Growing Strawberries From Seed

This past December, I saved seed from some large, delicious strawberries from the grocery store. I dried the seeds and stashed them away with my other "odd" seeds. I freely admit it, I'm a seed-aholic. I must save all seeds! This does result in a rather large container of odd seeds for every occasion. The strawberry seeds are very tiny! 

A few days ago I saw a post on the Facebook "Grow Food  Not Lawns" group about successfully germinating strawberry seeds. It reminded me that I have strawberry seed and I could do this too! 

After a little research, here is the information I found re starting strawberries from seed: 

- Better germination rates are attained if the seed is refrigerated for about 4 weeks first. 
- They need to be in some small amount of light to germinate, after refrigeration or right away if not refrigerating first. 

I started some of my seed between damp paper towels and put them in a drawer in the refrigerator, out of the way in hubby's "butter" drawer at the bottom. I thought it would be the only place in the fridge where we wouldn't be tripping over them all the time. I'm not sure I will leave them there for 4 weeks. I might bring some out at 2 weeks and see how it goes. 

I also sprinkled some on a shallow tray of soil mixed with vermiculite, moistened first with very warm water. I pressed the seeds down on the soil. I did not cover them with soil, as they need the soft light to germinate, and put a clear lid on the container. 

The articles I read said that some germination is attained with the soil method, without cold first, its just that better germination is attained with the cold, so I have done both. 

We'll see how it goes! 

Walnut Substitute - Homegrown!

When someone told me that impatiens glandulifera seeds taste just like walnuts, I said, "really, really? Hmmmm....I will have to see that for myself!" and so I have!

They do taste like walnuts! They do! They do! I am so excited about this discovery! I can grow my own nuts, well, sort of...

I put some in my pumpkin muffins and they were delicious!

This opens a new door for people with nut allergies. You can now have so called "banana nut" muffins! Not only that, they are virtually free and you can grow them in your own yard. These are pink but they come in white too. 

They grow wild here in the Fort Nelson area in fields and road sides. The ones here are white. They are invasive and considered by many to be a weed. I think they are beautiful! 

Mine get about 4-6' tall and have been known to reach 8'! They like moist shade. It's an impatiens, but not the little ones that you buy cheap in every garden center in the spring. This is closer to the jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, with the same "touch-me-not" seed pods. If you grow them, you will learn to close your entire hand over the ripe seed pod before touching it. Spread them out to dry well before saving them for baking.

To plant the seeds, just sprinkle on the ground in the fall. They need a cold, moist winter and sunlight to germinate. They are prolific reseeders! If you buy them now, just sprinkle on the ground, on top of the snow, where you want them to grow. When the snow melts they will come in contact with the soil and grow.

Warning: these can be very invasive! Mine are controlled by collecting most of the seeds.

They are also beautiful flowers for the back of the shade garden.

The big, fuzzy yellow bumblebees like them - and so do I!

Healthy, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

We eat a lot of cookies around here so I have developed a recipe that makes them fairly healthy. Although they do contain a fair amount of sugar, it is not "empty" calories.

One thing I have added is Quinoa 
grain (pronounced "keen-wah"). Here is more info about quinoa:

"The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine. The protein in quinoa is considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Some types of wheat come close to matching quinoa's protein content, but grains such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and four ounces a day, about 1/2-cup, will provide a child's protein needs for one day."

I chose quinoa as an additive because of the protein content. I can even eat some of these cookies, within reason, without suffering a carb "crash". I sometimes grab a couple for breakfast before heading out to the fields in the early morning when nothing else is available that is quick and ready to go, after the two cups of coffee, that is. No, I don't grow my own coffee...yet, but I might look at growing my own quinoa, maybe later.

I buy it from a bin at the bulk food store. Its readily available in many grocery stores, but more costly there. I also grind it before adding it uncooked to things like cookies. I have a small coffee/spice grinder that I use for that.
I love my grinder and use it to grind a lot of things!

I have started using
Demerara sugar also from a bin at the bulk food store. I use it mainly because of the high molasses content. I love molasses! Molasses is high in iron and a lot of other minerals and I just like the taste. I particularly like it with peanut butter on something hot, where the peanut butter melts and the molasses mixes in with it. No one else in my family shares this love of molasses, but they like the cookies.

You can use regular brown sugar in this cookie recipe, if you want to.

