Mother Earth News Fair
Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

5 Questions for Ellen Zachos

Ellen Zachos

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Good food.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Vitamix blender and Excaliber dehydrator.

What brings you the greatest joy?

My husband, my family, my friends, and my cat.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

A moist forest full of mushrooms.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Make sure you love your work because you'll be doing it every day.

Ellen Zachos shares seasonal recipes and tips on foraging at She teaches foraged mixology workshops to bartenders in partnership with Rémy Cointreau USA, and is a regular contributor to several Edible magazines. A longtime instructor at the New York Botanic Garden, Zachos is the author of six books, including Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat. For more on Ellen check out!

Food Fermentation at the FAIR

At the 2015 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I attended a talk by Sandor Katz on an introduction to the fermentation of vegetables, and checked out some of the cool new vendors who have joined the fermentation revitalization.

Sandor began by saying that we might think of canning as old-fashioned, but its a relatively new form of preservation, invented in 1815 or so in France. Fermentation is a much older, ancient process that predates recorded history. Sandor calls himself a fermentation revivalist. He says, people think of biodiversity as about whales and wolves but “no less important is the biodiversity inside of us." In fact, “fermented foods are the embodiment of biodiversity."

The revival seems to be going well, as the number of fermentation vendors, workshops, and books at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are growing quickly. They are a creative, energized lot, the fermentation revivalists.

Last year, Tara and her fermentation bus, Fermentation on Wheels, attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. Fermentation on Wheels, established in 2013, is a traveling culinary research hub with a mission to harvest & preserve, encourage sustainability, and teach fermentation. Tara travels around in her bus and teaches and demos, sharing the word and the starters for all kinds of ferments.

This year, my local friends from Maryland, Rachel and Luke of The Sweet Farm, brought their spankin' new fermentation truck to vend at the fair. It has that old-timey old truck feel, but its a decked out refrigeration truck with pull down wooden bars, chalkboard walls and three fermented soda taps for three flavors: ginger beer, lemon lime and blood orange. They also sold brine pickles on a stick and dilly beans, along with their line of Sweet Farm krauts. The Sweet Farm has been going strong since 2011.

Fermented products need to be kept at the earth's temperature or lower, ideally around 55 degrees. They can be refrigerated or kept in cold storage, like a basement or cellar. Sauerkraut at the store is processed to be in the jar, on the pantry shelf, so it loses its beneficial properties. Health food stores sometimes sell refrigerated fermented products, like Bubbie's Pickles.

Sandor says you really need to make fermented foods yourself to get the healthy benefits that our bodies need. If you are lucky, there might be a local small business making and selling small batch fermented products near you. They can keep you stocked when you can't make your own, and provide valuable expertise in the revival of fermentation.

I would say Sandor Katz has been an exceptional revivalist. His books are considered must-have guides to fermenting food for good health and easy, effective preservation. Since his first book Wild Fermentation came out in 2003, he has been educating people about the benefits and easy methods of fermentation. Sandor's newest book is The Art of Fermentation. His books have been guiding me with my at-home pickling and kim chi making these past few years.

Fermenting vegetables is easy to do. Search Mother Earth News for many resources, including a couple blog posts I wrote about fermentation: Sarah's Farm Chi, Make Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles. You can also sign up for the new Food Preservation newsletter on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Photos by Ilene White Freedman

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 

Vegetable Quiche Recipe from Leanne Brown’s 'Good and Cheap'


As much as I love this quiche hot, I like it even better cold out of the fridge the next day. It makes a great, fast breakfast or lunch (paired with a side salad). The quiche in the picture uses broccoli, but you can make it with pretty much any kind of vegetable. Some of my favorites are roasted green chilies and cheddar, winter squash with goat cheese, zucchini and tomato, or spinach and olive. Spreading out onions on the bottom of the quiche adds a crust-like layer and a bit of crunch. Serves four


• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
• 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
• 1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
• 3 to 4 cups chopped vegetables*
• 8 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup grated cheddar or other cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt the butter in a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, transfer everything to a pie plate in Step 3 to bake it.) Add the onion slices and sprinkle a bit of salt and

pepper over them. Cook the onions until they are golden brown and starting to caramelize, about 10  minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the onions evenly across the bottom. Spread the vegetables evenly over the onions. The dish or pan should look fairly full.

