Food, Health & Nutrition

Michigan Cranberries & Cranberry Farming

Thanksgiving is just a week away, so we’re rolling out a classic feature on cranberries! 

Cranberries by argusmaniac
Cranberries by argusmaniac

Although Michigan only has a small number of cranberry farms in the northeast, Upper Peninsula, and the southwestern corner of the state along Lake Michigan totaling about 250 acres – compared to more than 18,000 acres in nation-leading Wisconsin – the state does have all the requirements to grow a cranberry industry. 

Pumpkinpalooza – All About Michigan Pumpkins

Sincere pumpkin patch by Larry the BikerAbout this photo, Larry the Biker writes “Linus may have found his spot in Bruce Township, Michigan. A farmer told me once that Macomb County, Michigan is one of the largest producers of pumpkins in the United States.”

Kathy Siler of the Michigan Ag Council has a great article entitled In Search of the Great Michigan Pumpkin that notes that US Department of Agriculture’s statistics for 2010 ranked Michigan second in the nation with 7,400 acres of pumpkins planted. She also tells the centuries old legend of Stingy Jack, the Irish cheapskate who gave the name to the Jack-o-lantern and shares a lot information, including a recipe for Pilgrim Pumpkin Pie. While we are a big producer, the Kalamazoo News says that the 2011 pumpkin crop is a little smaller than usual, so today might be a good day to head to your local pumpkin patch!

The best listing we found is at Pumpkin Patches and more. Taste the Local Difference has a nice list of northern Michigan pumpkin farms and notes that in early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling. We’ll explore that in the Absolute Michigan kitchens and report! Their Pumpkin page has more facts including:

  • Pumpkins are a nutritious, low-fat, low-calorie food.
  • They are high in potassium and Vitamin A and are also a good source of beta-carotene.
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, copper and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
  • There are many varieties of pumpkins besides the standard Jack-O-Lantern and pie pumpkins. Some especially fun ones are Jack B. Little miniatures, white pumpkins, Australian Blues, and Atlantic Giants.
  • Pumpkins were once believed to eliminate freckles and were used as a remedy for snakebites.

Click through for more and a slew of great pumpkin recipes including Pumpkin ButterPumpkin Nachos (seriously), Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni, and Potage au Potiron, a delicious soup made in the pumpkin! Pumpkins aren’t just for eating – some of Michigan’s brewmasters have brewed up some pumpkin ales. Click that link for a list and don’t forget about Jolly Pumpkin and their La Parcela Pumpkin Ale!

Of course the main use of pumpkins at this time of year is carving, and Michigan has some incredible artisans including “Pumpkin Ed” Moody, a specialist in giant pumpkin carving. Click the photo to see some of his work and also to learn about his new project, Karving for Kids that will allow Ed to carve for kids at Children’s Hospitals around the country. You can see another astonishing pumpkin carver in action in the video below!

Much more pumpkiny goodness at Absolute Michigan keyword pumpkin!

As promised, here’s a CBS News video of Michigan master carver Ray Villafane – this guy’s work is jaw-dropping!


Michigan Strawberries are Ready to Pick!

Ann Arbor June 2009 by RichardDemingPhotography
Ann Arbor June 2009
by RichardDemingPhotography

Ed Vielmetti is our Paul Revere of Michigan strawberries, and they are coming early in 2012. The Ann Arbor area is usually the first in Michigan to see ripe berries, and Ed says that ‘U-Pick’ strawberries are coming this weekend in SE Michigan! Ed advises:

The pick-your-own strawberry season is short. Typically there are only three or four weeks when the berries in the fields are ripe enough to pick, and some years there are only two weekends when they are out in enough quantities where you can count on getting enough to freeze, turn into jam or prepare in quantities at reasonable prices.

Check out the rest of his article for some Ann Arbor area U-picks. A site Ed tipped us off to last year is Real Time Farms. In just a year they have really grown! Head over there to find out if strawberries have made it to your market and an unbelievable bounty of Michigan grown goodness!
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    The Daily Michigan: Mother’s Day Gift Box from Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate

The Daily Michigan: Mother’s Day Gift Box from Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate

We’re featuring some great gifts for Mother’s Day on The Daily Michigan.

Today’s offering is from one of our featured partners, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate. They invite you to treat your mother to this 9 piece box of truffles and caramels. It’s a diverse assortment that includes Arriba, Cherry, Lavender, Basil, Raspberry, Gianduja, Sea Salt Caramel and Maya Caramel. As they know that chocolate & flowers make it extra-special, they add a bouquet of chocolate daisies for a perfect presentation!

