Make a Sustainable Okra Seed Angel

Saving Okra seed is as easy as picking mature pods (way past their prime) and letting them dry. Many folks use these cool pods for craft projects like Christmas Decorations. So this past year I decided I would make these re-useable, multi-purpose ‘Okra Angels’ for gifts.

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They are easy to make:

  • Use a hot glue gun to attach two Bay leaves on the okra pod for wings
  • Make tiny wreaths just by winding Sweet Annie branches (Artemisia annua) into circles to form halo
  • Glue a raffia loop to the top and Okra angel is ready to hang on tree or cabinet knobs, door handles, chandeliers, etc

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After the holidays are over:

  • These angels can be placed in pantries or closets since Bay leaf is a natural insecticide for moths and weevils that love to live in the pantry
  • Sweet Annie is a natural moth deterrent so perfect for closets.

Late Spring when its time to plant warm season crops:

  • Break the Okra angel open and collect the seed

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  • Soak the seeds overnight in water to help break down the thick coating for faster germination

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  • Plant the seeds in the garden

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A great way to save seeds while enjoying them all year long!

Asparagus, Planting the Crowning Glory of the Kitchen Garden

Asparagus, Asparagus officinalis is a perennial vegetable in the onion family that I look forward to each spring in my kitchen garden.  This vegetable brings back memories of my childhood when I had to help pick a half-acre every other morning for weeks in the spring.  My mother assured me that it would whittle my waistline and keep me limber. That promise didn’t mean much to a sixteen year old but now I hope its true as I tend my own asparagus patch.

Buying asparagus at the store is usually expensive and sometimes tough and wilted; why not grow your own crop?  It will give you something to look forward to during the cold gray days of winter.  Once you’ve had fresh homegrown asparagus you will wonder why you waited so long.

Since we have moved and I couldn’t take my asparagus with me, I ordered 50 crowns to insure we are ‘putting down roots’  in our new kitchen garden.  I ordered Jersey Supreme (great all male crowns for warmer climates) from  Nourse Nursery http://www.noursefarms.com/  and went to work.  I dug down deep in two 6′ x 6′ raised beds placed where my chickens coop and yard had been…seems like a good start for most anything don’t you think? In one of the beds I totally dug down the entire area and layer the crowns in an intensive zigzag pattern and in the other I dug trenches – we will see which works best.

 Planting and growing asparagus is easy once you understand the basics of this perennial herb.  Here are some tips to get you started:

 Where to plant:  Choose a sunny site that receives 6 hours of full sun or all day-dappled sun that can be left undisturbed for at least 15-20 years. Although beautiful in the garden, asparagus once it goes to seed can shade sun loving plants so consider planting it on the North side of your warm season crops.

Soil: Prepare the bed, as far in advance as possible to be sure it is weed and rock free by planting time.  Add sand and compost for good drainage, a raised bed works well.  Be sure to test the soil, as asparagus likes a pH of 6.5-7.5

When to Plant:  Early spring as soon as the soil can be worked…when a handful of soil crumbles nicely.

Start with seeds: Asparagus can be started from seed indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost.  Harden off and transplant young plants into the garden in the spring. Easy to do but if you are inpatient like me you will probably want to buy roots or crowns.

How to Plant crowns:

In garden soil:

  1. Dig a trench 8-10 inches deep by 18 inches wide.  If your soil is heavy or has lots of clay don’t dig trench as deep.  Add a couple of inches of mixed rotted manure, compost and soil.

2.  On top of that lay the asparagus roots in a zigzag pattern 10 to 12 inches apart.  This forms a wider row of about 2 feet.

3.  Cover roots with a couple inches of soil and water well.

4.  Each time the asparagus starts coming through the soil, add two more inches until the trench is once again level with the    ground.

spread the roots out and lay with the buds up in the trench

spread the roots out and lay with the buds up in the trench

 In a raised bed:

  1. If you are planting in a raised bed simply dig a large and deep enough hole for each crown and follow trench directions or
  2. Start with a new raised bed and dig the whole area below ground level.  Lay the crowns in a zigzag pattern and follow directions above.  I find in a raised bed I can place the crowns closer together as it is a more intensive way of gardening in general.

 

 

shovel a couple of inches of soil on top of crowns and water well.

shovel a couple of inches of soil on top of crowns and water well.

