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Jeanette

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Mulberry Crumble Bars

Mulberry Crumb Bars

Mulberries are a surprise luxury that many people overlook.

Don’t be too distracted with the birds making a mess of the mulberries in your yard to realize that they are a wonderful resource for jams and delicious baked goods like these mulberry crumble bars.

When mulberries are ripe they will fall easily into your hand as you grab them. Many people harvest mulberries by laying a sheet out on the ground and shaking the branches of the tree to let the ripe berries fall.

Unlike thimble-shaped raspberries, mulberries retain their small stem. You do not need to worry about removing the stem, you can eat it just like you can eat the seeds of mulberries and raspberries.

If you prefer, you can use a food mill to remove the seeds and stems, but you will need significantly more berries.

Crumble bars are a favorite treat we like to make with raspberries, but mulberries are a great berry to use in crumb bars instead when they are in abundance.

mulberry crumble Ingredients

Begin by macerating the mulberries. This means mixing them with sugar to bring out some of the juices. We will also add corn starch and flour to thicken the juices as they cook.

If you have previously made some, you can substitute this set of ingredients with mulberry jam.

mulberry crumble ingredients

Next, make the crumble base by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter.

Press two-thirds of the crumble mixture into the base of a 9×13 pan. set the remaining one-third aside.

Spread out the berry mixture over the bottom crust. Crumble the remaining dry mixture over the top. Bake, cool, and enjoy!

mulberry crumble bars

I grew up in the southwest and was not familiar with mulberry trees, but my husband knew them and we would forage for them.

Our new farm has a number of large mulberry trees, but there are also small sprouted trees all over our property. we have moved a bunch to make a windbreak. So we will be in the mulberries for a long time into our farm’s future!

mulberry dessert

Mulberry Crumble Bars

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Dessert
By Jeanette Merrill
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 40 minutes Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • Mulberry Filling
  • 3 Cups fresh mulberries
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • juice of one lemon
  • Crumble Layer
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups melted butter
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (loosely packed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2

Place mulberries in a medium bowl, mix berries with sugar, flour, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Set aside.

3

Mix the flour, butter, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt together into a crumbly mixture. Press two thirds of the crumble into the bottom of a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper.

4

Pour the mulberries and accumulated juices over the bottom crust. Spread into a single layer. Sprinkle the top with remaining crumble mixture. Bake for 40 minutes.

5

Cool before slicing into bars.

Notes

Store up to one week in airtight container. Mulberries may be replaced with raspberries or any berry combination.

Beverages

Homemade Chai Bubble Milk “Tea” Recipe (Tea-Free)

Chai milk boba bubble tea

I love fun drinks. When I heard of bubble tea, or boba tea I was definitely intrigued. But I don’t drink tea made from tea leaves, so I knew I would have to make a homemade version if I wanted to try it.

I’m using chai spiced milk in place of the milk tea. Essentially I use all the spices in chai infused in milk, but I don’t add any tea leaves or tea powder. This chai spiced milk is also awesome for making hot cocoa as well, by the way.

The “bubbles” or boba are actually made from large pearl tapioca (amazon affiliate link-I may earn a small commission). Mine are large pearl, with the only ingredient being tapioca. If you find something different use the instructions for cooking on your particular package.

Large pearl tapioca

If you can only find small pearl tapioca you can still use it. You just don’t need the extra large milkshake or smoothie straws (amazon affiliate link–I may earn a small commission). You will be able to drink it with normal sized straws.

Start by getting your tapioca cooking. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit 30 minutes . Then rinse. Test the boba to see if they are done. If you have extra-large tapioca you may need to repeat this boiling a second time. The boba should be chewy, not mushy and they do not have to be clear all the way through to be “done.”

Make brown sugar syrup and stir the boba into it to sit an absorbent flavor and dark color.

brown sugar syrup tapioca

Crush chai spices to infuse better. Or you can use powdered spices if you want. Split vanilla bean. Add to 2 cups water and simmer 15 minutes. Add 2 C milk and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Allow to cool.

chai spices

Split boba between cups. Swirl boba syrup around in the cups up the sides. This will create a swirly design on the sides of the cup when you add the milk. It’s what they do at bubble milk tea shops!

pouring chai milk bubble tea

Add a scoop of ice. Pour in milk.

Serve immediately with a milkshake straw. You can cut the tip of the straw at an angle to allow the boba to slide into the straw easier. Enjoy!

The tapioca, once-cooked, is best used the same day for the best texture.

Make the chai-spiced milk early enough in advance to cool it down before layering your drink.

Chai Bubble Milk Tea Recipe (No Tea)

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Beverages
Serves: 8
Total Time: 1.5 hour

Bubble tea is a fun drink from Taiwan that gives you the experience of chewy bubbles in your drink.

Ingredients

  • Brown Sugar Bobas
  • 1 C white pearl tapioca
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • Chai-Spiced Milk
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2-inch piece of crystallized ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 1 star anise
  • ½ vanilla bean, sliced down the middle
  • dash nutmeg
  • ½ pinch of fennel seeds
  • 2 C milk
  • 1/2 C sugar

Instructions

1

Cook tapioca in 16 Cups water for 30 minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit 30 minutes. Rinse. Test the "boba" to see if they are done. If you have extra-large tapioca you may need to repeat this boiling a second time. The boba should be chewy, not mushy and they do not have to be clear all the way through to be "done."

2

Make brown sugar syrup by mixing 2 tablespoons water with the brown sugar and molasses and stir the boba into it. Set aside to absorb flavor and dark color.

3

Crush chai spices to infuse better. Split vanilla bean. Add to 2 cups water and simmer 15 minutes. Add milk and sugar and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Allow to cool.

4

Split boba between 8 8-oz cups. Swirl boba syrup around in the cups up the sides. This will create a swirly design on the sides of the cup when you add the milk.

