Monday, April 25, 2016

RRRR.. Radish!

My dad was a huge radish fan, I don't think anyone else in my extended family ate them but him, at least no one I every saw. But my grandmother planted a half of a row every year in staggered plantings, to help stretch the season out,

One of the great things about having a garden between our house and my Grandmothers was that my job was to pick options for dinner, I mean literally pick options for Dinner, digging fresh potatoes, there's a cucumber and a tomato that was just ready or greens that were calling my name. And then just as I was leaving there are the radishes, just waiting for me to pick a couple for his salad. It was a chore and an experience at the same time, one I wouldn't trade.

While I'm still not a fan of radishes, there are a few fans at my house now. So late last summer when I put in beets I also put in a patch of Easter Egg Radishes. The great thing about radishes are how fast they come up. It's almost as quick a wisteria for those of you in the south, but not quite as sneaky.
I had quite a haul and look at those greens!

They were just towing over the poor beets that were planted at the same time!
I personally picked the Easter Egg variety because I wanted the different colors and the large greens. I had recipes for both. This year I'll be planting another crop of these and maybe I'll try the Watermelon Radish, or the real name Chinese Red Meat Radish. I'm hoping they keep their green outer color and pink inner color when they are pickled.

Now for the Science part! That spicy flavor of radishes is due to the chemical compounds found inside, like Glucosinolate which is also found in mustard. As I mentioned before, and as you can see in the picture, they grow very quickly and are great companion plantings for other veggies that grow a bit slower. Most pests avoid the radish greens which helps other plants like broccoli and beets. They enjoy full sun and a soft soil. 

Most often when you think radish you think salad, but I'm hear to tell you that they make an awesome pickle too. I use a pickling brine that is part white vinegar, and part red wine vinegar. Add a few carrots to the mix and if you like heat, slice up a jalapeno, pop it in the fridge for a couple of days and then watch out. It's a great addition to fish tacos and sandwiches. Don't throw away those greens, they make great Kimchi or just saute them if your taste buds aren't up to the heat!

Overall they are a great addition to your garden, stagger the planting over a couple of weeks so that you'll have a nice long harvest. 

Thanks for taking this trip with me and check back soon for more of the A to Z Challenge!

Parsnips for the P

Useful properties of parsnipWhile they look like Carrots and they do grow in the cooler months, they aren't even from the same family. While they share a shape that is about the extent of their likeness. Parsnips can be grown well into the winter while carrots enjoy a bit more warmth in their growing season. While parsnips look like a white carrot once you try one you'll know the difference. Parsnips have a spicy flavor while the carrot is sweeter, more like a squash flavor.

These long growing root veggies need a deeply worked soil that is loose and free of clay and stones. They can be one of those needier plants in your garden so take heed, they will need to be weeded until they establish themselves and they like to have "wet feet" so they'll need to be watered often if the weather takes a turn towards the dry. Warmer climates will need to mulch to help keep in the moisture, this will help cut down some on the watering. As they mature they will have a vigorous green top and the root with start to push up out of the soil. Harvesting is easier than the growing, just loosen the soil around the root and pull. Cut the tops off and place the washed root in a bag for up to two months in the fridge. They also store well in the ground, wait to harvest until after the first frost, which will give them the best flavor.

They are great for diets also, being very low in calories and high in vitamins. They have been used to help control blood pressure and as a diuretic when passing kidney stones. Parsnips are a great addition to your diet since the uses are very versatile. They can be baked, pureed for soups or eaten raw in salads.

Looking for more ideas, check these recipes out;

Parsnips can be a bit picky to grow in the garden but they are easy to find in the fall at a local farmers market near you. Go ahead and plant a row late this summer and if it doesn't work out, you can always pick then up at the market, but just give them a try, you might just be surprised!

Thanks for stopping by this A to Z Challenge Post, I'll see you in the Garden!

ohh Okra

 Okra is one of those things in the South that you either love or hate. But which ever side you fall on, there are things that you just don't know about it.

Okra originate from North African countries, and is also known as Bamia.It is related to cotton and Holly hocks, now that's a diverse family! The pods are generally harvested while they are still "green". It grows best in well drained, nitrogen rich soils. In some areas the seeds are roasted and are used as a coffee substitute.

They are very low in calories and high in Vitamin A, dietary fibers, Iron and Magnesium. They are also great for women who are in child bearing years since it is very high in Folates. The plants can grow quite large, up to 6 feet in the right climates. You'll want to pick the pods while they are young and tender, generally around 4 inches in length, check your plants often they grow quickly. The older. Mature, pods become tough and woody, and have been used to make paper and rope. Woody texture is not what I think of when Okra comes to mind, slimy would be the description I would use. But that mucilaginous juice is what the prized result of cooking okra in stews and gumbo.

Okra is prickly, and slimy, but it does have it redeeming qualities. If you are looking for something interested for the garden there is now a Crimson variety to go along with the green. The talk stalks have very showy blooms and heart shaped leaves and don't require much in the way of care. Check out the Seed Savers Exchange for Seeds and other information.
Okra, Red Burgundy
Seed Savers Exchange

Looking for ideas on how to use these strange pods, Check theses ideas out;

Thanks for wandering through the garden with me, you never know you might find your new favorite recipe or at least something different to try!

This is a delayed part of the A to Z Challenge that is happening in April. Join me and other Bloggers as we blog the Alphabet!

Sunday, April 24, 2016


So I'm cheating a bit but the title really sums up how I feel about this post!

