Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 Nutrient Dense Veggies & Fruits


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
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: 

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


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

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:

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: 

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.).