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Saving Tomato Seeds

16 Sep

Ok, so I scooped out some of the seeds of the beautiful yellow heirloom tomatoes we just got at the market


I cut the fruit in half for roasting, and scooped out the pockets of jelly with the seeds in them from around the rim of half of one fruit


Note how the inside has a red heart, while the outside of these when ripe is a golden yellow washed or lightly striped reddish pinkish orange. Beautiful fruit.

So, to clean these I just popped the jelly covered seeds in a strainer, and rinsed


Make sure you kind of press the pulp out, rubbing the seeds against the mesh of the strainer till the pulp is mostly pushed through and washed away. With these, a membrane like skin remains, but that’s ok. It should flake off for the most part when dry, and at any rate doesn’t affect germination too much.

Knock the cleaned seeds out onto a paper towel


Pat the seeds as dry as you can, then scrape the seeds back into the center of the towel. At this point you can let them dry like this. I like to fold the towel over the top to cover them, and let the towel wick the moisture away as much as possible.


In a few days they should be dry, and you can store them in a seed packet, or plastic bag or however you like to do it. I make these little origami type seed packets, this one is ready for the seeds as soon as they dry.


You can use this same basic method to clean pretty much any berry or fruit to get the seeds inside. Research germination first though, since some kinds of berries and fruits germinate best when fresh, so instead of saving the seeds, you would want to sow them immediately. Tomatoes and most vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, etc. should be pretty good saved up though.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

16 Sep

Last year was the first year we did this, but it turned out so well we decided to do it again, and do enough we would have enough roasted tomato sauce for the whole year. Luckily we were able to get a couple of boxes of really nice heirloom tomatoes to do it with. The box we got this week we specifically looked for these wonderful yellow heirlooms, that when fully ripe are kind of striped/washed with pinkish orange, and when you slice them open have a red heart in the overall yellow fruit. They have a sweet, lower acid flavor that is really nice. If your used to store bought rock like tomatoes, these will either give you a revelation in the flavor of tomatoes, or you will hate them, lol.

I’m a little tempted with these yellow ones to do a light roast, just to cool off some of the excess water in them… But fully roasting kind of caramelizes them a bit and gives them a richness that is really wonderful. Quickly processed in the Cuisinart, they become a simple and very tasty spaghetti sauce. I’m gonna try these yellow ones with some lemon basil.

The box was a mix of several different heirloom varieties, including one I think is called Green Zebra, though these are mostly rather smaller than the green zebras we grew at home for a few years. The fruit really is a striped green round little fruit. At full ripe they stay firm and the ground behind the darker green stripes gets a kind of yellows chartreuse color to it. Slightly tart, with a nice firm but juicy texture, these are again, about as far from the typical store bought under ripe tomatoes as you can get.

There is another really nice mostly larger tomato, with a beautiful dark red almost maroon color, with dark green shoulders. These have a kind of classic rich heirloom type tomato flavor, and should make some really nice sauce roasted. I didn’t see any in this box, but the box we got last week I swear had some that looked like the classic knobby irregular Brandywine type tomatoes. We saved one for hamburgers, and it was a toss up which I liked better, the juicy sweet yellow ones or the richer brandywines.

Anyway, we need to get these roasting. I set the oven to 450, pretty hot. Luckily it’s a gray, cool day out and the kitchen could use warming up. Next I give the tomatoes a quick wash.


You can see the yellow ones on one side and the green shouldered ones on the other. Nummy…

Now quickly core the top out, it’s woody and doesn’t make for good sauce with these


Slice ’em in half and lay them out on baking trays. These are nice big aluminum ones that barely fit in the oven, lol. This box fills two of them, with a dozen or so tomatoes left over for salads and whatnot.


You can see I’m segregating the yellow ones in one tray, and the red ones in the other. I want to make some yellow sauce, with the lemon basil, so decided to make it easier and segregate the trays a bit.

Incidentally, if you want to save seeds, now is the time to do it. See the jelly filled cells around the outside of the fruit, once you cut them in half? Simply stick your finger in the cavity and scoop out the jelly with the seeds in it.


I’ll show you in another post how to clean these fairly easily. And notice, this is seed from one of those beautiful red hearted yellow ones. Wish I knew the names of these, but the grower doesn’t remember what they are. Oh well, we got a really good deal from them, so I’m happy.

