Monday, November 28, 2011

Recipe: Apple Butter

So, what to do with left over apple pulp and skins from our Hard Cider Homebrew session on the Thanksgiving weekend?

Throw it away?   That seemed like a big waste.
Turn it into compost?  Well, it has to age for about 2 years due to the high acidity - it will kill plants.
Use it to kill plants?  Not a bad idea if I had a fence line I wanted to keep weed free... but no fence lines for me right now.

How about making some apple butter?  Perfect!

Apple butter is not really butter (from milk), but it is a creamy, concentrated apple sauce with spices.  It is delicious on a piece of warm toast or on a hot biscuit.  It was a common sweet treat, side dish, ingredient in baked goods, or condiment in the Colonial United States.  I can see why.  I have only met one person (eh-hmm, Veronica), who does not like apple butter.  However, everyone else usually goes back for seconds and thirds when a jar is opened.

We ended up with a bunch of pulp after juicing close to 200 lbs of fruit.  Well over half of it was from uncored apples, so it had bit of stem and seed in it.  However, thanks to Jake's forethought, we cored a decent amount of apples and quince and saved that pulp for making apple butter.

Here is the basic recipe for apple butter:

  • 4 parts fruit (this can be cored apples, skins, or pulp)
  • 1 part sugar (this can be brown sugar, white table sugar, or honey)
  • Spices to taste (common spices are cinnamon and cloves)

 The heated apple mixture (left)
Pureeing the mixture (center)
The pureed apple mixture (right)

  • Heat the fruit, sugar, and spices over low medium heat until tender - keep stirring to avoid scorching (you can see this being done in the photo at the top of this post)
  • You may need to add some water to help with consistency
  • Transfer to a blender or food processor or food mill and puree it until smooth (like apple sauce)
  • Put back on the heat and simmer until reduced and darkened - it should be thick and almost creamy... buttery!

The spices I used in this recipe
(cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper)

  • Many spices can be used.  I used cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and black pepper.  Yeah, black pepper.  If used in small amounts in sweet dishes like apple butter and apple-quince pie is basically a natural flavor enhancer.
  • This is a very easy recipe to make, it just takes some time and attention.  
  • A crock pot works great for cooking the pureed fruit.  I put mine in over night on low and then simmered it down on the stove for a few hours more the next morning.

The finished apple butter... dark, glossy, and creamy!  Delicious!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What I am Brewing: Thanksgiving Turkey Cider

A whole lot of apples... ready for cider!
We made two 5 gallon batches with this fruit.
From top to bottom: 
4 types of local Turkish apples
Turkish Granny Smith apples
Local Turkish quince

So I finally got around to documenting one of my brew sessions.  This time I was making Hard Apple Cider with a few of my friends (Jake and Brianna).  Local apples are rather cheap this time of year, so this is a great time to make some cider.  

There are quite a few hard apple cider recipes available online.  There are also a number of books out there on the subject as well.  This is not the only way to make hard apple cider.  There is some more professional equipment out there (i.e. grinders, presses, etc.), but we don't have it.  The bottom line is that if I can do this with the basic beer homebrewing equipment that I have, anyone can do this.

Give it a try!

I'll start first with my brewing notes:

Name: Thanksgiving Turkey Cider

History of this drink:  
Cider is a very old and very famous (and infamous) alcoholic beverage.  Yes, there is non-alcoholic cider.  This is just unfiltered apple juice.  Filtered apple juice is sold as "Apple Juice", and unfiltered apple juice is sold as "Cider" in grocery stores in the U.S.  Hard Cider, or alcoholic cider, is what we made the day after Thanksgiving with local ingredients from Turkey... hence the name.  In the U.S., cider has a long history.  It was the most popular drink in Colonial times.  This was mainly due to the fact that most water was not safe to drink (boiling and/or filtration was not yet understood).  Hard Cider remained a very popular drink in the U.S. until Prohibition (13 years in the U.S when all alcoholic beverages were illegal - 1920-1933), but it never regained its popularity in post-Prohibition times.  In many other parts of the world, especially the UK, cider and cider making has a long and respected history, and it is still a popular drink today.

