Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to Harvest Horseradish

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horseradish root

                                                                              horseradish root

I love this time of year.  The air is cool, the earth is damp, and there are still a few edibles in the garden.  Early fall means that it is time to harvest one of my favorite vegetables.  Yes, it is horseradish season!

Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana) is a perennial that is in the Brassicaceae family.  This is the same family that includes cabbage, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, and mustard.  Since it is a perennial, you do not have to replant it every year like cabbage.  Simply leave a few horseradish roots in the ground after each harvest and you will be blessed with horseradish for years to come.  Please note that this plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 – 9.

horseradish plant

                                                                                    horseradish plant

This particular vegetable is grown specifically for its very pungent root.  As the season progresses, it develops more flavor.  My mom who raised horseradish and whose parents raised horseradish always said, “You only harvest horseradish in a month that has an ‘r’ in it”.  For her, that meant waiting until early fall with October and November being the primary months of harvest.

To test this out, I harvested some roots in May from a crop that I planted two years prior.  After washing and peeling the root, there was a faint aroma, but not the harsh note that I was expecting.  I grated the root and added it to some sour cream (a favorite way of enjoying it).  I tried it on a baked potato and the flavor was so mild, the horseradish was barely detectable.  To continue with testing, I harvested in the summer and resulting condiment had a more pronounced flavor.

But if you truly love the full depth of what horseradish can be, wait until it is no longer actively growing (which means fall) and you have already had a frost.  This year, October was my harvest month.

digging horseradish roots

digging horseradish roots

If you are worried about harvesting before a frost, don’t.  Horseradish can survive temperatures to -20F.  But with a fall harvest, your main concern should be harvesting before the ground freezes.  If you wait too long and the ground does freeze, you can simply wait to harvest the following year in early spring before the plant begins to actively grow (think February through April).

To harvest horseradish, make sure the soil is slightly damp (not wet) around the roots.  It will make harvesting easier compared to digging in a dry, hard packed soil.  Use a digging fork (just like what you would use to harvest potatoes) and start digging about 12″ away from the plant.  At this point you are loosening the soil and trying to determine which way the primary roots have grown.  For the record, it is not always straight down.  Continue to loosen the soil with the digging fork until you are able to get the fork under a large root.  Gently lift the fork, trying to prevent the root from breaking in half.  This is not always avoidable, but try to get as much of the root as possible.

After collecting the roots, wash them off.  The easiest method I have found is to rinse them off with a garden hose.  Once the roots are clean, pat them dry with a cloth.

rinsed horseradish roots

rinsed horseradish roots

Now you can either store them for later use or peel them to use now.  If  you choose to store them, place damp (not wet) sand in a large, plastic container with a lid.  Bury the roots individually with a layer of sand between them.  After that, cover the container with the lid and store in a cool location like a crawl space or basement.  Horseradish stored this way will last for several months.

You can also store unpeeled horseradish by wrapping them in paper towels and them placing them in a perforated plastic bag (like the ones grapes come in at the grocery store or you can simply poke holes in a regular plastic bag).  Once in the bag, you can store them in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator for at least a month according to Oregon State University.

Harvesting horseradish is quite simple.  Treat it like a potato using a digging fork and be sure to harvest late in the season, waiting until you have at least had a first frost.  Clean and store the horseradish and you will be able to enjoy it for months to come!

Sunshine Award

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A few weeks ago, I was humbled and honored to be chosen for the Sunshine Award.   The blogger who selected me is http://quarteracrelifestyle.wordpress.com/.  I would like to express my sincere thanks to Quarteracrelifestyle for this nomination.  As someone who recently entered the blogosphere, I am truly touched.

Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award

First the Sunshine award:
So the rules of this award are the following:

1) Use the logo above in the post.
2) Link to whoever nominated you.
3) Write ten pieces of information about yourself.
4) Nominate ten fellow bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”
5) Leave a comment on the nominees’ blogs to tell them of the award.

Ten pieces of information about myself:

1.  I love gardening.  It is my passion.

2.  I love food.  No really.  I truly enjoy the pleasure of eating good food.

3.  I grew up on a farm in northwest Iowa where we raised hogs, cattle, chickens, sometimes sheep, as well corn and soybeans, and several large vegetable gardens.

4. On a cold winter’s evening, there is nothing I enjoy more than a fire in the fireplace, a good book, and a cup of hot tea.

5. My senior year of high school, I stood on the observation deck of the World Trade Center.

6.  I can’t sing… at all.

7.  I hate cleaning out the chicken coop.  I would gladly trade that chore for anything else on our homestead.

8.  My parents were my best teachers.

9.  I once kissed Don Ho.

10.  I really enjoy making things.  It doesn’t matter if it is a homemade meal, soap, lip balm, scrapbook, or a needle work project.