I use hard whole wheat flour, also from the bulk food store. We are trying our best to get away from using white flour for anything. I might even start making our own burger buns with hard whole wheat flour.

I know people who refuse to eat things from bins at the bulk food store but I shop there a lot. I am cooking these things in the oven, after all, so whatever might have been sneezed in there is going to be dead when it comes out of the oven. The bulk food store where I shop is a very clean, well manned, professional place anyway. Sure, there are people out there who will sneeze in the bins in a store, but they are few and far between. We have to be reasonable, people.

Another thing I add is ground flax, only because I have quite a lot to use up and its good for you.

The recipe makes a lot of cookies, several dozen. I make them small enough to fit into those "snack" size zip lock bags.

Recipe for chewy healthy oatmeal cookies

Preheat oven to 350F

  • 1 lb butter, 2 cups melted (I do this in a glass 2 cup measure in the microwave, 2 mins)
  • 2 cups white sugar (you can lower this for less sweet cookies)
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed into measure
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1.5 cups light weight commercial cereal (Spec K, flakes, rice)
  • 2 cups combined ground and whole grains (quinoa, flax, ground nuts, etc)
  • 5 eggs (you can add an extra egg for even more protein content)

    Mix these altogether in extremely large bowl. Then add:
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2.5 cups your choice combined raisins/nuts/shelled sunflower and squash seeds/chips (choc,butterscotch,peanut butter)

Mix into dough. You will need to drop the spoon and use your hands at some point.

Roll into balls and bake on greased cookie sheet for 11-13 mins. Make sure your oven is baking at the right temperature.

I freeze what doesn't fit into the cookie jar. These never get hard. We even eat them frozen. I like them better that way.

Lasagna Gardening

Contents of this very long article on starting a garden: 

- Lasagna gardening - an explanation
- How to make a no till garden on your lawn
- Raised gardens
- Organic Mulch Layers
- How to plant in a lasagna garden
- Weeding
- Going Vertical

Lasagna gardening is a no-dig, no-till organic gardening method that results in rich soil with very little work from the gardener. The name "lasagna gardening" refers to the buildup of layers of organic material on top of cardboard or thick newspaper, also known as “sheet composting."

One of the best things about lasagna gardening is how easy it is. You don't have to remove existing sod and weeds or dig at all. The first layer consists of either brown corrugated cardboard or at least six layers of newspaper laid directly on top of the grass or weeds in the area you've selected for your garden. Cover the garden areas with cardboard as soon as the snow is gone. Corrugated cardboard, that used for brown boxes, is best for the food areas. Worms love it! You can use other types of cardboard for the paths and open areas, i.e. soda can cases, cereal boxes, magazines. While you don't need to remove the grass and weeds, I would remove rocks. They are great for holding cardboard in place or using for stepping stones through the growing plants.

Wet the cardboard/paper area down to keep everything in place and layer with organic materials. The grass and/or weeds underneath will break down fairly quickly because they will be smothered by the newspaper or cardboard, as well as by the materials you're going to layer on top of them. Overlay the edges, or the grass will grow through! This layer also provides a dark, moist area to attract earthworms that will loosen up the soil as they tunnel through it. If you don't yet have organic layers, you can keep the cardboard down with rocks, bricks, logs or anything else you have that will keep it from blowing away. 

If you already have larger plants in place, layer the cardboard around them, giving them an inch or so of space to keep the wet cardboard from touching the stems. Layer organic mulch on top of this. Do this as the summer wears on and the initial paper/cardboard starts to break down. Continue to layer around the mature plants to keep the grass and weeds from growing. When making a garden on a lawn, grass will be a more insidious problem than weeds. 

It's a great way to get rid of your lawn. If you're on a reasonably small city lot, what do you need grass for anyway? It has no practical value and takes a lot of chemicals poured on it to keep it looking nice. (Why anyone would pour deadly, noxious chemicals in the earth for a useless lawn is beyond me.) If you have soft lawn, you don't need it tilled first. If you have hard clay, gravel, etc and are adding top soil/manure, I would till it first if you want to use it right away or make raised gardens. (See below.) If you are going to wait until the following year, let the worms do it for you under the cardboard. 

