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Sydney Jordan Brown

Radishcal Choice

By Beet 2023 09 September

Raphanus sativus, radish (from the Latin word “radix”, meaning root), specifically the winter radish, is sure to spice up your cold weather recipes.

Although the radish’s origin isn’t exact, it has a heated history.  Ancient literary and archeological evidence points to China as this spicy root’s origin.  However, given the diversity of types, some believe radishes were first cultivated between the Mediterranean and Caspian Sea. This could explain the differences between winter and spring radishes.  While spring radishes trace back to European cultivation, winter radishes have Asian lineages. The Black Spanish radish, a winter variety, is the exception, originating from what is now Syria.

Radishes were valuable seed crops in Egypt 4000 years ago. Roots and leaves were consumed; seeds were put inside Egyptian tombs. Roots may even have been used for currency, along with garlic and onions.

One of the first European crops introduced to the US via Mexico in the early 1500s, radishes were valued for hardiness and storability. They were essential to the colonists’ winter survival and served as valuable fodder crops for livestock.

Why sow winter radishes?

In China, sweet winter radishes are prized as fruit substitutes – two varieties are the green-tipped Shawo that sweetens after frost exposure, and Red Beauty. Winter radishes have many attributes beyond their spring cousins, including expanding varieties and extending the season to enjoy them.  Properly stored, winter radishes can keep for months in the fridge, or in the ground if winters are mild, until a ravenous gardener gleans them from garden to the table…unless indulging before they get there! Sweet and mild winter radishes are delicious. They spice up salads, add texture and zest to soups.  Enjoy them sautéed, stir fried or roasted, grilled to a caramelized sweetness, pickled, or dried.

Looking for “clearing your sinuses” heat? Substitute Japanese wasabi radishes for wasabi roots. They’re also way easier to grow. Radish roots and leaves offer rich sources of ascorbic acid, folic acid, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium.

Need a plant companion?  Cucumbers, carrots, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, lettuce, nasturtiums, pumpkins, turnips and peas love radishes for neighbors.  (However, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, summer savory and grape hyssop hate them.)

Winter varieties also come in a wide range of large shapes, from baseball sized to 60-pound sluggers!  In 1921, the Oriental Seed Company of San Francisco catalog boasted a single Sakurajima could feed a family of 5!

Winter radishes are best sown in mid-August to early September, ½” deep with rows 6-8” apart, in moderately fertile soil. Use lightly amended soil with well-rotted compost, as too much makes for too many leaves and stunted roots. After covering the seeds, lightly tamp down and generously moisten.  Expect sprouting in a week or less.  Once sprouted, thin seedlings to 6-8” apart.  The key to success is to keep them consistently moist and weeded. Winter radishes can take up to two months to be ready for harvesting, but winter in the ground until ready to use. They’re easily tugged from moistened, not dry, soil.

Interesting Fact: Every December 23, thousands attend Mexico’s annual unique and whimsical “La Noche de Rabanos” or “Night of the Radishes Festival.” Amateur and professional artists carve radishes into myriads of shapes, including wildlife, people and architecture. Displays of the nativity scene pay tribute as well showcasing the winter radish as a “true work of art.”

So, make a Radishcal choice! Spice it up with some winter-sown radishes.



Roasted Winter Radishes

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line a low sided baking pan with heavy foil.


6-8 winter radishes (Red Meat, Black Spanish)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced fine or pressed

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary minced

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1/3 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Trader Joes Quatro Formaggio


Slice off tips and tops from radishes. Cut each into 8 wedges.  Place radish wedges in a zip-type bag with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt. Close bag and turn over several times until the wedges are coated.  Place wedges on a baking pan and bake for about 40 minutes until golden.  Remove from oven to a heat proof bowl.  Add cheese and honey. Toss until coated. Serve hot. Makes about 6 servings as a side dish.



Rare Seeds

Terroir Seeds

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

They have Round Black Spanish; Chinese Shawg Fruit; Chinese Red Meat; Sakurajima Giant, Japanese Wasabi and Japanese Daikon.



A Cot Above

By Beet 2023 08 August

With each season we’re blessed with some of God’s most incredible and delicious fruits. There’s nothing comparable to Prunus armeniaca, the apricot, with flavors unmatched by any other fruit.

Apricots were domesticated as early as 2000 BC in Central Asia and China. Archaeological evidence also shows them in ancient Armenia. Alexander the Great is said to have introduced them to Greece. They were later introduced to the Romans. It’s believed apricot trees were introduced to the New World by Spanish missionaries in California in the early 18th century. Early French explorers brought them to the eastern US in the 1700’s.

While the apricot’s cultivation likely spread because of its taste, more recently it has been consumed for its bounty of health benefits. These nifty little easily-eaten-out-of-hand fruits are loaded with generous amounts of vitamin A and C, B1, B2, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron, as well as fiber. Who says healthy food must taste bad?

The best fruits are of course from your own tree ripened to their most succulent sweetness. Aside from savoring them fresh, they’re also great frozen, canned, dried, or made into jam. Commercially, they’re also used for making liqueurs.  There’s even a National Apricot Day every January 9th!

