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Book Review (Kitchen Gardens by Cathy Wilkinson Barash)

For those of us who enjoy reading we know that there are moments of feast and famine when it comes to worthwhile material. Currently I am in the very lucky position of having lots of great literature to read this winter as I prep for the new season.

I recently borrowed Kitchen Gardens~How to create a beautiful and functional culinary garden~by Cathy Wilkinson Barash from my local library. This 122 page book by the Houghton Mifflin Company is a quick read with some very useful information and inspiring pictures.

As the title suggest this book is full of great ideas for the backyard gardener who wants to create interesting meals for their family. What is nice from my perspective is that a lot of the material is geared towards those of us who are dealing with the landscape and weather of the northern growing climate. There is a great focus throughout on recycling whether it is creating compost for the garden or using old branches not only for a trellis but as a visually appealing cottage…

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Heirloom)

I have started ordering my seed catalogs for the 2011 gardening season. The vast majority of my seed is usually purchased from The Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. With that said I still keep my eye out for other interesting and worthwhile seed companies and I think Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds fits that description. After seeing the success some friends of mine had with their seeds I decided to order a few of their items to strengthen my own seed stock.

Baker Creek Seeds offers over 1,300 varieties of vegetable, flowers and herbs. They have a lot of interesting Asian and European heirlooms available. They also have an absolutely beautiful seed catalog that they provide for free and what impresses me most is that they, " work extensively to supply free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries, as well as here at home in school gardens and other educational projects. It is our goal to educate everyone about a better, safer food supply and fight gene-altered Frankenfood a…

Book Review (A Celebration of Heirloom Vegetables by Roger Yepsen)

I was recently at the local library with my family and was digging around in the gardening section, no pun intended. My two year old son pulled a book off of the shelf called A Celebration of Heirloom Vegetables (Growing and Cooking Old-Time Varieties) by Roger Yepsen. I took a quick look at it and asked him if he would like me to get it and he replied that he would.

When I finally made it home and started thumbing briefly through the trio of books I had gotten I have to say that it really did not catch my eye. But let me tell you when I finally sat down to read the book from cover to cover I was really impressed. This is an absolutely fantastic book.

To begin with he gives a brief overview of heirlooms and their benefits. He then presents specific vegetables and how to grow, harvest and save seed from each variety. Yepsen is also an extremely talented artist and his watercolors are available throughout the book. As he list each veggie he then presents some interesting and easy recipes…

Samhain Snack

Here are a couple of ideas for your pumpkin seeds that I came across on the net after carving the kids squash.

To begin with if you prefer a salty taste boil the seeds with salt and then let simmer for 10 minutes.

You can get creative with flavors instead of the same old thing why not try some garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Another couple of ideas include flavoring your seeds with honey, Cinnamon or maple syrup.

You want to pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and then toss seeds in a bowl with two melted tablespoons of butter (or olive oil). Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes stirring the seeds every 10 minutes or so.

You may be surprised to know that pumpkin seeds help promote overall prostrate health and are naturally effective against depression.They also help prevent kidney stones and are a natural anti-inflammatory.

Enjoy and happy Samhain!

Garlic

We recently had our first frost of the year and knew it was time to plant our garlic. We had received a few cloves from some friends that had a very successful planting last year. We also purchased a few cloves on the side to round out our new stock. In the past we had planted our cloves around our rose bushes because we had heard it would help to cut down on pest. After two years I’m not sure exactly how much of that is true but one thing is for sure the garlic itself was not looking too healthy so we decided to go another route.

My two year old son and I had recently cleaned out our raised bed and worked the soil over in preparation of the new planting. The trick is to take each clove, with the skin still on, and plant it pointy side up about 2 inches deep and 5 inches apart. We also used our old corn stalks as recycled mulch for the raised bed. Early next spring we will hit the soil with a fresh batch of compost as well.

I’m sure everyone is aware of the health benefits of garlic.…

Long Island Cheese Squash

The Long Island Cheese Squash, a moschata, is one of the oldest squashes to be selected and bred for the consumption of humans and their live stock. Moschata squash in general are favored for pumpkin pie because they tend to be a bit less "stringy" than other varities.

