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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Minnesota monarch group is out to "Save Our Monarchs"

Photo by Ken Korczak

Yet another group of fine people are worried to death about the dwindling fate of the monarch butterfly.

We've lost 90 percent of the monarch population in the past 20 years. Monarchs are not just pretty to look at; they play a major role in pollinating the foods we eat.

Now a a retired chemical engineer and his wife are on an unstoppable mission to turn the tides and bring the monarch back from the brink

Read all about it here: SAVEOURMONARCHS

Now check out this: BARN SWALLOWS

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Photo of the Day: Blissful garden produce

Photo by Ken Korczak

Here is a random sampling from my garden produce last year:

Spaghetti squash, blue potato, white potato, green beans, tomatoes, cucumber pickles and an onion. All organically grown -- no pesticides or herbicides.

Primary fertilizer: chicken manure. It was a great year!

Now check out this: BARN SWALLOWS

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Solar power + bees + butterflies = A good idea

Photo by Ken Korczak

Bees and butterflies have never been more endangered -- and their dire situation is tied to our own fate.

As you know, if the bees stop pollinating, most of our basic foods stops growing. The butterflies also play a huge role.

Now two University of Minnesota professors have an idea that could create thousands of acres of more habitat for bees and butterflies, and it involves another very good thing -- solar power.

See my story by clicking the link below, and see how you can help:


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blue French Fries -- You'll Never Find These At McDonalds

Photo by Ken Korczak

My fascination with the blue potato is endless. And why not? Just take a look at these fabulous blue french fries! They don't just look groovy, they taste great.

Everyone always asks me: "Do blue potatoes taste any different from white or red potatoes?" The answer is mostly no. I suspect if you blindfolded some folks and asked them to taste test the blue versus the red or white, most would not be able to tell the difference.

But the blue potato is a tad more rich and robust than other kinds. When you make mashed potatoes, they end up a bit more firm. The french fries you see here are light, crispy and tasty -- and the look always creates a sensation!

I like the blue potato so much I'm thinking of making it my primary potato choice for the garden next year. The average blue tends to be a bit smaller than those big whites and reds we grow -- but the blue is simply a terrific spud!

I invite you to check out my book: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fireweed: Pretty and Somewhat Edible -- Also Used for Tea

Fireweed - Photo by Ken Korczak

I was driving through the narrow gravel road (trail) that runs through the heart of the Twin Lakes Wildlife Management Area here in northern Minnesota when I saw bright flashes of purple-pink near the side of the road. I stopped to investigate, and, sure enough, found some lovely bright fireweed blossoming.

It's called fireweed because it tends to show up after an area has been burned. In this case, the DNR burns off this section of land every spring.

Fireweed can be eaten. Here is what Lee Allen Peterson says in his excellent manural, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants:

"The young shoots can be prepared like asparagus and the tender young leaves like spinach. The taste may become bitter and unpalatable as the plant grows older. The mature leaves can be dried and used for make tea."

Wow, "Fireweed Tea" - how rock-in-rollin' does that sound? I'm going to go back out there and get some leaves and try the tea. I'll report back later on how I like it.


The Blue Potato: From the Ancient Andes to Minnesota

Photo by Ken Korczak

My blue potatoes are ready already, although I will probably let most of them "ride" for a while before harvesting.

Blue potatoes have taken off in popularity in recent years in the U.S. They are a native species of the Andean region in Peru (as probably are most species of potato). It is known that when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Inca empire in 1532, they encountered the Andean natives eating blue potatoes.

The first thing most people ask about blue potatoes is: "Do they taste any different from red or white potatoes?"

As far as I am concerned, the answer is no. Some say they detect a slightly nutty flavor -- but I daresay that in a blind taste test, most folks would not be able to tell the difference.

Blue potato blossom
It's the look that is strikingly different, even after you boil them, bake them or make mash potatoes. They retain their blue color -- which is actuality looks more like purple. But ... I have to say, a bowl of mashed blue potatoes is an amazing sight. It looks like food coloring -- yet its all natural.

The blue color is produced by something called anthocyanin pigments, which also are excellent antioxidants.

The blue is also a rather small variety, at least that's my experience. But like any garden potato you grow yourself, they really seems light years better than those you buy at the store.

Note that there are many different variety of blue potato. Some have blue skins, but white interiors. Others are a combination of white and blue, and so forth.

If you are really into creating colorful dishes that please the eye, the blue potato is your best friend. They look amazing in a potato salad against the white-yellows of mustard and mayonnaise.

It's also a good idea to grow more exotic varieties like this for the sake of battling monoculture. Planting the same kind of potato over and over again is what caused the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s. When you mix up your verieties, you reduce chances of disease and encourage natural genetic diversity.

Because their nutrient value is slightly different than red or white potatoes, you are adding diversity to your nutritional intake. Whatever the case, I love the blue potato.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Rhubarb curd recipe: A terrific way to use your eggs and rhubarb at the same time

Photo:Ken Korczak

My free-range chickens really crank out the eggs in the spring, and rhubarb is also abundant. Thus: What you need are some good recipes that use a lot of both.