5

Add a scoop of ice. Pour in milk--divide between the 8 cups.

6

Serve immediately with a milkshake straw. Enjoy!

Notes

You can cut the tip of the straw at an angle to allow the boba to slide into the straw easier. You can use powdered spices if you want.

Dessert/ Recipes

Chewy Molasses Cookies with Molasses Buttercream

Fall has arrived in our neck of the woods. So we love to make our favorite fall cookies.

I love pumpkin spice as much as the next girl. But molasses is another fall flavor that is great to really lean into this time of year.

These molasses cookies have crisp edges, but are nice and chewy on the inside. The creamy molasses buttercream frosting is a great addition to take these cookies to the next level, but is not strictly necessary.

Enjoy these cookies with a steaming mug of spiced cider and enjoy the best of what the fall season has to offer.

Molasses Cookies with Molasses Buttercream

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dessert
By Jeanette Serves: 3 doz
Prep Time: 15 Cooking Time: 11-13 mins

Chewy molasses cookies with crispy edges, chewy middle and creamy molasses buttercream frosting on top.

Ingredients

  • COOKIE
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup light unsulfured molasses
  • FROSTING
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons light unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter together. Beat in egg, then molasses, until smooth.

3

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

4

Gradually add flour mixture until a nice dough forms.

5

Drop by tablespoonful onto baking sheets covered in parchment. Leave plenty of space between as cookies will spread in the oven.

6

Bake until edges start to darken, 11 to 13 minutes

7

Make molasses buttercream by beating butter with molasses until they are combined. Gradually add in powdered sugar, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Notes

If you don't have any brown sugar, just substitute with white sugar and add one more tablespoon molasses to the dough. The cookies are delicious on their own without the buttercream as well.

Gardening/ Vegetable Garden

How to Grow Perennial Garlic

You may have never heard of perennial garlic before.  Perennial garlic is actually just hard neck garlic treated differently and harvested more minimally over the course of a year than traditionally planted garlic.    

Before I really started growing it I start I always assumed that hard neck garlic would be best for storing because I figured it would be sturdy to hold up to storage.   But in reality is not as good for storing.  I like to remember “s” for soft neck, and “s” for storage.  This is the kind that you’ll braid and keep in your pantry until next year.

I have been growing hard neck garlic perennially in my orchard.  Garlic provides some excellent permaculture benefits to the orchard.  Garlic has a pungent smell that deters some of the bad pests.  Also, it grows as a bulb.  Bulbs help in preventing the encroachment of grass around your trees.  You really want to avoid the grass around your fruit trees as it will take nutrients and water away from your trees.

Garlic Reproduction

There’s two different ways that perennial garlic reproduces.  In the spring the garlic will send up a flower spike.  People know this as a “garlic scape” –they’re edible and delicious.  Many people harvest these garlic scapes at the stage when they are curled around themselves in order to enjoy eating them, or to encourage larger growth of the garlic bulb .    (Read my seven steps for growing large garlic heads here.)

When you cut off the garlic scapes you send more of the energy of the plant towards producing large heads of garlic because if you don’t the flower will put energy into the fruit, which for garlic is these small garlic bulbels.   

These bulbels can be eaten, they have a garlic flavor and you can use them as little cloves of garlic.  

Self-Perpetuating Garlic

If you leave the bulbels in place the stem will eventually weaken as they grow bigger and the stem will topple over.  Then the bulbels will root into the ground to grow more heads of garlic.   You can aid in this process, if you desire, by separating the individual bulbels and spreading them out evenly to plant.   

The main head of Garlic can also be harvested like traditional garlic or left in the ground.  

If whole bulbels are allowed to fall on the ground and grow, or if whole heads of garlic are left in the soil, they will go dormant in freezing weather.   Then the following spring, rather than just a single head of garlic growing there, each one of the bulbels or the cloves from inside the head of garlic will sprout and grow into a new head of garlic.

It is very interesting the way that these heads of garlic grow because all the garlic cloves are in this floret shape around the center stem.  So the new heads grow out from each other in this floret shape.  

When they grow together from the head like this that they end up a little misshapen because of their being crowded.  So these heads of garlic are not perfectly round they’re a little bit lumpy and flat on some sides because of how they pushed up to the other garlic. 

Maintaining a Perennial Garlic Patch

Like many other perennial plants you need to thin out and divide your perennial garlic every few years at least or else they will start to outcrowd themselves. You can spread this garlic out throughout your garden. You can also just harvest portions to eat every year while leaving some behind.  

 Hardneck perennial garlic can be clipped a half inch above the head to remove the stock.  Also you can cut of the roots.  Store these heads in a basket or another breathable container in a cool dry place, to use as you need it.  

I definitely had some heads that ended up bigger than others, but my biggest heads of garlic were the ones that I had left in the ground a whole year in this perennial fashion.  

Don’t get worried in the fall if the foliage is turning brown and dying back.   It will put on some new green growth in the fall or it’ll start first thing in the spring next year.  Let me know in the comments if I left anything out, or if you have any more questions about growing garlic perennially as a part of a fruit tree guild or even just a part of a permaculture garden.   

Gardening/ Preparedness/ Vegetable Garden

Easy to Store Life-Sustaining Crops

Sweet potato slips

My garden grows wonderful, delicious, life-sustaining food for 165 days out of the year.  But what do I do about those other 200 days of the year? How do I provide food for my family during that time? 

This year we set out to grow some easy to store survival crops that will feed our family through the winter– even without needing canning or refrigeration.  

A lot of easy to store survival crops fall into the category of “starchy vegetables”. They contain more starch so they typically contain more calories or energy and less fiber than some of the other vegetables you might be thinking of that grow in the middle of our summer garden like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and okra. 