***Buy crowns that are 2 to 3 years old from a reliable farm or nursery. The crowns are long with lots of fingerling roots that look like some kind of sea creature.

A bundle of 25 crowns from the nursery

A bundle of 25 crowns from the nursery

 

crown or root - looks like a sea creature

crown or root – looks like a sea creature

Fertilizer:  Add compost spring and fall or add a 10-10-10 fertilizer when picking is finished (follow directions on package or figure 10 pounds per 100 foot row).

When to Harvest:  A full harvest is usually not permitted until the third year (depending on how old the crowns are to start with).  The rule of thumb is; pick none the first year, some the second, tons the third year.  When the spears are about the thickness of your finger and tall enough that the head is still tight (6-8” tall) they are ready to pick.  Gently bend the spear over until it breaks easily.  This way of harvesting leaves the typical tough end you have to cut off from the grocery store in the garden.

After a rain the spears will need to be washed a couple of times in cold water to get the sand and dirt off from under the little triangle leaves on stalk.  Give each spear a good sloshing action in the water.  A thin layer of mulch in the spring should remedy gritty asparagus.

It is always best to eat asparagus while it is fresh but it will last up to a week in the refrigerator if you bunch the spears with a rubber band and stand them in a container with water in the bottom.

When to Stop Picking Spears: stop the harvest when the spears get spindly and woody and allow the remaining spears to shoot up and leaf out (look like ferns) reaching a height of three to five feet.

 Cut the dead asparagus ferns to the ground in late winter or early spring (if you have a lot you can use the lawn mower), rake them up and burn or dispose of to kill any leftover pest eggs trying to coast until spring when they can raise havoc.

 Water:  An inch or two per week during the first year then only during dry spells like the rest of your kitchen garden.

Pests:  The asparagus beetle is the major pest.  This troublemaker usually shows up in April and May so be on the lookout for him and his friends before they become a problem.  Kill and destroy organically by hand picking or use an organic pesticide like Rotenone spray.

Companions:   Basil and parsley.

Varieties to Plant: For heavier soils try ‘Jersey Knight’, for warmer climates, ‘Jersey Supreme’.  For fun try ‘Purple Passion’ which is not the most productive perennial vegetable but it is worth some space in the asparagus patch just for its color.  These tender spears will be something to look forward to each spring and make a delicious addition to salads.  As with most color packed veggies, the color may fad with cooking but the flavor remains.

If you love asparagus plant at least 10–15 crowns per person.

Because asparagus needs a cooling off or dormant period, it is tough to grow in zone 9 and warmer.

Maintain weed control in the asparagus bed, it is easy to forget about this area of the garden after the harvest is over.

Benefits:  If you are looking for a healthy vegetable/herb to eat, asparagus is hard to beat for nutrition.  It is so low in calories that by the time you chew and digest it you are looking at negative numbers on the calorie scale.  Loaded with fiber it helps to lower “LDL” cholesterol and has a healthy dose of anti-oxidants, B-complex and K vitamins along with plenty of folates and minerals.

Asparagus is a cleansing, bitter herb that helps the kidneys, bowels and liver.  Because this plant contains asparagusic acid, it helps the body rid itself of internal parasitic worms and toxens.  Eating Asparagus may help with cystitis, kidney disease, rheumatism and gout.

Note:  Don’t worry if your urine has a strong stinky smell in as little as 15 minutes after eating a few spears.  It is caused by the asparagusic acid and is perfectly normal.

Preserve:  The best way to retain flavor and color is by freezing.  Canning will give you a fair product.  Pickling is a wonderful way to can asparagus and add extra flavor with herbs and spices.

Simple ways to prepare asparagus:  The easiest way is to simply steam the spears, whole or cut up for about 8 minutes or until they are just tender.

Roasting on the grill or in the oven with a little lemon balm or lemon grass infused olive oil brushed on is another great way to prepare the stalks.

Cut up raw asparagus and add to salads.  Serve spears on a vegetable tray with a dip or make a veggie wrap.

 

Mom’s Creamed Asparagus on Toast

  • 4 cups asparagus spears cut into 1” chunks
  • 4-5 cups milk
  • 1 T butter
  • 2T cornstarch or 3 T flour dissolved in about ¼ water or less –
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook asparagus in water till tender (don’t overcook), drain water.