I was delighted to find this one for rhubarb curd. You may not normally think of combining eggs and rhubarb, but this is terrific. It works as an excellent topping for cakes, corn bread, pancakes, waffles, even on ice cream.

Here’s the recipe:

2 ½ cups rhubarb cut up into half-inch sections

1/3 cup sugar and ½ cup sugar

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup cranberry juice

2 tbls butter


Combine the rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar and cranberry juice in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until the rhubarb loses form and forms a sauce. Stir it a lot while cooking, about 10 minutes. Set aside, but keep warm.


Combine egg yolks and ½ cup sugar and place in a heat-proof glass bowl. In another saucepan or kettle, heat up about 2-inches of water to a boil, then reduce heat. Place the bowl of eggs and sugar in or on top of this and let the steaming water heat up the egg mixture until it is quite warm. Stir it the whole time.


Mix the rhubarb sauce in with the egg mixture. Stir well, remove from heat and let cool. Then put it in the refrigerator until is gets really cool – and you’re ready to rock!

Now if you dare check out: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dutch Pancake recipe is practically idiot proof

Photo: Ken Korczak

Here is my recipe for Dutch pancake, which makes for a terrific simple breakfast or fare for any time of day.

I like to think my free range eggs make this recipe better than using store-bought eggs obtained from those poor chickens in cramped egg-mill factories which are a crime against decency -- but I'll spare you the lecture today.

Here are the ingredients:

1 cup flour

1/4 cup corn starch

3 eggs

2 tsps lemon juice

2 table spoons vanilla

1 table spoon butter

1 1/4 cup milk

Lemon zest (optional)


Just mix all the ingredient together any way you want to; that's what I do. Then you need a really hot oven -- 450 degrees, baby, and make sure you preheat the oven before you pop this in.

As you can see in the picture, I used a stainless steel skillet that's about 8 or 9 inches across. I pie plate works, too.

Bake 20 minutes!

Some folks like to serve this with powdered sugar on top. Others like to put syrup on it. Maple syrup is a good choice! Hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pineapple weed grows just about anywhere, and makes an exceptionally delightful tea


It is said that “weed” is a word for plant for which no good use has yet been found. Perhaps no truer words were spoken of any natural plant than of pineapple weed. Indeed, this plant is no weed at all. Pineapple weed, as it names implies, can be brewed to make an amazingly delicate tea which carries just the faintest hint of pineapple tang.

The wonderful thing about pineapple weed is that it grows where almost no other plant wants to grow: Between sidewalk cracks, on seemingly sterile gravel roads or driveways, in bleak waste areas. The pineapple weed is incredibly hearty and mysteriously undemanding. It asks little, yet gives much.

Pineapple weed is a close cousin of chamomile, one of the most popular of all herbal teas. To make tea from pineapple weed, cut off the small bud-like flower heads and place a handful in a cup of water. Boil for five minutes. I chose to strain the water through a coffee filter to produce a clear, green-golden tea.

My impression of pineapple weed tea:

Truly remarkable! Pineapple weed tea is an excellence tea! I easily judge this tea better than any other natural herbal tea one might purchase off the shelf. The flavor is light -- the opposite of overpowering or heavy.

For me, the slight sweetness of the taste that is profoundly difficult to describe. I’m not sure if I would describe it as pineapple-like. It’s more subtle and delicate than that. There is an amazing clean airy quality to the sweetness.

This tea also has a tea-like background taste. That is, drinking this gives you the impression that you are drinking a beverage that could be considered a “true tea.

I decided to add a bit of sugar and just a tiny squirt of lemon to my second cup -- and -- WOW! This resulted in a truly fabulous tea drinking experience! Excellent, excellent! This wild weed tea is so good, I can’t believe that millions of people don’t drink it all the time, every day. It’s free and growing everywhere. What an amazing gift from Mother Nature, right beneath our noses every day -- and just about no matter where you live, urban or rural area.”

On a 1 to 10 scale, I give pineapple weed tea an unqualified 10.

Notes: I remember from childhood my Uncle Stanley said that his Polish immigrant parents, my grandparents, occasionally brewed pineapple weed to make a beverage they called Romonyek. (That is a phonetic spelling. Pronounce it ro-MON-yek, and roll the r”)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Breaded zucchini slices in butter with selection of spices and tomato sauces

Photo by Ken Korczak

Now lets take a look at what one can do with zucchini from the garden!

Pictured here are a couple of slices from a large zucchini squash about 1/2-inch thick. I coat them in beaten eggs (my own free-range produced eggs, of course) then coat them in a mixture of flour, a touch of cornstarch -- and then a selection of spices -- pepper, salt, garlic, spice-berry (foraged),and just a tad of paprika.

The centers of these are actually hollowed out to remove the seeds. This provides an opportunity to fill the centers with the remaining eggs.