Starch is a carbohydrate. Our body breaks it down into glucose that we use as energy so this is where we will get the 2000 calories the standard adult diet requires.  We need to get 2,000 calories from somewhere so these starchy vegetables will provide a lot of those calories that we need to have energy for the day.

Potatoes

Potatoes have been the entire mainstay of certain populations over time, so they are a life-sustaining food.  Their vitamin C content prevents scurvy which is a disease that comes from malnutrition.  But potatoes also provide a lot of potassium which is an electrolyte aiding in the workings of our heart and nervous system.

Don’t forget to eat your potato skin though, because the skins provide fiber which is important for your digestive health.

Potatoes are planted from “seed potatoes” that are saved from the previous year’s harvest. They have “eyes” on them that will start to send out roots and grow the plant. If you want to get the largest potatoes possible you cut the potatoes so that there’s only two to three eyes per chunk of potato.

Typically they start to develop underground for a long time before the plant breaks the surface.  They may eventually produce flowers before ultimately dying back.   It is when the above ground plant dies back that you know that the tubers underground are ready to harvest, by digging up with a shovel or garden fork.  

To get potatoes ready to store for the long term you need to cure them first.  This is to take them into a cooler temperature ideally below 60 degrees but with a pretty high humidity, 85 to 90% humidity for about 2 weeks.  So what we did to keep the humidity high is we took ours indoors and then we covered them with a tarp while they were curing.

When they’re curing this is a time when little nicks or cuts can heal over with kind of bit of a scab that helps to keep them protected so that they don’t rot when they’re in storage.  After you cure them, sort through and make sure there’s none that are kind of squishy or smell bad and take those ones out. 

The rest can be stored in a dry container like a cardboard box or a basket.  They need to have some ventilation but you want to keep them in the dark.  The light will cause them to turn green and produce toxins that you’d rather avoid.  Potatoes can be stored all winter in a cool dark place 45 to 50 degrees.

Potatoes are great baked and eaten as a main dish, fried up for a side dish, or added to things like stews.  I’ve never tried it, but Jeremy swears he had a delicious potato pizza one time. 

Corn

Corn is one of the most widely consumed cereal grains.  Just like potatoes it’s very high in carbohydrates.  This is this is the energy that we need, but its also high in several vitamins and minerals including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper. 

What we’re talking about growing for storage is “field corn” also you can also grow popcorn for storage. 

Field corn and popcorn are both allowed to dry before picking.  As long as you’re not having excessively rainy weather it’s fine to just let the corn completely dry on the stocks.  You can take them insideand place the ears on a slatted table or some other place with good air flow to make sure that the ears get evenly dried out.  You know the corn kernels are fully dry when they are brittle and shatter if you try and hammer it as opposed to denting or bending if you try and hammer it.

Then you can remove them from the cob.  They sell a cylindrical tool that you slide the cob through to remove kernels if you don’t want to pry the kernels out by hand.  If you’re going to store the corn on the cob you should at least remove the husk, because that can store moisture and lead to molding.  

Corn is easy to grow from seed.  You just plant it right into the ground about an inch deep, six inches apart.  And I’m always amazed when I see the corn start popping up.  It doesn’t need a ton of watering to germinate, after a good watering in when I plant it.  

Field corn is the type of corn that you typically are going to grind up into cornmeal polenta corn flour and popcorn obviously is used to pop and make popcorn but popcorn is also good to use for grinding into cornmeal as well 

Butternut Squash

Winter Squash is good to grow for good long term storage and survivability. It is lower in Calories than potatoes, but very high in vitamins and minerals. It provides vitamins A, B, B6, C, and E and is also high in magnesium, potassium and manganese which play important roles in bone health.  Orange vegetables and fruits have been shown to be particularly effective at protecting against heart disease. 

We choose to grow butternut squash as they are particularly resistant to squash vine borers, and squash bugs.  We have a lot of trouble with squash pests in our area of the country and the butternut squash hold up a lot better.   

In order to get the squash to store the longest you’re going to need to let the vines die back.  At the least the stem where the squash meets up to the plant should be dried and brown.  When you’re harvesting squash for storage it’s a good idea to leave an inch or two of the stem attached.  When you pull the stem entirely off the plant you often open up a place for mold or other pathogens to get into the fruit itself.  You can lay out the fruit and cure it in the field for five to seven days or cure indoors at around 80 to 85 degrees in an area with good air ventilation.

Ultimately you’ll store the cured squash at about 50 degrees in the dark.

Pumpkin

Pumpkins are actually higher in calories than butternut squash and higher in fat which is a necessary macronutrient that we need to have in our survival diet.   It also has a lot of the vitamin A precursors beta-carotene and alpha carotene, which is what your body turns into Vitamin A after you consume the plant.   

Winter squash seeds are planted straight in the ground in the spring.  They need a very long growing season–usually over 100 days to maturity.   We love to keep pumpkins around for the fall holiday season as decor and then turn them into delicious food.  You want to make sure and harvest after the plants kind of die back in the fall but before you get any frost.  Once these go through a frost they will get soft and squishy and will spoil really easy.  If you’re using them for decor on your porch, bring them in at night when it looks like it might frost, and put it back out again in the morning when it’s warmer.

Try and leave the stem on if you can to prevent breaking the protective skin and store these on cardboard or on straw in a cold area.  

Squash and pumpkin are good in all the traditional baked goods.  They can be used in pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread.  But squash is really good also with pasta or even pureed and blended into a pasta sauce.  Also don’t forget about the classic pumpkin soup.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are actually not a potato, but a different type of tuber. They are high in beta carotene, an antioxidant.  They are high in fiber and very filling.   

Sweet potatoes can be eaten in a lot of ways: baked steamed, and fried, so they’re very useful the growing form of sweet potatoes is very unique.  

