Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 Nutrient Dense Veggies & Fruits

Watercress


Sunday, December 28, 2014

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

It was not possible to include phytochemical data in the scores so total health benefits are not inclusive in the ranking scores.  It is well known that different colors of vegetables contain different phytonutrients so a variety of colors is important in the diet.

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:  http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm 

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple

Potted celery

This spring try an easy to grow garden staple-celery.  It grows well in a pot or in the ground.  You can bring it in each winter to the garage and harvest from it, replanting outdoors in the spring.  In our garden, it also survives the winter in the ground with no cover.

Celery’s grandparents grew wild from the Europe to western Asia, known as smallage.  It was very bitter.  Celery was developed in Italy in the 1500‘s to what we would recognize today.  It was grown for its medicinal properties to help hangovers, kidney stones, digestion, and as an aphrodisiac.  It became popular in English cooking in the 1700’s.

I had always heard that celery was difficult to grow.  I decided a couple of years ago to give it a go.  I looked at my neighborhood big box stores, hardware stores and nurseries.  

I ended up finding them when I was in another state, checking out a local nursery.  I bought them and started them in my Aerogarden.  I planted out 3 seedlings in the back yard between two trees.  They did great.  They even came back again this year.

In the fall, I dug up one and put it in the garage.  The nursery had told me you could keep them all winter in the garage and take a cutting whenever you needed it for cooking.  Thought I would try it out, and it worked!  In the spring, I took it back out to the garden and re-planted.  It did great all summer.  

I have discovered that celery is a prolific self seeder.  In other words, you get many volunteers/new baby celery plants with no effort on your part.  Since they survive the winter, you are good to go again next spring with a new crop of celery.

I had several celery plants in pots (more volunteers) and they did great there too.  A word of caution, they love water!  They don’t share well with others when it comes to water so I would keep them in a pot by themselves.
Giant Red Re-Selection Celery stalks

I just read that there is a red variety of celery-Giant Red Re-Selection.  I am going to have to give this type a try in the spring!  I do enjoy getting a variety of colors in the garden.  Each color brings a different nutritional value to the plate.


These plants seem to grow well wherever they sprout, regardless of water, fertility, sun, shade.  So, if you like celery to snack on or cook with, give them a try.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Indoor growing for anyone-sprouts and microgreens

Microgreens


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter doesn’t mean you can’t eat fresh greens.  There are many that grow well indoors and many different ways of growing them.

Something easy and nutritious are sprouts.  I bought a simple, inexpensive sprout grower.  You can get seeds on-line and in many grocery stores, nurseries, and big box hardware stores.  I like buying a seed mix so I get a nice variety.

Sprouts are a powerhouse of nutrition and so easy to grow.  There are all kinds of seed sprouting kits out there.  The one I have that I really like is 3 levels so you can have one that is fully sprouted that you are using with 2 in various stages of growth so you always have a ready supply of sprouts.

With a simple sprout grower, you can have nutritious sprouts of many different veggies, beans, and/or grasses in 3-5 days.  All you do is put a teaspoon of seeds in the grower and water it twice daily.

Sprouts are great on salads, in eggs, or just as a quick snack.

Microgreens are also very easy to grow indoors.  You can get variety seed packets of microgreens anywhere they sell seeds or on line.  You can reuse a plastic salad container or seed flat to use as a pot.  Just add potting soil, sprinkle the seeds down as instructed on the seed packet, tamp down gently, lightly cover with more soil, water, place in a sunny window and you will have microgreens in 14-21 days.

Wheat grass is another great edible.  I put it on salads.  You can also juice it.  Wheat grass is a great alkalizer.  Today’s diet is so acidic.  Basically anything we eat besides leafy greens and some other vegetables are acidic.  Your body’s blood pH must stay between 7.35-7.45; anything above 7.0 is alkaline.  Wheat grass helps balance your pH.  Wheat grass is also a purifier of the blood.  There are wheat grass growing kits too.  Or you can use an old salad tub that you fill with potting soil and grow them right in the salad tub or seedling flat.


So, if you are wanting some fresh, nutritious, home grown food, it is super easy to grow any of these indoors year round!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Add garden fresh taste to Christmas dishes

Garden herbs
Sunday, December 14, 2014

Add a fresh edge to your Christmas dinner by using herbs straight from your own garden.  Herbs can be harvested all the way through the entire winter in most years.  If you are growing vegetables in a greenhouse or are having a mild winter, you can also be harvesting cold hardy greens for salads or cooking.

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  http://victorygardenonthegolfcourse.blogspot.com/2012/06/kitchen-herb-garden.html

Jazzing up the flavor for the main dish
You can easily make poultry seasoning for poultry or red meat 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
  
For lamb, rosemary is a favorite herb pairing.  For all other red meats, I use a combination of whatever I grew in the garden this past summer.  I cut and dry at the end of the season, then mix in a paper bag and store in airtight containers.

“Herbes de Provence” contains herbs that are typical of the Provence region of southern France and are grown in French potagers (kitchen gardens).  I also include sage in my herbal seasoning mix.  These are herbs that were typically used in cooking by the French in this region:
*Thyme
*Marjoram/oregano
*Rosemary
*Savory
*Basil
*Tarragon

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  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.

