vegetables

Cure For Critters

Remember those pesky critters that stole my peanuts as soon as I planted them? I’ve figured out how to prevent them from doing so again. Bird netting supported by wire hoops.

Brussels beneath netting

Wire can be purchased at your local hardware or big box store–I used 9 gauge–and cut to shape with a pair of wire clippers. Length will depend on the size of your beds, but basically you’re looking to form hoops over your rows. Be sure to allow enough space for your plants to grow beneath the bird netting and accommodate your sprinkler system. The wire is flexible and bends easily.

Next up, you’ll need bird netting. It’s sold in rolls and can be found at hardware/big box stores, too. Originally I used my bird netting for my blueberry plants, but now that they’ve bloomed and been harvested, I can use it for the vegetable garden. Wunderbar!! More

Think “OUTside” the Garden

With so many things to do in the garden, it’s a wonder you can plan for tomorrow, let alone next week or month—but you should try.  The payoff will be well worth it.  From fastidious pruning for an increase in yield, to prepping for vegetable storage when your harvest comes in, you’ll want to be ready for the abundance of joy you’re going to reap!

What should you be thinking about when it comes to crafting this marvelous plan?  Why, your kids for one!  Are they weeding?  Digging?  Bug dispatching?  Wonderful!  Reward them with some “down-time” in the garden, as in “no chores.”  You do want them to come back, don’t you?

teacher's gift

We’ve all heard about creating the classic corn husk dolls, but have you considered using those same husks to make mini baskets?  Basket weaving is an excellent exercise for little fingers to practice dexterity—beats the DS hands down—as well as producing a keepsake for their bedroom, or a share for school.

Growing berries?  Perfect!  How about mixing them with a dash of organic sugar and make your own preserves?  They make great teacher gifts.  Speaking of teachers, how about teaching your children the value of seed saving?  When all these vegetables reach maturity, they’ll be chock-full of seeds.   How about collecting them and storing them in your very own seed packets?  (You can find simple how-to templates in the Kid Buzz section here on the website) More

Happy Valentine’s with YOUR Man in the Garden

Have you ever wondered about the similarities between plants and men?  Probably not!  Most sane people don’t.  But me, when I’m not writing, I spend a lot of time in my garden—maybe too much—and my thoughts?  Well, they naturally veer in that direction and I realized men and plants have much in common!

Ever wonder, if your man were a plant, which would he be?  Just for fun, I’ve listed a few.

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for you hardier types!

Peanut - This good ole boy is made of solid stuff, on the inside and the outside, not to mention he’s filled with sweet old-fashioned appeal.  For most ladies, it’s a tough combination to resist.  Add the fact the kids love him and you’ve got yourself a marrying man!

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times.

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Onion – Sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, this notable companion enhances every dish he meets.  But don’t be fooled.  You have to watch yourself around this double-edged treat.  He tends to “age” those around him quicker than most, and will often make you cry.  But if you like a challenge, give him a try.  He will infuse your life with flavor!

Raspberry – Sweet at first sight, this guy may follow up with a tart bite.  He generally likes to be left alone—literally thrives out in the wild of nature.  Ah…an adventurous type yourself, you’ll feel drawn to this bright and colorful character, but be forewarned:  he’s got thorns and lots of them.

Squash – Talk about diversity, this one has it!  From sunny yellow summers to cold and cozy winters, this man will keep you well supplied no matter the season.  The cutest of pumpkins, he’s always welcome during the holidays, and his cousin plays a mean racquet ball—for you sportier types.  But keep him moving; stagnation easily leads to illness with this one.  Rest assured, if variety is your thing, take heart.  This dazzling character can fulfill your desires, tenfold.

Carrots – Bred from firm and solid fiber, these men are steady and strong and always there for you.  Given proper attention, they can also become quite sweet in nature; a true hidden treasure, if ever there was one.  They do need some elbow room, exhibit a bit of thinning at times, but if you’re willing to work for it, this one’s a keeper!

Beets – Down to earth is putting it mildly with this guy—he’s knee deep in it!   Quiet, mellow, well-rounded…  It’s a wonder he doesn’t rank top of the list for every woman in town.  Perhaps he can come on a bit strong, in an easy-going sort of way.  But if you have thick skin and like to keep it real?   This one’s for you. More

Meet My New Best Friend

Hello Milky Spore powder, goodbye grub worm! 

Or so they say, ”they” being a miscellany of organic experts I discovered while surfing the net. :)  It’s an addiction–and one that keeps my garden in tip-top shape.  From garden blogs to garden forums, I’ve learned more than I ever could, if left to my own device–and I share it all with you, here.

