One of my favorite past times is walking through our pasture and figuring out what all the wild plants are that are growing and then finding out if they are edible or not. This last walk, we found wild mint, hops, rosehips, and milk weed.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias speciosa are the edible species we have here) is one of my favorite edible “weeds” (it really is only a weed if it’s growing where you don’t want it to grow). It’s a beautiful plant with large fragrant flowers and it grows everywhere here. I’m in milkweed heaven. We live fairly far north so our season is a little later than most of the US. If you still have milkweed in bloom, awesome. If not, sorry, save this for next year. If you are just past the bloom and have pods, check out this recipe from Common Sense Homesteading for sautéed milkweed pods. Once I find some pods, we’ll be making this. **Please make sure you identify the plant correctly, see note below.**
Cautions: Not all milk weed species are edible. Use only those species and plant parts specified as edible and cook them according to the directions given for each plant part. Until they are cooked, even the edible species of milkweed contain chemicals toxic to people and other mammals – never eat any part of milkweed raw… Furthermore, milkweed juice can irritate the skin; wear cloves for picking or wash hands thoroughly.
Make certain that you have the right plant – some poisonous plants, such as the dogbanes (Apocynum species), closely resemble the edible milkweeds, especially at the shoot stage. Unless confident that you can tell these plants apart…ask an expert for help. Your county extension service or local weed board can provide information about the specific plants in you area.
…Take care not to disturb monarch butterfly caterpillars that may be feeding on the milkweed leaves. In recent years the number of these butterflies has greatly decreased due to the destruction of wilderness areas in Mexico where they overwinter – it would be a shame to cause them harm in their summer range as well.
~“Wild Seasons: Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains” by Kay Young
I made these fritters last year and my family has just been waiting and waiting for the flowers to bloom this summer. It’s a once a year treat that we relish. I actually hemmed and hawed about making them this year, I don’t like getting the fryer out when it’s so hot. My husband took the initiative this year and made them while I told him what to do. I guess I had forgotten how good they were. They are worth heating the kitchen up for. We make a big batch using at least 20 flowers. 4 boys can pack away a lot of fritters. The recipe cuts in half just fine if you don’t want to make so many.
Note: A reader pointed out to me that monarch butterflies depend on milkweed. Just use common sense and don’t pluck every flower you see. Save some for the butterflies. (Milkweed does reproduce through their roots as well as seeds produced from the flowers).
1/2 cup flour (gluten free all-purpose flour works great)
1/2 cup arrowroot flower (or cornstarch)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar (we use sucanat)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on finished fritters
Frying oil (I use lard, tallow or palm oil in my fryer)
Place 2 egg whites in a 2 cup measuring cup. Add enough water to make 2 cups. In a bowl, whisk until frothy.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk in egg white mixture and stir until just blended.
Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour, up to 8 hours.
Be sure you flowers are from the edible varieties stated above Prepare milkweed flowers by rinsing in water, getting any bugs off. We used about 20 milkweed flowers. Cut stem off right up to the flower so none of the stem remains.
Cut the flower in half by snipping it at the base.
Lay on a towel to air dry.
After the batter has sat for an hour or so, heat up oil to about 375F.
Dip flowers in the batter and fry until browned.
Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
These are my kombucha brewing vessels. Aren’t they amazing?! The first one is a toasted oak barrel made specifically for kombucha from Kombucha Kamp. The center handcrafted ceramic crock is also from Kombucha Kamp. The one on the end is a vinegar barrel I bought a few years ago which works great with kombucha. While both are great, I prefer the one from Kombucha Kamp because the opening on top is wider and the spout is located higher up which is more ideal for a continuous brewing system.
When I make kombucha, I go big. Really big. I have a family of 6 and everyone loves kombucha. Keeping up with 6 people drinking kombucha regularly can be a big task but with a big enough barrel and kombucha concentrate, it’s totally doable. So I make about 4 gallons of kombucha at a time in a 5 gallon oak barrel.
To make 4 gallons of kombucha, I need to brew 4 gallons of tea. I don’t have a pot large enough to do that, and making 4 separate brews just takes too much time and space. To save time and space, I brew this kombucha concentrate. 4 gallons worth of kombucha in 1 gallon.
Making the concentrate quickens up the tea making process as well. No need to wait for the tea to return to room temperature, just add cold water to the hot concentrate and use right away.
I use this tea concentrate to get my large system going and I also use it to whenever I need to add more tea to my system. I usually harvest my kombucha once or twice a week (depending on when it tastes ready). Instead of brewing more tea every week, I just grab my concentrate and add water. It will last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. To make it last longer, freeze the concentrate in smaller portion sizes. I freeze mine in 1 cup portions so I can make any amount, 1 quart and up.
Tea Concentrate Ingredients
24- 32 tea bags or 1/2- 2/3 cup loose leaf tea*
4 cups sugar
3 quarts filtered water
In a large pot, heat water and sugar to a boil. Turn heat off and add tea. Let steep for about 15 minutes. Remove tea bags. Pour tea into a 1 gallon container. Top off with more filtered water, if needed, to make exactly 1 gallon. Use right away or store in the fridge until ready to use. Will keep for up to 2 weeks. Freeze in 1 cup portions to extend the life of the concentrate.
