Tea Time

Growing up in a household with an English mother, our life seemed to revolve around tea time. We had it at breakfast, bedtime, and at various other intervals throughout the day. It was at the core of both social gatherings and time spent alone. In the GCC culinary & medicinal garden, we had many wonderful herbs growing, but peppermint was always one of my favorites. I learned that the process of making homemade loose-leaf tea was actually quite easy and enjoyable.

peppermint (1)

peppermint

There are many different types of mint: peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, apple mint, and so on. The good thing about mint is that they’re perennial, but they also grow very quickly and probably require a rhizome barrier. Peppermint is delicious and also has medicinal uses: acts as a stimulant, helps to relieve the common cold, cough, inflammation of the mouth and throat, and respiratory infections. It also helps to relieve digestive and menstrual discomfort.

Once you’re ready to harvest, it’s best to do so in the morning because that’s when the oils are the strongest. Rinse with water after clipping, and tie together in bundles with a rubber band. Air circulation is key when drying peppermint. Trapped moisture will not only slow the drying process but can also possibly cause mildew to form (a basement is not an ideal location). You’ll want to hang the bundles somewhere warm with good air circulation (you want the temperature to be between 70F and 120F). The mint should be dry within one to four weeks depending on the temperature.

The leaves are the edible part, so strip the leaves from the stem over a large bowl. They should come off cleanly and crisply. If you prefer, rip the leaves into smaller pieces with your hands. Keep the leaves in an air-tight container, such as mason jar or tea tin, and store them away from direct sunlight. When tea time comes around, you may put some mint in a tea ball, tea strainer, or directly into a mug. Pour in boiling water and let sit for about five minutes and add a sweetener if desired. Enjoy in hot or cold weather!

Peppermint tea ready for storage in mason jar

Peppermint tea ready for storage in mason jar

 

 

 

 

 

Permaculture Garden Internship Reflection

Image

Hello friends! My name is Anyes Perreault and I’ve been working on the Permaculture Garden Internship this summer. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with my hands to learn more in-depth about what permaculture means. Along the way, I’ve gained some new calluses, a sunburn or two, and, most importantly; even more enthusiasm and love for gardening than I had to begin with.

As I worked through the processes of planting, watering, and watching everything grow, I started to feel more in touch with my childhood self. It is easy to lose this part among all of the schedules, paperwork, and deadlines of the adult world, but I found it as I was working with the soil. I remembered the curious, energetic, barefoot me that would spend hours in the woods or fields eating fresh-off-the-vine produce from my dad’s garden. There is truly something spiritual about watching seeds that you planted sprout and grow from something the size of half a pinky fingernail to something half your height, and knowing that your effort is your dinner. When I work with the land to grow plants, I feel like I am growing with them.

PERMACULTURE 2

seeds trays I started in the GCC greenhouse

Although this internship was challenging, I learned quite a bit about not only gardening, but also myself and others. There isn’t a better feeling than having members of the community give you support and praise. It was wonderful to see the smiles of those who worked at the GCC cafeteria when I brought trays of fresh produce down and knowing that students and faculty were going to eat a meal that was locally grown. It was satisfying to know that I was making a difference in my community. Keeping a permaculture garden healthy and under control is no easy feat, but the rewards are definitely worth the hard work.

Wait . . . you can eat that?

Many of my favorite experiences in the Permaculture Garden this summer have involved the discovery of the multitude of uses (edible or otherwise) of the common “weeds” we find in or gardens and yards.  Who knew, for example, that the pesky Purslane that plagues our properties is one of the best plant-based sources of essential fatty acids?  And that it tastes delicious!  And Lambs Quarters?  Totally yummy.  However the weed that I have completely fallen in love with is Oxalis.

Oxalis in the Garden

The common Oxalis found in yards and gardens is one of many, many species of the Wood Sorrel family that grows in North America.  I believe that the “weedy” oxalis is Oxalis stricta, and is an extremely common wild edible.  All species of wood sorrel are edible, and most have a tangy, slightly sour lemony taste.

Oxalis has three leaflets that radiate out from a central point, and the leaves are whorled around the stem.  The leaflets are distinctly heart-shaped, and fold along a centerline at night.  It is not particularly deep rooted, but in my experience can be difficult to pull up.  Oxalis flowers are small and bright yellow.  When they go to seed, the seedpods are bright green banana-shaped things that grow directly upright and have a fantastic lemon taste and a juicy bite.  Although oxalis is pretty distinctive, it does look a bit like clover to the untrained eye (I think that I confused it for many years), but can easily be identified by the heart-shaped leaves.  While it can be just a few inches tall, I have seen it grow as tall as 1 ½ to 2 feet in gardens when competing with other, taller species.

