Saturday, December 26, 2020

Indoor winter gardening-grow sprouts, microgreens or wheat grass!

Microgreens growing in reused salad container

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Winter doesn't mean you can't eat fresh, nutrition packed greens.  There are many that grow well indoors and different ways of growing them.  Sprouts are grown in trays or jars with no soil while microgreens and wheat grass are grown in a shallow layer of soil.  All can be grown indoors.

Something easy and nutritious are sprouts.  I bought a simple, inexpensive sprout grower.  You can also use a quart Mason jar.  You can get seeds on line and in many grocery stores, nurseries, and big box hardware stores for growing sprouts and microgreens.  I like buying a seed mix so I get a nice variety of taste and nutrition.

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.

If you want to try with a Mason jar, there is more work involved.  You'll need to punch holes in the lid.  Place seeds in jar, fill with water and leave overnight.  In the morning, drain the water.  You will need to rinse and drain 2-3 times a day until most of the seeds are sprouted.  Their tails will be about an inch long.  Move sprout jars to a place where they will get sunlight.  After the sprouts turn green, they are ready to eat.  Place jars in the refrigerator to keep fresh.  Use sprouts on eggs, salads, and any other dish you want to spruce up with fresh sprouts!

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, water, place in a sunny window and you will have microgreens in 10-21 days, depending on the variety.  To speed up sprouting, you can use a warming mat to boost the soil temperature.  Once sprouted, just cut with scissors and use or place in a glass jar in the refrigerator for keeping.

If there are still seeds visible after your initial harvest, you can wait and see if they will sprout or go ahead and start your next batch of microgreens.  I would compost the used soil and start with fresh to keep the chance for any soil diseases to develop low.  Be sure to sanitize your growing container before adding new soil and seeds.

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 like microgreens.

Sprouts and microgreens mirror the taste of their grown counterparts.  Here are some reco's based on taste:
Spicy-mustards, arugula, radishes, sorrel, cress, basil, oregano
Mild-amaranth, chard, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, beets, kale
You wouldn't want to grow as sprouts varieties that produce a really thick stem like squash or melons.  These will just be chewy.

If you like to add color (which also adds different nutrients), be sure to include varieties like purple amaranth, neon chard, red kale, red varieties of mustard (Ruby Streaks, Giant Red), red-veined sorrel, red beets, purple basil, or many more.
The Power of Purple

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 13, 2020

Vegetables for beginners


Sunday, December 13, 2020
So you want to try your hand at gardening and want to start with the easy ones.  What would those be?  Here are some easy crops to grow.  All can be grown in pots or the garden.  Start small.  Chose a couple to try this year.

Beets-this veggie is easy to start and grow.  Just plant seeds in a sunny location and let them grow.  They have no pests in my garden and can handle dips in temperatures.  You can eat the greens and the beet.  I like the Chioggia heirloom.  All about beautiful beets

Carrots-this veggie is easy to start and grow.  Sow the seeds in either a deep container or in loose soil.  Carrots are cold hardy.  If not pulled, they will bolt into flowers that look like Queen's Ann Lace, which are in the same family.  If left to flower, they are a prolific self-seeder.  Danvers Half Long are a solid performer and don't grow as long as the store carrots so they are not as picky on depth of pot or that the soil isn't fluffy in the garden bed down 18".  Just plant seeds in a sunny location and let them grow.  They have no pests in my garden and can handle dips in temperatures.  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round

Cucumbers-this veggie can be either a vine or bush.  If space constrained, grow the bush variety or the vine up a trellis.  Can be grown in a pot or garden.  I have done both.  I prefer growing my cucumbers in the garden.  You can start the seeds indoors or plant directly in their growing spot after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm.  Keep them picked to keep the fruits coming.  Bush Champion is a good choice for the pot or garden.  How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