So I’ve effectively eliminated my cricket nuisance with my netting solution…

I’ve minimized my snail issue with French marigolds and a sprinkle of natural snail/slug bait…  More

They Make it Look so Easy…

Justin and Eyry have been busy tending their garden, mostly by watching it grow. :)  You remember them, don’t you?  The creative couple with the backyard garden and veggie washing station?  Yes, love that idea.  Well, they are doing quite well, as you can see.

Sugar peas, corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pumpkin, garlic and of course, marigolds.  Now you may think those marigolds are there to make the garden look pretty–which they do–but they serve a dual purpose as insect repellent.  Yep.  Below the ground they ward off pesky nematodes by excreting a chemical toxic to the microscopic pests.  Above ground they’re said to repel squash bugs, tomato hornworms, whiteflies and some beetles.  I do love a multi-tasker! More

What Shape is YOUR Garden In?

Good shape, poor shape, the kids have discovered all kinds of shapes in their garden this week, especially when it comes to leaves.  They’re long, short, ragged, smooth, small, wide, narrow…  Well, you get the idea.  Brussels sprouts tend toward the round side.

Oval with a point as in oregano.  Pepper plants share this shape (but it’s too cold for those at the moment). More

Vegetable Head Wreath

In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to make a head wreath.  Not usually one for trick-or-treating dress-up (I leave this to the experts like my sister), I thought, Why not don a head wreath this evening

I know it’s not much, but it would be something to demonstrate my youthful enthusiasm, my zest for life…wouldn’t it?  Besides, how fun is a homemade head wreath?  And oh so au naturale.

Way fun.  And simple–one of my favorite words in the dictionary!  To make this one, I clipped a rosemary branch, broke it down to smaller sprigs and then interlaced them around each other for a simple head wreath (you can tie the ends to make it easier) and ta-da!  Princessa!

 

But strolling down my rows, I decided I might want something a bit more unique and opted for the sweet potato look.  Green, purple blossoms…

 

Gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous!  It’s different, anyway.  Of course, you can always go with the traditional flower head-gear. 

Never fails to disappoint, does it?  And oh so creative.  What else would you expect from the (crazy) garden lady?  Were you thinking bean wreath?

I tried.  Pitiful failure, if I do say so myself. :)  But it was fun trying and isn’t that what it’s all about?  Happy Halloween!

The Anti-Inflammatory Garden

No, I’m not talking about placing special seats between your raised beds to ease the strain on your achy joints.  Though that would be a nice invention, wouldn’t it?  And while they’re at it, perhaps one of our smart scientist-types could devise some miracle gadget to relieve the stress from my neck and shoulders–especially when I’m staking those gorgeous tomato plants of mine.  Jimney Cricket, my massage therapist is tired of seeing me!

Actually, I’m talking vegetables.  And illness.  More specifically, the relationship between the two.  Over the years, our friendly researchers have been hard at work studying the connection between food and body (not my silly gadgets) and have discovered some interesting correlations.  Seems a diet loaded with inflammatory foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine) coincides with a diet higher in acid-forming foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine).  Notice any similarities? 

Technically, it’s not acid foods that are the problem, but how certain foods affect the pH in your body, ie. do they become acid-forming once ingested.  For example, lemon is an obvious acid, yet once consumed, its effect becomes more alkaline due to your body’s digestive breakdown process. Grapefruits, limes, nectarines, pineapple…they too have an “alkalizing” effect. 

Where should your pH be?  The average is 7.4 making the human body more alkaline by nature.  Imagine if your diet consisted of mainly acid-forming foods.  It’s doesn’t take a calculus whiz (lucky for me) to realize you’re decreasing your body’s natural pH and thus, introducing unhealthy conditions.  How?  Basically, by eating acid-forming foods you’re forcing your body to “work” to neutralize the acidity level and reestablish a healthier more natural pH level; its preferred and optimum performance level.

While no major studies have proven this cause and effect relationship, some test-tube lab results have demonstrated that certain cancer cells grow faster in a more acidic solution.  It’s no coincidence that many a cancer patient has been advised to make sweeping changes to their diet–eliminating processed foods, meats and dairy in favor of fresh leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Is it because their physician believes in the alkaline diet?