Oxalis with Flowers and Seed Pods

Oxalis, like many other wild and “domesticated” foods, does contain oxalic acid, so people with certain health issues need to exercise caution, and everyone should eat it in moderation.  All parts of the pants above ground are edible, and have the nice citrus flavor, with a little of the chalky-taste of oxalic acid.  The flavor and texture are much nicer in younger plants, as they can get a bit woody as they age.  Oxalis can be eaten raw as a snack while gardening or hiking, used as a salad green, made into a drink similar to lemonade or sumac-ade, cooked or used as a seasoning.  I like to nibble on it while I’m weeding, and I recently used it as a lemon-substitute in my favorite pesto, Lemon-Parsley.

A Freezer Full of Weedy, Wild Deliciousness!

Talk about multiple functions!  You can weed your garden, have a snack and increase your Vitamin C intake all at the same time!  Happy munching!

Goldenrod Honey!

Let’s talk about Goldenrod for a second. You’ve seen it in meadows and pastures, growing on roadsides, along bike paths, and it’s even growing in the GCC Permaculture Garden. It’s everywhere! Did you know that you can EASILY infuse honey with it, making for an amazing and delicious medicinal that can help with allergies?

Goldenrod! Photo: Shannon Dry

Goldenrod has many uses. The seeds of some species were used by Native Americans for food, and the flowers also make a great tea. The flowers are also great sources of nectar for bees and butterflies. The leaves also contain a small amount of rubber that Thomas Edison once experimented with! In herbal medicine, goldenrod is used as a kidney tonic. Sore throats are said to be relieved by chewing the leaves, and toothaches relieved by chewing the roots. Goldenrod is great for late seasonal allergies!

Goldenrod Honey! Photo: Shannon Dry

Recipe: Goldenrod infused honey is not difficult to make. First, you will need a clean jar with a lid. Take the goldenrod that you’ve collected, and snip the flowers off with a pair of scissors, directly into a jar or bowl. I chose to use a bowl so that I could pick through it and remove any clumps of debris or, gasp, goldenrod spiders! Once you have a good amount of flowers packed in the jar, then you can pour honey over the top of it. If your honey is too thick or hardened to pour, you can heat it slightly in a pot of hot water. Be careful not to heat it too much or you will destroy beneficial enzymes. Be sure to cover the goldenrod in honey when pouring into the jar. Stir it lightly and remove any air pockets, and cover with your lid. The next day, give it another good stir and put the lid back on. After a few weeks, you can drain through a sieve, removing the goldenrod, or simply enjoy it with the goldenrod flowers still in the honey. It will last up to one year. Store it away from sunlight. Add it to teas or have it on your favorite baked good or by the spoonful.

The finished product. Photo: Shannon Dry

Stone Soup Cafe: Summer Update

Summer is going strong over at The Stone Soup Café! We had record attendance on July 13th with 113 people. Just Roots, the community farm in Greenfield, has been generously donating produce for our meals. We’ve also gotten gorgeous kale, bok choy, broccoli, and dandelion greens from Atlas Farm in Deefield. The second Saturday of every month, we will continue to offer pay-what-you-can acupuncture from Greenfield Community Acupuncture.  We also have a great lineup of live music planned throughout the Summer and David Fersh has become our new Music Coordinator.  You can reach him at dfersh4@yahoo.com.
Picture
We were also approved for a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Fund for Social Responsibility.  We had proposed to them that we create a website for other Unitarian churches who want to create similar programs.  They were so excited about that proposal that they offered us more money to create a print manual for the same purpose.
Picture
Ari Pliskin, our cafe director, presented at the Food Bank to a room full of Franklin county hunger relief leaders interested in learning about the cafe. Everyone was also kind enough to participate in a survey during a meal which gave helpful feedback regarding  experiences at the cafe. Here are a few things that we all shared:
“flavorful, delicious, beautifully presented”
“compassion and acceptance radiate”
“From Ari’s leadership to the friendly food servers, kindness exudes.”
“music is so important for bringing people together.”
“what a wonderful community-making opportunity.”
“…food, people, peace.”
“powerful and pragmatic example of people pooling resources and co-creating bonds of community.”
Thanks to all for the great feedback! It will help our community cafe continue to thrive!
Picture

Climate Summer, a leadership development program for young adults who learn by doing, also stopped by to volunteer at the cafe. If you haven’t heard of Climate Summer, check out a great video on their website. It’s a great organization that calls for action on climate change. They travel exclusively by bicycle! Look for them all over New England this Summer!
Picture

Picture

We look forward to seeing you at Stone Soup this Summer! Stay Cool!

The Plantain and the Dandelion

Hello All! My name is Jon, and the Permaculture Garden here at GCC is my first introduction to the new and exciting world of Permaculture. So if you don’t know much about Permaculture then don’t worry, because this is all new to me too.

A view of the Permaculture Garden from the South Side. Photo: Jon Shina

One of the first things that I’ve learned from my internship here at the Garden is that in Permaculture, there are no such things as “Weeds.” We say this because in Permaculture, the way of thinking is that every plant can have a positive place in our garden design.