Next, melt a generous amount of butter in a black, cast-iron skillet and fry till slightly crispy on each side. Top with some Parmesan cheese and put in a 350-degree oven until the cheese melts on top. You might want to take care not to overbake if you don't want the zucchini to get too mushy. Out of the oven, it's time to top it off with some fresh tomato sauce. I never make my tomato sauce quite the same way every time -- in this case, I used fresh basil, cilantro, garlic, oregano, salt, black pepper, a touch of brown sugar, onions -- and I think that's about it.

You can either overdo the tomato sauce or not. I like just a hint or light touch of sauce.

This is a simple recipe -- yet complex in that one can experiment widely with spices and flavorings to get the specific taste you want -- exotic or simple.

Hey! Check out my book: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Make cornbread using corn from your garden fresh off the cob -- best cornbread ever! -- Is it manna from heaven?

Photo by Ken Korczak

If you're looking for a way to make cornbread that will make it taste like it was handed down directly to you from heaven by angelic bakers, then look no further. Here is my method for the best cornbread you will ever eat.

I use fresh corn off the cob from my garden, rather than the dry cornmeal you buy in the store. This will work even with corn that has gotten a bit old or past its prime for eating sweet and crispy off the cob.

Get some hot water boiling and blanch your corncobs for about 2-3 minutes. Cut the corn off the cob with a sharp knife. Place the kernels in a freezer bag and let them freeze very hard 24 hours.

Next, you'll need a food processor or a powerful blender -- I use the VitaMix. Put a cup or two of frozen corn in your processor and grind it to icy "corn dust." Then all you have to do is choose your favorite recipe and substitute the same amount of your fresh-ground frozen corn with regular dry cornmeal.

Here is a recipe that works well for me:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup fresh ground garden corn

2/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9 inch cake pan, round, square or whatever -- one of the those black cast iron skillets are great!

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Get my best-selling ebook report on how to get a government grant:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Power breakfast: Blue potatoes, zucchini and tomato


This the time of the year when those of us who toil in our gardens all summer enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of our labors. Pictured here is what I call a high-antioxidant, high-flavonoid super breakfast -- crispy fried blue potatoes, fresh slices of garden tomatoes and some zucchini picked in a mustard-vinegar base.

The blue potato is an interesting tuber. What we know is that this plant has it's origins in South America, and probably originated in the Andes, and was certainly cultivated and used by the Inca. Several variety of blue potato (also called purple potatoes) have been used in what is now Peru and Bolivia for 6000 years.

The taste of the blue potato is similar to any other potato. It's a mid-starch level product. In some respects they offer more nutrition than "regular" potatoes, and in others less. For example, they have less Vitamin C than say, a russet or red, by the blue color is indicative of extremely high antioxidant content, and of a variety you won't get in white potatoes.

Anyway, breakfast doesn't always have to be greasy bacon, eggs and buttery toast -- sometimes you can get a mega-vitamin-rich punch without any cholesterol and minimal fat -- and still feel like you had a hardy morning starter!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My recipe for zucchini bread!

Photo by Ken Korczak

As anyone who has ever planted a zucchini plant knows, you get a lot of zucchini. And so begs the question: What do I do with all of it? One excellent way to make good use of this marvelous squash is to make zucchini bread -- and so now I will share with you an excellent recipe.

This recipe is not only good, I don't think I have ever screwed it up. It comes out right every time. This zucchini bread is moist, extremely flavorful -- it's terrific. And rumor has it that it wil increase your lifespan by 7.3 years, on average, according to some top scientist somewhere, I'm sure.

I hope you try it:


3 eggs, beaten

1 cup of vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups shredded zucchini

3 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1.2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup walnuts


This is not rocket science. Just mix together all the ingredients in large bowl. As for the zucchini, I like to blend mine in a food processor till it gets just mushy. I use the Vita-Mix. But just as often I use an ordinary cheese grater, and that works perfectly.

Makes two loaves. Use regular-sized bread pans. Fill them about 3/4 to the top.

Bake at 350 to 375 for 35 to 40 minutes! Ta-da! You're done!

My little book, only .99 cents! ---> BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Easy Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Photo by Ken Korczak

One of the easiest possible things you can preserve from your garden are cucumbers in the form of refrigerator pickles. You don't need a pressure cooker or any special technique: just some fresh cucumbers and a recipe, which I will provide for you right now.

Refrigerator Cucumber Pickle Recipe

7 cups of sliced cucumbers

1 medium onion chopped up

1 cup vinegar

2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon celery seed


Slice up the cucumbers in any way you want to. Do not peel the cucumbers first. Leave the skin on. Put them in a large bowl. Add the chopped onion. Dump in a cup of vinegar, then the sugar and the rest of the ingredient. Mix it all together. Put in clean, jars, put the lids on and toss them in the refrigerator.

That's it! How difficult was that? Not very!

Note: I boil my jars before I load them up, just to make sure they are extra clean. These pickles will keep in your refrigerator for months -- but they won't last that long because you'll eat them, believe me.