Or is it simply common sense food choices they’re after.  Remember, there are ninety-year-olds running around out there who partake in all the no-no foods and have no issues.  Probably because they’re running. (Or gardening!)  But it doesn’t negate the alkaline  premise.   Just because it hasn’t been proven, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

But while the debate continues, it’s up to us to decide.  We decide what goes in (food) and what goes out (activity). If you ask me, moderation is always a good starting point.  And consider the source.  Do you think the pretty pink bon-bon shaped like a heart is best, or the lovely pink beet shaped almost the same is better?   (Hmmm…wish the questions on my final exams in college were this easy.)  Seems to me, the closer my food resembles its natural state the better!

Which is why my family is taking the challenge.  And challenge is no understatement.  While my kids’ friends think I’m some kind of health nut who only eats sticks and leaves, I’m not.  I love sweets–how do you think I knew about pink bon-bons?–adore cheese, crave a juicy cheeseburger now and again and enjoy both wine and coffee.  How should you divide your time between the two? 

For our raw diet challenge, I plan to make a concerted effort to stay on the alkaline/anti-inflammatory side, though most medical authorities recommend a diet of 75-80% alkaline-forming foods.  Whew.  Maybe my organic yogurt is okay…

“Whew” is right. Eating an all raw diet will definitely be a challenge for me.  Sure I’m leaving the door open for my daily dose of dairy in the form of yogurt, but think of what I’m giving up! Focus on what I’m adding

I DO prefer to look for the positive.  Keeps my “happy-attitude-cap” in place.  For those interested in joining the fun and delving into the alkaline-weighted menu–

CAUTION:  depending on which resource you consult, opinion will vary on which foods are the powerhouse alkalizers and which are the worst acid-offenders.  The following list is only meant as a guide and NOT an absolute authority on the subject.  In fact, my personal search found several discrepancies.  Take blueberries–good or bad?  Acid or alkaline?

Do your own research, but know the reviews are mixed at best. 

Alkaline-forming

Vegetables:  spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, cabbage, garlic, avocado, shiitake mushrooms

Fruits:  raisins, lemon, watermelon, nectarine, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, blackberries

Nuts/seeds:  hazelnuts, pumpkin, flax, sunflower

Spices:  turmeric, ginger, chili pepper, cinnamon

Acid-forming

Vegetables:  corn, olives

Fruits:  cranberries, blueberries :(

Nuts:  peanuts, walnuts, cashews

On second thought, perhaps I’ll go 50-50 and split the difference.  One blueberry for me, a cranberry for you.  Trade you a peanut for a dozen sunflower seeds?

Raw Diet–the Possibilites are Endless!

Time to free that body of yours from processed junk and rid your diet of enzyme destruction – yes, the raw challenge is here!  (Well, the menu suggestions are going up.) Challenge begins in 2 weeks.  Are you ready?

How about, “Why bother?”

Theory holds that heating foods to temperatures over 115 - 118 degrees Fahrenheit destroys enzymes necessary for a multitude of chemical processes that keep your body healthy. In fact, humans are the only animals that eat cooked foods.  Duh.  Who let Captain Obvious into the conversation? 

Theory goes further to distinguish between alkalizing foods (leafy green vegetables and fruits) and acidic foods (animal proteins, dairy, processed food and white flour and sugar).  Raw food purists believe that a raw diet keeps the body more alkaline, which allows blood to absorb more oxygen.  We’ll delve deeper into the differences between alkaline and acid foods on Friday’s post, but for now, we’re simply talking raw–for which there is a another difference–vegan (no meat or dairy) and simply raw (uncooked).

Me?  I’m no vegan.  I adore sushi and feel nothing goes better with yogurt than blueberries, so this menu of mine will include fish and dairy options.  Can anyone say ceviche?  One of my favorite words.  Besides, according to the dictionary, raw is defined as uncooked, not refined or processed.  I’d say we’re good to go!

Okay, now that you’re excited and your appetite’s tuned in, what else are we going to eat, besides glorious bowlfulls of sashimi and ceviche?  

Ah…  You’ve come to the right place.  The following is a sample menu offering suggestions for a full week’s worth of meals.  These are all gourmet delicacies in some form or fashion–or someone’s opinion, I should say–and have one thing in common:  they’re delicious!  Taste was an absolute pre-requisite for this undertaking set forth (in stone) by my husband.  And we do want to keep him happy, so after a thorough search of the internet, here’s the list:

Shall we start with dessert?  Always my first choice.  I don’t know about you, but calculating how much room you need to leave for dessert allows for efficient meal management at my house.

