Our next garden event is August 17th, at 7pm, at the home of Jennifer Blandford and Mark Ammon, 380 W Walnut St. Please call and let them know if you plan to attend and bring additions to the repast: 317-847-2695, jblandford@callcarpenter.com Over the past four years since moving in, Jennifer and Mark have made many changes to the garden area. Basically starting from scratch since the previous owner took the garden with her. Jennifer says she is contemplating some flowery additions to the sunny side of their yard and she welcomes suggestions and ideas.

If you would like to be added to the VRA Garden Club’s email list for up to date information on events, please email Delma Mindel at dmmindel@sbcglobal.net.

ZVRA Digital Photography Workshop

On a warm Saturday morning earlier this July, a group of Village residents gathered for a short digital photography workshop led by village photographer and author of 3 books on digital photography, Chris Bucher. The session started with introductions all around and quickly got to the business of f/stops and shutter speeds, and a brief refresher on just exactly how a digital SLR works.

With many stops for questions and lots of hands on instructions, there was plenty of time for discussion on what some of the best settings were for many different visual scenarios. One particularly interesting subject that came up was simply how the meter in the camera decides what the exposure should be for a particular photograph and how the photographer can use the tools of the camera to maximize the creativity of the photographer to capture exactly the image that is in the minds’ eye—more than just grabbing a snapshot. Additionally, we went through the process of learning where some of the more advanced settings on the camera were. These settings allow for special looks, adding extreme contrast, saturated color, or even black and white to the digital photos.

The last section of the workshop, we talked about working with light and exposure. By using the contrast between sunlight and shadow, it was easy to see how the camera may be fooled into an incorrect exposure for what was desired- and how to still achieve the look that worked great for that image. There was even a model provided for the photographers to be able to try and experiment with some of the tools that were discussed earlier in the day and to see the difference between several different “qualities” of light. One particularly fun thing was using some other lighting tools to make for even better photography. Who would have thought that using your camera’s flash in bright sunlight might make for great portraits or even how a simple sheet of copy paper might add depth and dimension to a face or flower by reflecting a little light into the scene.

Thank you, Chris Bucher, for giving us a few hours of your time!

Let us know if there is more interest in programs like this that you would like to see the VRA put together. Just email president@zvra.com.

Backyard Delights: Purslane

by Carrie Ciula

When walking through a forest~ or any other natural place that radiates abundance~ I feel most alive. I know that I am far from alone when I write that I deeply sense the power behind and artistry within the way ‘eco~pieces’ fit so perfectly into a rich and dynamic whole. I lack an adequate description for how this harmony puts me at ease……

While enjoying the nutritionally rich ‘sparkle’ of a salad that was collected five minutes before meal time (when much of the produce at the market was grown a month ago) and curtailing grocery bills are both notable benefits of foraging~ one of the greatest treasures of collecting and eating wild foods is of a soulful and mindful nature. There is something about picking and noshing on wild plants that ‘charms in’ the most discerning of onlookers. Even folks who sport a serious disinterest in nature will toss out a dozen questions when they spot you, trail side, plucking up an ‘offensive’ weed and sticking it in your mouth. This intrigue is more than just inquisitive criticism; it is an outward expression of a deeper, more intuitive, nudging. Foraging reminds us that our food is not created in a factory or a supermarket. It is created by our Earth…and it reconnects us in a deep and sustaining way~ going far beyond the boundaries of physical nutrition. No advancement in science can make this variety of beautiful connection obsolete. While the below is about dining directly from Earth’s garden, if you have skills at reading between the lines, you’ll recognize a very sincere plea for less consumption and more self-reliance. I encourage all of us to do all that we can do to nourish ourselves, our children the planet that nourishes us all……
……dig up, dig in, ‘re~wild’ yourself…..and enjoy!!!


“I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, simply off a dish of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted.”
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Life in the Woods)

While, apparently, not one of the more sought after wild plants- or even that well known in North America- purslane is a popular food in the Mediterranean and many other areas of the world. Look for purslane in open, sunny areas as it is a warm weather lover- not sprouting until the ground temperature reaches around 80 degrees F- very determined once established and flourishing with ease. The tear drop shaped leaves (though they remain rounded- not quite reaching a ‘tear drop’ point where the leaf meets the stem and are typically no longer than 1 inch in length) are green with a hint of red, first sprouting as four propeller looking leaves out of a reddish system of stems that resemble pipes stretching across the ground. The plant rarely reaches more than 2 or 3 inches in height.