Another note: You can start eating your pickles right away, but if you wait a few days, the vinegar will soften the outer skin to make them a bit less tough, but still nice and crunchy.

Finally, don't be afraid to experiment. For example, try adding some garlic, or maybe a spoon of dill weed or another favorite herb. Wild spice-bush berries also make it interesting. You can also opt for a more exotic vinegar, such as Japanese rice vinegar which comes in various flavors. This recipe will make two, two-quart jars. Have a yummy time!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Juneberry jam and juneberry pie -- we made it after all


Well, my earlier moaning and groaning about the lack of juneberries this year was a tad premature. I went on a hard-target search in the first weeks of July and was able to collect about three cups worth -- not great, but not bad, and just enough to make a batch of jelly.

But then my wife took a jaunt out to the Beltrami forest which is about 40 miles east of here, and she was able to pick a couple of buckets of juneberries -- so we ended up okay! We made a delicious pie, you see pictured below.

The jelly you see pictured above is actually a combination of wild raspberry and juneberry. It's fantastic! The flavor is powerful and pungent, so much so that one probably is better off using less than you would normally spread on a crust of bread.

How to make pineapple weed jelly (it's easy)

Photo by Ken Korczak

Pineapple weed is one of the most useful and healthy native wild plants in nature. It is sometimes called “wild chamomile” because it is among the same family of that plant, which you probably know is an extremely popular herbal remedy and tea.

Pineapple weed is named thusly because it has a slightly sweet scent that some find similar to pineapple. It’s easy to find and work with. To make a fine tea, simply pick some of this stuff, pluck off the flower heads, boil them, let it steep and then strain it through a coffee filter. It makes a mild, fragrant slightly golden-colored tea. Add a tad of sugar and lemon if you want.

But you can also make a marvelous jelly out of this plant. It’s easy.

Gather a small bowl-full of pineapple weed. You can use both the leaves and the flower buds if you want, although some prefer to use only the heads. Boil the buds in about four cups of water. Let is steep and cool. More foraging tips.

Next, pour 3 and one-half cups of your pineapple weed infusion into a kettle. Add three cups of sugar (or less) and bring to a boil. Toss in a 1.75 oz box of fruit pectin, such as Sure Jell, and bring to a boil. Then quickly scoop the liquid into prepared canning jars – and now all you have to do is wait for it to set.

It’s really easy and the whole process takes maybe less than an hour. The jelly is sweet, but just slightly tart.

Pineapple weed
Over the years, pineapple weed has been a popular herbal remedy for relief of gastrointestinal upset, infected sores, fevers, and postpartum anemia.

Pineappleweed is easy to find for the urban and rural dweller alike. Give it a try.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Juneberries or serviceberries are as fine as blueberries but get less respect -- go out and find some of these delicious berries!

Juneberry: Photo by Ken Korczak

Well, June 2012 is almost in the books, and juneberries are ready to pick -- if you can find any. For me, in the northwest corner of Minnesota, there seems to be darn few, at least in the area surrounding my home and where I forage.

My theory is that we have had remarkably little rain this year, unlike most other areas of Minnesota. I've been out looking at all the juneberry bushes and most have just a few ragged looking little berries on then. Oh well, that's the way it goes

The juneberry, also called serviceberry, is a remarkably delicious natural fruit which grows widely in Minnesota and many other areas of the country. they grow on medium-sized bushes with dark green, rather rounded leaves with little serration.

They have a sweet taste which may not be as bold or succulent as the blueberry, but this is simply an extremely fine fruit. Absolutely wonderful for pies and jams. Go out and have a look for them. Hope you have better luck than I did this year.

Check out Ken Korczak's delightful book: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I find gigantic King Bolete mushroom in the woods

My dog with shroom. Photos By Ken Korczak

I take a long jaunt through the woods just about every evening after a long day of writing, foraging, scouring the the Minnesota woodlands for cool plants, edible and otherwise.

I was absolutely god-smacked when I came across this gigantic mushroom. It's about 8 or 9 inches across the top and the stem must be three inches around. It's about 8 inches high. What is it? I am absolutely not a mushroom expert, so take this with a grain of salt, but after doing some research, I'm fairly certain this is the King Bolete. There is an outside chance that it may be fly agaric, but that species tends to have a spotty top, and also a red top, so I have all but ruled out the latter.

King bolete is good to eat -- but I have no interest in testing the theory that I am right about the identity of this magnificent shroom. To me, the joy was in encountering this magical and enormous fungi in the woods.

Incidentally, in my fast-selling ebook MINNESOTA PARANORMALA I tell the true story of two Minnesota men who also encountered a large mushroom in the woods -- but the one they found was some three-feet tall and three feet around -- gigantic! But size of the monster mushroom wasn't the strangest aspect of this story ... believe me ...

It's wild raspberry time in Minnesota!

