Care and Planting of Seedlings

by Engrid WinslowArugula seedlings.

If you purchased seedlings such as vegetables or annual herbs and flowers there are a few things that you have to keep in mind. They are way too tender to be planted outside unless they are “hardened off” and if they came from a nursery or greenhouse that has definitely not happened yet. Here are some guidelines to follow:

• Place them in a spot indoors where they can get at least ten hours of sun or use grow lights to keep them healthy.
• Move them outdoors gradually so they are exposed to sun and wind over a week to ten days (This is what is known as hardening off).
• Start slowly when temperatures are above 60 degrees and only leave them in the sun for 1-2 hours. Then move them into the shade if the temperatures continue to be mild enough.
• Increase the amount of sunshine each day and gradually expose them to more sun in 2-hour increments each day.
• Be aware of the last frost date in your area. Don’t plant until after that date and be prepared to cover them if the weather gets cold and snowy.
• Don’t forget to check your seedlings at least once a day for signs of wilting and water them well. Small pots with new seedlings can get dry very quickly.

 

The Joy of Spinach

by Engrid WinslowSpinach, Organic Bloomsdale

There are two types of spinach available for eating:  flat leaf spinach is a smooth-leaved variety that is usually canned or frozen. Most of what gardeners grow is the sweeter savoy or curly leafed spinach. The leaves are wrinkled and are the ones used in pre-packaged spinach at the grocery store.  It is easy to start from seed, prefers cool temperatures and can be harvested as baby spinach or left to grow larger. There are hybrids that can tolerate more heat and combine the smooth and savoy-type leaf.

Does Spinach have other things going for it? Yes and YES! Spinach is high in carotenoids, which the body can turn into vitamin A. It packs a powerful punch of other vitamins and minerals including vitamins C, B6, B9, K1 and E, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium.  It is also an excellent source of fiber and contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for eye health. Not to mention that spinach contains high amounts of nitrates, which may help regulate blood pressure levels. There are even studies showing that the antioxidants and other compounds in Spinach may suppress the growth of human cancer cells.

Best of all, Spinach is good raw and cooked.  There are so many ways to use it that it is almost miraculous. If someone says they don’t like Spinach, try sneaking it into meatloaf. In fact, Spinach can be “hidden” in soups, stews, scrambled eggs, quiche, lasagna, dips and smoothies.  It can stand alone when creamed, sautéed or made into a salad or swapped out for half of the basil to make a delicious pesto. It plays well with pasta, fruit such as strawberries, and cheese.  Endless possibilities.  Here are two recipes – one for the Spinach “lovers” and one for the (think they are) “haters”.

 

Puglia Sautéed Spinach

This recipe hails from Southern Italy where all manner of greens are very popular.  You can substitute Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards or even Chicory.  You can pile it on top of polenta, sip some Italian White wine, close your eyes and practice your Italian accent.

4 TBL olive oil                                                                     1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic                                                  14 oz. sliced Cremini mushrooms

10 oz. Spinach                                                                    ½ cup Pinot Grigio or other Italian White wine *

Salt and pepper                                                                   2 TBL Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh Italian parsley, Chopped

 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in the oil until they soften and caramelize. Add the mushrooms, and fry for about 3 to 4 minutes. Toss in the spinach, and sauté stirring constantly until spinach is wilted.

Add the vinegar, stirring constantly until it is absorbed, then stir in the white wine. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the wine has almost completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

*(or substitute vegetable or chicken stock, if desired)

 

VEGETABLE FRITTATA

¼ cup olive oil                                                                1 lb. potatoes*, cooked and sliced

1 small onion, very thinly sliced                                  1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1 clove minced garlic                                                      2 cups baby spinach

½ tsp. Salt                                                                        8 eggs, beaten

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper                                        3 TBL cubed butter

2 TBL thinly sliced basil

Turn on broiler. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, pepper, and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Stir in sliced potatoes, the butter, salt, and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

*use any small, waxy fleshed potato – not baking potatoes

 

Square Foot Gardening

by Greta Dupuis

Do you have limited space to grow your vegetables in?  Small yard, only one raised bed, or even just containers on a porch or deck?  Way back when (1981, in fact), PBS ran a series of shows with Mel Bartholomew which showcased how he divided a 12-foot x 12-foot plot of raised or in-ground vegetable gardens into squares. There were many different possibilities for the size of these areas by making some of the squares either larger or smaller but the basic idea was to figure out how much room was needed for each type of plant and to adjust the squares accordingly.  For example, you might want more tomatoes and less lettuce or vice versa and would change the sizes of the squares to your personal preference. Some plants can be planted closer together which results in a more dense area of vegetables that maximizes space. The net result from gardening in this manner showed that the veggies were less expensive, used less water, took up less space, used fewer seeds and required less work on the gardener’s part as the squares were easier to reach and did not need as much weeding.  All in all, for gardeners with limited space, consider dividing your veggie beds into sections with your family’s favorites as you dream of all of those seed choices and plan your 2018 garden. The original book that started the revolution is still in print and there are several others with additional tips and tricks including one just for gardening in containers.

