The End of Winter’s Kale

Today I harvested the end of winter’s kale from the garden…

20130508_201051I was shocked and impressed with how much I was able to collect (despite today’s rain!)….IMG_20130508_184349 (2)I turned all of the kale into pesto, plus some Kale Pesto White Bean Dip.
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Kale Pesto (adapted from Food Fanatic)

What You Need

  • 7 cups kale (stemmed, washed, and packed)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

What You Do

  1. Remove stems from kale and wash thoroughly. If you are picking the kale from your garden, beware of aphids and aphid eggs on the kale – to clean, wash with hot water!
  2. Add kale to food processor along with the garlic, walnuts and parmesan cheese.
  3. Pulse 5 or 6 times to get everything chopped up.
  4. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the oil while the processor is processing.
  5. If you added ¼ cup of oil, you will end up with thick, spreadable pesto. You can stop here or if you desire a thinner consistency to use the pesto as pasta sauce, continue adding oil (about an additional ¼ cup) until the pesto reaches the consistency you want.
  6. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week (OR you can make the sauce in bulk and freeze it for later).

I am ready for spring and summer vegetables, what about you? 🙂

Spring Garden: After the Rain

I am so happy that I was able to plant so many seeds and seedlings in my home garden last weekend. They are so happy after all this rain (three days in a row, and counting)! Take a look at them this evening…

Happiness!

Microgreens @ home and from the store!

There has been some buzz about microgreens at the USDA and University of Maryland, College Park. Last summer, a new study revealed that microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are harvested less than 14 days after germination. Typically, they are 1-3 inches long and come in a rainbow of colors (which depends on the seed).  And, best of all, they are delicious!

I was thrilled when I found a small tray of locally grown red-radish microgreens in Mom’s Organic Market in Rockville. I was over-the-moon when I found sunflower microgreens at the Mom’s in College Park today. The greens come in a small tray, still in the soil from New Day Farms in Bealeton, Virginia.

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I just harvested a handful of sunflower microgreens for my salad. IMG_0283

I am so inspired by this new product that I decided to give it a try myself. I purchased 1/4 pound of red radish seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. I set up one of my spare tupperware with a small layer of gravel and organic seed-starting potting mix.
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I wet the soil and disinfected the seeds. I then spread the seeds on the soil in the container and misted them with my water-bottle. IMG_0286

I’ll loosely close the top and cover it with a towel until the radishes sprout. Then, I’ll move the sprouts in with my germinating garden seeds. In less than 10 days, I should have home-grown, beautiful and nutritious microgreens.

We’ll see how they compare to the wonderful microgreens from New Day Farms 🙂

We Have Germination!

So far, my experiment has been a wonderful success. After being out of town for the DC Snowquester, I returned to find many of my seeds (planted last weekend) SPROUTED! Take a look:IMG_0287 IMG_0288 IMG_0289 IMG_0290 IMG_0291I moved all the seed-starting trays (and tupperwares) to the sun-room  They are now under three lights to help provide additional warmth and light for the new veggie-life. I have also been keeping up with my new garden journal and added in the dates of germination for the seeds that germinated so far.

It was a beautiful day, and I spent it daydreaming about the garden.

Seed Starting 2013

Yes! March! We are so close to spring, I can taste it in the air. February was a wonderful month to fantasize about spring and everything related to the garden. Rooting DC confirmed that I am ready to get gardening (or at least, garden planning). I attended wonderful workshops about seed-saving (thank you to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), herbal medicine from the home-garden, achieving continuous harvests with succession planting, and growing your own mushrooms!  I was also able to collect free seeds for community gardens at the University of Maryland.

This weekend, I pulled out all my seeds (and bought some new, exciting ones from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), my gardening books, and a lovely new garden-journal a friend gave to me for my birthday, to develop my garden plan and start some seeds inside. With two seeds starting trays and six tupperwares , I started over 30 seed varieties. Vegetables, herbs, and flower! Some highlights include five types of basil, ground cherries, okra, artichoke, and cauliflower. I focused my seed-starting efforts on cool-weather crops (broccoli, lettuce, leeks, etc.) and slower-growing warm weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, cucumbers, etc.). I also started a tray of red-radish microgreens.

I took tupperware from Thai take-out and other unwanted containers, lined them with small gravel, and put in organic  seed-starting mix, and voilà: home-made seed starting kits. I also made every effort to label the seeds  with some duck-tape and sharpie markers. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep track of the seedlings as they grow.

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I’m still planning many different types of seeds to direct-sow in the garden. For spring, I’m planning to direct-sow radishes, peas, beans, spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli-rabe, and other greens.