You plant sweet potatoes from “slips” which are a little plant that grows off of the tuber from the previous year.  You can mail order these slips and they arrive somewhat wilty.  You just rehydrate them in water for about 48 hours and then they get all perky and ready to plant.  Dig a nice hole for the roots, and pack the bottom inch of the slip into the soil. 

The potatoes take off and they spread all over the place and cover your whole garden.  In the fall you wait for the vines to start to yellow a little bit and then you can harvest them.  Alternately you can actually check on the sze and harvest them earlier if you want a more manageable size tuber.  We want to get the most food possible from our plants so we let them get nice and big.  

They need to be cured at a pretty high temperature and pretty high humidity.  We will go ahead and put them in our greenhouse because it needs to be about 85 degrees.  Cover them with a tarp just like the potatoes too keep the humidity up.  Leave them about 2 weeks.  After that they need to store at a cooler temperature in the 50 to 60 range but they need to continue to have that high humidity so move them with the tarp to a cooler location.

It takes about six weeks to fully finish curing, and this actually helps develop the flavor.  So they will be the most flavorful after that complete curing time.  After that just keep them stored away in a dark cool place.  Just like the potatoes, if they start sprouting by spring you will just be ready for next year’s planting.

We love sweet potatoes in pancakes or or a sweet potato pie.  Also, I have a couple great pasta recipes with sweet potato in them and I have really great recipe for sweet potato and black bean chili.

Dry Beans

Dry beans have been eaten around the world for thousands of years and are still an important food source worldwide.  They are unique among the plant world in providing such a high protein content, so dry beans are really important in our survival garden. Dy beans are really high in fiber which is important–particularly when you’re eating a lot of starchy food like some of the other vegetables in our survival crop list.

Pinto beans are one of the most nutrient dense foods at 245 calories per cup of beans.

Beans grow from seed.  Their growing season is short enough that you can tuck beans in bare spots throughout your garden as some of your other earlier crops come out.  This can help you increase your yield of dry beans.  Another benefit to dry beans in the garden is they actually improve the fertility of your soil for the rest of the crops by fixing nitrogen in the soil.  

Beans can be left on the plant until the pods get dry and brittle.  If you shake them you can sometimes hear the beans rattling in the pod.  Crack open the pods to remove the beans.  Once your beans are completely dried out you can store them in mason jar or you can reuse other food safe plastic containers like a juice jug.   For best storage and quality you can throw in an oxygen absorber. 

Beans can be added to all sorts of dishes they help make vegetable dishes more filling.  My hambone beans recipe makes a delicious pot of beans from something many people throw away.  

Condiments/ Edible Flowers/ Recipes

Wild Violet Jelly Recipe

Sometimes when I see or read an idea, I know instantly: I will do that.  I latch on to it and become determined to make it happen.  That’s how it was for me when I first heard of wildflower jelly.

Last year I made dandelion jelly first, but was sad to have missed the wild violet season. This year I was determined to make the violet jelly, so I did that first.

I have a growing collection of edible flower recipes which I will share this summer as the flowers come in season.

The jelly has a sweet floral fragrance and taste. Not very strong. But very beautiful.

The common blue violet has grown as a “weed” in our lawns in Utah, Kansas, and Indiana. The leaves are dark green, heart-shaped and toothed. There are five violet-colored petals that are irregular in a group of two and three. The blossom hangs off of a crook at the top of the stem.

Make sure you are confident in identifying the common blue violet before picking some blossoms. Always make sure you are harvesting from an area that is not sprayed or treated with any chemicals.

Gather 2 cups of blue violets. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the blossoms to steep them like tea. Steep blossoms in water overnight. 

Strain the blossoms out by pouring water into a second container through a floursack towel to keep out all the dirt. (See what got left behind?)

The violet water is a deep blue color, but when you add lemon juice (the acidity is necessary to preserve the jelly) it turns a bright fuchsia color.

Add water if needed to make 2 cups.  Add lemon juice. 

Follow directions for your pectin. For example my directions stated: Add pectin to juice.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve.  Add sugar, return to rolling boil, and boil for one minute exactly.  Ladle into jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.  (Makes 12 4oz jars)

Wild Violet Jelly

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A sweet fuchsia-colored jelly made from wild common blue violet blossoms.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups violet blossoms, stems removed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 package pectin (I used sure-jel for these)
  • 4 cups sugar

Instructions

1

Steep blossoms in water overnight. Strain out the blossoms. Add water if needed to make 2 cups. Add lemon juice. Follow directions for your pectin–my instructions were: Add pectin to juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Add sugar, return to rolling boil, and boil for one minute exactly. Ladle into jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. (Makes 12 4oz jars)

Honey Sweetened Violet Jelly

I experimented with using honey instead of white sugar to make the jelly.  I use Pomona’s Pectin. I used one cup of the violet water and followed the directions in Pomona’s for a basic jelly.  It was 1T lemon juice; 1/4 cup honey; 1 tsp of the calcium water (that comes with the Pomona’s Pectin); and 1 tsp of pectin. (Makes 3 4oz jars)

Next time I will use a little bit more pectin because it was a pretty loose set, and I may add a bit more honey–it was a very mellow jelly.  It definitely has some floral hints to it and I could taste the honey.  Obviously the jelly was more cloudy from the honey.

Gardening/ Orchard

20 Easy Plants for a Fruit Tree Guild

On my suburban lot I like to use my space as efficiently as possible. So I plant my fruit trees in a food forest of overlapping fruit tree guilds.

In a FRUIT TREE GUILD all the understory plants contribute to the health of the fruit tree, but many of the plants offer one or even two additional benefits. These benefits include: attracting pollinators or deterring pests or weeds, providing living or biomass mulch, providing nitrogen or other nutrients to the tree, or being medicinal or edible to humans or animals.

