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Groundcherry Discovery

Ripe groundcherries.

Ripe groundcherries.

On a visit to the Farm, while walking through one of the pastures, we discovered something very exciting — perennial groundcherries! After a little research, I believe they are Physalis viscosa specifically.

This is particularly exciting because I was already really interested in growing groundcherries and had started a few Aunt Molly’s groundcherry plants from seed. However, now that I’ve made this discovery, I plan on propagating these instead, since I know they thrive in this climate. Plus, I hear they’re pretty tasty groundcherries. I had a couple and thought they tasted good, but I don’t have much room for comparison. It was nice to get a more diverse option.

Also known as ‘golden berries’, a popular health food, these groundcherries have the possibility of becoming one of our cash crops.

A member of the nightshade family, they could be toxic to livestock (the unripe fruit in particular) so we’re going to have to fence off the area where the plants are growing as long as we have livestock grazing that area.

Starhair groundcherry (Physalis viscosa) plant, flower, and husk.

Starhair groundcherry (Physalis viscosa) plant, flower, and husk.

Catnip — It’s Pretty Awesome

Dried catnip (Nepeta cataria).

Dried catnip (Nepeta cataria).

I’ve been geeking out on catnip (Nepeta cataria) lately — learning about it, growing it, drying it, and trying it. A good choice since growing it is almost fool-proof and the plant itself is super useful.

For the Garden

Catnip attracts beneficial insects that eat aphids, repels cockroaches and mosquitoes, and honey bees love it!

For Humans

The tea has so many purported health benefits (sleep aid, migraine relief, anxiety reduction) that I had to make some on the spot.

From The Canadian Veterinary Journal: “Other uses for catnip have been as a cold remedy, for hives, as a diaphoretic (induces sweating), a refrigerant (cools the body), and an anodyne (relieves pain).”

For Cats

Cats are attracted to the organic compound, Nepetalactone, found in catnip. When cats sense the bruised leaves or stems, they start rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it.

My interest in catnip started with the refillable catnip pillows that I make for my cats. It’s been a goal of mine to sell them somewhere in town, so, as an extension of that, I decided to grow the catnip for them as well.

I currently have four plants in my greenhouse and I’ve harvested from them twice. The first time I bundled and hung the catnip upside-down to dry it. That bunch took two months to dry, way too long. The second time, I removed the leaves from the stems, placed them flat on paper towels (stacked about five layers high), and put them onto the rack in my gas oven, letting the low heat of the pilot light dry the leaves. That batch dried in 48 hours, much better.

Once dry, I gave some of the homegrown catnip to my quality control team. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at their testing process:

Cooking with Sweet Potatoes

I subscribe to a local produce delivery service and they’ve been delivering a lot of sweet potatoes lately. Sweet potatoes aren’t something I eat very often (ever) but, in addition to all of their other benefits, they can be grown as a perennial here, so I’m trying to develop a taste for them.

My only sweet potato experience up to this point was with the marshmallow-covered, orange mush, so when picking recipes, I tried to keep as far from that as possible. I decided to try fries and bread.

Sweet Potato Bread

Sweet Potato Bread

The Bread

The bread was delicious! I expect this to become a staple around here, because Ed’s hooked on it now. I’ve made it twice already and I still have a couple of potatoes left, with more on the way, so I will be making more very soon.

The Fries

The fries were less of a success. Ed loved them but I fell squarely into ‘meh’. I cut them too thick (like steak fries) so the outside was overcooked and the texture inside resembled the orange mush casserole a little too much. I preferred the fries that were on the thinner-side so I am going to make these again, but next time I’ll cut them more like shoestring fries. (The fries were no where near cute enough to photograph.)