Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Garden Experiment

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

The seed catalogs come earlier and earlier each year. I hide them away until after Christmas. Then when the kids go back to school I start looking thru them. A long time ago Cyndy told me that seed orders should be in by Ground Hogs Day and I try to abide by that. So while snow and icy road were the norm, I was inside dreaming about warm weather and the garden. Maybe it was a fresh fruit deficiency or boredom with the usual that made me look at other fruits. I bought seed for Garden Huckleberry, Ground Cherry and Nanking Cherry plants.

As stated in an earlier posts , I weed wacked two cherry plants and I didn’t get many of the ground cherry. However I have saved gound cherry seed, so I can grow more of them as the kids love eating them right off the plant and I would like to try jam.

So that leaves us with the Garden Huckleberry, Solanum melanocerasum. When I first read about them in the seed catalog I went on line to research them. I found this site…. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1082/is_n1_v37/ai_13419793 And it stated: “ If you love a blueberries, you’ll love garden huckleberries too!”… Ok I love blueberries but I want to know more.

So I read on…”Garden huckleberries grow on annual plants that reach about 3 feet in height. The upright, rangy bushes thrive in just about any soil, producing heavy yields of large blue-black berries that taste wonderful in pastries, pies and preserves.” ….I liked the sounds of that, easy to grow, big yield. This plant was right up my alley of lacksadaisy gardening.

…”And they're easy to harvest -- no thorns to battle as in picking wild berries.”….I love the sound of that which is one reason I have thornless blackberries! I am not into pain.

…”The plants are rarely bothered by pests and diseases.”….Since I don’t use chemicals this was the clincher.

So I bought the seed and treated it like it’s relative the tomato. Where as I like to try new things, my mom is into the tried and true and these were not tried and true, so they went into my small garden instead of the larger shared one.

I planted 17 plants and gave some to Mary. They grew over 5 feet tall and were loaded with berries. Mary called to say “now what” and I said I don’t know I will find out. So in my usual style of jumping into hot water and then learning how to swim, I went off to find out what the hell to do with all these berries. The fact the birds wouldn't touch them now had me a little worried! They are after all part of the nightshade family and I had read that the leaves contain the alkaloid solanine, and should never be eaten.

I found this site http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cornucop/msg121035583849.html. It says…”Place 8 cups of berries in a non-aluminum one gallon size pan and add enough water to not quite cover the fruit. As they begin to boil add a total of 1/3 cup of baking soda (a little at a time) and stir continuously. As you add baking soda, green foam will appear. After adding the baking soda, cook for 10 minutes at a low boil. The mixture will continue to foam quite a bit as the berries are cooking. After they have cooked for 10 minutes, drain this solution off and rinse with clean water. The berries will still be somewhat hard. Next return the pan of berries to the stove, add 1/3 cup water and ½ cup of lemon juice. Watch with amazement as the mixture changes from emerald green to a royal purple color.” Well, green foam doesn’t sound very appetizing but seeing it change color sounds cool. (insert mad scientist laugh).

So today was the day we had planned to get these out of the garden. I awoke to find out we were due for a severe thunderstorm with possible hail. I didn’t want the berries knocked off, so I got the kids on the bus, man off to work and hauled my ass out to the garden before the drops started. I got the berries off 1 ½ plants and by that time the thunder was no longer a distant rumble and self-preservation demanded I go inside.

You need to use garden clippers to clip each stem off the plant. So when I came inside I plucked each berry off the stem. Trust me there was no need to worry about the rain or hail knocking them off. Amazingly enough I got 9 cups from my quick picking, so it was time to experiment!

I washed, rinsed, added enough water to cover and put them on the heat. Soon the water started to turn purple. When it started to boil we added the baking soda and the water foamed neon green. This is not a good pic. This one shows the color better. We cooked it for 10 minutes and rinsed. Added some cornstarch, lemon, water and sugar and we had garden huckleberry (mock blueberry) pie filling. It doesn't taste exactly like blueberry like they say but it is not bad so I have to pick more and try jam, syrup and freezing them for muffins and pancakes. So far as a learning experiment it is something easy to grow and is something different to can. I will be planting them again next year.

1 comment:

cyndy said...

Wow...they look very much like a blueberry! Great information--glad you were able to figure out how to use them! "Kitchen Chemistry" is fun!