I prioritize many of the blooming plants that are pollinator attractors or can be used as cut flowers to help beautify my orchard because my orchard is in the front yard of my house. I also prioritize edible plants and herbs to make the most of the space.

I currently have 4 apple trees, 1 sour cherry tree, 1 peach tree, 1 native plum tree, 1 persimmon tree, 3 paw paw trees, 1 fig tree, and 1 dwarf mulberry tree. I have designed a naturalized-style planting of a food forest where the benefits of the plants provide for multiple trees at once.

20 Fruit Tree Guild Plants Grouped by Benefit to Orchard

When planting my orchard I have tried to look for plants in each of the categories to benefit my orchard. The parts of a guild are not set in stone so you may find various lists with different beneficial parts to a guild.

Sometimes they are just additional sub categories of a more basic category. “Cut Flowers” is not traditionally a fruit tree guild benefit–it is a subcategory of human benefit—but I found it informative to my style of gardening to know that some of these plants traditionally found in fruit tree guilds have this additional human benefit as well.

Guild BenefitPlant
Pollinator AttractantBee Balm
Echinacea
Yarrow
Borage
Calendula
Fennel
Elderberry
Mint
Pest RepellantCalendula
Garlic
Chives
Daffodil
Nasturtium
Mint
Nutrient AccumulatorYarrow
Borage
Chives
Living MulchViola
Strawberry
Wild Violet
Mint
MulchingBorage
Rhubarb
Elderberry
Nasturtium
MedicinalEchinacea
Calendula
Elderberry
Grass SuppressorDaffodil
garlic
chives
Edible (Research to know which part is edible)Borage
Calendula
Viola
Strawberry
Fennel
Garlic
Wild Violet
Chives
Rhubarb
Elderberry
Blueberry
Raspberry
Nasturtium
Mint
Peas
Nitrogen FixingPeas
Lupine
Cut FlowerYarrow
Daffodil
Mint
Table of Fruit Tree Guild Plants Grouped by Benefit to Orchard

These plants can be grouped in any combination. One plant can fulfill many roles to benefit the guild. Or you can choose different plants fo provide each benefit.

In addition it simply benefits the guild more and adds more diversity to add any additional plants from each category.

I will share three examples of fruit tree guilds in my orchard, and after that I will share photos and tips for all the listed plants.

Example Cherry Tree Guild

My fruit tree guilds overlap into a larger food forest. So far these are the plants I have closest around my Montmorency Sour Cherry tree comprising my cherry fruit tree guild:

  • Pollinator Attractant: bee balm
  • Pest Repellant: onion chives
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: wild violets
  • Mulching: borage
  • Grass Suppressor: daffodils
  • Medicinal: echinacea
  • Nitrogen Fixing: peas

Example Apple Tree Guild

Johnny Appleseed wanted to see apples all across America, and many people do choose apple trees for their home orchard. I have four different apple trees: Jonafree, Pristine, Enterprise and Gold Rush. This is the list of guild plant I have planted around my Enterprise apple tree:

  • Pollinator Attractant: fennel
  • Pest Repellant: perennial garlic
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: strawberries
  • Grass Suppressor: daffodil
  • Medicinal: calendula
  • Edible: strawberries
  • Nitrogen Fixing: lupine

Peach Tree Guild

I love growing peaches because they are my first tree to leaf out each year and that always gives me so much hope for the upcoming year. I have planted a Redhaven peach because it is self-fertile. Here is a list of plants in my peach tree guild:

  • Pollinator Attractant: mint
  • Pest Repellant: chives
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: wild violets
  • Mulching: rhubarb
  • Grass Suppressor: chives
  • Edible: rhubarb
  • Nitrogen Fixing: lupine

Fruit Tree Guild Plant Photos and Tips

Bee Balm: Pollinator Attractor– It is totally adored by the bees.  It did not bloom the first year I planted it.  But by the second summer it was already taller than the dwarf sour cherry tree I planted it next to. 

Around here I often see a bright variety in people’s yards as well.

Echinacea Pollinator Attractor, Medicinal– These flowers, also known commonly as “purple coneflower” attract all kinds of flying insects.  The butterflies are especially fun to watch.

Echinacea is traditionally used to support the immune system. I have not yet experimented with using my home-grown echinacea medicinally.

Yarrow: Pollinator Attractor, Dynamic Accumulator, Cut Flower–I planted my yarrow from a seed mix called the “Colorado Mix”.  I ended up with a white, yellow, hot pink, and pale pink.

It spreads readily and needs to be split every third year.  I have it planted quite a few places in the orchard and I’m really excited with how much it’s grown and how much the plants are are filling out– the colors are really fun as well 

Yarrow can be used in cut flower bouquets or can be hung and dried to use as a dried flower as well.

Borage:  Pollinator Attractor, Dynamic Accumulator, Mulching Plant, Edible–It produces periwinkle blue flowers that are edible.  People say it tastes like cucumber. I don’t notice a specific flavor other than a sweet drop of nectar.

The plants grow quite tall (around 3 feet)and leafy which will die down in the fall and provide mulch.

Calendula: Pollinator Attractor, Medicinal, Edible, Pest Repellant–Calendula flowers can be collected to infuse in oil and use for making salves and lotion bars.  If left on the plant the flowers go to seed and will self-seed each year easily.  

There are many varieties, but this classic orange “Resina” variety is the most prized for medicinal usage.

Violas Living Mulch, Edible–I planted some little violas from seed.  They have edible flowers to use in salads or sugared or pressed in to cakes or cookies.  

Strawberries Living Mulch, Edible. They have taken well in the wood mulch and they are spreading through runners.

Crops such as strawberries may not produce as much in a fruit tree guild as in a dedicated strawberry bed.  But the trade-off is the benefit it is giving to the tree.  