Today’s apricots are cultivated on every continent in the world except Antarctica. In the US, most commercially grown apricots are grown in California, Washington, and Indiana, but home gardeners can cultivate them in Oregon as well.  The main secret to success is selecting the appropriate variety.

No matter the variety, apricot trees can top 45’. However, they can be kept at 10’-12’ with annual pruning.  They’re broadly spreading with ovate bright-green leaves and lovely pink flowers that appear in spring. Most are self-fertile, but some aren’t and require a pollinating partner.

They’re also very long-lived generous producers (usually at 2-3 years of age) of velvety golden-to-deep orange, slightly tart, perfumy-sweet fruits that nearly melt in the mouth.  Like peaches and plums, they contain a single seed (kernel).  (Note: While many claim that consuming apricot kernels can fight cancer, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. DON’T consume the apricot kernel. It contains a chemical called amygdalin, which the body turns into cyanide. Eating apricot kernels is unsafe, especially when eaten in large amounts.)

While hardy in zones 4-9, the challenge in our area is spring frost.  Selecting late-blooming, disease- resistant varieties is most important.

Eight hours of sun is needed for good fruiting.  Apricots tolerate a variety of soils if they’re well drained. They’re too large for growing in a container. Water deeply (1’ per week over the root zone) by drip irrigation, mulching generously to retain moisture.

Fertilize with generous amounts of well-rotted compost. Spray with copper fungicide in spring and apply foliar micronutrients to aid the immune system.

Although a little challenging, there’s nothing like harvesting your own fruits that are sure to be a “cot” above the rest.



Ty Ty Nursery

Encyclopedia Britannica

Harvest Time Foods

Raintree Nursery

National Today



Sources for apricot trees:

Varieties to look for:  Harglow; Zard; Puget Gold; Wenatchee Moorpark

One Green World

Raintree Nursery*

Shooting Star Nursery



Fresh Apricot Crisp

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease an 8×8” square baking pan with oil.


6 cups fresh apricots, washed, pitted and cut in lengthwise wedges (about 6 per fruit)

1 tablespoon tapioca starch

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg

½ cup organic honey or pure maple syrup or organic sugar

zest of one organic lemon and 1 tablespoon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, stirring gently until the fruit is coated.  Spoon into the prepared pan.



1 cup organic thick rolled oats

1/3 cup organic oat flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons olive oil

zest of one organic lemon

¼ cup pure maple syrup, organic honey, or organic brown sugar

Mix together the topping ingredients until blended and clumps form. Crumble topping over apricots in the pan.

Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or vanilla Greek yogurt.

Makes 6-8 servings.


Dazzle Them!

By Beet 2023 07 July

Dazzle them with basil!

Whether you call it sweet, Thai or Holy, Ocimum basilicum is one of the most frequently used culinary herbs in the world.  From savories and salads to pasta dishes and dessert, basil rules the kitchen!

Basil belongs to the square stemmed Lamiaceae (mint) family, along with other culinary herbs such as

lavender, rosemary, and sage.

Basil’s history is long and flavorful.  It has been cultivated for more than 5000 years and likely originated in India. Primarily a culinary herb, basil’s history is also rich with other usages. It has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, likely for embalming and preserving mummies.  This embalming quality may have led to its symbolizing mourning in Greece.

Jewish folklore believed it added strength when fasting.  In Portugal, plants were part of gifts to lovers or for certain holidays.  Today however, it remains the reining herb for flavoring food.  It also fragrances perfumes, incense, soaps, candles, and herbal holistic remedies.

It’s a delightful plant with glossy, oval-shaped leaves that are often cupped. Leaf edges can be smooth or finely toothed.  Leaves are born oppositely on square stems that eventually flower into terminal clusters ranging from white to magenta.

Basil has several varieties, including the common small-leaf, Italian leaf, lettuce leaf, Thai, holy, lemon, lime, cinnamon, and several reds.

Its aroma is quite fragrant with hints of anise and cinnamon, and it is mildly pungent – except lemon and lime basil, which are pleasingly citrusy.

Primarily used fresh, basil can also be dried – but is more flavorful if pureed and frozen.  Although renowned for making primo pesto, it perfumes pastas, salads, sauces, savories and dazzles desserts!

Its compounds and essential oils also possess antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Many of the helpful compounds mostly disappear when basil is dried, so use fresh basil when possible.  Such a marvel to have an aromatically addictive flavor that truly makes the medicine go delightfully down!

Cultivating basil is also addictively easy.  Sowing indoors is most successful, since newly sprouted, succulent seedlings planted outside will usually succumb to eager-to-indulge midnight diners.

Since basil is extremely sensitive to cold (young plants can succumb in 45-50°; the author can attest to that), start seeds in late May through early June.

Sow seeds atop moistened sterile seed mix in 4” squares.  Sprinkle on more moistened mix to barely cover seeds and water to dampen thoroughly.  Cover flats with plastic domes, then place in an area that’s around 70°.

Once seeds sprout in 2-5 days, keep beneath a light source.  When true leaves appear, plant in six-packs protected inside until lowest temps are 55° or warmer.

