Sunday, December 30, 2018

What's happening in the New Year's edible garden

Frosty late December morning in the garden
Sunday, December 30, 2018

At the very end of December, many would think there is nothing going in the garden without protection.  Surprisingly, there are many herbs and some greens holding their own this time of year.  You can garden year round in small space

Mustard, celery, sorrel, parsley, kale and chard are still alive.  All can be used in salads.  Mustard and chard can be steamed or sautéed.  Sorrel soup is a favorite.  The prettiest chard with the dark red stems are the least hardy, but mine are still hanging in there.  The chard with the white stems are looking the best.
Salad burnet
Salad burnet still looks great right now.  It shows no signs of stress from the cold weather.  The taste is fresh and reminiscent of cucumber.  It brightens a ho-hum salad.  Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
Thyme
Many herbs are holding on as well-thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, rosemary.  I have started chervil in the garage.  I has sprouted.  It does great inside.  My bay plants are doing quite well in the garage where I overwinter them each year.  You can have fresh herbs for cooking right through New Year’s.  Growing herbs indoors for winter

I also bring my citrus plants into the garage.  The kumquat is covered in almost ripe fruits.  The goji or Wolfberry survives in the garage, but does not flower or fruit during the winter.  Fruit for small spaces

Herbs were my first step into edible gardening.  They are so easy to grow, require no special attention, and many herbs are perennials so you plant once and are done.  All that is left is enjoying the great food you can create with your own super fresh herbs.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

I still have lettuce growing the garden without cover.  You can keep lettuce going all winter in a portable greenhouse.November was below average in temps and December has been about average.  Late December sees highs in the 40's and lows in the 20's.  January is typically the coldest where only the hardiest survive without cover.    Extend the season with protection for plants

Saturday, December 29, 2018

January 2019 Edible Garden Planner

It's seed catalog season!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

January is the time of dreaming and planning for your spring garden.  All the seed companies begin sending out their catalogs for seeds and plants in December and January.   It is an exciting time for browsing the magazines and making the garden plan for the upcoming year!

Grow what you love!
The easiest way to fall in love with gardening is growing what you love to eat.  There is nothing like strolling out to the garden to see what's ripe and tasty for dinner.  If you have ever wanted to plant a kitchen garden, but weren’t sure if you had the space, you may be surprised.   

It is common for Italians and French to have a small kitchen garden where they grow herbs, greens and vegetables year round.  It is amazing the amount of food you can grow in a very small space!  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?


If you have only a 6’ x 6’ space, a Mediterranean kitchen garden could include the following:
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley 
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)  
2 tomatoes-1 small fruiting and 1 slicer type 
2 sweet pepper plants  
1 zucchini (look for “bush” types as they are more compact)  
1 eggplant 
8 red bunching onions 
8 garlic plants 
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed  

For more details on a compact French garden:  Small space French kitchen garden
For an Italian garden:  Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden  To entice the little ones, an Italian garden can also be called a "Pizza or Spaghetti Garden"!  Pizza garden for the kids

If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the 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, and less food per space in the garden.

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.  A word of caution, don't go overboard the first year!

If you are just beginning a garden, do start small.  You want the garden to be fun and relaxing, not overwhelming.  Don't be afraid to begin.  The force of life is strong and really doesn't need much from us.  Buy a few plants in the early spring and just put them in the ground with a natural fertilizer and you will be amazed at how they just go to town all by themselves!
Vintage WW2 poster
For seed catalogues, the best to order from are those that do their trials in your region of the country.  The seeds and plants they carry are the ones that have performed the best for them in their trial gardens.  Baker Creek is fun because they specialize heirlooms and rare seeds from around the world.  Territorial Seeds has a good summary in each section of growing tips.

Catalogs I love are the ones that the links are on the right.  I have ordered from them all and been happy with their selection and how well the plants did.

Still having trouble deciding?  Well, you have some time before the season starts.  Heck, you can procrastinate all the way to June..........  It is not too late to start a garden in June!  You can use this time to make your plan based on what you eat this winter.  Use this winter to figure out what to grow in the ...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Make your own lip tint!



