spinach

Broccoli Babes

As my peanuts finish out for the season, it’s time to introduce a new crop. To best utilize my garden space, I interplant based on crop rotation rules. Crop rotation is an organic gardening practice where you change the placement of your plants from season to season. Doing so improves the structure and quality of your soil as well as minimizes the risk of disease and pest infestation. I use a rotation of beans-leaves-roots-fruits. Basically, this means that after my “beans” have produced, I plant “leaves.” In this case, beans = peanuts and leaves = broccoli. Peanuts fix nitrogen into the soil and broccoli requires lots of nitrogen to produce big green leaves so this rotation makes good sense.

baby-broccoli-and-mature-peanuts

In between the broccoli sprouts will be spinach. Both love nitrogen and are good companions in the garden. Other crop rotation considerations are how my tomatoes followed peanuts from earlier this season, corn followed my bush beans. These peanuts (shown above) actually followed okra, although I normally try to follow a fruit group, say tomatoes, squash or peppers.

my-fall-garden-2016

Above is my fall garden to date (just prior to the insertion of my tomato stakes and cables). Blueberry bushes are located in the farthest row. Black beans are in the ground next to them. Then there’s my corn, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, broccoli and spinach. Still to come this season are sweet onions and carrots, cabbage and chard. Potatoes will go in around January. Can’t wait!

Low in Iron?

If you’re a vegetarian, the answer might be yes, putting you at risk for anemia, a condition where the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. Symptoms include feeling tired and weak, rapid heartbeat, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, pale skin, leg cramps. Generally speaking, women are more at risk for anemia than men, but take heart. If you’re lacking a proper amount of iron in your diet, the “absorption factor” might be to blame.

Did you know that eating plant sources for iron are more difficult for the body to absorb than meat? They’re considered nonheme iron and not well-absorbed during the digestion process. One way to increase absorption is by consuming excellent sources of iron — like spinach — with foods rich in vitamin C — like strawberries. Eat these two together and you help your body to increase its absorption of iron up to sixfold. Peppers, cooked tomatoes, papaya, kiwi and citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C.

spinach and strawberries

However, while vitamin C helps the body absorb nonheme iron, eating beans, grains and rice will inhibit the absorption. Which makes me sad, because I normally love the addition of chickpeas to my salad (also high in iron), but not if chickpeas work against my nutrition goals. These sources contain a substance called phytic acid which binds to the iron and prevents absorption. Caffeine and calcium-rich foods can also inhibit the absorption of iron. And to think they want us to eat our fortified cereal (great source of nonheme iron) with milk. Hmph.

Chickpea Salad

Another thing to consider when organizing your meal plan is that heme iron increases the absorption of nonheme iron. Add chicken, beef or salmon to that spinach salad and you’re golden.

roasted corn

Other great sources of iron include oysters, clams, chicken liver, beets (and their greens), soybeans, potatoes, black-eyed peas, artichokes and pumpkin seeds. The list continues, but start here and you’ll be on your way to a healthy level of hemoglobin. And don’t forget to power-boost your absorption with the above tips!

Harvesting Lettuce Seeds

From November through April, I don’t buy salad from the grocery store. No need. I get all I need from my garden. I wish I could tell you the same held true for spinach, but in Central Florida, I’m having a tough time growing the greens. Spinach prefers a cooler climate–something I don’t have.

lettuce and scallions

Lettuce doesn’t like the heat much either, but thrives in Florida six months out of the year. I’ll take it. Nothing beats walking to the garden and harvesting fresh greens for a salad.

plentiful kale

I usually grow bibb, arugula, red sail and kale. And when spring rolls around, I’ll allow a few to go to seed and harvest them for next year. Once the plant goes to flower, the blooms will close up and form seeds. To see how it works–watch this quick video.

lettuce going to seed

Sustainable gardening. It’s a gift from nature.

Starting Strong (And Curried!)

Like everyone else, I’m “cleansing” this month. I’ve dropped the libations and decadent sweets–

What? You’re NOT cleansing the body of toxins this month?

Oh, wow, you must be one of those who doesn’t let it slip during the holiday season. You walk by the dessert table without blinking, pass on the wine and champagne, and don’t miss a single day of exercise. Not me. Unfortunately, the dessert table shouts my name as I walk by–occasionally grabbing my arm and chaining me close until I over-indulge. The bottle of bubbly whispers my name, winks, then insists I should celebrate with another glass of its delightful contents! And exercise? Who has the time?! I’m at the mall, at the office, the party–I don’t have time for walking, biking and dancing.

Oh–wait a minute. Dancing? I always have time for dancing! Maybe I DID exercise after all!! **sigh** Guess I fall prey to whim. But it’s probably because I know January will soon roll around, and I can hit the reset button. And have. Just look at this delicious breakfast I prepared this morning!

Curry Spinach Chickpea Egg Scramble

Spinach and chickpeas sautéed in olive oil with a few dashes of garlic and curry powder, plus a healthy dose of pepper. (Sautéed fresh garlic would have worked, too.) Add one egg over easy and you have yourself one healthy meal to start the day. Yum. I could have eaten two servings, but then again, I’m “cleansing” the recent addition of five pounds to my midsection and can’t afford the extra calories. Good thing I still have lunch to look forward to!

I only wish my garden spinach was growing well enough to have included it in the pan, but alas, Florida has been much too hot this winter for spinach. How about you? Any resolutions or dishes you’d like to share?

