Monday, August 25, 2014

The difference between Blackberries and Black/Red Raspberries

While I am fresh on the subject of berries... I have gotten a few emails asking to discuss the differences between blackberries and black raspberries. The difference is actually quite simple!

A Blackberry has a white fleshy core that will stay within the berry when you pick them and overall larger cells than a raspberry. Although blackberries are more tart than a raspberry they are an added treat to any desert recipe!

Black/Red Raspberries:
In a raspberry, red or black, they are hollow in the center when they are ripe. Raspberries are also smaller, and covered with tiny hairs (although both can have some hair attached). These little fruits are also harvested earlier than blackberries; ranging from June to August but can tolerate a little cold if the weather changes quickly.

Get out there and pick as many as you can of either kind!

Blackberries Picking & Cooking

Well.... I officially have 1 Green Pepper!!! I did not take pictures of it this week because, quite frankly, it is the saddest green pepper I have ever seen.

With the plant only reaching 11 inches high the green pepper is just pushing 1 inch in diameter and did not look overly delicious on camera! Although my garden has not produced a bountiful harvest this year I could not have been more tickled to see this tiny vegetable beginning to grow!

While I was out inspecting my garden I came upon a large cluster of wild blackberries just waiting to be plucked from the vine! The more I looked around the more aware of these plants I became, until I was stumbling across them in every thicket and hedgerow on the property. After picking for about an hour I had gathered about 4 cups of delicious blackberries with a few late blooming raspberries thrown in.

 I decided to whip up a small recipe to test them out and I froze the other half for future uses. 
**A great tip for freezing any vegetables or fruits that tend to clump together: Flash freeze them first in a single layer on a cookie sheet (I use a plate) before putting them in a bag. This allows you to dip in to however much you need per recipe!

For the other half of my blackberries I made an Arkansas Traveler's Cake. 

This recipe was Extremely easy and tastes delicious served warm with a large dollop of Vanilla ice cream! 

Naturally because this cake was so good I have no pictures to share-It really did not last long out of the oven! If you want to give it a try I have included the recipe below! 

Arkansas Traveler Cake-Megan's Version
1/2 cup Butter (Less is absolutely fine!)
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Flour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Cups Blackberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 9x13x2 pan inside with butter. (I used a 9x9 pan and came out with a slightly thicker cake although it takes some changes to the cooking time). Allow butter to sizzle; generally 2-3 minutes.
2. Mix flour, sugar, milk, and baking powder until creamy; No lumps!
3. Pour blackberries into mix, stirring lightly. (The original recipe called for blackberries to be placed in the middle but I have had better luck mixing them into the cake batter before pouring in).
4.Pour the batter into the hot prepared pan.
5. Allow to cook for 1 hour until crust is golden brown on top.
6. Serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Happy Cooking!

Friday, August 15, 2014


Every week I go through the normal paces. Get up. Drink coffee. Go to work. Come home. Cook dinner. Go to bed. But I think I speak for everyone when I say the weekend is usually the time you get to unwind, do what YOU want to do, and enjoy some of the freedom we are all meant to have. Whether this means sleeping until 1 o'clock in the afternoon or getting up at 4 am to go on that epic hike you have been planning all week it is completely up too you. 

Although my weekend generally consists of the same activities as other days, I try to make a point of setting a little time aside to just think. This may sound silly, but after a week of monotonous encounters it is an absolute necessity to have some "me time". Many people fulfill this need with weekly nail appointments, or a monthly outing to get their hair done. Me? I take to the woods. Some days I just walk, picking up deer trails and tracking them through the woods.

Other days I bring my camera and take pictures of every thing that catches my eye. It doesn't matter if I never get them developed or download them to a Facebook account. I enjoy the simple aspect of capturing a creature or a plant in the exact form it was when I saw it. This past weekend it was mushrooms that seemed to entice me. Every shape, size, and color was vastly different from any I had passed previously. Please note, I did not eat or touch any of them as I am still not 100% on their identification but just taking the time to stop and look at them was the highlight of my day.

Oftentimes when I find a lull in weekend activities, I will sneak off for a few hours and tuck myself away at the riverside. My river is nothing extraordinary; more like a stream flowing through the woods that occasionally gets deep enough to sit in. But sitting on that riverbank; surrounded by effervescent waterfalls and the sunlight peeking through the leaves. I am in absolute heaven. 

Lately I have been devoting a lot of my time to building a small swimming area and the least effective dam in the world. 

I managed to raise the water level a few inches but my dam building skills leave a bit to be desired. As you can see,the water still continues to pour through with an animal ferocity.(Not this animal below).

A day to yourself is a day to think or to not think. A day to do whatever comes to mind and simply be free. I hope everyone is able to spend a little time to themselves. After all it is what keeps us sane!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Notes for Next Year: Radish & Potato growing 101

So hopefully everyone's garden is getting closer to maturity and you are all seeing the fruits of your hard labor! Unfortunately my garden has not produced in quite the way I had hoped due to some late planting and a few key errors I will be careful to avoid next year!

First off my radishes are ENORMOUS! Well, at least the greens. Some blooms and stalks are over 4 feet tall and still growing! After consulting with several different gardeners, and hearing many different opinions on the subject, I decided to do some research on my own. Radishes do not generally get quite as large as mine, and should be pulled when the top of the radish is poking through the ground above. Occasionally this will take some poking and prodding from your fingers to see if you can see the actual radish. Do not let these root vegetables get overly large or they will begin to crack and lose flavor. Each seed is different so be sure to pay attention to the packet you are planting! This process can take as little as 3-4 weeks!

Upon further inspection of my lanky plants I determined that I made one of the most common errors when it comes to radish planting. When these plants are small they need to be thinned out very well to prevent over crowding. The other option is to plant one seed per hole an adequate distance apart. 
Picture Credit:
I did not do either! In order to save what crops I could (even if they do not taste good my rabbit Charlie will enjoy them), I separated the stalks and replanted with more growing room. I also went around and clipped the tops of everything to keep them at a more manageable size as I experiment. 

I also made this mistake with my green bean plants. Luckily they are still thriving and producing about a handful of produce roughly every two days! After trying bush beans this year I think I will try my hand at pole beans next year in order to really get as much yield as possible in my small space.

I also spent some time in my parents award winning garden this past week helping to plant some fall crops such as beans and onions. After having a garden in the same spot for 10+ years the soil seems to grow the biggest, brightest, and best vegetables that I have ever seen!

They have separated their garden into sections in order to prevent cross breeding between the plants and yet some of the plants are so luscious they are spilling onto one another.

My dad has also begun a new potato planting method in all of our extra bins, barrels, and tubs. He started out with a normal potato eye wedge and buried them a few inches down in a tub of dirt.
 As the plants grow he continuously covers them with a new layer of composted cow manure and soil.

 As you can see the plants have responded very well! This method of planting keeps weeding to a minimum and will only require the tubs to be dumped out when harvest time comes!