Monday, December 24, 2018

Here is recipe that I got on motherearthliving.com for all natural tinted lip balm you can make yourself!  Also a great gift idea for family and friends.
DIY Lip Tint 
1 teaspoon organic coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon beeswax pellets
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon organic beet root juice for color
1/8 teaspoon organic vegetable glycerin
Melt the chopped 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.

DIY Lip Balm
1 heaping tablespoon beeswax
1 tablespoon organic shea butter
2 tablespoons organic almond oil
few drops of vitamin E oil
15 drops of pure essential oil like rose, grapefruit, orange or lemon

Prepare the lip balm as lip tint, using double boiler.  When beeswax, shea butter, and almond oil are melted, add vitamin E oil and essential oil, mix and immediately pour into lip balm containers.  You can add colorant to the lip balm as well.

If you want to make your own lip dyes, here is a list I got from hobbyfarmhome.com: 
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

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Here is just one potential Christmas feast maximizing flavor from the herbs still providing in the garden at Christmas: 
Fig preserves with rosemary cheese for appetizer
Quick herb almond bread
Rosemary inspired rack of lamb
Garlic and herb roasted vegetables 
Fresh greens with hot bacon dressing 
Topped off with cranberry mint sorbet

Fig preserves and rosemary cheese 
To make the rosemary cheese, combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 3  ounces softened goat cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper.  Blend until smooth.  You can serve in a beautiful crystal dish or go for a mold.  For a molded cheese, put the mixture in the mold, chill for 2 hours, unmold onto serving plate (you can run warm water over the top of the mold to get it to release easier).  You are now ready to cover with fig preserves and serve with your favorite crackers. 

Figs are super easy to grow in pots.  I bought a Chicago hardy fig that survives in our Zone 6 garden.  I do bring it indoors each winter as a pot lowers the effective zone by 2.  If given a large pot, they will produce many fruits over the summer and fall season.  
Growing “exotic” figs

If you want to make your own preserves, simply cook in a medium sauce pan 1 pound of fresh, ripe figs (washed and stem removed) with 1 cup of sugar for 30 minutes, uncovered.  If keeping in the refrigerator, you can pour directly into a sterilized quart jar or 2 pint jars, leaving a 1/8 inch head space.  If you want to store in the pantry, you will need to “process” your preserves.  This is really easy.  Just put in a large stock pan, covered with water.  Heat until boiling and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove using tongs, allow to cool, and store in a dark, cool place.

I put my hot jars on a kitchen towel so they are not “shocked” by the cold counter top.  I also use Weck canning jars since they are all glass, including the lid.  
Lowest toxic options for canning  
If you have a large pot, you can can!

Low carb, quick herb bread
I found the perfect low carb, microwave almond bread recipe that I jazz up with my dried herbs.  Simply mix together in a small glass container 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter, 3 tablespoons of almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of herbs.  Pop the container in the microwave for 90 seconds and you have hot, low carb bread for dipping, preserves, cheese, meats and more!
Make your own "Herbes de Provence"

Rosemary inspired rack of lamb
Stop by your local meat market and get a French cut rack of lamb. Remove the fat and gristle, coat the outside with olive oil then cover with a 1/2 cup crushed rosemary and 1/4 cup sea salt mix.  Roast fat side out at 425F for 35-40 minutes in the oven or on the grill until the interior temperature reaches 150F.  Let stand 10 minutes before slicing so that the juices won’t be lost during cutting.  If you prefer garlic, here is another rub option-2 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons parsley, 2 teaspoons chives, 2 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt,  and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Mix together and coat the rack of lamb and cook as above.

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.  
Quick tip-”peeling” garlic  
Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder  
Time to plant garlic! With growing tips......