Originally we ran into a bit of difficulty with all of our squash because the mounds that they were planted in were not allowing the proper drainage. The majority of the original plants developed rot but a small handful of the cheese squash and a few butternuts survived and eventually thrived.

Our cheese squash used a choke berry bush as a trelisse this year which helped keep the 10 lbs. veggies off of the wet autumn grass. We harvested our first just a couple of days ago.

Winter squash is packed with helpful nutrients, one of the most predominate being beta-carotene.

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his pos…

Dragon Carrot

Late last winter on a Saturday morning I was going through my morning ritual which basically consist of drinking coffee, thumbing through seed catalogs and watching numerous gardening shows on PBS. The Victory Garden was on and one of the members of the cast was interviewing a chef from NYC. She walked over to a tray and removed a glass lid to expose multi-colored carrots individually set on the platter as if they were crown jewels. She then went into a long explanation of how expensive the particular carrots were and how they were the rage in the gourmet restaurants. At that point I began thumbing through my Seed Savers Exchange seed catalog and found the purple carrot known as the Dragon Carrot. The entire packet of carrot seed was cheaper than the individual carrots on the show and I thought that it was slightly humorous and kind of sad that people think something anyone can grow in their own back lawn is "exotic".

They really are an interesting carrot in appearance. The …

Dirt and the Brain

The October/November 2010 issue of Organic Gardening has an interesting article in it on page 62. In a piece called “Garden Smarts” it discusses the theory that gardening may increase learning ability, specifically in children.

In the dirt there is a soil organism that is called Mycobacterium vaccae, say that ten times fast. This soil bacterium is believed to decrease anxiety and increase serotonin. It is known that there is a direct relationship between serotonin and learning. If an individual is under stress they do not learn as well. Researchers from Sage College found that mice exposed to M. vaccae performed twice as fast with much less anxiety when forced to navigate a maze and remember information over time. The article is trying to convey not only that gardening is good for you in regards to your diet and physical health but it plays a role in your mental health as well.

Of course this is not necessarily news for anyone who has spent any significant time in their garden patc…

In the Garden

I recently read a quote that said, “If you are going to write about the garden you need to be in the garden.”

So here I am sitting on the rock border that has taken shape over the years by our little strawberry patch. Our beagle, who is rumored to be around 11, though I think he is likely closer to 14 or 15, is napping in the comfortable fall sun at my feet.
The clover and grass is a healthy, tangled, soft forest of green beneath my feet. Sophia has taken up her ceremonial position in the sandbox, creating and destroying empires. Liam is too excited to stick around because Auntie Moe and the boys are here.

The neighbor’s sugar maple is beginning to blush. Her leaves are turning a dark crimson. The apple trees on our lawn are trying to keep pace and have discarded a few select leaves of their own.

The sunflowers, heavy with seed, hang their heads in silent prayer while the corn continues to dry buried deep within a womb of husk. The red cabbage is ripe for the harvest but I will probabl…

The Last Days of Summer

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C-43 B.C.)

We are in the final phase of the summer garden here on Orchard Street. It has been a fantastic year. Though I fell short on some goals, such as my intention to take part in a cooperative garden, I was able to accomplish some really wonderful things this year. My daughter, Sophia, continues to amaze me with her curiosity in the garden, especially the herb garden, and I am really proud of how much she grew as a gardener and a little person this year. Her brother, Liam who is two, really caught the fever this year and was eager to dig in the dirt whenever possible, if the truth be told he probably spent more time in the garden than I did! This was also the first time since we have moved into our home that my wife, Meghann, was able to dig around in her herb garden and it looks beautiful! I can’t wait to see what she adds to it in 2011.

