Make Mine a Michigan Thanksgiving: High Bush Cranberry Edition

Highbush Cranberries by Blondieyooper

Cranberries, photo by Blondieyooper

One thing that I love is Thanksgiving dinner, and another is Michigan grown food. Dianna at Promote Michigan brings those together with 15 things that make Thanksgiving Pure Michigan. From starters like Koeze nuts, McClure’s Pickles, Koegel Meats, and Leelanau Cheese to sides like Michigan potatoes & squash to Michigan-raised turkeys and (of course) pumpkin & apple pie and ice cream!

One Thanksgiving staple that Michigan is producing more of are cranberries, and you can get all kinds of information from the US Cranberry Marketing Committee. While it’s too late to get them this year, we have another cranberry that grows in Michigan you might not be aware of. Green Deane’s Eat the Weeds is a great blog, and his page on the High Bush Cranberry says (in part):

The High Bush Cranberry is actually a Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) and a cousin of the elderberry. Both are in the greater Honeysuckle Family and have a characteristic musky odor. That family by the way straddles the edibility line, with some members edible and others not, some tasty and some not. As one might suspect by the name, the High Bush Cranberry has tart fruit. Bradford Angier, a well-known Canada-based forager along side Euell Gibbons, wrote they require a “conditioned palate” to appreciate.

In North America the High Bush Cranberry is found in Canada and the northern half of the United States plus, oddly, New Mexico. It is not as that friendly to wildlife as one might suspect. The fruit persists into the winter because they are not on the top of birds’ preferred food. Birds like the berries after they soften and ferment. White-Tailed deer also browse on the twigs and leaves. For humans the berries are high in Vitamin C, about 30 milligrams per 100 grams.

Viburnum trilobum has several disputed botanical names and several mistaken common names including Pimbina, Mooseberry, Cranberry Tree, Cranberry Bush, American Cranberry, and Squashberry.

Read on for lots more including identification tips. There’s much more Michigan Thanksgiving to feast on at Michigan in Pictures too!

Blondieyooper says she picked over 8 pounds of these gorgeous highbush cranberries in the UP back in October of 2011. View her photo background bigilicious and see more in her Fall 2011 slideshow.

Farm Market Friday: Red Haven Peaches

Red Haven Peaches

Peaches, photo by alyssa g

I’ve shared the story of the Redhaven peach before on Michigan in Pictures. Strangely enough, it featured a photo by a photographer named Alissa!

Peaches are rolling in at farm markets all across Michigan.  A favorite article that Michigan History Magazine shared on Absolute Michigan tells the story of A Peach of a Man:

Many people have contributed to Michigan’s fruit industry, but Stanley Johnston stands above the rest. Johnston not only developed a new peach that is the most widely grown peach in the world today. He also made Michigan the nation’s leading producer of blueberries.

Johnston was the superintendent of Michigan State University’s (MSU) experiment station in South Haven from 1920 to 1969. There, he developed a better peach. Johnston took peaches that had good features, like ones that ripened at different times or did not turn brown when canned or frozen. He took pollen from the male plant and joined it to the flower of the female plant. When the fruit grew, he collected seeds and started a new tree. When the tree produced fruit five years later, he could see if he made a better peach.

During his career, Johnston grew and studied more than 20,000 peach trees. Eight different types, called “havens” (for South Haven), were planted by farmers. Havens ripened earlier, so the peach-growing season was longer, which meant more peaches could be grown and sold. One of these peaches, named Redhaven for its nice red color, is the most popular peach in the world today.

Read on at Absolute Michigan and definitely get down to your local farmer’s market for some peachy goodness!

View Alyssa’s photo background bigalicious and see more in her Blake Farms slideshow.



Game on for Michigan’s Strawberry Season

First Michigan Berries of the year. Early Glow variety. Yum!

First Michigan Berries of the year…, photo by Trish P.

Westview Orchards in Washington Township north of Detroit let me know yesterday that they’ll have strawberries to pick this weekend. Real Time Farms agrees strawberries are starting to roll into southern Michigan farm markets from farmers including Prochaska Farms of Tecumseh, who had some at the Saline Farmers Market last Saturday. If picking your own is more your speed, U-Pick Michigan has up-to-date reports.

I should add that we got some organic ones yesterday at the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market in Traverse City​. I believe they came from Ware Farm​ of Bear Lake – you can see them right here!

The Michigan Ag Council’s page on strawberries says that:

Michigan’s strawberry season starts in early June and can extend into mid July. Look for Michigan strawberries in-store or find them where they’re largely produced, in Berrien, Leelanau and Van Buren counties.

Michigan Strawberry facts:

  • Michigan grows strawberries for both fresh and processed uses
  • In 2009, Michigan produced 43,000 tons of fresh strawberries and 3,000 tons of processed strawberries, generating $6.6 million
  • Most of the fresh Michigan strawberries were picked by consumers at “u-pick” operations around the state
  • Strawberries contain 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C
  • They are an excellent source of potassium, which can help control blood pressure and fight strokes
  • They are an excellent source of fiber, which help reduce total cholesterol levels

In kind of a neat little coincidence, my friend Trish snapped this photo five years ago on June 12, 2010! She’s got a great blog entry on making strawberry preserves, something that’s definitely a Michigan tradition.