Potager 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 or beef stock.  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 meat pan drippings if desired, simmer until thickened.

Herbed mashed 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 sour cream, 8 ounces of cream cheese and enough buttermilk for consistency you prefer.  

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.

Garlic and herb roasted vegetables
This recipe works with any really firm vegetables you like.  Here is one variation.  Cut 4 sweet potatoes, 3 medium turnips into 1.5 inch cubes, and 2 large onions into 1.5 inch wedges.  In a gallon plastic bag, place 12 cloves crushed, peeled garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram, 2 teaspoons salt, 6 tablespoons olive oil.  Mix thoroughly.  Add your cut veggies and squish them around until they are coated on all sides with the herb mixture.  Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Roast in a 450F, preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until soft.

Potatoes, turnips and onions are all veggies that can be stored over winter if kept in the proper conditions.  Be sure to keep potatoes covered or in a dark place as when they turn green, they are toxic.  Sweet potatoes will keep for a month if kept in cool dry conditions and bagged with an apple to keep from sprouting.


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. 

This is the perfect time for fresh spinach salads.  Spinach 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 cup 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.  If you use a form, simply press the butter firmly into the form, then place the form in a shallow dish of hot water.  The butter should slide out easily after a little warming.

Mint inspired beverages and desserts
Mint is also still green and growing in our garden.  Mint is wonderful to add to teas, lemonades, hot chocolate or adult beverages, even to salads.  You can also incorporate into desserts.  Chop fresh mint and add to sorbet or ice cream.  You can incorporate in a food processor and refreeze until ready to serve.


Don't forget to check out your freezer for possibilities.  This year I am planning on incorporating frozen tomatoes into my Sicilian grandpa's spaghetti sauce and a tomato bisque, my frozen eggplant for eggplant parmesan, carrots and herbs in beef bourguignon, and frozen and fresh greens in a breakfast frittata.  Possibilities are endless for using herbs right from your garden and freezer to add fresh taste to any dish you make for the holidays!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Veggies for small spaces


Sunday, December 7, 2014

It appears winter is settling in.  Before we know it, spring will be rolling back around!  Some seeds can be started 8-12 weeks before your first frost date.  This is January/February in our Zone 6 garden.   
Winter is the time for dreaming of what you are going to plant and harvest next season.  I have already started getting seed catalogues!

If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc.  Here are some recommendations for your garden.

Greens-Pak choi or Toy Choy Pak Choi, arugula, leaf lettuce like Oak Leaf (for cut and come again harvests), Little Gem lettuce for whole heads, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale, Orach, Dazzle lettuce, Tennis Ball butterhead, Gala mache, Space Hybrid spinach.  The list goes on and on!

Onions-I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot.  You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives.  Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.

Beets-any.  I plant these around my pepper plants.

Carrots-get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian.

Celery surprisingly does very well in a pot.  It loves water so I would keep it by itself.  Chard as well.  Chard comes in beautiful colors, too, so you can plant them in your flower bed as an ornamental that you get to snack on.

Cucumber-Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Rocky, Lemon.

Eggplant-All I have tried in a pot grows well.  For flavor, I think the White Egg does very well and does not get bitter in the hot days of summer.  Other small varieties include Fairy Tale, Gretel, Hansel, India Paint, and Thai Purple Blush hybrid.

A word about hybrids.  If you want to save seed, hybrids will not come back true to the “mother” plant.  You will want open pollinated or heirloom varieties for seed saving.  The strength of hybrids is that they have been bred to withstand different common diseases.

Green beans-go for pole beans and use a trellis so they grow up.  If you don’t like removing the “string” that some green beans have, look for “stringless.”  We discovered a new variety we really liked from a local farmer-an Italian flat green bean.  I looked up Italian pole green beans and I found the variety Roma, Supermarconi, and the yellow Bean Marvel of Venice, Bean di Spagna Bianco.  May have to try one of these this year!  Produces right up until frost.  The great thing about beans is that they make nitrogen so they fertilize the soil.  I plant petunias in the same pot.

Pepper in pot with petunias

Peppers-I have found that hot peppers do great in pots.  I plant one pepper type per pot.  Sweet peppers, like Bell, seem do best in the ground in my garden.

Summer squash - Bush Zucchini, Lunar Eclipse/Sunburst, Piccolo, Small Wonder Spaghetti squash.

Winter squash-Acorn or butternut.  Plant where you are okay with them running on the ground or train them up a trellis.  You will get about 2 per vine.

Tomatoes-look for patio or container types.  Varieties like Balcony Patio Princess, Balcony, Tumbler, Lizzano, BushSteak, Tumbling Tom to name  a few.  Bush types are also great for small spaces-Early Girl Hybrid Bush, Big Boy Bush, Baxter’s Bush Cherry.

Couple of seed finding tips-you can do a seed search at Mother Earth News.  Here is the link:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/find-seeds-plants.aspx 

You can also get a listing of seed companies at Mother Earth News to see where they are located and what they sell (organic, biodynamic, heirloom, etc.).     

