The first hard frost hasn't even arrived yet, but I am already dreading the severe withdrawal symptoms that I'll experience because of my addiction to fresh tomatoes.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Believe it or not, October 17th is National Pasta Day in the U.S. Now you don't have to be an expert on Italian cuisine to know that there are any number of things that can easily be grown in a garden or even in containers large and small that can be used in the almost endless variety of dishes that can be made using this versatile ingredient. I mean, just look at the photo below.
O.K., so you can't grow cheese or olive oil in the garden, but you get the idea. From pasta primavera to lasagna, there are many things that can be produced by even a small garden that will add fresh flavor to many pasta dishes. And if you like garlic, now is the time to plant it so that you'll have a fresh supply for next year. Just make sure you plant it before the ground freezes. A sunny location with rich soil is best. Plant the cloves root side down four to six inches apart at a depth of one to two inches in rows one and a half to two feet apart. And in Northern areas six inches of mulch should be used for protection against the winter's cold.
You can even grow garlic indoors. Use pots that are at least six inches deep along with a good potting mix. And if you wish to plant more than one clove in a single pot, make sure that it is wide enough to allow at least four inches of separation between the cloves. Of course, a sunny, south facing window is preferred. Only light watering is required.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Since all the squash are in and tomorrow marks the average first frost date of our area, I think I would not be premature in thanking Mother Nature for another squash bug free growing season. I don't know where these pests have gone or what is keeping them away, but I hope they'll be absent from next year's growing season as well.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Monday, October 9, 2017
Love him or hate him, there can be no argument that Christopher Columbus' voyages changed the world map and the way people eat. Without the age of discovery unleashed by his travels, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and chocolate would have remained locked in the New World for years, decades or centuries to come.
Try to imagine German, Irish or other European cuisines without potatoes. What would many cuisines of the world be like without peppers, both sweet and spicy? And would you want to live in a world where the Italians had never encountered the tomato? So if you can't celebrate Columbus for the man he was, you can celebrate the food diversity his voyages triggered in the rest of the world.
Sunday, October 8, 2017
October is National Vegetarian Month. So, whether you have a garden or not, here are a couple of things you can do:
- Pick one day of the week where all of your meals are of a meatless variety for the entire month.
- If that's too much, pick one meal where you will consistently avoid meat once or twice a week for the entire month.
You'll be surprised at the variety of things you can eat to help you avoid meat. And if you wonder why you should even bother, just remember that according to studies done by the Mayo Clinic and other medical research institutions, eating less meat has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.
Friday, October 6, 2017
Thursday, October 5, 2017
World/International Teacher's Day has been celebrated on October 5th for more than two decades. It was started by UNESCO to recognize the invaluable and lasting positive contributions that teachers and teaching organizations make to the human condition. As gardeners we spend so much time absorbing information we often forget that whether we have a degree in education or not, we are obligated to pass on our knowledge and love of gardening to others.
So where ever you can and whenever you can, pass along some of what you know to others, especially children. So that the fruits of our labor will be around for many seasons to come.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
My Minnesota Midget Melon plant, bred for maturation in a short period of time for areas with limited growing seasons, has come through like a champ. I started the seeds late this year and didn't transplant the seedling until the last week in July. Still it managed to produce over a dozen fruits and beat the first frost date by almost two weeks! I won't tempt fate next year. But I'm glad that the odds were ever in my favor this time around.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
All good things come to those who wait and now we're in a month that was definitely worth waiting for, National Pizza Month. And while we can't grow mozzarella, pepperoni, ham or sausage in our gardens(sigh), we can grow herbs and veggies that make a homemade pizza all the more special because they add fresh flavors that can only be found in produce that was harvested just a few minutes ago.
So go ahead and grow basil and tomatoes. Make that homemade pizza sauce. Shred yellow summer squash or zucchini. Drain them, squeeze out the excess liquid and sprinkle them generously over your creation. Put on some young tender spinach. Add homegrown onions and peppers if you like, raw or sauteed. And you can even include roasted homegrown garlic if you have a mind to.
The variations of pizza are endless. And you'll need far more than one month to explore them. So get started now and enjoy! Mangia! Mangia!
Monday, October 2, 2017
While I have more than a little concern that we are only a few weeks away from serious snow here in NWI, it's nice to see my potted cilantro luxuriating in the cooler temperatures of autumn. If my plants are happy, I'm happy.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Now that the worst of the summer's heat is behind us and the cool temperatures are with us once again, there's time to squeeze in one more round of lettuce before Old Man Winter makes outdoor gardening impossible in this neck of the woods.