  • 3 Gallons (60%) Neutral Base: Local Turkish apples from the open air market

         - 10 kg (22 lbs) Light Green Apple
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Red Apple with Green Blush
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Pale Yellow Apple with Light Brown Spots
     - 5 kg (11 lbs) Red Apple with Light Yellow Stripes
  • 1 Gallon (20%) Tart Apple

         - ~8.5 kg (18.75 lbs) Granny Smith Apples
  • 1 Gallon (20%) Aromatic / Astringent Apples

         - 10.8 kg (24 lbs) Quince - yeah not technically an apple, but the only thing I could find with high tannin content
  • 2 lbs Sue Bee Clover Honey
  • Wyeast 4766 Cider Yeast

  • Juiced all the apples in Jake's fruit/vegetable juicer
  • Placed all the juice into a large stainless steel stockpot
  • Brought to a low simmer - just giving off steam but not bubbles forming at all
  • Added the honey
  • Simmered for 45 minutes - never allowing a boil
  • Let cool on the stovetop for about an hour
  • Transferred to a sterilized (with bleach) glass 5 gallon (19 liter) carboy
  • Stoppered and allowed to cool overnight
  • In the morning, pitched the yeast
  • Ferment, rack, bottle, age, drink!

  • All fruit was grown locally in Turkey.
  • I hope to go back to the market and get the local names of the apples I purchased.  This would be mainly for my own reference, but it would be good to know.
  • Cider is usually made from a blend of apples.  This is because there are only a few apples which contain all the characteristics needed for an "ideal" juice to ferment.  The juice should strike a good balance between Aromatic, Tart, and Astringent.  Astringency is really a measure of the tannins - the dryness factor - that makes makes your mouth feel like you have just bit into an unripe apple or piece of wood.  It is far easier to obtain a blend of apples that fit these flavor characteristics.
  • Quince - I could find no apples that had a high tannin content.  The only apples I could find (other than the tart Granny Smith) were fresh eating, dessert style apples... sweet with medium acidity.  I am guessing on the acidity levels, since I didn't measure the pH.  Quinces are very aromatic and have a high tannin content.  You really can't eat a quince raw because of the tannins.  You have to poach them before eating.  I thought I would stretch the traditional cider definition and add another species of fruit, although quince are very closely related.  You can read more about Quinces here in this article.
  • The honey is from the U.S.  I had planned on purchasing local honey, but did not get to it by brewing time.  Afterwards, I learned that many of the local honey producers water down their honey to increase their income.  I know a local chef who is a "honey snob", so I plan to find a honey supplier through him soon.
  • It takes from about 15-20 lbs (6.5-9.0 kg) apples to make 1 gallon (3.75 L) of juice.  More if the fruit is dryer, like the quince.
  • I used about 98 lbs (44 kg) of fruit for 5 gallons (19 L)... this was 19.5 lbs per gallon (2.3 kg/liter)
  • For future batches, I would like to try a batch without pasteurizing and just using the apples natural yeasts - a bit more risky, but the more traditional way of making cider

The fruit was rinsed in the sink, and the larger apples and quince were cut into smaller pieces.

Jake manned the juicer.  
The juicer is the smaller stainless steel box his hand is resting on, not the larger stainless steel water filter in the back.  The juicer emptied into a small pitcher.  The very dry pulp was pushed out the back into a small receptacle.

You can use a juicer, blender, or food processor to "grind and press" the apples on a smaller level.  I hope to one day have an apple grinder and press, but that will come after I have my own apple trees.

Brianna and I organizing the flow of work.

After the apples were juiced, we strained the juice through a cheesecloth (not pictured).  
The strained juice was held briefly in this bowl before being poured into a 2 quart (0.5 gallon/1.9 L) apple juice bottle.  I used this to keep track of how many gallons of juice we had made/had left to go.

The measured juice was poured into the big stainless steel stockpot (Jake's brew kettle).
After bringing it up to a low simmer to pasteurize the juice.  We simmered for 45 minutes.  The honey was added at the very beginning of the simmering process, added slowly and stirred in.
A lot of impurities floated and collected on the top during the simmering process.

