Category Archives: Produce

Hot Goat’s Cheese Salad with a Honey Mustard Dressing

By Karen Burns-Booth

Karen shows how the melted unctuousness of  hot goat’s cheese paired crisp, cool and perfectly dressed salad leaves makes for a divine combination.

It may seem like a cliché, but a hot goat’s cheese salad is still a favourite with me. I particularly like the combination of hot and cold – the melted unctuousness of the cheese with crisp, cool salad leaves makes for a divine combination, and a nice bit of “chèvre” is always welcome on my table, whether it be in salads, with bread and/or crackers or with fresh fruit and nuts. Continue reading Hot Goat’s Cheese Salad with a Honey Mustard Dressing

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Health Benefits of Water Spinach

I bet most of us know Popeye and his very famous energy booster, the mighty spinach. When we were kids, we probably thought that it can only be found on cartoons, but wait, did you know that we have our very own type of Spinach growing here in the Philippines?

This tropical plant is the Water Spinach, with a scientific name of Ipomea Aquatica, or more commonly known here in our country as our very own “Kangkong”. You wouldn’t have any difficulties in finding this vegetable as this is popular among Filipinos, offered at a very cheap price at $0.25 per bundle (that’s about Philippine Peso: 10) over at the market or grocery supermarkets. Continue reading Health Benefits of Water Spinach

Top Reasons to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

Why shop at a Farmers Market?

Access to fresh, locally grown foods, for starters. That may be one of the best reasons, but there are many more. Farmers markets have fruits and vegetables at the peak of the growing season. This means produce is at its freshest and tastes the best. The food is typically grown near where you live, not thousands of miles away or another country. Shopping at farmers markets also supports your local farmers and keeps the money you spend on food closer to your neighborhood.
Continue reading Top Reasons to Shop at a Farmers’ Market

Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Za’atar Roasted Eggplant

A Reblog | By: kabcphotography | In Tel Aviv, with 85 degree weather,  its hard to say that its Fall. As much as I love long summer days filled with the beach and watermelons, I truly miss the feeling of Autumn. I miss apple orchards and pumpkin patches and the scent of warm spices.

While patiently waiting for soup season to kick in, I’ve prepared a light, whole grain salad filled with mediterranean flavors.
Continue reading Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Za’atar Roasted Eggplant

UK garden centre grows Britain’s first black tomato

By: Yahoo UK | A Reblog | A plant nursery has become the first in Britain to grow BLACK tomatoes.
The unusual fruit, which has a jet black skin, is among the first in the world to contain anthocyanins, an antioxidant thought to have a number of health benefits.

Its unusual colour stems from pigments in the skin which develop when exposed to sunlight.

Ray Brown, 66, who runs Plant World Seeds, first came across the unusual fruit when a customer sent him a mystery package entitled ‘black tomato’.
Continue reading UK garden centre grows Britain’s first black tomato

Strawberry thrives in unique hot climate in the Philippines

By: Juan Escandor, Jr. | A Reblog from Inquirer News |  Agribusiness graduate Leonardo Libreja successfully propagated strawberry in the lowland of his town in Camarines Sur; demonstrating that the plant can thrive in a hot climate and bear fruit “sweeter” than those found in the Mountain Province in the Philippines.

It has been a common belief here that plants thriving in cold climate, such as strawberry, apple and tangerine (a citrus fruit similar to the mandarin orange) will barely survive in a tropical climate like in Ocampo town, northeast of Naga City.
Continue reading Strawberry thrives in unique hot climate in the Philippines

How to Grow Herbs Indoor

herb pot mint

Gardening Indoors Can Be Done Easily

A Reblog | The Tasteful Garden | Gardening Indoors can be done easily if you have the proper conditions in your home. The key to success is having enough light for the plants to do well. West and South facing windows provide the most light. If the herbs are not getting enough light they will just stop growing and may eventually have insects or diseases attack them.

Humidity

Another problem with growing indoors is humidity or lack of it. Our heating systems are primarily dry heat and the plants can suffer from lack of moisture in their leaves even though they are watered. This can be corrected by misting or washing your plant’s leaves every 2 weeks.

Most Herbs Prefer Temperatures from 65-80 Degrees

arrow green with textMost herbs prefer temperatures from 65-80 degrees and watering when the soil is dry to the touch. Never let your plants sit in a tray of water as their roots will drown. Also, make sure that the pots you use are large enough for the plant to grow for up to 6 months. Pots that are 8″ in diameter are best.

Moving Your Plants Outdoors

It is generally best to move your plants outdoors as soon as it is warm and they will really appreciate an afternoon of sunshine on warm days, just remember to bring them back indoors during the cool nights.