Basil thrives in full sun in well-amended ground, raised beds or pots.  Keep it well watered.  If you’re planning to harvest your crop, don’t forget to distract those undesirable midnight diners whose meal du jour is your delectable basil. Slug/snail/earwig baits that are non-toxic to pets include: Escargo (Gardens Alive), Monterey Sluggo, Garden Safe (Grange, Amazon), or set up the beer bar in a bowl for a real party pleaser!

When about 6” high, continually clip the leaves and tender stems to keep you in basil bliss for the season. If allowed to bloom, the plants will toughen and harvests will be shorter.

There’s nothing like your own fresh citrus-flavored pesto and pizza, salads or grilled poultry or seafood topped with basil leaves or basil infused desserts.  So, get to it and dazzle them with fresh basil!





The Spruce Eats

Homes and Gardens

NOURISH by WebMD,and%20blood%20vessels%20to%20relax.


Seed Sources:

Pine Tree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek

Territorial Seeds


Recipe:  Citrusy Basil Rub

Lemon and/or lime basil leaves and tender stems, minced to make 1 cup

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

6 cloves of organic garlic, peeled and pressed or minced fine

zest and peel of one organic lime

½ cup extra virgin olive oil


Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then store in glass jar.  It can be used to rub on poultry and seafood 24 hrs. before grilling; added to cider or white wine vinegar to make vinaigrette; or add a tablespoon to sauce or yogurt for dip or topping for grilled seafood or poultry.

Keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks or freezes for longer storage.













Sticks and Stones…

By Beet 2023 06 June

While sticks and stones may break our bones, Glycine max, may strengthen them.

Edamame (derived from the Japanese words eda, meaning “stems or branches,” and mame, meaning “beans”) soybeans belong to the Fabaceae family. The name “edamame” roughly translates to “beans on branches” since the entire plants are harvested with immature pods intact.

In China they’re also known as Mao Dou, meaning “fur peas” because of their fuzzy pods. 

Immature edamame soybeans have been consumed for thousands of years (native to China, later introduced to Japan around 1400 BC) as a protein-rich vegetable food source.

In Japan, edamame is commonly served with beer, like serving beer and peanuts here in the states. Although never proven, edamame was rumored to prevent hangovers because it contains the amino acid methionine. It has been a longtime meat alternative in Asian regions. It wasn’t until the 1980s — after Shogun (a popular 1960’s TV miniseries) – depicted it with beer and saki — that edamame became popular in the US.  We didn’t know what we were missing.

We’re fortunate edamame came to the US. It is a complete-protein vegetable, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and iron. The FDA has endorsed its many health benefits, including lowering blood cholesterol, reducing coronary disease, diabetes and more.

Aside from its incredible health benefits, edamame’s taste is delightfully addictive. Their flavor is enhanced by “umami”, often called the “fifth taste” (the others are sweet, sour, salty and bitter).  Umami has a long-lasting, tongue-coating, meaty taste that often causes salivation.  There’s nothing quite like edamame.

Although its flavor is stronger in soy-based fermented foods such as miso, tempe, shoyu and natto, properly prepared edamame has the same chewy (al dente) quality.

So why cultivate them?  Although readily available frozen, you’ll rarely find them fresh.  There’s nothing tastier than those harvested from your own garden.

Edamame plants grow 1’ to 3’ high and generally do not require staking. As with most legumes, they’re also supreme nitrogen fixers for feeding the soil.

Sow indoors (one seed per cell in six packs filled with moistened potting soil) to get a head start on harvestable crops.  Since day length is critical to flowering and production of beans, select varieties with a shorter length of time to maturity.

Once sprouted in about 1 to 2 weeks, leave seedlings beneath lights until frost danger has passed. Acclimate for about a week outdoors before you plant them about 6” apart in rows 12” apart. Mulch generously and water regularly as they’re not drought tolerant.

After 3” to 5” furry pods fill out with 2 to 3 plump beans in late summer, it’s time to harvest them before the beans mature and get tough. This can be achieved two ways:  Pull out the entire plant which will feed you with its beans or cut plant stems at the soil’s surface so white nitrogen-fixing root-nodules can nourish the soil.

Once your “beans on branches” are harvested, remove the pods to dump in simmering water or steam them for 5 to 8 minutes.  Squeeze pods to release beans that are ready to pop in your mouth.  Delicious!  So why not start some soon?



Encyclopedia Britannica

Specialty Produce

Old Farmer’s Almanac


Seed Sources:

Victory Seed Company

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

All have short season edamame seed including Tankuro, and Envy.



Edamame Hummus

1 cup cooked edamame soybeans

2/3 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed

8 oz organic tofu (firm style)

4 large cloves garlic, peeled

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice and zest from one organic lime

1 teaspoon green Tabasco sauce

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process by pulsing on and off.  Use spatula to push mixture down then continue pulsing until mixture is pureed.

Makes about 2 cups

Keep in refrigerator for about 1 week.  Great on tortilla chips, crackers, bread, sandwich or wrap filling, topping for eggs, and fish.



Edamame in their pods can be refrigerated for 2 wks.  For longer storage, boil or steam, pop from pods and freeze.




