April 6, 2013
One of the best things about spring for my money is that it’s the one time of year that you can make maple syrup! Michigan ranks 5th in the US in maple syrup production, and the Michigan Maple Syrup Producers Association has a page about the history of maple syrup production that shows we’ve been a maple syrup player for a long time:
Native Americans have many wonderful stories about how they began making maple syrup. The first is the legend of Glooskap. Many, many, many years ago the Creator had made life much easier for man. In fact, in those days the maple tree was filed with syrup and all man had to do was cut a hole in the maple tree and the syrup dripped out. One day the young prince Glooskap (known by other names in other tribes) came upon a village of his people that was strangely silent. There were no dogs barking, no children playing, no women minding the cook fires, and no men getting ready to go hunting! Glooskap looked and looked and finally found everyone in the nearby maple grove. They were all lying at the bases of the trees and letting the sweet syrup drip into their mouths. Even the dogs were enjoying the syrup. “Get up, you people,” Glooskap called. “There is work to be done!” But no-one moved.
Now Glooskap had special powers, and he used these powers to make a large bark container. He flew to the lake, filled the container with water and flew back to the maple grove. When he poured the water over the trees it diluted the syrup so it was no longer sweet. ”Now, get up you people! Because you have been so lazy the trees no longer hold syrup, but only sap. Now you will have to work for your syrup by boiling the sap. What’s more, the sap will soon run dry. You will only be able to make syrup in the early spring of the year!”
…The Chippewas and Ottawas of Michigan tell a similar story of the god NenawBozhoo, who cast a spell on the sugar maple tree many moons ago, turning the near pure syrup into what is now called sap. He did this because he loved his people and feared they would become indolent and destroy themselves if nature’s gifts were given too freely. This legend is unique in that, in various forms, it can be found almost universally throughout the Eastern Woodland Indian tribes. This is unusual for cultures that did not have a written history.
Read on for more about how the process and techniques have evolved through the years. Michigan in Pictures has a ton of photos documenting the process of making maple syrup. that you’ll want to check out as well!
January 23, 2013
Created by the American Pie Council, ‘Pie Day’ is dedicated to celebrating America’s love of pie. And in Pure Michigan, we know and love pie. In fact, Michigan produces:
- More than 50 percent of the nation’s apple slices and is the largest supplier of apple slices used in commercially prepared apple pies.
- Roughly 75 percent of the country’s tart cherry crop every year. Those are the ones that go into pies, juice and preserves.
- 25 percent of the national highbush blueberry crop (110 – 180 million pounds)
While there are many flavors and variations of this classic American dessert, nothing makes for a better pie than using pure, fresh ingredients and fruits – Michigan’s surrounding Great Lakes and rolling hills create a perfect climate for fruit-growing and is a leading producer of many popular pie fruits that can be found in local bakeries as well as national store-bought brands.
To celebrate, Pure Michigan has teamed up with the Grand Traverse Pie Company to offer fans on Twitter the chance to win an entire pie every hour between 10 AM – 5 PM on the 23rd. Just tweet your favorite type of pie to both @PureMichigan and @GTPie. Tweets must include the hashtag #puremichiganpie and entrants must follow both Pure Michigan and Grand Traverse Pie Company on Twitter. Click through for more.
Trish made a peach/blueberry pie with Michigan fruit: Peaches from Steimel & Sons Farm in Suttons Bay, Leelanau County and blueberries from Hazen’s Farm in Howell, Livingston County. Click to see it on black and get lots more tasty goodness in Trish’s Michigan Harvest slideshow.
December 18, 2012
I know that many of you have been losing sleep because you don’t know the location of the world’s biggest bean elevator. You can rest easy now, because Waymarking.com explains that the largest bean elevator in the world is in Saginaw MI:
As a young man, (Albert L.) Riedel was one of the organizers of the Producers Elevator Company of Port Huron which later grew into the Michigan Bean Company. He was elected secretary of Michigan Bean when it moved its headquarters to Saginaw’s Bearinger Building and he was only 27 when he was named general manager of the company.