Preparing Perennial Herbs for Winter

In very mild winter areas nothing needs to be done except a light pruning, cutting off about a third of the plant to trim up and encourage a nice form for spring.

Cold Winter Areas

In cold winter areas, the annual herbs will die as soon as the first frost hits them. The perennials can last if they are hardy to your zone. Rosemary, Sage, Lavender and others need to be pruned (about a third) and then mulched with anything that will protect them from the cold and wet. Cover their stems and root systems with hay or leaves or pine straw to keep the freezing wind from doing damage.

Taking Cuttings of Your Plants

You can also take cuttings of your plants and root them indoors keeping them moist and in a humid environment until they are rooted and then pot them. Another option is to dig up your herbs and put them in large pots to bring indoors for the winter.

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Bloglink: http://www.tastefulgarden.com/store/pc/Indoor-Herb-Growing-d55.htm
The Tasteful Garden

Exploring the Seedy Side of Philadelphia: Heirloom seed-savers are preserving our area’s rich horticultural heritage

Story by Brian Rademaekers | Photos by Rob Cardillo  A Reblog from GRID Magazine | The Fish Pepper was an African-American heirloom plant popular in Philadelphia and Baltimore, dating to before the 1870s. As anyone with the gardening bug knows, the bleakness of midwinter in Philadelphia has a way of making you dream of warmer times, often hatching ambitious plans for your raised beds. I had one of those moments this winter while looking through the glossy pages of a seed catalog. Among the hundreds of pages of colorful fruits, flowers and vegetables, a particular plant caught my attention: the Fish Pepper.

With distinct white-striped leaves and young green fruit, the pepper bush was interesting in on a purely visual level. But what really got my attention was the pepper’s history as an African-American heirloom plant popular in Philadelphia and Baltimore, dating to before the 1870s. Heirlooms are plants whose seeds have been saved over generations, replanted year after year, consistently reproducing similar traits. Many vegetables offered at nurseries and big-box stores are hybrids that can produce sterile seeds or offspring with erratic traits.

The idea of a plant with deep roots in our history intrigued me. How many others plants like this were out there? What is our region’s history in growing heirloom food plants? Could I make a whole garden featuring heirloom plants with Philadelphia ties? Thus began my seed-searching quest to create the ultimate Philadelphia heirloom garden.

Center Seedy

As I quickly found, such a garden needn’t lack diversity. The Philadelphia region has long been a powerhouse of heirloom seed production, starting with Native Americans and Quakers and growing with seed companies like D. Landreth Seed Company (founded in 1784) and Burpee (founded in 1876), right through the 19th and 20th centuries.“We had Quakers in the city who were always interested in botany and food production improvement,” says William Woys Weaver, a Chester County author who has been collecting and growing local heirlooms since the 1970s. He inherited his grandfather’s seed collection of hundreds of local heirlooms and has since expanded it to include thousands of local plants. (Learn more about Weaver’s work on p. 46.)

“Philadelphia has always, since at least the 1700s, had a special interest in growing things, so we’re ahead of the game,” Weaver says. “You had all these people growing things here, and the list of heirlooms to come out of this region is incredibly huge, more so than any other part of the country, I think.”

arrow green with textGenerally, heirlooms are considered “any variety that’s older than 50 years,” says Tim Mountz, founder of Happy Cat Seeds in Kennett Square. But not all heirloom-type plants go back 50 years. “We call anything newer than 50 years ‘open pollinated’ varieties,” Mountz explains.  If you’ve ever grown or eaten a Green Zebra Tomato, you know a “new heirloom.”

Open pollinated or “OP” varieties are created through  a process in which two plants with different traits — say, a green tomato and a yellow tomato — are interbred to create a hybrid, explains Mountz. This is done across six generations of plants, with the grower tracking a desirable trait over successive generations. After six generations, the plant can be considered stable. After 50 years, it can be called an heirloom. The Green Zebra Tomato, bred in 1984, is now stable and can be called its own variety, but it is not yet an heirloom.

Happy Cat is one of many places where gardeners can find heirlooms with local roots. One of Mountz’s favorites is the Stoltzfus String Bean, which he found in his grandfather’s collection after he passed away. “It had been extinct for 70 years before we brought it back,” Mountz says. “It’s a string bean, so we’ll eat it green before its beans develop in the pod, and we’ll also dry them and then soak them overnight for use in the winter as a cooking bean for things like refried beans.” Beyond the good eating, he says it’s just a good looking plant. “The flowers are more beautiful, the plant itself is more beautiful, and the bean itself is a dark purple.”