Wild raspberry Photo by ken Korczak<>

As you can see from my luscious looking picture, I scored a wild raspberry patch in the woods last night. Picking raspberries in northern Minnesota is fairly labor intensive. These babies grow low to the ground in thick, brushy woodsy areas. In a normal year the mosquitoes make picking any kind of berry in Minnesota an exercise is endurance. But this year, dry weather in my corner of the state means we're having an amazingly blissful mosquito-free summer -- well not entirely, but almost.

The taste of these is beyond sublime -- sweet but not overpowering, tart, but not too tart.

I plan to make jelly out of these when I get enough. Sure, lots of people like raspberry pie, including me, but when you bake a pie, it's here today, gone tomorrow -- if not by the end of the day. For me, making jelly means I get to enjoy the unique flavor of the raspberry for weeks to come.

Check out Ken's fantasy book(based on a true story): BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The squash trellis is working!


As promised, I'm back with an update on how my squash trellis is functioning. So far, so great. As you can see in the picture,the vines are a-creepin' up the frame.


I should say, however, that I had to give it more than a little help to get it started. At first, the squash ignored the trellis with the vigor of a Department of Motor Vehicle employee ignoring people coming in to renew their licenses.

At first I tried to simply prop the vine against the sticks, but the wind just blew it off. Then I decided to gently tie the squash stem in place, and that seems to have done the trick.

I can already see that I'll have to add some additional slats in between the first and second tiers. There just needs to be more to grab onto.

The best thing is that the squash is growing extremely well. There's lots of blossoms and bugs. We've had near perfect weather and rainfall -- so I'm looking forward to squash up the wazoo in a couple of months!

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA, VOLUME 1

Friday, June 15, 2012

Grow 100 pounds of potatoes in four square feet


An idea that is spreading like wildfire across the country, especially among urban gardeners with very limited growing space, is the idea of using a tiered box structure to grow a whole lotta spuds.

The method employs a tiered set of 4-foot by 4-foot boxes which are stacked one on top of the other. The potatoes are planted in the bottom tier, and as they grow upward, additional tiers are added to hold more soil. New soil is added to surround a portion of the potato greens -- the idea it to leverage the upper portion of the plants as further growth points for even more potatoes.

That's the beauty of the potato plant. It's an extremely tough and opportunistic plant that will grow more spuds on more points of its body if allowed the opportunity. The box is called a Lutovsky Box after Greg Lutovsky, a Washington State seed dealer who developed the method. I give a good general introduction to the Lutovsky Box IN MY STORY HERE.

Many people seem to be getting the wrong idea about exactly how the Lutovsky Box works. A good example of how not to do it can be viewed in THIS VIDEO.

To see a video on the right way to build a Lutovsky Box, CLICK HERE.

From what I have read among those who have tried the Lutovsky Box, few of them report they were able to achieve 100 pounds of product -- most report they were able to grow 50 to 80 pounds in their 4x4 tiered structure. That's still pretty good.

Two of the primary keys to be successful with a Lutovsky Box are:

1. Use soil that is well-mixed with dry mulch. Use either straw, pine mulch or some other substance that will keep the soil from getting too water logged, compact, and which will keep it well drained.

2. Select a variety of potato that grows well in your zone or climate. Seek advice from your local County Extension agent, or a greenhouse or gardening expert. There are many variety of potatoes. Some grow much better in compact tiers than others.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Big energy companies may be getting nervous about solar


Just a note for you all to check out my story about solar energy. (See link below)

I know solar is still expensive and hard to swing for many folks who want to be be more independent and free of the grid (and creepy energy companies). But I firmly believe the future for solar looks bright for those of us who dream of total food and energy independence. If the energy companies are getting nervous, well, that's a good sign:


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why buy tea? Wild wood strawberry tea is everywhere

Wild wood strawberry © Photo Ken Korczak

Wild strawberry tea. How good does that sound? You don’t need a team of marketing consultants to come up with a name so pleasant and inviting for a tea.

Strawberries grow wild just about everywhere in Minnesota. In my northwest corner of the state, you practically can't take a step without encountering this stuff everywhere. Just take a stroll along any country road and you’ll see oodles of wild strawberry plants on the roadside and in the ditches, bearing pretty white flowers in early summer, and tiny red berries later on.

They’re also everywhere strewn across prairie lands, CRP, and in the woods growing among taller grasses. They look a lot like the strawberries grown by gardeners, so even an idiot like me had no trouble making a positive ID of this wild plant.

To be specific, this tea is brewed from the dried leaves of the wood strawberry rather than the berry itself. Lee Allen Peterson’s “A Field Guide to Edible Plants” directs that you boil the dried leaves of wood strawberries to make a very pleasant and mild tea. That’s what I did, and that’s what I got.

Don’t expect this tea to have a strawberry-like taste. Rather, when you boil the leaves, you get a very distinct tea-like flavor -- but this is a tea with almost a total lack of bitterness. I find wild wood strawberry tea to be exceedingly subtle. It’s not only mild, but seems to personify that quality. This tea does not have the welcome sweetness of pineapple weed or sweet goldenrod tea, it has a more tea-like flavor, with all the good things of a tea, without a bit of the bad -- no bitterness, no after taste. Just tea. Pure tea.