Add milk and butter.  Heat until milk is hot (don’t boil).

Add cornstarch mixture gradually until milk is thickened.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on buttered toast or hot biscuits.

Growing up, we ate asparagus everyday while it was in season.  Creamed and served on toast or biscuits was a quick and filling meal.

 

Compost Recipe…Start Cooking!

compost ingredients

compost ingredients

Moving to a new place is never easy.  Starting over with your garden is in my opinion is harder.  And even harder is starting over with a composting operation.  I brought two composters with me; one that rotates on wheels from our local Tractor Supply Company and one stationary composter from Keep Williamson Beautiful.  They will work fine for now until I need more space then I will expand as my need grows.

Composting is a normal process of decay.  It happens in the woods naturally as plant material and leaves pile up on the forest floor and decompose, producing new food filled with nutrients for all the trees and deciduous plants and seedlings that come up each spring.

We can simulate this process for our kitchen gardens by simply piling up plant materials, kitchen wastes and leaves and waiting for it to rot down or use a ready made composter that helps to speed up the process while staying neat and tidy in the garden.

Making good compost is like making a casserole for dinner.  Combine the right ingredients in layers then heat it up until it’s done and dish out some fine nutrient rich fertilizer for the garden.

black gold

black gold

Most gardeners would agree there is nothing finer than a handful of rich compost you made yourself.  Here is some a recipe to help you make the most of your composter:

There are four basic ingredients to making compost:

  1. Carbon rich browns – dry woody materials
  2. Nitrogen loaded moist greens – activators
  3. Water – right amount of moisture is important
  4. Air – speeds up decomposition

What to put in the composter:

Greens

  •   Breads and grains
  •  Coffee grounds
  •  Eggshells
  •  Grass Clippings
  •  Green plant material
  •  Fruit peels and scraps
  •  Non meat-eating animal manure
  • Tea bags
  • Veggie scraps

Browns

  •   Cardboard, shredded
  •   Newspaper, shredded (no glossy pages)
  •   Leaves
  •   Paper towel and toilet roll centers, shredded
  •   Pine needles
  •   Sawdust and wood chips
  •   Shrub trimmings

What NOT to put in composter:

  •   Aggressive spreading grasses like Bermuda
  •   Dairy products
  •   Dog, cat, bird or people feces
  •   Fish
  •   Meats, fats, grease or bones
  •   Noxious weeds with seed heads
  •   Plants with blight or other diseases
  •   Plants with major insect infestation
  •   Poison Ivy or poison oak

To speed up the decay process:

  •   Place composter in the sun
  •   Optimum temperature should be 90 – 135 degrees
  •   Rotate or turn with a fork often.
  •   Keep compost moist but not wet; 50% – like a damp cloth or wrung-out sponge, too wet causes order.
  •   Use water from rain barrel, chlorine slows down the decomposition time.
  •   Cut or chip large leaves, stems and branches into small pieces.
  •   Layer like a casserole 2-3 parts brown to 1 part green materials.
  •   Detect ammonia smell; add more brown, less nitrogen filled greens.
  •   Add a scoop of garden soil or finished compost once a week.
  •   Add some red worms and rollie pollies.

Starting Over

 

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We’ve talked about moving back to the country for some time.  Talk is cheap and easy I found out when we actually took the plunge and bought a little place on 8 acres.

My husband made a list a while back about what we needed; 5 plus acres, well water, off the main road, a barn, $$, etc. We prayed that if the Lord wanted us in the country He would find a place.

When the Lord moves, He moves quickly as we have found out several times in our lives.  Not always so obvious up front but as more doors opened we could see it was God and not just my ‘Whole Grain Fantasies’ (as my husband calls it) of growing our own…everything.

Although hubby wanted to either live in a barn or a tiny house (I had already decided we would need two of those) the Lord was gracious and we actually found a wonderful smaller 2-bedroom house with an awesome barn.

And, fenced pastures, woods, creeks and best of all botanicals!  God knew the desires of my heart and placed us in an area with diverse plant life.  I pinch myself every time I hike in the woods or stomp in the creeks like a kid looking about in amazement at something new each and every time.

Its funny as you age you realize what you don’t need anymore.  You also find out moving is a tough job but if it doesn’t kill you it will surely make you stronger…right?