Williams Woy Weaver. photo by Rob CardilloWeavers Way Co-op in Mt. Airy, Primex Garden Center in Glenside, and Burpee Seeds in Warminster all carry local heirloom seed varieties, but the Fish Pepper that first caught my eye came from the Baker Creek catalog, based out of Missouri. Baker Creek owner Jere Gettle cites the Jersey Devil tomato as one of his favorite heirlooms from our region. “It looks sort of like a horn, which is where I guess the ‘devil’ part comes from. It’s my favorite paste-type tomato … they’re just incredibly good eating.”

Growing Local

Weaver notes that there currently isn’t an extensive guide to regional heirlooms, let alone a one-stop shop for buying them. Finding them takes some research and “hunting and pecking through catalogs,” he says. But, one great resource can be seed exchange groups like the Philly Seed Exchange.

Aimee Hill, a co-coordinator with the Philly Seed Exchange, says the group doesn’t only focus on seeds with historic ties to the area, but since they come from plants grown in the region, they are by default local heirlooms.

“The idea is to get as many local seeds as possible and have people save seeds no matter where they came from in the first place,” Hill says. “As they’re grown and saved and grown over generations, they become more adapted to the Philly area.” They’ve gotten many seeds from the pre-1800s collection at Bartram’s Garden and the Pendle Hill Quaker community in Wallingford, Pa.

While proponents of heirlooms have long lauded the superior taste compared to hybrid versions grown for commercial markets, there are many other reasons to grow not just heirlooms, but local heirlooms.

arrow green with text“If you have organically raised heirloom food plants in your garden, you’re going to be living a lot healthier than if you’re just growing hybrids. The heirlooms have not declined in their nutritional value the way these hybridized plants have,” Weaver says, citing studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Since the 1950s, hybridization has bled out nutrition for the sake of shelf life, or for whatever reason. It’s just not there.”

Mountz and Weaver also extol the vigor of plants that have been bred to cope with our climate, soil and pests. “They’ll either germinate earlier, or be more resistant to humidity or insects,” Mountz says. “It’s really great to see the local traits you’ll get; it’s not just the local flavor and the local history, but the ability to grow in a climate that’s really cold in the wintertime, but then subtropical for two-and-a-half months in the summer.”

Tim Mountz found the Stoltzfus String Bean in his grandfather’s seed collection after he passed away.Hill agrees. “If you grow things over generations and save the seeds from specific areas, they become more resilient. It’s like terroir with wine and grapes grown in specific areas,” he says. “They’re better at getting all the good stuff, the fancy stuff, out of that soil so they taste better.”  It also enhances economic independence, because seed savers don’t have to buy new seeds each year.

Saving for a Seedier Future

I look forward to contributing to that diversity with my “ultimate Philadelphia heirloom garden.” This spring and summer, in addition to the Fish Pepper and the Stoltzfus String Bean, I will be growing Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage, Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce, Philadelphia White Box Radishes and Jenny Lind Melons. My local tomatoes will include Jersey Devil, one called London Grove (from Happy Cat), and of course some Brandywines — the superstar of our regional heirlooms.

Saving local seeds does more than put delicious food on your plate, it keeps alive a history that is rich but fragile. As Weaver explains, those superstar Brandywine tomatoes, first grown on the banks of the Brandywine Creek in Chester County, are the perfect illustration of that fragility.  Just a month after delivering the seeds to a seed company, the grower who gave Brandywines their name was thrown from a horse and killed. Had he died a month earlier, the Brandywine tomato as we know it might have died along with him.

Weaver compares preserving local heirlooms to linguists preserving endangered languages. “With languages, if you lose the speakers, you lose the language,” Weaver says. “It’s the same with these plants — if you lose them, they’re gone. I’ve come very close to losing some things, and it scares me because I shouldn’t be the only one on planet earth with some of this stuff.”
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Bloglink: http://www.gridphilly.com/grid-magazine/2013/4/11/exploring-the-seedy-side-of-philadelphia-heirloom-seed-saver.html
Featured Photo: The People’s Community Garden

Re Purposed Crutches Into A Pea Trellis

Iamsoaking

A Reblog from the “Homestead Survival”  |  Thanks to Deb Mathenia for FB share  A creative reader at helpful gardener shared this amazing idea to re pupose an old unused pair of crutches instead of purchasing a trellis …. she made one.

This is a very frugal concept.

1. Dig a hole on each end on the length of the garden row.

2. Position crutch horizontally and firm in the dirt firmly around it. Use your feet to firmly pressed down around the crutch. Repeat with other crutch.

