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Showing posts from July, 2009

Dragon's Tongue Bean

Our family recently took a two week road trip to Frisco Colorado. In the back of my mind I could not help but wonder what the garden would look like when we got back. One of the first things that I noticed upon inspection of our garden when we returned were the bean bushes. We had an abundance of dragon’s tongue beans just waiting to be harvested so my daughter and I got right to work.

This is another heirloom variety that I purchased from the Seed Savers Exchange. This Dutch variety bush bean produces bountiful pods that measure almost 8 inches in length. The bean is unique in its appearance it is cream colored with purple stripes, when blanched the stripes will disappear. Tonight we will hit them with a bit of steam and serve them with some salmon but to this point we have only eaten them raw and I must say that they are delicious.

One of the benefits of growing beans is that they are a “nitrogen fixer” and will replenish your soil which is a benefit to any plant that follows. As f…

Garden Therapy

“Mans heart away from nature becomes hard”
~ Standing Bear

After supper I like to take the dogs for a short walk. We live right next to a walking trail and if you know what paths to take you can become immersed in a deep canopy of green. You are quickly swallowed up by the leaning branches of the young oaks and gnarled old pine. There are ferns waving in the evening breeze while birds and squirrels sit just out of reach warning their neighbors of your quiet passing. For a moment you almost forget that you are in town.

Eventually we make our way back to the house and I like to walk from flower bed to flower bed and examine the slow growth of each plant while the hounds follow a scent from one blade of grass to the next eager to let instinct take charge. Patiently we make our way towards the section of yard that contains the herb and vegetable garden. I tend to pinch some thyme and enjoy its aroma and wash it off my finger tips by rubbing a leaf of lemon balm into a small ball between my…

Planting Seeds of Thought

"To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." Gandhi

Our yard is small compared to some, large compared to others, a 16th of an acre, located on the end of a quiet street corner. I consider it a blessing to have a small piece of land to work with, especially in the presence of my children.

In reference to gardening I think of the old adage “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach him to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”. Both of my children spend their summers in the garden. My son is 1 so most of the day is spent trying to keep mouthfuls of dirt from being devoured but my daughter will be 4 this fall and she has an impressive amount of knowledge for someone so young. She knows which herbs in her mothers garden are safe to eat and luckily for us would rather snack on a fist full of chives or sage rather than potato chips. She understands that in the spring we place our seeds in the ground and that throughout the year if we…

Sneaky Herbs

Sneaky Herbs

In the spring following our move to Orchard St., I began to search the property for old plantings. There next to the back door presented a huge clump of chives. He looked so happy there I decided this was to be a kitchen/herb garden. Toby and I began cleaning the back yard and found huge slabs of slate buried under a few inches of grass and began outlining the perimeter of the garden with them.
This garden, three summers later, has many healing herbs in her soil: Chocolate Mint, Hyssop, Lavender, Calendula, Chamomile, Oregano, Thyme, Strawberry, Basil, Sage and a patio peach tree as a center piece. I have noticed that herbs that I didn’t plant have started to find their way into the garden as well. Violet, Mullen, and Burdock have moved in as well as the ever plentiful Dandelion and Plantain.
Although I have studied the medicinal properties of herbs for about nine years now I am such a beginner and I love that. I feel like a child whenever a plant reveals itself to m…

Eden Lost

“Gardens are a form of autobiography.”
Sydney Eddison, Horticulture magazine, August/September 1993

Through out the years whenever I daydream about my youth and I want to drift to a place of happiness without fail I find myself remembering the garden that my family had on my maternal grandparents property. Honestly at this point in life I don’t remember my specific age but I must have been about 5 years old or there about. We lived in an apartment on Bridge St. which was right down the road from my paternal grandparents and thus didn’t have a lawn of our own.

I can still visualize the garden and the layout of the plants. The garden itself was probably 10’ x 40’ give or take a few feet. It was nestled between my grandparents and my aunt and uncle whom lived next door. The space itself was tucked neatly between the scotch pine, blue spruce, maple and oak, it was a little sanctuary of sorts.

There are a lot of small events that may have seemed meaningless to me or those around me at the ti…


Cauliflower is another of our veggies that I grow from starter plants. Rumor has it that it is bit finicky to work with but my personal experience has led me to believe that it is a reasonably hearty plant that seems to do well in most conditions. Then again maybe I am just lucky.

Cauliflower contains compounds that appear to help prevent cancer. The compounds are believed to stop enzymes from activating the cancer causing agents in the body. Just one serving of cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage) a day can lower your risk of cancer. It also is a detoxifies the blood and liver.

Cauliflower is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folic acid. Folic acid is believed to lower the risk of strokes and heart disease and even plays a role in fighting depression. It is also a very good source of Omega 3 fatty acids and also contains a bit of protein.


Some of the vegetables in our garden are transplants. Locally we have a farmers market, Frog Pond, which covers most items on your gardening wish list. Though I enjoy the challenge of raising crops from seeds some plants are just simply much easier to deal with in the form of starter plants due to the short growing season in NY.

Personally I find few veggies fresh from the garden that can rival freshly cut broccoli. Hit is with a bit of heat to soften it but not deplete it of nutrients and you have a delicious side dish. Last year I had lost my job and my wife was 8 months pregnant and going out on maternity leave soon so our garden went from a hobby to becoming a corner stone of our evening meals. My daughter and I would gather garlic and potatoes along with broccoli just before her mother arrived home from work. Though money was very tight we were able to maintain a reasonably healthy diet and there was a certain satisfaction in providing for ones self that helped build character wi…

Seed To Harvest

Originally written in the spring of 2008

Sophia digs her toes within the white sand while working on a castle. A territorial starling snaps from its nest hidden above the chives and sage in a blue black bolt of feathers and beak. Sophia continues to sculpt with her plastic shovel and dump truck. She is surrounded by the shaggy lawn of early spring. Colonies of dandelions and forget me nots are woven amongst the lavender clover blossoms. I have been laboring with the bamboo sprouts that continue to reappear next to the cedar trees where the mounds have been strategically placed for red French pumpkins, muskmelons and cucumbers.

Migrating song birds such as the common robin have finally lost their lustful advance and bob for worms at a safe distance from the sandbox and the quiet construction taking place within. Spring is at a peak all around us. The tulips are in full blossom and the apple trees display a quiet pageant of subtle pink and virgin white flowers that promise an abundance of…

Golden Sweet Pea

Kent Whealey of The Seed Savers Exchange (which I highly recommend for seed stock) can take credit for bringing this interesting variety of heirloom edible-podded pea to the states. Story has it that while Whealey was in a market in India he came across the golden sweet pea. As far as I have been able to gather this is the only yellow pea in their catalog and may be unique in the world of peas as well.

The golden sweet pea is a cool season vegetable that when properly trellised can easily grow to 6’ tall. The Seed Savers Exchange describes the flowers as “beautiful two-toned purple”. They really are eye catching and create a nice contrast to the green foliage of any garden. The pods are bright lemon yellow and recommended when small. You should be able to harvest within 60 to 70 days. Our kids sampled the first of our crop last night to astounding review.

Interestingly enough a serving of peas contains almost 51% of your daily serving of Vitamin K. Vitamin K is responsible for mainta…