…In 1937, Riedel became president of the company as well as general manager and served in that capacity until the firm was sold to the Wickes Corporation in 1955. As president of Michigan Bean, Al Riedel pushed the idea of selling packaged, trademarked beans to the retail market instead of relying on bulk sales.
He was instrumental in making the Jack Rabbit brand of beans known all over the world. And it was while Riedel was president that the famous Bean Bunny neon sign was erected at the top of “the world’s largest bean elevator”.
The Bean Bunny, now proudly relit, has become one of Saginaw’s most beloved symbols. During World War II, too old for active service, Riedel volunteered as a dollar-a-year-man and served as a consultant attached to the Quartermaster Corp. He revamped purchasing and shipping programs and designed and developed waterproof bags for shipping food overseas.
More from Saginaw on Michigan in Pictures.
November 22, 2012
The story of Thanksgiving is one of our country’s oldest and best stories. At the heart of it is the sharing of the rich and diverse bounty of the land.
Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state, and here’s hoping that some of Michigan’s varied fruits, vegetables, meat and other local and tasty foods will make it to your table today and throughout the holiday season.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!
More Thanksgiving on Michigan in Pictures.
November 20, 2012
Michigan in Pictures had a great feature on chestnuts last year that has a lot of information on this traditional Thanksgiving food.
With 54 farms encompassing 813 acres, Michigan ranks first in the nation in chestnut plantings. As you plan your Thanksgiving dinner, consider Michigan chestnuts and other local products. Over on Absolute Michigan we have a feature that can help you do just that - make it a Michigan Thanksgiving.
If you want to put chestnuts on your holiday menu, MyNorth has a recipe for a Michigan Chestnut Pie. Or, if you prefer your chestnuts in liquid form, how about a Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otono (Autumn Fire)? Every year Jolly Pumpkin makes a limited amount of this seasonal Belgian ale brewed with chestnuts and spices and it’s delicious!
More food on Michigan in Pictures.
October 25, 2012
Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbita family, which includes squash, watermelons, and cucumbers. Their origins are believed to have come from Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico that date back over 7000 years ago.
Pumpkins were an important food source for Native Americans. They regularly made pumpkin porridge, stew and pumpkin jerky and they made a broth that contained squash blossoms. They also dried pumpkin shells, and then weaved them into mats, which they used for trading. Early pilgrims quickly added pumpkins to their menus and also sent seeds back to Europe. The earliest version of pumpkin pie was made by baking a hollowed out pumpkin that was filled with milk, honey and spices.
Pumpkins are high in potassium, Vitamin A and fiber. They are also a good source of beta-carotene. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, copper and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
Read on for more including recipes and a comprehensive listing of Michigan pumpkin patches.
Lots more pumpkins on Michigan in Pictures.
October 23, 2012
The Cornell Mushroom Bog is a great resource for mushroom hunters. Their entry on Eating the Chicken of the Woods begins:
David Arora remarks in Mushrooms Demystified that this is one of the “foolproof four” — an unmistakable mushroom. (see below)
This large, brightly colored fungus is often found in clusters but is occasionally solitary. You may discover this mushroom during the summer and fall but rarely in winter or spring. The top surface of Chicken of the Woods is bright orange which can be either more reddish or yellowish than you see here. It tends to lighten in color near the edges. This mushroom has no gills, instead its bright yellow undersurface is covered with tiny pores. The young Chicken of the Woods is “succulent” and has a mild flavor. Older specimens tend to change color as they develop, as well as become brittle. The young mushrooms have bright yellows and oranges; in age they dull to yellow and then pure white.
A good tree can yield up to 50 pounds, but be wary of older fungi as they toughen and develop a sour flavor! If you have found a specimen worthy of collection, you can harvest the mushrooms and return the next year for another crop. Or cut just the outer edge (about 5 cm of the fungus) and return later in the season for a second helping. Be wary of Chickens growing on conifers (in the Northeast) as they are a different species and can cause poisoning. Chicken of the Woods can make a fine chicken substitute as long as you make sure to fully cook the mushroom.
Chicken of the Woods grows in trees that are either living or decaying. These mushrooms cause a reddish brown heart-rot of wood. If the mushrooms are seen fruiting, you can be sure that the fungus has already attacked the tree. They can destabilize a tree by hollowing out its center–this can be problematic for forest owners. Historically, this fungus was known to damage the wooden ships of the British Naval Fleet.
