Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Backyard birdfeeder: Seeds and Fruit Aplenty

How many goldfinch can you see in this photo? We seem to have a flock of American Goldfinch in our yard all year, but in the fall the flock grows to at least 35. Very social, they fly from the white pines in the yard to the lilacs by the feeder in groups. You know they are there before you can see them by their constant chatter and high chirping. They love the fact that I didn't deadhead my echinecea.

It made me look for all the seeds and fruit near our house. Here are the small but abundant hips from the small pink swamp rose that is all along the roadside.

Elderberry is blue black this time of year.
Native peoples used this plant as a diuretic, laxative and wound poultice, but Robins, Nuthatches, Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, Cardinals, Kingbirds and Phoebes all use this berry as a food source. Our area is rich in Phoebes, so we can't know which comes first the bird or the berry!

Here another beauty, wild on the side of the road, maybe escaped from some old farm..a wild crabapple I think. Laden with fruit that is small enough for birds to dig in. Rich in Vitamin C and seeds for protein.

Here is another crabapple- just wild along the road. So pretty..who knows the variety from years past. It isn't one that I am familiar with, the tree was more spindly than those we find today in garden centers...but wow, that fruit is gorgeous! So much to eat out there, the bird feeder stays full, but the yard is full of chirping. Be on the lookout for what birds like in your yard...and maybe plant more of that next year. It is great for them and very entertaining for us!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Probiotics: Sauerkraut is supreme!

There is a lot of talk about how important it is to keep the bacteria in our gut alive and healthy. 

My great grandparents knew this as did all peasants. Pickles and fermented foods were a huge part of their diets. These foods have all the bacteria we need to keep a healthy digestive tract. Mostly importantly though, they are delicious and have been incorporated in traditional cooking in every country! Southeast Asians know how Kim Chi can balance a meal, the Germans know that sauerkraut is the perfect balance to a heavy sausage. The world has always used these foods that aid in digestion.
With our medicinal use of antibiotics, these foods have regained the notice they deserve as a way to restore the bacteria we destroy.
There is little so beautiful and good for you than cabbage. To make this super easy recipe for sauerkraut here is what you will need:
5 lbs of cabbage
3 tablespoons of sea salt
and a container in which to ferment.
Process the cabbage the way you like. I used a food processor that I have had for 30 years set to make slaw. Finely chopped it will all ferment together nicely, but you can certainly hand chop your cabbage for a heartier texture. Add the salt as you go, in between layers so that the salt covers everything.  This will make the water release from the cabbage and create it's own brine. After 24 hours, add a touch of water to make sure it all is under the brine.
The brine is what you want. Pack the cabbage in a container that you can also apply a weight. Now is where I have to talk about one of my favorite friends, Carol Patterson. A docent at the Portland Museum of Art ( where I've worked for the last 9+ years), we always find so much to talk about every time we meet for lunch. One day the topic turned to pickles! She, of course, had made many pickles in her day but hadn't in recent years. She offered me her wonderful crock made by an artist on Peak's Island some 30 years before. This crock is made in the traditional way, where the weight for the pickles, fits perfectly inside and is heavy to keep the vegetables below the water line. Where the fermentation happens and the oxygen is crowded out.

Any ceramic bowl will do, and then look for a plate to fit onto the top. You can weigh the plate down with a milk jug, stones or anything  heavy enough to keep all the fermentation below the water line.
Eh voila! In a a week or so things will start to burble and froth. You can skim off froth and mold, but these are only on the surface..fermentation is happening. Happy biotics are cooking along. After you try this batch..and are ready for another...add any vegetable you like..onion, carrot, beet..anything ferments in this way. Couldn't be simpler or healthier.