I was also really happy to pick up a few clay pots and paint them with chalkboard paint – I’m eager to use these for kitchen herbs and label them accordingly. Cute!IMG_0269

 

I cleared out some of the fall/winter crops from the garden that were hurting from the cold weather. I harvested kale, mustard, collards, and broccoli to enjoy this week.

Next item on the garden “to-do” list is a soil test and developing a garden design. I’ve got a fire going, some mint-green tea and all my garden books out — so, I’m ready to go!

Sprouting sprouts @ home

Since I became interested in growing my own food, I have been curious about sprouts. I love them! I buy them all the time. But, until recently I was never able to grow them myself. I worried about e. coli, all the rinsing, getting the right container, etc. Maybe it was laziness, I just don’t know what kept me from just giving it a shot. I’ve been hoarding different types of sprouting seeds and have read plenty of instructions and blog posts about it.

Finally, I’ve sprouted my own sprouts – and I love it.

A new year and it is time to fulfill a resolution from 4 years ago! I purchased a very cool jar from Mom’s Organic Market that has mesh on the top to make it really easy to rinse the sprouts. Equipped with the right container, I overcame another obstacle: disinfecting the seeds. All you need to do is soak the seeds in a 2% bleach solution (ie 1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.

First I tried a “sandwich mix” – but I didn’t like that the different seeds had different sprouting times. My second attempt was with alfalfa sprouts and it was wonderful. I’m also planning on trying broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts, and more! It is so much fun to do and these sprouts are tastier and much cheaper than the ones you can buy in the store.

Here is the step by step process:

Sprouts!

What You Need

  • Jar
  • Seeds (I suggest finding sprouting seeds – I used organic seeds from Botanical Interests)
  • Water
  • Towel (I used this to keep the sprouts from direct sunlight until they sprouted – but not necessary)
What You Do
  1. Measure 1.5 tablespoons of sprouting seeds.
  2. Disinfect your seeds by soaking them in a 2% bleach solution (1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse well!
  4. Fill jar with enough water to cover seeds three times their depth with cool or room temperature water.
  5. Let soak overnight (8-12 hours).
  6. Pour off water and rinse with cool/room temperature water.
  7. Shake the jar gently to spread out the seeds.
  8. Away from direct sunlight (this is where I used by towel), let your jar sit.
  9. Rinse the sprouts 2-3 times a day by filling the jar and draining well.
  10. Harvest your sprouts when they are 1-2 inches long – it usually takes about 4-6 days.
  11. If you let your sprouts drain thoroughly, you can store them in the refrigerator in your produce drawer!

Sprouts

Winter Wonderland in the Garden!

The weather has been crazy. Warm, cold, warm. Through it all. My cool-weather vegetables have been thriving. Of course, I’m not sure how they will rebound from the freezing cold weather this week. But here are some pictures of the broccoli and broccoli-rabe growing in my backyard. Still growing are also kale, collards, radishes, and some of the more hearty herbs.

I was thrilled to harvest the broccoli-rabe and use it in a pasta dish last week. It was amazing!

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Planted Too Many Greens?

I guess I just don’t believe the seed packet: the spacing requirements or the promise that the seeds will germinate and become full-grown plants one day. A friend of mine who was raised on a farm told me that for each plant you want to grow, plant three seeds (one is for the rabbit, one for another pest, and one for you). For each fall-vegetable plant I wanted this season, I planted about 30 (or more). To my amazement, the seeds all germinated and sprouted. I am in awe of this process each time.

Now, my rows of kale, collards, broccoli-rabe, and radishes are coming in way to thick!

After a visit to Willowsford Farm, I was reminded by their beautiful rows of fall vegetables how large these plants get! So, I came home and started the process of thinning.

I’m left with lots and lots of yummy microgreens. Microgreens are also really nutritious – a recent study this summer found that microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

I’m using radish, kale, collard, and brocolli rabe microgreens now in salads and on sandwiches. Take a look at how many I’ve eaten so far.

 

Next time, I’m going to be scaling back on the number of seeds I plant. But, I love the process of thinning these rows now that I know how to enjoy the fruits of my labor with these healthy, little microgreens.

August Home Garden Update

Although the garden at my house was off to a late start this season due to the move, many of the plants are doing well. There are plenty of hot and sweet peppers, squash, and herbs. I’ve even spotted a couple cukes and melons growing.

 

Although these plants are only starting to fruit, my mind is moving on to the next season. I’ve started cabbage, pumpkin, and winter squash seedlings. While I know that it is really too late to start the squash, I thought it might be interesting to give it a try.

The Home Garden Information Center says it’s time to plant cool season vegetable crops like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, kale, mustard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, and beets. I’m looking forward to it!

I found an interesting series that has already started on the subject from the Prior Unity Garden. Anyone else have ideas and resources for fall and winter crops?