 

PEPPERS STUFFED WITH CORN AND MANCHEGO

From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow

You can use any type of sweet pepper for this recipe but I recommend that they be orange or red for the best flavor. You may have extra stuffing, depending on the size of your peppers.

Serves 4 as main dish or 8 as a side dish

½ cup diced onion
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 ½ cup grated Manchego cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 medium sized sweet red peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 and oil a baking dish that will hold all of your stuffed peppers.
Sauté the onion until soft and then add the corn and garlic. Let cool, then add breadcrumbs, cheese, thyme, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes and rub the peppers with olive oil and place in the baking dish. Fill each half pepper with the corn mixture, pushing gently so the stuffing fills the pepper and stays in place.

Roast the peppers for 25-30 minutes, or until they soften and begin to collapse.

If serving as a main course, add a salad and a slice or two of French bread to round out your meal.

 

 

Pesto Secrets

From the kitchen of Engrid WinslowBasil

Pesto is a “secret summer sauce” because it is so flavorful, adaptable and can be frozen to bring back summer memories during the dark of winter.  Some of the best ways to use pesto are:

  • Tossed into hot or cold pasta, add other veggies, chicken and/or shrimp
  • Folded into scrambled eggs or as a filling for omelets
  • Drizzled over grilled chicken, pork, lamb or fish
  • Smeared onto ricotta-topped, toasted bread
  • Swirled into mashed potatoes
  • Drizzled on salads, roasted or grilled veggies
  • A topping for pizza
  • Spread onto sandwiches

The best tricks for getting the most flavor out of your pesto are: 1) toast nuts in an even layer in a skillet over medium heat or in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (be sure to check often to prevent burning them).  You can keep leftover toasted nuts in the freezer so there are always some on hand.; (2) use a good quality extra virgin olive oil; 3) don’t overprocess the sauce – those flecks of texture are yummy; and 4) grate your cheese fresh by hand each time and mix it in at the end of processing.

Basic Basil Pesto Recipe

1/3 cup olive oil

1 ½ cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup toasted pine nuts

2-4 cloves garlic, peeled

¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese

¼ tsp. kosher salt or fine sea salt

Optional:  2 tsp. lemon juice

Process all but cheese in a food processor, add additional olive oil if a thinner consistency is desired.

Endless variations

Try substituting any of the following for the basil:

Use flavored basil such as Cinnamon (also called Mexican Basil)

1 cup arugula, 1 cup mint

1 ½ cups spinach and ½ cup oregano

2 cups of baby greens, 2 Tbsp. thyme leaves

2 cups of broccoli raab

2 cups parsley (Italian flat leaf works best)

Substitute ½ of the basil with lemon balm

Use any of the following nuts in place of pine nuts:

Pecans (great with Parsley)

Hazelnuts (try with arugula and mint)

Walnuts (good with spinach)

Almonds (good with baby greens)

Swap out the Parmesan for Asiago or Manchego

 

 

 

 

 

FarmHer

By Sandy Swegel

 

OMG, I found the best show to binge watch!  No not a zillion episodes of an old sitcom from my youth. FarmHer is an internet-based show about women farming!  There are beautiful landscapes of Midwestern farms and silly scenes of baby goats climbing all over the farmher.  Farmhers with good topsoil ground into the creases and wrinkles in their hands. Young urban farmhers in crowded cities.  This show is a delight and inspiration to anyone who has dreamed about farming or just growing a few vegetables in their yard.

 

Women have always been hard-working farmers.  No one female or male, old or young, lives on a farm without working…there’s just too much to be done. But women’s importance on the farm has often been hidden.  In my extended family, second cousins had a dairy farm in Wisconsin.  The family joke was that the husband spent all day sitting in the air-conditioned tractor with stereo while the wife grew all the family food, raised the chickens and the children, did all the preserving and the bookkeeping.