Read on for more and also see Chicken of the Woods or Sulphur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus) from MichiganMorels.com and Laetiporus on Wikipedia.
More Michigan mushrooms on Michigan in Pictures!
October 18, 2012
I ran into Ken last weekend in Traverse City, and – like many visitors to the region – he spent some time touring Traverse City’s wine country. The vineyards look great at this time of year and (even better) the grapes in these vineyards and all over the state are defying the general agricultural awfulness. Long, dry summer made this vintage year for wine grapes from Crain’s Detroit Business begins:
Call it global warming or climate change, it doesn’t matter to winemaker Lee Lutes. He calls the past few years of long, warm, dry summers an “exceptional growing season” for his grapes.
Today the head winemaker at Black Star Farms is helping harvest the crop on the winery’s 150 acres on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas.
And while the region’s crop of tart cherries was ruined by the weather’s mood swings in the spring — 80 degrees in March, then frost in May — wine grapes mature later and, for the most part, survived if not thrived. The variety of grapes grown in Michigan are really meant for warmer regions.
More Michigan farms on Michigan in Pictures.
September 26, 2012
The Mycological Society of San Francisco entry for puffballs (Calvatia, Calbovista, Lycoperdon) says
Puffballs come in many sizes, some as small as a marble and some as large as a basketball. The name “puffball” is used here to refer to three genera of fungi, Calvatia, Calbovista, and Lycoperdon. Their surfaces may be smooth, covered with small or large warts, or ornamented with spikes. Puffballs are usually white and round, and are attached to the ground with little or no apparent stem.
Puffballs seem to prefer disturbed earth, and enjoy surprising the forager, for they are seldom the prey being sought. The largest ones are members of the genus Calvatia. It is estimated that the average mature specimen of C. gigantea contains 7 trillion spores stored inside the puffball!
Most puffballs are safe to eat, although rare reactions have been reported.
Two important notes:
- They must be all-white inside. Any shade of yellow or purple makes them inedible or upsetting.
- When cut, they must have a uniform internal consistency. The external appearance of immature Amanita species is similar to puffballs. However, the cap and gills of these unexpanded mushrooms become apparent when the egg-shaped fungi are cut in half. The Amanita genus includes the most poisonous species of mushrooms.
They note that puffballs are often known as the “breakfast mushroom” because they pair so well with eggs. Read on for some recipes.
You can also get a recipe for puffball fritters from the Cornell Mycology department where they note that if each of those 7 trillion (7,000,000,000,000) spores grew and yielded a ten-inch puffball, the combined puffball mass would be 800 times that of the earth. I’m not sure exactly what you can do with that knowledge, but here’s hoping it comes in handy.
More Michigan mushrooms on Michigan in Pictures.
September 10, 2012
Orange Pippin says that the Wolf River apple (first discovered along the river of the same name in Wisconsin) is:
A well-known American cooking apple, notable for its large size. Wolf River is mainly used for cooking, and it keeps its shape when cooked. It is fairly sweet and doesn’t need much sugar added.
Wolf River has a very high natural resistance to the disease apple scab, and good resistance to fireblight and mildew. It is also very cold hardy, making it a good choice for growing in the northern part of North America.
The Freep notes that the extreme damage to Michigan’s 2012 apple crop has created problems for those in the apple business:
Prices will vary, but consumers can expect fresh apple prices to be about 30% to 50% higher than last year, according to Bob Tritten, Michigan State University Extension Service fruit educator for southeast Michigan. Cider prices are up about 50%.
Last year’s Michigan apple crop was about 26 million bushels, said Dawn Drake, manager of the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Division, a branch of the Michigan Farm Bureau. But early warm weather forced the apple blossoms out early, and that was followed by several days of freezes, which killed most of the tender young blooms.
“This year they’ll be lucky to have 2 (million bushels),” Drake said.
Sergei didn’t think much of the taste when he tried it at the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, but I read that the Wolf River doesn’t reach full flavor unless it gets hit by frost. Check it out bigger and see more in his Fall slideshow.