Sunday, October 23, 2016

The easiest way to "peel" garlic

Sunday, October 23, 2016

If you have ever tried to “peel” fresh garlic, it can be maddening.  The thin, light paper covering each garlic clove is almost impossible to pick off and as you try to peel off the paper, you get sticky garlic juice on your fingers which the papers stick to like glue!

The secret is to smash the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife blade.  It is so easy to remove the peel after the clove is crushed!

They also make garlic crushes that you can throw the whole clove into and it squishes the garlic through the holes leaving behind the protective skin.  The cons are that it seems garlic is wasted and it requires clean up.

If you are growing your own garlic, look the for ones that have "easy peeling" or "easy to peel" in the descriptor.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Make your own lip tint

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Here is recipe that I got on for all natural lip tint you can make yourself.
DIY Lip Tint 
• 1 teaspoon coconut oil
• 1/4 teaspoon beeswax pellets
• 1/4 teaspoon, plus 1/8 teaspoon, beet root juice
• 1/8 teaspoon vegetable glycerin

Melt the coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler (bowl in a water bath).  When melted, add in the beet juice and glycerin.  When well incorporated, add to a small jar and you have your own homemade lip tint with all natural, or organic, ingredients.

If you want to make your own lip dyes, here is a list I got from 
Red cabbage: pink
Onion skins: orangey-brown to green
Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and pomegranates: shades of pink and red
Blueberries, blackberries: blue to purple
Mulberries: purple
Turmeric: vivid orange
Cumin: yellow
Paprika: orange to red
Spinach: pale green to light yellow
Cherries (frozen): peach to beige
Barberry (all parts): yellow-orange

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Now is the time to plan for next year's garden!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Early fall is a great time to look back over your gardening season to develop your plan for next year.  If I don't jot down notes now, I begin questioning myself come seed ordering and planting time about what did well, how many did I plant last year, how many do I need next year.  Now is the time to capture all the info you need for next year's garden!

Jot down in a notebook what you learned and want to remember for next year’s garden:
*Which veggies did best for you that you definitely want to include in your garden for next year.
*Which ones did not do well (I find myself in the next season remembering the name of a veggie, but not sure if it was one that did well or poorly).
*Lay out the timing of what you want to plant by month (did you get the spring greens in too late and they bolted or the zucchini too early and the vine borer got to it).
*The number of plants you want to grow for each variety (did you get swamped by too many peppers and not have enough cucumbers?).
*Compare notes with neighbors and friends on what varieties worked well for them and jot them down as some to try next year.
*Ask at the farmers market which varieties were their favorites this season.
*What fertilizer worked best and how often you want to fertilize your veggies next season?
*What were your most successful bad bug strategies this season?
*What flowers and herbs did a great job of attracting good bugs, bees, and butterflies to plant next year?

I keep notes in a planner so I can review what varieties did best each month.  For those that did really well in the garden, I have saved seeds and labelled them.  Seed saving-fun, easy and a cost saver  I keep them in ziplocks in our refrigerator crisper drawer.  You may think you will remember next year, but you may not so, to be safe, label the baggie with the variety, date, where it did well (in the ground, pot, shade, sun), and when it produced.

You can also make a list of what you want to learn more about over the winter to be better prepared for spring gardening.  Did your peppers leaves turn yellow, your tomatoes not produce as much as you expected, your lettuce bolted early, what is the best fertilizing routine for the veggies you grow?

You can research over the dreary winter days and dream of the warm, green, growing days to come.  As you are planning for next year, consider a four season garden for year round harvesting.  You can garden year round in small space 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Time to plant garlic!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Garlic is rich in lore.  It has been reputed to repel vampires, clear the blood, cure baldness, aid digestion over the ages.  Garlic has been around for thousands of years.  It originated in Asia, was cultivated in Egypt and has been a Mediterranean staple for centuries.

Today’s studies have shown is garlic antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral. And, it tastes great!  Garlic is high in vitamin C, B6, calcium, manganese, selenium and more.  For more nutritional info, garlic nutritional value  

It is easy to grow and has little pest issues.  All you do is throw them in the ground in the fall in October in our Zone 6 garden and by early summer, they are ready to harvest.  Loosening the soil and adding compost prior to planting can boost the garlic bulb size.  I have planted Elephant garlic straight into my mulched flower beds and had great luck.  Their flower in spring is quite striking as well.

The clove puts out roots in the fall.  Depending on how warm the winter is, there can be green shoots showing through the cold months.  Garlic will be some of the first to start growing.  The stems resemble onion greens.  The garlic flower, or scape, has a cute little curl in it.  It grows on hard neck varieties.  They are great in salads.  There is debate among garlic growers if removing the scape will also increase the bulb size.  Either way, you can't lose by harvesting them.