Ok, so once you have the trays full of tomato halves, sprinkle them lightly with salt. The salt helps draw the moisture out, so you get a nice roasting rather than just sewing them in their own juices. Some recipes recommend you remove the pulp as I mentioned above to get the seeds and that jelly out, to reduce the moisture so they roast better. Honestly, I’m lazy and besides, the seeds have a lot of nutrients in them you would loose that way. If you do decide to remove the pulp, reduce the time you roast them considerably.

Now for the garlic… I also got fresh garlic at the market for this. For each tray, I use about a medium sized head of garlic.


This ended up being a little more than half of what I needed. But then, I like a lot of garlic, and these roast along with the tomatoes for a really heavenly flavor. Smash the whole cloves of garlic with the side of a wide bladed knife or cleaver


Which makes it easy to remove the skins, though you may still need to clip off the woody base of the bulbs, and trim bad spots out.


Course my chop these cloves


Sprinkle these randomly over the tomato halves. If you are gonna be eating these as roasted tomatoes, you might want to be more picky about how they look, but if your gonna munch them up into sauce, no need to be too picky about it.


Incidentally, last year at this point I added herbs- fresh thyme and oregano. The thyme did really well, but I didn’t have any to add this year. I wish I had gotten some, and maybe found some rosemary too. Basil I don’t like to cook that long, but I will add it to the sauce as I jar it.

Next drizzle the tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. You don’t need much of each, just enough to lightly splash them a bit


Now throw them in the oven at 450 f and wait for them to roast down. I set the timer at an hour, but really you have to watch and see. You want the tomatoes to loose most of their moisture and just start to brown around the edges. Ideally, the juices at the bottom of the pan should start to thicken and you may see the corners of the trays burn a bit, but the fruit will be nicely concentrated roasted tomatoes. Mmmmm, can’t wait…

Ok, after an hour, this is what they looked like:


You can see they are starting to brown a bit, but the juices are still kind runny and the fruit is more stewed than roasted. I’m gonna leave em in there a bit longer. I’ll check every 15 minutes or so to see when they are done. In the meantime, I’ll get the can ing stuff ready so I can jar them up while the fruit is still hot.

After an additional half hour, I decided to take them out. Ideally the juices would be getting a little thicker, but they are starting to char on the top, and I don’t want that to turn into burnt tomatoes, lol.



Aren’t those yellow ones pretty? Ok, now straight into the Cuisinart… I use a pair of tongs and a wide flat spooks to scoop em up and throw em in.


Plop em in the Cuisinart with the steel blade, and white them up a bit


As I said, the first batch is yellow sauce, lol.

Oh, and this juice in the bottom of the pan? I think I am gonna try it as a soup base tonight… Getting that time of year.


I like tomato sauce that’s a little chunky, so I try not to purée the tomatoes, just chop up a bit. Now for jars, and we are done for now, lol…


Two quarts of yellow, and one more red tomato sauce. Could probably use some more, but that will have to wait for next week.

Peanut Butter Humus

15 Aug

I love humus, and I don’t mind making it if I have a food processor handy. The only thing is, tahini is expensive and hard to find… But since tahini is basically sesame seed butter, I thought, why not substitute peanut butter? It isn’t exactly the same, but it does in fact work just fine. Some people like this variation, others think I’m nuts. I like peanut butter, and I like this version of humus… So I think I’ll keep making it 🙂

Ok, I got the basic recipe here- , and I must agree, the order of adding the ingredients really does help, and more to the point, let things blend and smooth out before adding anything else.

So to start, these are the ingredients you need;

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed


Start by adding the peanut butter and lemon juice into the food processor with a steel blade, and let it run till the peanut butter lightens in color, almost getting whipped with the lemon juice.


Whip it good…


Keep blending till its nice and smooth. If you use a chunky peanut butter, or fresh nuts (I’ve subbed in sunflowers and it turned out nice that way too), you’ll need to blend a little longer.

Peel and add your garlic clove and spices, then a little oil if its getting thick, and a little salt. Keep blending till smooth again. Cutting up or mincing the garlic will speed this up, but your putting it into a food processor right? So blend away.

Now the garbanzos, aka chick peas. Drain the can and rinse the beans-


Now add them in a handful at a time. To slow with this, don’t rush it! You want it all to be smooth when your done, so let them blend till smoothies before adding a ton more. You might even want to stop and with a spatula scrape down the sides at this point.

Scoop into a bowl, and serve with the usual humus dippers- celery sticks, chips, pita bread, whatever suits your fancy. I like jicama with this, wish I had some now. Tortilla or potato chips work great. This can even work as a filling in a sandwich if you like, with lettuce and a pickle.