These impurities were easy to skim off the top.  
We tried skimming two ways, first with just a spoon and second with a spoon and this small strainer.
I think I prefer the spoon by itself.  It appears that the strainer left a lot of smaller particles in the juice and resulted in a more cloudy finished product.  However, it may not make any difference after proper racking (siphoning the fermented cider off the sediment that collects at the bottom of the carboy).

The strained and pasteurized apple-quince juice (aka "must") with honey added.
A beautiful reddish-orange color.  This was stoppered and allowed to cool overnight.  You can see that I didn't quite make 5 gallons of juice.  I was closer to 4.5 gallons.  This may be from the skimming process.  In the future, I think I will shoot for about a 10-15% overage.  Whatever doesn't fin in the carboy, I will just drink straight as non-alcoholic cider.

Primary Fermentation
After the yeast was pitched (added to the juice), a "blow off" tube was added to the carboy, and the free end was placed in a water trap.  You can see just the beginnings of the fermentation getting started... it is the thin layer of foam at the top of the juice.  This will turn into a vigorous, rolling fermentation at the beginning of primary fermentation.  When this settles down, I will take off the large tube and put a much smaller air lock in place.

The water trap allows only air to escape, but not work back into the carboy.
I used an old pitcher from a Brita Water Filter.  The spout firmly holds the tubing in place.

The carboy is covered with an old, clean towel.  
This acts just a little as insulation, but mainly as a light barrier.  UV light can cause off flavors to develop in your fermenting cider.

I'll update this post as the cider making process progresses... stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Appleseed

No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms. 
         ---Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776.

I am a huge fan of this organization.  From what I have read and heard from people who have attended, this is some of the best rifle marksmanship training available for the average person.  At a cost of $70 for 2 days (only $10 for women!), if you have an Appleseed Marksmanship Clinic near you, it would be silly not to attend.

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.
        --- Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

To me, marksmanship is just another skill set that we should have in order to be more self-sufficient.  Wild game is one of the healthiest sources of protein we can eat.  If we are fortunate enough to have some land and the ability to hunt on it, but we have no skill with a rifle, we are missing out on an lot of very healthy, very inexpensive food.  We are also likely going to incur more loss of our crops to these animals.

One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them. 
--- Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

I will not go into the personal and national security aspects of gun ownership, but I feel that Americans are remiss if not practicing their Second Amendment rights.

I love this photo from an Appleseed program.  
It highlights that these events are really geared toward families.

So what is this all about?
Through Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War Veterans Association is committed to teaching two things: rifle marksmanship and our early American heritage. We do this for one simple reason, the skill and knowledge of what our founding fathers left to us is eroding in modern America and without deliberate action, they will be lost to ignorance and apathy.

So what is Project Appleseed?
Appleseed is a program that instructs Americans on the traditional rifle marksmanship skills that have been passed down from generation to generation, along with reconnecting today's Americans with the people and events of the Founding era. Participants are taught fundamental rifle marksmanship skills that are to allow a Rifleman to be accurate out to 500 yards, with iron sights, standard rifle and surplus ammo. This is the traditional 'Rifleman's Quarter mile', which is an uniquely American Rifleman skill, that has been part of this nation from the very first days.

Most of the instruction at an Appleseed is conducted at 25 meters, at reduced size targets to simulate 100 to 500 yards. This well proven technique allows us to concentrate on the shooter's mechanics and less time walking a range. At those locations that allow for actual distance shooting, participants are often able to see first hand that the skills that they learn at 25 meters directly apply to actual distances out to 500 yards. These foundational skills are not being passed on to future generations, and so Appleseeds are great for new or experienced shooters alike.

Why "Appleseed?"
"Appleseed" comes from Johnny Appleseed, the American folk hero who toured the country, planting appleseeds so that future generations would benefit. Project Appleseed is designed to ensure the next generations will the benefit of the same Liberties as the generations before them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Permaculture Projects: Structures for Overwintering Insects

I was going through some photos of a trip we took to Germany.  We brought the kids to a wildlife park.  In Germany, the wildlife parks are large, relaxing managed forests with extensive paddocks for animals.  They are a great place to leisurely enjoy nature while seeing a lot of animals.  The kids and adults love it.

