Mk Neal

pollinator
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since Feb 02, 2019
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dog forest garden fish foraging urban cooking food preservation bike
Torn between wanting a bigger garden and loving the city life.
Chicago
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Recent posts by Mk Neal

A roommate of mine used to make mushroom pate, it was basically button mushrooms (champignons), onion, walnuts seasoned with parsley, salt, and pepper. Run fresh ingredients through food processor, then sautéed until vegetables give up their moisture and it smells cooked.
9 hours ago
For some reason I’ve always frozen my bread remnants until I’m ready to use them for stuffing, pudding croutons. Drying them makes so much more sense! Thanks, Pearl!
1 day ago

May Lotito wrote:

Squash Vine borers arrive around the same time here and so far I haven't seen any eggs. Maybe I get lucky this year.

You have so many interesting squashes. I've never grown any of them.



Thanks! The Navaho green is the only one I’ve grown before. The other seeds I got from Blake Lenoir. They are heirloom varieties from the lower Great Lakes First Nations.
Good tip, May! I don’t have squash bugs, but do have squash vine borer.

Today as luck would have it I actually saw the moth laying eggs when I was out in the garden at lunch. I swatted her, and then checked my plants. I’ve never managed to get the eggs before they hatch, because I did not really know *when* to look for them. Today I scraped dozens of eggs off my maxima (Navaho Green) and Pepo (striped maycock). Borer ignored or didn’t find my mixta squash (Illinois cushaw) or moschata (Myaamia tan).

I noted this in the garden calendar I am keeping this year, so next year I can be reminded to look for the eggs at end of June when currants are ripe.
Second experiment: oatmeal.

I wanted to try both the while berries and powder, so I made two half servings, with 2 Tbsp berries in each.  Below are pics of before and after cooking.

I like the mulberry oatmeal, I would eat this again and even happily serve it to other people. Still, it has a fruity taste but not really a sweet taste. A person who usually puts sugar or honey on their oatmeal would still do so.

Personally, I preferred the whole berries. By leaving the berries whole you get the occasional sweet hit of a whole berry. With powdered mulberry,  there was a more uniform fruity taste; kind of like if you cooked the oatmeal in diluted grape juice. Some if the powder settled to the bottom and was a bit gritty.

For this particular batch of berries,  I have to conclude that they are a nice addition to some foods, but not really a sweetener. However, some individual berries are sweeter than others,  and it maybe that I need to try more select fully ripe berries.

6 days ago
There is “golden rice,” which contains beta carotene, but it’s a product of genetic engineering. https://www.irri.org/golden-rice.

It seems most of the “super nutrient” vegetables and fruits are just extra high in some select nutrient— either beta carotene or anthocyanins in the case of the purple or “black” vegetables on market.

I do wonder how these crops compare yield-wise to standard varieties, i.e. does it work out that you get more total nutrition over the lifecycle of the plant, or just a smaller number of fruits that are super high in a particular nutrient.
1 week ago
Last week a huge branch broke off my mulberry tree so I had a surfeit of mulberries shriveling in the sun at easy picking height. I decided to try drying them. I've been impressed before by the sweetness of dried white mulberries from asia that are sometimes on store shelves here.  Particularly in baked goods the berries seem to disappear and just leave a sweet taste.

My mulberries are dark purple, but I've learned that they are probably the same species as those white mulberries (morus alba), just a different color due to growing conditions. I want to see whether they will work to sweeten foods as a sustainable, local natural sweetener. Part of my inspiration was a question by Blake Lenoir last year about a local substitute for dates, which many people who adhere to vegan, raw, or paleo diets use to sweeten food.

I picked 300 g and dried them on a cloth on my cedar picnic table. This took the better part of 2 days in a heat wave.


When fully dry, they are brittle and crunchy and very lightweight. They taste sweet, but it's not a sweetness that hits you right away, and some have a bit of fruity tartness also.  Opening a bag of them, they have a sweet raisin-y scent.

For my first experiment, I wanted something simple and scalable so I can play around with proportions and not end up with a big batch of something blech. I have a tub of damp hazlenut paste leftover from another project. I have used this mixed with date puree for tasty no-bake treats before, so i will try the same with the mulberries. Because of the texture, I decide to pulverize them:



At first I feel like this is not going to work. Grinding in the mortar and pestle separates out the seeds, and the remaining parts of the fruit settle on top with a texture that I can only compare to pocket lint. However, I persevere and try really pounding rather that grinding, and after not too long the seeds and fruit are basically pulverized. The texture is similar to ground sumac.



As with the whole berries, the sweetness does not hit you immediately when tasting a pinch, but it is there. This would probably be good sprinkled on oatmeal.

I try mixing the powder with my hazelnut paste about 2 parts hazelnut to one part mulberry (by volume, not weight). I form this into balls and let sit an hour or so before tasting.



They are not great; slightly fruity tasting, but not what I would call sweet. Definitely not something to bring to a cookie exchange if you want to be invited back. I retool them by kneading in more mulberry and also rolling the balls in mulberry powder. Even at around 50% mulberry by volume, they're still not really sweet though. Nothing like the ones made with dates. I think this recipe is not a good fit, because the mulberries need more moisture to let out the sweetness.

I'll try some more experiments over the weekend.












1 week ago
Sorry to hear about your weather woes, Jeff.  It’s hard losing a crop you put a lot of work into. I have had my share of failures in my small space too.  Twice I specially prepared asparagus beds following instructions in gardening book, only to have the plants die over winter, even though they are hardy enough for my zone. This year I got no cherries due to temperature extremes in the spring. My plums might as well just be ornamental. Between vine borers, cucumber beetles, and powdery mildew I can’t harvest a single zucchini so stopped trying.

But…if you try a little something each year you may start to find some crops that do work for you. Or you may find some volunteer/wild plants that like your yard and those make a garden too.  Or you may figure out that you just need to tweak you garden set-up a bit. Resiliency can be discovering through trial and error what will grow for you in your specific space, and taking finding a way to work with that.

It may take several seasons to work this out. You’ll have some failures, but also successes.
1 week ago
Last year I planted “painted mountain” and enjoyed that because it was a beautiful plant. It is a good sweet corn too, if picked young. I’m trying out “strawberry popcorn” and Cherokee black eagle corn this year; we’ll see how they turn out. So far, better germination rate from the strawberry popcorn, but Cherokee black eagle is taller and more robust plants.
Marty and Kim laid this out so well!

Another benefit that I don't think was specifically mentioned yet,  is that no-till makes it much easier to mix perennial herbs and annual veg in one bed. Great for pollinators, and possibly for pest confusion.

Here I have chives,  garlic chives,  lovage, and sage growing in a bed with corn, squash, beans,  potatoes, peanuts,  peas, and radishes going to seed. There's actually 10 hills of corn there,  but it had not quite outgrown the radish flower stalks yet.