You should choose the biggest cloves to plant.  The bigger the clove, the bigger the harvest!  Cloves as a root vegetable like loose soil, compost and steady fertilizer.  Like carrots, radishes and beets, you can add sand to give a looser soil structure in your garlic bed.  Simply tilling in compost should provide the soil texture that garlic loves.  Compost and mulch well in the fall before cold weather sets in.

Plant the cloves root side down, 1-2” deep, and 4-6” apart.  For planting by the cycle of the moon, garlic should be planted during the waning cycle of the moon.  For our Zone 6 garden, this is September 9-23 and October 9-22.  After the greens sprout to 6”, add compost or fertilizer as a side dressing.  Garlic does not need a lot of nitrogen so compost is a good choice.

Garlic is ready to harvest then the tops begin to die off.  Each leaf represents a layer of the white covering on your clove bulb.  Dig up one or two when about half of the leaves have died (40% yellowed/brown leaves).  If the bulb is still small, wait a couple more weeks before harvesting.   If you harvest too late, the outer covering will have disintegrated and you will have just loose, naked cloves.  Typically garlic harvest is mid-summer.

Garlic ready to harvest

Be careful when you go to harvest.  If you cut the bulb, it will not keep and needs to eaten soon.  The garlic should be left in dry shade for 2-3 weeks or brought inside and stored in a cool, dry location with good air circulation.  They can be hung or placed in a perforated bin to dry and store.  

Store bought garlic has been treated with chemicals to keep them from sprouting so they are not a great choice for growing your own.  A great option is to buy cloves from your local farmers market.  You know they grew well in your area.  Just separate out the bulb(s) into individual cloves and plant the biggest ones.  You can eat or preserve the smaller cloves.

Garlic can be mild or hot.  Elephant garlic is very mild and not really true garlic at all.  It is a type of leek.  It has a great garlic flavor and produces huge bulbs.  The ones I grew this year are from the previous year’s harvest.  I always keep the biggest cloves to replant in the fall.
Elephant garlic flower
You can tell the difference in the two by looking at the flowers.  Leeks and soft neck garlic have a onion type flower while garlic has a curly scape flower.
Hardneck garlic scapes
There is soft and hard necked garlic.  For storing, soft neck garlic is the ticket.  It is also the strongest flavored.  Hard necked is milder, easier to peel, more cold hardy and the first to mature. 

Everyone knows of garlic in sauces and on cheese bread.  A few years ago, we tried roasted garlic.  It dramatically mellows the flavor.  I just put a few heads in a small baking dish, add chicken stock to just about level to the cut heads, and let bake covered at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until soft.  It is a great spread on French bread!

If your garlic dries up over the winter, I grind it into garlic powder.  If you have great tasting garlic that doesn’t store well or you have a bountiful crop, another preservation option is pickled garlic.  Just peel (Quick tip-”peeling” garlic) and cover your fresh garlic cloves in organic apple cider vinegar.  You can add a couple of hot peppers if you want to add some extra zing!

Of course, you can also add garlic to the tomato sauce (Preserving the tomato harvest), pickles (Easy, homemade pickles) or peppers you are going to can.  You can flavor vinegars or oils by popping crushed garlic into them (Quick tip-make your own flavored oils).  Many options for utilizing your garlic harvest!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fried, green tomatoes

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mr. Frost comes a knockin’!

If you still have green tomatoes on the vine, make sure you pull them before the first killing frost.  You shouldn’t harvest tomatoes from a dead vine.

You can prolong your tomatoes life by covering with a sheet when calling for frost and removing when it warms in the morning.  You can keep them going even longer if you put a portable greenhouse over them.  Be careful to vent your portable greenhouse very well when it is in the 50’s or warmer and sunny.  It will be a scorcher inside and you’ll have roasted tomatoes.

Tomatoes are tropical perennials from Mexico.  If you have a plant that did fab and you want to keep for next year, they can be overwintered in the garage with grow lights.

There are several things you can do with your green tomatoes.  You can make green tomato relish, you can wrap them individually in newspaper and store them some place dark to ripen, or you can go all out and have fried green tomatoes!

I remember my Granny making them each year.  I don’t have her recipe, but you can use a spicy fish breading, like Andy’s Cajun.  You simply slice your tomato, dip in the breading, fry in olive oil, and enjoy!

If you have a small space, you can grow tomatoes.  Here are some tips for compact spaces:  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Home grown medicinal teas

Thyme in flower

Saturday, October 8, 2016

You can make your own teas from common herbs growing in your garden or to spice up store bought teas. You may have growing in your garden what you need for your own home grown medicinal teas.