Wild strawberry tea is undemanding of the drinker. It gives without demanding. It puts one in the mood of acceptance, without resignation. It sends a soothing signal across the nerve endings, and gently washes the tension from an agitated mind.

Here is a tea that a group of friends can imbibe while having quiet conversation sitting in an summer gazebo on 78-degree day with low humidity and gentle winds. The sky would be blue and barn swallows would veer and dart through the air as the adlibbing humans sipped below.

If I wanted a rest for my mind, while also hoping to be inspired, I would choose this tea -- wild wood strawberry tea -- as my beverage of choice. It’s yet another amazing gift from the land, free and plentiful for everyone to simply pluck, brew and drink.

Ken Korczak is the author of: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hunting wild aspragus

Wild Asparagus © Photo Ken Korczak

This is wild asparagus time in northern Minnesota, although I should say, we're at the tale end of it. Wild asparagus is common in Minnesota, but less so here in the far north. But it seems I find more of it every year. I wonder if our constantly warming winters have something to do with it?

If you are wondering how this wild stuff compares to that which you get in the grocery store, well, there is not comparison. This wild stuff is delicious beyond belief. In fact, I've never been much of an asparagus fan, but since I've discovered wild asparagus, that has all changed. This stuff is amazingly good! To me it almost has a garden pea kind of taste. If you bake it with some butter a touch of garlic and salt -- wow! It's sublime!

Yes, it can be difficult to search out this natural gift from Mommy Nature, but they key is to look for the wilted fern-like scrubs from the previous year. They grow into a rather large, roughly triangular shaped plant about three feet tall. Once you learn to recognize them, you can spot them from a long way off, believe me. I often see them from my car growing in the sides of small ditches -- they seem to like to grow there.

When you do find it, you'll know where it is every year after that. Wild asparagus returns year after year once it takes root. I once heard that asparagus and rhubarb are the only two perennial vegetables. (Yes, rhubarb is a vegetable!) When you plant asparagus in your garden, it takes three years before you get your first harvest.

Remember that wild asparagus can be canned and also pickled! Let me tell you, a jar of pickled asparagus is a work of art.

A real fairy in northern Minnesota? This guy says so: JUBAL CRANCH

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Chicken Utopia: I Have Never Lost a Chicken to a Predator


So I have been keeping chickens now for four years in a woodsy area of northern Minnesota, and in that time, I have never lost a single chicken to predators.

Mind you, these parts are thick with beasties who enjoy a tasty chicken treat as much as any human being with a hankerin' for a greasy bucket of KFC. That which flyeth above include many variety of hawks and owls. Even a bald eagle occasionally perches in the lofty Norway pines standing sentinel over my yard.

There’s also numerous fox, coyotes, wolves, weasels, raccoons, fishers, mink, bear -- pretty much anything that enjoys the occasional chicken din-din, we have it here. When I first started raising chickens, everyone told me: “Expect to loose a few now and then.”

But I have never lost a chicken to predation, and my theory is that a situation has developed here that makes for a kind of natural chicken utopia.

First, of course, my chickens are protected by night, locked up in the old grain bin I have c around wherever they want, far and wide. I do not keep them behind fences or in pens. I want my chickens to enjoy the illusion of free will.onverted into a chicken coup. But I release them at the crack of dawn, and they get to roam.

I noticed the other day that when a hawk appeared nearby, the chickens saw it from a mile off, and scampered for the shelter of the woods. But what’s more interesting is that as soon as the hawk got close, a cadre of kestrels which nest in some tall cotton woods immediately launched and began harassing and dive bombing the hawk until it F’d off -- you know -- flapped off -- for a less stressful environment.

So the kestrels, which are hawks themselves, called sparrow hawks, are too small to tackle a chicken themselves. But they keep their larger cousins out of their territory, keeping the skies friendly above my chicken utopia.

One of the most efficient predators of chickens are the wily weasel, and I have plenty of them. I have even seen them hanging around in the woods behind my chicken coup. So why don’t these critters score a chicken feast now and then? They’re clever, they can squeeze into small spaces, they’re determined, they’re hungry.

It’s because most them end up dead on my porch step -- the weasel corpses are delivered up to me in a kind of sacred offering on a regular basis by my three cats. A lot of people think a weasel is too tough, fast or crafty for a cat. Not so.

The remainder of all the would-be chicken-lickin’ critters, such as fox, fishers and wolves, must contend with my Australian Shepherd, who likes nothing more than to patrol the perimeter night and day, leaving his golden calling card in strategic locations, and barking his fool head off at every perceived flicker of movement in the woods, or at any snap of a twig he find suspicious.

And so, it seems that a combination of common-sense shelter for the chicken at night, my well-fed cats who enjoy hunting purely for the sake of recreation, the air defenses of a cadre of cranky kestrels, and a restless Shepherd who’s obsessive-compulsive desire to keep all “others” out of his territory makes for a chicken utopia where only the Grim Reaper can claim a chicken soul via natural causes.