One of the things we saw was this structure pictured at the top of this post.  It is a collection of insect homes.  The small burrows drilled in wood or crevices in brick, straw, pine cones, and sticks are a fantastic place for beneficial insects to overwinter.  

You can see in this close-up that some of the ends 
of the small bamboo sticks are covered with mud.
These sticks are currently inhabited!

We often keep our yards and gardens so tidy that our beneficial insects have no place to go for the winter. They end up either freezing to death or migrating out of our yard and into a place that is more suitable... never to return.  

By providing homes like these, we can increase our chances that the beneficial insects will stick around year after year.  This reduces our pest issues, and it reduces our need to import beneficial insects.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chipotle Cultivate Foundation

Thanks to my brother, Ray, for sending me this video.

This video is fantastic!  Yeah, it is ultimately an advertisement for Chipotle (which I must admit is one of my favorite restaurants), but the message behind the video is powerful.

Chipotle is literally putting their money where our mouths are... in sustainable agriculture.  They have created the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.  From their website:

The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is committed to creating a more sustainable and healthful food supply and to raising awareness concerning food issues. This is realized through the support of family farmers and their communities, educators and programs that teach younger generations about food matters, along with support for ranchers and farmers who are working to develop more sustainable practices. 

Over the last several years, Chipotle has contributed more than $2 million to help fund initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming, culinary education, and innovation that promotes better food. The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is a non-profit organization established by Chipotle Mexican Grill to continue and strengthen its philanthropic efforts. 

This idea, philosophy, is directly in line with what Permaculture is all about.  Check out their website if you get a chance!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How to Make Cordial

Black Current Cordial
I had a great black current cordial while visiting Luxembourg.  
It was made to raise funds to support restoration and maintenance on Castle Beaufort.

Here is a photo of me and my boys exploring Castle Beaufort!

Cordial.  What is it and how do you make it?

Cordials are a fun way to use fruits from our land, either cultivated or wild.

A cordial is a drink, usually an alcoholic liqueur, with a strong fruit component.  It is typically sweet and very strongly flavored.  While not always alcoholic, most cordials have either brandy or a grain alcohol as its base.  Brandy (distilled wine) is the most common alcoholic base for making cordial, but Vodka (distilled grain or potatoes) is often used.  Whiskey (distilled barley, rye, wheat, or corn) can also be used as well as about any distilled alcohol.

One of the most common non-alcoholic cordials is elderflower cordial.  Instead of an alcoholic base, this cordial is steeped in a concentrated sugar solution.  A cordial that is non-alcoholic and then concentrated is usually called a squash.  Squashes are often mixed with still or sparkling water and served cold.

Traditionally, some cordials were mixed with herbs and were used more as a medicine.  Due to the high alcohol content, cordials were seen as a stimulant, an invigorating drink, a warming drink, or a tonic... a drink that gave a feeling of vigor or well-being.  Alcohol can obviously reduce anxiety and give a feeling of well-being due to its intoxicating properties.  We also now know that alcohol dilates surface blood vessels which happen to be near our skin's temperature sensors.  So when we drink a strongly alcoholic beverage, we get the sensation of warmth.  In reality, our core temperature doesn't change at all.  In older (and colder) times, when a person was trying to stay warm in frigid weather, a nip of strong alcohol was thought to help keep them warm.  In reality, it made them feel warmer, but the dilation of blood vessels close to the skin actually caused a person to lose body heat.

Cherry Cordial (jar on the left) steeping in the sunlight.

So how are cordials made?

The basic cordial recipe:

  • One large jar of fruit (if fruit is large, cut into small chunks)
  • Enough alcohol to cover
  • About half as much sugar as alcohol
  • Add all ingredients together, cover tightly (airtight is best), and wait anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, gently shaking the jar about once a week.
  • Strain the liquid and store in a glass jar or bottle.
  • The cordial often improves with age (3-6 months) - unless it contains citrus

This is really about it.  Honest.  There are many, many variations based on ingredient.  We can add spices or herbs, adjust times of steeping, mash the fruit first, freeze the fruit first, use a variety or mix of base alcohols... the possibilities are limited only by our imagination.