Eggplant-I always grow my eggplants in a pot.  They are from the tropics so they enjoy the warmer soil of pots.  You can start indoors or buy transplants.  I have not had the greatest luck in seed starting.  I'd recommend buying a transplant.  Since they love warmth, plant outdoors after all danger of frost is passed.  Rosa Bianca is a nice variety.  I like any white eggplant as well.  These varieties stay sweet even in the most oppressive heat.  Harvest when the fruits are shiny.  If they become dull, they are over ripe.  Still edible, but the skin may be tougher than younger fruits.  The only pest issue I have with eggplants are flea beetles.  They love to eat the leaves!  You can ignore them or use insecticidal soap.  Be sure to spray only in the evening after all the beneficials are done visiting the flowers.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

Lettuce-I grow this veggie year round in pots.  I also grow in the spring in the garden bed.  Lettuce prefers cool weather.  They will send up a flower stalk (bolt) when daytime temperatures hit the 80's.  They like lots of nitrogen.  I like for slow to bolt or heat hardy varieties in the spring and cold hardy varieties for the fall.  About the only pest of lettuce are slugs.  I don't usually have issues with slugs, but if you do you can use beer in a cup placed level with the ground or slug bait.  To keep lettuce sweet as long as possible, keep the soil moist and when it starts heating up, moving them into shade will extend the harvest.  Let them go to seed and re-sow the seeds to keep the harvest going for free.  A couple of good heat resistant varieties are Black Seeded Simpson and Red Sails.  Red Sails is still sweet as it bolts.  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce

Peas-I plant peas first thing in the spring as soon as the soil can be worked.  I plant them in pots that I will add pepper or eggplant to the pot later.  Peas love the cold and cool weather.  I prefer to grow snow peas with its edible pods.  The tips and flowers are a tasty addition to salads in the spring.  Peas have had no insects pressure in my garden.  Sugar Ann bush is a nice choice.   Time to plant peas!

Peppers-I grow this veggie in pots. They also grow just fine in the garden.  I did have some caterpillars snacking on the fruits this past summer that I have not had before.  Peppers are easy to grow from seed.  You can also buy transplants.  Both do well.  For a sweet pepper, I prefer growing snacking size peppers instead of the typical bell peppers.  They will give you lots more peppers.  Sweet Banana pepper produces very well.  If you like spicy peppers, jalapeños and cayenne plants are easy to grow and produce very well.  Keep the fruits harvested to keep production going.  Peppers are for every taste and garden

Radish-I grow this veggie. in pot  I start the seeds directly in the pot; they don't like to be transplanted.  I have not had any pest issues with radishes.  They enjoy cool temperatures so start in early spring.  The warmer the temperatures get, the hotter the radish gets!  If you like a little heat, try the heirloom Early French Breakfast.  I prefer the mild White Icicle variety.  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes

Snap beans-can be grown in pots or the garden.  The plants are either bush or vining types.  I prefer to grow the vining types, pole beans.  Pole beans produce all summer.  If you are growing a vining type, provide them a trellis.  Most vines grow 8-10 feet long unless you pinch off the end when they get the length you desire.  An easy heirloom to grow is Kentucky Wonder.  I had caterpillars eat on some of the beans.  Growing beans

Spinach-I usually grow this veggie in pot.  I have also grown in the garden with good success as well.    I start the seeds directly in the soil as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.  They enjoy cool weather and go to seed as soon as temperatures get consistently in the 70's.  If you don't harvest them all, collect the seeds after they flower to sow spinach in the fall.  Like all greens, they need fertile soil.  Teton is a heat tolerant variety that will extend your harvest.  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green

Summer squash-I usually grow this veggie in the garden but you can grow the bush types in a pot.  Summer squash gives you a long harvest.  You can use transplants or sow the seeds directly in the ground after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed.  Saffron bush is an easy to grow variety.  Squash is susceptible to powdery mildew.  You can treat with a fungicide when it starts getting humid to prevent it.  You can use copper fungicide as an organic option.  Growing zucchini and summer squash