Check out Ken's eBook: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Squash Trellis: Check back in later to see if it works

The Squash Trellis

So this summer we are trying a trellis for the first time, in this case, a squash trellis.

When I posted a picture of this on Facebook, a number of my wiseacre friends said it looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project. (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get the snarky jokes.)

Whatever, I think it looks cools. If it makes the squash grow upward this year rather than spreading out to monopolize the whole garden, well then, mission accomplished. My wife gets all the credit for strapping this thing together. It's just three long sticks from the woods lashed together with twine and -- ta-da! -- a squash trellis.

My enterprising wife also fashioned another trellis using some parts from an old gazebo frame. Does not have the atavistic look of the Blair Witch version, but we'll see which one works better.

In reading up about this, I found that most people report that the squash doesn’t need to be “trained” to climb the trellis, but will do so naturally. So stay tuned. I’ll post updated pictures as the squash grows and (hopefully) climb up upon the Blair Witch stick pyramid.

Oh, by the way, I thought I would include a shot of where the squash is starting. As you can see below, it is still quite small, and we may have to re-position this a bit as the plant grows.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Morel Mushroom Hunt Turns Up Chicken of the Forest Instead: I'll Take It

Morel © Photo Ken Korczak


Well, the day after Memorial Day seemed like a good day as any to enter the deep northern Minnesota woods in search of morel mushrooms. Certainly, I didn't expect to find any. I'm not dumb. It's been cold and dry. We finally got some rain this week, but not sure if it came in time to bankroll some morels!

But I did score a major consolation prize -- a spectacular chicken of the woods shelf fungus, which is yummy to eat. Check out the full story of my mushroom hunt and slide show of other natural plants and wildlife:


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gather Acorns, Crack Acorns, Boil Acorns, Bake Acorns, Grind Acorns, Eat Acorns

Let's learn to make acorn bread!

The first Minnesotans, the Native Americans, probably ate a lot of acorns.

My ancient relatives back in eastern Europe probably did, too. Over in the Britons, Druids and Celts held the oak to be sacred. Back in their day, the British isles were covered in oaks. Some of them were giant oaks, the likes of which no longer exist today.

According to author and professor of theology James N. Powell, the modern word for “truth” can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European word for “oak.” Powell also says that the oak tree is struck by lightening more than any other tree -- thus bolstering its ancient connection with the gods and heaven.

I’ve always had an affinity for the oak tree, and I have long said to myself: “One day I am going to collect a whole pile of acorns, shell them out and make something to eat out of them.” Last Sunday was that day.

If you want to gather acorns for food, expect to do a lot of work. And I mean a lot. Here’s the timeline of my acorn project:

* Collecting one 5-gallon pail of acorns -- 1 hour.

* Shelling acorns one at a time with a pair of pliers -- 6 hours

* Boiling acorns to remove tannin -- 3 hours

* Baking boiled acorns to dry them -- 1.5 hours

* Grinding dried acorns into flour -- 90 seconds

* Mixing ingredients for acorn bread -- 15 minutes

* Baking acorn bread -- 30 minutes.

Was it worth it? Yes! First of all, acorn bread tastes like manna from heaven, if manna from heaven tasted like a delicious, fragrant, nutty bread that is slightly sweet and has a moist, wonderful texture.

The reward in producing a single loaf of acorn bread takes a full, very long day of painstaking work. But as the saying goes: “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”

This is true of my acorn experience. Take it from me, a guy who has practiced Zen meditation every day for 29 years, cracking acorns with a pair of pliers one at a time for six hours qualifies as a powerful form of meditation in and of itself. It’s a fantastically pleasant experience.

Working with acorns provides a connection with good old Mother Nature and to the most ancient traditions of our ancestors. If you want to feel deeply connected with humanity, and enjoy an earthy, nutty food that is the very embodiment of abiding endurance, then a day spent gathering, cracking, boiling, baking and grinding acorns is an excellent way to do it.

Acorns should be boiled for at least two hours. I think I went almost three before I was satisfied that the tannin was sufficiently removed. You tell by the color of the water which drains away each time you change the water. You bring to a boil, drain, add water, boil again, and repeat until you think you've gone far enough!

Bake your boiled acorns at about 200 degrees in the oven for an hour, or so, or until they are nicely dry.

After you have baked your acorns, it's time to grind them into flour. I use my Vita-Mix blender. The acorns are quit soft after boiling and drying to probably any blender will do, or any food grinder, even a coffee grinder. If you really want to work hard, crush them by hand with a masher, or something.

Bake something! Mix your acorn flour with regular flour and bake something yummy. You'll have to experiment. Acorn flour is quite bitter so a little goes a long way. Most of the time, I add just a quarter cup of flour to 2 or 3 cups of regular flour to get a brown, nutty bread.