 

FarmHer is a nonprofit online community devoted to highlighting women in agriculture and helping them connect to each other and to their communities.  FarmHer especially does this with beautiful photos and video episodes and a blog.  You’ll love watching the dynamos who are growing your food.

 

New episodes come out Friday evenings at 8:30 C on RFD-TV.  https://www.farmher-episodes.com

 

 

 

 

 

Photocredits

https://farmher.com/

 

How to Pick a Pea

By: Sandy Swegel

How to pick which one to grow, that is.

There are so many varieties of peas to choose from….which one shall we grow? Here are three peas with very good reasons to grow them.

For snow peas, the generally accepted superior variety is “Oregon Sugar Pod II.” Research trials have documented that Oregon Sugar Pod producers twice as many snow peas as other cultivars. And there’s a cool reason for that: Oregon Sugar Pods split and produce two peas at every growth node while other snow peas produce just one. And the “II” in Oregon Sugar Pod II? That refers to the fact that this evolution of the pea is disease resistant. So you get lots of peas and no powdery mildew.

Despite the obvious perfection of the Oregon Sugar Pod II, I also like to grow the Dwarf Grey Sugar. They taste about the same to me and I get lots of peas from the Dwarf Grey Sugar, but the real reason to have them is that they have purple flowers. All the other peas have white flowers. More Purple Flowers Please.

Finally, the third pea I’m enamored of is Sugar Ann…an heirloom edible Pod pea. No shucking or shelling…you eat the whole thing…pod and all. They are delicious steamed or sautéed but we rarely eat them that way. Any pea lover will attest: peas taste best fresh picked, while you’re still standing in the garden.

Do you want a secret to more peas in less space? Plant your peas (or thin) a little further apart—4 inches between plants. Research in Oklahoma showed those plants branch more and produce 23% more peas than plants 2 inches apart.

Whatever variety you choose…start them soon. All peas stop producing when the temperatures get up above 75 degrees.

Photo credit:

www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/snowpeas
theenchantedtree.blogspot.com/search?q=Pea
www.thekitchn.com/5-ways-to-eat-sugar-snap-peas-144936

 

CARROT CAKE MUFFINS

Who doesn’t love Carrot Cake? Now you can have a less guilty version (no frosting) for breakfast.Scarlet Nantes Carrot

Carrot Cake Muffins (makes 12)

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

1 3/4 cup regular or gluten-free flour
2/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Dash ground mace
1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease or line muffin tin cups. In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and mace. In another bowl, stir together pineapple, carrots, oil, egg and vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add pineapple mixture and stir just enough to combine.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing muffins from cups. Finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or completely cooled.

These muffins freeze well.

 

 

Three Wild and Spicy reasons to grow Wild Arugula

by Sandy Swegel

Wild arugula is my favorite spring green of the week and this year it’s the first thing I’ve seeded out into the garden during our warm spell.

Similar to regular arugula, wild arugula has a “wilder” taste and thinner leaf.  It looks quite like a mustard weed when young if you aren’t familiar with it.  Definitely a cool season crop as once the temps get to 80 wild arugula can be quite bitter.

It is very easy to grow, as mustards often are, and can handle less than ideal soil and water.  (Watch out…low water makes it even spicier.). I like to plant it somewhere it can establish itself as a perennial that I can just pick a few leaves now and then to add some zest to dinner.  But a Spring garden patch is essential to get cups and cups of the greens to use in making pesto.

 

So here are my three favorite wild and spicy reasons to grow wild arugula.

SPRING SALADS.  Arugula has a nutrient profile similar to other spring tonic herbs like dandelion and nettles, but I like the taste even better for salads or lightly steamed.

 

PESTO.  Wild arugula pesto is an absolute favorite.  Make it with garlic, olive oil, walnuts and Parmesan or goat cheese and you have a fantastic sauce for fettuccine noodles, topping for pizza or spread for appetizers.

POLLINATORS. Naturally, foods that are favorites of pollinators are favorites of mine.  Once summer sets in, wild arugula bolts and sends up tall tiny spiky yellow flowers that pollinators love.  I’ve seen all kinds of bees and butterflies snacking on the wild arugula flowers from summer through late fall.  I also snack on them….I like the flavor of arugula flowers even better than the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits

https://www.dherbs.com/articles/featured-articles/wild-arugula-pesto/

http://honest-food.net/arugula-pesto-recipe-pasta/

Wild Arugula; Delicious Low-Water Beauty

 

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.