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
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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Make your own lip tint!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Here is recipe that I got on 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 
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

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



Egyptian walking onions


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

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