“Just Like Grandma Used to Make!”
“I’m most at peace in a garden. I love the proof that you’re producing something. I love the self-sufficiency of it. I love knowing where my food is coming from, and that my kids can just walk out there and pull tomatoes right off the plant. We don’t have to go anywhere to get food.
“The family tradition of it also means a lot to me. When my grandma passed away, I imagined her going to a big garden in the sky.”
Search far and wide if you like. You will never find a business more wholesome than Garden Girls Canning. Alongside her cousin Trish Bertsch, Miranda Seim is pulling pure goodness out of her garden in Lincoln to preserve in glass jars according to her grandmother’s own canning techniques. When North Dakota’s winter has blanketed you in darkness, you need only open up the Garden Girls’ finest to feel the warmth of summertime once more.
“I’ve always had a passion for gardening and canning,” said Miranda. “I grew up doing them with my mom and grandma, both the kind of women who could grow anything, anywhere. About ten years ago my friend Kristine told me she wanted to learn how to can, so we made salsa and pickles together. It was her idea to start selling my canned goods, which we did together for a couple years before she left to do her own thing. Now I do it with my mom and cousin, so it’s as ‘family business’ as a business can be.
“I eventually bought the farmland right next to my parents’ house where I grew up. It’s 10,000 square feet which are kept naturally pest-free by about 60 free range chickens and nine ducks. Chicken wire keeps out the rabbits and deer, my parents’ curious dogs, and of course the chickens and ducks themselves. For weed control I use barrier paper instead of chemicals, and I till every spring to put nutrients back into the soil.
“I’m pretty much gardening the same way they used to back in the day, but I’m also experimenting with new ways to grow. This year I began starting my plants in a grow room I built in my garage, with a fan to simulate the wind which sprouts need to grow sturdy stems. I’ve even turned an old school bus into a greenhouse. My tomato plants love it!
“We do all of our hot water bath canning at the licensed kitchen in the Peace Lutheran Church of Lincoln. A lot of people find the process intimidating at first, and it can be very scientific making sure the ratios and acidity levels are all correct. We mostly use my grandmother’s recipes – or at least very similar ones. We have updated a few just to make sure they’re perfectly safe for our customers.
“Our greatest passion is pickles. We use an old family recipe to make our zesty dills, as well as another that adds some heat with jalapeños or serranos and sriracha powder. They aren’t tear-jerkingly hot – just enough to be mouth-watering.
“We have traditional chokecherry jelly, strawberry rhubarb jelly, and grape jelly, but our hot watermelon pickles probably sell out the fastest. It’s a classic Germans from Russia recipe that’s almost completely isolated to North Dakota. Watermelon pickles were one of my grandma’s specialties, and I’m sorry to say I hated them as a kid. They’re really shocking when you first try them, but now I can’t get enough!”
In the warmer months you can find Miranda and Trish manning their booth at Lincoln Farmer’s Market Days. When it gets cold out, like it is now, you can still find their jarred sunshine at Pet Place Grooming at 2214 East Thayer Avenue in Bismarck – “Where Pets Are Braggin’ and Tails Are Waggin’.” That’s Miranda’s other business where she keeps a full stock of Garden Girls’ goods as well as fresh duck and chicken eggs. And if you would like the Garden Girls to make one of your cherished family recipes for you, just bring it in to Pet Place Grooming. Make the most of the drive and bring in your shaggy dog as well!
You can learn more about Garden Girls Canning at facebook.com/GGCbyMiranda, or visit petplacegroomer.com to look at photos of handsomely coiffed dogs. (There’s also a rainbow-dyed pug on there with an expression that reads “What are you lookin’ at?”)
By David Scheller