What’s in a Name?

By Beet 2023 05 May


That which we call Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem artichoke, by any other name still tastes sweet.

Whether called Jerusalem artichoke (no relation to Jerusalem or artichokes), sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple, French or Canadian topinambour, or lambchoke – it’s all one and the same.     

Although it’s uncertain, “Jerusalem” may be a corruption of “girasole” (Italian for sunflower), as called by Italian settlers in the US.  Or possibly the name originated from the Puritans, after the “New Jerusalem” they were creating in the new world wilderness.

The artichoke part of the name may come from the Arabic al-khurshuf (thistle), and likely refers to how its foliage appears above-ground.

Helianthus tuberosus’ most widely used name today is “sunchoke.” This name was invented in the 1960s by Frieda Caplan, who was trying to revive the plant’s appeal. This delicious perennial tuber, a member of the Asteraceae family, is native to central North America. It can readily expand its range, and is now considered an introduced species in eastern and western North America.

Sunchokes were first cultivated by Native Americans long before Europeans arrived. They were encountered by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585 in what’s now the state of Virginia.  In the 1600s, Samuel de Champlain brought to France tubers cultivated by the indigenous people of Nauset Harbor, MA. A Dutch botanist, Petrus Hondius, found that the tubers grew so well that they easily naturalized in European climates. Their popularity peaked in the early 1800s when they were regularly consumed by humans and livestock. They were listed “best soup vegetable” at the 2002 Nice Festival for the Heritage of French Cuisine.

Although early Native Americans cultivated sunchokes, they never became popular with European settlers.  Perhaps tales that they caused leprosy due to shapes resembling disfigured fingers, or their extensive use during WWII , associated them with difficult times and led to their unpopularity.

Sunchokes store their carbohydrates as inulin (not to be confused with insulin). This dietary fiber is used commercially in food manufacturing. Sunchokes are also high in potassium, iron, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper. They’re recommended as potato substitutes for diabetics. The tubers can be fermented and distilled into a variety of alcoholic spirits.

With over 200 varieties currently available, you can certainly dine upon them with delight. Their slightly sweet-nutty flavor is similar to the taste of water chestnuts and jicima.

They’re crisply crunchy when consumed raw – whether sliced, shredded or chopped for salads.  They brown easily when cut, so should be put in water with a small amount of lemon or lime juice, or vinegar until serving or cooking.  Cooked, they’re best steamed, roasted or baked alone or in casseroles and alongside meats.  If boiled, they become gooey. They can also be pickled or made into wine.

Although preferring alkaline conditions (pH 6.5), tubers grow in most soils as long as they’re well drained.  Amend with compost before planting.

Plant tubers, (you’ll need only a few as each one can make 20 more) 4-6” deep and 12-18” apart. Keep well-watered and earth up around the stalks.

Pruning stalks back to 4’ (untended they can reach 10’) encourages more compact growth and discourages flowering so plants concentrate energy to growing bigger tubers.

Once plants start dying back in autumn, you can dig and dine or leave the tubers in the ground and remove as needed.


No need to purchase new,

If you leave a tuber or two,

You’ll have plenty next year to chew.


Whatever its name, this tuber deserves a place in your garden, and your menu, to stake its claim.


Facts Resources:


The Spruce Eats



Tuber sources:

Jung Seed


Gardens Alive

You can also purchase tubers at farmers markets or from the organic section of markets and plant them.



Roasted Sunchokes

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cover large low-sided baking pan with heavy duty foil and grease with olive oil.


1½ pounds sunchokes, scrubbed and cut in 1” chunks

3 cloves organic garlic, minced

¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

8 Kalamata olives, chopped

1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/8th teaspoon sea salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste


Put everything in a large zip type bag. Close bag and turn over enough times to coat all ingredients. Pour sunchoke mixture onto prepared baking sheet and put in oven.  Roast for about 20 minutes until tubers are tender and lightly browned.  Serve hot.

Serves about 4 as a side dish.






There’s Nothing Aronias Here

By Beet 2023 04 April

No April foolin’!  Although Aronia (Rosaceae family), is native to Eastern North America, it’s been a hidden treasure until recently.

With recent “Super Fruit” movements, (consuming fruits rich in color, having abundant vitamins, fatty acids, minerals, antioxidants, and other potentially healthful compounds not found in most foods), Aronia melanocarpa has been spotlighted.

Aronia is a genus of deciduous shrubs that emerged from Eastern North America.  Also known as chokeberry for its tart-astringent flavor that can nearly bring on choking fits, it’s not to be confused with chokecherry, a wholly different plant.

There are four species: melanocarpa (black chokeberry), arbutifolia (red chokeberry), prunifolia (purple chokeberry, a natural hybrid of melanocarpa x arbutifolia), and Mitschurinii (a cultivated hybrid also called Sorbaronia).

Melanocarpa (once thought related to Photinia but no longer so) is the variety you’ll likely find to plant in your garden plot.