3. Tie twine to the bottom of one crutch. Loop several times around then string the across garden row to other crutch. Repeat looping and stringing twine across to other crutch as you jump two inches with every vertical layer

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Bloglink:  http://thehomesteadsurvival.com/purposed-crutches-pea-trellis/#.UaLFWNiJiK9

Six Writing Lessons From The Garden

Garden-Produce-1024x685

A Reblog  |  By: Deborah Lee Luskin >

veg garden

I love to garden. It’s a meditative activity – something I can do while my mind freewheels. Last Sunday, I found myself thinking how preparing a small vegetable patch is like writing a book.

Lesson 1: Writing is Solitary.Scarecrow

For the first time in thirty years, I’m planting the garden solo. My husband helped me install the fence posts (just as he built the studio where I write), but he prefers to nurture the orchard. I’m on my own, just as I write by myself during the week while he’s off tending to his patients’ health.

Lesson 2: Selectivity is Good.

There was a time when we grew and preserved all our food – but no longer. We’re now supplied with locally grown produce from a neighbor’s organic farm, so I’m only planting high-value items that are harder to find in local markets – shallots and leeks, fennel, veg garden2escarole and Brussels sprouts – as well as items we consume in quantity – cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, hot peppers and a wide assortment of culinary herbs.

I’m leaving the prosaic vegetables – the zucchini and green beans, the carrots and potatoes – to the production professionals. In a similar way, I’ve retired from the teaching, managerial and editorial jobs that others can do as well as or even better than I can. No one else can tell the stories I imagine, so I’m concentrating on them.

Lesson 3: Limits are Helpful.

GardenPrep050513I started by limiting the scope of my garden. I’ve fenced off an eight- by sixteen-foot rectangle to keep the free-range chickens out, and to keep my intentions focused – and manageable. Our previous gardens were huge, time-sucking affairs, and sometimes we raised an equal quantity of weeds as tomatoes. Similarly, over the past year, I’ve drafted thousands of words about my character’s life. But recently, I’ve come to realize that the story I’m telling takes place over the course of nineteen months. So that’s what I’ll develop; everything else must come out, just like the weeds.

Lesson 4: Writing Takes Time.

At the outset, a hundred and twenty-eight square feet looks just as big as a 100,000-word novel, and turning it over with a hand fork appears as daunting as filling a ream of paper by pen. My husband offered to do this heavy task for me; he sundialwould have had the garden-plot ready in less than an hour. I thanked him and said I would do it myself. It took me three hours, during which time I meditated on how preparing the garden is like writing a novel. I stopped only for water and to take pictures for this post, which I was composing as I dug.

Lesson 5: Small Tasks Yield Success.

gardenprep10A week earlier, I’d covered my plot with a tarp to warm the earth and kill weeds. The weeds continued to flourish, however, and the prospect of turning the soil by hand and pulling the weeds out by the root was too much. So I put the tarp back in place and

Working a small section at a time.

Working a small section at a time.

uncovered only a quarter of the space. After I turned those thirty-two square feet, I peeled the tarp back again, turning and weeding the next section. Now, the job was half done. I folded the tarp back again and again, always giving myself a small, measurable task that I could reasonably accomplish. Writing a book is just the same: I break each chapter into sections, and each section into paragraphs, each paragraph into sentences, each sentence into words. Each time I stuck the fork into the soil, it was a reminder that books are written one word at a time.
Lesson 6: The End is the Beginning

By the time I had raked the soil into beds and outlined the footpath with string, my neck was sunburned, my back was sore, and I was ready for a bath. I was done – for the day. I now had a well-defined garden plot with clearly outlined beds as weed-free as a clean piece of paper. Even though I was done-in, I’m anything but done. In fact, I’m just ready to start.

GardenPrep8Ellen, the novel I’m crafting, is further along than my garden. But the garden is a good reminder about how to maintain forward progress on this first draft. My afternoon preparing my garden yielded these six truths: 1) Even though I work alone, I’m deeply engaged with my characters; 2) every time I cut out a scene or a character or an unnecessary word, I gain a clearer sense of what aspect of the story to nurture; 3) knowing the limit of the narrative has helped me focus on the story I have to tell; 4) drafting the novel is taking a long time – and I make progress daily; 5) I experience the elation of success when I set myself small, measurable tasks; and 6) every time I finish a section, a chapter, an entire draft, I’m ready to begin another section, another chapter, another draft.  And even when that’s done – even when the writing and revision are finished – there’s another whole set of steps to see a book to completion, but those are chores of another season.

This growing season has just started. I tell myself, if I write word by word, weed by weed, my effort will blossom, and in time, I’ll see my book in my readers’ hands.

Meanwhile, I have a lovely garden bed ready for seeds.

photo: M. Shafer

photo: M. Shafer

Author Deborah Lee Luskin gardens and writes in southern Vermont and can be found on the web at www.deborahleeluskin.com