I now nominate 10 people:

1.  Secondhandroses – we share a common interest in flea markets, garage sales, and the odd things that can turn up when you least expect it.

2.  Julie Rowan Zoch – I love her illustrations.  Beautiful.  Whimsical.

3.  FarmingFortCollins – we are two peas from the same pod.  Her blog focuses on local farming activities, CSAs, farmers’ markets, and interviews with local farmers.

4.  LearntoPreserve – she takes readers through the sometimes intimidating steps of canning.  She has wonderful recipes and photos.

5.  TheNerdyFarmWife – nice articles, great step by step instruction on how to make things such as balms, lotions, and recipes.

6.  TheArtisticFarmer – she has wonderful recipes and is a fellow chicken keeper.

7.  ThePrairieHomestead – we share many common interests including chickens, and she has a milk cow!  I don’t know many people these days that still have a milk cow.

8.  TheHomesteadingHippy – she gardens, cans, keeps chickens, and has some wonderful ideas that she shares.

9.  NourishedKitchen – great photos and articles, shared interests in farmers’ markets and traditional foods as well as raw cream!

10.  CurbstoneValleyFarm – organic gardens, goats, homemade soap… nice photos and nice blog.

I hope all that I nominate can accept this, if not, if you would accept the complement expressed in the nomination.   If you can’t accept I understand totally but please pass on to someone you admire.

Small Scale Egg Sale Regulations

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One of the joys of raising chickens is savoring the eggs they produce.  Imagine, you are getting fresh eggs from your own hens.   And as most chicken keepers I know, you probably have multiple hens.  I tend to think of them like I do potato chips.  I just can’t stop at having one.  That’s great, right?  But let me ask you this, what do you do with all of those eggs?

maran-chickens-three-cr-pmLike many other chicken keepers that I know,  we sell our surplus eggs.  For example, on our urban homestead, we have the maximum number of hens allowed by city ordinance.  That means we have eight chickens.  On our homestead, it is just my husband and myself.  Eight chickens versus two people.  When the chickens are laying well, they average thirtytwo eggs per week.  While we love eggs, that is more than we can consume on a weekly basis.

But since eggs are a perishable product, egg sales are regulated by the USDA.   But don’t worry, there is an always exception to the rule.  For example, in the state of Colorado, if your flock produces less than 250 dozen eggs per month, you are exempt from regulation.  This means that you can sell directly to patrons on your farm (homestead or backyard) only, without regulation by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

However, if you wish to sell your eggs at the various farmers’ markets in Colorado, you must have a Retail Food License.  At this point, according to the Colorado Cottage Foods Act of 2012, “…the egg producer needs to be recognized as an approved source by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA).”  An Egg Dealer License application is available through the Colorado Department of Agriculture website.  This Class l license is required for “each place where such business is conducted“, according to the Colorado Egg Act. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requires this license.  (For clarification, the Cottage Foods Act specifically calls out the foods that are covered by this act.  A producer is permitted to manufacture and … “Sell only a limited range of foods that are nonpotentially hazardous and that do not require refrigeration.  These foods are limited to spices, teas, dehydrated produce, nuts, seed, honey, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, baked goods and candies.”)

To help producers manage the path from farm to fork is the Colorado Farm to Market website.  According to this program, “This site was developed to familiarize Colorado food producers and food product manufacturers with federal, state, and local food licensing regulations and help ensure that the path food travels from farm to fork is safe.”  Eggs are defined as a raw agricultural product and of particular note, “only the eggs of the domesticated chicken are covered under the Colorado Department of Agriculture Egg Law and Rules.  The Department does not have regulations that apply to duck, geese, or other poultry eggs.”

Another requirement for selling at farmers’ markets is your flock must be inspected.  If it has not been inspected by the USDA, it must be inspected by the CDA (this applies to flocks in Colorado).

If the flock inspection and Egg Dealer license have not dissuaded you from selling eggs at farmers’ markets, there typically is one more regulation you must adhere to.  Eggs sold must be kept at a temperature between 33F and 41F for the duration of the market.  Inspectors have been known to attend various markets to spot check vendors.  If they test the temperature and it is above the stated maximum, you will be prevented from selling the rest of your eggs for the duration of that market.

While this article focuses on Colorado regulations, you can find out regulations by contacting your local state department of agriculture.

Eggs are not just for breakfast anymore.  They also can help you pay for dinner.