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From the Farm

August 4, 2011 by Uta Brown filed under Columns No Comments
From the Farm

The birds have discovered the elderberries. I have half a dozen varieties, including sambuca canadiensis, which bushes are so heavily fruited this year the branches are almost touching the ground. I was surprised to find robins eating the fruit in the heat of the day (considering this heat!) and was torn between delight and jealousy, as I had planted the bushes to make elderberry juice. Elderberry extracts are purported to be effective against flu, even swine flu, and people take the extract on a daily basis for immune support. After inspecting some ripe bunches, I found that about a quarter or third of the berries in each bunch were gone. I could see the branches flickering as the birds proceeded from one luscious bundle to another. I’ll order my elderberry extract on line, I guess!

One of the delights of growing in your own garden, and one of the blessings of having a lot of space to grow, is the ability to experiment with all sorts of varieties that are never sold in the store. Almost everyone has eaten popcorn, but few people have grown it. You would think that there were only two kinds of popcorn. White and yellow. Or the kind that has few hulls or the kind that has all those hulls you need to keep picking out of your teeth. But there are probably dozens. I’m growing three on the farm and the most intriguing is sorghum white popping corn. Sorghum grain is very different from corn. The fresher the corn the better it will pop. Popcorn is, in fact, a wonderful way to diet. If you only eat popcorn after six o’clock (I put nutritional yeast on my husband’s) you would be amazed how it will take weight off. Isn’t there a book called The Popcorn Diet?

This year I am growing my tomatoes on trellises and pruning them. Since we needed to put a deer fence all around the garden I had a perfect trellis. Pruning consists of getting rid of all the bearing growth on the bottom of the stem and forcing the growth more to the top. So far, it looks as though the tomatoes are responding well to this procedure. We’ll find out how successful this is if I’m selling tomatoes in a month. That puts me way behind my more capable competitors who already have tomatoes.

The epazote and papaloquitas are heat loving herbs and are doing great. I would love to introduce you to these herbs if you are not familiar with them. The epazote is used in soups in Latin America but I think it would make a great tea. (I think every herb, almost, would make a great tea). It is spicy, minty and hot. Plants that bite you back do wonders for your health!

The papaloquita is an herb popular in Bolivia but whose taste cannot be described. It is a beautiful plant to grow. Papalos are offered in some catalogs but this one is somewhat different than the round-leaf varieties. I think the flavor is better also. I saved my seeds from last year. This was fortunate, as the only catalog that I could order it from (as quillquina), Seeds of change, no longer offers it. That isn’t surprising. It is very rarely grown. The taste may be somewhat unusual and may need time to get used to. It is used as a tea to lower blood pressure.

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