Fennel: Pollinator Attractant, Edible–My kids love to chew on the licorice-flavored fronds which are also good with fish.  If you dig up the bulb it is good in soups and salads.  

In this picture it is very young. By the end of the summer the fennel can grow 5 feet tall. The seeds can be collected as well and are a common ingredient used in sauerkraut.

Perennial Garlic: Pest Repellent, Grass Suppressor, Edible–Hardneck garlic is perennial and so you do not have to harvest it each year.  But you may need to split the clump every few years.  

It also produces edible “scapes” which can be eaten. However they develop further into little edible “bulblets” of garlic that are more similar to cloves of garlic that you can use and still leave the bulb in the ground to benefit the orchard.

Wild Violets: Living Mulch–I would rather not have quite so many. Wild violets are a “weed” in my area, and 6 inches of wood chip mulch over cardboard didn’t offer much deterrent.

I’ve decided to accept their presence because they do make an effective living mulch in my orchard guilds.  

In the spring they produce sweet edible purple flowers, and their leaves can be added to salads as well. (If you did not purchase the plants or seeds always be sure you are 100% certain you have properly identified a plant you believe to be edible.)

Onion Chives: Pest Repellant, Grass Suppressor, Edible, Nutrient Accumulator–All parts of the plant are edible. It is easy to grow from seed or you can spilt a large clump to divide into two.

It will bloom annually starting its second spring.

Daffodils: Pest Repellant, Cut Flower, Grass Supressor.  Traditional wisdom states that if you want to prevent grass and moles or gophers from getting close to your fruit trees you should plan daffodils in a circle touching bulb to bulb the whole way around.

Unlike your prized tulips, deer will not eat daffodil bulbs, so plant away!

Daffodil bulbs spread, and if you want to keep enjoying blooms you need to make sure they don’t get too crowded.

Rhubarb: Mulching, Edible.  Rhubarb leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid and should never be eaten by humans. However, when the plant freezes in the fall the leaves create good mulch in the orchard.

The pink or red stems are tart and edible, usually cooked into chutneys or pies.

Elderberry: Pollinator Attractor, Mulching, Edible, Medicinal– Always consult a wild edibles book to properly identify elderberries to make sure they are safe to eat. We dug up some shoots from down by the creek–a common place to find them.

Elderflowers smell delicious and you can make them into a syrup for elderflower cordials. When fully ripe the berries can be cooked into a medicinal syrup to support the immune system.

 

Blueberry plants: Edible–Blueberry plants have specific PH needs. They prefer soil PH as low as 4-5.  If your native soil is unfavorable you may find they perform better in pots. Peat moss is often used as a soil amendment to lower PH along with “acid-lover” fertilizers.

Raspberries:  Edible–Berries are a delicious layer to the food forest. Providing food for people and animals alike.

Take not of whether your variety is summer-bearing or fall bearing. This will dictate the maintenance they will need.

Nasturtium: Pest Repellant, Mulching, Edible–Nasturtium have beautiful spicy edible flowers that are sharp like mustard greens and fun to add to salads. They will vine out quite large and provide some mulching benefit.

Mint: Pollinator Attractor, Pest Repellant, Living Mulch, Edible, Cut Flower– I rooted some mint cuttings to plant in my orchard. I hope they will compete with the wild violets and creeping Charlie. Mint is known to be an aggressive spreader, so take care if that is not what you want.

Mint is a fragrant addition to cut flower bouquets, but is also edible and commonly used in baked goods and drinks.  

Peas: Nitrogen Fixer, edible–The first year I planted my orchard they were all just bare trunks with tiny “feather” branches. So I figured I might as well use them as little pea trellises. Pease help make nitrogen available to the tree and are delicious to eat as well.

Lupine: Nitrogen fixer, Pollinator attractor–Going forward I want to add more lupines as a beautiful nitrogen fixer to my fruit tree guilds.

Why These Plants are “Easy”

Many of the plants on this list are perennial which means they will grow back each spring. So you do not have to plant new ones each year.

Also, most perennial plants spread over time. The group or clump will get bigger and bigger. After a few years you can split these clumps to move part of it to fill in a spot that is empty.

These include: bee balm, echinacea, yarrow, elderberry, daffodils, lupine, mint, raspberry, wild violet, strawberries, onion chives and perennial garlic.

Quite a few of the rest of these plants are prolific self-seeders. This means that even though the plant will die each winter, if you leave the blossoms on the plant to dry in the summer and fall, they will drop their seeds and plant themselves again for next year.

These include: borage, calendula, fennel, violas, and nasturtium.

Through perennial spreading and self-seeding you can increase the number of plants in your orchard without heading to the nursery to buy any more.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree Guild

Plants in a fruit tree guild will do the most benefit for the tree if they fall within the “drip zone”. This is the area under the fruit tree where the majority of the roots of the tree reside and generally corresponds with the diameter size of the canopy of the tree.

When you first plant your tree this area is quite small. (See my article on planting fruit trees in clay soil which also includes general fruit tree planting tips.).

Since your fruit tree will immediately begin to grow branches, you can start by adding your guild plants within a 3-4 foot diameter circle around the tree. As your tree gets bigger you can expand that circle by splitting and spreading out your perennials, or adding additional plants outside that original circle to correspond with the growing size of the tree.

Have you planted a fruit tree guild? Share your favorite plants in the comments!

Guild Plants Video

If you want to see how this all looks together in my orchard, watch this video:

Gardening/ Vegetable Gaden

Seven Steps to Growing Larger Garlic

Garlic is on of the easiest things to grow in the garden and also it grows at a time of year when nothing else is growing which is really motivating and enjoyable as a gardener.

There are some important tips to help the garlic that you grow to be even bigger. I know that I hate peeling off a little garlic papers when I’m trying to chop garlic for dinner so bigger cloves of garlic is definitely a win.