We have rounded out the year by harvesting the …

Titan Sunflowers

A few of our neighbors have complimented us on our sunflowers this year. I have to admit it is nice to occasionally have your ego stroked. In the past we had a small sunflower bed in the far corner of our property and usually tried to stagger the plot by size and color. This year we grew our sunflowers right in the main garden. We chose a breed from the Seed Savers Exchange called “Titan”. The review claimed that they could reach nearly 14 feet with heads that may span close to 2 feet across. Our corn and our sunflowers have created a bit of a natural fence between our property and our closest neighbor and they help add a level of comfort to our already cozy lawn.

We also chose this particular breed because they produce delicious seed for consumption and are heirloom so as long as everything goes well we should end up with more seed than we know what to do with. Some of my gardening friends may be getting seeds in their stockings for Christmas this year.

As for harvesting your sunflo…

Corn (2)

“I have no hostility to nature, but a child's love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons." Ralph Waldo Emerson


It is that time of year again! As I drive home from work through the beautiful rolling hills of rural New York I must pass at least four or five road side stands selling fresh ears of corn. I never stop though because in our back yard we have our second generation of Bantam Sweet Corn growing.

We have already had a few meals with some young corn but last night my son and I went out into the garden and gathered cherry tomatoes, carrots and corn. Now it is a race against time, I have a feeling every meal from here on out is going to have some delicious cobs, buttered and salted to perfection! It looks as though we should have enough maize to freeze a couple of cobs for later in the year also.

Originally we got our Bantam seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. We have already picked out a few ears to save as seed for next year, which will be our th…

Collecting Seed

“One for the rock, one for the crow, One to die, and one to grow.”
- English saying

We are in the process of collecting the seed from our current garden for next year. This is always an exciting time for us. As all gardeners know all the hard work in the world cannot hold off Mother Nature so you hold your breath and hope that everything went alright and that your heirlooms produced strong seed for the season to follow. Deep inside you know that the fall harvest is right around the corner and it will be time for sweaters and knit hats before you know it.

So far it looks as though things have gone pretty good for us. There were a few disappointments due to poor planning and pest but for the most part I am very satisfied. Our golden peas produced nearly half a pound of seed which means next year the 3rd generation planting will be all our own seed stock. We have marked a few particular stalks of corn to save specifically for seed. Last year three ears of corn gave us about a mason jar f…

Celery

“All gardeners live in beautiful places, because they make them so.”
- Joseph Joubert

This is the first year that we have grown celery in our garden. We used transplants from the local farmers market, Frog Pond. Initially it looked like we may experience some problems with the plants because they had a bit of difficulty taking to the new soil. But they eventually developed firm roots and we have some fresh celery to show for it.

I have to admit that I have never been a huge fan of celery but my wife’s enthusiasm for the veggie is slowly changing my opinion. We have used it in salads at this point but plan on dehydrating some to use in soups and stews later in the year.

Celery holds a lot of health benefits as well. The leaves contain Vitamin A while the stalks are a great source of B1, B2, and B6. Celery also has a bit of Vitamin C in it too. Celery contains natural organic sodium that even folks with salt sensitivities are able to consume. This member of the parsley family helps contr…

Golden Cherry Tomatoes

"Your love of gardening will take on new meaning in your life." Fortune Cookie

Last year there was a blight in the area so very few gardeners were able to produce a healthy crop of tomatoes. There is discussion that the blight has shown up in the neighboring county again this summer.

This year I tried to grow three varities of tomatoes. I am working on a crop of beefsteak tomatoes for my grandmother, with little success, red cherry tomatoes and the subject of this blog the golden cherry tomato. Anyone with an interest in growing these "fruits" know that there are literally hundreds of different tomatoes to choose from in size, color and flavor. My four year old daughter would like to try something more exotic next year so maybe we will give it a go.

The golden cherry was purchased as a starter plant at our local farmers market, Frog Pond. It has proven to be a hearty little plant that produces extremely well also. The tomatoes themselves are very sweet. I prefer …

Black Beauty Zucchini

It has been a few years since we have grown zucchini in our garden. This season we decided to try the heirloom, Black Beauty, variety from the Seed Savers Exchange.