Some tips:

  • If the cordial is too sweet, we can add some watered alcohol to balance the sweetness.  This is just a 1:1 ratio of water to whatever alcohol we used to make the original cordial.
  • We are shooting for a 20-30% alcohol content (40-60 proof alcohol by U.S. standards).  If the cordial is too strong, we can add some sugar water (again about a 1:1 ratio) or some fruit juice.
  • Use perfectly ripe fruits - maximum sugar content will give maximum flavor.
  • If our cordial starts to become less sweet over time in storage, don't worry.  This is a natural process of the more complex white table sugar (composed of glucose and fructose) breaking down into its less sweet component parts.  We can fix this if you want by just adding a bit more sugar.
  • Honey can be substituted of the white table sugar.  We may need to use less since honey is sweeter.  However, honey (especially depending on the type) does have a unique flavor profile that we may or may not want in our final cordial.

A beautiful blackberry cordial.

Some one-ingredient cordials that I have seen (some I have tried) include:

  • Cherry
  • Blackberry
  • Raspberry
  • Black Currant
  • Red Currant
  • Rose Hip
  • Prune
  • Plum
  • Blueberry
  • Cranberry

Here are some combination-ingredient cordials:

  • Raspberry and Lemon
  • Gooseberry and Lemon Verbena
  • Rhubarb and Strawberry
  • Apple and Cinnamon with Cloves
  • Orange (fruit and peel), Lemon (fruit and peel), and Vanilla Bean
  • Banana, Pineapple, and Vanilla Bean
  • Coconut, Pineapple, and Vanilla Bean

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Organic Fertilizers: Greensand

Greensand in Texas

What is it?
Greensand is a sand or sandstone that has a green color to it.  It is formed from organic sediment in marine environments.  It contains a high percentage of the mineral glauconite (an iron potassium sillicate) which is greenish black/blue.

What is the primary benefit?
Potassium in a water-soluable form called potash.  While the main component of greensand, the mineral glauconite, is not readily water soluble, it will eventually erode and slowly release the potassium into the soil.

Greensand comes in a powdered form.

How is it used?
It can be added to the soil at anytime of the year.  It is typically sprinkled over the surface of the soil, or it can be worked/blended into the soil.

If you soil has adequate potassium levels: 25 lbs per 1,000 square feet
If you soil has medium potassium levels: 50 lbs per 1,000 square feet
If you soil has low potassium levels: 100 lbs per 1,000 square feet

NPK Ratio:  0-0-7
7% potash (potassium)
32 trace minerals

Always test your soil before adding any fertilizers.  We can easily damage our plants and the soil by indiscriminately adding soil amendments.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Permaculture Tips: Diatomaceous Earth and Chicken Parasites

The Red Chicken Mite

If you keep chickens, then you know about keeping a dust box or dust pile available for them.  Chickens coat themselves with fine dust to help rid their bodies of exoparasites (i.e. external parasites: lice, mites, etc.)  The dust creates an inhospitable environment for these pests.

If you add a handful of diatomaceous earth to the dust box every once in a while, it will make the dust significantly more effective.  (You can read more about diatomaceous earth in my previous post.)

This is a very easy technique that keeps your chickens more healthy and more happy.

Happy chickens taking turns in the dust!

Permaculture Tip is an idea that is derived from observing and interacting with nature.  It is simple.  It is safe.  It is effective.  It helps build a sustainable system of agriculture.  If you have any Permaculture Tips you would like to share, please let me know.  I will post it here, give you the credit, and post a link to your blog or website if you have one.  Email me here:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Using a Cast Iron Skillet

No original content today.  Just one of the best articles I have ever read on using a cast iron skillet.  There are a few quirky references, as is in most of the writing by Paul Wheaton, but the content is gold.

Here is the link:  Using a Cast Iron Skillet Ain't So Hard!


The Permaculture Master Plan


From the Permaculture Research Institute's page on the Permaculture Master Plan:

The answers to the world’s woes – waning energy supplies, depleted and contaminated soils and water, reduced biodiversity, the dismantling of communities, etc. – are all there. We know how to get the job done, we know how to restore natural abundance where before was only desolation. But, we can get the job done a great deal faster with your help!