It will take awhile to pare down and go through all the containers of stuff in the barn that couldn’t fit into half-the-size house it used to live in. But it will get done eventually (not as fast as my better half would like)

We moved in May and sold our city house in June.  Of course it is garden planting time so I had to get something going even if it will be a bit late this year.After observing all the deer (who look at us like we are intruding) and turkeys that roam about like they own the place, I knew I would need my croft (kitchen garden) to be in a fenced area to hopefully deter them from thinking my garden was a buffet planted just for them.

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That made my decision as where to plant so easy since there was only one such area (thankfully) next to the small horse stall barn.  After pacing off dimensions I drew a rough sketch on some graph paper of a raised bed kitchen garden.

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Why raised beds?  Not knowing what my soil would be like – it doesn’t look as though any garden has ever been here.  With raised beds I can start with a good foundation of soil.  Although this space must have been a horse paddock, which is good, the Bermuda grass was so thick I knew I wouldn’t want to till it up and make more plants and make my garden a weeding nightmare (ain’t nobody got time for that).  It was already the first of June and the clock was ticking if I wanted to can any tomatoes this year.  Not to mention I need to get all the herbs I brought with me planted.

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Our friend Paul Mayhew came over and help build 11 beds the smallest being 4 x 4’  up to the largest 12 x 4’ plus I needed a couple of trapezoids in the herb garden part.  We used untreated pine.  I know it will only last about 4 years or so but by then I hope to replace with something more permanent like brick or rock or…pine is fairly inexpensive and will buy me time to figure out the next step.

I put black plastic under and between the (10 inch tall) raised beds hoping it will make the ground hot enough to kill the dreaded B grass.  Time will tell on this one. Hubby gave me the formula (again) to figure the amount of compost needed (a wonderful perk of being married to an engineer)

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We filled the beds with composted horse dung (atomic soil) from Larry Moshera of Second Wind Farm, Franklin 615-943-8354.  10 yards.  I counted the wheelbarrow loads and lets just say my forearms were screaming stop by the mid day.  Thankfully my hubby took over that evening and finished when I couldn’t do one more.  Sometimes you have to tag team in the garden.

One end of the croft is for herbs and the other for a mix of veggies, herbs and flowers.  I left 4 to 6 feet of space between beds because I have learned that when you plant in concentrated form veggies often grow out and quickly take up path space.

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Everything is planted and I used some old hay I found in the pasture and horse stalls to mulch all the beds with.  This fall I will put in a stone walkway and I think I can squeeze in a couple more 4×6 beds so I can plant more veggies and…as with all gardeners it is never finished  – there is always more!

Now I guess I need to get the house settled and boxes unpacked…oh wait I need to explore and see what kind of herbs are growing in the woods this week. Good thing I have my priorities right.

 

Gluten Free Savory Rosemary Smoothie Bread

Savory Rosemary BreadRare are the moments in the kitchen when making an early morning smoothie produces such inspiration as I encountered today.   It was so exciting to me that I thought I should share it.

I tend to make smoothies at least 5 out of 7 days a week for two reasons 1.  Because I can put all sorts of weird healthy foodstuff together and drink it down and at the same time actually like the taste.  2.  I spent so much money on a Vita-Mix blender that I feel I have to get my moneys worth out of it…. make it pay back dividends of health so to speak.

After talking it up with my sister in law she bought one too and now we are like a pair of ‘smoothie sisters’ and true to solidarity, we text each other our daily combination.  Not to one up each other but to encourage each other to never allow even a minute speck of dust settle on our investment.

This morning, my smoothie consisted of the usual ingredients that I find in my kitchen and out in the garden this time of year.  After looking around I made a pile next to the blender of all blenders.  A little stockpile of fruits, veggies and herbs grew on the counter as I gathered.fruit/veggie smoothie

Fruit/veggie smoothie

Here is what I settled on and tossed in the Vita-Mix

1 large organic carrot – washed and chunked (from the kitchen garden)

1 banana – peeled

1 cup of papaya (I diced up a large one over the weekend and put it in the frig)

½ cup of canned pineapple with juice

1”inch piece of fresh ginger root

1/3 cup of fresh chickweed (a weed from the garden) – rinsed and drained

2 large Swiss Chard Leaves – rinsed and torn into large pieces (from the winter kitchen garden)

a few leaves of corn salad (Mache) – washed and put in strainer to drain (from the kitchen garden

Blend everything together until it is thick and smooth.