Purslane is a succulent- a plant which has fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems. In extreme cases of drought, the stems of the plant will pull water back in from the leaves and drop them. With the way that it spreads across the ground, purslane has the look of a plant that would root at each node. It does not. Though, interestingly, much like a starfish, it does grow new plants from cut segments- granted that the soil conditions are ideal. Purslane’s hardiness, along with this ability to grow new plants from chopped up pieces make for an unruly task for those trying to eliminate its presence from garden space or farmland…….and a delight for wild food enthusiasts.

It is fairly easy to identify purslane based on its leaves and stems, alone- for those who still feel uncomfortable, however- the plants do produce flowers once they reach a certain age. The flowers are tiny (less than 1/4 of an inch,) are usually yellow in color, 5 petaled and found on older growth. The tiny black seeds are barely larger than grains of salt.

Nutritionally, purslane is potent! It tops the list for quality amounts of vitamin E and contains an impressive amount of omega-3 fatty acids- unusual for a plant. I have read that purslane contains up to 4000 ppm of the omega-3 fatty-acid alpha linolenic acid. For those who take fish or flax oil supplement, purslane could offer up a nice alternative during the summer months while saving money in the process. Purslane contains glutathione, is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus, and nicely compares to spinach in its iron content.

With a mild, very slight hint of sour flavor and chewy texture- purslane leaves and stems are edible raw and make a fantastic addition to salads. After rinsing, you can steam or add them to soups, stir-frys or other veggie dishes.

  • Be mindful of spurge, a similar looking, poisonous plant that can grow near purslane. The leaves of spurge usually grow in a pair across from each other on the stem~ which is not as thick as purslane’s stem, and gives off a white, milky sap when you break it. If careless, it would not be difficult to toss some in your bag while out scouting for purslane.

Purslane Potato Salad

6 medium red potatoes, cooked and cubed
3 cups purslane, washed and chopped
4 scallions, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 tbsp. homemade mayo, blended nut~based cream or simply any cold~pressed oil
2 tbps. Dijon mustard
sea salt and pepper to taste

Wash and chop all ingredients. Mix together in a bowl with mayo, cream or oil of choice. Add in seasonings to desired taste. Chill until ready to be served- (can garnish with fresh dill sprigs.)

*blending nutrient dense leafy greens with antioxidant and water rich fruits into a ‘green smoothie’ is an easy and incredible way to boost your health and vitality

Purslane Plum Smoothie
1 head of red leaf lettuce
1 bunch chard leaves
2 cups purslane, washed
4 black or red plums, pits removed
1 cup mixed berries
1/2 avocado
stevia, to taste

Add just enough water to blend until smooth Enjoy!

The one rule, sans exception, of foraging; KNOW YOUR PLANT. While the benefits of eating wild plants are significant and very worthy~ there is no room for error. You can, and should, take all of the time that you need to get to securely know a plant before consuming it….in a way that you can comfortably and positively identify it 100% of the time.)

Carrie Ciula is a writer, educator and mind/body therapist, focusing on health and sustainability through indigenous nutrition and vibrational medicine.
(Learn more at www.carrieciula.com)

Maplelawn Farmstead News

by Marianne Doyle

Children grades 3 through 8 enjoyed the fourth year of summer day camps at Maplelawn Farmstead. Hot? You bet, but plenty of fun and creative experiences. This year’s camp focused on entertainment in the 1930s. After a week of sampling movies and radio shows of the Great Depression era the campers created dance, comedy, magic and singing acts, costumes, sets, and props to perform a variety show for their families and friends the last day of camp. Board games such as Monopoly, Carroms and Chinese Checkers were popular during pavilion time at the farmstead. Campers tended the vegetable garden harvesting green beans, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and onions. Favorite lunches prepared over an open fire included, s’mores, hobo beans, homemade pickles, brown bread and hand churned ice cream topped with Maplelawn strawberries.
We look forward to a fifth Summer at Maplelawn, sharing farmstead experiences with more enthusiastic campers!