Swiss chard-I grow this veggie in the garden and in a pot.  Like all greens, they need fertile soil.  Chard is very cold hardy and a short lived perennial.  You can buy transplants or start from seed.  Start in early spring.  Chard can get bitter in the heat of summer but will get sweet again with the cool temperatures of fall.  You can use chard in salads when it's sweet and as steamed greens when not so sweet.  The only pest I have had with chard are slugs.  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

Tomatoes-I usually grow this veggie in the garden but you can grow the dwarf types in a pot.  I usually grow one in a pot each season.  The dwarf varieties usually produce early, but since they are small plants, they don't produce a lot of fruits.  Tomatoes can have blight problems and the hornworm loves to eat the leaves and fruits.  If you see spots on your plants, pull the leaves off and put in the trash.  I pick off the hornworms.  For small tomatoes, Super Sweet 100 is a prolific producer.  For a slicer, the heirloom Cherokee Purple does great in my garden.  For paste, try San Remo.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes

Saturday, December 12, 2020

What's happening in the mid-December edible garden


Sunrise in the mid-December garden

Saturday, December 12, 2020

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, especially if given a helping hand.

So, what is still surviving in mid December in our Zone 6/7 garden?  Perennial herbs and vegetables will still be green in the garden along with cole crops.  Oregano, creeping thyme, thyme, mint, parsley, carrots, celery, kale, cabbage, sorrel, chives, miner's lettuce, cultivated dandelions, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and onions are all still green without any cover.

Edible December garden bed

Salad burnet



Egyptian walking onions


Under cover, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, celery, parsley, sorrel, chard, and kale are still green and happy. 
Greens inside portable greenhouse
Portable greenhouse over potted greens

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

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Great time to do a soil test


Mulched garden bed

Sunday, December 6, 2020

 Late fall is a great time to do a soil test.  There is usually a spring rush on soil testing so doing one now gets you your results expeditiously and gives you plenty of time to decide how to improve your soil before spring planting.      

EYou can get a basic soil test done at your local cooperative extension office, sometimes for free or you can go for a more in depth soil test by mailing your soil out.  I am getting a local test done first.  I want to see what the basics look like (P-phosphorous, K-potassium, soil pH, calcium, magnesium, and zinc).  

You may be thinking, "What happened to N-nitrogen?".  Well, nitrogen is very volatile, it changes with temperatures and quickly over time so nitrogen isn't tested.  If you are adding compost or manure to your garden, you really don't need to add nitrogen fertilizer.  If you have more nitrogen than the plants can take up, it just runs off into streams and feeds the algae blooms that create dead zones and it costs money.

It is important to know what the pH of your soil is before you send off for an in-depth test as it changes which testing method is used.

The basic test is sufficient for getting a good harvest in the garden.  It is really all you need.  It is really smart to get a test because you can be adding fertilizer that is actually harming the growth and fruiting of your garden as well as causing contaminated run off into local streams and ponds.  In my area, we typically have sufficient phosphorous.  Too much phosphorous can cause plants to do poorly and even die.  Excess phosphorous run off has the same effect as nitrogen run off.  

How to take a soil test?  It is important to not include any mulch or compost that you may have added on top of your garden bed.  You want the actual soil.  It is best to take soil from the top 6-12" and from several spots in the garden bed.  You then mix the samples together and provide to your local extension office the amount they need to do the testing.  At our extension office, they need a cup of soil.

If you want to get a more in-depth test that includes more minerals and a reading on organic matter, you can send off to a soil lab.  For these tests, the sky is the limit on what you can have analyzed!

I had a more in-depth soil test done at Logan Labs in 2015 and then an individual analysis done at to get a more specific recommendation on improving mineral content of the soil.  After I get my local test done this month, I will send off for another in-depth test.  It's good to get testing done at the same lab, if possible, to monitor changes over the years.

If you are using organic fertilizers, these are slow release so adding to the garden early will make sure they are available when your spring garden gets going.  One more thing, make sure you keep your garden bed either growing something or covered for the winter to protect the soil you have worked hard to improve.