Friday, September 29, 2017
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Community gardens are trending all across America, but do you know which locations have the most community gardens per capita? Here are the top ten.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
When the tomatoes and summer squash are producing faster than you seem to be able to keep up with, it pays to have a simple recipe or two handy to use the abundance that Mother Nature has given you. Here is one of my favorites.
Summer Vegetable Medley
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. yellow summer squash, sliced
- 1 large or two medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
- 1 large bell or 3 to 4 regular sized banana peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
- 1 tsp salt or 1 tsp non-salt seasoning mix
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Heat oil in large skillet. Saute squash for a couple of minutes then add the pepper chunks. After a couple of minutes more add the green onions. When the other vegetables are tender, add the sugar, salt/non-salt seasoning, pepper and tomato wedges and stir well. Lower the heat and cover the skillet. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes more stirring occasionally. Season to taste and then serve. This is great over white rice!
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
This orchard is located only a half an hour away.
John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), more popularly known as Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who lived a nomadic lifestyle; traveling the U.S. barefoot and introducing apple trees to large areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. His activities touched the lives of many people and he became a legend for doing so. Upon his death, he was laid to rest in the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana where a festival is held in his honor every year.
Monday, September 25, 2017
It doesn't take much cabbage to make a tasty coleslaw. And it can be as simple or as complex as you like. It can be spicy or plain. It can be sweet or savory. It can be coarse or fine. It can be... Well, you get the idea. And before I forget, when it's made from cabbage fresh from the garden, that just adds another dimension of taste that simply can't be duplicated by what you'll find in your local store. May I suggest that you try your slaw over a BBQ pulled pork or BBQ shredded chicken sandwich? The taste and texture will up your sandwich game.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Saturday, September 23, 2017
- As many of you may have already guessed, basil is at the top of the list. I have found that lemon basil pairs well with many different types of fish and I've even used it to enhance the flavor of my crock pot fish chowder.
- Chives are another herb that add a nice accent to fish dishes whether they are sprinkled on top after the fish is done or cooked along with it.
- Rosemary is a wonderful herb for fish whether it's fresh or dried. But be aware that fresh rosemary has stronger citrus notes than its dry form.
- Sage also goes well with fish. However, its use requires care and a light hand as its intensity increases with cooking or if it is frozen before being used in dishes.
- And although many Americans don't grow it, French tarragon, which is well suited for even a windowsill garden, adds a light, delicate flavor to fish dishes.
So there you have it, a short list of flavor enhancers for your next fish dish. Give them each a try and see which one(s) suit your fancy.
Friday, September 22, 2017
On a pyramid constructed over 1000 years ago in the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itza, at the precise time of the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun casts its rays on the balustrade of one of four 91 step staircases, and highlights a 120 foot feathered serpent that seems to be moving or slithering its way down the steps.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
On this date in 1938 patent #2,130,948 was granted for the material known as nylon. The success of this synthetic fiber led to a severe reduction in the demand for silk stockings, a ton of money for its creator, DuPont and the creation of the colloquial term nylons. But did you know that in addition to adorning the legs of millions of women past and present, nylons have a use in the garden?
When growing melons or heavy winter squash vertically, nylons can supply much needed support(no pun intended) to make sure that your crop doesn't come crashing to the ground. And finding used nylons isn't a problem at all in most households. So give your vertical gardening efforts a lift and help delay the journey of a used item to the refuse bin.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
It looks as though my container butterbush squash plant is trying to produce a second crop. Unfortunately, the traditional first frost date in this area is less that a month away. I don't think these squash will mature before then, but I'll hope for the best.
Monday, September 18, 2017
- Keep harvesting crops. If you have a glut of fruit and veggies try freezing, drying, freeze drying, pickling, and storing so that you can enjoy them later on.
- Pull or cut off the foliage of main crop potatoes at ground level 3 weeks before lifting them to prevent blight spores infecting the tubers as you lift them. This will also help to firm the skins of the potatoes.
- Spread newly dug potatoes out to dry for a few hours before storing them in in a cool, dry, dark place. Paper or hessian sacks are best for this as they will allow the crop to breathe while it is in storage. Only store undamaged, disease free potatoes - one rotten tuber can ruin your whole crop!
- It will help your pumpkins ripen in time for Halloween if you remove any leaves which shadow the fruits.
- Place pumpkins and squash on a piece of slate or wood to raise them off wet soil and prevent rotting.
- Start the autumn cleanup. Remove any old crops that have finished and clear away weeds to leave your plot clean and tidy for the winter.
- Make cuttings from herbs so you can start them rooting in water and pot them up later for overwintering on your window sills.
- The end of this month is the perfect time to start planting garlic bulbs for next year's crop.