To grow the biggest cloves of garlic you need to select the largest heads and cloves for planting, plant in the fall for proper vernalization with generous spacing, fertilize properly, and avoid harvesting prematurely.

Read along and I will explain each of these steps.

Plant only the Largest Cloves

The first thing to do is separate the clothes of garlic from the head. You will start to see that some of the cloves are bigger than the others. Only keep the largest cloves to plant. You can take these little ones and put them in the cupboard or in fridge to use in your cooking.

You want to leave the paper around the clove in tact. It is going to help the clove to not rot in the soil before it starts growing.

Consider how many heads of garlic you use in a week or month to decide how many cloves to plant. Each clove of garlic will grow a whole new head of garlic.

Plant 4-6 Inches Apart

I plant my garlic at least 4 to 6 in apart. This will give the garlic plenty of space to for the heads to plump up nice and big.

Every once in a while I’ll accidentally plant two smaller cloves of garlic that are together wrapped up in paper and look like a single large clove. When that happens I’ll get two shoots growing out of the same spot and both of them will compete for sunshine and nutrients and I end up with two very small heads.

Plant with the flat side down–that’s where the roots are going to come out. And the pointy side up–that’s where the shoots grow from. Plant 2-3 inches underground. The hori hori is a great tool for this job.

Plant in Late Fall

For most places the proper planting time is late fall. In the Northern Hemisphere this is usually mid-October to mid-November. This is after we’ve had our first freezes but before the ground is frozen solid.

(If you live somewhere that doesn’t go through such a harsh winter– you may not need to plant your garlic so early. You may wait until January or later to plant your garlic so just check your local Extension office.)

With a good late fall planting there’s enough time before the ground freezes for the garlic to start start to sprout a little bit. And it will send out some roots and it will just wake up from its dormancy a little bit. It may even get a few inches of shoots above ground.

If it goes fully dormant for the winter before it has sprouted the garlic will sit there in the ground and it could simply rot.

If you wait until spring planting time to start planting your garlic what you’ll end up with his clothes of garlic that will grow and they will send out shoots out the top but they will never form a head of garlic underground. This is still usable product it goes by the name of green garlic and it’s delicious for making pesto or for using in stir fries.

It does not form a head because it did not get it’s period of cold vernalization. You can experiment with getting around this by purchasing pre-chilled garlic, or try chilling it in your fridge for a few weeks before planting.

Mulch 4-6 Inches

Cover the garlic with a nice thick 4-6 inch layer of a light mulch like straw or leaf mulch.

This is to help the soil retain moisture and to prevent erosion and prevent nutrient loss over the course of the winter. This is going to let the garlic start growing nice and early in the spring as soon as conditions are perfect.

Spring Maintenance

There are two necessary jobs to do in the spring.

Even though you planted your garlic in fertile, healthy soil, garlic is a heavy feeder which means it really needs an application of fertilizer in the springtime. Liquid seaweed fertilizer is a great natural fertilizer to use.

The second job you only have to do if you are growing hard neck varieties of garlic. Hardneck garlic will grow scapes in the springtime which need to be trimmed off.

Scapes are flower buds that grow out the middle of the plant on a stalk. The flower bud develops into small bulblets of garlic. These bulblets are intended to grow new garlic plants, so a lot of energy from the plan goes into develop those plants. So if you’re growing your garlic for nice large heads you want to trim off those garlic scapes to prevent that energy loss.

Don’t Harvest Too Early

To get the largest head of garlic it’s very important to harvest at the right time. Many people may see their garlic pop up in the spring and think that then it should be ready to harvest in a month or two, but this is not the case.

In most areas of the country garlic is not ready to harvest until at least the first week of July. To see if your garlic is ready to harvest, look for the bottom two sets of leaves to start to dry up and turn brown.

When you see this sign you can dig down a little bit and pull out a test head of garlic from the ground. Look for ridges or lines between the cloves showing a definition between the cloves of garlic. Once they start to form ridges with this definition between cloves you know that the head of garlic has reached its peak of growing and that it’s about as large as it’s going to get, and you can harvest at that point.

Plan for Next Year at Harvest Time

I like to pull off the outer set of leaves right at the time of harvest because they come off so easily at that point. Then you have beautiful clean, white garlic. You need to set out the garlic in shady spot with good air circulation to cure until the stems are dry.

This is a great point of time to sort your heads of garlic and put aside the largest head. Save your largest heads for planting next year.

This process of only planting the largest heads that you grow and only planting the largest cloves of garlic from each of those heads is going to over time select for those growing properties. And your garlic will grow larger and larger over the years.

There’s always variations of weather and climate from year to year which will cause variations. So it’s not always a linear progression but over time you will see larger and larger heads of beautiful garlic.

Main Dish/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Ham Fried Rice

My kids always eat fried rice and never complain about it. It comes together really quickly and easily for a fast weeknight dinner. And you can actually switch out the meat and vegetables to use the things you have on hand.

Fried rice can be made vegetarian without any meat. It can also be made including almost any kind of meat–fresh or preserved. Ham or shrimp are common, but chicken and beef are popular as well. Fried rice is traditionally made with leftover vegetables. It almost always includes onions, but can also include peas, mushrooms, carrots or many other vegetables.

I intentionally buy a ham larger than our family needs for one meal, so that I can use the leftovers for recipes like this.

I like to make fried rice using the leftover chunk of ham on the end of the ham bone that was not spiral sliced so I get nice cubes of ham. But you could use ham slices chopped up as well. (If you want to know what to do with the ham bone, check out this recipe!).

Slice ham into half inch cubes.

Slice 2-3 green onions into quarter inch slices. (Have you ever tried regrowing green onions from the root ends? It actually works pretty well.)

Set aside the green slices for garnish.

Crack four eggs into a bowl. Whisk eggs.

