Posts

Winter Smoothies

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

We know you can’t wait for spring and fresh veggies from your own garden – we can’t either! Here are a couple of smoothies and a juice drink made with readily available winter produce to tide you over. In addition, they are paleo-friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian and low in calories.

Tangy Apple Kale Smoothie (serves 1)

1 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cups baby kale
1 frozen banana

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Cinnamon Squash Pear Smoothie (serves 1)

1 pear, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen, cooked winter squash
1 tsp. Honey (or 1/2 tsp Maple Syrup)
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Early Riser Breakfast (serves 2)

1 beet
1/4 red cabbage
2 carrots
1/2 red bell pepper
1 orange, peeled
1 apple
1/2 lemon, peeled

Juice each item, combine and stir.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

January Recipe

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

Roasted Winter Vegetables

 

Even though your garden is sleeping, you can still enjoy this seasonal recipe.

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Dice or chop equal amounts of the following:

Potatoes

Beets (chop a bit smaller because they take longer to reach doneness)

Butternut Squash

Parsnips

Onions

  1. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet large enough that they roast instead of steaming. Toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring at least once.

 

Variations:

  • Substitute or add other vegetables such as carrots, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, turnips, sweet potatoes, kabocha, acorn, delicata or other winter squash.
  1. Drizzle with balsamic before serving.
  1. Add pumpkin seeds during last 20 minutes of roasting.
  1. Add dabs of goat cheese while still warm but not too hot.
  1. Add fresh sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Quit Working so Hard This Fall

by Sandy Swegel

The old adages say cleanliness and hard work are virtues. That may be true in your kitchen, but in the garden, a little sloth can save many lives and make your life a little easier.  Mother Nature isn’t just messy when she clutters up the Fall garden with leaves and debris….she’s making homes for her creatures.  Old dead leaves may look like clutter that needs to be tidied up, but it’s really nice rustic sustainable homes for many of a gardener’s best friends.

Here’s who is hiding in your garden this winter if you DON’T clean up.

Ladybugs in the garden beds next to the house.  Ladybugs want a nice sheltered home safe from wind and exposed soil. I most often find them under the leaves and dead flower stalks in the perennial garden.

Butterfly larvae (aka caterpillars) in leaf bundles. Sometimes in winter, you’ll see a couple of leaves looking stuck to a bush or tree or in a clump on the ground.  Often there’s a butterfly baby overwintering there.

Lacewing at the base of willows or in the old vegetable garden.  Insects don’t work very hard in the fall either.  Often they are eating happily on the aphids in your vegetable garden or your mini forest and just go through their life cycle right there.  They lay their eggs on the bottom of leaves and the leaves fall to the ground.  If you clean up too much, you’ll clean up all the beneficial insect’s eggs

Slugs in your hosta garden. Even slugs are a good thing to leave for the winter.  They will be plump food for baby birds next Spring.

The bottom line is don’t do a good job of cleaning up in the Fall.  Take away any very diseased leaves.  Clean up the thick mats of leaves on the lawn so they don’t encourage lawn fungus.  But leave the flower stalks with seeds and the leaves in the beds.  They insulate and protect plants and insects.

Another good reason to be a little lazy this Fall.

Photos: http://www.nashvilleparent.com/2013/07/fall-for-fun/http://antsbeesbutterfliesnature.blogspot.com/2009/11/overwintering-caterpillars.html

Walla Walla Sweet Onions…You know you want them

by Sandy Swegel

Walla Walla Sweet Onions

It doesn’t take much effort to convince us we should grow Walla Walla sweet onions. Think about thick slices hot from the grill. Or cold on our hot cheeseburger. Dream of oven-roasted whole onions. Or be one of those brave people who bite into the Walla Walla like it’s an apple.

Onions are really easy to grow so when I heard the Walla Walla Sweet Onion seed had arrived at BBB Seed for the first time, I rushed over. There’s only one problem for me with Walla Walls….their growing season is 125 days…a little longer than I can count on in Colorado. So I start the seeds indoors in February and transplant the seedlings in April.