For their hand-made chocolate creations, Grocer’s Daughter uses sustainable chocolate from Ecuador infused with local flavors for their handmade chocolate creations. They have a bunch more items in their online store and you can visit them in Empire in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or next Sunday at the Traverse City Chocolate Festival. Recently the complex City Guide listed their 50 best chocolatiers in America and Grocer’s Daughter clocked in at #2!

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

Five Things You Need to Know About Michigan Morel Mushrooms

5thingsMay is Morel Season in Michigan … usually that is. In 2012, however, morel season has arrived early (click for photo evidence). Michigan’s morels are out there, so here’s a classic feature on Michigan morels to help you get out and find the mighty morchella!!

The Elusive Black Morel by cedarkayak
The Elusive Black Morel
by cedarkayak

1 Morechella, true morels, are a honeycomb-like mushroom that  are prized by chefs the world over. The Great Morel Homepage can take you a lot deeper with links about the science of  these woodland delicacies. If you’re looking for information about hunting morels this feature on has some great tips to help you hunt and to be a good citizen of Morel Nation. Ed Vielmetti in Ann Arbor has a bunch more thoughts on the hunt. has tons of information as well about where to look, saying: Black morel habitats includes Ash, Fruit and Aspen trees (also known as: Popple or Poplar) or even lawns and fields.White (yellow) morels especially like Elm, Fruit trees, and Maple. And in southern Michigan, the Tulip Poplar tree is a good host.

2 When you find morels, you’re going to want to cook them. The easiest tip is to soak them and rinse very well – they do have a lot of “grit” – and then fry them in butter. You can of course do a lot more with them. Check that article and the recipes page at The Great Morel (one suggests a Michigan Dry Riesling pairing – we couldn’t agree more!). Even if you don’t find morels, you can buy them from Michigan-based Earthy Delights. On their recipes page they offer several ideas including Spring Wild Harvest Ragout With Fiddlehead Greens & Morels!

My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops
My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops

3 Michigan loves its morels and we have two great morel celebrations. The annual Mesick Morel Festival is slated for May 11-13, 2012. Follow their Schroomers Log for updates on who’s finding what and where. The second is the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City that takes place May 17-20, 2012. When you click that link you’ll hear the strains of the Mushroomers Waltz, and when you visit the festival, you’ll have a chance to taste an incredible array of morel dishes and enjoy an experience much like  Absolute Michigan did a few of years ago.

Although morels are early, Morelfest committee member Scott MacKenzie assures us that restaurants & chefs are storing up plenty for their featured Taste of Morels event. Scott says he’s starting to find black morels and adds “Who knows what Mother Nature has in store. The gal I was hunting with found one gray. If it stays cold, it may turn out just perfect. One thing is for sure: if you come up, I guarantee you’ll have a good time! Thornetta Davis is performing and there’s all kinds of fun to be found.”

4 Finding morels means knowing what they look like, and being able to distinguish them from poisonous false morels. You can see a whole bunch in the Michigan Morel Slideshow from the  Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr, including one from Sunday posted by the Honor Motel.  Michigan in Pictures has a bagful of photos and articles about morels as well. If you want to share YOUR photos with us, add them to the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr or post them to the Absolute Michigan Facebook!

5 There’s a bunch of great videos out there on morels including a sweet time lapse of a morel growing over 8 days by Ken Scott, a nice tour of the Michigan woods in morel season, one with Zachary Trost and morel expert Tom Nauman and a very nice primer to morel hunting from Country Living. I have to go with my buddy Tony Williams and the Boyne City Morel Fest – enjoy and good hunting!!

March Madness: Michigan Maple Syrup Season

Cold nights and warm days have sap running like a waterfall in Michigan!

March Madness
March Madness by PLskell (see Peter’s sap slideshow!)

We just discovered a super-cool newsreel about making maple syrup in the 1950s at the Bentley Library at the University of Michigan – click the pic to check it out!

As I sipped a glass of delicious Michigan Maple sap this morning, I realized that I can’t help but say a little bit more about sap and syrup and spring.   Yesterday I blogged a photo to Michigan in Pictures that got me thinking about sap and how delicious a cold glass or two can be, and someone told me about a New York Times article about how South Koreans prefer drinking maple sap to making syrup.