I poured myself a glass and still there was more leftover.  It’s easy to make too much smoothie.  So I poured the remaining into a glass storage dish to put in the refrigerator.

That’s when it hit me…this mix today looks like green applesauce…same texture.  My mind started down the path of “waste not, want not”…thinking how can I use up this greenish thick stuff?

My inner light bulb blinked and I wondered if I could use this mix like applesauce in muffins.  So I started looking at recipes that I could substitute applesauce for the smoothie.  I don’t really like muffins that much since they are usually high in fat and sugar. Maybe I could make hearty savory quick bread and for kicks make it gluten free too! Shoot that should be easy, right?

I looked around on the net for recipes but couldn’t really find what I had in mind so I took a little wisdom from this cook and that one until I came up with this:

Remember I’m using what I have because I got lots of work I’m suppose to be doing and its more interesting to incorporate the ingredients already on hand.  This is what I came up with and I have to tell you it is the best savory quick bread I have ever made.

Anyone can use this as a base and build their own loaf – just make sure you jot down the ingredients so it can be duplicated if it’s a winner.  My grandmother used to make casseroles from whatever she had in the kitchen.  We all called them GOMs  (Grand Old Mixtures).  We never knew what they were going to be but they were always good because she had a basic recipe that she followed in layering up each casserole.

Smoothies can be most anything as long as it ends up with the consistency of applesauce.  The flours can be other grains that are gluten-free.  Like rice, chickpeas, almond, tapioca, etc. As long as it looks like the right consistency of bread batter in the end (not dry and not wet) it should work fine.

Here is the recipe for this bread; the only sweetness is natural from the fruit in the smoothie.  Nuts, seeds and rosemary make hearty and savory bread that would be excellent buttered and dipped in hot soup or used to sandwich roasted veggies or cheese or chicken salad.  Toasted and paired with fresh eggs from the backyard gives me reason to spring out of bed in the morning!

 Savory Rosemary Bread

(Gluten free)

In the food processor add:

3 eggs

1 cup of smoothie

¾ cup of milk (can be almond or maybe try coconut)

1 Tablespoon fresh-snipped rosemary (or another savory herb)

Beat the eggs fluffy; add milk and smoothie blend with pulse.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: I grind grains fresh in my vita-mix attachment…you can use coffee grinder too.

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup brown rice flour

¼ cup flax seed, ground

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup of raw pumpkin seeds (or sunflower, chia, etc)

  •  Slowly add dry ingredients and pulse until just blended – don’t over mix batter.
  •  Pour into greased (coconut oil or butter) bread pan.
  •  Add a handful of walnuts into batter as you pour it in.  Topped with a few extra pumpkin seeds on top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes – when inserted toothpick in center comes out clean.

Gently dump out bread on cooling rack

Enjoy!!!

Simple Ingredients – Simply Delicious Meal

The other night I had two friends stop over in the afternoon, we sat and sipped tea and chatted about all things family and gardening.  It wasn’t long and  I

thought I should be a good host and offer dinner.  To my surprise they took me up on it so off to the garden I went.  I harvested some Swiss chard and kale and thought for

a minute about what I could do with that.  I decided very quickly on quiche since I had lots of fresh eggs in the frig…so great having chickens in the back yard.  I love cooking with friends and family, we talk (food mostly), sip wine or tea, cut veggies, snip herbs …  It is good bonding time and you can’t do this in a restaurant.  Not to mention it is economical and so healthy.

I started out by sautéing onions ( 1 large from garden in storage) and  6 asparagus (cut into bite size chunks) then I added 2 chapolte chopped peppers (in the freezer) top with a fresh paste tomato (picked in October and placed

in window sill to ripen)

While the veggies are cooking it is time to make a quick crust:  1 and 1/2 cup of flour in the bottom of pie pan, add 3 Tablespoons whole flax seed.  Mix together and add 1/2 cup coconut oil melted.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

 

Mix in with fork until blended.  Add 1/4 cup of milk

Blend with fork and finish with hands.  roll around pan to capture all the flour and seeds.