Potatoes, turnips, carrots 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.  
21 no tech storage crops

Mixed greens with hot bacon dressing  
An old Southern favorite is hot bacon dressing.  Cook 4 slices bacon until crisp, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings (grease).  Crumble the bacon and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon grated onion, 1/8 teaspoon dried mustard, bring just to boil and add bacon.  Remove from heat and whisk before serving.

There are greens still growing in the garden that are a perfect pair for the sweet hot bacon dressing-chard, sorrel, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelions and even some winter hardy lettuce.  
Fall and winter greens  
Homegrown, organic salads in a Midwest winter
Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

Cranberry mint sorbet
I am not a huge fan of the gelatin cranberry sauce.  This is a great way to include the traditional cranberry in a totally new and refreshing way.  

Combine in a medium sauce pan 3 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar, bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, add 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 tablespoons fresh mint and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.  Allow to cool and strain.
  
Combine another 3/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup cranberries in a small sauce pan and bring to boil.  Cover, simmer for 8 minutes or until skins pop.  Cool completely.  Use food processor, process until smooth.  Strain out solids.

Combine orange and cranberry mixture and pour into 9x12” pan, cover and freeze.  Reprocess in food processor, half at a time and refreeze until ready to serve.

With this warm winter, straight from the garden herbs are an easy way to have dishes bursting with fresh flavor.  

I love giving my own herb mix as presents.  An herb garden is so easy and such a great value!  Most herbs are perennials so you only have to buy and plant one time and they come back year after year.  
Start a kitchen herb garden!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What's happening in the mid-December edible garden

Foggy December day
Sunday, December 16, 2018

Most think that nothing is alive to eat in a mid December garden.  Winter is hard on almost all living green things, but some can out weather even the harshest winter temperatures.

So, what is still surviving in mid December?  Oregano, creeping thyme, thyme, mint, parsley, carrots, celery, kale, cabbage, sorrel, chives, miner's lettuce, cultivated dandelions, chard and onions are all still green without any cover.
Edible garden

Salad burnet
Oregano

Parsley

Chard
Rosemary

Egyptian walking onions

Kale

Under cover, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, celery, parsley, sorrel, and kale are still green and happy. 
Small mini portable green house

Use the fresh greens in salads and herbs in salads, soups or cooked dishes.  It is cold outside, but the garden keeps giving.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Home grown medicinal teas

Thyme in flower
Sunday, February 18, 2018

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.
Oregano-has antibacterial and anti fungal properties.
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.
Harvesting and drying herbs

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.
A sweet alternative-grow your own

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

For more ideas on tea blends for the cold months, this article in Mother Earth News had some nice tea recipes:  4 Herbal Teas for Autumn and Winter
.

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

For other teas you can make from your garden, Make your own teas from garden grown herbs

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Winter wonder edible veggies

Salad burnet in winter
Sunday, December 9, 2018

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)
*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
*Sorrel (a perennial)
*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, December 8, 2018

Quick tip-using dried beans



Saturday, December 8, 2018

You can grow and dry your own beans or buy them.  Dried beans are significantly less expensive than canned beans and you don’t have to worry about BPA from can linings (Eden Foods has BPA free canned beans).  

It takes some planning to use dried beans.  I take them out the night before and put them in a bowl of water to soak.  Use 4 cups of water to 1 cup of beans; the beans will absorb significant amounts of water.  Then, drain, rinse, and cover with water in a pot and cook for 20 minutes at a boil.

They are ready now ready to use in your favorite recipe!

Growing your own beans let you try heirloom and unique varieties.  For how to grow this easy crop, Growing beans

Saturday, December 1, 2018

American grown and made olive oil

Ojai olive farm
Saturday, December 1, 2018

When we did a tasting of the local olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the Pasadena farmers market a few years back, we got a flyer from the grower/producer Ojai Olive Oil that showed the company had tours and tastings on site so we went.  I was back in Cali and wanted to go see them again.  We called because of the fires in the area and they were open.  The fire had gone all around them, but spared the farm.