For more on improving minerals in your garden, and in your fruits and vegetables, The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Time to order seeds for your 2021 edible garden


Saturday, December 5, 2020

It is that time of year as winter is setting in and the dreary days seem endless; the time to dream of warm weather, spring breezes, and green things sprouting once again.  Can't you almost smell the fresh cut grass and turned earth?  

Every gardener looks forward to the new year’s bounty of seed catalogs.  You can spend long hours browsing the possibilities for the coming season, imagining what you want to plant where.  What looks interesting to try this year, to reminisce on what worked well last year.

I would be ordering early this year.  I normally order in January, but with the burgeoning interest in edible gardening this past year, you need to order now to be sure to get that special or rare variety you've had your eye on.  I ordered last week end and even then some of the varieties I wanted to get are already sold out.  

Don't worry, there are plenty of seeds out there for any type of crop you want.  It's only the ones that are rare that sell out this early.  In the spring, all the seed companies had shortages.
Every fall, I did as I always do, make myself a list of what I want to grow the following spring and summer.  Reflecting back on the 2020 edible garden; planning for 2021   If I could only just stick to it!  There are just so many that look interesting to try.

The definitions used in seed catalogs can be a little confusing.  Organic means the plant it was taken from was grown using only natural inputs and is certified to be organically grown.  Hybrid is a plant that has been bred to have characteristics that are helpful like being resistant to different diseases.  These are not ones you want to grow if you want to save seed because the plants grown from the seed saved from it will not grow up like the mother plant.  OP means open pollinated.  Organic and OP are types you want to buy if you think you may want to save the seed to use next season.  Heirlooms are plants that have been in a family for generations.  They are all OP.  They may or may not also have been grown organically.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?
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.  Two of my favorites to order from are Baker Creek Heirloom Baker Creek Heirloom and Territorial Seed Company Territorial Seed.  I love Baker Creek because they specialize heirlooms and rare seeds from around the world.  It is just fun!  Territorial Seeds has a good summary in each section of growing tips.  

Catalogs I love are the ones with the links are on the right.  I have ordered from them all and been happy with their selection and how well the plants did.  They are all reputable seed companies that have a good selection of organic and heirlooms.

If you are a beginner, start with the a kitchen herb garden Start a kitchen herb garden! and a tomato plant or two Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes.  

The biggest mistake new gardeners make is starting with too much and it becomes overwhelming instead of relaxing and fun.  If you have a small space or just want a small garden, here are some tips  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?    What to plant for your first garden

Sunday, November 29, 2020

December 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Early December garden; chard in the foreground, herbs in the background
Sunday, November 29, 2020

December is a time of digging in and staying warm.  It may appear that everything is dead outside, but there is still life in the garden.  In the beds, kale, cabbage, salad burnet, sorrel, rosemary, oregano, garlic, onions, lettuce, leeks, chard, dill, celery, sage, carrots, broccoli, spinach are all still green in December.

Fresh herbs are just steps away from the back door.  Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials so you get to enjoy them almost year round.  You can also grow many herbs indoors as well like chives, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chervil, and basil.  Rosemary, basil and bay are good ones to dig up and bring indoors to guarantee survival through the winter.  Just place your potted herbs in a sunny window.  I keep my bay and rosemary in pots and bring into the garage for the winter.  I'm bringing the basil into the house.  The bay trees are getting huge after 4 years in a pot.  
If you are using a greenhouse or row cover, your kale, celery, mustard, lettuce, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, sprouting broccoli are still happy under cover.  They will not grow much until sunlight gets back to 10 hours per day in late January.  Be sure on sunny, warm days to pop the top on your covers or you will scorch your greens.  It can get 50 degrees warmer inside a greenhouse on a sunny day than the actual temperature outside.  
Cultivated dandelion in a pot
All cold crops are at their sweetest during the cold weather.  Frost brings out the sugars in cold crops.  Hardy greens like chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, cultivated dandelion greens, and collard greens make great salads and are tasty steamed or braised.  You can still sow seeds in December to get a head start on the spring garden.  What to plant in the December edible garden

