Growing in our Tiny, Urban Garden

Spring is upon us. The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the trees are nearly filled in with lush, green leaves, and the garden is a-growin’. I’m always so hopeful in April. While I’ve already seen aphids, I’m not yet disappointed. (Click here for how to fight them organically.) Why? Because we’ve got gorgeous things happening:

Kentucky Wonder Bean plants, although tiny, are strong as can be…

20140419-080059.jpg

Stunning little heirloom crookneck squash babies are beginning…

20140422-090816.jpg

Heirloom tomato plants, all 23 of them, are green and working their way toward greatness. Some of them aren’t as grand as others, but they’re trying…

20140422-090523.jpg

I’m even pushing forward with several varieties of heirloom lettuce which is a bit questionable for this time of year in Florida…

20140419-080506.jpg

The carrots are looking good, the kale appears happy, the basil, sage, and parsley are enjoying the weather, and the onions and garlic should be ready to harvest soon. And what’s more is that we’ve already harvested one cucumber (oddly shaped little guy) and a handful of strawberries!

20140422-091050.jpg

Unfortunately, the swiss chard looks more like Swiss cheese, but…

20140419-175653.jpg

I can’t really complain about the minor gardening failures. Perfect is impossible, and I’d never expect as much; gardening is a set of learning experiences, wild experiments, and notes-to-selves.

I will say that, overall, the Spring has been good to us! How is your Spring going, fellow gardeners of the blogosphere? I’d love to hear from you!

Until then, happy sowing, digging, and playing in the dirt,

Jenna

20140422-091530.jpg

Trying to Grow Heirloom Lemon Cucumbers…Again.

This is the third time we’re trying to grow heirloom lemon cucumbers. The first time was last spring. We sewed ten seeds, watched them sprout, watched them begin to climb the bamboo stakes, and then die. The second time was in late spring. We tried a different location in the garden that got more sun, later sun. They sprouted, started to climb, and then a week of torrential downpours rotted their little roots, and they, too, died. Now we’re trying again. This time, in a container. Container gardening is easier. It’s actually how I first learned to garden. It’s easier to control; the soil can be amended quicker, fertilizing can happen on a more local level, and each micro-system can be managed individually without fear of stuff leaching from one area to another. That’s why I decided to kick it old school with a container. It’s my go-to for difficult, fickle, or sensitive plants. Besides, pots can be moved when the weather is awful, and the plants can be protected in a hurry. It’s a win-win…I hope.

These are my little seedlings:

20130808-161616.jpg
They’re off to a good start. I hope they stay the course.