With nutritiously rich ebony-colored berries, (actually fruits not berries), it’s no wonder melanocarpa, (melano, meaning black, carpa, meaning fruit) has been extensively used for hundreds of years by Native Americans for their health-enhancing properties. “Pemmican” – made by pounding Aronia fruits into buffalo, deer or antelope meats – was dried and preserved.  Lewis and Clark purchased all the highly nutritious lightweight pemmican they could get to sustain them, as had Native Americans, on their journeys.

In the United States, most of Aronia’s native habitat gave way to monoculture crops and urbanization, accounting for its near disappearance as a food crop.  European countries (first Russia, then Scandinavia and later Poland and Austria) took up propagation.  Poland now produces 80% of today’s commercially used berries.

Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (renowned Russian botanist) developed a genotype, Aronia mitschurinii, named in his honor that’s still cultivated industrially near Moscow.

With its recent recognition as a world-class “Super Fruit” Aronia has been showing up in the US since the 1990’s, not only as a popular landscape shrub but most importantly propagated for its harvestable nutritious berries.

Omaha’s Kenny Sailors (an Aronia farmer), discovering the health benefits of Aronia, started the ’90’s propagation movement that gave rise to his company, “Superberries.”

Although the sweet-sour-astringent fruits can be consumed off the bush, they’re usually processed to be more palatable.  They make wonderful juice, jam, syrup, soft spreads, salsa, tea, sorbet, ice cream, extracts, beer and wine.  They’re also used for making naturally stable dye.

You can also learn more by going to  There you’ll discover more about this fruit and health conditions it can potentially benefit.

Aronia are lovely 3-4’ shrubs with oblong, emerald leaves that turn fiery crimson in autumn.  They’re adorned with delicate, white, five-petaled flowers in spring followed by small pom fruits resembling miniature apples that ripen to near obsidian-black.  Fruits are ripe when flesh is deep crimson.  They like full sun or partial shade, and tolerate a wide variety of soils, including wet or boggy soils.

Aronia are very resilient and survive freezing temps down to zone 3. They aren’t bothered by pests or disease (excluding deer and birds who may dine on ripe berries).

With continued interest in Aronia’s health benefits, plants are more widely available for home growers.  There’s nothing “Aronias” about this beneficial and beautiful plant you can propagate in your own “Super Fruit” garden space.




American Aronia Berry Association


NCSU Research Center


Plant Sources:

One Green World

They have four kinds of Aronia.


Raintree Nursery



Aronia and Apple Crisp


1 ½ cups oat flour

1 cup coconut sugar

1 cup regular rolled oats

1/2 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients until crumbly and set aside.


4 cups of organic apples (Fuji, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jonathon). Peel if desired (but most food value is in peel). Cut in cubes.

1 cup fresh Aronia berries (thawed if frozen)

½ cup coconut sugar

½ cup honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Sprinkle, then press down 2/3 cup of crumbs onto the bottom of a greased 9” square baking pan. Pour in apple mixture, then top with remaining crumb mixture.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until apples are tender.  Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.






By Beet 2023 03 March

Although many people still aren’t familiar with Cydonia obologna, (sole member of its genus), it’s beginning to show up again in home gardens and is truly a “quincessential” fruit to consider.

Fruiting quince, (not to be confused with flowering chaenomoles), also called the “true” quince, has a long and interesting history. 

Considered native to Iran, Turkey, the Crimean Peninsula, northern Persia and possibly Greece, its name, Cydonia oblonga, comes from an area of Crete.

Familiar in Palestine around 1000 BC, its cultivation spread to South East Europe and the Levant before the apple.  It eventually found its way around the world to Africa, Australia, South America, Mexico, the Eastern Mediterranean and, eventually, the US.

American colonists made quince jam and jelly, taking advantage of the naturally high pectin content.  Its popularity possibly fell off when commercial pectin made the process way more convenient.

High pectin content also renders most quince flesh astringent, perhaps another reason for not cultivating what one cannot consume raw.  However, some varieties have a sweet, slightly tart taste with a hint of pineapple and lemon, making them quite edible off the tree.

Astringent or not, quince has the most wonderful aromatic fragrance that will perfume any room they’re placed in.  Their skins have velvety surfaces that need to be removed (gently rub off beneath a running faucet) before using.  They’re also rich in fiber and have moderate amounts of vitamin C and potassium.

Their flesh is denser than apples.  Their exterior shape varies from oblong, lumpy to pear-shaped.  Their skin turns a vibrant yellow when mature and some can weigh nearly 16 oz.

They’re delicious cooked in both savory and sweet dishes.  Longer cooking with an acid not only richens flavor but deepens rosy color.  Stew, bake, spice them like apples, cook along side meats, make into pudding, pie or crisp, compote or try quince paste.  It’s also said they make very good wine!

Quince can be maintained as small 10 to12’ trees or left unpruned, as shrubbier plants.  Stippled leaves become platforms for delicate, pirouetting, pink solitary buds that open like miniature water lilies.

Quince is self-fertile, but another plant will increase fruiting even more.  They’re hardy in zones 4 to 9.  They prefer areas with partial shade or late afternoon sun since they do poorly in hotter, direct sunlight.