 

Pat out in pie pan with palm of hand… push up sides of pan and flute edge with forefingers and thumb.  Par-bake in preheated oven for 10 min (gives a little more crunch to bottom of crust but optional  step)

Pull 5 fresh eggs from refrigerator, crack into mixing bowl (compliments of LaVern and Curly from the backyard)

Whisk eggs until frothy

 

Add 2 cups of milk, beat a little

Go back to stove and add chopped greens, stir in and cook until they soften a bit.

Combine veggies with egg and milk mix, add 1/3 – 1/2 cheese of your choice (I used Romano from the freezer), grind about 1/2 teaspoon of summer savory(dried from the herb garden), a little black pepper and salt (optional) – into mixture.

Snip fresh rosemary onto top of quiche along with some shredded cheese and you are ready to bake.

About 45 minutes should do it…

Stick a clean table knife into middle of quiche to test for doneness, if it pulls out clean – it is ready. if not let it bake a little longer.   Serve warm with a sprig of rosemary on top.  Enjoy!!!

Such an easy dish and a great way to use so many things from the garden.  My friends told me it was delicious and I knew it was a real hit when they asked me if I wanted seconds! 🙂

Swiss Chard Smoothie

A kitchen Garden is a spot of land where Vegetables, small fruits, herbs and flowers are grown together.  It doesn’t take a lot of space or work to grow something to enhance your daily life.  I try to keep something growing in my kitchen garden all year round here in Middle Tennessee plus I can, freeze, store and dehydrate so any given day I can enjoy my kitchen garden harvest.  Whole food grown without the worry of pesticides and picked fresh to ensure plenty of healthy goodness and flavor are in my indoor and outdoor pantry.

We can all grow a little something to feed or heal our body and soul whether it is in containers near the kitchen door or raised beds in the front yard.  Join me on my kitchen garden journey this year and see if you can get some good ideas to get you growing and using what your harvest.

Day one:  Green smoothie.  Green is one of my favorite colors and it reminiscent of veggies.  You may remember your mother or grandmother telling you to eat your greens when you were a kid?  Wait; that may not be a good association, especially if you didn’t like greens… after all mom wouldn’t have to say that if you cleaned your plate, now would she?

Okay, all right, a pile of steamed greens probably wasn’t that appetizing to a kid whose taste buds hadn’t matured yet.  But now that you are an adult, you probably ask for seconds, right?  No?  Well, maybe it is all in the angle…you see there are different ways to get healthy greens in your diet.  A breakfast smoothie is one great tasty way to accomplish this.  Maybe you can look at it as greens in disguise.  Once blended with fruits and yogurt you will be singing the praises of greens.

 

Recipe for today…it changes with my mood and whatever I have available to toss in the blender.

Swiss Chard Smoothie

One banana – frozen or fresh

1” slice of ginger root (I buy a large root, chunk it and freeze)

*Handful of swiss chard

*6 sprigs of chickweed

½ cup of pineapple with juice

1/3 cup of yogurt

Whir until fully blended

Add:  3 Tablespoon Hemp seed (protein source)

YUM – you won’t even notice you’re eating healthy greens!

* from my kitchen garden


Time to Plant Blueberries in Mid South

Blueberries are becoming more and more popular in the home landscape.  Not only do they provide fruit but they are actually a great addition as a screen or hedge.  Without pruning blueberries can reach a height of 7’ or more.  They have showy blossoms in the spring and attractive foliage color in the fall.

 

There are two main types of blueberry plants:  rabbiteye and highbush.  rabbiteye are native to the southern US, do well with in drier, warmer temperatures and although the berries are slightly smaller they are sweeter, making them a good choice for our area.  Highbush are native to the Northern states and do well in the higher elevations of TN but need irrigation in middle TN.

Blueberries require an acid soil with a pH in the 4.8 – 5.2 range, need excellent drainage and two or more varieties for cross-pollination.  If you like your fruit organic, you will love growing blueberries as they don’t have any kind of pest problems, the biggest pest you will have are family members and birds!

DeWayne Perry, UT fruit specialist in Williamson County recommends planting blueberry plants in the winter months, preferably in February.

He also suggests buying plants from a certified small fruit nursery like Johnson & Ford Nursery out of Georgia.  www.johnsonnursery.com

 

For more information on growing blueberries pick up a copy of UT publications SP 248-D Blueberries in Home Gardens and SP307-J Landscaping with Fruit & Nut Crops at your local county UT Extension office or check them out online at    http://www.utextension.utk.edu/

If you are looking for something new in the Blueberry World, check this out…..