Because of the raw garlic I put in this one, it’ll probably be better after things have a chance to meld a d mellow out a bit, but I kinda like it raw like this too, where the lemon and garlic are still kind of separate flavors in the mix. But that’s a personal preference, of course. Eat it how you like it!


Blackberry Jam

8 Aug


We didn’t pick strawberries this year, and haven’t gotten any raspberries yet either, but the blackberries are starting to ripen so I thought we would go and get some for the first real bat h of jam of the year. Besides, although raspberry is my favorite, blackberry is a very close second, and these berries are free for the taking (well, so long as you don’t step in a hornet’s nest like I did yesterday… But I digress)

So like with the Mango Jam I did earlier in the year, I’m using the Ball brand pectin called Real Fruit Pectin- Instant Pectin in the purple striped label. There are others that they carry, including one for sugar free js and jellies, but I like freezer jam, that you don’t need to cook the fruit for, and this one works for that.

So here is what you need;


6 tablespoons Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin
5 cups mashed blackberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice (I used lime)

They used to market this pectin in individual packets, and on the directions for the packets it told you to mix the sugar and pectin in a separate bowl. Use a fork to break up any clumps in both the sugar and the pectin.


Clean and layer the berries in a deep bowl, and mash them a bit at a time till you have the amount you need. I like chunky jams, so I try not to mash too much, so there are still half berries in the jam, and it’s a little lumpy. I fresh squeezed limes for this, but regular lemon juice works just fine. Add the like juice to the crushed berries and stir it in.



Slowly fold in the sugar and pectin to the mashed berries. Stir the pectin into the berries for three minutes to get all the sugar dissolved and the juices flowing. This may seem silly, but something about stirring for the full time really does hl the jam “feel” right.


Hopefully you are better at preparing the jars ahead of time than I am… Usually I forget till I already have the jam ready, and have to scramble to get the jam jars ready in a hurry. Pour the jam into the jars, make sure you leave an inch of space at the top for the jam to expand into as it freezes.


Wipe the rims of the jars before sealing, and let sit at room temperature for a few hours to make sure they set. If they don’t, you can try adding more pectin to it to get it to jell properly, or just use it as ice cream sauce. Works good for that too…


I like to label the jars with the name of the fruit used and month/year I made it. I’ve used different kinds of labels and tape, but blue painters tape seems to be one of the easiest to use. It doesn’t usually leave that sticky film in the jars when you take it off, and as long as the jars are clean and dry, sticks well.


As you can see, I like these canning jars with the wire closures. They seal good and are easy to wash, and I don’t have to throw out the gaskets. Besides, this is freezer jam, I don’t process these in boiling water so don’t need the same kind of seal.

You can use this base recipe for any berry- strawberry, raspberry, local or boysenberry, anything like that. I’m not so sure about blueberries or huckleberries, but it might work for those too. I usually prefer to freeze those whole, so I don’t make jam out of them.

If you have odds and ends of different kinds of fruit, or just like a mixed fruit jam, the same ratios will work for mixed berries, peaches, nectarines, plums, grated apple or pear, papaya or banana mash, and you can add cooked rhubarb, pineapple or kiwi, after its cooled. Any fruit you like can be added in.

Ok, I think I have some peanut butter around here somewhere… *grin*

What’s Blooming July 24th, 2013

31 Jul

Achillea millefolium

Agapanthus hybrid

Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’

Agastache x ‘Apricot Sprite’

Agastache x ‘Grape Nectar’

Agastache x ‘Orange Nectar’

Allium schoenoprassum

Anaphalis margaritaceae

Bacopa monieri

Ballotta nigra

Barbarea vulgaris

Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire’

Begonia x ‘Catrin’

Begonia x ‘Kleo’

Brassica oleracea

Buddleia davidii ‘Dark Knight’

Calliandra eryophylla

Campanula carpatica

Campanula persicifolia

Campanula portenshclageana

Cardamine hirsuta

Celosia x ‘New Look’

Celosia (cockscomb)

Cerastium tomentosum

Chaenorrhinum origanifolium ‘Blue Dream’

Chamerion angustifolium

Chrysanthemum partheniacum

Chrysanthemum x superbum

Claytonia sibirica

Clivia miniata

Coreopsis auriculata ‘nana’

Corydalis lutea

Crocosmia masonorum

Crocosmia x ‘Lucifer’

Cuphea cyanea ‘Carribean Sunset’

Cuphea ignea

Cuphea ignea (tall form)