Make sure if you have any potted veggies to put them on the ground if they are on coasters and move them to a sheltered area on the south side of the house to extend their growing time.  Placing straw bales around them or mounding mulch provides extra protection.  Moving them up against the wall on the south side does double duty-southern exposure gets the most sun and warmth and the wall radiates its warmth.  Pots left exposed create a micro climate that is a zone lower than the ones planted in the ground.  If you are in Zone 7, be sure that plants left in pots are hardy to at least Zone 6 if you want them to come back in the spring.  If they are not, put under cover or bring into the garage for the winter.
Extend the season with protection for plants

Veggies like your favorite tomato, pepper, eggplant, or celery that you potted and moved indoors will continue to produce indoors if provided warmth and enough sunlight.  My Chiptelin pepper is one I bring in every year.  I also bring in moringa tree, lemon grass, citrus, bay and goji berry plants for overwintering in our attached, unheated garage.  We place them in the sunniest spot in the garage and supplement with 4 foot fluorescent grow lights.  

Your indoor and outdoor plants will still need to be fertilized at about half the rate as during the growing season.  A liquid fertilizer every two weeks would be plenty.

Be sure to spray your edible garden beds with deer repellant, sooner rather than later.  The deer and rabbits will be getting hungry and your edible garden will look like a feast to them!  If you keep them from getting into the garden the first time, it is much easier to deter them after the fact.
Chives in front, sage and rosemary in back
The Fresh Produce Buying Local Option
You can check on line to see if you have a farmers market in your area.  Many have farmers markets year round where you can get fresh produce, canned, baked goods, eggs and meats locally grown.  Many that aren't open regularly will have hours before Christmas so you can get fresh, local ingredients for your holiday meal.  A great place for finding what is near you is the on-line resource

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is where you invest in a local farmer in January when they have to purchase their seeds and supplies for the upcoming gardening season.  You then get a weekly share of the farmers harvest typically from May through October.  There are even some winter CSA's now!

Before I started our own edible garden, we joined a CSA.  It was great.  We got lots of super fresh produce, our weekly grocery bill was significantly reduced as our meals were planned around the vegetables, and it was an adventure getting to try new recipes with veggies we had never ate before.   
Eat well, be healthy

A CSA shows you what grows well in your area.  You can find out the varieties you like and when they come into season.  You can even save the seeds from the varieties that you want to grow in your future garden if you partner with an organic CSA that grows open pollinated and heirloom vegetables and fruits.
What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

To advertise as “organic” you have to be certified.  Many farmers cannot afford to do this.  Some farmers participate in the "Certified Naturally Grown" program.  This is less expensive than USDA organic, but also relies on inspections by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers instead of USDA certified agents.  If you are interested in produce grown without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals, ask the farmer if she uses organic practices.  Go visit them to see the garden for yourself before you commit.  You can also check out reviews on line. 

Where to find a CSA?  Again, a great resource is the web site at www.localharvest,org 

Many sell out by January so don’t delay if you want to join!

Preserving the harvest
It is easy to store winter squash in your pantry to pull out anytime.  We have eaten butternut squash from the garden all the way into June of the following year.  21 no tech storage crops

If you put your garlic in the pantry this summer and some has dried out, make garlic powder.  Just process the dried garlic in a coffee or spice grinder.  Now you have great flavor to add to burgers, sauces or steaks.  Quick tip-make dried garlic into garlic powder   

I take the herbs I had drying in paper bags and remove all leafs.  I store my herbs in quart canning jars.  I mix them all together for a homemade “Herbes de Provence”.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"  I use it on everything!  It is great in sauces, on meats, in dressings.  