Watch this video to learn more:

Click here for more information...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Principles of Permaculture: Principle Twelve - Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Holmgren's Twelve Principles of Permaculture
1.  Observe and Interact
2.  Catch and Store Energy
3.  Obtain a Yield
4.  Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
5.  Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
6.  Produce No Waste
7.  Design from Patterns to Details
8.  Integrate Rather than Segregate
9.  Use Small and Slow Solutions
10. Use and Value Diversity
11. Use the Edges and Value the Margin
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Principle Twelve: Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Holmgren's Proverb for this Principle:  Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.

I believe that this principle is really talking about two types of change and our reaction to it.  The first is change that is seen or anticipated.  A prime example of this is the concept of succession.  In ecology, succession is the change that an environment will go through as it progresses toward maturity or climax.  An idealized illustration is how an abandoned farm field will become overgrown with weeds and grasses and then become a meadow then an early forest and then a mature forest.  Another example is the progression of the seasons from Summer to Autumn to Winter to Spring and back around again.  If we are managing our land and garden for this change, which comes as no surprise, then we can incorporate these changes into our Permaculture design.  One quick design example is how we can sow an area that has poor quality soil with a non-frost-resistant nitrogen-fixing plant.  Come winter, the plant will die back providing a mulch, organic material, and nitrogen to the soil.  We don't have to do the work that nature can do for us instead.  That is smart design!

The other type of change is the change that is unforeseen.  The change for which we did not plan.  This can be anything from a tree that is killed by lightning, wind, or pest to the death of your chickens by a raccoon.  It can be as big as the death of a loved on or a house fire or as small as a flat tire or seeds that didn't sprout.  Also, remember that not all unforeseen change is negative.  We may have a bumper crop of tomatoes or peppers, a sheep that bears triplets, or an unexpected inheritance.  The key to success with this type of change is how we handle it, our ability to adapt.  The overused adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" is very applicable.  There is a famous quote from Bill Mollison, the co-founder of Permaculture, when discussing pests in the garden.  He said, "You don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!" That is the attitude and the creativity we need to have in the face of unforeseen change.

"Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be" (an old Japanese proverb) reminds us that there is usually an opportunity in all change, unforeseen and expected.  It is up to us to have the vision to plan for or adapt to that change to come out better, or at least not as bad as others in a similar situation, on the other side.

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
- David Holmgren

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Permaculture Plants: Rugosa Roses

The Rugosa Rose has a wonderful rose aroma

Common Name: Rugosa Rose, Japanese Rose
Scientific Name: Rosa rugosa
Family: Rosaceae

The large fruits of the Rosa rugosa... well, large compared to other roses.

The rose almost needs no description.  This species is a thorny shrub that can form dense thickets up to 6 feet (2 meters) tall.  Flowers are fragrant and are white to dark pink.  Rosa rugosa will produce fruits called rose hips which are 0.5 - 1.5 inches (1.25 - 3.8 cm) in diameter.

Rosa rugosa by Karen Klugein

This rose is native to eastern Asia where it has been cultivated for about a thousand years.  It has been rather extensively introduced to Europe and North America.


  • Rosa rugosa is also called the beach tomato, sea tomato, saltspray rose, and beach rose - this is due to the large fruit (compared to other roses) and its salt-tolerance. 
  • It is highly resistant to common rose diseases (especially rose rust and rose black spot) and it hybridizes (cross-breeds) with other rose species well - this is why it is used by many rose breeders
  • Rose hips are very high in vitamin C

 Rosa rugosa in its natural environment (the beach) in one of its naturalized homes (New Hampshire)... although it can grow in just about any well-draining soil

Primary Uses:
  • Fragrance
  • Extract juice with a steam juice extractor
  • Fresh eating of hips and flowers
  • Preserves, jams, jellies, etc.
  • Herbal teas
  • Dried
  • Syrups
  • Cordials
  • Soups (a Scandinavian favorite)
  • Fruit leather
  • Rose Hip Candy

Secondary Uses:
  • Shelter to birds and small mammals
  • Fall and winter fruit for birds and small mammals
  • General nectar source for insects (especially bees)
  • Nectar source for hummingbirds
  • Hedge
  • Screen
  • Erosion control
  • Flowers can be used for perfumes and other fragrant uses (like pot-pourri)