An interesting note about zucchini is that it is actually a fruit. It comes in three different colors, yellow, green or light green and generally taste better the smaller that it is. They are a good source of Vitamin C, an important antioxidant. They are also extremely low in total fat so if you are watching your daily intake this is a good "veggie" to consider. It is also believed that they help protect against colon cancer.

You can bake them, fry them, eat them raw and even use them to bake bread with. As for storage we either blanche them and put them in the freezer or dehydrate them.

If you happen to be growing the heirloom variety you can save your seed by allowing the fruit to pass maturity by three weeks and then remove the seed. You will want to wash the seed and let it dry before storing in a cool place, …

Beans (3)

This year we grew four different types of beans. We grew Dragon's Tongue (see our July 29th, 2009 blog entry for more details on this particular bean), also the Pencil Pod Golden Wax bean, and the Royalty Purple Pod bean from seed acquired through the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. All three of those seeds are heirloom strains. The fourth bean that we grew was another purple variety that was not heirloom and though delicious will not be sought out again simply because it is not an heirloom, if you are interested in knowing more about it you can check out our blog from August 1st, 2009 which speaks in detail about this bean.

We grew so many beans this year because friends of the family had given us some beans that they had pickled last year and they were amazing! So far we have eaten ours fresh, given some away, dehydrated some and recently froze a few pounds for "fresh" veggies in the winter. I am going to briefly tell you how to freeze your own beans so that you…

Potatoes (2)

I'll admit it, Quayle is not the only one who has spelled potato wrong, in fact I am one of those people. Now I think twice before writing anything about the tater because it pains me to be in the same population as Danny boy.

August, 2009 I wrote a short piece on the nutritional value of the potato so if you are interested please feel free to refer back to the above mentioned post for more info.

As I am sure I have mentioned in the past about two years ago I lost my job, as many Americans had/have, and my garden went from being a hobby to a way of putting food on the table. We were able to gather potatoes rather early in the year and whenever I dig up my first group of roots I think back to that time period and how self-sufficient my family was forced to become.

I have tried a number of methods of planting potatoes. I know it seems rather easy but I have had some success and some failure. This year I tried a very easy method I had taken from the author Dick Raymond. Basically what…

Blueberries

I am still a rookie in regards to growing blueberries. We only have two small bushes, but do have plans over the next few growing seasons to add a few more.

Two tricks of the trade that I can pass along happen to be that blueberries need mulch and they also like acidic soil. In order to kill two birds with one stone we began to take our old coffee grounds and started creating a "mulch" made entirely out of the coffee. Towards the end of spring my two year started adding grass clippings from the lawn after it had been freshly mowed, smart boy, and now we have a good base around the plants.

I pruned one of the two plants this spring while the other had been attacked by rabbits the past two winters so it has been pruned by nature so to speak. Pruning is a recommended method for a number of reasons if not simply to create fuller plants.

Aside from the way the warm berries melt in your mouth fresh from the bush there are a number of health benefits associated with blueberries. I&…

Short Season Gardening

The August/September 2010 issue of Organic Gardening has a nice little article about short season planting called "Plan for Fall Veggies" on page 76. I have to admit I am a bit torn in regards to this periodical in general. Some of the material it prints is really worth reading while other articles are debatable as to whether or not they are even an organic approach to begin with. I was given a free years worth of the magazine by a close friend who also enjoys digging in the dirt so I really can't complain but I figured I should give you folks the heads up if you were considering paying for it.

When I was planning the garden this past winter I had decided that I was going to plant the golden sweet pea in the spring and then another variety of pea late in the summer. At the time I was not really attempting to double up on my space and yield, I simply did not want the two heirlooms to cross-pollinate. But as the year began to move along I saw the benefits associated with u…

State of Tranquility

The birds are calling from the branches of the oak trees and the maple. Flamboyant melodies respond from deep within the blue spruce and their protective fortress of needles and cones. At times I wonder if they are speaking to one another or simply talking over each other. Regardless their voices blend perfectly.