On the Left: A Plantain Leaf, On the Right: A Dandelion Leaf. Photo: Jon Shina

The two most common “Weeds” in our Permaculture Garden (and most of North America) are the Plantain and the Dandelion plants.  Both of these “Weeds” are actually very beneficial to the soil. The Plantain and the Dandelion are both “Pioneer Plants,” and when soil is overturned or harsh, both of them are the first living organisms to thrive. You might find these guys poking out of asphalt or graveled roads! They are able to do this because they both have a long taproot, which enables them to grow in the harsher soil. This is also beneficial because their long taproots help break up the soil, and that will make it better for other more desirable plants to grow in the future. Both plants are edible, but they taste very bitter and are not fun to eat. Instead of eating them, you can make tinctures and herbal teas out of them. I especially like the Plantain, because the Plantain plant can also be used to soothe mosquito and other bug bites, as well as helping out with sunburns. I personally have been using the power of the Plantain all summer long with my own mosquito bites, and I must say that it really helps out!

Plantain Plant. Photo: www.clemson.edu

Dandelion Plant. Photo: ecochildsplay.com

 So now that you know more about the Plantain and the Dandelion, you will start to see them everywhere, because they are everywhere! I hope you start to have more affection for these “Weeds,” and don’t just pull them out of the ground the next time you see them, because they might just be helping you out and you don’t even know it.

Before "Weeding." Photo: Jon Shina

After "Weeding." Photo: Jon Shina

Unfortunately, twice a week at the Permaculture Garden, we spend the first 20-30 minutes weeding the garden. So, some of my new friends do get weeded out… but we do leave the rest of them alone that are not bothering any other of our plants.

 

Edible Berries! Mushroom Logs! Beneficial Creatures!

The Juneberries, they are a bloomin’! So are currants, blueberries, and many other things over at the GCC Permaculture Garden!

Juneberries! Photo:Shannon Dry

Edible plants aren’t the only species thriving in the garden-many beneficial critters have also made the garden their home.

Earthworm! Photo:Shannon Dry

The Mushroom Logs are also settling in. Hopefully in a year or so we’ll have Shitake and White Oyster Mushrooms to share!

Mushroom Logs! Photo:Jon Shina

The culinary and tea garden is also thriving. Beebalm! Chocolate Mint! Walking Onion! It’s all just so lovely! Stop by and take a look!

Photo:Shannon Dry

Photo:Shannon Dry

The GCC Permaculture Garden is Thriving!

Although we’ve had a rainy start to our Summer in the GCC Permaculture Garden, the garden is thriving! We’ve recently added local Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, and Parsley that we snagged from the Greenfield Farmer’s Market, courtesy of the GCC Dining Commons!  The Dining Commons is also proudly serving greens harvested from the permaculture garden.

Harvested from the GCC Permaculture Garden
Lettuce being harvested for GCC Dining Commons

Carol Michelfelder with the day's harvest. Photo:Shannon Dry

Four GCC interns are helping out in the garden this Summer: Carol Michelfelder, Alex Spring, Jon Shina, and Shannon Dry. They are very happy to spend a few mornings a week with the garden.

Waiting to be harvested!

The garden isn't just thriving with plants, either. Lots of benficial critters have made their home in the garden as well. The mushroom logs are also settling in nicely. Hopefully within the next year we'll have shitake and white oyster mushrooms to share.Photo:Jon Shina

We hope you’re having a great Summer and that we’ll see you in the GCC Permaculture Garden soon!

 

 

Final Presentations: “In 31 years I have never seen anything like this”

Well, I’d say we pretty much rocked it. To a group of around 50 people (students, local leaders, administration, faculty, family, friends, a video camera–you can watch the presentations soon) we delivered our final designs for the Greenfield Community College landscape. And the response was tremendous. Teresa jones, faculty member and advocate for gardens on campus was so thrilled she said: “Oh, my god, that was amazing!” Abrah Dresdale: “Unprecedented!” Apparently, Peter Rosnick, dean of the Liberal Arts program, dropped his jaw in amazement–I can not confrim or deny the dropping of the jaw. Linda Cavanaugh, chair of the math department, announced that she might have to delay retirement after 31 (?) years of service so that she could stay to watch and participate in this transformation. Looks like you’ll have to put those post-retirement plans on hold, Linda, ’cause we’re focused and energized. Go GCC Permaculture!

Stay tuned for a link to the video and an email that includes final designs and a garden overview packet…

Lastly, the garden outside the greenhouse is now covered with compaction busting grass…a step towards our potential garden? Me thinks it could be…send your prayers for the health of the site please.

Final presentations are finally here!

Friends,

Greetings and blessings during this wonderful time of spring and fresh growth!
We, the students of Greenfield Community College’s Permaculture Student Forum, are glad to announce the upcoming presentation of our final designs for the proposed permaculture gardens on campus. Please join us and other students, faculty, staff, and the local community on May 15th from 1-2 p.m. at GCC’s Multi Purpose Room (C208) in celebration of our incredible vision. The event will be a very rich offering towards a stable and secure local food system.
permaculture presentations