Burdock-can be used to help with constipation and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Chamomile-used to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, and restlessness.  It is well known for its relaxing effect.  Be careful using, though, if you have a ragweed allergy.
Echinacea-the dried root of this coneflower is a well known immune system support.
Fennel-used for osteoporosis, stomach cramps.
Lavender-for anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness.
Lemon balm-for digestion, nervousness, skin conditions.
Plantain-for coughing, inflammation, insect/animal bites.
Red clover-menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, skin conditions.
Rosemary-been used since ancient times for memory.
Sage-for digestive problems, menopausal symptoms.
Thyme-for allergies, colds, cuts or scrapes, fungal infections, respiratory infections.
Valerian-used in many sleeping aids, has a relaxing effect.

You can use stevia, an herb rich in antioxidants, to help sweeten your tea.  A little goes a long way and too much can cause a bitter taste.  1/8 teaspoon or less is all that is needed. 

You can place in cheesecloth or a tea ball.  Steep for 4-6 minutes.

Many medicinal teas are made from herbs which are easy to grow.  Most herbs are perennials which come back year after year.
Easy kitchen garden

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Frost forecasted? Here’s your to-do list

Sunday, October 2, 2016

With frost in the air, summer loving veggies are coming to the end of their season.  Veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, basil, and peppers do not like cold weather.  It is time to harvest the last of the summer veggies and get the cold crops the protection they need to continue producing through fall and winter.

Basil turns black when bitten with the first frost.  I’ll harvest all remaining basil when they call for low temperatures 36 or below.  I harvested my basil mid-summer as well.  Had about 12 cups or so of leaves.  I added about a cup of olive oil in the food processor.  Once combined, I put in a freezer bag.  Now, I can just break off a piece anytime I want fresh basil flavor in a recipe.  I make lots of pesto and freeze.  Makes for a super quick and tasty meal any time.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Our zucchini gave up weeks ago.  If you want to keep strong zucchini production until frost, it is best to plant a second round of plants in mid-summer.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

Still have cucumbers producing strong.  Getting several each week.  Cucumber info and tips for growing  What I don’t eat, I am putting in the fridge to use for smoothies.  Grow your own smoothie and juice garden

The peppers are still producing like crazy.  They handle cooler weather better than the rest of the summer veggies.  I’ll wait until it is going to get down to 32 before I strip off all the peppers still on the plant.  See Peppers are for every taste and garden and  Preserving peppers  for growing and preserving info.  For my favorite plants, I will bring indoors to overwinter.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks in the unheated garage and have a jump on production in the spring.  Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are all tropical perennials.  

I use the same approach for tomatoes.  When it is going to get down to 32, I’ll take off all tomatoes left on the vine.  The best way to get them to ripen is to wrap each individually in newspaper and store in a dark location.  They will slowly ripen.  Won’t be as tasty as off the vine, but better than what you can get in the store.  You can bring in your favorites to an unheated garage, too, to overwinter.

I am still getting many tomatoes.  Froze 4 quarts of fresh tomatoes so far this week and have another 2 quarts on the counter.  Sometime this month when it is a nice cool, crisp day, I’ll go through the freezer and take all the frozen tomatoes from 2015 and make them into sauce.  I like waiting until it is cooler before canning!  Preserving the tomato harvest

This year I am also trying an Italian heirloom storage variety that you cut the vine with the tomatoes attached and hang to store.  They are supposed to last for months this way.  We shall see!  They are called “A Grappoli D'Inverno Tomato”.  This is a determinate variety which means it flowers only once versus a continuous harvest.

My eggplant is still giving us several fruits each week.  It is very happy in its pot on the covered patio.  This variety, Japanese White Egg, has been hardy, but the fruits are literally the size of a small egg.  I overwintered this plant last winter but will not this year.  We'll go back to a larger white eggplant and the Turkish Orange for next year's garden.  We have had great luck growing our eggplant in pots.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden  I freeze the extra eggplants I have either sliced in half or thinner slices to be grill ready.

Now is also a great time to divide any perennials you have, whether they be herbs, edibles or ornamentals.  This will give them all fall and winter to put down strong roots.  Perennial greens are always the first up in the spring.  Midwest Perennial Vegetable Garden

It is still not too late to transplant fall crops like cold hardy types of lettuce, cabbage, chard, pak choi, broccoli, kale, parsley or perennial herbs.  Try your local nursery for fall transplants.

Now is the time to order your mini greenhouse to extend the season.  I’ll put mine out over the greens in my Earthboxes sometime this month to keep the lettuce and greens going all winter.  Preparing for a hard freeze