Raised Gardens: 

If your ground is very hard clay, gravel, sand or rock, I would recommend making raised gardens. They don't have to be deep but higher sides makes gardening easy for people with bad backs or physical limitations. Also keep it narrow enough to reach across from one side. Three feet is the widest across I would build one. It can be any length or even U-shaped. Build boxes to contain soil on top of the lawn. You will still need to do the layering with cardboard/paper inside the box. You would be surprised how far some grass and weeds will grow to survive! 

Filling the raised boxes: "Hugel Culture" (Hugelkulture) is making beds on top of log piles. Its quickly catching on as a way to make raised garden beds, letting the old logs feed the soil and plants. Fill those raised beds with natural branches and logs on top of the cardboard, before you fill it with soil. You will need less soil. Put several inches of soil on top of the wood. Layer this with mulch to keep the weeds down. They will grow on any open dirt spots, even in raised beds. The wood will decompose and feed the soil, gradually. The plant roots will grow into it. In three years the logs will be gone, making rich soil. 

If building tall boxes, fill the bottom with something to take up the space, something inert, nontoxic that the plant roots can grow around so you will need less soil. Top soil is hard to find here. Suggestions are: natural branches and logs (NOT railway ties, landscaping ties or pressure treated!), styrofoam packing pieces broken up small and styrofoam peanuts, small water bottles, crushed milk jugs, soda cans. Leave enough space for about 1.5 feet of soil on top, after it filters down through the space fillers at the bottom. Don't leave air pockets. Make sure the spaces are filled with soil all the way down. Mix in a little well composted manure in the bottom soil. 

You can make raised beds out of anything that will hold the soil in. Square straw (not hay!) bales are becoming popular for raised bed sides. Its not ideal to use pressure treated wood, but if you line the boxes all the way around and over the top with heavy plastic, it will be fine. You can use metal roofing or panels for sides.

Large logs make good raised garden sides. Cement blocks can be used if they have been outside for a couple of years so the strong lime has been leached out of them. Otherwise, I would line a cement block garden with heavy plastic. 

Raised bed are also easy to cover. Use 1" pvc for the arches, cover with plastic for a mini greenhouse, or curtain sheers for protection from deer, cabbage moths, etc. 

Organic Mulch Layers

Anything that does not contain meat, dairy, egg products of any kind, or sprayed can be used as mulch on the cardboard/paper. Meat products, eggs, dairy will stink terribly and attract wildlife that you don't want in your garden (bears!). Its also not a good idea to use processed food/ grains/ cereals in your compost pile. Never put cereal in it that has had milk on it! If you use something that has been sprayed with weed killer or herbicide, it will kill your plants. 

Some choices for organic mulch layers:

1. Manure! I would recommend using well composted ** (See Note below) manure around the growing areas directly on top of the cardboard/paper. If your lawn has been growing grass and/or weeds, the soil will be depleted. Also any wood based layers you have will use up the nitrogen in the soil as they break down. The manure will fix that and replace any other needs in the depleted soil.  
2. Grass clipping after mowing, if not sprayed, 
3. Fall leaves, mowed to chop them up, 
4. Shredded computer paper. Ask offices for it. Its wood based,
5. Wood chips * (See Note below on wood based mulch in the garden),
6. Straw,
7. Hay, only if going on top of cardboard. Don't put it directly on the ground or you will be growing grass there,

*NOTE: Wood based products are fine in the garden, as long as you add some well composted manure for extra nitrogen. Wood uses up the nitrogen in the soil to decompose. 

**NOTE: Make sure any cow/sheep manure you use has been properly composted: piled for a season so it gets really hot, hot enough to kill the weed seeds, or you will be growing grass and weeds. If you are not sure how hot it has been composted, put it underneath the cardboard. If it has not aged enough, the high nitrogen content will kill your plants. Chicken manure needs to age for two years before you can safely put it on your plants. Store bought manure is fine. 

Planting: For the seed rows, 

Option #1: Put down a layer of fine soil or compost on top of the mulch for the seed rows and plant in it. Top the seeds with soil and press down lightly. A rule of thumb for how deep to plant seeds: Soil on top of seed should only be as tall as the length of the seed. So something like carrot seed should only have a light sprinkle of soil on top. The roots will grow down through the layers and eventually through the cardboard. 