* For hardier vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or winter squash, I suggest steaming or cooking them before adding them to the quiche to ensure they’ll be fully cooked. For tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, or any other quick-cooking vegetable, just use them fresh.

4. In a bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs lightly with the milk, cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper, just enough to break up the yolks and whites. This is a savory custard mixture. Pour the custard over the vegetables and onions and enjoy watching it fill in all the open spaces.

5. Transfer the quiche to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Once the surface is lightly brown all the way across, it’s fully cooked.

6. Let the quiche cool for about 20 minutes, then slice into wedges.

Leanne Brown’s book Good and Cheap can be found online in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS bookstore.

Photo courtesy of Workman Publishing

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Prepare for Winter Wellness with Garden Sage Body Oil


Sage is an herb of ancient repute, long valued as a culinary and medicinal plant. The Romans called it herba sacra or “sacred herb. Both the common name and botanical name, Salvia officinalis, originate in the Latin salvare, meaning “to save” – perhaps referring to its ability to save health. Sage, a native of the Mediterranean region and cultivated worldwide, is a familiar herb, with a fresh, warm-spicy, herbaceous aroma that many of us associate with the Thanksgiving holiday.

It has a stimulating, heating, and drying energy, and in the herbal medicinal realm, is a well-known cold germ and flu fighter, having particularly potent antimicrobial, respiratory antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, mucolytic (mucous thinning), antispasmodic, and vulnerary (tissue healing) properties.

With summer’s warmth waning and the fall/winter season rapidly approaching, it’s prudent to start thinking about stocking your natural medicine cabinet with beneficial herbs that will arm you in your preemptive strike against the onslaught of cold and flu “bugs.” Sage is definitely one of those herbs.

The recipe below is of my favorite culinary sage medicinal formulations and a bottle of this lovely infused oil is always in my arsenal of herbal remedies against colds and flu. My suggestion is that you make a batch now and start using it as soon as the fall weather hits. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” So true!

Preparation Note: If you have plenty of sage growing in your garden right now, and want to use the fresh leaves in the making of this recipe, you will see that the ingredient list calls for either dried sage or “freshly wilted sage leaves.” Allow me to relate what “freshly wilted” means and explain the procedure:

Wilting (Partially Drying) Herbs           

Wilting is the drooping and withering of the leaves or other parts of a plant – it is the first stage of drying.  When you make an infused oil from fresh herbs, you need to wilt the herbs first; the process removes sufficient moisture from the plant material to inhibit mold and bacterial growth without affecting the healing properties.

The process of wilting is simple, and I’ll use fresh sage leaves in this example. To make 3 cups of freshly wilted sage leaves, pick approximately double that amount to allow for shrinkage. Some delicate plant parts, such as rose petals and calendula petals, shrink considerably, while lavender buds and chamomile flowers don’t as much. Thick leaves such as rosemary and sage will shrink a moderate amount, while more tender leaves, such as lemon balm and peppermint can shrink significantly.

You’ll learn through trial and error how much fresh material to pick – it’s not an exact science.

To begin, simply snip the sage leaves from the stems after the morning dew has dried, but before the sun gets too warm; or, harvest them on a cool, dry evening. Spread the leaves on a clean screen, pillowcase, or length of lint-free cloth (a long strip of paper towels will do as well) in a warm, still location that is mostly shady and is protected from wafting animal dander, dust, and flies. I usually wilt my herbs on a table in my study or in the backseat of my car – away from my curious cats.

Allow the leaves to wilt for 24 to 48 hours, depending on temperature and humidity. If humidity is very high, add another 24 hours. You should notice a distinct change in texture, from firm and fresh to limp and soft, or even a bit on the leathery, resinous side, especially if the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity quite low.

The size of each leaf will diminish as the water evaporates out of the plant material. The amount of shrinkage depends on the temperature and level of humidity; the warmer and drier, the greater the reduction in herb size.