Briggs Introduces the First Ever Pink Blueberry! 

(Olympia, WA) – The first-ever ground-breaking blueberry cultivar that is going to rock the garden world is being introduced by Briggs Nursery for 2010.  In a heavenly shade of pink, Vaccinium “Pink Lemonade is the first ever pink blueberry to be brought to market.

 

“When you think pink lemonade it usually brings to mind a crisp refreshing taste and long summer days,” says Dave Jarzynka, president of Briggs.

 

Not anymore. “Our latest introduction of our new pink blueberry highbush is right in step with the growing consumer demand for small fruit bushes,” Jarzynka says, adding the nursery has seen an incredible demand for small fruit-bearing shrubs – especially blueberries. This is in line with the growing consumer trend for edible landscapes.

 

This new blueberry may be pink, but it’s as rich in anti-oxidants as its blue cousins.  This deliciously fruity pink blueberry boasts mouth-watering flavor and good firmness, bearing fruit from May through October.

 

Pink Lemonade also offers four seasons of color, a must for today’s gardener.  The pinkish-white showy flowers are bell-shaped in spring. The fruit are pale greenish at first, then dappled pink, and finally turning to deep pink on ripening.

 

In fall, beautiful bright orange foliage fades to deep red fall, making this shrub a great choice for a colorful autumn garden. Wintertime twigs are dusky reddish-brown. Gardeners may choose to leave the fruit on the bush to encourage song birds and other wildlife in the garden.

 

Vaccinium ‘Pink Lemonade’ is a hexaploid highbush, with mid-late to late-season ripening, moderate yields, medium-sized, glossy fruit, bright pink fruit color, mild pleasant flavor and good firmness. The ‘Pink Lemonade’ bush is vigorous, upright, and full 5’ by 5’ (1.5m high x 1.6m wide) with leaves that are glossy green and lanceolate, with a serrated leaf margins. The leaf surface texture is smooth, similar to the V. ashei.

 

‘Pink Lemonade’ should perform equally well – or better – in milder climates, including areas where rabbiteye cultivars can be grown. It’s recommended that another rabbiteye cultivar be planted with ‘Pink Lemonade’ for good cross-pollination. USDA Zone 4.

 

So think “pink” – pink blueberry – and get in on the ground floor excitement of an industry “first, certain to be a winner for years to come.

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For more information please visit: www.briggsnursery.com

Sweet Potatoes or Yams?

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and many a sweet potato casserole, rolls and pies will grace the dinner table. Americans will be buying pounds of sweet potatoes and cans of yams to make all the traditional goodies for the holiday season.

I always get confused about sweet potatoes and yams…Are they the same only with two names? Is there a difference between a casserole made from sweet potatoes versus one made from a can of yams? I know I’m not the brightest ‘bulb’ in the garden but every fall this burning question comes up. So, this year I decided to get to the bottom of this veggie poser.

You will be happy and very relieved to know that sweet potatoes and yams are two different animals. Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas produce a root (the part that we eat) in 90-150 days and are easy to grow here in the U.S. Yams, Dioscorea batatas produce a tuber in 180-360 days and grow only in tropical climates. Yes, that means those cans of yams are really sweet taters!

Even the appearance is different; the skin of the sweet potato is thin and smooth while the yam has a rough and scaly skin.

So why do folks call sweet potatoes yams? One theory is about 50 years ago commercial growers in Louisiana wanted to give their sweet potatoes a unique product advantage so they would outsell those grown elsewhere. They decided to market them as “Louisiana Yams”…makes sense now, right?

When it comes to nutrition, sweet potatoes pack a punch that even Popeye would respect. Sweet potatoes have loads of beta carotene, Vitamin E and fiber without the fat, plus Vitamin B6, potassium and iron. The Nutrition Action Health Letter rates sweet potatoes as the number one best food to eat. A real super food! http://www.cspinet.org/nah/10foods_bad.html

Bake, boil, steam, roast, fry or microwave sweet potatoes for a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition…check out http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/index.php  for lots of creative recipes.

Just think, this year you can be thankful for sweet potatoes and be able to share with others at the dinner table that cans of yams (grown in the US) aren’t really yams at all…I think there is a Dr. Seuss story in here somewhere!