Option #2: Lay the initial layer of cardboard, leaving 1.5" - 2" inch rows open on the ground for planting seeds. Cover the cardboard with organic layers. On top of the organic layers, keeping it visible, cover your open seeding rows with cardboard you have weighed down with rocks or bricks to hold it in place temporarily. When planting time comes, most grass and weeds will be dead and smothered under the cardboard. Remove the top cardboard over the planting rows. Plant seeds directly in the ground in these very narrow rows and cover lightly with a layer of compost. Water very gently and press down lightly. 

For myself, I usually use a shovel and dig up just these narrow rows and remove grass clods, roots and any perennial weeds before laying down the cardboard. However, I don't believe its entirely necessary. I just like to spend a little time in the spring digging in the dirt :) . 

For transplants, simply pull back the layers of mulch, drop in the plant and pull some mulching materials back over the roots. Leave a little space around the plant for air circulation.

Weeding:  As you watch these rows grow, carefully leaving only the sprouting vegetables, pull up or cut off any weeds/grass that grows. If not sure, just leave it to grow awhile and then pull up or dig out any weeds that grow in this row with the vegetables. If left to grow, grass will become a more insidious problem than the weeds. As long as the weeds don't go to seed or interfere with the growth of the baby vegetables, they can be left to grow until its safe to remove them without damaging your tender, baby vegetable plants. There won't be much to weed out and once it's gone, weeding these very narrow rows will be easy. When the vegetable plants are tall enough and you have thinned them, place cardboard and mulch between the plants to keep the weeds/grass down. Keep placing cardboard and inches of mulch wherever grass and weeds begin to grow.

I recommend setting aside one day every week for weeding. Using a hoe for larger seedlings or by hand with smaller ones, weed the entire garden, covering with cardboard those areas where the grass and weeds are growing. If you have been using the cardboard everywhere around the plants and in the open areas, there won't be much to do. One morning a week, weeding needs to be your focus, everything else waits. If you do this, you won't have a weeding problem and gardening will be fun and easy. Pull baby weeds as you do your daily walk through your garden to see the changes and just to enjoy your garden growing. Pull any grass and weeds you see when they are little. Don't let the work get ahead of you or it will take time to catch it back up. Note: Control the grass. Grass is hard to control once it takes over.

Going Vertical

If you only have a little space, grow vertical! Make tall plants trellises over the pathways. If you are growing something like squash or 
melons vertically, you will need strong supports to hold the vine up and something extra to hold the fruit. 
We used cardboard and neighborhood grass clippings to make the front bed last fall. 

Lasagna gardening is definitely the way to build vegetable or flower beds! We use this method for both. Because it uses no power tools, heavy equipment or expensive commercial additives, lasagna gardening is an easy way for anyone to maintain garden productivity.

If you have deer or large dogs roaming around the neighborhood, you might want to put a fence around it. It will keep out the dogs, anyway...

Fiddleheads - picking, nutrition, cooking, canning, recipes

Spring is just around the corner up here in the far north. Its already here in many areas of Canada! With the coming of spring, comes new growth in the forests and wild areas where the edible Ostrich ferns grow. Fiddleheads are the baby fronds not yet unfurled on ferns.

The fiddleheads on the Ostrich fern can be identified by the papery covering that splits when the fiddlehead grows and the smooth stems with a deep, U-shaped groove on the inside.
They can usually be found growing wild all over a damp forest floor, along streams, riverbanks and swampy areas. They like wet ground. Sometimes you can find a patch with hundreds. 

When you pick the fiddleheads, leave several fronds (leaves) on each fern so it can food make to grow and survive for next year. Forage responsibly. 

Before fiddleheads are edible, they have to be prepared properly. When raw, they can make you sick. 

When we eat fiddleheads, I boil them for 15 mins, drain and rinse several times. Then I toss them in a skillet with butter and garlic and saute. They taste similar to asparagus and green beans. Delicious!! 

Fiddlehead Nutrition: 

Fiddlehead ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Fresh, raw, Nutrition Value per 100 g, (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy34 Kcal1.7%
Carbohydrates5.54 g4%
Protein4.55 g8%
Total Fat0.40 g2%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Niacin4.980 mg31%
Riboflavin0.210 mg16%
Thiamin0.020 mg1.5%
Vitamin A3617 IU120.5%
Vitamin C26.6 mg44%
Sodium1 mg<1%
Potassium370 mg8%
Calcium32 mg3%
Copper0.320 mg35.5%
Iron1.31 mg16%
Magnesium34 mg8.5%
Manganese0.510 mg22%
Selenium0.7 mcg1%
Zinc0.83 mg7.5%
Carotene-ß2040 µg--
Carotene-α261 µg--

From the Gov of Canada food safety website*.

