Garlic Festival and Elderberry syrup

From Birch Moon Farm & Herbals, 42 Cooleyville Rd, Shutesbury, MA

Hooray for rain…!!!

I hope it rains all week, then is sunny for the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival this weekend! Hope you all can make it.

(By the way, we will be closed at the farm Saturday, since we will be at the Garlic Fest!)

Our booth - Garlic & Arts Festival 2007

There is a great variety of locally grown food, products, music and much more. This will be our 5th or 6th year with a booth there, come visit us! We are the ones (only ones I think) with a stand made of wood, milled and built at the festival site (friday). You can smell the delicious fresh pine scent just walking by (but please come in!) We’ll have all my bodycare products, as well as tea blends, first-aid kits, salve-making kits and hopefully lip balm-making kits (if I can get them done in time…)

We may bring garlic and onions again, or we may just save them for our Shutesbury Market. We will bring a few cases of Olea Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil for customers who need to pick some up, but may keep it under the table since we do not “grow” it ourselves. Just ask if you need some.

So on another note – it’s time to start your elderberry elixer for the coming season of viruses (I write while blowing my nose, already caught one!) so the following is the absolute easiest method of making elderberry elixer yourself. Fresh elderberries made into a syrup is just as wonderful and healing, but much more time-consuming, and they have mostly been eaten by birds, so try this:

Elderberry Elixer

you need:

one quart jar

1  cup dried organic elderberries (I sell them if you need ’em)

about 3 cups of honey (we use Warm Colors Apiary Honey)

brandy, vodka or organic apple cider vinegar ~ 1 cup or less

(I have never made it with cider vinegar but it is very healing and preserving and great if you are avoiding alcohol – but have no idea as to the overall taste outcome… and The Wine Rack in Greenfield sells organic Vodka, FYI)

optional: fresh(Old Friends Farm in Amherst!) or dried ginger – not much, maybe 2-3 tsp grated fresh, 1 tsp dried

or a pinch of cayenne, a little cinnamon, some dried echinacea root…endless possibilities (best to start simple)

So put the elderberries and any optional herbs in the jar (typically dry herbs should be 1/5 of the total mixture, but I am simplifying by saying 1 cup (1/4 of the total, so add a little less if you want, it wont hurt either way). Then pour in half the honey and mix well with a wooden spoon (so as not to break the glass!). When thoroughly mixed, add more honey, leaving about 1-1/2 inches open at the top. Add alcohol to 1/2-inch below the top, leaving room to shake it up (once covered). Put a lid on it, preferably BPA-free (Quattro Stagioni by Bormioli Rocco are sold in 2-packs at Greenfield Farmers Coop Exchange or throught the NOFA-MA bulk order next Spring) or use on of those hard-plastic (white) Ball lids. Shake daily. Ideally a dark place is great, but I find the only way I shake them daily (or a few times daily) is to leave them on my counter! That is fine, too. This will need to infuse for about 6 weeks. Take a spoonful when you feel a cold or flu coming on, 6 times a day or more if you are really fighting off something strong!  Sleep also helps, and avoid all other sugar/honey/syrup/wheat/flour  products (besides this elixer) until you are in the clear. Voila!

Elderberry is antiviral, and if you add ginger, the warming effects of the ginger help the Elderberry get where it needs to go, speedily.

Fresh Elderberries this Summer

You can make this more of an “extract” or “tincture” by using mostly alcohol with a little honey (switch the amounts, or any combo in between) but this is delicious and seems to keep well out of the fridge. In June I put last-year’s batch in the fridge, strained, just in case it was thinking of molding, and it is still fine (delicious!). The elixer can also be used in tea in place of plain honey. I have tried it with ONLY honey and dried berries and it was too thick. I added a bit of steeped elderberry tea to thin it out, but it never really got the strong berry-flavor that I got with the alcohol (and I’m guessing with cider vinegar).

