Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Garlic Mustard....Mustard

In the last few years, I was introduced to the lovely 'weed', Garlic Mustard.

It's one of those plants that came over with European settlers...
and has taken over ever since.
There is no where in North America where you will have to adhere
 to strict conservation collecting with this one.
In fact, the Ontario Government has come out with a super cool website to tell you all about it!

It might take you a few seasons to make sure it is what you think it is.
Spring time looks like the above picture.
The cute, scalloped leaves are hard to mistake.
Once you identify these leaves, its hard to miss them.
You start to see them literally
The bright green spring leaves are a treat too.
They taste garlicky and goes great in a salad.

By August, they start looking like the above picture.
They shoot up and send out spindly shoots.
They sprout these wee seed pods.
Once the pods are dry...collect immediately!
I've checked one day and by the next day the wind has scattered them all.

Again, I can't stress enough...collect as many as you want...
You don't have to worry about this hearty plant coming back.

The seeds look like long poppyseeds.
They have a light mustard taste.
I've heard you can made mustard from grinding the seeds...
So that was our big experiment this year!

We collected the seed pods and slowly, patiently removed all of the seeds from each one.
Each pods contains anywhere from 2-10 seeds.
This process is time plan a movie marathon or binge watch session.

A few weeks ago I actually got around to making the mustard I had set out to make using these seeds.

It turned out great!
I was amazed at the distinct wasabi taste.
Imagine...making wasabi in your own backyard!

I will admit I was a little didn't taste more like mustard.
Just being honest.
I guess I'll have to grow mustard greens in order to actually make mustard.

Even still...a very cool experiment indeed.

Thanks go out to The 3 Foragers for inspiring me to move beyond my comfort zone!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

BIZ SPOTLIGHT: Robert Deroche - Soil Warrior

One overcast morning...I found myself driving to meet someone in Maberly.
It is early spring here and I am not alone when I say I miss the garden.
The earth is shedding its last bits of white.
The soil is waking up everywhere.
Although it wasn't was a BEAUTIFUL day for a drive.

I met a man named Robert Deroche.
He had advertised his services in The Frontenac News.
But what caught my eye was the email address
(reprinted with Robert's permission)
I had to meet this guy!

I was fortunate enough to get a tour!
He had sprouts all over in his green room.
Wheatgrass, buckwheat, kale...
I was in heaven!

We chatted for hours, like old friends.
I was enthralled listening to his thoughts on "the circle".
Feed the soil, which feeds the food, which in turn feeds us!
Robert shared with me that he had tried unsuccessfully to grow carrots.
It wasn't until he waded into the world of vermicomposting that things turned around.

"I tried three times (to grow carrots) and then every year I do rotating, 
the carrots came back to this garden and last year 400 pounds of carrots 
and beets so this is really amazing stuff to me."

Worm castings
Wikipedia says:  
  1. Vermicompost is the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast (poo).
 By using worms to break down organic material, 
the compost is formed much quicker than traditional composting.
Think of it like you are hiring some labourers to compost for you!

Compost tea contraption
Not only can you use the castings (poo) in your garden around your plants,
 but you can also make compost tea!
Used in a ratio of at least 5:1 water to castings, this brew can be used directly on the plants.
(except stuff like peppers...who don't like getting wet on their leaves anyway)
Way better than hosing your garden with herbicides or steroids!
Speaking about those commercial things you could spray on your garden, he says,

"You set up a situation where you're dependent upon those inputs to maintain your garden."

Robert has a pretty high tech contraption for making compost tea.
He has his reasons.
It's all about the oxygen, baby!

Robert's sifting contraption
We continued the tour in the basement of his home.
I was shown the sifter he uses to separates out the woodier parts of the soil.

Secret worm food
He also has a secret formula to feed the worms.
Don't worry...worm composters don't really require these special amendments.
He just spoils his worms with some of the best stuff going.
I won't ruin his trade'll have to talk to Robert about that.

Worms hotel
Housed in long crates...his worms are hard at work!

Robert uses red wigglers and African wrigglers.

There is a tiny sliver of silver - that's a worm toddler!

Not sure if you can see it but there is a tiny silver sliver on his finger
(above the dirt clump)
Its a worm larvae!
When you gently move the soil around, you can actually see
many of the forms worms can take.

Worm castings
Not only was Robert welcoming, but a gratious host.
I was able to part with a bucket of castings...complete with worms!

Super juice!

He also served up some of his pressed juice made with vegetables he grew last year.
It was kale, carrot, ginger, apple and I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
It was delicious nonetheless!

He pulled out a Brix meter.
After he explained how it worked...I am now convinced it is the future of food production.
Wikipedia says:

Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass

(We tested the juice he made)
Its amazing to think that not all veggies are the same.
The tomato you bought in the store has very low nutritional content,
compared to one grown in the castings of worms and fed worm compost tea.
The difference is astronomical!

Here is a chart:

Considering much of what we get at the grocery store has traveled very far to get to us,
doesn't it hurt that they would then sell us food listed less than poor on the Brix chart?

I believe that in the future, we won't have foods sporting ORGANIC labels any more.
We'll be checking to see what Brix rating it has!!!


All in all, Robert is an enthusiastic lover of gardens, worms and the path to overall health.
It was a treat to meet him and share in the information he has gathered.

Get in touch with this guy if you are at all interested in learning more about
-Worm composting (Vermicomposting)
-organic gardening on a whole new level
-Brix meters

Use the above posted email address for more information...

Robert's Recommends:

Charles Eisenstein "Sacred Economics"

Dr Elaine Ingham  "SFI"

PS.  I couldn't resist...I started a worm farm with the worms I was gifted!