Friday, July 26, 2013

Common Mullein - Weed or Medicinal Herb?

Common Mullein - Weekly Weeder #13 @ Common Sense Homesteading

Today’s featured plant is Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus.

Common Mullein is also known as Great Mullein, Aaron’s Rod, candlewick plant, flannel plant, flannel leaf, lungwort, feltwort, cowboy toilet paper, shepherd’s staff, velvet dock, woolly mullein, torch plant, torches, miner’s candle, big taper, blanket mullein, “Hig candlewick”, “Bullicks lungwort”, “Hare’s-beard”, “Ice-leaf”.”Beggar’s blanket”, “Moses’ blanket”, “Poor Man’s blanket”, “Our Lady’s blanket” or “Old Man’s Blanket”.
(There are more names, but this list is getting pretty long already.  Do you get the impression this thing is pretty widespread?)

Range and Identification of Common Mullein

Common mullein is native to Europe, but it is now found on every continent except Antarctica.  (As I said, it gets around…)   The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides a range map, but it’s really found pretty much everywhere in the U.S..
The plant is known as a colonizer of open disturbed soils.  The Wisconsin DNR lists it as an invasive, but they have an awful lot of plants listed as invasive. Okay – non-native – still, it’s been around so long, does it really matter at this point?  They do say it can be invasive in the plant detail page, but I haven’t found that to be the case in my area.  It prefers dry, sandy soils, but can grow (really HUGE) in rich garden soil, and even grow in marginal soils such as chalk and limestone.  It can be found in neglected meadows, forest openings, pastures, fence rows, roadsides, and industrial areas. (WI DNR)
Plant height is 2-6′ (60-180 cm) (the happy monsters in my garden last year were pushing seven feet).  The leaves are large, oval and fuzzy.  As you can see in the photo below, a large happy specimen in my garden has leaves larger than my shoe, which is a size twelve.   Leaves are 12-15 inches long (or longer) and covered with velvety hairs.  When the flower stalk emerges, leaves cling directly to the stalk – there are no side branches.

Roasted New Potatoes and Green Beans

I loved the recipe I posted last week and wanted to try it but there are just two of us plus one that eats tiny bites so I needed a smaller recipe.  I wanted to pare this with green beans fresh from the garden so I just added them to the mix.  This was served with my mini meat loaves that I keep in the freezer for quick meals .........YUMMMMM

8 ounces small new potatoes (cut in 1 1/5 inch pieces if they are bigger than this)
1 cup fresh green beans
1/2 small onion, sliced top to bottom
1 tomato, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, mashed but still in skin (keeps it from burning)
1/8 teaspoon Chili Flakes
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wash your hands and mix this all together until all the vegetables are coated with olive oil.  Place on a baking pan. Roast together at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 25-30 more minutes (stir after 15 minutes).  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chopped chives and cook another 5 minutes.  SERVES TWO (double or more for your family)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gardening With A Baby

I have to admit there were years where I didn't garden.  Those years were when my children were under 2 years old.  It was just to busy of a time.  Now that I'm in the over 60 crowd I never in a million  years thought I'd have a baby when I planted this huge garden (size of two city lots).  Then eight weeks ago our 6 month old granddaughter, Gabriella Nicole (Gabby), joined us.

What to do?  Well we've hired a helper for the garden and need to hire another one, but Gabby does enjoy going to the garden for short periods of time.  I would hire a helper to keep Gabby occupied but since she is still in 'foster care' here that requires all kinds of background checks and the like just get get a sitter for her.

So as a way to encourage you, my readers

Food Preservation - Choosing a Method - Cabbage

Our ancestors devised many methods of preserving their harvest out of necessity.  They did not have the luxury of having fresh food shipped, sometimes thousands of miles, to the grocery nearest them.  Nor did they have freezers that would hold the food cold for months at a time (except in the coldest climates where it was kept in attics or outside).

Food Preservation includes many different methods:  Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Cooked and Frozen as meals, Smoking, and Fermenting to name a few.  When choosing a method or methods to use for a particular fruit or vegetable coming out of your garden or bought bulk at your local farmers market you have to decide how you are going to use this product and primarily how you prefer to eat it.  There is no sense dehydrating everything if you don't like reconstituted dried foods or canning if you hate, well canned peas for example.  Sometimes the way you use that particular food will dictate how you preserve it.

Today we are going to talk about cabbages, because cabbages happen to be something that I recently took out of my garden and need to preserve.  So, first I have to decide, how am I going to use this product?