Yield: 1 bushel (35 liters), up to 75 lbs, but it depends on the size you allow the thicket/hedge/bush to grow.
Harvesting: Late summer into autumn.  Pick anytime after the hips are fully colored.  Most people cut the hip in half, scoop out the seeds and hairs, and then process the fruit.  You can nibble the fruit off larger hips with Rosa rugosa - it is refreshingly tart.  Some will say that the best time to pick the hips is just after the first frost.  The flesh of the fruit will be soft and sticky and easier to process.  I have not tried this yet, so I do not know first hand.
Storage: Fresh hips will store for only a week or two

Rosa rugosa Rose Petal Jelly and Rose Hip Jelly

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-7 (all the way to 10 depending on which source you read)
AHS Heat Zone: 9-2
Chill Requirement: As this is a fruiting plant from a Temperate Climate, some chill likely increases yield, but I cannot find any research on this topic.

Plant Type: Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Shrub
Cultivars/Varieties: Many available.

Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile, typically by bees
Flowering: Late spring to late summer and early autumn

Life Span: Can be almost perpetual if you allow the suckers to develop into a new plant

Rugosa roses turn a brilliant yellow in autumn.

Size: 4-6 feet (1.5-2 meters) tall and 4-8+ feet (1.5-2.5 meters) wide
Roots: Shallow, suckers will form and slowly spread outward
Growth Rate: Fast

Another beautiful variety, Rosa rugosa Regeliana
Notice the honey bees on the flowers

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade (about 50%)
Moisture: Medium to Dry
pH: 5.1 – 7.0 (acid to neutral)

Special Considerations for Growing:
Tolerates juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives).  Obviously, the thousands of varieties have not all be studied for this, but it appears that at least the more “wild” or less developed roses are not inhibited by juglone.

By seed, needs at least 16 weeks stratification for germination.
Can dig up and replant suckers in a new location.

Minimal.  May have to remove suckers to keep plant from spreading, and occasional pruning of older stems will improve the appearance.

  • Can spread easily through suckering root system - thicket forming.
  • Can easily pop up and grow where not planted through seeds spread by birds and other small animals.

Rosa rugosa Blanc Double De Coubert... a beautiful variety

Friday, November 4, 2011

Humanure How To

Due to the popularity of my previous post on Humanure, I wanted to share a few videos on the subject.  These videos make it clear just how easy it is to compost humanure.  I truly think we need to overcome our quite recently developed (in human history) fecophobia.  We need to be cautious that we properly handle human waste, but, as I have said previously, wasting clean drinking water and all the energy used to purify it just to flush away something that could easily and safely be recycled is a travesty.

Starting a New Humanure Compost Pile

Emptying Humanure Toilet Receptacles

Making a Humanure Compost Toilet

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone


Let me first say that I am not a vegetarian.  I don't fault those who are, but I don't think that is how we are designed to eat.  The average American eats far too little fruit and vegetable and way too much processed food, bad fat, and grain-finished meat.  I won't go into that big can of worms right now - maybe I'll address that in a later post.  The bottom line is that we really do need to eat more plants!

Now with that said, I will say that this is one of the most used reference cookbooks on my shelf.  I often need a quick reference on how to prepare a specific vegetable that I don't make frequently.  I may have picked up a large bag of a new vegetable at the market because they looked so fresh but I have never cooked.  Maybe I am looking for a way to liven up a common vegetable that I have gotten stuck making the same way over and over.  That is when I grab this book.  There are a few pages devoted to almost any vegetable you can get your hands on, giving selection, cleaning, prepping, and cooking tips.  In addition, there are over 800 recipes!

Other than being a great, encyclopedic resource on vegetables, what I like about this book is that it is practical.  It does not focus on exotic ingredients that taste like you are eating tree bark as many vegetarian cookbooks do.  While there is information on many lesser-known ingredients, the majority of this book is full of recipes that the average person who enjoys vegetables will eat and will be able to prepare with minimal hassle.  There are also many recipes that even the pickiest "meat and potatoes" diner would find appetizing.

