Gifts From The Earth Bear: The Aroma Of Love
By Janis Gingermountain
You don’t have to be a small patch farmer or even a dedicated home gardener to make some charming, useful holiday gifts from the earth that are sure to delight your family and friends. They say love. They say you wish them good health and contentment.
A jar of granola is a thoughtful gift for breakfast-lovers. In a 9” by 13” cake pan stir the following: 6 C. oat flakes (not instant), 1 C. of your favorite nuts, ½ C. orange juice or other fruit juice, ½ C. maple syrup, 1 t. cinnamon, and ½ t. nutmeg. Stir well and bake at 300 degrees for an hour or a little more, till light brown, stirring every 15 minutes. After it cools you can stir in such dried fruits as raisins, apricot pieces, or dried cranberries. Tie the jar with a pretty bow and maybe some tiny pine cones.
A gift of much-coveted raspberry vinegar is easy to make. Put one cup of fresh or frozen red raspberries into a quart jar and fill with almost-boiling white vinegar. Let set for four days, then strain out the raspberries. Pour into clean decorative bottles and tie on an attractive tag.
Sprouting jar sets are a great gift for salad aficionados. Get a wide-mouth quart jar, buy some wide-mouth canning rings, and mark and cut a circle of screen that will just fit into the ring. At a health food or whole foods store buy alfalfa seed and mung bean seed. In two small plastic bags place ¼ C. of each seed. Include the following sprouting instructions: “Place 1 T. of either kind of seed in jar and fill with cold water. Let stand 24 hours and pour off. Put jar in a bright, cool, shady place, rinsing the seed twice a day and making sure the water is drained. Within a week you will have beautiful mung bean or alfalfa sprouts.”
Garlic is fun to grow, beautiful, and makes a lovely gift for a gourmet cook. Buy several heads of garlic at a farmers’ market. In mid-October break them into cloves and plant, root-side down, 2” to 3” deep. You will see green shoots by December. In early summer when your plants have long green shoots with soft little heads, cut these back and make pesto! This will help your heads to grow bigger. By mid-July your plants will be ready to harvest. Dig them carefully, let them dry a few weeks, and peel off the rough brown outer skins to reveal bright white. Then you can braid several heads and tie with a bright ribbon.
Did you know homemade salsa is ten times better than store-bought? For each batch you will need four medium-to-large tomatoes, a jalapeno pepper, a small onion, two cloves garlic, a small bunch of coriander, a splash of lemon or lime juice, and a dash of salt and of sugar. Process in blender or food processor till a little more pureed than chunky, but not liquid. Place salsa in clean pint jars and screw on canning jar lids. Place in a rack in a canning pot of boiling water, making sure jars are submerged. Boil for 15 minutes, then remove carefully with tongs. When the lids pop a few minutes later, you’ll know they are sealed. Tie on a bright green ribbon and the salsa recipe.
A small cookbook of your favorite recipes is a welcome gift that will hold special memories of you. It could be all desserts, all appetizers, all dishes made from vegetables you have grown, all family favorites, all heirloom recipes from your family tree, or you name it. If you can draw, paint, do calligraphy, or write poetry or little stories to go with the recipes, so much the better. If you’re computer-savvy you could print your own books. Otherwise you can get them printed inexpensively at an office supply store.
Mmmmm! Mint! Maybe you already have a patch of spearmint, peppermint, or apple mint in your yard. If not, get a big sewer pipe so the mint won’t spread, buy or beg a mint plant, plant it in the pipe, and you’re ready to roll. When you finally have a huge mint plant, cut branches, tie them, and hang up to dry. Crumble the dried mint and place in a pretty jar with a tea-ball spoon attached with a pretty bow. When the spoon is packed with mint it serves as a tea bag in a cup of boiling water.
Looking for a small gift for your favorite cat? He or she will love a jar of dried catnip, or, if you can sew, a little pillow filled with catnip. Buy or beg a catnip plant and plant it outdoors in a place where your cat can enjoy it. It will start to spread the second year. When you have lots of big branches of catnip, cut the plant back, tie the sheave, and hang to dry. Then when they’re thoroughly dry crumble the leaves into tiny pieces and place in jar or pillow. Attach a tag with “CATNIP FOR (cat’s name).” Your homemade gifts from the earth will indeed be memorable. Their aromas will stay in your friends’ hearts and minds, a reminder of their friend’s caring, healing ways.