Keep this in mind: Unlike dried herbs, which can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 year, wilted herbs are still relatively fresh and cannot be stored for any length of time. They must be prepared a couple of days prior to when you intend to make a given recipe.

Winter Defense Sage Body Oil Recipe

Traditional healers around the globe have used sage for centuries. With sage growing in your garden, you have an elixir of good health right outside your door. Their soft, gray-green leaves will be at the ready for making this potent, aromatically earthy, warming infused oil.

When massaged into the skin from head to toe on a daily basis, sage-infused oil aids in strengthening the body’s immune system, supporting its defenses against outside invasion of the three main sources of disease: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The oil conditions the skin, too, keeping it soft, elastic, and healthy.

I can hear you thinking, “If I put sage oil on my skin, won’t I smell like Thanksgiving stuffing?” No worries. The fragrance may be rather potent in the bottle, but it becomes quite subtle upon application.

Note: I prefer to use the stovetop method of extraction for this formula, as I feel that the resinous sage leaves release their best medicinal properties and strongest aroma when processed in this manner.


• 1 ½ cup dried or 3 cups freshly wilted sage leaves
• 3 cups extra-virgin olive, soybean, or almond base oil (use almond or soybean oil if you want a lighter fragrance and texture)
• 2,000 IU vitamin E oil

Equipment: 2-quart saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, candy or yogurt thermometer, strainer, fine filter, funnel, plastic or glass storage containers

Prep time: 4 hours

Yield: Approximately 2 ½ cups


1. If you’re using freshly wilted sage leaves, first cut or tear the slightly leathery leaves into small pieces to expose more surface area to the oil.

2. Combine the leaves and base oil in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler and stir thoroughly to blend. The mixture should look like a thick, pale green herbal soup.

3. Bring the mixture to just shy of a simmer, between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Do not let the oil actually simmer — it will degrade the quality of your infused oil. Do not put the lid on the pot.

5. Allow the herb to macerate in the oil over low heat for 4 hours. Check the temperature every 30 minutes or so with a thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly. If you’re using a double boiler, add more water to the bottom pot as necessary, so it doesn’t dry out.

6. Stir the infusing mixture at least every 30 minutes or so, as the herb bits tend to settle to the bottom. After 4 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

7. While the oil is still warm, carefully strain it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin — or, preferably, a paper coffee filter — then strain again if necessary to remove all debris. Squeeze the herbs to extract as much of the precious oil as possible. Discard the marc.

8. Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend. The resulting infused oil blend will be a rich medium to dark green in color, depending on which base oil you chose. Pour the finished oil into storage containers, then cap, label, and

9. Store in a dark cabinet.

Storage: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year

Application: Once daily

Application Instructions: For maximum benefit, massage this infused oil into slightly damp, warm skin — fresh from the shower or bath. Apply daily for at least a month prior to cold and flu season, and continue to use it throughout the winter.

Bonus Sage oil makes a terrific diaper rash preventive and is wonderful added to salves and balms to help heal minor skin afflictions, respiratory infections, and dry, rough skin on the feet, elbows, and knees.

Find this and more recipes for smoothies, green drinks, frappes, shakes, nut milks, and other luscious, health-boosting, raw food beverages in my latest book, Hands-On Healing Remedies: 150 Recipes for Herbal Balms, Salves, Oils, Liniments & Other Topical Therapies (Storey Publishing, c2012). I’ve also written many other books, including my best-selling, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, c2007), Hands-On Healing Remedies(Storey Publishing, c2012), and Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body (Storey Publishing, c2009). Please visit my website to learn more about me and what I’m up to these days.

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of ten books — which are available at MOTHER EARTH NEWS Shopping— including Raw Energy in a GlassHands-On Healing RemediesOrganic Body Care RecipesRaw EnergyNaturally Healthy Skin365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Plant Flowers to Attract Beneficial Pollinators

Caption: Spring blooming Scabiosa will attract bees from the get go of the season. Scabiosa Blue Cockade.