You don't have to be a die-hard foodie or militant vegan to enjoy this book.  If you are looking for a way to enjoyably increase the fruit and veggies in your diet, this book will give you many ways to do so.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Increase the Flavor of Your Herbs

Be a Basil Bully!

Do you want to know how to increase the flavor of the herbs in your garden?

Be mean to them!

That is pretty much it, but let me elaborate a little.  The flavorful element in an herb comes from specific chemical compounds, often called "essential oils" when extracted from an herb, that give that herb its specific scent and flavor.  These compounds are created by the plant mainly to attract pollinators (bees, moths, butterflies, flies, etc) or repel predators (insects, birds, grazers, etc), although there are other reasons, and I bet many that we don't even understand as of yet.

These compounds are created by the plant in various concentrations.  So how do we increase the concentration in our herbs?  Well, remember that the plant really has one goal... to reproduce itself.  If a plant is growing in ideal conditions, then it can take its time and grow big and lush.  The problem is that when this happens, the "essential oil" concentration typically drops.

If the herb is feeling stressed, feeling like the conditions in which it is living is not ideal, that it may be eating or killed soon, then it will want to do everything in its power to procreate itself as fast as possible.  Of course this is not a thought out process.  It is part of its genetic coding.  It will increase the production of these special compounds to either protect itself more or attract more pollinators.   The increased production of these compounds, the higher the concentration, and the greater the aroma and flavor.

Now to be honest, the concentration change in some herbs will be so minimal that we cannot smell or taste it.  Maybe a bee or caterpillar can.  Who knows?  What I do know is that I have had basil that tastes more like iceberg lettuce when it is growing in rich, loamy, moist soil and that basil is a lush bush over 3 feet tall.  Then I have tasted basil that grew from reseeding.  It was a bit out of the garden by a sidewalk, in hard, dry, compacted soil, and the plant was only about 6 inches tall.  The flavor from one leaf was so intense and the smell so strong, it probably had more of the special basil chemical compounds than that whole lush basil bush with the bland flavor.

My recommendation is to place your herbs in minimally prepared soil.  Intentionally avoid watering them as much as you do your vegetables.  Let them get beat up a bit by intense heat, drought, and pests before you go and save them.  Treat them like you don't really like them.  Be mean to them!

For additional reading on how the growing conditions of a plant affect its flavor, read my article on Terroir.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Permaculture Tips: Bring a Bucket!

Don't miss out on an opportunity.  Bring a bucket!

I don’t know how many times I have come across something that I thought, “If I just had a bucket, I could bring that back with me.”  Typically, this is something that can be composted.  I’ve seen piles of almost black bananas that someone was throwing away, wet paper bags of used coffee grounds, lawn clippings, even fish entrails outside a fishing dock.  I’ve seen muck from the bottom of a pond that was being drained.  I’ve seen piles of horse, goat, and chicken manure and straw.  It doesn’t have to be things that people are throwing away either.  I’ve seen dead crabs and seaweed washed up at a beach, mounds of ash after a small forest fire, mounds of leaves growing mushrooms on the side of the road in the autumn.  All of these would be fantastic additions to my soil increasing the nutrients, minerals, and overall quality by adding more and more diversity to the soil.  All of these things I have had to pass by and think, “What a waste!”

My tip?  Just bring a bucket with you.  Place one in your car or carry one in your bike basket (if you don’t have one, consider adding one).  If you are going to a place that you know will have a lot of material, then bring a couple of buckets.

It doesn’t always need to be for compostable material.  What about when you seen a field that is about to be bulldozed for new construction and there are wild blackberries or lamb’s quarters?  I’ve “relocated” azaleas from a home site that was condemned – the bulldozers came the next week and leveled everything, plants and house together.  You may want to carry a small shovel in the bucket, too.

The people who benefit from surprise opportunities are those that are planning on those opportunities and are not surprised by them.

A Permaculture Tip is an idea that is derived from observing and interacting with nature.  It is simple.  It is safe.  It is effective.  It helps build a sustainable system of agriculture.  If you have any Permaculture Tips you would like to share, please let me know.  I will post it here, give you the credit, and post a link to your blog or website if you have one.  Email me here: