Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grow your own "Mediterranean diet" garden

Mediterranean herbs chives, savory, and thyme


Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be great for your health.  It is also fun and easy to grow!

What is in a Mediterranean garden?
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts
Artichokes
Asparagus
Beets and turnips
Broccoli raab
Carrots
Celery
Cucumber
Dates (needs to winter indoors)
Eggplant
Beans-chickpeas, fava beans, green, navy beans
Fennel
Figs
Grapes and grape leaves
Oranges, Lemons & Limes (need to winter indoors)
Lettuce, radicchio, spinach and other greens
Melons
Mushrooms
Nectarines
Nuts-almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts
Okra
Olives (needs to winter indoors)
Onions, shallots & leeks
Peaches
Peas
Peppers-sweet and spicy
Potatoes
Radishes
Tomatoes
Zucchini and other squashes

Herbs
Basil
Bay
Chervil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Garlic
Marjoram & Oregano
Mint
Parsley
Rosemary 
Saffron (stamen from a crocus flower)
Sage
Tarragon
Thyme

Dates, olives, pistachios, and citrus are the only things on this lengthy list that cannot be grown outdoors in our zone.

The key to Mediterranean eating is eating lots of vegetables, to plan around what produce is in season, the liberal use of fresh herbs, cooking with olive oil, and very little red meat.

So what could a compact Mediterranean garden include if you only have a small space?
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)
2 tomatoes-1 Roma type for sauces and 1 slicer type for salads
2 sweet pepper plants
1 zucchini
1 eggplant
8 red onions
8 garlic plants
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed

If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the spicy peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber in pots  (only 1 plant in each pot) and add 3 bush or 6 pole bean plants in the garden bed.  Traditional bush beans would be lentils, Romano, Capitano, Cannellini, fava; pole beans-Roma, Helda, Supermarconi.  Personally, I would stick with the beans you eat whole as shelled beans you do not get as much food per plant.

If you have more room, you can add almonds (yes, they survive Midwest winters), beets, chard, fennel, chickpeas, figs (grows well in a pot), asparagus, cardoon, chicories, radicchio, endives, broccoli, cauliflower, or annual artichokes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Time to grab your fall & winter garden transplants




Saturday, August 24, 2013


It is not too late to get your garden in for fall and winter harvests.  If you decided to not go the seed route, now is the perfect time to head to your nearest big box hardware store or large nursery to pick up cold crop transplants.

The trick is to have your produce full size by the end of October.  Come November through January, your plants will grow very little as daylight hours are short and temperatures too cool.

With gardening interest on the rise, last year was the first year I saw that my local Lowes actually had vegetable plants.  Meijer’s has had veggie plants all season.  This week I saw that Lowes, Meijer's, and Walmart all have cool season transplants for fall gardening.

Now is the perfect time to pick up broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, or any other cool season crop as well as perennial herbs and get planting!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quick tip-grow your own saffron


Saffron crocus


Tuesday, August 20, 2013


You can grow your own saffron!  Saffron are the stamens from a type of fall blooming crocus.  Simply plant in the fall and harvest the stamens when they bloom for your own saffron spice.  

You can get high priced seasoning and a beautiful addition to the spring garden all in the same plant.

I saw them for sale at Michigan Bulb Company, but you can get them from other mail order companies as well.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Potted herbs




Sunday, August 18, 2013

Most herbs we enjoy in the US are from the Mediterranean region where the soil is sandy and the summers dry.  For this reason, herbs are great candidates for growing in pots.

Herbs come in many different colors and forms.  Pair upright with prostate or cascading forms.  

Upright herbs that do well in pots are rosemary, sage, oregano, dill, and basil.  Sage comes in green, purple, yellow and green, and tricolor of cream, green and purple.  Basil comes in different shades of green and in a dark maroon, called purple or red basil.  Christmas basil has showy purple flowers and a full habit.  Upright oregano has pretty purple flowers and rosemary’s flowers are a pale blue.  

Finissimo verde a palla basil
Finissimo Verde a Palla basil forms a cute, round ball.  It is fun to put in a pot all by itself.  It is very sculptural.

Cascading herbs include creeping thyme, amethyst falls oregano, curly parsley, and prostrate rosemary.

You can add fillers like chives, tarragon or mint and flowers like trailing nasturtiums or upright lavender.

Herbs do well in pots and you can place them next to the kitchen door for easy access to fresh herbs for cooking.

In the winter, you can put in a protected area outdoors or bring indoors.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tips for deciding on a dehydrator



Saturday, August 17, 2013


Drying fruits and vegetables is another great way to preserve the harvest.  It also does not require any special gadgets to accomplish.   You can dry with a cookie sheet and an oven.  If you live in a dry area, you can dry outside in the sun.  In humid areas, this does not so work well.  You could build a solar oven and use it outdoors.  The trick here is to keep the temperatures low enough that you don't cook the food, but just dry it.

You can look on-line for recipes, times and temperatures for drying your favorite produce.  Fruit leathers, dried peppers, and “sun dried” tomatoes are very popular.  We have even made jerky in ours.

If you want to go the dehydrator route, there are a few things to think about.  We did a great deal of reading on line when we bought our dehydrator.  You want a fan to push the air so that all areas of the oven get good air circulation and keep an even temperature.  You want a temperature dial that has a range of 100-150 degrees F.  You want to have removable, washable racks.  We also didn’t want any plastic parts so we went with all stainless.  This isn't as important if you are drying food at lower temperatures and do not wash the racks in the dishwasher.


I really like going to Amazon because you can read how real people like the appliance they purchased.  We went with a Weston and have been happy with it.  Excalibur, STX, and TSM also make stainless models. Other well known brands are LEM, Nesco and L’Equip.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Quick tip-save seeds from the best produce you buy




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Granny always said to save the seeds from the best vegetable your plant grew.  You can apply this same principle to the veggies your buy from the store or farmers market.

You can save seeds from any veggie or fruit that has a seed.  Great candidates are any heirloom peppers, eggplants, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, peaches, cucumbers, avocados and many more.  You can also cut off the bottom of onions and replant them.  Breaking your garlic into cloves and planting them can work.  Same with the eyes of potatoes.  If you do potatoes, plant them in a potato planting bag to be sure that you don’t accidentally transmit potato diseases into your soil.  The starters you buy are certified to be disease free.

Best chance for success is with organic as they have been treated with least toxic chemicals, are sure to be GMO free, and will not have been irradiated which basically kills the seed.

I have successfully grown peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and avocados from seeds from produce I bought at the grocery store.  I have date seeds in a pot right now to see what happens.  

It doesn’t cost a thing to try!  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quick tip-seeds on sale!


Seed packets in freezer Ziplock

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Many places have their seeds on clearance right now.  In our neighborhood Ace, veggie seeds were 10 cents/pack.  

If you store them in the frig, they stay viable for years.  I just put mine in ziplocks in the crisper drawer.  I organize them by season so it is easy year to year to just pull out the ziplock for the season I am ready to start seedlings for.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Make your own shampoo and conditioner



Saturday, August 10, 2013

It is easy and inexpensive to make your own shampoo and conditioner, plus you know exactly what is in it and can add your all time favorite fragrance!

Shampoo
1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup castile soap, 1/2 teaspoon light vegetable oil 
(use the same as conventional shampoo)
or
1 tablespoon baking soda in 1 cup of water
(mix and pour over your wet hair) 
or
50% water/ 50% apple cider vinegar
(simply shake and pour over your wet hair)

Conditioner
1 teaspoon of coconut oil.  Sit for an hour and wash out with shampoo.
or for a lighter conditioner, use 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Get creative, add dried herbs to your oil or vinegar to infuse your favorite scent.  You will need to let the herbs sit in the oil for 2-4 weeks to fully impart their scent.  If you would like to add a fragrance to water, place 1/2 cup fresh herbal leaves or petals and pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the mint.  Allow to cool and strain.  For an instant sensory payback, add a few drops of essential oils.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

What's happening in the early August Midwest garden




Monday, August 5, 2013


This summer has been the mildest I have experienced in my life.  It has been in the 70’s and 80’s with nice rains about every week.  It has been wonderful!  It has been great for the tomatoes, beans, herbs, zucchini, cucumbers, and greens.


The eggplants and peppers have been slow, likely due to the cool temperatures and many cloudy days.

A secret to maximizing your peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchinis is to harvest them consistently.  The plants driving force is to reproduce so by continuing to harvest, it causes the plant to put on more fruits.

The dwarf tomatoes continue to do really well.  For slicing, I would definitely recommend them!

I started lettuce seed about a month ago and have now replanted them into the Earthbox.  I also scattered more seed into the Earthbox to keep the harvest going well into late fall.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Freezing fruits, vegetables and herbs





Sunday, August 4, 2013



Freezing is so simple.  Anyone can do it and you don’t need any special equipment.

Small fruits like berries can easily be dry packed, no special prep work required.  Just clean and dry the berries.  Then, place on a cookie sheet and allow to fully freeze.  Place the frozen berries in a pint or quart jar and store in the freezer until needed.  You can also put in a freezer bag. 

Most vegetables have to be blanched to stop the enzymes and preserve the taste.  There are a few exceptions, like tomatoes and peppers.  For the small tomatoes, I just pop them into a freezer bag whole.  For large tomatoes, I cut them up and place into a freezer quart bags as I use a quart bag at a time.  If you are not going to use a whole freezer bag, you can use a pint bag.  If you want to pull out individual slices, place the cut pieces on a baking sheet and freeze solid before putting into freezer bags.

For blanching, you put the veggie into boiling water and allow to boil for the time required, then dunk in icy or very cold water.  Dry and place on a cookie sheet to freeze, then place in a freezer bag.  You can use wax paper to keep the vegetable or fruit from sticking to the cookie sheet.

Blanche times, after slicing:
1-2 minutes-cabbage, carrots, corn, greens, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, turnips
3-4 minutes-asparagus, beans, cauliflower, celery, eggplant (use 1/2 cup lemon juice), mushrooms, new potatoes, okra, onions, rutabagas
5-7 minutes-artichoke hearts, broccoli, brussels sprouts, soybeans

For herbs, you can chop them and place in a ice cube tray with water to freeze.  Another option is to place your herbs in olive oil and chop in a food processor then store in freezer bags.  Just thaw slightly and take what you need.

Make sure you label your storage container with contents and date.  Use within 6-12 months.