Coming up this fall at Maplelawn:

Movies at Maplelawn, Friday Sept 23rd 6pm- movie starts at dusk
3rd Annual Mystery at Maplelawn, Oct28-29 Nov 4-5

For more information visit Maplelawnfarmstead.org

Recipe of the Month: Chop Salad

by Caron Peper

This is one of my favorite midsummer recipes. It allows me to gorge on summer vegetables AND I can make a batch to eat for days as lunch, snack, or side dish! Feel free to substitute veggies, but I have found the vinegar/salt/sugar ratio is near perfect in this recipe.

Chop Salad
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 cup(s) diced tomatoes
2-3 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
dash of pepper
chives or parsley optional

Mix all together. Chill at least a few hours before serving. Will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.

5 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Eat More Fruits Veggies

by Carrie Ciula

In our convenience focused society, many kids are learning that it is quicker to open up a bag of chips then it is to take the time to wash off a piece of fruit. By now, I’m certain that very few of us have not heard or read about how important it is to back off of the commercialized, processed, packaged fare and to get back to the fresh, Earth produced foods that we are biologically designed to consume.

This past weekend, our family met up with a few friends for a picnic. One of the other kids began commenting on what my children were eating- claiming that veggies are ‘tasteless’ and that he refuses to eat them unless they are fried. The whole conversation triggered the question in my mind: how can we motivate kids to harmonize with and enjoy healthy eating habits? The following are a few simple strategies that I believe will help if your child isn’t so fond of the fresh stuff……………

Blend up a fresh fruit and greens smoothie
Blending is an easy, fast and fun way to pack a lot of nutrition into one simple drink.
Begin by using your child’s favorite fruits and blend them with mild greens (spinach, lettuces, etc.) and a small amount of water to create a smoothie that is both palatable and nutritionally potent. As your child acclimates to the taste- you can begin to branch out with different fruits and darker greens. You can also use nut milks or fresh juice as a base for added nutrition.

If your child is having trouble ‘digging’ a particular fruit or veggie- try making a dip to go along with it. Dips are fun to eat and add a whole new dimension, taste~wise. Examples- almond butter, sunflower butter, blended fruit or chocolate dip (cold pressed oil, cocoa or carob powder, vanilla stevia, sea salt.)

Fun’ify’ snacks
Pretend play with your child while eating…maybe you’re at a cocktail party- or eating with the Queen and King….use fancy cups and plates, cocktail umbrellas or reusable straws. Create the dish to look like an animal or bug…remember thee ol’ ‘worms in the dirt’ recipe from our childhood? FUN! There are several great and easy-to-find online sites to stir up ideas.

Include a colorful salad with dinner
The way a meal looks is often just as important as how it tastes. Use a variety of different veggies (and/or fruits) so that your salad will be colorful and visually appealing. Try blending up your own dressing using apple cider vinegar or lemon, cold pressed oil, and fresh herbs.

Healthy desserts!
Does your child like ice cream? Try making ice cream from coconut milk…or avocados and natural flavors/sweeteners. Get creative with fruit by topping it with the above chocolate sauce or nut/seed based crumble…..or go for something equally as delightful, yet beyond simple- like apple slices, almond butter and cinnamon. The possibilities really are endless.

Naturally, each above idea can be customized to your child’s unique tastes and preferences. You’ll find it easier and easier to replace processed, packaged, nutrient stripped concoctions with nutrient~rich, real food…Enjoy!

Resident Tourist: Symphony Under the Stars

by Jennifer Bucher

Village residents gathered on a hot July evening for a special Indianapolis Symphony performance at Wild Aire Farms. Guests were encouraged to bring food and decorate their reserved tables. The VRA Garden club decorated their table with delicate tablecloths and pretty outdoor lanterns.

I joined village residents Bob and Anne Royalty, Gary and Marcia Angstadt and Drew Kogan at a table under the sun for a dinner of fried chicken, homemade tomato tarts (courtesy of Zionsville resident Allison Wharry) and watermelon salad. Hats and fans were a must on this sunny day!

Special thanks to Marcia Angstadt for having the forethought to bring fans to share.

The symphony performed a variety of compositions by Indy natives including Hoagy Carmicheal and Cole Porter. Those who stayed to the very end were rewarded with a brilliant fireworks display set to the 1812 Overture.

A wonderful night spent “under the stars” with friends and neighbors!

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