Tarragon, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives
If you threw your extra tomatoes into the freezer and are now thinking it would be nice to have tomato sauce, canning tomato sauce is simple and easy to do.  I can all of last year's tomatoes every fall.  I use Weck’s canning jars and regular canning jars with antique glass lids (for antique glass lids you also need the extra tall antique rings).  Both are all glass so no worries about what is lining the lid.  The Weck's jars are a really pretty tulip shape.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty

All you need to can tomato sauce is a large pot, canning jars, a funnel, and canning tongs.  A pressure canner is not needed for acidic foods like tomatoes, pickles, jam.  Always follow the recipe as written to insure food safety.  If the food is not acidic enough, it can allow botulism to grow.

I throw the entire tomato (de-stemmed) into the food processor.  Most recipes say to remove the peel and seeds so you don’t have a bitter taste, but I have not noticed any issue with bitterness.

Here is the recipe from Ball’s “Complete Book of Home Preserving” for tomato paste:
9 cups of pureed tomatoes, 1½ cups of chopped sweet bell peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 teas salt, 1 clove of garlic.

I put it all into a large pot and let simmer until it is the consistency and taste I like, about 2.5 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and garlic.  Boil the jars, lids, and seals as the sauce is close to done.

Add 3 teas of lemon juice to each hot pint jar, fill with the hot tomato sauce to within ½ inch of the top, and seal the lid, following the instructions for the type of jar you are using.  Place all the filled jars in a large pot, insuring they are fully covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 45 minutes.  Be sure that the pot is at a steady boil for the entire 45 minutes.  Remove from canner.  Let cool for 24 hours.  Remove the ring and test the seal after the jar is completely cool by gently lifting the jar by the lid.  It should not lift off.  If you are using the antique glass lids, my experience is to just leave the rings on until you are ready to open the jar.  That’s it!  

Other high acid foods you can using a water bath are jams, jellies, condiments, salsas, pickles, and relishes.  I pickle my garlic harvest so I have garlic whenever I need it.  Have garlic any time you need it, just pickle some!  Consult with a canning book for more tips and always follow the recipe exactly as written to insure the right acidity for safe canning.

Winter is time to savor the fresh herbs from the garden along with what you have preserved, browsing for canning ideas, and planning next year's garden.  A potential Christmas meal using what is growing in the garden in December, Jazz up the Christmas feast with herbs from the garden

I have used Christmas break in the past as the time to finalize my garden plan for the spring.  I look back on my notes from last year's edible garden and this year's seed catalogs to decide what new varieties to add to my standbys.  This year, I did it early to be sure I remembered everything well and to be able to place my seed order earlier than usual.

For tips on choosing seed catalogs:   New seed catalogs are here!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Add a fresh edge to your Thanksgiving dinner by using herbs straight from your own garden.  Herbs can be harvested all the way through the entire winter in most years.  Traditional vegetables used for flavoring the Thanksgiving feast are also harvestable at this time of year, like carrots, onions and celery.

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  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Jazzing up the turkey flavor
You can easily make poultry seasoning for your turkey 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

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  Combine in a pint jar, shake to mix well.  

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.

Herbal-powered stuffing
For stuffing, you can gather fresh sage, onions, carrots and celery from the garden even in late November. 

In a bowl, put 8 cups of dried bread cubes and soften with 1 cup of chicken broth (I love using organic “Better than Bouillon” for my stock).  In a skillet, sauté 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onions with 1/2 cup of butter.  After browned, add 2 teas fresh sage or poultry seasoning, 1/2 teas salt, 1/8 teas of pepper.  Mix all together and stuff the turkey.

Potager turkey 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 stock, and giblets and neck from turkey.  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 turkey pan drippings if desired, simmer until thickened.

Herbed 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 buttermilk and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  

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.

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.   Other home made dressings:  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

This is the perfect time for fresh spinach salads.  Spinach, kale, cultivated dandelions 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 cop 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.  How fun is that!  If you use a form, simply press the softened butter firmly into the form, then place the form into a shallow dish of hot water.  The butter should slide out easily after a little warming.

I make an herb mixture from the herbs I dry from the garden.  It is great on anything!  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"