Exploring new plants and gardens is just part of the thrill when you approach gardening the way Nan Chase does.
Chase is the author of the book “Eat Your Yard” and her new book “Drink the Harvest” is out this month.
Chase is a dynamic speaker who knows how to simplify her concepts, making it seem possible to grow plenty of fruits and vegetables to satisfy family and friends.
One of her websites, http://drinktheharvest.com, is filled with ideas about what to plant and how to use what you grow. The book, “Drink the Harvest” is a well-illustrated how-to manual for those are just beginning or are experienced in putting food up.
Chase and her co-author DeNeice C. Guest are enthusiastic about juicing garden produce because it is much easier to can than jam or pie filling, useful for making beverages, and makes use of bumper crops and less attractive produce.
Their favorite juicing fruits are apples, crab apples, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, pears, bramble berries, currants, grapes, serviceberries, strawberries, rhubarb, quince, and watermelon.
They also recommend juicing with beets, carrots, celeriac, potatoes, tomatoes, basil, bay, bee balm, mint, garlic, fennel, and more.
The authors garden in zone 7 Asheville, NC, and in addition to a grow-your-own approach, they advise readers to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables to make drinks, syrups, wine, mead, and tea.
Chase has gardened in the same place for 7-years, focusing on packing her clay-dirt yard with easy-to-grow edibles that add beauty to her home’s landscape. The Asheville E-Z Gardeners club she belongs to has as its motto, “If it’s not E-Z, we don’t do it”.
In her home landscape Chase grows popcorn, beans, grapes, pomegranate, Brussels sprouts, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes and assorted herbs.
“Bird baths are critical,” said Chase. “Lose the bird feeders. Invite the birds with water and they will clean the insects off your plants for you.”
Chase harvests grape leaves in the spring before they are tough, pickles and cans them to use later in the year to make stuffed grape leaves. When harvesting Muscadine grapes in the fall, she dehydrates the grape skins to use as snacks and in wine-making.
Among the roses in her garden, Chase plants onions. Cabbages grown from purchased seedlings, serve as foundation plantings for one corner of the front of the house.
“Wasps play a huge role in the garden,” Chase said. “They are peaceful and destroy all the cabbage worms that might otherwise be a problem in an organic garden. “
For small yards such as hers, Chase prefers trees that remain compact such as Peterson’s Pawpaw, Serviceberry, and Kerr, Dolgo or Callaway Crabapple. Crabapple blossoms also bring pollinators into the garden while adding beauty that requires no pruning or spraying.
“We used sunflowers as sodbusters on our hard packed clay house lot,” Chase said. “Their huge, fibrous roots broke the soil for us. And, their roots are edible.”
Jerusalem artichokes are another favorite for the late-summer landscape. Not only are the roots-tubers served at her family dinner table, the seeds are valuable for feeding gold finches.
“Sunchokes can be aggressive but they are good food worth growing,” said Chase. “They are recommended as a potato substitute for diabetics. Cook the tubers unpeeled, mash and serve like potatoes. They can also be deep fried.”
“Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas and Ciders” is over 200-pages. The paperback, published by Storey (www.storey.com) is $18.95 list and $14 online. “Eat Your Yard” details 35 plants for landscape and kitchen. Published in 2010, it is available online for around $10.
If you want to learn to preserve the juices of fruits and vegetables this is a great place to start.