View her photo of Early Glow strawberries from the Bardenhagen Berry Farm on the Leelanau Peninsula bigger and see more in her delicious Michigan harvest slideshow.

Finally Friday: Michigan Morel Edition

Finally Morels in Michigan

Finally, photo by Julie

Reports of morels are coming in from all across the state. They’ll be celebrating our delicious woodland friends this weekend (May 8-10) at the Mesick Mushroom Festival and next weekend (May 14-17) at the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City.

If you’re looking for Michigan morel photos and features, click that link for a ton from Michigan in Pictures. Happy hunting!!

Julie says these plus a few others will make a great topping for a ribeye! View the photo bigger and see more in her Spring/Summer slideshow.

Ramps, Wild Leeks, Spring Onion, Allium tricoccum

Wild Leeks

Wild Leeks, photo by CherryCapitalFoods

Here’s some of a Wild Food Wednesday on Wild Leeks I wrote for You often find these oniony treasures when you’re morel hunting. Leeks are in the woodse now, and more than one little bird has told me of morels popping around the state as well! 

Whether you know them as ramps, wild leeks, spring onions or by their scientific name of Allium tricoccum, ramps are a wild onion with a delicious & pungent garlicky flavor. Wild leeks are found from as far south as Alabama all the way up into Canada. To the south, they are more commonly known as ramps while in the north, wild leek is more common. Wikipedia’s page on Allium tricoccum says that “ramps” comes from the English word ramson, a common name of the European bear leek (Allium ursinum) that is related to our American species.

Regarding harvesting, Ramp-age at the Earthy Delights blog says:

Good ramps or wild leeks should have two or three whole bright green leaves with the small white bulb attached by a purplish stem. The leaves are generally about 6 inches long, although ramps tend to be harvested at a somewhat earlier stage than are wild leeks. Depending on where you get them, ramps or wild leeks may be still muddy from the field or all cleaned and trimmed. The key is that they be fresh. Yellowing or withering in the leaves is a sign that they have gone too long.

A papery wrapper leaf (and some dirt) may surround the bulb and should be pulled off as you would with scallions. Trim away any roots along with their little button attachment. The entire plant is now ready for eating.

Once ramps / wild leeks have been cleaned, store them in the refrigerator tightly wrapped to keep them from drying out (and to protect the rest of the contents of the fridge from the heady aroma). They should keep for a week or more, but use them as soon as possible after harvest.

Some wild leek facts & lore:

  • Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger. (World’s Healthiest Foods)
  • The name of Chicago originates from “Checagou” (Chick-Ah-Goo-Ah)means “wild onions” in the Potawatomi language. The area was so named because of the smell of rotting marshland and wild leeks that covered it. (Earthy Delights)
  • Wild leeks are high in Vitamins C and A, and are full of healthful minerals. And they have the same cholesterol-reducing capacity found in garlic and other members of this family. (Earthy Delights)
  • The entire plant is edible and leaves, especially when young, are delicious when sauteed. (my kitchen)

View this photo background bigtacular and see more in Cherry Capital Foods’ Spring Hollow Farms slideshow.

I’m especially happy to feature today’s photo because we buy incredible lettuce, greens and duck & quail eggs from Richard & Diana of Spring Hollow Farms of Buckley. If you see them at the Traverse City Farmer’s Market, be sure to buy a bag or two of their spring mix!

More Michigan food and more spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan Morel Alert: Morels in Honor Edition

Morels at the Honor Hotel

Morels at the Honor Motel, photo by Honor Motel

In spring, a young Michigander’s fancies turn to … morels! Here’s a shot from Honor in the northwest Lower Peninsula showing a handful of black morels found on Tax Day. It’s earlier than I would have expected but hopefully it signals a good, long season for these woodland treasures.

Lots more Michigan morel photos and information on Michigan in Pictures!

View the photo bigger on Facebook and follow the Honor Motel for more.

PS: If you’re finding morels anywhere, post a comment here or two our Facebook.

Rosy 2014 Michigan Apple Forecast!


Bounty, photo by Bob Gudas

The Freep reports that Michigan is forecasting a crop of almost 29 million bushels of apples in 2014:

This year’s estimate is just under the record 30 million bushels that were picked last year. The yield in 2013 was so robust that some of the state’s growers and packers, most of whom are on the west side of the state, filled their storerooms and even rented additional space to handle all the extra big crop.

In addition to setting a record, Smith said last year’s bumper crop put Michigan in the No. 2 spot for apple production, pushing New York down to No. 3.

Washington is by far the No. 1 apple-producing state in the country, growing more than twice as many apples as Michigan and New York combined.

Additional fun apple fact from this well-done Freep article: If you want Michigan apples, McDonald’s has them. The fast food giant is a major customer for the Michigan apple industry, purchasing 25.5 million pounds in 2013.

View Bob’s photo from last October of an orchard near Rothbury in west Michigan bigger and see more pics in his slideshow.

More apples on Michigan in Pictures!