  • Using your fingers, remove as much of the brown papery husk on the fiddlehead as possible.
  • Wash the fiddleheads in several changes of fresh, cold water to remove any residual husk or dirt.


  • Cook fiddleheads in a generous amount of boiling water for 15 minutes, or steam them for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Discard the water used for boiling or steaming the fiddleheads.
  • Cook fiddleheads before sautéing, frying, baking, or using them in other foods like mousses and soups.


  • Clean the fiddleheads properly.
  • Boil them for two minutes.
  • Discard the cooking water.
  • Plunge the fiddleheads into cold water and drain.
  • Pack the fiddleheads in freezer containers or bags.
  • Store fiddleheads in the freezer for up to one year for best quality.
  • Follow the complete cooking instructions above before serving.

From the Maine, USA Gov Extension**: 

Canning Fiddleheads: 
  • UMaine Cooperative Extension does not recommend pressure canning as a method to preserve fiddleheads because process times have not been established and tested for home food preservation.
  • Commercial cider or white vinegar should be used and must have at least 5% acidity.
  • As guidance, approximately 3 pounds of raw fiddleheads should yield about 6 pints of pickled fiddleheads.
  • The brine should cover all the fiddleheads in the jar, while leaving a 1/2-inch headspace to ensure a proper seal.
  • Be sure to use best canning practices during the water bath process, which includes covering all jars in the canner with at least 1 inch of water and timing the boiling process when the water reaches a rolling boil (212 deg F) with all the jars in the canner.
  • Check for a proper seal on the jars after processed jars have cooled.  If the tops are not depressed or have “popped”, place these jars immediately in the refrigerator and eat the fiddleheads within 1 month.

Fiddlehead Recipes
Pearl barley risotto with fiddleheads, squash and walnuts
This is a recipe by Chef Kyle Christofferson, winner of the 2011 "So You Think You Can Cook" fiddlehead competition. ***
50 g fiddleheads, trimmed and blanched
50 g roasted butternut squash, ¼ inch dice
50 g pearl barley (cooked to al dente)
15 g roasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp marscapone cheese
1 tbsp parmasean cheese
1 tsp chives
2 tbsp vegetable stock
¼ tsp sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Serve warm.

Sweet Pickled Fiddleheads

1 quart cider or white vinegar (5% acidity)
5 cups sugar
2 teaspoons canning & pickling salt
Clean and wash fiddleheads thoroughly using the process above. Mix vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan, bring to a boil and immediately pour over fiddleheads that are packed into clean pint jars. Remove air bubbles, adjust the liquid to 1/2-inch headspace and wipe the jar rim. Apply two-piece dome lids and adjust lids to fingertip tight. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, ensuring a rolling boil for the full 15 minutes and at least 1-inch of water is covering all jars in the water bath.
Makes approximately 6 pints if using 3 pounds of raw, cleaned and trimmed fiddleheads.

Shrimp and Fiddlehead Medley

1 pound fresh fiddleheads
6 ounces linguine, uncooked
6 cups water
1 ¾ pounds Maine shrimp, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon olive oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Clean and wash fiddleheads using the process above. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan, add shrimp and cook 3-5 minutes, or until slightly opaque white in color (frozen shrimp may take longer). Drain well, and set aside. Cook fiddleheads in boiling water (enough water to cover all fiddleheads during cooking) for 15 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed, without salt or oil. Drain well, set aside and keep warm.
Add olive oil to a large, nonstick skillet and heat on medium high. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until crisp-tender. Stir in fiddleheads. Add sliced mushrooms, thyme, pepper, salt and celery seeds to vegetable mixture; stir well. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring often. Stir in shrimp and lemon juice; cook until heated through, stirring often.
Place pasta on a large platter. Spoon shrimp and fiddlehead mixture on top. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.

Fiddlehead Dijon

1 ½ pounds fresh fiddleheads
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Clean and wash fiddleheads using the process above. Place fiddleheads in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam 12 minutes or until tender, but still crisp. Set aside, and keep warm.
Combine cornstarch and buttermilk in a small saucepan, stir well. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in mustard, lemon juice, tarragon and pepper.
Arrange fiddleheads on a serving platter. Spoon sauce over fiddleheads. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.