Nudie Foodie offers this decadent recipe for Chocolate Mousse and with your eyes closed, you’d never know the difference between this and traditionally made.  She makes a mean Coconut Cream Pie, too.  Uncooking 101 has a list of gorgeous dessert items, like this Swiss Apricot Tart and Caramel Fudge Brownies.  Prefer cookies?  How about taking a look at this Chocolate Chip recipe–it’s totally vegan.  Lemony Cheesecake anyone?  Simple fresh berries and whipped cream are always nice–just keep your cream organic and as natural as possible. 

For dinner, your options are equally tasty.  For easy solutions, salads are obviously your best bet.  No prep, no time, 100% healthy and raw.  But what if your family demands more?  (After you give them the “eye” and mini-lecture about all you do for them), offer some of these delicious alternatives:

Lasagna, Zucchini Alfredo, Eggplant Ravioli, Spinach Manicotti  — Of course I started with Italian because I’m a Venettacci.  While these are somewhat involved, an easier method for achieving the coveted Italian flavor would be to Julienne your zucchini/squash (aka ”raw” pasta) and smother it with a combination of crushed tomato, minced garlic, chopped onion, basil and olive oil. 

Tired of same old-same old?  How about some garden variety pesto?  Traditional pesto is made by combining (grounding to smithereens) basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic cloves, Parmesan and olive oil, but Southern Living magazine offers some wonderful spins on this classic–excellent alternatives for your “pasta” dishes. 

Not a fan of pasta?  Check out these recipes for Meatloaf, Chili and BBQ over at Awesome to be Rawesome!  In addition to these “meat” plates, they have a ton more recipes to choose from.  I do like a smorgasboard of options, don’t you?

Cold soups and salsa are a delightful way to consume your food raw, from my simple cucumber soup to this fancy gazpacho, you’ll enjoy every spoonful.  In fact, I plan to use my Cuisinart every day of this challenge to create carrot soup flavored with turmeric & ginger (discovered my kids like this combination), homemade humus and a spicy red pepper drizzle for my ceviche, compete with fresh avocado sides.   Mmmm…  Add a little black bean & mango salsa and lo and behold–it’s Carribbean night!  Pineapple, papaya…both would make wonderful variations.

I’ll bet you can’t WAIT to begin.  Well  hold on to your hat straps because we haven’t even discussed breakfast–the most important meal of the day!  Which is a tough one for me.  Unfortunately, my children do not eat anything remotely resembling fresh, raw and healthy for breakfast.  While I won’t go into the (embarrassing) details, let’s just put it this way:  this will be a tough sell in my household. 

However, smoothies of all flavors make for the perfect solution.  Blending berries, bananas and yogurt together will provide a healthy start for my kids and I’ve since learned, a great way to hide spinach.  Oh, yes…  If you opt for the darker shade of blueberries, the little ones will scarcely notice the color difference when blended together.  For more morning options, you might be interested in perusing the menu over at The Best of Raw Food.   As for my breakfast, I’ll stick with berries and yogurt topped with a bit of raw granola.

So there you have it.  With a plethora of choice at your keyboard fingertips, there’s NO excuse not to give the raw diet a whirl.  While we’ve offered a few suggestions, the websites above contain so many more delicious and nutritious recipes, you’ll eat to your heart’s content.  You’ll feel magnificent, look magnificent and who knows?  You might even go raw for good. 

Challenge begins June 13th, so get those shopping lists together and scour your local health food stores.  As you may have noticed, some of the “secret” ingredients to divine raw dining may not be available at your regular supermarket. 

Remember:  we want to hear about your experiences as we go raw together–so please, stop back and DO share! :)

The Gals are Making Progress

And couldn’t be more excited.  Can you blame them?  Not with one look at Ashley’s spectacular home garden!

It is lovely, isn’t it?  Lean in closer, and you’ll notice this little gem. 

Squash for everyone!  Not only is Ashley is the generous sort, but it seems to be a natural fit–when you have bounty, you feel like a party.  Forget that the menu will be filled with your favorites–you won’t have to cook!  Instead, eat them fresh from the vine.  Easy and healthier.

Julie is sprouting right along.  Why just look at these carrots. Yes, that’s a dropped squash seed in their midst. It happens. 

Her herb garden is making nice progress.  If you kneel beside the kiddy pool and dip your head near into the dirt, you can see the tiny beginnings on her basil.

And her tomatoes?  Growing strong and full–though don’t forget to pinch!  Those small growths between the main stems are known as suckers, and if you “pinch” them off before they get too big (like this one), your tomato plant will have more energy to direct to the major branches, wasting less on extraneous ones.

Don’t have your own home garden?  How about starting one in celebration of Earth Day.  Can’t think of a better way to pay homage.