I'm using my N  post to talk about nuts or actually nut trees that you can grow at home. Depending on where you live you have all kinds of options in what to plant and how long it will take for them to produce. Just think of planting a Nut or Fruit Tree as planting for your future or your kids future. Even small amounts of area can produce a good harvest of nuts, some can be quite profitable. And add to that general low maintenance, what's not to love! Once your stand is established the most work you'll have to do is the harvesting.

The first thing to do when considering what kinds of trees to get is to have your soil tested. Then you'll need to plan for the amount of space you'll need in the future. Then is your climate correct for the trees you want? Some varieties have to have a more temperate climate such as California for Pistachio, these are E's favorites and I imagine she would try if she thought she could grow them in the green

 Pecans are a staple of the south and we are lucky/unlucky enough to have 9, 7 very old and 2 relatively in tree terms younger. When we first moved into this house I was thrilled with the trees, then after a relatively busy storm season, pecans turn into missiles in high winds and the wood is soft, so be prepared for lots of downed limbs, I was a little less ecstatic. I do enjoy having pecans available at the holidays for baking and such so I guess it's worth the trade off. Plus we do crack many pounds while we watch TV and sell them at the markets around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Leaves are just coming out good on one of our pecan trees.
In the first couple of years, trees like Pecans and Walnuts, have a  tap root that grows downward at a rate of least 2 or 3 feet, then they can continue to grow upward up to 100 feet over many years.

If you are on the West Coast of the US then you get the opportunity to grow more exotic trees like  Almonds and Cashews. Almonds can be grown anywhere that peaches are grown, the only problem is that they are often effected by late frosts, so they are generally grown in the more temperate climates of California.

If you aren't in the south or the west coast and still want to grow nut trees, there's still hope. As long as your area doesn't fall below 20 degrees below zero then you should be be able to grow Hazelnuts and walnuts. 

Nut trees don't need much in the way of pesticides or trimming other than when they are very young. You'll want to make sure that you have a straight strong trunk to ensure the tree is strong as possible. Pest such as squirrels can be thwarted by something as simple as a dog that runs the area periodically. You'll want to make sure that the orchard area is kept mowed low to help ensure there isn't competition between your trees and other shrubs for available water and resources.  

If you have a large or small area and some time, consider some nut trees for the future. The initial input will pay off multiple times in future harvests.

The crud has put me a bit behind but I'm going to try to finish out the A to Z Challenge before the end of the month, so post will be appearing randomly over the next week. Check back often to see what happens!
Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you in the garden! or Orchard...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Milkweeds and Monarch for the M

One of my favorite past times as a child was watching bugs, rolly pollies,Bees, Butterflies and of course lightening bugs, fireflies for those not native to the South. Now these things that represent the warm sunny days of my childhood are disappearing from our landscape.  With our love of lush green lawns, factory farms and the loss of the wild places we also loose a piece of ourselves, we are robbing our children of summer joy of watching the butterflies flit from plant to plant. Butterflies are the third most populous pollinator, so not only are they beautiful they are important to our food system.

Why is are Monarchs and other pollinators dying off? Deforestation, loss of habitat and the over use of glyphosate, Round up to me and you. These days Round up is used everywhere, it's even built into our corn and soy seeds to tolerate being sprayed with it. It's used along roads and in your yard. We have become a society that doesn't understand the importance of what we now see as "weeds". One of the main plants they are seeing major loss in, is the Milkweed. Doesn't sound too bad does it, to lose a weed. What if that weed is the only plant that Monarchs Caterpillars eat? Then it's a problem!
Image result for milkweed plant

I heard that milkweed is poisonous, and you still think I should have it my garden or yard? Yes, It is very poisonous to Animals and People but it's not something that you would be harvesting or handling. It's for the caterpillars remember. And the ingestion of the plant along with the showy colors are what keeps them from being eaten by birds and other animals. It's best to plant it in an area away from normal traffic, just to be safe.

Isn't it the same as a butterfly plant? No, nursery's will occasionally call it that since the word "weed" is so unpopular, if you are looking in a nursery know the scientific name for the species that will work best in your area. Milkweeds are adoptive to their environment, so you'll need one native to your area. Check out Monarch Watch for a great list of plant options for your zone.

By adding a clump, you'll need more than a couple of plants, of Milkweed to your pollinator garden you'll not only be helping out the Monarchs but you'll be helping bring a species back and we must act now before it's too late. Every little garden helps.

Want to learn more about Monarchs and their decline check out these sites.
Monarch Watch 
Monarch Joint Venture
Butterfly Conservation

Thanks for stopping by I'm a bit off pace this week but working to get back on track.

See you in the garden!

Friday, April 15, 2016

L is for Lemon Grass

Lemongrass is one of those things that the naming is true. It is in the herb family but grows in a large "grassy" clump and the flavor is definitely citrus. Which leads to all kinds of uses in dishes and teas.  It can be grown in the garden or in landscapes in zones 9 and warmer. If you are in cooler climates  you'll want to stick with potted plant that can be brought in over winter or just as an annual.

Interested in growing Lemongrass at home, it can be started from seeds or from shoots. I've found seeds available from Baker Seeds , Johnny's selected seeds and I'm sure there are other companies that carry them. You can also root the plant from stems. If you get a fresh piece go ahead and pull off the outside leaves until you have bare stem. Place it a glass with a couple of inches of water for a couple of days and you should see roots forming in no time. Small leaves will form then you can go ahead and plant in the garden or a pot.
Lemongrass A Garnish Of Tom Yum Goong. (thai Food) Stock Photography - 28801142
image from
In the garden Lemon grass can grow in a clump from 3 to 5 feet tall. It is a tropical plant and needs full sun, it can be over wintered in warmer climates or kept in a pot and brought in during the cold months. It will need a moist soil, so frequent watering is best.

It's generally used in Asian cuisines but the leaves can also be used to make a tea. It is high in Vitamin C, A, Magnesium and Folic Acid. Lemon Grass tea can be made by seeping one teaspoon of fresh or dried lemongrass leaves in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Or you can find it already made into tea bags at specialty stores. The tea has been shown to help arthritis, digestive issues and to lower cholesterol. It has a light lemon taste, unlike many herbal teas have a slightly "weedy" flavor.

Check out these recipes using Lemongrass and then buy a bit extra to add to your garden!

Thanks for stopping by, the crud has caught up to me, I'm blaming it on the weather and this post is a bit late but it's here Today's post is in the works an will be posted today also. So double the reading. Check back for Milkweed for the M post in the A to Z Challenge!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kohlrabi is coming in as your K

Last year I reviewed a book called The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson and he stated in the book one of the reasons he ended up writing a Seasonal Cook Book was due to a neighbor that wanted to know what he should do with Kohlrabi. I totally understood the problem. We've been growing  it for a few years and selling it at the market and we are often asked the same questions, we promise we're doing better this year giving out better recipes and calling attention to underserved veggies.
Image from Mother Earth News

What is Kohlrabi? I know it's not something that you see much of at the grocery store, much less at restaurants but if you want to add something a bit international to your family's dinner, check it out.
It originated in germany and has also been referred to as a German Cabbage or  a Turnip Cabbage. It is in the Brassica family, like Kale and it is also high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. While it's a strange looking veggie and it takes a bit of work to get to the best parts, it is totally worth it! The small amounts of greens that it grows are eatable, while the main part is the stem, which resembles a turnip growing above ground. The spherical stem has two layers of fibrous materials which will need to be removed since they do not soften noticeably during cooking.

So what am I supposed to do with this crazy looking vegetable? That's the number one question we are posed with at the market. People are interested but just not sure what it is or what in the world to do with it. It does have a mild flavor like broccoli and is best when it's small. Large bulbs can become woody. It is a cool weather plant and most often you'll see it at the Market in late fall and Spring.

Want to grow  your own? It's a very undemanding plant. It grows well with beets, lettuces and Chards. In the Fall direct sow straight into the garden late August for harvest in late September early October. Some frost is fine and will even sweeten the taste some, like collards or turnips. Spring growing depends on our climate. In warmer areas start indoors up to 4 weeks before the last frost, so it can beat the heat. They are great to add color to your cool weather gardens, they come in white and purple varieties.

Ok so now I have them, what do I do with them? Here's a simple side dish recipe with tons of flavor from The Broad Fork.

Steamed Kohlrabi with Shallot and Celery Leaves

  • Two bulbs of Kohlrabi
  • Two sprigs of Thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
  • Salt
  • One Shallot cut into thin rings
  • One Tablespoon of sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup Celery Leaves
Peel the Kohlrabi and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Melt the Butter is a sauce pan over medium high heat. When the butter has bubbled add the Kohlrabi cubes. Stir well and then add Shallot, Thyme and Celery Leaves. Reduce heat to medium and add 1/4 cup water and cover to steam. Cook until the Kohlrabi is just tender, about 6 minutes. If any water remains, remove lid so it will evaporate. Salt to taste and add Sesame seeds to garnish.

Serves 4.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll give Kohlrabi a try this spring. I'm taking a turn towards Asian  flavors for Thursday with Lemongrass for the L. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J for Jalapenos, Candied Jalapenos that is..

From Dyes to Peppers, I'm all over the garden this week.
Spring pepper Plants in our Garden
Peppers have gained a huge amount of popularity lately, they aren't just for poppers and nachos anymore.  As far as flavors go the hotter the better and they have been being added to things you wouldn't expect.

Jalapenos fall into what I would consider a middle category, younger peppers can be mild and as they age they become hotter. So if you are looking for the pepper flavor you can generally gage the heat by the age of the pepper. Young peppers are generally uniformly green and smooth, as they age you will see striations on the pepper and them fully ripe or hotter Jalapenos will be red or orange. The heat falls  within a wide range on the Scoville Chart, from 1,000 to 20,000. The majority of the heat in the pepper is found with in the seeds and interior membrane that holds the seeds, These membranes and seeds can be removed to lower the overall heat level of the pepper.

Many varieties of peppers are now available in nurseries and the big box stores but starting your own peppers from seeds can be very rewarding. Seed catalogues are offer more and more varieties with more and more heat each year, so there is something for everyone's palate. Stating Jalapenos is just like starting any other pepper. You'll need a good starting soil and someplace warm. Warmer climates such as South Florida can direct sow peppers but the rest of us aren't as lucky. Pepper seeds are ones that need to be started very early, as early as 10 weeks before the last frost in order to have the plant ready for the normal transplanting season. Som varierities can take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate and others take only a couple, but they all need a very warm area, generally above 70 degrees. You'll want to hold off on transplanting until the night time temps are staying above 50 degrees and the soil has warmed at least 2 inches down. Peppers are slow growers and need the heat to grow properly.

Plant them at least a foot  a part, once they have established themselves expect that they can grow from 2 to 4 feet tall but have a compact spread. They are fairly drought tolerant, and enjoy heat and humidity. They can also be planted in containers due to the compact size. One plant can produce many pounds of peppers that can vary in heat due to when they are picked.

Last year we had bouts of dry and wet but ended up with a huge amount of peppers that lasted well into November because of the very mild fall we experienced.  So since we had such a glut of peppers we went looking for a good way to extend the life of the peppers. We pickled quite a few for sandwiches and other recipes but we had a friend who recommended a pickling them in a vinegar and sugar syrup. These retain their heat but with a slightly sweet offset. We've heard it called Cowboy Candy, we call them Candied Jalapenos and have seen them used in various forms. At our house they are often eaten right out of the jar or with cream cheese and crackers similar to how pepper jelly is eaten around the holidays in our neck of the woods. I'll share our recipe and hopefully it's something you might try later this year when the peppers are on. It is a water bath canning recipe.

You'll Need;

  • 3 lbs of firm Jalapenos 
  • 2 cups of Cider Vinegar
  • 6 cups of Sugar ( I know it sounds like a ton but it's best not to skimp on it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 3 Teaspoons Granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 Teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 8 1/2 pint (or 4 Pint) Canning Jars and lids 
These peppers can be very hot so it's best to work with gloves while you are cutting and trimming.
Trim the ends of the peppers off and slice into 1/4 of an inch rounds. Then set them aside
In a large pot bring the Vinegar, Sugar, Celery Seeds, Garlic,Turmeric and red pepper flakes to a boil.
Reduce heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Then add your peppers to the simmering pot, let it continue to simmer for 4 minutes then bring it up to a boil. 

While it's boiling process your clean jars and lids in hot water. Once the peppers have simmered, some will look more wilted than others and that's okay. Transfer them to the heated jars with a slotted spoon, leaving a 1/4 inch headspace. Bring the liquid back up to Boiling and boil for another 6 minutes. Now transfer the hot liquid carefully to the jars to just cover the peppers. Run a knife along the inside of the jars so any trapped air bubbles can be released. 

Wipe the rims of the jars and place your lids finger tight. Place jars in your canner with at least 2 inches of water over the jars and boil for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints and 15 minutes for pints. Remove from canner and place hot jars on a towel to set overnight. Once they have cooled you'll still want to hold off on popping the jars open for a treat. They need another 2 to 4 weeks to fully come into flavor. It's hard but the wait is well worth it. This recipe can be doubled and trust me when I tell you that you'll be glad you did.

Thanks for following along on my A to Z Journey, Wednesday's letter is K and I'll be exploring ideas for that strange vegetable Kohlrabi, you know you'll want to hear about that!

See you in the Garden!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Indigo for the Dye..or I

Indigo dye plant flowers - Indigofera tinctoria
image from


I've been talking about plants for food and plants for companion plantings, but now I want to bring up a plant that has a different use. Indigo is a plant that grows best in warm humid climates and is used as a natural dye. It is a deep blue often most associate with a denim color. It sets well but also fades but keeps it's beautiful blue tone. Natural dyes and food dyes are something I've been learning more about, I'd like to be able to add a few dye options to our garden this year for dying wool and yarn

The dye is extracted from the leaves so it takes a lot of plants to produce a usable amount of dye. Due to this issue in the 1880's the creator of Baeyer Aspirin, Adolf Von Baeyer, researched the chemical composition of Indigo. Later K. Heumann would build on this research to synthesize pathway to produce indigo, within 14 years they would be creating indigo in a lab. Baeyer would go on to earn a Nobel Prize in 1905 for his work. Of course the downside to this is the amount of harsh chemicals that are used to create this popular dye color. Many companies are now researching a more environmentally friendly alternative.

I'm actually getting my seeds from The Woolery, if you are interested in Indigo or other types of dye plants check with your Ag office, some could be considered invasive and can't be shipped to your area. If you can't find Indigo in your area an alternative is Woad.

Indigo is part of the legume family, the same family as beans and alfalfa. It can grow as a shrub up to 5 feet tall and can be annual, biennial or perennial depending on your garden zone. It can also be used in a short season as a cover crop like other legumes, since it will add nitrogen to the soil.

 The best time to harvest the leaves is just before the blooms emerge, only harvesting half so the plant doesn't suffer. The leaves will need to be soaked in water first, then fermented and then lye is added to the resulting mixture to create the dye. Which can be used to dye fabrics and yarn.

If you are interested in dyeing with natural dyes the US Forest Service has this great page that talks about what plants create certain colors and how they have been used in the past.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out the extensive list of bloggers who are writing daily in the A to Z Challenge! Tuesday is J and I'm talking about Jalapeno Peppers in your garden and a great recipe, too!

Saturday, April 9, 2016


If you're like us and your trying to get the most out of the space you have for gardening, you'll probably looking for plants that are good for companion planting and if they do double duty then that's all that much better.
Image result for hyssop plant
Image from
Hyssop falls into that category. It's a member of the mint family and loves sun as well as being an evergreen. All great attributes in my book, Historically it was used as a cleansing herb in temples and other sacred places as well repelling insects. It's also been a favorite in European gardens for it's beauty.

He has been used medically from Roman times, as a protection from the plague to modern times as an aid to the immune system. Used in a warm tea it acts as a herbal expectorant and to break up congestion in the sinuses. It is a diaphoretic, which means it promotes perspiration, so it also used for reducing fever and eliminating toxins. It is also classified as a nervine, which means it can be used to calm anxiety naturally. This leads to it's uses for children's digestive and respiratory issues.

All parts of the plant are used for herbal remedies; a brew of the flowers can speed the healing of burns and skins inflammations, Fresh bruised leaves promote healing of bruises, and insect bites. As a tea or bath additive it has been shown to help kill head lice, which is a much better alternative to some of the extreme products for sale today.

Adding Hyssop to your garden as a companion plant to cabbage and others in the Brassica family because it attracts those little white butterflies, we call them cabbage, that love to lay eggs on your cabbage, which then turn into worms that eat your cabbages and broccoli. The Hyssop attracts them with a camphor like scent so they spare your Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts and other Brassicas. The aromatic blooms can be various colors from blue to rose to white and are a favorite of bees, which are attracted to your garden and help with the pollination. So think about planting them not only in your garden but also around grapevines and fruit trees to increase the chance of pollinators visiting your vines and tress which will lead to larger harvests.

Check out Baker seed company or other sites  for your seeds. There is still time to get them started this year if your in the south and if the climate is still cool where you are they are easy to start indoors. The plants do best kept a bit dry and will reseed easily.

Thanks for wandering through the garden and the woods with us. I is next on the list and I'll be using it to talk about Indigo, which can be used as a natural dye. This is a post in the A to Z Challenge, where we use the alphabet as inspiration for blogging, 1900 people signed up to the challenge so there is something for everyone!

Friday, April 8, 2016

I'm talking about Garlic Again..


So today's letter is G and since I have a real love for Garlic, I thought I would give you some reasons to love Garlic too.

During last years A to Z I used Garlic for my G then too, check out that link for details about kinds of garlic and where to plant then check out my fall post on harvesting Garlic. Lots of great information in those two posts, but now I'll give you some information on how Garlic can be beneficial for your health!

Garlic is in the Allium family which also includes onions and leeks, it contains Allicin which creates the distinctive smell. This is a sulfur compound that is released when the cloves are crushed or chewed. It is very rich is vitamins B, C , selenium and Manganese for very little calories and carbs.

Health benefits attributed to eating garlic include lower cases of colds, lower blood pressure and lowers cholesterol levels. It is also been proven to be anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, by applying the juice of a crushed clove to an area that is infected, then wash with room temperature water. This is an easy home made ring worm or athletes foot remedy.

When preparing garlic is best to go ahead and crush or chop the cloves and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. By breaking down the cell walls it allows a chemical transaction to take place. If they aren't crushed or are heated immediately you still get the great flavor but not the antioxidants and cancer fighting properties.

Garlic is easy to grow, doesn't take up lots of room and it's easy to harvest. What's not to love about it.

If your looking for a way to extend your garlic harvest, lacto fermenting is the way to go by adding probiotics to all of the other positive attributes garlic has.

Here's an easy recipe for fermenting:
We generally use a small jar like a 1/2 pint or pint, it takes a lot of cloves to fill a jar.

  • Peel your cloves and add them to the jar up to an inch and a half from the top
  • Create a Brine by by adding a 1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt to a cup of water
  • Pour the Brine into the jar up 1 inch from the top
  • Either use a weight to hold down the cloves and cover with a cloth  or use a regular canning lid but this will need to be removed every other day to release the built up gas
  • Leave the jar on the counter covered with a towel to keep the light out for a week.
  • Then move the jar to the fridge for another couple of weeks, this will help the flavor.
Your fermented garlic can be used in any recipe that calls for raw garlic, heating the garlic will kill any probiotics produced by the fermenting.

Fall is the best time to plant your garlic so if you are in the US mark your calendar to remind you to plant or if you're just now heading into cooler weather it's time to get those cloves into the ground.

Thanks for stopping by, be sure to check out the other blogs working with the A to Z Challenge .

I'll see you in the garden!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Foraging for Fiddleheads

I'm dragging you back to the woods and river banks for today's post. Today we are talking about FiddleHead Ferns and that's really lucky because they are a spring time gourmet wild Vegetable!
I've been checking around our area and I think I may have just missed them for this year. The weather has been very strange, way too hot for April and tonight it's dropping back down to freezing temps, so I'm still on the hunt.

This is what your looking for  :

Fiddleheads, yeah it's a strange name but once you see them you totally get where it's coming from. The tightly coiled shape resemble the scroll of a violin or fiddle if you rather. 

They are the emerging sprouts of wild ferns, most often on the east coast our variety of choice is Ostrich Ferns. They have a taste that could be compared to asparagus. Generally they are seen from April to June, depending on the weather. They can sometimes be found at farmers markets or specialty stores, but for a heavy price. Foraging for your own with friends or family is rewarding as well as much better on the budget. 

Be sure to pick them when they are tightly curled, with brown paper like pieces still attached. Once they have opened the taste is significantly different, be sure to get them early. They are high in fiber like most vegetables, vitamins A and C  and some iron. They should never be eaten raw, and cooking often takes a couple of steps just to make sure that any bacteria has been killed. They will need to be eaten quickly after harvesting, they don't have much of a shelf life but they can be frozen.

So the first step to cooking them is either boil or steam for 10 minutes, then sauteed in olive oil with other greens, they also pair well with eggs.

Species of ferns can be difficult to differentiate between so it's best to have a good field guide to make sure that you are getting the right fern. The Forager's Harvest has a great blog post giving a good description of safe varieties of fiddleheads.

Thanks for stopping by on your A to Z Challenge Trip. Tomorrow I'll be back to a garden variety plant.

See you in the Garden!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Echinacea for the E!

We are back to Herbs today and this is probably one you have heard of. Again I'm going for the double duty plants. This one works as well in your flower bed as well as your garden. Echinacea is even a Biennial which means it regrows for a second year and is a favorite of butterflies, bees, cottage gardeners and medicinal gardeners.

Echinacea or Coneflowers are started from seed and if you are in Northern Climates it's the time to get them started. They can be started in doors or outdoors while it's still cool. They need at least 4 weeks of cool wet weather to help them germinate. Fall planting is best but it they are planted later in the spring, they might not flower the first year.

They do well in full to moderate sun and are often paired with other butterfly attracting plants such as Bee Balms, Phlox and Yarrows. They are drought tolerant,and can be grown in large deep pots, due to their long tap roots. Size and colors vary by variety, they range from purple to yellow and from 1 to 3 feet tall. Their blooms last most of the summer and then in Fall the seed heads add interest to your garden.
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Image from
Butterflies and Bees swarm the flowers and birds enjoy the fall seed heads but Echinacea has many uses for people too! Native Americans recognized these plants as a treatment for wounds, but over the years it seemed to fall off the radar for most Americans. But in the 90's it saw a big come back.

Using Cranberry juice for a bladder infection, have a slow healing wound, or hay fever problems, Echinacea is a good alternative for treating these problems. The leaves can be brewed for tea, made into creams or steeped to make tinctures. We as a society are quick to run towards antibiotics for quick relief but every year we hear about the new super bacteria. Maybe we should go back to more natural remedies, being created in a lab to fight one type of bacteria can't compete with something is that is naturally complex.

Interested in making a tincture but the information wasn't passed down from your grandmother and you'd rather have the real thing, rather than buying it from Walmart?
Here's some quick information on making one with Echinacea.

  • You'll need to harvest the flowerheads when they are first starting to flower,
  • Put these fresh clippings in a bowl in the ratio of 1 part plant to 2 parts high proof alcohol.
  • Blend well with a immersion blender
  • Place the mixture a jar or bottle than can be strained easily, in a sunny place for two weeks.
  • After the two weeks strain out the plant material and store the sealed jar or bottle in a cool dark place.
As most herbalists and their sites say be sure of what you are using and make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new. As with any kind of medical treatment there could be unknown reactions. 

I hope you are enjoying our trek into the world of plants, and I hope you'll stop back by to see what else might be on the list for the A to Z Challenge!

See you in the Garden!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for Dead Stinging Nettle

First things first, I'm asking you to take a step out side of the grocery store and check out your yard or your neighbors yard for this early spring green. Yes, it's what we would consider a weed, but it is edible. 

Second, it's name is a bit of a misnomer, it's not a nettle but from the mint family. It's a beautiful green and purple, not dead as the name implies. The dead refers to the fact that it doesn't actually sting. It is often confused with henbit, which is edible too, but the leaves are a bit different. And as the name implies Chickens are big fans of both.

If you are going to be adventurous, it has a very short lifespan, so be on the look out for it in your area in early spring. It grows best when days or warm but nights are still cool. It is one of the earliest blooming plants and even if you don't harvest it for yourself, don't pull it up. The bees and hummingbirds are very happy to visit it.
 It can be a bit invasive but the short lifespan keeps it from being a problem.

If you do decide to try it, think smoothies, it's is full of antioxidants and the flowers are on the sweet side. The leaves have a bit of a texture that can be hard to get over but if blended you'll never know. They can me mixed into salads also but I personally would go the smoothie route or perhaps as a tea.

It originated in Europe but as most weeds are they travel with people and grow in any area that is receptive. Purple Dead nettle means "the devouring purple monster" Did I mention it could be invasive...

It has many multiple medicinal uses as a tinsane, it has been used a diuretic, astringent and purgative. Fresh leaves are helpful for external wounds, too.

So far this month we've talked about greens from the garden and greens from your yard, we'll be exploring other new ideas for your garden and kitchen, so be sure to check back tomorrow for E and to see if I can keep up the next few weeks for the rest of the alphabet!

If you liked the idea of blogging the Alphabet make sure you check out the other blogs on the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cabbage Collards is my C

You may or may not know yet that I'm from the Southern United States, we have our own brand of foods in this area and we all have recipes that have been handed down for generations. Some members of my family are often reluctant to move away from the tried and true flavors that they associate with Sunday dinner.
 is for Cabbage Collards

If it was Sunday my Grandmother cooked collards, and it was an experience. First you needed a container of these leafy greens and a "streak of lean", that's fatback for those not raised in the South. Our greens always came from her garden, so no extra strange sprays or chemicals, but those leaves can be crinkly and hold more sand or dirt than you realize. So the multiple washings began. Then there were what felt like hours and hours of boiling and then chopping, to end up with something that was truly awesome but not quite so healthy. Between having the bejesus cooked out of them the fat and the salty meat didn't really lend it's self to beneficial eating.
These are an example of Cabbage Collards that we over wintered in our Garden.

My household is now home to a vegan and we all try to eat a bit healthier, but we really don't want to totally leave our roots behind. We still grow our own Collards, and we use them in a couple of different ways, much healthier ways. The younger leaves make great wraps and are great in salads. But the most asked for recipe is sauteed. Instead of hours over a hot pot stinking your kitchen up, this recipe can be made in less than 15 minutes!

When picking your collards, know that they are generally a cooler weather plant, and it's best to get them locally. Pick up more than you need, these large leaves cook down quite a bit.
  • For three to four servings I use about 2 bunches, generally that translates to two pounds.
  • Wash your greens very well by placing them in your sink or in a basin. swish them around or agitate the water, just spraying won't get the grit off.
  • The stems are a bit tougher than the leaves so go ahead and strip them down. The leaves can be cut up into smaller pieces, or into strips. I prefer the strips, I roll the leaves and then cut thinly crosswise.
  • I normally add garlic, onions sliced thinly, and red pepper flakes but I have also added peppers and pancetta, for those times I've made it for others.
2 Large bunches of Collard Greens
1/2  Teaspoon of Olive Oil
3 Cloves of Garlic minced
1 Small Onions sliced thin- Optional
1 Green or Red Pepper sliced thin- Optional
Pancetta- Optional
1/4 Teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
In large saute pan heat 1/2 teaspoon of oil, add in garlic and onions (and pancetta if you are using it). Stir often and cook until everything has browned. Add in greens (and peppers). Continue stirring over medium heat until the greens have wilted. Greens will become bright green and become tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and salt. Try for personal preference.

Pretty easy and healthy too. Give it a try and see what you think. Or even plan for a few plants in your garden this fall, nothings easier than picking your dinner right out of your own garden! Do you have a great idea for healthy greens you'd like to share, leave it in the comments below! I'll have to get the recipe together for Collard Kraut, any one interested?

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out all of the other great blogs that are participating in the A to Z Challenge. We're blogging the Alphabet every day in April, with a break on Sundays. I'll be talking about great ideas for your garden, edible foraging, healthy herbs and a few recipes.

I'll see you in the Garden!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Brussels Sprouts for the B!

Ok So I know that Brussel Sprouts are not everyone's favorite veggie, but what do you know about them? And have you tried them Pickled? Hang around and I'll pass along more some information on those flavorful mini cabbages.

So I've decided that B will be for Brussels Sprouts this year and I other than my kiddo I can hear a collective groan. Would you believe that I think these guys have gotten a bad rap from our mothers who boiled them and plopped them unappetizing on our plates when we were young. Brussels Spouts are in the Cabbage family but the way they grow is interesting, most people have only seen the end result, in a plastic bag, a bit wilted in the produce section. Did you know they actually grow on the stalk of the plant. In fact you they are good space savers for your garden. You can get a large harvest in a small space. The sprouts grow as buds along the stem that can grow from 2 to 4 foot tall. Image result for brussels sprouts
Image from Mother Earth News
Like other brassiciaceae they grow best in the fall or early spring, frost often sweetens the flavor. Plant late summer, or late winter for a harvest in 90 to 180 days depending on the weather. The entire stalk can be harvested or the buds can be harvested from the bottom to the top over a period of time.

While they can be boiled, roasted or grilled, our favorite is pickled! I'll even share our favorite recipe with the more adventurous, and as a plus it's easy. This recipe calls for water bath processing but there are others that can just be refrigerated.

We start with about two pounds of sprouts, rinse, trim and cut them in half. Then soak them in a bowl of salted water for 15 minutes, while you are gathering your other supplies and heating your jars.

  • Two pounds should make you 5 pint jars, so you'll need 5 jars, lids and rings
  • 5 cups of water
  • 5 cups of white vinegar
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 11/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (to be divided)
  • 7 tablespoons of pickling salt

Drain and Rinse the sprouts well. 
In a large pot bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil, over medium heat until the salt has dissolved. 
Take heated jars out of the canner and add to each jar 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper flakes, and fill each jar with spouts, pack tightly. 
Pour vinegar mixture over the sprouts up to 1/4 of the top, take a knife and run it along the inside of the jars to make sure all air was been expelled.
Wipe the tops of the jars and put on lids and rings. 
Place jars in a canner with at least one inch of water over the top of the jars bring to a boil and process for 10 mins.

Take the jars out of the water and place jars on a towel and cover with a towel to protect from drafts.
Once the jars have cooled, this could take over night or at least several hours, check the tops to make sure that they have sealed.
It's not quite ready yet, you'll need to wait at least another 3 weeks while they sit in a cool dark place.
Once they are ready don't be concerned about the smell when you open them. It's strong but it's normal. Then enjoy, they are great right out of the jar.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge for all kinds of blogs. I'll be back on Monday with "C"! Until then you can find me in the Garden!

Friday, April 1, 2016

A is for Amaranth

Let's start off the A to Z Challenge with a plant that does triple duty in the garden!
Amaranth is a beautiful colored plant that adds great drama to your garden, the young leaves are easily harvested for greens and the seeds can be used as grain. We're planting some this year and I hope you'll give it a try too!

Lots of varieties to pick from with lots of brilliant shades of colors, Burgundy, Green and Orange. The seeds are best for a direct sow method just after the last frost of the season. Most varieties grow quickly, can be very tall, some reaching 6 foot and give a good harvest of grains.

There are many types of plants that fall into this category so if you are growing for the grain make sure that you aren't getting an ornamental variety. We chose two kinds Red Calaloo for the greens and Juana's Orange Amaranth for the grain. Check back later in the summer and I'm hoping to have some impressive pictures of my own.

Orange Amaranth from Baker Seed Company
Juana's Orange Amaranth

As I was researching Amaranth, I was surprised to find out this is considered a weed in many parts of the world and it is closely related to what we call "pigweed" here in the southern US, not something you want in your garden. We are trying to learn more about foraging for "good weeds" and other natural products in our area, so while these might not be native we are glad to be able to share some of that information with you.

Harvesting the seeds is said to be easy, once the plant matures, they are cut and hung to dry, which once dry the seeds will fall onto mats or tarps. The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and have high values of Magnesium and Iron. The leaves are high in Vitamin A and C as well as calcium.

Thanks for stopping by, I'll see you in the garden! Check back tomorrow for something a little more common and I'll have a great recipe for you, Brussel Sprouts.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Growing Sprouts for Chickens

I've kinda dropped out of the blogging world for a bit but I'm heading into April with the best of Intentions. I've decided to do the A to Z blogging Challenge again this year to get myself back into the swing of writing again. I really do enjoy the writing, the challenge as well as meeting new people and find new awesome blogs!

My getting back into it post is one  that has been brewing around for a while. I was supposed to be a February post, back when the chickens didn't have any greens, other than what I was hiding from them in the garden. Sorry girls, it's still off limits but you have other things to keep you busy now.
I was feeling sorry for them since the pickings for fresh greens was a bit slim, oh they were still getting scraps and their favorites but the foraging just wasn't happening. So I decided to create some foraging opportunities for them.

What is a Spout? A sprout is a whole grain or seed that has been grown with just water. Once a seed has been germinated it is considered a sprout until it reaches 4 inches, after that it is considered Fodder, which is a whole nother concept. Obviously they start out the same way but since Fodder grows longer it runs the risk of growing bacteria and therefore it takes a bit more attention and work.

Are there any benefits to sprouting grains over just regular feed?
I think so and some science backs that up. Our Girls are spoiled and can get into trouble during the colder months so a bit of well placed sprouts can entertain them as well as give them something healthy in their diet. It has also been shown that sprouts are easier to digest and that the sprout it's self has beta-carotene as well as more available nutrients  as compared to the unsprouted grain.

What kind of seeds should I use? I've sprouted grains and beans for our consumptions but I wanted to try something that would interest the mini velociraptors we have in the yard. So I did some research and came up with Scratch and Peck Foods . They have a great variety of grains, suitable for sprouting or just scatter feedings. I picked the 3 Grain Scratch. As you can see below it's non-gmo and organic, which are both important to us. This type includes Barley, Wheat and Oats, all great for sprouting. We don't have a local retailer so I ordered mine from Amazon. It's not the only thing out there and you can try a variety of seeds, grains or beans that work great for chickens.

Here's a view of the grains. We'll have enough for sprouting, and treats for a while!

Is it hard or time consuming? Sprouting grains is an easy task, that really only takes minutes a day for great results. So if you've sprouted before or aren't really sure what I'm talking about this will walk you through some of the basic steps to get started growing a great supplement for your poultry

Do I need a bunch of special equipment or a ton of space? Nope, I use a couple of containers I had on hand, but you can use jars, used berry containers or check out some of the serious sprouting options out there. I kept my on my kitchen table, it gets a good amount of sun, but window sills are great places too. The temps should be between 45 and  70 degrees. 

Ready to get started? Good Deal here we go!

1.The first thing is to take your grains/seeds and soak them in clean water for 8 to 24 hours. Make sure the water covers the grain completely. I soak mine overnight. It's the last thing I do and then when I get up they are ready to go.
2. Getting your containers ready, Pick a container with very small holes or poke holes in the container you plan on using. Not too big because you don't want to loose you seeds when you rinse. Any size container will do but I recommend smaller containers just because they are easier to handle, and a small amount of seeds will produce a large amount of sprouts.

3.Drain your grains well and spread them into your container 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.

4. The sprouts will need to be watered and drained completely twice a day for 5 to 6 days. At which time they will be ready to fed to your poultry! I took my containers and put them in a larger container with water, allowed them to sit for a few minutes and they took them out and left then in the sink to drain.

To give you an idea of what you can look forward to, here is a day by look at my efforts!

Day One

Day Two

Day Three- roots are really growing fast!

Day Four- Sprout Side

Day Six - Let the Feast Begin!

I had a few so I strategically placed them around the yard

And the great part is there is no waste! They eat the entire thing!

I hope this encourages you to grow some sprouts for your Flock, I'll be starting another batch this weekend for our newbies, since they are shut in until they get a bit bigger!
Aww aren't they the cutest?

Thanks for stopping by and remember to check out the A to Z Challenge which starts on the 1st! No Fooling here!. I'm going to be talking about a different kind of Fruit,Veggie or Herb everyday. You might just find something you can't wait to try! 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Years Resolutions from the Farm

I'm having a really hard time believing that it is already a new year. Last year really flew by, and I know all about that ugly saying that time flies as you age, I'm doing my best to ignore that!

So to help me get on track for a New Year I thought I would share some of the resolutions from the farm. I hear that if you share them, there is a better chance that you will be able to stay on track.

1. I'll start with the Chickens, They decided that there maybe a couple of people out there that don't realize that they are tough totally free range chickens. They don't need a sissy coop, they are only partially domesticated anyway. So if you'd like to visit them they'll be right here in the magnolia tree,

Unless the weather is bad then we'll just migrate to the carport..

2. We've heard that we are called Easter Eggers so we promise to make every morning as fun as Easter with an egg hunt. We'll make sure to move to an new spot once you find the old one..

3.  The Dogs promise to ramp up the household protection by keeping the strange guy in the jeep away from our mailbox, let you know if a strange cat wanders into the yard, or a leaf might be out of place in the yard. Just one of the three amigos, she looks like a great watch dog..right..

Watching the yard is a tough job.

4. The cats promise to help me get keep my heart rate up by leaving half eaten moles directly on the top step, right where I'll put my barefoot in the morning as I go out to feed them and the chickens.. but hey, can you resist that face..

5.The humans are working on all kinds of things like getting more organized, being a bit more proactive and working on growing  a larger selection of unusual vegetables for the market, like Kohlrabi, Radicchio and Goji berries, (we planted those last fall!)  The catalogs have come in and I'm working on my order! I might have to scout out a bit more garden space..

6. I'm also pledging to explore the idea of using beets and carrots in jams to give it natural sweetness and make them a bit healthier. I'm always looking for ideas for new flavors, so pass your new ideas along!

I hope this finds you having a really great start to 2016! We have so much planned and we can't wait to share it with you. Thanks for stopping by!