Cuphea llavea ‘Flamenco Samba’

Cuphea llavea ‘Tiny Mice’

Cyclamen hederifolium

Dahlia (white cactus)

Dahlia (red leaved red flowers)

Dicentra formosa

Echinacea purpurea

Ellisiphyllum pinnatum

Epilobium ciliatum

Fuchsia campos-portoi

Fuchsia magellanica ‘aurea’

Fuchsia magellanica ‘molinae’

Fuchsia magellanica (Gram’s)

Fuchsia magellanica (Patrick’s)

Fuchsia magellanica (red leaved)

Fuchsia magellanica (plant swap)

Fuchsia tryphylla ‘Gartenmeister Bonsteadt’

Fuchsia triphylla ‘Mary’

Fuchsia x ‘Auntie Jinks’

Fuchsia x ‘Billy Green’

Fuchsia x ‘Juella’

Fuchsia x ‘Lachlade Magician’

Fuchsia x ‘Marinka’

Fuchsia x ‘Princessita’

Fuchsia x ‘Whiteknight’s Amethyst’

Gazania ‘Daybreak Garden Sun’

Geum macrophyllum

Gladiolus hybrid

Glyceria grandis

Huechera sanguinea

Impatiens hawker

Impatiens noli-tangere

Ipomoea luteola

Ipomoea multifida

Juncus ensifolia

Justicia brandegeana

Kalanchoe blossfieldiana

Lantana camara ‘Anne Marie’

Lantana camara ‘Landmark Peach Sunrise’

Lapsana communis

Lathyrus sylvestris

Lavendula angustifolia

Lespedeza thunbergii

Liatris spicata

Lillium martagon

Lobelia erinus

Lobularia maritimus

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’

Lonicera ‘Pink Lemonade’

Lonicera ‘sulphurea’

Lychnis coronaria

Malva alcea

Medicago sativa

Mellissa citriodora

Mentha himalayensis

Mimulus cardinalis

Mimulus guttatus

Mina lobata

Mirabilis jalapa ‘Limelight’

Mitraria coccinea

Monarda didyma ‘Gardenview Scarlet’

Myosotis laxa

Nemesia ‘Aromatica White Improved’

Nemesia hybrids

Nicotiana alata grandiflora

Nicotiana mutabilis

Nicotiana x ‘Knightiana’

Ocimum basilicum

Oenothera missouriensis

Origanum vulgare

Osteospermum hybrid (white and purple)

Oxalis nelsoniana

Oxalis oregano

Oxalis triangularis

Pentas lanceolata

Phaelenopsis hybrids

Phaseolus coccinea

Plantago major

Polygonum pensylvanicum

Rosa chinensis mutabilis

Rosa x ‘Graham Thomas’

Rubus armeniacus

Rumex acetosella

Saintpaulia hybrids

Salvia coccinea ‘Forest Fire’

Salvia coccinea ‘Snow Nymph’

Salvia elegans ‘Tangerine’

Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’

Salvia luecantha ‘Phyllis Fancy’

Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosi’

Salvia microphylla ‘Hotlips’

Salvia patens ‘Cobalt’

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’

Scabiosa alpina ‘Ritz Blue’

Schizanthus pinnatus

Schlumbergera hybrid

Solidago canadensis

Solidago ‘Golden Baby’

Stachys cooleyae

Symphoricarpos alba

Symphyotrichum subspicatum

Sysimbrium altissimum

Tagetes signata ‘Sparkles’

Tagetes ‘Disco Orange’

Tagetes ‘Disco Yellow’

Taraxacum officinale

Trapaeolum majus ‘Alaska’

Trifolium alba

Urtica dioica

Verbena x ‘Estrella Voodoo’

Viola x wittrockiana

Rubus ursinus in fruit

21 Jun


The weedy Himalayan blackberries may be more productive, but I love the sweet tart fruit of the native trailing blackberries, which are often a month or more earlier to fruit than their bigger cousins. Maybe this year I’ll get enough for jam…

Lasagna Rolls

24 May

Ok, so this must be one of those new trendy things… I saw it on someone’s wall on Facebook, caught my attention cause it looked good and easy… So last night when I decided to actually do it, I looked up recipes and oh my, there are a lot of them out there.

But basically, it looked like a regular lasagna except you roll it instead of doing the layers. Easy enough, and we had everything to do it. Of course, in my usual style I kind of winged it, lol, so I have no idea the amounts of any of the ingredients I used. So I’m not even gonna try and include that, just a list of what I used.

To start, we had gotten some handmade spinach noodles from the Pappardelle’s booth at the Issaquah Farmer’s Market. We love their noodles, pricey but the flavor is so much better, and they always have new stuff to tempt us. So I boiled these noodles for five minutes, then took them off the heat and left them in the pot while I got the filling finished.

For the filling I mixed about a cup or so of Mexican ricotta style cheese, a good quarter cup Romano, about that of a nice goat cheese, and a handful of shredded cheddar and jack. To that I added a double handful of spinach, chopped up medium fine.

Honestly I oh just now realized I forgot to add an egg, lol. It was runny, but not everly so. Didn’t seem to need the egg, but I might add it next time if I remember.

So in the bottom of the pan, I spread a little of our home canned roasted tomato sauce, the. Started rolling the noodles with the filling. Basically separate the noodles (in this case, I had to cut them in half too), spread a little filling on each noodle, and roll em up! Messy, but not any worse than doing the usual sandwich.

Actually, I think I ended up using almost half the cheese filling I would normally use for lasagna, which of course is the “bad” part nutrition wise.

Once the pan was full (and what do you do with the extra noodles?!?) I topped it with the extra sauce from the jar, plus an additional pint of sauce, and baked it at 350 degrees for a out an hour. Turned out great! I Ctually kind of liked this better, and sin e the rolls a t like discrete portions, it’s really easy to serve this way. It would be great for a potluck or something like that.

Of course, this was meatless, but you could easily add sausage or ground whatever to the sauce. We even thought it would be cool to start the roll with a stick of the turkey pastrami or something like that.

The other variation I saw online I want to try was to use an Alfredo sauce instead of the traditional tomato sauce, maybe with a pesto kicker. That sounds good too.



Mango Freezer Jam

6 May

Ok, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a life long thing for peanut butter and jam sandwhiches. I mean, if there is decent peanut butter in the house, that is my preferred lunch, and often breakfast or a snack. But, not just any peanut butter will do, and I really do prefer to make my own jam too, especially since I really don’t like most cooked jams.

There is something about taking freshly picked berries and making a nice bowl full of freezer jam that kind of locks in all that summery goodness. Freezer jam is generally pretty simple to make with the right pectin, just follow the directions, but some fruits seem to work better than others. Strawberry and raspberry are of course classics. I also like blackberry, which we can pick for free, but I find blueberry jam kind of disappointing.

Recently we got a flat of beautiful ripe mangos from Costco. As usually, it’s just a little more than the two of us can comfortably eat, but I started thinking, why not make jam out of it? So I looked online, and there seemed to be several people making it with different kinds of pectin, so I decided to try it.

The results are yummy! I’m a little concerned about the natural stringiness of the mangoes, we’ll see how well that works on a sandwich,
But the sweet mangoes taste great as a jam.

A lot of people are kind if intimidated by processing mangoes, since they have that huge tough seed inside, but for this it’s pretty simple; stand the fruit on edge, and place the knife slightly off center but parallel to the flatter side of the mango. Cut down, trying to run the blade of the knife as close to the seed pit as possible to slice off the “cheek” of the mango. Turn it around and do the same on the other side.

Now comes the neat trick- with a spoon, scoop out the juicy fruit and scrape out the inside of the skin to get all the pulp out. For this, either take small scoops with your spoon, or one big scoop, and dice the mango fruit finely. I like my jams chunky, so I will probably dice mine next time and do a minimal mash on it. I left the pieces too big and had to use my potato masher, and made a gloppy mess. Not so many chunks, and longer strings. A fine dice I think would work better.

Once you have the pulp you need, follow the directions on your pectin of choice. I like the Ball Realfruit Instant Pectin designed for freezer jams. It is a powder you can measure out for just the amount of fruit you want. In this case, I used 5 cups of mango pulp (turned out to be four mangoes, but these were huge fruits, smaller ones would take more), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 6 tablespoons of the pectin and 2 cups of sugar.

I like to mix the sugar and pectin in a separate bowl, then add it all at once. The pectin dissolves better that way. I stirred for a minute or so, and set it out in the sun for ten minutes while I got the jars ready. 5 cups of fruit is about perfect to fill three of the canning jars in the photo, that is one batch there. I know some people say these aren’t good jars for freezing, but they work for me. I haven’t had one of these explode on me when they freeze yet, just make sure to leave at least an inch of space on the top.