- Start planting autumn onion sets.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Friday, September 15, 2017
Less than 10% of the plastic thrown away in the U.S. each year is recycled. Before you toss out that plastic beverage container, you might consider letting it hang around for a while, literally, as a home for some of your herbs like this lemon basil plant. The people of the Earth and the Earth itself will thank you.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
The harvest grows
But the days grow shorter
The pumpkins glow
As the sun slides lower
Too soon our garden revels will end
And Persephone into the Underworld will descend
And months we'll wait to sow again
To touch the face of our verdant friend
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
If you have no idea what yellow fever is, you can thank Dr. Walter Reed who was born 166 years ago on this day and discovered in 1901 that this deadly disease was carried by mosquitoes. As a result of his work and the brave volunteers who worked with him, what had been a scourge for generations was eliminated. And if you'd like to keep mosquitoes away from your house and the area around it, Mother Nature has provided a variety of plants which mosquitoes don't like that can easily be grown in containers or in the ground.
Rosemary, basil and lavender all have scents that keep mosquitoes away. And even catnip can be an effective deterrent. Although since it is a mint, it might be best to grow it only in a container since it can be very invasive.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Sunday, September 10, 2017
The first season I grew spaghetti squash, I didn't know quite what to do with it. I found a couple of recipes online, but they were nothing to stand up and shout about. But a couple of years ago I found a recipe so tasty and simple I couldn't believe it.
Crock Pot Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
- 1 medium to large spaghetti squash, washed(size the squash to your crock-pot's shape and capacity)
- 1 jar of spaghetti sauce(24 - 28 oz or more) of your preferred flavor
- 3 cups of frozen meatballs
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half around the middle. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and membranes. Place cut sides down in a large crock pot sprayed with non-stick cooking oil.(If your pot isn't wide or tall enough for the arrangement you see in the photo, try cutting the squash lengthwise and laying the halves side by side on top of the meatballs.)
- Pour the spaghetti sauce around the sides of the squash and then place your meat balls around the sides as well.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 3-4 hours. When a fork easily goes through the skin of the squash, it is done.
- Use tongs to carefully remove the squash from the crock pot. Use a fork to scrape out all of the 'spaghetti' then discard the shell.
- Serve with the sauce and meatballs from the crock pot. Enjoy!
- An extra added bonus of this dish is that it's guilt free. The 'pasta' is low calorie and much healthier for you than regular pasta!
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Money can't buy happiness but it can buy the means to preserve your harvest into the dead of winter by canning. Whether it's marinara sauce, pickled summer squash, green tomato relish or something more exotic. You can smile your way through the roughest of snow days when you have some of the summer sunshine available to you in a glass jar. So don't be afraid to try your hand at putting away some joy that's been canned.
Friday, September 8, 2017
The days are growing shorter and cooler here and it's obvious that some of my tomatoes won't ripen before the first frost arrives. There's no need to panic, however. There are any number of tasty dishes that can be created using green tomatoes. Here is a simple, delicious recipe that uses them.
Curried Green TomatoesIngredients
2 tbsps butter or olive oil
2 tbsps minced onion
1 tsp curry powder
2 cups green tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper or non-salt seasoning
Melt butter/heat oil, then add onion and cook slowly until translucent. Add curry powder and tomatoes and cook until heated thoroughly. Season to taste.
This dish is really good by itself when spooned over rice or as a side for meat or poultry.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
If you wish to live long and prosper, consider these five health benefits of gardening that can help you reach those goals.
1. Exposure to vitamin DVitamin D increases your calcium levels, which benefits your bones and immune system. A 2014 Italian study, published on the National Institutes of Health website, found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. So outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your sunshine while pursuing a fun hobby. (But don’t forget the sunscreen to protect your skin, and sunglasses for your eyes.)
2. Decreased dementia riskA 2006 study found that gardening could lower risk of dementia by 36 percent. Researchers tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.
3. Mood-boosting benefitsA study in the Netherlands, cited by CNN, suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. Enjoyable aerobic exerciseGardening is a great form of aerobic exercise; plus, you might become so engrossed in your work that you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat. Pulling weeds, reaching for various plants and tools, and twisting and bending as you plant will work new muscles in your body and help with strength, stamina, and flexibility.
5. Helps combat lonelinessCommunity gardens can be a fun way to engage with others while providing benefits to neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gardens are "collaborative projects on shared open spaces where participants join together in the maintenance and products of the garden, including healthful and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables."
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
All over the U.S. people are converting unused urban spaces into gardens of all kinds. In doing so, they not only eliminate what were once eyesores, but also create opportunities to educate, delight and feed themselves and others in their communities. If you want to participate in the greening of America, you won't have to look very far. And if your search leads to the discovery that no one is doing this in your area, you'll have the perfect chance to establish one yourself. Go Gaia! Go Green!
