About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!

Drinking Dandelions

Photo by Amy Renea

Dandelions are perhaps the most recognizable weed in America.  Those little yellow tops pepper the lawns of homes and universities alike, and keep lawn care companies in business.  Of course, you might not know that those leaves and those little yellow button tops are completely edible.  Many of our weeds are!  Remember purslane?

Today’s weed though is that sweet little flower that we love blowing in the wind to alight our wishes.  (p.s. Don’t eat those seeds — they don’t taste very good!  Just eat the flowers and leaves!)

hibiscus and dandelion tea / photo by Amy Renea

My favorite way to eat dandelions is in a sweet dandelion hibiscus tea.  A combination of sweet and slightly bitter, the tea is perfect for breakfast as a hot tea and also works as a sweet iced tea in the afternoon.

For the full recipe, visit A Nest for All Seasons and start brewing!

I knew you might want more than just tea, so I’ve collected some of my favorite dandelion recipes for you!

Let’s start with more beverages:

  • My Herbal Journey has a wonderful Dandelion Tea Recipe, while Mother Earth News has a delicious Dandelion Wine.
  • To preserve the fruit, you might want to try a Dandelion Jelly.  The Best Nest has a good recipe!
  • Last, but not least, how about a Dandelion Coffee?  Did you know that folks often made dandelion coffee during the Great Depression when coffee was hard to come by?  It is certainly not as good as our favorite brew, but is a pretty good understudy!  Check out this recipe on www.learningherbs.com.

Are you convinced yet?  Go pick a couple of those little lovelies and give them a try!  You never know — you might just find your new favorite free food!

About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!

Duo of Planting Ideas for Tin Cans

Photo by Amy Renea

Anybody have tin cans in the pantry? Of course you do! I would be hard-pressed to find an American without a few tins cans hanging out in the pantry. From canned soups to vegetables to condiments, cans are a ubiquotous symbol of our American eating. Sadly, the tin can is also found hanging out at trash dumps far too often. Of course, recycling cans is one option, but there is still quite a bit of energy in the recycling truck’s trip to your house to pick upt he can, the sorting and melting of the can itself and the creation of a new tin can.

tin can gardening / photo by Amy ReneaInstead of throwing them out, consider cleaning up those cans and giving them new life as plant receptacles.

There are so many ways to repurpose tin cans that they received their very own pin board in my pinterest collection. From wind socks to candles to a xylophone and bird house, tin cans can be reworked into a variety of ways.

For my planter, I took 5 cans in various sizes, painted them with an exterior, construction grade hot pink and planted them with bleeding heart cuttings.

 

You must either poke drainage holes in the bottom of tin cans or be very light in your watering habits!

Another planter in my houses involves cans in a more horizontal shape. This shoji screen turned planter includes chickens and tuna cans planted out with various succulents.

screen planter / photo by Amy Renea

Whatever your taste, there is certain to be a tin can that can be repurposed to make your life a little easier, your view a little prettier and the dump a little less full.  Take a few minutes to rethink those tuna cans and chicken noodle receptacles and create something grand!

About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!

Using Redbuds in Edible Applications

If you are in zone 4 or 5, you will probably be noticing a beautiful purple haze spreading in the forest right about now.  If you look closely, you’ll see that those purple hazes are actually little flower buds on a tree aptly named “redbud”.  Of course, the name isn’t totally accurate in that the buds are much more purple and pink as opposed to red, but nobody gives “red” onions a hard time either, so we’ll let it slide.

pantry peach pie by Amy ReneaThe most interesting aspect of redbuds is that the flowers will appear on the branches, but also along the bark of the trunk.  Second most interesting fact?  They are edible.  The little buds don’t have a strong flavor, just a woodsy, floral taste, but they are perfect for jazzing up a classic dish like peach pie. Doesn’t the pink play off the peach tones beautifully?

This is my classic pantry peach pie, made from ingredients I already had an hand and beautified with a sprinkling of redbud.  Any old cake mix, frozen pie crust canned fruit or even the classic fruit crumble can go from plain old boring dessert to fresh and inviting, simply by adding a few fresh herbs or edible flowers.  This spring, you might try planting nasturtium, mint, lemon balm or rosemary for quick and easy fresh pops for your summer menu.

If you would like to add redbud to your garden, you are not alone!  Eastern redbud is one of the most popular ornamental trees in America.   It can be grown as a standard tree or a multi-trunked bush, topping out at about 15-25 feet as a tree and shorter as a bush.  The leaves in summer are a beautiful deep green, smooth textured, in the shape of a heart (who doesn’t like heart shaped leaves?).  The Arbor Day Foundation will send you 10 free redbud whips (tiny redbud trees that look like sticks, but grow into elegant trees in a few years) when you sign up for a membership ($10).  Do the math and that is $1 a tree.  You can also propagate redbuds by taking 6″ cuttings from the new growth in spring and planting them in a potting mix or simply in the ground.  About 50% of cuttings will take with this technique, so cut more than you eventually want.

In any case, beg borrow or steal a few redbuds this spring and toss them on any sweet dish for a bold burst of color and a subtle burst of flavor. Then don’t forget to close your eyes when you savor the first bite of warm peach pie. Luscious.

About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!

Throwback to the ’70s | Purslane and Dish Gardens

Purslane photo by Amy Renea

Dearest Nature,

Thank you for purslane. Thank you for a weed that is everywhere you look (once you start looking) that tastes like lemons and limes and a little bit of pepper. Thank you offering up this delicious plant in zones where lemon trees won’t grow outdoors. Oh, and thanks for loading it with more omega 3’s than a cup of spinach.

Readers — meet purslane.

(If you would like the full nutrition workup on purslane, just click here.)

This little plant is probably growing in your backyard. Look in cracks in the driveway or in your potting soil from last year. The seeds are notorious for getting in there. (Good for them! They have spunk!) The plant rips out easily as a weed, but beware … when you rip out purslane it goes into survival mode. For a plant, that means make seed. Once you rip out that little weed, it will quickly make untold amounts of seed and propagate itself all over your garden. That in itself is not a terrible thing if you learn how to harvest and eat it. Just beware — yes?

I grow purslane in dish gardens. In a throwback to the ways of the ’70s, dish gardens are simply miniature gardens in a dish. Simple, yes? The real catch to a successful dish garden is to NOT overwater the plants. The water cannot drain and the only escape is evaporation, so water lightly and only as needed.

purslane

To propagate purslane, simply cut or pull off a stem 1″-3″ long and push the broken stem into the soil. Watch and wait and you will soon have another purslane plant.

To harvest purslane, pinch the leaves where they meet the stem with your fingertips. Once you get a feel for how the little succulent leaves snap off, you can simply run your fingernail along the stem and take off the leaves from an entire stem (similar to harvesting thyme).

purslane

When you are preparing to eat purslane, make sure you have the right plant! Purslane has a succulent red stem and little paddle shaped leaves. It looks somewhat like euphorbias which harbor toxic “milk”, so again — beware. If you break the stem of purslane, a clear liquid will emerge. If the liquid is white, wash your hands (Euphorbia milk can cause a rash like Posion Ivy) and DO NOT eat it!

purslane and chive potato salad

When you do get the right plant, integrate it into any recipes where you want a little citrus kick. I chop it up and use it with fresh chives on my famous potato salad. Terrible for the hips, but divine on the lips!

About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!