They also tolerate a wide range of soil types, as long as they’re well-drained and moderately rich in plant-based organic matter.  Use a well-balanced fertilizer annually, then top with mulch. Avoid planting in a pot as they will soon outgrow it.

Once established, quince will still need regular watering that is best provided with drip irrigation.  Don’t water lightly/frequently, but deeply (1” or about 10 gallons) once weekly or twice when very hot.

Although generally not bothered by pests, being in the Rosaceae family, they are subject to fire blight.  However, spraying with copper soap shield will keep that in check and your harvest basket full of fragrant, delicious fruit. They are subject to the same scale insects that attack apples and pears and should receive the same dormant spray treatment for the control of those pests.

Whether you perceive them as curious or peculiar, the “quincessential” quince deserves your cultivating consideration.


Mother Earth Gardener



Raintree Nursery

Specialty Produce



One Green World

They have many varieties of quince including several that are edible off the tree.  Note:  The author has Aromatnaya, delicious fresh.


Raintree Nursery

They have a number of varieties.




Quince Chutney

3 quince, fuzz removed, cored, quartered then sliced crosswise

12 oz fresh (or frozen) organic cranberries, sorted and washed

1 small organic red onion, peeled and chopped

¼ cup organic raisins (flame are tastiest)

6 dates, pitted and chopped

1 good sized knob of fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely minced

2 cups organic apple juice

½ cup port wine (or more apple juice)

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup agave syrup (or honey or brown rice syrup)

1 tablespoon organic orange zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and allspice

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon sea salt


Put all ingredients in a good-sized heavy pot and stir to mix. Bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally and watching to keep from boiling over.  Once boiling, turn heat down to low and simmer about 35-45 minutes until thickened and quince is soft.  Cool and refrigerate.  Can be used hot or cold for topping salads, in sandwiches, relish for poultry, on burgers instead of ketchup.

Keep in fridge for about 2 weeks or freeze for longer storage.

Makes about 4 cups.







Getting in the Pink

By Beet 2023 02 February

Whether crimson, fuchsia, garnet, ruby, scarlet, or vermillion, the seed heads of amaranth species such as Amaranthus cruentas, A. caudatus and A. hypochondriacus will truly put your garden plot in the “pink”! Amaranthus blitum, A. spinosous and A. tricolor have brilliant edible stalks and leaves.

Amaranth wasn’t recognized until the American health movement in the 1970s, according to the Oldways Whole Grain Council, but it’s been grown here for a long time. Today’s seed catalogs promote numerous varieties to sow in home gardens.     

A brief history:  Evidence points to A. cruentas as the first cultivated amaranth, with remains found in northern Argentina dating back 8,000 to 7,000 years ago. Pale forms dating to around 4000 BC have also been discovered at Tehuacan Puebla in Mexico.

Despite difficulties in accurately tracking the beginning of amaranth’s cultivation, records document amaranth in regions of central and southwestern parts of North America. It’s been found in Ozark rock shelters from 1100 AD. Documents show indigenous tribes along the Colorado River in present day Arizona and Utah traded it to colonial explorers.

The most significant records show that for the 15th-16th century Aztec empire amaranth was one of three major staple and ceremonial crops. It also appeared in ancient Southeast Asia and China.

So why grow this ancient plant? Amaranth offers leafy greens and “super” seed.  Although not a true cereal, it’s one of six “pseudocereals” – technically seed, but used like cereal grains.

Despite their miniscule size, amaranth seeds are protein powerhouses. Its complete protein is double that of rice or corn, containing more than 10% of the RDA of protein, fiber, iron, selenium and B pyridoxine; 20% of magnesium and phosphorus; and half the RDA of manganese. It’s also gluten free!

Impressive seed-producing varieties can reach 9’ or more. Panicles of grains add the crowning touch with vertical, pendulous, and draping heads in a variety of vibrant magenta shades, neon green and brilliant gold.

Not interested in grain? Smaller varieties from 2’ to 5’ sport nutritious leaves and stalks in brilliant colors and striking patterns.

Being a C4 plant – a carbon fixer in high-temperature and low-moisture conditions – it’s highly adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions and elevations.

While cultivating amaranth is quite easy, choosing varieties to plant is more challenging considering all the delicious types to choose from. You just have to decide if you want edible leaves or heads full of seeds.

Whatever the variety, amaranth needs full sun and light, well-draining soil.  For stronger plants, start indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.

Sow seeds atop pre-dampened seed starter mix, covering them with a thin layer of the same mix. Water thoroughly, cover with a plastic dome lid, then keep at 65-75°F. until sprouts emerge in about 3-7 days.

Pot up when about 3-4” high, keeping plants under lights until last frost. After acclimating, transplant them out in rows, spacing plants 12” apart.

Harvest leaves and stalks for fresh greens. When grain falls from gently shaken plants, put the entire heads in bags, shaking to loosen the grains.

Whether you want an ornamental plant for wonderful seed heads or plan to harvest healthy leaves and grains, put the pink in your garden with the amazing, ancient amaranth.

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

They have numerous heirlooms and new varieties.


Johnny’s Select Seeds


Eden Brothers

8 varieties to select from.



Oldways Whole Grain Council

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds




Amaranth species are wind pollinated. Deter cross pollination by planting different varieties, including celosia, cockscomb, lambs quarter and pigweed, 1,000 feet from each other.

For flea beetles, use floating row cover until the plants are 2’ high and can handle damage.

Aside from consuming leafy stems and protein-rich grain, amaranth grain pops and makes a great dye.



Popped Amaranth

½ cup of amaranth seeds

1 deep-sided large heavy pot

colander or sieve

Heat a heavy pot over medium high heat until a few drops of water sizzle. Pour in amaranth. Shake continually until seed pops within a few seconds. When popping ceases, remove pot and dump popped amaranth in a colander. Shake to remove burnt or unpopped seeds.

Serve immediately or use in other recipes. ½ cup seed makes about 1 cup of popped amaranth.

Eat as is or use in other dishes like pilaf, atop salads, as a binder for meatless dishes or mix it with chopped toasted nuts and melted dark chocolate for a nutritious bar.


Chocolate Bliss Bars:

Mix 1 cup popped amaranth with ½ cup chopped toasted nuts and 8 oz melted dark chocolate. Spread in an 8”-square parchment-lined pan. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes, then cut into bars. These make a very healthy snack.

Sea You in the New Year

By Beet 2023 01 January

Got you thinking, “oceans?”  This “sea” is a plant, Hippophae rhamnoides. Hippophae translates asshiny horse” which refers to its usage in horse fodder because it makes horses’ coats’ shiny. Sea Berry, sea buckthorn, is a most miraculous bush.

This deciduous, perennial woody plant isn’t well known in the US.  Even though introduced here from Canadian growers in the 1930s, if you want these beneficial and seemingly magical berries, you’ll have to grow your own.

Sea Berry’s nitrogen-fixing ability allows it to tolerate the poorest–even saline-laden–soils and it benefits neighboring plants. Given full sun and good drainage, it will reward you with a “sea” of vibrant orange, nutrient-rich berries!

While Sea Berries are relatively new here, they’ve been traced back to 300 BC as mentioned in ancient Greek texts by Theophrastus. Also, Pliny the Elder referenced it in his natural history books in 77-79 AD.

Native to regions of Europe and Asia, it grows along seashores, sandy dunes, riverbanks, and mountain slopes up to 12,000 feet.  It’s no wonder all parts of this remarkable plant have been harvested for centuries in China and Russia for its medicinal and nutritional benefits.

Sea Berries’ nutritional and medicinal values could fill a book. Briefly, their juiced berries have high concentrations of carotenoids, omega fatty acids, up to 10 times the vitamin C of oranges, strawberries, or kiwis, more vitamin E than wheat germ, vitamins A, B and D, as well as 18 of the 22 amino acids!

Its oil has long been prized in the cosmetics industry for wrinkle reduction and as an antiseptic, a tissue regenerate for burns and a pain reliever.

Although small and light weight (1 gram), a Sea Berry really packs a punch with tangy, citrus-like tartness and tones of passion fruit, mango and apricot.

Growing 6 to 10 feet tall, Sea Berries are dioecious. With male and female flowers produced on separate plants, you’ll need both to produce fruit. Since flowers are wind-pollinated, it’s important to pay attention to the spring wind direction for the planting area.  Mason bees are always a pollinating plus!

Sea Berry plants have narrow, shiny, silvery-green leaves, and as their name implies, rather fierce thorns on many varieties.

Although young plants require irrigation, Sea Berries are also drought-tolerant once established. They’ll also survive -45°F and over 105°F, but fruit best in temperatures in the 90s.

Although easy to care for (sloppy pruning will still give you fruit), the goal is improving branching habit, maintaining an optimum number of new and young fruiting branches, removing old, weak, and dead branches, and increasing light penetration. Keeping the plant at 8 to 9 feet tall makes them more manageable when pruning and harvesting.

Most fruit is born on horizontal second year branches, so in late winter, prune out upward- and downward-facing limbs.

Despite fruiting only on second-year branches, harvesting is most efficient by cutting off the entire branch. You’ll avoid thorns which can make it impossible to pick the berries.

Freezing branches until berries are frozen makes them easy to remove with a fork. Keep frozen berries in zip bags for long storage for juices, jams, smoothies, sorbets, or any recipes to which you might desire to add some vitamin tart-sweet tang.

If you want an ocean of nutritional fruit, set out some Sea Berries.


Info resources:

One Green World 


Plant sources:

One Green World

They have the greatest number of varieties. It’s good to preorder or you’ll need to get on the wait list.


Portland Nursery

A list of available varieties helps you choose from inventory



Sea Berry Mousse

Serves 6

About ¾ lb. frozen Sea Berries or 2/3 cup of juice

1 cup water

1 pkg unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup milk, soy or almond milk

½ cup honey or agave nectar

1 cup whipping cream

2/3 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

Mint leaves

Pistachio nuts

Whole Sea Berries

If not using already juiced berries, bring frozen berries to a gentle boil in water for about 4-5 minutes.  Purée in blender or food processor then strain through a sieve.  Mix juice with honey and let cool.