Monday, September 4, 2017
It's September 4th and you know what that means? It's National Macadamia Nut Day in the U.S.! We all have our great, green gardening fantasies and one of mine is to have a grove of macadamia nut trees growing nearby. But alas, it can only remain a dream here in zone 5. Still one can dream can't one?
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Friday, September 1, 2017
As gardeners we shouldn't hesitate to share some of our bounty with those who are in need. And what better time to do that than now, on National Food Bank Day? So grow a row for someone you don't know and contribute to the effort to eliminate food insecurity from the U.S. forever. You'll be glad you did.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
A few years before I had the ability to chronicle my gardening on the Internet, I planted Tahitian squash for the first and so far only time. It was such a roaring success that the plant almost took over the garden. I measured one of the vines at over 40 feet! And what made it even more amazing was the fact that the plant was rather sickly looking in the beginning and appeared to be ready to die. I just discovered some photos(taken with real film no less) that I thought had been lost and decided to share. What you see in the photo above is just a fraction of the plant's output. Mother Nature never ceases to surprise.
Monday, August 28, 2017
Did you know that August 28th is national bow tie day in the U.S.? And what better way to celebrate it than with a dish made from garden fresh cabbage and sweet onion combined with bow tie pasta? Kapusta is cabbage braised low and slow in a large Dutch oven to bring out the flavor of the onions and marry it with the cabbage as it grows ever more tender.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 2 1/2 hours
Makes: 6 servings
1 large heavy green cabbage, halved, cored
1 large sweet yellow onion (such as Vidalia)
6 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper and salt
1. Dice: Cut cabbage into ¾ inch dice. Cut onion into ½ inch dice. In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, toss cabbage, onion and oil. (Go ahead, use your hands.) Season generously with pepper.
2. Caramelize: Slide pot into a 325-degree oven and let cook uncovered, stirring now and then, until soft, sweet and golden-brown, about 2 1/2 hours. Season with salt.
3. Serve: Delicious as a side dish to sausage or roast meat. Or boil a pound of bow tie noodles and toss with kapusta for a classic comfort dish.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
This pizza is a totally tasty sunshine bright delight that's made from fresh, shredded, yellow summer squash and fresh bright yellow and yellow/orange cherry tomatoes. It's just another reason to love my garden!
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Siam Queen, Anise Basil, Thai Basil and Sweet Basil are all names for the same plant which is known for its distinctive small leaves, purple stems and purple flowers. Unlike many of its cousins, Thai Basil retains its flavor very well when cooked. It's peppery zing combined with notes of anise add interesting layers of flavor to stir fry and have earned it another moniker, Licorice Basil. So if you're looking for something to take your Asian cooking to a new level, give it a try. And even if you're not adventurous in the kitchen, the beauty of this basil in full bloom makes it an excellent plant to grow as for ornamental purposes.
Friday, August 25, 2017
As the photo clearly shows, this once pure white planter has seen better days. I don't know if it will make it through another winter, but once again it has provided a great home for something tasty from Mother Nature. This year, it's offering Roma tomatoes.
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Did you know that August 24th is National Waffle Day? I certainly didn't but the surprises didn't end there for me today. Did you know that you can actually make waffles using butternut squash? That's right waffle lovers. Not only can you grow fresh berries for your waffles in your garden, but you can now include butternut squash in the mix as well! Here is a recipe you might like to try.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
As a gardener, I'm always amused when I hear a TV weather forecaster say that it's "threatening showers". To a gardener, showers aren't a threat. They're a godsend. Of course we can get water to our plants through a hose attached to a tap, but we know how much more stimulating our green friends find non-chlorinated water. We've seen how they literally jump in size overnight when there is a nice, slow steady rain that lasts for several hours. So when we hear the words, "threatening showers", we smile and hope they will arrive after sundown and last at least half the night.
Monday, August 21, 2017
The month of August generally means that even heirloom tomatoes with their long development time are finally producing like crazy. And since August is officially National Sandwich Month, what better way to celebrate than by making tasty tomato sandwiches bursting with the flavor that can only be obtained from produce fresh off the vine?
1 medium tomato, thickly sliced
- 2 teaspoons mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
- a sprinkle or two of chopped green onions
- seasonings of your choice to taste.
No further instructions are necessary. This sandwich tastes so good with the warm bread and the sun warmed tomatoes marrying with the sharp tang of the onions. And a nice tall glass of herbal sun tea along with the view of your garden from your favorite outdoor chair can enhance the enjoyment of this simple pleasure. Bon appétit!