 

The most important rule of growing onions is you have to use fresh seed. After a year or so, germination rates drop down to “almost none” so you do need new seeds each year.

Onions grow happily in decent soil. They can handle hot sun and they’ve forgiven me letting the weeds get a little overrun. There’s not too much guesswork as to when they are ripe…their tops fall over. So you can grow onions off in a corner of your garden without too much extra effort. Although quite labor intensive for farmers, onions are pretty cheap at the grocery so we don’t grow them so much to save money as to capture the awesome flavor of fresh homegrown Walla Wallas.

 

For more pictures and recipes, go to the website of the annual Walla Walla festival!
OR go to the festival in June!

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
http://www.sweetonions.org/

http://www.wiveswithknives.net/2010/08/02/potato-walla-walla-onion-and-gruyere-galette/
http://savorthebest.com/roasted-sweet-baby-walla-walla-onions/

Grow Watercress Indoors

by Sandy Swegel

Watercress is another one of those unassuming plants, almost weedy, that is a superfood for humans. In the brassica family, watercress (Nasturtium officianale) is rich in vitamins, minerals (especially calcium) and sulfides. It’s not just for watercress sandwiches and tea. It is a great addition to salads as either sprouts or leaves, excellent juiced or added to juices and makes a lovely pureed spring soup. And pretty yummy just for nibbling.

Watercress is one of our new seeds for 2016 and it’s a great plant to start the growing season.Grow Watercress Indoors

 

How to grow Watercress indoors:

Sprouts
Watercress sprouts easily and you can grow it in a jar just like you do alfalfa seeds. Its spicy kick is great on sandwiches and salads.

Plants
Seeds are pretty easy to germinate…The biggest challenge in growing watercress indoors is that it needs to always be moist, especially during germination. You can accomplish this by starting the seeds in a small pot of clean potting mix and then setting the pot in a saucer of water. Misting is great or put a plastic cover over the seed mix if your air is dry. Someplace slightly warm like the top of the frig is a great germination spot. They don’t need light to germinate.

 

Once the seeds are going, you just need to be sure the plants are moist with fresh water. Think about their ideal natural habitat in Europe: slow-moving creek edges in bright shade. Some people grow them in water tanks with aerators if you want to get fancy.

One secret to tasty watercress is to keep the growing plant cool and out of hot sun and to harvest it before it flowers. After flowering, the leaves become more bitter.

 

Grow Watercress Indoors in late winter it is such a promise of Spring. But it doesn’t need to be an indoor plant. After your weather warms to above freezing, you can plant your watercress outside if you have a place that stays pretty moist. If you have a pond or fountain the watercress is thrilled living in a pot in about an inch or two of water along the edge. I’ve seen it in a shade pot with impatiens and it was pretty happy.

And once you have nice succulent leaves, watercress, slivers of cold cucumber and butter on thin white bread is actually pretty awesome.

 

Photo Credits
http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/watercress/growing-watercress-in-pots.htm

http://eathealthylivefit.com/2014/09/the-health-benefits-of-watercress/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Chess

 

 

Best Wildflower Seed Mixes

Organic Heirloom Vegetable Seed

Wildflower and Grass Mixes

Cool Off Fast! – Agua Fresca

by Sandy Swegel

My basic remedy for hot July days is to bend over and run the hose over my head, but a more attractive and effective way to cool off is to make an Agua Fresca (refreshing water), the great fruit or vegetable drink of Mexico and other southern regions. I’ve been making Agua Frescas all weekend.

The Agua Fresca I first enjoyed from my friend Alfredo’s family was cucumber and lime juice.  Then one day we had watermelon Agua Fresca and I was in heaven.  Both were very cooling and refreshing.  What intrigued me most is that these were two of the foods my acupuncturist recommended to me.  TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has diagnoses of “heat” in the body.  I often get this diagnosis and my doctor suggests three vegetables/fruits that are especially cooling to the body from a TCM energetic point of view…not just temperature:  Cucumber, celery and watermelon.  Turns out that ancient wisdom from TCM is the same as ancient wisdom from Mexican families. “Gotta love it” as a friend says.