I didn't set out to fill my farm with pollinators and other beneficial insects. You might say it has been a side effect of all-natural cut-flower farming. As simple as it sounds, it's true. Just plant flowers. Don't use pesticides — organic or otherwise. Soon a wave of these guys will overrun your garden.

As my awareness of beneficial insects has grown, I find that it is getting easier to farm. It has become my second nature to consider and provide a place for them to live, eat, and raise a family year round. This practice is not only the right thing to do for the future of all, but it totally impacts my business bottom line for the good.

Caption: We have pollinators following our harvest trailer around the farm! Harvest buckets of zinnias with a swallowtail butterfly left and a hummingbird moth on right.

This little-known community of good bugs is as diverse a mix as the population of NYC. And don’t underestimate their entertainment value, either. A fairly common comment directed at me on our farm: "Are we harvesting flowers today or are we taking photos of bugs?" There is a reason they make movies about bugs — they are fascinating!

How to attract them? Provide flowers from the first crack of spring and throughout the season until frost. It's those early spring blooms that really kick start our insect population. Bachelor buttons and calendula are two of the heavy hitters in our gardens. They bloom in spring when the nights are still chilly but the days are warm. Their foliage secretes nectar even before the flowers bloom, making them a great favorite of hungry bugs.

Caption: Fall blooming flowers will keep the garden full of pollinators until winter arrives. Left: Salvia Leucanth. Right: Salvia Mexicana.

Pleasing the pollinators requires providing a continuous supply of flowers throughout the growing season. This fits perfectly with my flower farming because my customers want the same thing! Monthly succession planting fits the bill for us.

To reap the benefit of these guys as pollinators and pest control, you must resist the urge to treat a possible problem that may pop up in your garden. Be patient and do not be afraid of some pest damage. To keep your community of good guys home and fed, they have to have some bad bugs to eat, right? Give them time to do their job.

It is my opinion that if you have a 10-row vegetable garden, you should also have 2 rows of flowers to support them. I won't get on my wagon here about the vegetable gardens I visit. There are some that don't have a flower in sight, while the gardener complains of a lack of bees for pollinating. It couldn’t be simpler: Plant flowers and they will come.

To learn how to supply your garden with a vast population of pollinators and other beneficial insects, attend my Seven Springs, Penn., MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR workshop, Restoring Pollinators; Grow Organic Flowers. I will share how to grow flowers from the first crack of spring up until frost. Perhaps the most challenging blooming times are spring and fall — both can be full of abundance growing hardy annuals as featured in my books Cool Flowers and The Easy Cut-Flower Garden (available in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store).

Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa, call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website, The Gardener's Workshop.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Refresh and Revitalize with a Sour Apple-Grape Green Smoothie

Green smoothies or green drinks are a wonderful way to get your kids or other finicky family members to down their daily greens with joy! “Yeah right,” I hear you say. “Nobody in my family will ever drink anything that’s green other than green beer on St. Patrick’s Day or an artificially dyed, mint ice cream shake from the local Dairy Freeze.”

I understand your sentiment, indeed I do. Over the years, I’ve had my share of vile-tasting, raw, cabbage-like kale smoothies and vowed I’d never have another. That was before I learned how to camouflage the green flavor with other ingredients that are sweet and creamy or tart and tangy. 

In addition to the plethora of restorative, revitalizing, immune-boosting, and energizing nutrients contained within green superfoods, such as kale, spinach, arugula, spirulina, chlorella, lettuce, parsley and alfalfa grass, consuming greens in your smoothie is a great way to prevent blood-sugar swings and keep things in balance. (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

Greens add more fiber to the blend than results by simply using whole fruit as the star player, and furthermore, the moderate protein content of greens helps slow carbohydrate digestion, resulting in a steadier, more stable blood-sugar level. As a bonus, this effect makes you feel fuller longer – more satisfied and less likely to snack between meals or overeat at mealtime.