When we arrived, they were actually cold pressing olives.  We had to do the tasting of all their oils and balsamic vinegars (19 in total) again.  All of their olive oils are extra virgin, cold pressed. Their balsamic vinegars are from Modena, Italy, and are fabulous.  It is hard to narrow down which ones to take home!
It was interesting tasting the different olive oils.  I had no idea that one could taste differently than another.  You can tell the difference when you taste them side by side.  The first thing that sets them apart is the type of olive tree the olives are from.  At Ojai Olive Oil, the French olive oil was very mild, the Italian stronger, and the Spanish olives were very peppery.  The flavor varies each season as well as the level of phenols.

The strong, peppery type is great over pasta or for dipping your bread in.  My favorite dipping oil is made in a saucer.  Super easy and very tasty.  It is a great alternative to garlic cheese bread.  Here is how I make it:
Olive oil in bottom of saucer
Balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon or two
Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon or two
Cracked pepper or herbs sprinkled on top
You could easily use the flavored oils in this as well.  Using their garlic oil would be like have garlic bread.

I have found a great little recipe for low carb bread that is super easy to make.  Here are the instructions for the bread:
1 and half tablespoons of melted butter in a small microwaveable dish
Mix in 3 tablespoons almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1 large egg.  I add herbs for extra flavor.  Microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Slice and serve.  Yum!
All of the olive oils produced at the farm are extra virgin, cold pressed.  They also had flavored olive oils-lemon, mandarin, garlic, rosemary, and basil that they produce themselves.  All would be fabulous to add to dishes or for unique salad dressings.
The balsamic vinegar varieties are all from Italy.  Only vinegars produced in the traditional way from the region of Modena can be legally called balsamic vinegar.  The varieties they had were-traditional style, premium white, cinnamon-pear, tangerine, pomegranate, blackberry-ginger, peach, fig, blackberry, raspberry.  The last time I bought the violet for salads and the blackberry-ginger for my sister.  This time I purchased the peach.  The vinegars really do taste just like the flavorings.  They are fabulous.

I had also purchased their face cream last time and did again this time.  It feels wonderful on the skin and smells great.  I also chose two lip balms, a Mandarine orange and Thai coconut.
The press
The tour was very interesting.  The grower had started the olive farm 18 years ago on the site of some century old olive trees.  His olive trees were a graft of a hardy southern Italian trees as the rooting stock with the better tasting olive types grafted to the hardy root stock.  He shared that the graft had a very slight flavor of the more bitter root stock.  99% of the flavor came from the top graft plant.  The oils were fantastic.

The color of the olive comes from the ripeness and type.  All olives when young are green.  Depending on the type as they ripen, they can turn blue or reddish.  Fully ripe olives are black.  The closer they are to fully ripe, the sweeter the oil.  The trees begin blooming in May and harvest is from November to January. 


The press itself is direct from Italy.  They only press olives about 10 days out of the year.  We were lucky enough to be there when the press was running!  We got to taste the oil coming right off the press.  Fresh olive oil has a grassy flavor with a bite.  The bite is all those great antioxidants.  Always look at the harvest date of any olive oil that you purchase to get the freshest.


Hand picked olives being hand fed into the press

The material left from the press is used as a mulch in their organic orange grove to help keep down the weeds.  It is very acidic so it is only used in the center of the row of oranges and not in the olive grove.  In some countries, the dried pulp is used to burn for heat.  The grower uses the clippings from the trees as a mulch and to provide nutrients to the olive trees.

The olive trees require pollination from bees for the highest yields.  If you are growing your own olive tree indoors, you'll need to pollinate the flowers by hand.


Freshly pressed oil
In the US, we consume 8% of the world’s olive oil and produce only 0.1%.  The vast majority of the olive oil we consume is imported from Italy.  Most of the Italian olive oil we import is a blend of many types of olives.  When you purchase olive oil from Ojai Olive Oil, you are getting a pure, extra virgin oil as well as buying an American made product direct from the farmer.  

For more info on the Ojai ranch:
Ojai Olive Ranch