The Michigan Maple Syrup Association has some great facts about Michigan maple syrup including:

Reflection by PLskell
Reflection by PLskell

  • Michigan ranks 5th in maple syrup production in the United States.
  • Average maple syrup production in Michigan is about 90,000 gallons per year.
  • Economic contributions of the pure maple syrup industry to Michigan are nearly $2.5 million annually.
  • There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers in Michigan with some 2,000 additional hobby or home use producers.
  • The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States and maple syrup is one of the few agricultural crops in which demand exceeds supply.
  • In an average year, each tap-hole will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough for about a quart of pure Michigan maple syrup.
  • It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
  • The maple season in Michigan starts in February in the southern counties and runs well into April in the Upper Peninsula. The budding of maple trees makes the maple syrup taste bitter.
  • Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the tree.
  • Maple syrup is classified as one of nature’s most healthful foods and has may minerals per tablespoon: 20 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus, 0.2 milligrams of iron, 2 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium.
  • Michigan has a Maple Queen, who is selected each January and a Maple Syrup Week held in March of each year.

We also have two maple syrup festivals: the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival and the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival – both at the end of April.

Michigan in Pictures has more about maple syrup including The Cycle of Sweetness: From Sap to Maple Syrup that takes you through the entire process of making maple syrup and you can also read a little about how Native Americans made maple sugar.

Absolute Michigan has lots of Michigan maple syrup stories and links, including this great video from the Mayfield Sugar Bush by Scott Allman we featured a few years ago, enjoy it and enjoy REAL syrup!

The Daily Michigan: Way North Foods Gift Box

Today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving away a Way North Foods Gift Box from Way North Foods.

The gift box contains their Dried Cherry Biscotti, Lemon Blue Berry Biscotti, Double Dark Chocolate Biscotti, Orange Cranberry Biscotti, Seasonal Biscotti, Mighty Mac Mix and Slab Town Flats.

Chef Perry Harmon writes “I love the bounty of ingredients that are available right in our Great State. We have beautiful fruits, maple syrup, artisan honey, and so much more readily available for our enjoyment. I purchase as many local Michigan products as I can for use in my business.”

Learn more about Way North Foods on Facebook and at

Click here to sign up

The Daily Michigan: A selection from Just Good Chocolate

Today on The Daily Michigan we’ve got a selection of tasty treats from Just Good Chocolate!

Our winner will receive a pouch of their Mug O’ Love Hot Cocoa Mix. It’s a people-friendly, planet friendly YUM in your tum from organic farmers in Peru, Dominican Repuplic and Paraguay. It’s naturally gluten free & vegan and all that’s required is your mug and some milk for a cup of warm deliciousness! Add to that their Nibblers Variety Pack featuring 3 different bags of fair trade organic cacao nibs complimented by different dried fruit and nut combinations: Tart Cherry Almond Cacao, Wild Blueberry Walnut Cacao and Zante Currant Pecan Cacao.

At Just Good Chocolate they’re striving to be the most people-friendly, planet-friendly chocolate company on earth … with a healthy dose of silliness mixed in. Visit them at or on their Facebook for more about how they do that!

Click here to sign up (and to learn how you can win)

The Daily Michigan: Jar Head Salsa Party Platter

Today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving away a Jar Head Salsa party platter featuring 2 pints of Jar Head Salsa – 1 Regular – 1 Mild – with 2 bags of Jar Head Chips and a serving platter!

Jar Head Salsa was created by Gunnery Sergeant Dave Smith USMC, Retired. Smith is a native of Flint who was responsible for feeding 3000 Marines a day for much of his 20 year career. His Top Secret Recipe includes eight different vegetables (fresh from Eastern Market in season), citrus juices, and spices. Each serving has 15% of your daily Vitamin C (over 3 times the average salsa) and 10% of proceeds from sales of Jar Head Salsa are donated to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

More information and online ordering at their website!

Click here to sign up

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    The Daily Michigan: Chocolate Covered Cherries & Cherry Salsa from Cherry Republic

The Daily Michigan: Chocolate Covered Cherries & Cherry Salsa from Cherry Republic

Today on The Daily Michigan we’re giving away large jar (17oz.) of original salsa and a one pound bag of chocolate covered cherries from our friends at Cherry Republic.

As you can see from the image to the right, they have one or two items on sale in honor of the occasion. With 174 cherry products and counting, it’s clear that Cherry Republic has an unmatched passion for the cherry.

What you may not know is that their passion also extends to the wider community. Since their founding they’ve donated over $600,000 to efforts that preserve the environment and quality of life in the woods, farms and communities of northern Michigan. One of these, the Food and Farming programs from the Michigan Land Use Institute, shared some great facts about Michigan cherries on Absolute Michigan.

Click here to sign up