* * *

Note that everyone has different tastes. You can also make a very dark acorn bread more akin to, say, banana bread. You'll have to add a lot fo sugar or honey to counter the natural bitterness of the acorns. Some people may like bitter, however, which is all good.

Keep in mind, too, that you can use your acorns in a variety of ways -- eat it as mush or cereal, put it in a smoothie, sprinkle it on a salad -- you decide. For me, though, acorn bread is where it's at.

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

Wild Turkeys Make Big Comeback To Northern Minnesota

© Photo By Ken Korczak

It still makes you do a double take: A flock of wild turkeys just hanging out in extreme northern Minnesota. But they’re here, and they seem to be doing just fine, and better every year.

In recent years, the Minnesota DNR and sporting groups have been working diligently to reintroduce the turkey to all parts of Minnesota after they were hunted to virtual extinction from our state by the early 1900s.

Since then there have been occasional attempt to bring the turkey back. For a while, sports groups tried raising young turkeys domestic fashion. But when these human-reared birds were released into the wild, they were quickly picked off by natural predators, from fox and wolves, to bobcats and whatever.

The problem? Being raised in captivity didn’t teach the turkey’s any natural survival skills. They expected Mother Nature to be nice to them after they were released into the Minnesota Eden -- but it was more like a Garden of Tribulation for the na├»ve gobblers.

So the DNR went out and got some "street smart" wild turkeys which grew up in the woods of Missouri. Minnesota brought hostages to leverage the deal -- ruffed grouse, prairie chickens and walleyes --and traded them to the folks in the Show-Me state for live-trapped wild turkeys.

That worked. Releasing turkeys raised naturally in the wild enabled the big birds to survive in the Minnesota wilderness, to be fruitful and multiply. Even so, few expected that the turkey would be seen as far north as Kittson and Roseau counties, but here they are, now commonly showing up in a field or farmyard near you.

Recently, I was delighted with a tough gang of gobblers wandered into my yard and had a tense stand-off with my chickens. It never turned ugly. There was some shrill gobbling from the toms, and some strident crowing from my roosters, and then both decided to go their own way in peace.

It’s nice to see the wild turkey back in the far north of Minnesota.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Monday, May 28, 2012

Write Your Congressman: Killing Bees To Make White Sugar Is An Insane Policy


How ironic is this? Bees produce the world’s most natural, healthy source of sweetness: honey. But here in the Red River Valley, bee populations have been “declared dead” by many beekeepers. (Source)

At the same time, the Red River Valley is also among the world’s largest producers of an unhealthy source of sweetness: white, refined, nutrition-free sugar processed from sugar beets.

The irony is that current policies seem to have traded the production of safe natural honey in favor of producing artificially refined sugar – the latter of which contributes to the nation’s obesity epidemic and a host of ancillary diseases– which in turn costs the public billions of dollars in health care bills.

Keep in mind that bees are also responsible for producing one-third of the nation’s food supply because of their contribution to the pollination of the millions of healthy fruits and vegetables we eat every day.

Beekeepers on the North Dakota side of the Red River have given up and moved their hives to the western areas of the state. In the meantime, Red River Valley beet farmers are making liberal use of a pesticide that has been pinpointed as a major cause of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder.

Sold under the brand name of Poncho, this substance is known generically as clothianidin, which is produced by the German company, Bayer. It is also ironic that clothianidin is banned in Germany because of its well-understood negative impact on bees and the environment.

However, the EPA here in the United States continues to give clothiandin the green light – and to further the outrage, a recently leaked memo shows that EPA officials know that clothianidin is not safe. (Source)

The use of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids “is most worrisome,” said Jim Frazier, a professor of entomology at Penn State University. In a March 21 Associated Press story, Frazier told reporters that because this class of chemicals treat millions of acres of corn and other genetically modified plants throughout the U.S., it builds up over time in the soil, plants and trees. Frazier said clothianidin is “toxic to bees.”

Here in the Red River Valley, sugar beet farmers use clothianidin to kill mostly root maggot, which attacks sugar beet roots. The chemical is applied to beet seeds before they are drilled into the soil. It’s great for growing sugar beets which will be chemically processed to produce unhealthy white sugar – but the science is clearly showing that it’s having a devastating effect on bees. (Source)

According to the USDA, bees (and other insects) directly contributed at least $40 billion to the U.S. economy, thanks to their natural ability to pollinate the crops we grow for food.(Source) On the other hand, the product of white refined sugar costs U.S. consumers at least $2 billion per year because of trade protections for sugar enacted by Congress.

Although sugar beets have not been directly subsidized for a number of years, higher prices for sugar are passed on to consumers and candy makers who cannot buy sugar on the free market – all this to protect the profits of a small number of beet farmers, and companies like Crystal Sugar, which has been in the news the past year for locking out its workers and hiring “scabs” to save money on labor.

So what we have developed in the Red River Valley is a nutty lose-lose situation. Wealth-generating, food producing bees are being driven out in exchange for growing nutrition-free sugar which feeds no one, and which costs tax payers billions of dollars a year to boot.

That's crazy.