Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winter wonder edible veggies

Salad burnet in winter
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winter producing varieties are the really hardy cold crops that thrive in the cool temperatures of spring, fall and winter. To get the longest harvest possible, look for varieties that say “cold hardy”, “early winter”, “overwintering”, “winter-hardy”, “cold tolerant”, “bred for winter production.”  

With cover, the following will allow you to harvest all winter: arugula, beets, chicory, corn salad, lettuce, mustard greens, parsley root, radicchio, radishes, spinach, sprouting broccoli, sorrel and Swiss chard.

The following don’t require covering: brussels sprouts, winter harvest cabbage, carrots, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, bunching onions or Egyptian onions, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, salad burnet.

Your perennial greens and overwintering varieties are the first up in the spring.  Want a vegetable and fruit garden that you only have to plant once? Try perennials!

Winter hardy varieties
*Arugula
*Asparagus (planted in fall for spring harvesting)  
*Beets  All about beautiful beets
*Sprouting broccoli Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav
*Brussel sprouts  
*Cabbage  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
*Carrots (can be pulled all winter)  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
*Overwintering cauliflower  How to grow broccoli and cauliflower
*Celery  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple
*Chard (will survive winters if placed in a sheltered area)  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!
*Claytonia, Miner's Lettuce  Fall and winter greens
*Collards  Collards and kale in your garden
*Corn salad (also called Mache)
*Cultivated dandelions  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
*Egpytian walking onions (harvest all winter)  Egyptian walking onions
*Garlic & shallots  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......
*Kale (may survive all winter into spring)  Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
*Lettuce (can germinate at temps as low as 40 degrees F, does well in greenhouse)  
Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
*Mustard greens  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
*Bunching onions  Everything to know about growing onions
*Overwintering onions (all onions can be left in the ground in Zone 6)  Perennial onions and other alliums
*Overwintering peas (like Austrian)  Time to plant peas!
*Radishes (can be pulled all through winter)  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes
*Rutabaga
*Salad burnet (a perennial)  Salad burnet-a great herbal salad addition
*Spinach (many survive the winter to mature in early spring) Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
*Turnips All about turnips

Miner's lettucet and cultivated dandelions
If you are growing your veggies in pots, be sure to move them to southern exposure and protected against the wind when the temps start to drop.  Up against a wall is best as the wall will absorb the heat during the day to release overnight.  Putting a portable greenhouse over your pots will also provide extra protection. Prepare for hard freeze 


Seeded pots and perennials getting ready for cover

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Top 10 Nutrient Dense Veggies & Fruits

Wild watercress
Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did a study on nutrient density of 47 vegetables and fruits to determine which ones were the top sources of 17 vitamins and minerals.

It was not possible to include phytochemical data in the scores so total health benefits are not inclusive in the ranking scores.

Leafy greens were in the top half with other veggies in the next grouping.    For the fruits that qualified as a “powerhouse” source of nutrition, they were in general at the bottom of the ranking.

Like Mom said, “Eat your vegetables.” 

Here is the table of the ranking:
Item                    Nutrient Density Score
Watercress            100.00
Chinese cabbage    91.99
Chard                    89.27
Beet green             87.08
Spinach                 86.43
Chicory                  73.36
Leaf lettuce            70.73
Parsley                  65.59
Romaine lettuce     63.48
Collard green         62.49
Turnip green          62.12
Mustard green        61.39
Endive                   60.44
Chive                     54.80
Kale                      49.07
Dandelion green     46.34
Red pepper            41.26
Arugula                 37.65
Broccoli                 34.89
Pumpkin                33.82
Brussels sprout      32.23
Scallion                 27.35
Kohlrabi                25.92
Cauliflower            25.13
Cabbage               24.51
Carrot                   22.60
Tomato                 20.37
Lemon                  18.72
Iceberg lettuce      18.28
Strawberry            17.59
Radish                   16.91
Winter squash        13.89
Orange                  12.91
Lime                      12.23
Grapefruit(red/pink)11.64
Rutabaga               11.58
Turnip                   11.43
Blackberry             11.39
Leek                      10.69
Sweet potato          10.51
Grapefruit (white)   10.47

Here is a link to the report:  www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm 

As you are planning your garden for next year, you can add some of the top powerhouses!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Homemade wings sauce

Fall potted pepper and zinnias
Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fall is the time to make wings and watch football.  It is easy to make your own wings sauce using your homegrown hot peppers and garlic.

I grow my peppers in pots.  I have tried them both in the ground and pots.  They just seem to do better in pots.  The other advantage is that I can easily overwinter the best performers in the garage so they get a jump start on production next spring.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

I have plenty of cayennes and jalapeños in the freezer.  What to do with my spicy friends?  I decided to make hot sauce!  I took the cayennes, splice them in two and placed them in organic apple cider vinegar.  After a couple of months, I go ahead and put the pickled peppers in a food processor so it becomes a hot ‘sauce” ready to use in cooking.  Make your own hot sauce!

A while back when I went to make hot wings with sweet potato fries, I was out of store bought hot sauce so decided to give my homemade hot sauce a whirl.  I mixed up a 1/2 cup of my homemade hot sauce, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 stick of butter, and a couple tablespoons of bacon grease.  Throw in some minced homemade pickled garlic for some garlicky taste.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!

I grill the wings to give them a smoky flavor, then throw them in the pot with the wings sauce, letting them simmer for about 5 minutes, and serve.  Yum!  This has become our wing go-to recipe. 

One other tip I have learned doing this for a while, if you want a thicker sauce to have more stick to the wings (and ratcheting up the heat), whisk a little corn starch (about a tablespoon) mixed with cold water into the sauce.  Once it comes to a boil, it thickens.  I used to use wings.  I now use boneless chicken thighs.  All the same great taste, just not nearly as messy!  

Saturday, November 23, 2019

December 2019 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
Saturday, November 23, 2019

December is a time of digging in and staying warm.  It may appear that everything is dead outside, but there is still life in the garden.  In the beds, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, sage, carrots, spinach are all still green in December.

Fresh herbs are just steps away from the back door.  Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them almost year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary and bay are two to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  I keep my bay in pots and bring into the garage for the winter.  They are getting huge after 3 years in a pot.  
If you are using a greenhouse, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, sprouting broccoli are still happy under cover.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your greenhouse or you will scorch your greens.  It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  
Cultivated dandelion in a pot
All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  Frost brings out the sugars in cold crops.  Hardy greens like chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelion greens, and collard greens make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters and move them to a sheltered area on the south side of the house to extend their growing time.  Placing straw bales around them or mounding mulch provides extra protection.  I also move them up against the wall.  This does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth.  Pots left exposed creates a micro climate that is a zone lower than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 6, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 5 if you want them to come back in the spring.  If they are not, put under cover or bring into the garage for the winter.
Extend the season with protection for plants

Veggies like your favorite tomato, pepper, eggplant, or celery that you potted and moved indoors will continue to produce indoors if provided warmth and enough sunlight.  My Chiptelin pepper is one I bring in every year.  I also bring in lemon verbena, lemon grass, citrus, bay and goji berry plants for overwintering in our attached, unheated garage.  We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.
Chives in front, sage and rosemary in back
The Fresh Produce Buying Local Option
You can check on line to see if you have a farmers market in your area.  Many have farmers markets year round where you can get fresh produce, canned, baked goods, eggs and meats locally grown.  Many that aren't open regularly will have hours before Christmas so you can get fresh, local ingredients for your holiday meal.  A great place for finding what is near you is the on-line resource www.localharvest.org

CSA
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is where you invest in a local farmer in January when they have to purchase their seeds and supplies for the upcoming gardening season.  You then get a weekly share of the farmers harvest typically from May through October.  There are even some winter CSA's now!

Before I started our own edible garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.   
Eat well, be healthy

A CSA shows you what grows well in your area.  You can find out the varieties you like and when they come into season.  You can even save the seeds from the varieties that you want to grow in your future garden if you partner with an organic CSA that grows open pollinated and heirloom vegetables and fruits.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

To advertise as “organic” you have to be certified.  Many farmers cannot afford to do this.  Some farmers participate in the "Certified Naturally Grown" program.  This is less expensive than USDA organic, but also relies on inspections by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers instead of USDA certified agents.  If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask if the farmer uses organic practices.  Go visit them to see the garden for yourself before you commit.  You can also check out reviews on line. 

Where to find a CSA?  Again, a great resource is the web site at www.localharvest,org 

Many sell out by January so don’t delay if you want to join!

Preserving the harvest
It is easy to store winter squash in your pantry to pull out anytime.  We have eaten butternut squash from the garden all the way into June of the following year.  21 no tech storage crops

If you put garlic in your pantry and some have dried out, make garlic powder.  Just process the dried garlic in a coffee or spice grinder.  Now you have great flavor to add to burgers, sauces, or steaks. Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder 

I take the herbs I had drying in paper bags and remove all leafs.  I store my herbs in quart canning jars.  I mix them all together for a homemade “Herbes de Provence”.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"  I use it on everything!  It is great in sauces, on meats, in dressings.  

Tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives
If you threw your extra tomatoes into the freezer and are now thinking it would be nice to have tomato sauce, canning tomato sauce is simple and easy to do.  I use Weck’s canning jars.  They are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  And they are a really pretty shape.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

All you need to can tomato sauce is a large pot, canning jars, a funnel, and canning tongs.  A pressure canner is not needed for acidic foods like tomatoes.  Always follow the recipe as written to insure food safety.  If the food is not acidic enough, it can allow botulism to grow.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor.  Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Here is the recipe from Ball’s “Complete Book of Home Preserving” for tomato paste:
9 cups of pureed tomatoes, 1½ cups of chopped sweet bell peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 teas salt, 1 clove of garlic.

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and garlic.  Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done.

Add 3 teas of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using.  Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Be sure that the pot is at a steady boil for the entire 45 minutes.  Remove from canner.  Let cool for 24 hours.  Remove the ring and test the seal after the jar is completely cool by gently lifting the jar by the lid.  It should not lift off.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  I pickle my garlic harvest so I have garlic whenever I need it.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  Consult with a canning book for more tips and always follow the recipe exactly as written to insure the right acidity for safe canning.

Winter is time to savor the fresh herbs from the garden along with what you have preserved, browsing for canning ideas, and planning next year's garden.  A potential Christmas meal using what is growing in the garden in December, Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

I use Christmas break as the time to finalize my garden plan for the spring.  I look back on my notes from last year's edible garden and this year's seed catalogs to decide what new varieties to add to my standbys.

For tips on choosing seed catalogs:  New seed catalogs are here!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner



Sunday, November 17, 2019

Add a fresh edge to your Thanksgiving dinner by using herbs straight from your own garden.  Herbs can be harvested all the way through the entire winter in most years.  Traditional vegetables used for flavoring the Thanksgiving feast are also harvestable at this time of year, like carrots, onions and celery.

Herbs are easy and care free to grow and almost all of them are perennials.  That means you plant once and they come back year after year.  For more details on growing your own herbs, see my blog here  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Jazzing up the turkey flavor
You can easily make poultry seasoning for your turkey from herbs in your own garden.  Poultry seasoning adds great flavor to, of course, chicken or turkey, but also veggies, fish, casseroles, pasta.

The first commercial poultry seasoning was invented by William G. Bell, a Boston cook, in 1867.  His included sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, pepper and ginger.

I like to make my poultry seasoning with dried sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.  Some add nutmeg, pepper, ginger , onion powder and/or cloves.

Here is my poultry seasoning recipe:
3 Tbl sage
1 Tbl parsley
1 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl marjoram or oregano
1 Tbl rosemary

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  Combine in a pint jar, shake to mix well.  

You can transfer the amount needed to a kitchen spice jar.  Keep the rest in a cool, dark location.

For any spices, you want to keep them as fresh as possible.  They lose their flavor over time and quicker if exposed to heat/light.

Herbal-powered stuffing
For stuffing, you can gather fresh sage, onions, carrots and celery from the garden even in late November. 

In a bowl, put 8 cups of dried bread cubes and soften with 1 cup of chicken broth (I love using organic “Better than Bouillon” for my stock).  In a skillet, sauté 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onions with 1/2 cup of butter.  After browned, add 2 teas fresh sage or poultry seasoning, 1/2 teas salt, 1/8 teas of pepper.  Mix all together and stuff the turkey.

Potager turkey gravy
To make 2 cups of gravy, cook in a sauce pan, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped carrots, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped celery, 1 cup of chopped onions, 3 cloves of peeled and mashed garlic until browned.  Add 1 bay leaf, 3 cups of chicken stock, and giblets and neck from turkey.  Simmer on low uncovered for an hour or so until reduced in about half.  Strain out all solids and combine 1 cup of stock with 1/4 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of flour, whisk until smooth.  Bring remaining stock to boil, add cream mixture, defatted turkey pan drippings if desired, simmer until thickened.

Herbed potato options
There are a few options for snazzing up your mashed potatoes.  For 5 pounds of potatoes, you can add 5 cloves of roasted garlic, 1 cup of buttermilk and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  

Or how about 5 pounds of small potatoes that are cooked until tender, then tossed with 1 cup of butter, 3/4 cup freshly, finely chopped parsley, marjoram, chives and/or thyme.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Herbal salad dressing
You can keep it simple and flavor a good white wine vinegar with your favorite herb like tarragon for the salad.  Use a mild olive oil so that the flavor of the herb shines through.  Herbal vinegars are easy to make, but you need to make ahead.  Place the herbs in the vinegar and leave in a cool dark place for at least a week.  You can strain out the herbs before using after infused.