These make great gifts, reusing jelly jars, with the herbs in them so people see the process…

It is very easy and satisfying to make your own medicine. Especially when you fight off your cold or flu by drinking ginger tea and taking your Elderberry Elixer…     that being said I guess I should put in a disclaimer that I am not responsible or making any claims to cure or heal any disease, all that. Go to a doctor if in question. We have great Naturopaths and Herbalists around here if you want someone less conventional.

That was more than I was originally going to say about that! But I hope it is helpful. Call or come by Wed 4-6 or Sat 12-6 (but not this Sat, we’ll be closed for the Garlic Festival) or come to the last few weeks of the Shutesbury Farmers Market! I’m always happy to give demonstrations or private classes, or just answer questions! Enjoy the rain!!

Gingersnap Granola!

Today we made Gingersnap granola!

It was really easy and everyone loved it.



(we use all organic ingredients)            Preheat oven to 250 degrees F

3 cups organic rolled oats

1 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 cup chopped pecans (or try almonds or pumpkin seeds, whatever you have)

Mix those together in a bowl. In a separate (small) bowl or measuring cup mix:

3/4 cup sunflower oil (or any light veggie oil)

1/4-1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup – I did 1/4 c. honey, 1/8 c. maple syrup and a drizzle of molasses!)

1 Tbls. vanilla extract

Mix and pour over oat mixture, then stir in :

1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

pinch of salt (optional)

2 tsp. powdered cinnamon

1 tsp. powdered ginger

1/4 tsp. powdered cloves

Stir together, taste and adjust spices if needed, then put in a large roasting pan and bake 35-45 minutes, stirring regularly, until it becomes a nice golden brown.  After you take it out of the oven you can add  1/2 cup raisins or freshly ground flax seeds if you like. Cool in pan then store in glass jars. Stores best in the freezer but it doesn’t last long enough in our home to make it anywhere but the counter…

Great on yogurt or ice cream, with local, grassfed, raw milk, or just plain. We eat ours with Side Hill Farm yogurt – plain – because I put a little extra sweetener in this than I usually do for our family’s granola. Hope you enjoy this! And the recipe is pretty flexible, so omit the spices, add apricots instead of raisins, try different nuts… it pretty-much always tastes good as long as you don’t burn it!

Welcome and Winter farming!

Welcome to

Birch Moon

Farm & Herbals

We will be sharing our

farming and gardening projects,

recipes (both food and herbal),

produce lists as veggies become available for sale,

seasonal adventures and celebrations,

sewing, crafts, photos and I’m sure lots more!

If you would like to receive these emails regularly please click on this link and find the “ Sign me up!” button on the top right corner under  “EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION“. This way you will automatically receive an email as each post comes out (which wont be too often since a farm does require outside work…) But I especially recommend signing up if you want to know when spinach becomes available, or when we have beautiful heads of lettuce ready to eat!

Happy Mid-February!

The moon is ready (Feb 21st) so we started our onions, leeks, broccoli, lettuce, kale, and some early Sungold cherry tomatoes (for the greenhouse)!

January 21st we had started some really early kale, lettuce and broccoli plants for our winter greenhouse…… they go out into the greenhouse during the day and inside at night. Soon we will plant them out and make insulation boxes around them for night time warmth.

Quinn and I did a little weeding in the Winter Greenhouse the other day… the temperature in there must have dropped 20 degrees when the sun went behind the trees. I’m glad I took my afternoon garden nap before I worked! The air in there is SO beautiful… a welcome change from winter’s cold, dry air.

I want to share a recipe for an amazing GREEN drink (I made today). It is great when you are sick or are just trying to avoid dairy but need something satisfying and creamy 🙂   It also helps to alkalize the body and balance out all our sugar habits (wheat included). Organic ingredients only, of course…

Avocado Lime Shake

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1 grapefruit

1/2 can of coconut milk (almond milk works great but is not as creamy)

1 avocado

1 tsp. spirulina or greens powder if you have it

1-2 cups raw spinach (mesclun mix works well too)

ice cubes (optional)

blend it all in a blender then drink!

In summer add I a cucumber and some fresh mint leaves. In winter I omit the ice and add a little vanilla extract. A peppery mesclun mix adds a neat flavor…

Well that’s all for today, more to come soon!