Sprinkle gelatin over milk and let plump for about 5 minutes.  Stir into juice and heat on medium low until gelatin is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool until it starts to thicken a bit.

Whip cream with yogurt until stiff peaks form, then gently stir in Sea Berry juice mixture and vanilla.  Spoon into individual serving bowls and garnish with mint leaves, a few Sea Berries and pistachio nuts.


The Gardener’s Gifts

By Beet 2022 12 December




What’s grander than giving what you’ve gleaned from the past year’s growing season?

With all of today’s commercialization, mass mechanizing, technologizing, and other such super-sized companies monopolizing the market, handmade and homegrown have become “has been.” Or have they?

Despite all this competition, gardeners still have the “gift-edge” on giving what their recipient will likely love. And what’s more, you’ll love gifting it to them.

There’s still nothing like sharing what one has reaped by propagating it from your own hands and garden.

As we delve into December, and you might be wondering what to give to those you care about, peruse your pantry, freezer, greenhouse, and overwintering garden. You might be surprised just what golden gifts you have to offer.

Whether naughty or nice, a relative, special friend, neighbor, co-worker, fellow gardener, or someone you’d like to see smile, there’s something for them all.

With such gifting, the first thing is to determine what’s best depending on the distance from the recipient. Give fresh produce, fragile baked goods, and other perishables locally. Dried, canned, and some cured items (garlic, onions, potatoes), dried herbs, beans, nuts, and seeds, are better shipped.

The fun has just begun! Once you’ve taken stock, it’s time to get creative.

Start with containers. For hand deliveries, there are baskets, heavy gift bags, (brown paper is great for stamping on your own graphics), gift boxes, or small reusable canvas totes.

For shipping, choose sturdy cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, crumpled paper and tissue, foam insulation (rigid or flexible sheets) or real popcorn insulation (popped and bagged that can become yet another gift).

Now for the gifts! For those close by, give baskets filled with late-season produce such as onions; root vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes); garlic braids tied with colored natural jute; fresh-cut cooking herbs tied with raffia and herb scissors; potted culinary plants for kitchen windowsills (basil, chives, parsley, rosemary); fruits such as apples, pears, quince or grapes; pesto; frozen jam; herb cookies and yeast breads; or fresh squeezed juices in pretty bottles.

For those further away, choices include:  Dried fruits, vegetables, roasted nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or herbs put in labeled plastic zip bags or plastic storage containers along with suggested uses or recipes; garlic braids; unshelled walnuts in plastic egg cartons (you could spray the carton’s exterior gold, then put a walnut in each compartment and tie with ribbon and nutcracker); lavender made into wands; lavender put into fabric sachet bags; flavored vinegars; pickles; jams/jellies; canned spiced fruits or herbed vegetables; sweet quick breads such as spiced pumpkin, apple, or pear baked in metal or foil pans and sealed with seasonal plastic wrap and tied with ribbon or raffia; your own popped corn, or un-popped corn in zip bags with cooking instructions; soaps; candles; honey; and whatever else you’ve grown to share.

All you need now are colorful ribbons, raffia, jute, hemp, and sprigs of herbs to tie things up, handmade covers for jars and bottle caps as well as your own gift tags. And lastly, don’t forget some treats for those well deserving pets!

Whether near or far,

In a box or jar

A gardener’s gift

Will the spirit lift.



You should find all you need in your own garden, pantry, fridge, or freezer.



Perfect Seasoned Popcorn

2 tablespoons cooking olive oil

½ cup fresh popcorn kernels and 3 extra kernels


Put oil in large heavy-lidded pot and heat over medium high heat. Drop in extra kernels and put on lid.  If they pop, the oil is ready.  Remove kernels and pour in remaining kernels then replace lid slightly ajar. Shake pan about every 30 seconds to circulate kernels. When popping ceases, remove pan from heat and pour corn into large bowl. Season with salt to taste or try one of the following.

Sprinkle on popped corn to taste:

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon mixed with ¼ cup of coconut sugar. Store in jar.

Sprinkle on Grated Italian parmesan cheese mix (the shelf stable kind in a green can).

Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Sprinkle


Don’t Forget the Dog!                      


2 cups oat flour

¾ cup regular rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce (your own, of course)

1 extra large egg, beaten with a fork

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Mix together the flour and oats. Add applesauce and all but 1 tablespoon of egg.  Stir with wooden spoon until stiff dough forms. Roll in a rope and cut into 16 pieces. Roll each piece about 10” long, then form into a pretzel, pinching ends together. Brush remaining egg over each. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Cool and store airtight for up to 2 weeks or freeze. 1 pretzel=1 treat.




For the Feline

Catnip mice

Cut bullet-shaped tough fabric (heavy woven wool, denim, canvas) about 3”x 5”.

15” heavy string for each mouse tail

Hook and loop fastener (Velcro)

Dried catnip

Poly stuffing

Sew hook and loop fastener on both sides of flat end of mouse. With right sides together, stitch twice over the mouse catching in tail string near straight opening. Turn pocket and put in a bit of non-plastic stuffing to plump the body, then fill with dried catnip. Zip end closed. Include extra nip in a zip bag to replenish.