Label the date on the top of the lid, fill the jars, and let rest for a couple of hours before you throw them in the freezer. I like to make sure the jam sets before putting it in the freezer. If its syrup (not necessarily a bad thing!) I want to know before I throw it in the freezer.

This is definitely different than my usual strawberry and raspberry, but I love mango, and this should make a nice break from the typical summer berries.


Update- 7/2/2014

Found some seconds at the grocery store being offered at 2/.99, and decided to add them to some strawberry mash. I got six mangoes for basically $3, and that made 6 1/2, almost 7 cups of mashed mango pulp. I sliced a fine crosshatch in the fruit before scooping it out, and that worked perfectly! Now to make more jam… Think I will reserve 5 cups for another batch of just mango, and the rest will be added to strawberry and maybe add a pair of over ripe bananas that are sitting on the counter. Sounds like a good mix to me!

Rubus ursinus

4 May

Rubus ursinus, aka “trailing blackberry”, aka “devil’s shoelaces” is another one of those coastal natives from California up into Alaska. It really can only be confused with the larger invasive blackberries when those are seedlings, the scale of the adult plants is entirely different. The thin wiry stems are covered in thin little prickles that easily break off in your skin, and almost invariably cause a minor infection. Any prickles lodged in the skin will quickly fester. Since this likes to trail, and either drape itself over the surrounding shrubbery, or simply snake along the ground (where it tends to trip the unwary, sawing said prickles over your ankles, hence the Devil’s shoelaces moniker), may gardeners don’t like these.

But consider for a second- this is a basically evergreen vine, easily trainable (with gloves on), that will grow, flower and fruit in shade. And it’s drought tolerant! Ok, so it tends to seed itself aggressively, both tip roots and runs at the roots, but if your looking for a shade loving vine, you could do worse than these. Especially since you get to harvest the nicest little wild blackberries you have ever tasted.

A couple of things to know about these vines- if you want berries, you need more than one. The flowers on these are generally either male or female. Male flowers are larger and showier, female flowers tend to be open a much briefer period and are smaller, but they are both lovely in full bloom.

These are trainable flat to a fence, but they really prefer a horizontal trellis, like another shrub. If I ever get ambitious, I have plans to try a shelf kind of system with these to see if they would take better to that, but with training they can be trained to a fence. Even the north side of the fence, in shade no less.

Bees adore the flowers, as you might expect, but so do butterflies and even hummingbirds on occasion, so expect lots of wildlife action. Bloom time is typically earlier than most blackberries, in April and early May, with fruiting also generally early. Since the berries are small, takes collecting more to get enough for jams or a pie, but it’s worth it. A trick is to harvest daily, and put them strait into the freezer till you have enough for what you want to do. Although I love a good pie or cobbler, mine usually go straight into the mouth, or I save enough for jam.

This native vine may not be for everyone, but it really should be at least considered more often. It does take some controlling, but will reward the careful gardener with spectacular flowers, fruit and it looks good doing it!


Claytonia sibirica

16 Apr

Claytonia sibirica is a native annual with white to light pink flowers, often with darker pink nectar guides. It can seed itself aggressively when happy, but since it has a minimal root system it is simple to weed out. The whole plant is edible, and in fact it’s two most common names (candy flower and miner’s lettuce) allude to how edible it is. The almost succulent foliage has an odd sour/bitter aftertaste many don’t like much, but it is a good filler for salad with other sweeter greens.

The flowers themselves are fairly small, usually a quarter of an inch across, rarely much larger, but they are well liked by all kinds of bees and flies from tiny little solitary bees to big bumbles and hover flies. As a winter annual, it will often start flowering in the first few warm stretches in February or even earlier, but with dead heading or reseeding, can keep flowering through the summer. Because of this, it makes a great basket and pot filler, where its simple charm will fill the gaps between showier species.

Naturally these are usually found in moist woodland, where it is a spring ephemeral, dying back as the weather dries out in early summer. In the garden, it seems as happy in full sun as shade, and will keep growing so long as it is watered and occasionally dead headed. My original plants, collected from under a big leaf maple in the woods above my house, were mostly white with pink lined nectar guides. Over the years I have selected towed darker pink ones, and it definitely seems the case that the more sun they get, the more pink they have in their flowers. Shaded plants seem lighter, but the ones coming up in full sun show more of a range to a nice medium pink, with darker nectar guides.

Many consider this a borderline weed, but for its simple easy culture, it’s ability to attract a wide range of the smaller pollinators, and just the fact I like it, lol, I would not want to be without this charming little native annual.