*I recommend using at least 25% black tea to maintain a healthy SCOBY. If using green or white tea in addition to black tea, place different teas in a separate tea balls. Steep the green or white tea for only 3-5 minutes to keep the tea from getting bitter. Let black tea steep for 10-15 minutes. Adding herbal tea, or different types of tea like rooibos is perfectly fine. Steep for as long as recommended.
How to Use Tea Concentrate
You can use the tea concentrate to make any amount of tea desired using a 1:3 ratio, 1 part kombucha concentrate, 3 parts water. Adding water to the concentrate while it is hot will bring it down to room temperature. Don’t add hot concentrate to the SCOBY without diluting it with cold water first.
To use this tea in your continuous brewing system, be sure to add 2 cups of starter per 1 gallon of reconstituted tea. For a 5 gallon barrel like mine, I add 4 gallons of tea plus 2 quarts (8 cups) of already brewed kombucha.
If you don’t have brewed kombucha on hand, you can use apple cider vinegar in place of the starter tea as long as it is not raw (just boil your raw ACV for a minute to kill off ACV producing bacteria).
Place your kombucha mother on top. If it ends up sideways or at the bottom, don’t worry, it’ll still work. It usually rights itself after a few days. If you are in need of a kombucha mother, find a friend who brews. They usually have some extra SCOBY’s. If you don’t have a kombucha making friend, Kombucha Kamp sells top quality kombucha SCOBYs along with some great brewing systems. They’ve produced beautiful kombucha for me over the last few years.
I asked on Facebook if ya’ll would be interested in reading about our adventures (or misadventures) in homesteading here on the blog. It was a pretty overwhelming yes. So, I’m going to try to do a weekly post about what we are doing.
I will warn you upfront. We are not vegan or vegetarian. We raise animals to butcher. They live a very happy life and meet a quick ending. Yes, I do believe killing animals can be humane. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a raccoon or mink killing, you would know nature can be very inhumane. I’m not going to avoid the subject of butchering animals because it is a very important part of our homestead. I will try to avoid posting any graphic pictures.
After a long and particularly cold winter, our garden is finally growing. One of the first things that can go in the ground here is radishes. Mine were planted a little over a month ago but due to a chilly spring, we’re still waiting for them to mature. Soon, soon, but not soon enough.
Most people think of the root part of the radish plant and toss out (or compost) the tops. The tops are edible and actually quite good. I add them to salads, sauté them with onions, juice them or make them into this creamy soup. Radish greens are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, anthocyanins, B vitamins, and phosphorus.
So stop throwing away those green goodies! If you have more greens than you can eat, you can freeze extras by gently steaming them, bagging them and then placing in the freezer. We have greens all winter long thanks to our vacuum sealer. We also dehydrate and powderize the leaves to sprinkle in all sorts of foods.
I’m going to share with you two ways you can make this soup. The first is with a high speed blender like a Vitamix or BlendTec. The second is on the stove, blending with a stick blender (this is the blender I use Cuisinart Stick Blender). Both ways have their advantage. The high speed blender is quick and easy, makes a very smooth soup, and only one thing to clean. Supposedly this could be considered a raw soup since it’s heated up just enough to be warm. But one drawback is the foam on top of the soup. It bothers some people but not everyone. You can minimize the foam by letting it set a while and then scooping off the remaining foam. But then you have to reheat it. The stovetop method yields a less smooth soup and is cooked but it won’t have the foam problem. Either way is super yummy. A stick blender will not blend coconut flakes up enough to be appetizing, so be sure to use coconut cream or milk and not flakes.
Dairy free enchiladas? Why that’s easy, just make it without cheese.
Uh, no. To me, cheese is the second most important ingredient. Right next to a good enchilada sauce. I’d rather leave everything else out.
I love enchiladas but I’m not going to bother making them without cheese. It’s like a pizza without cheese. Sorry, I just don’t dig it.
Sigh, I love cheese.
But, this recipe is not only an acceptable substitute, it’s actually good. Like not “this is good for dairy free cheese” but actually just plain “this is good” without the disclaimer. The first time I made this, I made half dairy free and half with cheese. The children request the dairy free version over the real cheese one.
To quote my husband, “Woah, Mel, this is good. I mean, you look at it and it looks all disgusting but then you take a bite and it’s so good.” I think that’s a compliment, right?
30 mins later… I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but this is a really big dish. It’s 9″x13″ and 3″ deep. A lot of food. 2 lbs of beef, 2 cups of beans, about 24 corn tortilla shells, a full recipe of the cheese sauce, and a full recipe of the enchilada sauce.
It’s not just for enchiladas either. This cheese tastes great as a nacho cheese sauce with chips as well, as a topping for vegetables, over noodles for mac and cheese, and even on pizza.