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Crop rotation made easy for small gardens



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Smart rotating of your vegetables can break the pest and disease cycle while at the same time utilizing the nutrients that the previous season’s vegetables left behind.  Studies have shown that your harvest increases by 10-25%.

Most have heard that crop rotation is important for your vegetables.  This is for a variety of reasons.  Many pests are specific to a vegetable type so when they overwinter and come up hungry, their favorite meal is no where to be found.  Different vegetables take different nutrients out of the ground while others give back nutrients.  Diseases are also many times specific to certain vegetables.

The traditional crop rotations I have seen had your crops divided into 8 groups.  For small gardens, this is unmanageable; just too complicated for the space.  Recently, I have read about crop rotations on a simpler scale that make a lot of sense.  

Divide your garden, or pots, into these 4 groups:
Group 1-Legumes (beans and peas).  The soil builders are beans and peas because of the nitrogen they add to the soil. 
Group 2-Leaf Plants-the ones you eat the leaves of like lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.  These need high amounts of nitrogen.
Group 3-Fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, potatoes (part of the tomato family) and cucumbers.  These need high amounts of phosphorous for fruiting.
Group 4-Root plants like garlic, onions, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, sweet potatoes.  They are great for loosening the soil. These need high amounts of potassium.

By keeping the groups together, you can boost nutrient addition to the soil that each group needs without negatively affecting the production of the others.  For instance, the leafy group needs lots of nitrogen, but if you give large amounts of nitrogen to the fruiting plants, they will produce lots of greenery and no fruit.

Mark down on a piece of paper where you planted each group.  Next year, just rotate them around with Group 2 going into Group 1’s spot, Group 3 going into Group 2’s spot, etc.  Just keep moving them in that order each year and write it down each year so you don’t forget!

This applies to your pots as well.  Make sure you rotate the vegetable you put in each of your pots.  I keep my vegetable marker in my pots from the previous year so in the spring, I know exactly what I grew in the pot the previous year.

Don’t worry if you can’t keep them all exactly in these 4 groups.  Just make sure you don’t have the same type of plant going into the same spot or pot every year.  Interplant with companion plants to keep each strong if you don’t have the space to do full blown crop rotation.


Just add your other veggies in with one of the other groups to balance out the area each uses in the garden so you can just move the whole group from one section of the garden to the next easily.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What’s happening in the mid-November garden?

Lavender in late fall


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Well, the first hard freeze has swept 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, broccoli, onions, mustards, chard, and herbs are nice and green.  All cold season crops get sweeter when the mercury dips.

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.  

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, 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 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.  

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.

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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Grow veggies from leftovers

Seeds from store bought acorn squash


Sunday, November 9, 2014

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

You can grow any vegetable or fruit from its seed.  It is easy to save seeds from store bought fruit and vegetables.  Great candidates are any heirloom peppers, eggplants, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, peaches, cucumbers, avocados and many more.  

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, sweet potatoes, onions, squash and avocados from seeds from organic produce I bought at the grocery store.  

The best success I have had with avocados is to use seeds from overly ripe avocados.  Remove the seed and look to see if there is a root starting to form on the flat side of the seed.  When I find these, I just place in a pot that I keep moist until it sprouts.  I have also sprouted them in water and then planted in a pot.  Then I back off the watering and let dry in between.  

You can also use the pieces and parts of other vegetables to grow new ones.  Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, heads of lettuce, garlic are all great candidates for this approach.  
*Cut off the bottom of onions and celery and replant them.  
*Save the “heart” or stem portion of lettuce to replant.  
*Breaking your garlic into cloves and planting them can work.  
*Same with the eyes of potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Choose the eye that is already sprouting.
*Replant or place in water the top portion of carrots.  The carrot top greens are great for salads.
*Any rhizomes (roots) will also grow when planted like ginger and horseradish.

Some veggies are treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting on the shelf so this approach may not work for all, but it is worth a try!  The will for propagation is very strong in nature.

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 from garden centers are certified to be disease free.


It doesn’t cost a thing to try!  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Planning for next year’s garden starts today!



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Early fall is a great time to look back over your gardening season to develop your plan for next year.  Do it now while it is fresh in your mind!

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 in your garden and you don’t want to retry next year.
*which ones that did not do as well as you would have liked and you have ideas on what to do differently next season.
*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?).
*ask neighbors what varieties worked well for them and jot them down as some to try next year.
*if you haven’t done so already, draw out this year’s garden so you can remember where everything was planted; you will want to rotate locations for next year to boost harvests and reduce bugs.

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 save the seeds and label them.  By saving the seeds of the plants that did well in your garden, you are creating plants that thrive in your ecosystem.

I keep them in ziplocks in our refrigerator crisper drawer.  I have seeds from 10 years ago and they are still germinating well.  You may think you will remember next year all the details, 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?

I also recommend keeping a diary over the winter of the produce you are eating.  This will give you a great idea on what you should plant and how many you should plant come next gardening season.


You can research over the dreary winter days and dream of the warm, green, growing days to come.