For those of you who would like to know how to grow sweet potatoes stay tuned,
we will dig into that this winter.

Here are a couple of sweet potato recipes from my kitchen that I think you will enjoy.

Cindy Sue’s Sweet Potato Soup

Sauté in heavy steel pan with 1 tablespoon of butter on low heat until tender:

1 large onion, chopped
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tart apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
Add:
1 can chicken broth
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon curry
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ Tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
Simmer on low until all is cooked (mushy)

Add 3 cups cream or milk, use a hand held blender to mix until desired creamy texture is achieved. Some small chunks are okay.

This is so good it is like having dessert first!

Combine, mix well, spoon into 9×11 baking dish:
3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
½ cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoon butter, melted

Combine in mixing bowl, spread over sweet potato mixture
½ cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoon butter, melted

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Yields 6 servings
Double recipe and use 11×14 baking dish for large gatherings.

French Potato Salad With Guest Chef Kate Yoho

We are in the beginning stages of filming a series of Gardening episodes to help educate and inspire folks to grow food and herbs wherever they live. Our goal is to show simple and effective ways to make the most of your space. Everyone can grow something to feed themselves. I live in a suburb of Franklin, TN and I have about two acres. I have a large kitchen garden in the front yard where I grow vegetables, herbs, small fruits and flowers in raised beds.

This past week I invited Kate Yoho, local restaurateur and chef to my kitchen garden. Together Kate and I took inventory of my current produce and herbs, harvested as we went along then went to work in the kitchen to make an easy, healthy and delicious meal.

It didn’t take Kate long to come up with a French Potato Salad that would be a wonderful side dish that could become the main course with just a few additions.
The result was fabulous! Thanks Kate.

Oh yeah, here is the recipe…bon appetite!

French potato salad

1.5 lbs garden potatoes
1 T capers, chopped
1/3 c onions, chopped finely (I.e. Shallot, scallion, Vidalia)
2 T Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 c vinegar such as white wine, red wine, champagne
1 c good tasting olive oil
1 c seasonal herbs (I.e. Parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, marjoram,
sage, Rosemary) chopped
2 t kosher salt
1 t fresh black pepper

1. Boil potatoes in liberally salted water, the water should taste like the sea,
for 15 to 20 minutes, until fork tender but not falling apart. If using russet
or baking potatoes, quarter them and leave the skins on. Peel them and chop into 1/2 inch sections after boiling. This keeps the water from penetrating the
potatoes too completely and helps them hold together while boiling. If using
thin-skinned potatoes such as new, red, fingerling, or Yukon gold potatoes do
not peel, simply quarter if larger or chop into 1 1/2 inch cubes and boil to
fork- tender. Drain potatoes and peel if necessary (see above).

2. In a large bowl, whisk together capers, onion, mustard, garlic, lemon juice,
and vinegar. Slowly stream in olive oil whisking constantly until dressing is
emulsified. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add warm potatoes to the bowl with dressing and toss to coat all potato
pieces well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. If the
acid-oil balance is too strong in one direction for your taste, add a touch more
oil or vinegar to suit your taste.

This potato salad is great for picnics and warm weather events, as it contains
no mayonnaise and is wonderful served either warm, cold, or at room temperature.

French Potato Salad is easily turned into a meal salad with the addition of just
a few ingredients.

To morph French Potato Salad into a Nicoise Salad suitable for brunch, lunch, or
dinner:

Additional ingredients
1/2 lb fresh green beans
2 6 oz cans or 12 ounces fresh seared tuna
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Fresh tomatoes cut into wedges
12 oz fresh mixed greens
Fresh cracked black pepper

1. Prepare potatoes and dressing as above, but cook 1/2 lb green beans during
the last 4 minutes of cooking the potatoes and drain them all together. Toss all
with half of the dressing made for potato salad.

2. Toss two 6 oz cans of drained solid tuna fish or 12 ounces seared fresh tuna
with half of the remaining dressing (1/4 of the total amount of dressing).

3. Arrange salad greens on serving platter. Top with tuna fish, potatoes and
green beans, and garnish with tomato wedges and egg quarters. Place each on a distinct area of the greens for visual appeal in the presentation. Drizzle
remaining dressing over all and top with fresh cracked pepper if desired.