Breakfast Kale

Looking for a healthy option for breakfast? Look no further because you’ve come to the right place–your garden. My kale is flourishing (despite a few wilting leaves due to the midday Florida sun) and that means it’s time for chowing!

kale in garden

One of my favorite ways to eat kale is sautéed with eggs in a breakfast scramble. Okay, I like this for lunch and dinner, too, but with kids around, we like to keep our food themes “stable.”

“Eggs are for breakfast, Mom. Not dinner.”

This is where I smile and say, “Sure honey, whatever you say.” Eggs and kale ARE perfect for the breakfast plate, and simple. Because everything we do here at BloominThyme is simple, not to mention delicious!

Kale Scramble

healthy kale breakfast2 eggs

12 leaves of kale, torn into large chunks, no stems

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP butter

garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a saucepan on medium heat. When butter is melted, toss in kale leaves and sauté until soft. More

Weeding, anyone?

Kids are busy these days.  Not only after school with their various activities, but during school as well.  From bakes sales to book sales, science projects to theater productions, these kids are occupied and while this is all wonderfully intellectually and emotionally stimulating, sometimes it translates into limited time in the garden.  There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish all we’d like to accomplish.  A familiar concept to most adults I know.

Yet the garden continues to grow — or should I say, the weeds continue their assault.  They don’t hold for busy students and they do need to be pulled.  If they’re not, the lettuce doesn’t stand a chance at reaching full maturity. 

Can you say garden coordinator?

Yep.  Know this going in:  garden volunteers will be required to do more than their fair share on occasion, sometimes due to scheduling conflicts, but sometimes due to necessity.  Little fingers are not as deft when plucking weeds around delicate young plants, not to mention they’re easily distracted by all the new growth exploding around them.  Which we encourage at every stage in the growth process!

But take heart.  Time spent in the garden is never wasted and with the right perspective, can be the most enjoyable time of the day.  Even weeding.

You heard me right.  Alone among verdant green plants, soft morning light and cool luscious temps…is glorious.  Digging through rich black dirt, the faint scent of musty fresh earth clinging to the air, you feel connected to nature, at one with the world.  For those of you whose nostrils are flaring at the mere description, your mind reeling off a thousand things you’d rather be doing, remember:  life is 90% attitude and %10 activity.  No matter what you’re doing, you can either enjoy it, or loathe it — you’re choice.  Like I remind my kids, slip on your “right attitude cap” and let’s get busy!

And better yet, when you’re finished, the sense of reward and accomplishment you’ll feel is worth the effort.  Aaaaah….just look at that sumptuous bed of savory salad waiting to be reaped and devoured.  Sure there’s still a few weeds, no one here is advocating perfection — only production.

My mouth waters just thinking about the fresh wholesome goodness soon to be reaped!  And the students do like their veggies.  Just look at these girls devour their pole beans during snack time — not only healthy, but these kids taste pride and joy in every bite because they had a hand in growing them. 

The sight of young people gorging on greens…  Does it get any better?   Next week:  watch for fresh green peppers to make their debut on the menu!

Broccoli has gone to flower

 

Oh, boy.   Mandie missed the boat on the broccoli.   It bolted to flower. — a definite problem with the heat of Florida.   Broccoli prefers cooler weather — cooler soil, actually — and does not do well in extended warm temperatures.   When it starts to flower, you don’t want to eat it.  It’s basically bitter and tough.  Eck.

The same thing happened to my spinach.  It was moving along quite well until we had a week of warm weather in early April and then — BAM — shoots sprung straight up from the center.  The leaves changed shape and I had to remove the plants from the garden and place them in the compost pile.  At least they’re contributing to future growth if not my dinner plate.

But I guess that’s what they mean when they say “there’s a season for everything.”  You eat strawberries in the spring and spinach in the winter — in Florida.  Some crops like potatoes and onions, etc. can be grown spring and fall, but others like broccoli and spinach simply can’t hack the heat.  Not that I blame them.  Summer is vacation time in my book — vacation time away from the heat! 

But there is good news.  (No, she didn’t get her dirt, yet.)  The carrots are filling in nicely and the tomatoes are growing bushier by the day.  They need trimming and pinching, respectively, but both are doing quite well.

Remember:  when your carrots get to this stage, you want to “trim” them to thin them out.  Basically, the goal is to cut down on overcrowding, allowing each sprout the room to fill out mature into a nice sized carrot. 

If you don’t thin them, your carrots won’t have room to grow and you’ll end up with a bunch of tiny carrots.  Cute, maybe, but not great for eating.

Meanwhile, you should be pinching those tomatoes.  Any shoots that form between the main stems should be “pinched” off so that nutrients can be directed toward the larger stems. 

An overgrown tomato plant may look full and lush, but I’ve found the tomatoes tend to be weaker and more susceptible to disease than when they have strong branches and good air flow.

The healthier your plants, the less likely they are to fall prey to nature’s pests!   It’s one of the hallmarks of organic gardening.   Keep them healthy and strong and you’ll have less need for pesticides.   

In my garden, I noticed a sweet little ladybug had come to feed.  Perfect.   She’s welcome anytime.   Along with her friend the dragonfly.   Both are “natural pesticides” in the garden.   So are spiders, but I find myself stepping on those bad boys.   A habit I’m working to break!

So keep up the good work, Mandie!   Things are looking good!