Add 2 tbs olive oil in the pan and 2tsp toasted sesame seed oil to wok or cast-iron skillet. Heat up until oil shimmers.

Add the ham and the onion to the skillet along with frozen peas and sauté those up for a minute. Next add the rice.

It’s best to use cooked and cooled rice. If it isn’t fully cooled down then fried rice will end up a little more gummy. But in a pinch you can still use it.

Then then I add a splash of soy sauce for a little salty flavor.

Finally, pour in the egg. Immediately start stirring the rice. The idea is to get every grain of rice coated with a little bit of egg. After stirring, let it sit for a minute to cook on the bottom and then stir it again.

When there is no more uncooked egg, remove from heat. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and with some green onions.

Serve along with potstickers or just enjoy fried rice as a main dish itself. 

Ham Fried Rice

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Main Dish
Serves: 6
Prep Time: 40 Cooking Time: 20 Total Time: 1 hour

A delicious family-friendly recipe to use up extra ham.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Instructions

1

Cook rice your preferred way. Fluff rice, allow to cool.

2

Slice ham into half inch cubes. Slice green onions into quarter inch slices. Set aside the green slices for garnish. Crack eggs into a bowl. Whisk eggs.

3

Add olive oil and toasted sesame seed oil into wok or cast iron skillet. Heat up until oil shimmers. Add the ham and the onion for the skillet along with frozen peas and sauté those up for a few minutes until the onions soften. Next add the rice. Then pour soy sauce over the rice, stir.

4

Finally, pour in the egg. Immediately start stirring the rice. After stirring, let it sit for a minute to cook on the bottom and then stir it again. When there is no more uncooked egg, remove from heat.

5

Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and with some green onions.

Notes

Serve along with potstickers or just enjoy fried rice as a main dish itself.

Handmade

DIY Dried Flower Hoop Wreath

Have you ever thought of self-reliant home decorating? Maybe the thought of self-reliant home decor doesn’t rank high on your list, but any time that I can get something from my backyard instead of the store, I call that a “win!”

A handful of the cut flowers I grew can also be dried for crafting. Keep reading for some varieties you may want to try growing, and for a tutorial on creating a dried flower hoop wreath.

(If you are interested in some other flowers I enjoy growing that will self-seed and regrow next year without having to plant them read this article.)

4 Easy-to-grow Dried Flowers for Crafting

Gomphrena

Globe amaranth is also called gomphrena. 

My favorite stage is when it is these almost perfectly round blossoms. That’s where it gets the name of “globe” amaranth.  If you let it keep growing the globes elongate into more of a gumdrop shape.

Other varieties of amaranth dry well including upright and trailing varieties.  But the tiny globes ar a good scale for this type of project.

Statice

One flower that you probably already familiar with, because it is very common in grocery store bouquets is called statice. 

Statice is very common in grocery store bouquets because it looks good even when it’s not fresh.  That’s one of the things that makes it good for drying–it holds its shape and its color really well.

Statice is really easy to grow.  It’s one of my first seedlings to pop up when I am seed-starting and it’s very hardy so you can get it started really early in the spring and might even be able to get it to overwinter where you live.

Strawflower

Straw flower is sometimes known as “everlasting flower”.  It is very common for drying.  It’s called strawflower because of the way that the the petals almost feel like straw. 

You can harvest them at many different stages of bloom. Be aware, they will continue to open a little bit as they dry.  

Strawflowers are interesting because sometimes when the front of the flower is a little over-opened–the back of the flower has a really interesting look and can be used as well. 

Strawflower is wired by making a “U” out of the wire and pressing it through the center from front to back.  Then twist the two ends of the wire together to make a bendable “stem”.

Bunny Tails

Bunny tails technically aren’t a cut flower–they are a grass. But they are so much fun in dried flower arrangements. 

Mine did not have the longest stems, but long enough for a wreath project.  

Constructing a Dried Flower Hoop Wreath

In addition to the dried flowers, some other supplies that you will need for this project are floral paddle wire, nippers or scissors, and a hot glue gun.

Hot glue is the fastest material to work with. You can work with craft glue if you want it just takes longer to dry.

Finally, for the hoop you will need a wooden embroidery hoop.

Embroidery hoops come in a lot of different sizes.  The wood is a nice natural material that goes well with the flowers. 

They have two pieces to them so when you buy an embroidery hoop you actually can make two wreaths from it. Just make sure to cover up the hardware with flowers. 

To create the floral swag on the wreath you need to construct a number of tiny little bouquets. Doing this gives a more even feel and a more balanced look to the swag on the wreath. 

Once you have created a little bouquet or a little bundle.  You can wrap wire around the stems to hold it together. (Or use the wire from the strawflower if you have wired it.

Then glue the little bundle onto the hoop. Continue making these little bundles of flowers. 

Glue the second bundle down over the stems of the first little bundle to cover up the stems.

After doing 2 in the first direction go about a quarter of the way around the hoop and place and glue the next bouquet with the stems going the opposite direction so that the stems are pointing back toward the first two bundles.

Layer the bundles as thick as you want.  I have done two in each direction. 

In the middle there will be this place where the stems are crossing over, or touching.   Cover that area with straw flower blossoms. If any blossoms don’t have a stem– glue it to this stem of another of another flower. 

Once the middle is filled in with strawflowers, look over the wreath to see where it needs a little bit of filling in or if it needs a pop of color somewhere and individually add a few extra flowers or bunny tails. 

If you glue in the bunny tails in with their stems a little bit long — they will have some movement in them.  Instead of just being stuck next to the flowers.  

There are a couple different ways that you can hang a hoop wreath. One way is to hang it with the floral swag down on the bottom or over the top.

Another way to hang it is to have the flowers off to one side.

If you want to see me demonstrate the construction of these wreaths, watch the video below: