7 PLANTS TO KEEP THE MOSQUITOS AWAY

by Heather Stone

Purple lavender flowers attracting honey bees.

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

The long, warm days of summer are meant to be enjoyed. Sitting poolside, bar-b-queuing with friends or just relaxing in the garden. But sometimes pesky mosquitoes have a way of taking the fun right out of our outdoor activities. Instead of dousing yourself and your loved ones in chemical bug sprays try planting some of these mosquito repellant plants around your garden and patio to help keep the bugs at bay.

 

  1. Lemongrass- Lemongrass is an ingredient in citronella oil and its strong lemon scent is a proven mosquito repellant. This tropical grass is best grown in pots as an annual or brought indoors during the winter months.
  2. Marigolds- The strongly scented flowers of marigolds repel mosquitos, flies and even rabbits. These beauties come in an array of colors that will brighten up any spot. Keep pots of marigolds near seating areas and doorways to deter mosquitos. In the vegetable garden, marigolds repel many of the insects that attack tomato plants.

    Bright orange marigold bloom.

    photo courtesy of pixabay

  3. Lavender- The aromatic, purple flower spikes of lavender not only repel mosquitoes but moths, flies and fleas too. Use the fresh or dried flowers directly on the skin or dry them and hang them indoors to repel moths and flies inside. Don’t forget, the bees love lavender!
  4. Basil- Who doesn’t enjoy the smell and taste of fresh basil? Mosquitos, it seems. Unlike many of the other mosquito repellant plants, you don’t have to crush the leaves or flowers of basil to receive the mosquito deterring properties.
  5. Catmint- Catnip and many other plants in the mint family are excellent at keeping the mosquitos at bay with their strong scent. Ticks and biting flies also avoid catmint. You can rub the leaves and flowers directly on your skin for added protection. Catmints are easy to grow plants that do well in sunny and dry spots in the garden. The lavender-blue flowers bloom all season and attract a wide array of pollinators.

    Fuzzy green catmint leaves.

    photo courtesy of pixabay.

  6. Rosemary- Cooking out? Toss a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill and let the aromatic smoke drive the mosquitos away.
  7. Peppermint– the strong scent of peppermint deters flies and mosquitos. Keep a few plants in pots on your patio to deter insects and enjoy the fresh leaves in your iced tea.

    Blue flowering rosemary plant.

    Photo courtesy of pixabay.

All these plants deserve a place in your garden or on your patio not just because they deter pesky insects, but for their beauty, fragrance and attractiveness to our pollinator friends.

 

 

Here is a simple herbal bug spray recipe you can make at home using essential oils (“eo”).

  • ½ white hazel
  • ½ cup of water
  • 20 drops Eucalyptus eo
  • 30 drops Citronella eo
  • 10 drops Rosemary eo
  • 20 drops Lavender eo
  • 20 drops Tea tree eo

If you don’t have one of these simply leave it out or substitute with another. A few other essential oils that will work include lemongrass, catnip, clove, mint and geranium.

 

 

 

PRAISE FOR THE LOWLY CABBAGE

by Engrid Winslow

Photo of a growing head of purple cabbage.

photo courtesy of pixabay – angelsover

Pity the lowly cabbage, which doesn’t get the love of its sexier brassica brothers and sisters such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower or kale. But this overlooked vegetable is plentiful and inexpensive at this type of year. Cabbage is also a breeze to grow and does great in cool spring and fall temperatures. They actually taste sweeter when exposed to light frosts as do other cool-season brassicas.

It comes in two types: European and Asian. The European types are white or green cabbage, red cabbage and savoy. The most popular Asian types are bok choy and Napa. Napa is an excellent choice for summer slaw when combined with grated carrots, red bell peppers and simple soy and rice-wine vinegar dressing with a touch of honey. Toss in some peanuts for crunch and/or cooked chicken to make it a complete meal. But today we are focusing on a couple of winter cabbage recipes.

If the taste of cabbage doesn’t convince you then maybe this will: cabbage is full of vitamin K and anthocyanins that help with mental function and concentration. These nutrients also prevent nerve damage, improving your defense against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Red cabbage has the highest amount of these power nutrients. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and copper. Additionally, cabbage is a good source of choline, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin.

This soup is adapted slightly from the wonderful cookbook: Six Seasons – A New Way with vegetables by Joshua McFadden which you might want to add to your cookbook library. https://www.amazon.com/Six-Seasons-New-Way-Vegetables

The red coleslaw is a family Easter favorite that is great as a side with ham and scalloped potatoes.

Two other favorite cookbooks for you to also consider are Brassicas by Laura B. Russell https://www.amazon.com/Brassicas-Healthiest-Vegetables-Cauliflower-Broccoli and The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+book+of+greens+by+jenn+louis&crid

 

COZY CABBAGE and FARRO SOUPFront of the Flat Dutch Cabbage seed packet.

Serves 4

Notes: If you use savoy cabbage it will not take as long as green cabbage once it is added to the pot to steam.

  • 1 pound cabbage, savoy or green
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup uncooked farro
  • About 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Shaved parmesan, to finish
  • Cut out the cabbage core and finely chop it. Cut the leaves into fine shreds or about 1/8-inch ribbons. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage core, some salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften but is not yet browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until the garlic softens too. Add the shredded cabbage leaves and herb sprig. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot and let it steam a bit to soften the leaves, then toss the cabbage to combine with other ingredients. Cook, covered, until the cabbage is very sweet and tender, which may take 30 minutes or as little as 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium and add the uncooked farro. Toast it, stirring, for a few minutes, until half a shade darker.

When the cabbage is ready, stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Add toasted farro and stock. Bring mixture to a low simmer and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until farro is tender and all the flavors are married. The soup will be very thick, but if you’d prefer more liquid, add another 1/2 cup stock. Taste and adjust seasoning again. Stir in lemon juice.

Ladle into bowls and finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of parmesan, with more parmesan passed at the table.

Soup keeps well in the fridge for 3 days and for much longer in the freezer.

 

RED CABBAGE COLESLAWPhoto of the Red Drumhead Cabbage seed packet.

Serves 4

Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh tarragon
  • ½ cup tarragon or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBL honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all in a blender and blend for 1 minute.

Toss with:

  • 1 head shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

The vinaigrette will keep for 5 days and after prepared, the salad will keep for two days in an airtight container.

 

Here is a recipe from our blog “The Dirt” for Spicy Tofu Tacos with Cabbage Slaw from the kitchen of Michael Scott

and more on planting Cabbage and other uses, here.

 

How To Make Easy and Delicious Sauerkraut

Photo of Green Cabbage with white text stating, "How to make delicious sauerkraut".

by Sam Doll

Everybody is fermenting! From deliciously tart Kombucha to mouthwatering sourdough, home-fermented foods are the foodie trend du jour. Fermentation projects can be intimidating though. Many require multiple steps, special equipment, and difficult to find ingredients.

Ready for a step up? Check out our guide to making your own Kombucha at home!

So where should you start their fermentation journey? That’s easy: sauerkraut!

What is Sauerkraut?

Sauerkraut is green cabbage that has undergone lactic acid fermentation. Lactic acid fermentation is when lactobacillus, a beneficial strain of bacterium, metabolizes sugars in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment.

The lactic acid created as a byproduct of this process acts as a preservative and can keep homemade sauerkraut fresh and safe to eat for up to six months.

Dive into fermentation with this list of potential projects

What will you need?

Ok! Enough with mumbo jumbo. The beauty of making sauerkraut is how easy it is! You’ll need three ingredients:

  • One head of Green Cabbage*
  • Kosher Salt
  • Caraway seeds (optional)

* We love the Flat Dutch Green Cabbage for making Sauerkraut. It matures beautifully in cold weather and it is super easy to grow! If you don’t have the time or space to grow your own cabbage, many farmers markets have beautiful, local cabbages late into winter.

That’s it! The best part is that all the equipment required is probably already in your kitchen:

  • Cutting Board
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Mason jars with lids

Great! Let’s move on.

How to make Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is super easy to make, but it takes a little time and elbow grease to make it happen at home. Block off at least 45 minutes to an hour for this project (although you can probably get it done in less than 30 minutes if you are a Sauerkraut making machine).

1.      Sanitize Everything

Since we are fermenting, we are creating an environment that is good for microorganisms to live in. The trick is to make sure we are only getting the good bacteria! The good bacteria that will do all our fermentation are already living on the surface of the cabbage leaves, so we don’t have to worry about them.

For everything else, we want to sanitize our equipment and make sure we are working with clean hands. Sanitize your equipment by running it through a dishwasher or washing it thoroughly in hot, soapy water while making sure to rinse off any soap residue. Wash your hands following these CDC recommendations.

2.      Prepare the Cabbage

Rinse off the cabbage in cold water. Remove the more wilted or damaged outer leaves of the cabbage. Save a couple of these for later. Slice the cabbage into wedges and remove the core.

Then slice the remaining cabbage into whichever shapes you prefer. Ribbons will be the easiest to work with, but diced cabbage or even larger chunks can give your different and versatile textures.

3.      Squeeze the Cabbage

Move the sliced cabbage into a large bowl and add the salt. You want to add about a ½ tbs. of kosher salt for every pound of cabbage. It may not seem like a bunch but remember that you’re trying to create a nice home for the bacteria, not pickle the cabbage. Remember, your homemade sauerkraut will be a lot less salty and acidic than the store-bought stuff.

Now it’s time to get your (washed) hands a little dirty! Grab fistfuls of the cabbage in the bowl and begin massaging and squeezing it. Keep at it for about 10 minutes to get the best results. The cabbage will break down and get limp and watery. This water will be the brine that your cabbage ferments in.

If you like the classic flavor of the caraway seeds, add about 1 tbs now.

4.      Begin the Fermentation

Begin to pack the cabbage into your mason jars. You’ll want jars that you can comfortably fit your hand into because you’ll need to tamp the cabbage down with your fist. This releases more juice and helps remove air bubbles.

Add any liquid released from the cabbage into the jar and place one of the cabbage leaves you saved from earlier on top. This will help keep the cabbage submerged, once more juice has been released. Weigh the cabbage down with clean marbles, stones, or specialty fermentation weights (we just used some thoroughly cleaned river rocks).

Cover the top of the jar with a breathable cheesecloth or towel and secure it with twine or a rubber band. This will allow the sauerkraut to breathe, but keep out dust and bugs.

5.      The first 24 hours

Make sure that your baby sauerkraut is being stored in a dark, cool place. Too much light or heat can cause off flavors and the growth of things that you do not want in your sauerkraut. Every so often, check on the sauerkraut and push it down with a clean hand or jar that’ll fit into the fermentation container. This will release more juice from the cabbage and should end up submerging the solids.

If your cabbage isn’t submerged after 24 hours, make extra brine by dissolving 1 tsp. kosher salt into one cup of water and adding that to your fermentation jar until it is submerged.

6.      The Waiting Game

Store your sauerkraut for 3-10 days, depending on how strong you like the sauerkraut taste. Occasionally, a white film will form on the top. This is a normal part of the fermentation process. Just skim it off and continue.

Sometimes, you’ll even find a little mold on the top of the fermentation jar. Most times, this can be removed without it affecting your sauerkraut. However, if it looks or smells off, don’t be afraid to toss it. Trust your senses.

7.      Time to eat!

Once you have your sauerkraut to where you like it, you can go ahead an enjoy it! If you’re not ready to eat right then, seal the jar with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to 6 months.

If you want to store it longer than 6 months, you can go through the canning process. Follow the directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Grow. Enjoy. Share…the beauty and the bounty!

 

HERBAL SALVE FOR YOUR BEST FRIENDS PAWS

Close of of furry dog face.

Photo of Cute fluffy dog compliments of M. Cosselman.

By Engrid Winslow

It’s clearly winter and we can tell because our skin gets drier and we use more lotions and balms to combat dry, chapped skin. But what about your dog? Winter means cold, ice and salted roads, all of which can dry out your furry friends’ paws. Did you know that there are herbs which are particularly healing for dogs and can be mixed into a salve? Here are a few ideas and the master recipe for turning them into a creamy topical application for your dog. If you didn’t save any of these from last year’s herb garden or have never grown them, this will give you some ideas for the next growing season. Also, there are herbal apothecaries in many towns or you can order the ingredients from https://www.rebeccasherbs.com/. You should gently massage the salve into the skin before your dog spends long periods outside. Also, these are safe on humans as well as dogs so when you apply it to your dog’s paw pads, you will get the benefit too.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers are antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial and very healing. It is ideal for treating all skin irritations and wounds for humans and dogs. It can, however, be potentially toxic to cats, so refrain from sharing it with feline house members.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile) flowers don’t just make a calming tea. It is also antibacterial and can help soothe irritated skin. Occasionally, a dog will have an allergic reaction so proceed with caution to be sure your pet is not one of those unlucky few.

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) leaves, stems and flowers is a versatile herb for cooking as well as having anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. It works well in treating abrasions and is antifungal.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) leaves or flowers have both cleansing and antiseptic properties and are very healing. It is also a very safe herb as long as you take care for to use Artemisia (Artemisia spp.) sages.

Slippery Elm’s (Ulmus fulva) inner bark is healing for topical wounds and soothes irritation. Rarely, a dog will have an allergic reaction so, once again, be in-tune with your dog and watch for any signs of itching sneezing or other allergy symptoms.

MASTER SALVE RECIPE

5 oz. coconut oil

3 ½ oz. powdered or finely ground herb from the list above

4 oz. beeswax

Heat the coconut oil and herb in the top part of a double boiler and let the water boil for 1 ½ hours to infuse the herb.

Strain the herb out of the oil with cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Return to oil to the double boiler and add the beeswax. Heat over boiling water, stir frequently until the wax is melted and thoroughly combined.

Pour into small jars and allow to cool, then seal.  If stored in the refrigerator, the salve will keep for at least two years.

 

 

Preserving Foods

by Rebecca Hansen

Now that so many of us have all tried our hands at the new Victory Gardens and are getting back to our roots in our community’s Grow Local movements and with the flow of garden produce increasing each minute, and we have donated to the local Community Food Share programs, we are beginning to be mildly panicked at the thought of all of that work going to waste solely because we can’t use it fast enough.  With our neighbors slamming their doors when they see us heading their way with an armload of our best organically grown zucchinis we find ourselves wishing the bounty could be spread out over the year and last well beyond the late summer flush.  More and more people are turning to home food preservation as a way to keep the bounty of their hard-earned, organic, heirloom, non-genetically modified gardens coming.

Now is the time to start your research, before the tidal wave of tomatoes sweeps you away. The number of food preservation methods is exciting and a bit daunting.  Drying foods is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. Also, canning, freezing, pickling, curing and smoking, and fermenting are ways to keep your pantry full during the winter. What could be more fulfilling than pulling out a sparkling jar of homemade salsa when the snowflakes are flying to bring back warm memories of those beautiful heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine?  CSU Extension has a couple of great publications on how to dry vegetables and fruits with all that you need to know about nutritional values, methods and safety precautions.

Also in the extension’s Nutrition, Health and Food Safety publications, are fact sheets on smoking and curing meats and making pickles and sauerkraut and preserving without sugar or salt for special diets.  Check out the one on safe practices for community gardens for tips on ensuring safe food for all gardeners.

With all of our efforts to ensure that we each have gotten the most nutritious value from our fresh produce, it would be prudent to search for the newest scientific research into home preservation methods.  We want to eat healthy fruits and vegetables even when they are not in season.  The USDA encourages us to use safe canning methods. Scientific developments have changed recommendations over time. Always use up-to-date methods and do not just rely on the practices of past generations.  A great place to start is by exploring the National Center for Home Food Preservation website from the University of Georgia.

Publications and resources are available at the center’s website with useful tips for proper preservation techniques.  Also, not to be missed is an awesome, free, online self-study course called;

Preserving homegrown food can be an economical and fulfilling way to enjoy quality, nutritional food from your garden all year long.  So when your heirloom tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers, beans, garlic, beets, and turnips cover every surface in your home and garage and the refrigerator is brimming with more fragile produce, you will be fortified with the knowledge necessary to safely preserve the bounty for the time when the snowflakes will inevitably fly.

 

 

A TRIO OF WINTER SOUPS

Image of a cauldron of bubbling soup over a fire.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

Maybe you have figured out by now that I have a long-standing love affair with all things Italian? No, well then, here I am giving you a trio of Italian soups. The first one hails from Emelia Romagna and the next is from Umbria followed by a traditional Tuscan bean soup. By the way, a great source for traditional Italian foods of all types, including beans, check out www.Gustiamo.com. If you prefer to stay in the USA, www.ranchogordo.com is also a wonderful source for heirloom beans and grains. Both websites have wonderful recipes as well. All of the recipes serve 4-6 people with some leftovers.

 

Sausage and Lentil Soup

  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 3 Tbsp of Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 Cup Chicken stock or water
  • 850 grams (1 large can) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups lentils (the tiny Italian ones, called Lenticchini, are preferred)
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian Sausage
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Cooking the Lentils:

Wash the lentils in a strainer. In a large pot (big enough to hold cooked lentils, sausage and sauce), cover the lentils with 1.5 inches or 2 fingers worth of water. Cook the lentils over medium-high heat until the water boils and then decrease flame to low and cover the lentils. Stir occasionally and add more water as needed until the lentils are soft ((about 45 min).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Make the “Soffritto”:

Grate the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Add olive oil to a deep frying pan (big enough to hold the vegetables and sausage) and place over medium-low heat. Add the grated vegetables to the frying pan and let reduce, occasionally stirring until soft (10-15 min).

 

Combine the Ingredients:

While the soffritto is developing, remove the casing from the sausage and mash flat using the back of a spoon or your hands. Once the vegetables have turned a golden hue and the onions are translucent, add the mashed sausage. Once the sausage has browned add the tomato paste, 1/3 cup of water or stock and stir. Puree the whole peeled tomatoes and, after the sausage mixture has cooked for ten minutes, pour in the tomatoes and stir. Allow it to simmer for 25 min, covered on medium-low heat. Add the lentils and season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

Umbrian Farro Soup

 

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery, medium chop
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 minced cloves garlic2 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 21/2 cups tomato sauce (canned or homemade)
  • 3 cups cooked farro, cooked al dente
  • 1 quart beef stock (use vegetable stock if desired for vegetarian version

Directions

  1. Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots until translucent.
  2. Heat 1 cup of the beef stock and add the porcini to reconstitute.
  3. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend about 3/4 of the vegetables, the garlic, 1 cup of the cooked farro, and all of the porcini and liquid until smooth.
  4. Add back to the pot and add the remaining farro, vegetables and stock. Add 2 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. Season and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and parmegiano reggiano (optional)

 

Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

 (Zuppa Frantoiana)

 

 

  • 1 finely chopped carrot
  • 1 stick finely chopped celery
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • 1 14 ounce can (400 grams) of cooked Borlotti (cranberry) beans (you can also use cannellini beans or chickpeas)
  • 1 cup of pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 small bunch of cavolo nero (Also known as Dinosaur or Tuscan) kale (you could use Swiss chard, beet greens, collards or spinach instead)
  • 4 cups of water or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Gently cook the carrot, celery and onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a good pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat. Let the vegetables sweat, not color, for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the borlotti beans with about a cup of water (enough to cover) and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes. Blend about half of the mixture to a smooth paste and return to the pot.

In the meantime, prepare the cavolo nero kale by slicing out the long, central stalk of the leaves and discarding and chop just the leaves roughly.

Add the pumpkin, potatoes and cavolo nero (if using silverbeet or spinach hold onto it until a few minutes towards the end of cooking) and top with enough water or stock to cover (up to 4 cups or 1 liter) and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, over an active simmer so that the liquid reduces slightly and the vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning.

Serve with a good grinding of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

 

 

Elderberry Syrup in 7 Easy Steps 

by Heather Stone  

Photo courtesy of Pixabay – RitaE

Cold and flu season is upon us and there are a host of great herbs that can help prevent us from catching a nasty bug or can help ease the symptoms if we do fall ill. Elderberries are one of them. Elderberries are an immune stimulant. They have long been used in the early stages of colds, coughs and flu. In this post, I will take you through the 7 easy steps to make elderberry syrup.

 

You can use dried, fresh or frozen elderberries to make your syrup. I sometimes like to add a few other herbs to enhance flavor and function, such as orange peel, cinnamon, or ginger. Elderberry syrup can be rather pricey in the store so making your own can save you money. I like to use elderberry syrup as a preventative measure. In my family, we begin taking our daily dose of syrup at the beginning of cold and flu season around mid-November and continue through the winter months.

Here’s what you will need-

1 cup fresh or frozen elderberries or ½ cup dried elderberries

3 cups water

1 cup honey

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)

 

Let’s get started!

 

  1. Place your berries & herbs in cold water in a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil and then allow to gently simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Mash the berries and let the mixture cool slightly.
  4. Strain your herb/berry mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Make sure to squeeze

out all the juice.

  1. Add your honey to the mixture and gently warm (do not boil) stirring to incorporate the

honey.

  1. Let your mixture cool.
  2. Once cool, place your syrup in sterilized bottles and keep them in the fridge.