Three tiny white butterflies land upon the snapdragons. I am always amazed that they are able to find their targets so accurately with such a swaying, intoxicated approach. The little white butterflies seem to be out in numbers this year. . . . I wonder what they are called?

Our terrier mix rolls in the grass and clover, just beyond our zucchini and cucumber patch, while our senior beagle sits like a statue trying to soak up the summer sun.

I can hear the wind cutting through the bamboo just before it gains enough momentum to stride across the lawn and playfully brush against the solemn chimes hanging from the branch on the apple tree and those suspended above Meghann's her…

"Sister Spinster Stinging Nettle"

The Nettle has always fascinated me but I had no idea how amazing this overlooked plant truly is! One began to grow up next to my rose bush and as with all sneaking plants I chose to let her remain- despite her threat. She hasn't stung anyone yet and the kids know to respect her for her potential.
Susan Weed is my herbal guru and I knew she had included Nettle in her book "Healing Wise" however I was unaware of the healing potential of this stinger. From the roots to the leaves and seeds every part hold healing potentials. Stinging nettle is a good source of calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, copper, chromium, zinc, cobalt, potassium and phosphorus as well as containing high amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K as well as riboflavin and thiamine. Just as keeping bees, if you are willing to be stung you may have the honey...
"...cows fed on it give much milk and yellow butter. Makes horses smart and frisky. Stimulates fowls to lay many eggs." Rafinesque …

Golden Sweet Pea (2)

On July 1st 2009 an entry was posted about the Golden Sweet Pea if you are interested in additional information on this vegetable.

Last year we attempted to start saving our own seeds. The Golden Sweet Pea was one of the two items that we were able to succesfully develop seed stock with. We did place another order for seeds with the Seed Savers Exchange just to strengthen this years yield since we had no idea how strong our seeds would be the first time around but it turned out not to be neccesary.

You can plant your peas as soon as you can turn your soil in the spring. Peas are a great nitrogen-fixing, green manure crop. A little trick with peas that we are going to incorporate this year is a spring and mid summer planting. The spring crop will be partly for eating and partly for seed stock while the mid summer planting will provide a fall harvest of peas. Since peas tend to do well in cooler temps this is a great way to double up on your crop and a way to use empty space in your gar…

Swiss Chard

"The watering of a garden requires as much judgement as the seasoning of a soup."
Helena Rutherford Ely


This is the first year that we have grown chard in our garden. I tried to last year but for some reason it did not take. This year it is well established in the soil and we have already begun to harvest the young leaves as part of our salad mixture.

Chard is a giant in the world of healthy vegetables. One cup of Swiss chard contains over 300% of your daily dose of Vitamin K, which is important for maintaining bone health. It is also an excellent source of Vitamin A due to its large concentration of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body. One cup of chard contains nearly 110% of your daily Vitamin A. It is believed that beta-carotene may help reduce your risk to certain types of cancer, specifically skin cancer. There is also a link between Vitamin A and lung health as well. Chard also supplies over 50% of your daily Vitamin C, which is a b…

Let Us Talk About Lettuce

"I'm not really a career person. I'm a gardener, basically."-George Harrison

This is the first year that we have grown lettuce from seed. I have no idea why I was so intimidated by the idea of growing lettuce from seed in the past. Last year friends of the family grew some in their raised bed and they could not keep up with the production of this leafy green so I began thinking , “O.K. maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought,” and decided that the next growing season I was going to give it a try.

Here we are in 2010 and I cannot keep up with the lettuce in my raised bed! The only thing that I wish I had done differently is to have planted a red lettuce instead of a green. The darker the lettuce the healthier it is for you. One of the nice things about this loose leaf is that you can plant a crop in the early spring and than put out another for a nice fall harvest as well since they prefer the cooler temperatures. With that said I think I may try a darker leaf the secon…

Flowers

~The rose has thorns only for those who would gather it.~ Chinese proverb

Today, along with my two oldest children, I collected some wild flowers from the nearby forest to add to our flower beds. It is my way of trying to entice the bees to spend time in my veggie garden and the view, needless to say, is beautiful.