Elderflowers blooming in the garden!

Elderberries blooming!

                Elderberries blooming!

Elderflowers are in bloom in the student garden and their sweet smell is wafting through the air! Elderberry, or Sambucus canadensis, is native to the eastern United States. Their flowers are edible and can be made into a delicious and easy elderflower syrup.

Tiny elderflowers!

            Tiny elderflowers!

To make your own elderflower syrup, harvest about 20 bunches of flowers for one quart of syrup. Make sure not to take all the flowers on one shrub–they’ll produce berries and they’re a friend to the bees!

For the base syrup, a 1:1 simple syrup mixture of sugar to water works perfectly. While your simple syrup is cooling, remove the flowers from the stems. This can be done by hand or with scissors. I know this may seem tedious (and it is!), but it’s necessary because the green stems can make your syrup bitter!

Elderflowers in a syrup made from Eden Hall honey!

Elderflowers in a syrup made                   from Eden Hall honey!

Add your simple syrup and elderflowers to a mason jar, or other container that can be sealed tightly, and shake it up! Let it sit on your counter for 2 to 3 days, depending on how strong you’d like it, and shake it every day. When it’s ready, strain out the flowers and store in the fridge for up to a month.

You can use your elderflower syrup in sodas and cocktails… try it with Wigle’s Ginever!


This summer, we are growing a small ‘Asian Garden’ section in our student garden at the farm. I worked with Lei Shen (another Food Studies MA student) to select Japanese and Chinese crops and varieties to grow. Some have been more successful than others!

One of the Japanese crops we are growing is hinona kabu, a variety of turnips. These turnips are often used to make a quick pickle in Japan called ‘sakura-zuke.’ Sakura means cherry blossom, and zuke means pickle. Hinona kabu are purple on top and white on the bottom, so when they are pickled, they turn pink like sakura/cherry blossoms- thus they are called sakura-zuke.

I tried making some, and they turned out delicious! Crisp, sweet, and sour, with a little radish bite to them. If you’d like to try it yourself, you can order seeds here, and the recipe is below!

Sakura Zuke or Cherry Blossom Pickle

(From Kitazawa Seed Company’s website)


1 bunch Hinona Kabu turnips
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Trim the top off the turnip to make a flat base. Place 2 pencils or other sticks on a cutting board to stop the knife from cutting all the way through the root. Place the turnip on its top (now a flat base) between the sticks. With a sharp knife, make 4 to 6 cuts the full length of the turnip ending carefully at the sticks. This way there will be a piece of turnip intact to hold it together. Turn the root 90° and make another 4 to 6 cuts, stopping at the sticks. Repeat this with all the turnips.

Put the cut turnips in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and lightly massage it in. Place a plate that is smaller than the diameter of the bowl on top of the radishes. Put a weight on top of the plate to force some of the liquid out. After 30 minutes remove the plate and drain the liquid.

Stir the vinegar and sugar together until dissolved, heating a little if necessary. Pour over the turnips and leave at least 8 hours or longer to marinate.

Drain well before serving. Use with green leaves as a garnish.

Will keep well at least 3 weeks.

Gooseberry Pie

When it’s the Forth of July and Eden Hall is bursting with gooseberries, there’s only one thing to do…make pie!

Our gooseberry bushes have fruited tons of berries this year, partly because of the mesh netting that has protected them from birds and critters.  We also mulched the beds so that we could keep the weeds under control.IMG_2187

Gooseberries grow on bushes similarly to blueberries.  They hang off the branches, and will fall off into your hands when they are perfectly ripe.  However, the bushes are scattered with thorns that can make harvesting slightly painful!  I kept forgetting about the thorns, harvesting greedily until again I would be reminded of the bush’s built in protection system.  My fingers ached, but my heart was happy as I walked away with a full harvest of gooseberries.


I had never had a gooseberry until a couple weeks ago at Eden Hall.  I picked one of the very first ripe berries so that I could taste this interesting fruit.  To me, gooseberries taste like a perfect mix of a grape and a kiwi.  They are slightly tart (especially the greener berries) but have a sweet brightness to them as well.


washed and ready to become pie

For the pie crust I just used a classic dough recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour                                                                                                                   1 tsp salt                                                                                                                             1 tbsp sugar (because it is a sweeter pie)                                                                     Pulse these in a food processor just to mix                                                                     add 1 stick of COLD butter, cut into cubes                                                                     mix in food processor until pea sized clumps form, and then while the processor is mixing, slowly add cold water until the dough comes together.                                                   Chill in refrigerator for at least a half hour before using

Here is the recipe for the filling!

Gooseberries (as many as I could pick…probably around 4-5 cups)                                     1 cup white sugar                                                                                                                 1/2 cup brown sugar                                                                                                           2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger                                                                                                   the zest of 1 orange                                                                                                             1/2 tsp lemon juice                                                                                                               1/4 cup corn starch

I put all of the above ingredients in a pan, and reduced it for about 15 minutes.  I let it cool (mostly) and then put it into my pre-baked pie crust!  The mixture was still a little bit runny (maybe i should have added more corn starch?) so i used a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture.  I covered the pie with the remaining dough, using the lattice design, and baked it at 400 until the crust was golden brown.


The finished product

Needless to say, the pie was devoured, and I can’t wait to see what other delicious treats these new berries will bring!

Cassandra Malis                                                                                                                   Masters Candidate in Food Studies                                                                                     Intern at Eden Hall

What’s going on in the permaculture garden?

There’s been a lot of work going on in the Eden Hall permaculture garden lately! Our farm crew has been busy weeding out lots of thistle, laying new cardboard, and mulching the whole garden.

Look at those beautifully mulched strawberries!

Look at those beautifully mulched                            strawberries!

We’ve already had one strawberry harvest in the garden, and they’re getting ready to fruit again!

New strawberry blossoms!

New strawberry blossoms!

Just a little bit longer!

Just a little bit longer!

We’ve also harvested many pounds of black and red currants and the gooseberries are ripening, too. Even our young trees are starting to produce fruit!


We’ve placed informational signs around the garden and labels on all the trees. We’ll soon be putting out signs labeling all of the perennial plants in the permaculture garden, too. Feel free to stop by and learn about our garden and permaculture!


Planting Elsalma

elsalma planting collage

Yesterday we got several rows of squash and pumpkins planted out in Elsalma.

Allen drove the planter on the back of the tractor, and the rest of the crew pitched in placing seedlings and gently covering the roots with soil.

In case you were wondering where exactly Elsalma is located, here’s a simple map showing an outline of the Eden Hall Campus (in white), along with Elsalma and the fenced the portion where we planted yesterday. The Student Garden is also highlighted (in yellow) as a point of reference.

google map elsalma labeled

Work & Pick Program Thriving!

Weeding Rainbow Chard!

Even through the rain and thunderstorms this week, the Eden Hall work and pick program was very productive and learned quite a bit about weeding, planting and preparing beds for the rest of the season!

Transplanting Romaine head lettuce

Preparing the hoop house for late season crops