There are lots of recipes on the web, but the concept is simple:

Blender 6 cups water 1 pound of Fruit or vegetable:  cucumber, watermelon are traditional. Also try melon, raspberries, strawberries, celery, herbs like lemon balm or basil or mint. Sugar (to taste) 1/4  to 1/2 cup.  Lime to taste. Run the blender to pulverize the vegetables or fruit and lime.  Strain if needed. Pour over ice cubes and add mint or cucumber slice or lime slice garnish.

Variations: Slushy:  Use only half the water. Run the blender a second time filled with ice cubes to get a slushy drink. Sorbet:  Make an agua fresca and put it in the ice cream maker for 20 minutes to make sorbet. Alcohol:  Rum, tequila or vodka added make excellent drinks or sorbets!

Stay Cool and Be Happy.

Photo credits:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/raspberry-mint-agua-fresca.html

Pruning for Holiday Decorations

by Sandy Swegel

I’m a big fan of multi-tasking so it’s natural that whenever there’s a garden chore to be done, I think about whether it might solve some other task that needs doing. In the Spring I schedule perennial weed digging so the roots can be thrown to the chickens for yummy spring greens.  In Summer I arrange to cut grass when I need the clippings to mulch the vegetable beds.  In Fall I pick up leaves when I need to insulate rose bushes and perennials.  One of the tasks I still want to do this year is “rejuvenation pruning” on shrubs or simple pruning on shrubs and trees that are poking me in the eye when I walk by or blocking the sidewalk.

Rejuvenation pruning is a great way to keep all your shrubs looking great.  Every year you simply cut back to the ground 1/4th to 1/3rd of the oldest branches in your bushes.  The shrub will put out new growth next spring to fill in and you’ll always have a self-rejuvenating plant.

So the multi-tasking solution here is to do some needed pruning on plants that happen to also look good, when cut, to decorate the house.  Some of the plants I’ll be pruning for Thanksgiving or Christmas are:

Branches with Berries: Pyracantha (orange berries) or Hawthorn (red berries)…be careful about thorns Cotoneaster with red berries Coral berry or porcelain berry

Branches with an interesting structure: Harry Lauder or curly willow both make nice twisty branches.  Birch stems can have interesting bark.  Yellow and redtwig dogwoods add great color.  Even simple wild plum branches can be put in the center of a flower arrangement to hold the flowers up

Evergreens: Early winter is a great time to prune those Mugo pines or spruce trees that block the driveway. Juniper and cedar trimmings offer great aroma as well as evergreen color.

So once again, twice the work in half the time or something like that.  The bushes have old wood removed, the shrubs and trees have a better shape, and the house is decorated for free with dramatic gifts from nature, brought indoors.

Photo Credit: http://liveatvillages.com/blog/?p=334http://ikebanalessons.blogspot.com/2012/10/ikebana-class-1052012.html

Thanksgiving Decorations from the Garden

by Sandy Swegel

One reason I first started gardening was so I could cut flowers to bring into the house or to bring as a gift to friends.  Almost all the flowers are finished in Colorado so it’s time to be more creative. There’s still lots to do to bring nature beautifully indoors.

Decorate with Leaves. This one is obvious.  We had great color this year with our leaves.  Warm weather in September and October turned our trees and gardens very lush and colors are extra intense.  A Google search for decorating with leaves brought a zillion images of leaf mobiles and wreaths and candle holders and art cards. At our house, a neighbor’s seven-year-old came in and just put the big maple leaves she liked in a row down the table….a perfect fall runner.

A bowl of Jack Be Little Pumpkins

photo courtesy of Becky Hansen

Display the vegetables. It takes a long time to grow winter squash. Don’t just eat it.  Put it on display for a couple of weeks. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I get out the big platters and artfully store those big bulky squash in plain view on the counter.  Instant art.

Use your prunings.  Cut spruce branches, pyracantha berries and other colorful or weirdly shaped stems make great decorations for your outdoor pots.

Make everything into candle holders.  Hollowed out squash and apples or overgrown beets.  Everything looks festive with a tea light!

Enjoy the color and bring the beauty indoors!

Photo credits:

 http://www.preen.com/articles/pots-for-fall-and-winter

http://organizeyourstuffnow.com/wordpress/6-fast-and-easy-ways-to-decorate-with-leaves

http://www.diy-enthusiasts.com/decorating-ideas/nature-fall-decorating-ideas-easy-diy/

Plant more peas!

by Sandy Swegel

Rev your garden engines folks.  Today is St Patrick’s Day and the official start of pea season and there’s no need to wait.  You have jobs to do today.

Make sure beds are weeded. Those mallows from last year are easy to spot….they’re the only green thing in parts of the beds.  But they weed easily this time of year. I lightly cultivate the top inch of the soil if I see lots of annual seeds starting. In my garden, every last larkspur seed that fell last year has germinated.  Cute…but not in the pea bed, please.

 

Put the Peas to Soak.  If your climate is high humidity, you may not need this step, but here in the arid foothills, I soak my peas overnight, rinse them tomorrow and then plant them.  Sometimes I even pre-sprout them (just like making mung bean sprouts) and plant them with the big white root already fattening up.

Put your trellis in place if you’re growing the kind of peas that need support.

 

 

Think about row cover. Decide if you want to use it to warm the peas and speed their growth.

Think about inoculant.  I’ve written about this before. Gardens that have grown happy peas before may not need inoculant but new raw beds with less than optimal soil would probably benefit.  If you forgot to buy it, you can always plant anyway and sprinkle the inoculant over the soil and water it in later.

Remember the flowers.  I’m so fond of peas for eating whether they are oriental peas  or snap peas or plain old shelling peas, that I forget about how beautiful and fragrant sweet peas are.  My neighbor plants sweet peas on trellises along the fence, at the base of vines, in a circle in the middle of the lettuce garden.  Her garden is so beautiful and fragrant come June that I get very jealous.  Plant sweet peas!

PHOTO LINKS
“pea trellis” http://mixedgreensblog.com/2010/03/01/in-the-garden/ready-set-plant-peas/
world peas http://www.thewhatever.com/post/4555671838/world-peas

 

3 Veggies You Gotta Grow at Home

by Sandy Swegel

These three veggies aren’t easy to find in grocery stores.  Even if you can buy them, they are so much better fresh out of the garden AND super easy to grow.

Broccoli Raab Rapini
This is a relative to big broccoli stalks. You get the same great taste and vitamins as the bigger broccoli except this is easier and faster to cook. You can buy raab in the grocery stores sometimes, but it’s often large and the leaves can be tougher. Clipped young out of the garden and sauteed with olive oil or in stir-fry, it’s tender and sweet.  And it’s easy to throw a little in your juicer without it overwhelming other vegetables.

Chioggia Beets
You can buy beets with greens attached, but again you don’t get the young tender sweet greens you can clip directly out of the garden that are great for stir-fry or slipped into a mixed salad.  Any beet would work, but the Chioggia have those super cool stripes that look great sliced very thin in a salad.

Anyone who has read this blog knows I’ve got a thing for peas. But the dwarf grey sugars reign above all the others.  First, the plant with its pretty pink flowers could pass for a sweet pea.  Second, even the leaves of this pea are tasty and you could grow these peas just for microgreens. Third, the young pod is sublime. Eaten young right off the plant it is sweet and tender. Grown a little more, it’s a great snack refrigerated or even to be used in the traditional way in a stir-fry.

Gardening is fun but also can take a lot of time and work. I like to grow food that I can’t just buy in the grocery store but is a delight when grown at home.

 

Photo Credits:http://www.karensgarden.net/ki_galleries/2009/PeaBlossom.jpg

http://green-artichoke.blogspot.com/2012/07/beet-and-lentil-salad.html