Below is one of my favorite summertime tart and tangy, refreshing green drinks. It fills me up, cools me down, is relatively low in calories, tastes fabulous, and packs a powerful punch of dynamic nutrition and fiber in every sip. It’s quick to make and clean-up is a snap! Give it a try, won’t you? I’m sure you and your family members will love it. Enjoy!

Sour Apple-Grape Crush Smoothie Recipe

Recommended Kitchen Equipment: You will need a high-speed, powerful blender such as a NutriBullet, Nutri Ninja, Blendtec, Vitamix, or KitchenAid in order to make this recipe and ensure that the finished drink is ultra-smooth and silky.

You may find this combo of sweet and sour fruits to be one of the best green drinks ever — I certainly do — plus you’ll never know there’s any spinach in it at all. The tanginess brings to mind the sour apple flavor of the Jolly Rancher brand of hard candies, but it’s immensely better for you.

This pale green, frothy, energetically cooling, ultra-filling beverage delivers a dynamic blend of nutrients that will supercharge and strengthen your body, fend off illness, promote regularity, and beautify from within. Yields 2 generous servings


• 1 cup purified water
• 2 cups baby spinach, packed
• 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into small chunks
• 2 cups green grapes, with or without seeds
• 1 tbsp flaxseed oil, unfiltered preferred
• Pinch of sea salt


1. Put the water, spinach, apples, grapes, flaxseed oil, and salt in a blender and blend on high until the fruits and spinach are pureed and smooth, but still a hint on the fibrous side, about 30 seconds. Expect tiny specks of green apple skins in the finished drink.

2. Serve immediately and feel incredibly energized. This blend has a moderate amount of sugar, but a lot of fiber, so sip slowly — no gulping. Please “chew” each sip, mixing well with your saliva so that it digests with ease.

A good source of: blood-building iron and chlorophyll, potent antioxidants, vitamins B, C, E, and K, boron, silicon, other trace minerals, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, natural sugars, and fiber.


Find this and more recipes for smoothies, green drinks, frappes, shakes, nut milks, and other luscious, health-boosting, raw food beverages in my latest book, Raw Energy In A Glass: 126 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies, Green Drinks, and Other Satisfying Raw Beverages to Boost Your Well-Being (Storey Publishing, c2014). I’ve also written many other books, including my best-selling, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, c2007), Hands-On Healing Remedies (Storey Publishing, c2012), and Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body (Storey Publishing, c2009). Please visit my website to learn more about me and what I’m up to these days.

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of ten books — which are available at MOTHER EARTH NEWS Shopping — including Raw Energy in a Glass, Hands-On Healing Remedies, Organic Body Care Recipes, Raw Energy, Naturally Healthy Skin, 365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Learn About DIY Natural Building at the Oregon FAIR



Ever thought about designing and building a space for your worker-owned business, intentional community, local co-op market, or any other cooperative organization?

Curious about the intersection between green and natural building, between DIY and professionalism, or between commercial and residential construction and design?

When heirloom seed business Southern Exposure Seed Exchange decided they couldn't wait any longer for a seed office, there was an opportunity for in house worker owners to make this happen. With essentially no experience, a design team of highly idealistic building novices formed with the challenge of designing the most efficient, functional, sustainable, and beautiful building, for both small commercial and residential functions.

To give a little taste of what we learned during the building process, here are some metrics that we adapted and expanded upon to help us make decisions:


Embodied energy




Energy efficiency


Accessibility for diverse populations


Ease of Construction

Skill level required


Up front

Over time

These metrics can apply to any building and homesteading projects you embark on, but I must forewarn you: They might lead you to quandaries, such as whether or not super-insulated and sealed buildings are worth the upfront material investment or the equipment typically associated with it (which use energy ongoing), or whether an earthen floor or straw bales are appropriate for high-traffic spaces. Or whether these natural building materials work well for commercial applications or for applications where inhabitants of the space are already stretched thin and have a high turnover rate.

If you want to learn more about what systems, materials, and designs we came up with for the Seed Office project, how it’s working out for us thus far, and the lessons we learned along the way, come to my presentation, “Green and Natural Building: A DIY Case Study” at the Albany, Ore., MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR on Saturday, June 6, 2015.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.