Homemade version of Hidden Valley Ranch is easy to make.  Just mix equal amounts of buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream (half cup each).  Then add parsley, dill, garlic, onion (half teas), salt (quarter teas), and pepper (eighth teas) to taste.  If the mayonnaise is too overpowering, I substitute yogurt.   Other home made dressings:  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

This is the perfect time for fresh spinach salads.  Spinach, kale, cultivated dandelions and other greens are in season and loving this cool weather.  

Artisanal butter
If you are making an herbal butter to serve, you would want more like 2 tablespoons of herbs to 1/2 cop of butter.  Add the herb that complements the dish you are serving.

You can either serve in a dish, roll it into a log using plastic wrap or form into a shape.  How fun is that!  If you use a form, simply press the softened butter firmly into the form, then place the form into a shallow dish of hot water.  The butter should slide out easily after a little warming.

I make an herb mixture from the herbs I dry from the garden.  It is great on anything!  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!

Homemade pickled garlic
Saturday, November 16, 2019

If you had a bumper crop of garlic or just want to have garlic cloves on hand all the time, it is super easy and inexpensive to simply pickle garlic cloves.  All you need to buy is apple cider vinegar.  Or you can make your own.......

I first learned about pickled garlic when I went to a general store in Albany, Georgia.  They had many local canned items in Mason jars for sale.  I saw the jarred garlic and bought it.  They had added some spicy peppers in the jar which gave it a kick.  I loved it!  It has become my favorite way of preserving my garlic harvest.

How to pickle garlic
  1.  Get quart canning jars.  I use Tattler or glass lids.  The vinegar eats at metal lids.
2.  Either make or purchase raw apple cider vinegar.  Any neutral tasting vinegar will work.  I just like the nutritional benefit of raw vinegar.
3.  If using your own garlic or purchasing whole cloves, separate the cloves and remove the "skin".  You can also buy separated cloves, sans skins in many grocery stores that you can use.
4.  Slice 2 or 3 hot peppers and place in the jar, if you like your garlic a kick.
5.  Fill the rest of the jar with garlic cloves to an inch or so below the mouth of the jar.
6.  Fill the jar with vinegar.
7.  Put the jar in the frig.
8.  Use cloves any time a recipe calls for it!

When picking garlic to plant, I look for types that have large cloves and say "easy to peel" in the description.  Then I save the biggest and easiest to peel cloves from each harvest to save for planting my next crop.  I just planted my garlic cloves at the beginning of November for next summer's crop.
Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What's happening in the mid-November edible garden

Lavender in late fall

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Well, we are having record cold through the Midwest, setting record low temps across the country for this time of year.  The summer veggies are done until next spring.  Does that mean the end of the kitchen garden?  Nope.  There is still much in the garden to enjoy!

The cold season crops have survived the first teens of the year.  Kale, lettuce, onions, mustards, chard, carrots and herbs are nice and green.  All cold season crops get sweeter when the mercury dips.  Cold season crops for your edible garden

It is time, if you haven’t done so already, to pull up the old vines and give them to the compost heap.  Only compost those that were free from disease; you don’t want to re-introduce any diseases to your garden next season.  I leave seed heads for the birds to snack on for the winter.  

If you are gardening in pots, move them up against a wall that gets southern exposure.  This will move your effective climate zone up a full zone.  If they are on stands or coaster, remove from their stand and set them onto the ground.  They will stay much warmer on the ground than suspended off the ground.

Now is a fun time of year to experiment in the kitchen with all the fresh herbs that are available.  Parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, bay, lavender, chives are all hardy herbs in November.  I have had many Christmas dinners with herbs fresh from the garden.

You can also bring tender perennials like rosemary and bay into the garage or house for the winter.  Other veggies I bring in are my pepper plants, celery, goji berry and citrus trees.  I keep them in our unheated, insulated garage with a 4' grow light over them.

You can also take a look at all the tomatoes you have put up in freezer bags.  If you have more than you know you need, this is the perfect time of year to do some water bath canning.  I go through and any left over from last year, I make into sauce.  Time to make homemade tomato sauce! 

As even more freezing weather comes our way, you can extend the season for lettuce and greens through the winter by using a portable green house or making your own hoop house.  Extend the season with protection for plants

The biggest killer of veggies in greenhouses?  Getting too hot!  Make sure you crack open your green house when the temps get above freezing and the sun is shining.  

I have a little portable green house I put over my Earthboxes.  I will still have lettuce until spring.