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Sydney Jordan Brown

Sweetie Be Mine

By Beet 2024 02 February

 

While this love might not be romantic in the usual way, this “sweetie” is a delicious one.

Ipomoea batatas, sweetpotatoes* (correctly combined into one word, see link at end), belong to the Convolvulaceae family (morning glory, chokeweed and water spinach). They’ve long been loved and grown around the world for thousands of years.

Although Columbus brought sweetpotatoes to Europe in the 15th century, Native Americans had grown them thousands of years before European immigrants arrived. The earliest records indicate they were cultivated in 750 BC in Peru.

Peter Martyr noted Yucatan and Honduran Native Americans growing 9 varieties of sweetpotatoes in 1514. Taken to Spain, more varieties – including red, purple and white – were cultivated.  Cultivation failed in England’s cold, wet climate.

Enslaved West Africans in North America adapted their yam recipes to sweetpotatoes.  Soon they became staples of Southern diets and recipes for all classes.  Since they were easily grown, sweetpotatoes shielded southerners against starvation during lean times and were vital for poor populations. They were easily stored beneath dirt mounds in winter.  Paired with greens, they provided nearly all essential nutrients.

In the early 20th century, Washington Carver issued 50 bulletins featuring 118 products he invented from sweetpotatoes, such as molasses, vinegar and shoe blacking. His 1936 sweetpotato pie recipe was a prototype for modern versions.

Although sweetpotatoes have roots similar to yams (Dioscorea), they’re totally different plants.  Unfortunately, the term “yam” has become a marketing misnomer for selling sweetpotatoes with deeper skin and flesh colors. (The marketing of Zante currants, which are actually raisins, has left black currants with a similar fate. But that’s another story for the Gardening Gourmet). Potatoes are also another plant altogether (Solanum tubersosum) which can cause some confusion.

Orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes (and purple-fleshed) are nutrient-rich with antioxidant beta carotene, loaded with vitamins B and C, packed with potassium and high in fiber. Their low glycemic index contributes to fewer immediate spikes in blood glucose levels.

Plants are propagated via sprouting slips coaxed from mature sweetpotatoes. Slips can be purchased, but your own are most reliable. Start slips from your preferred variety of organic sweetpotato. Avoid commercial sweetpotatoes, which are often sprayed with sprout inhibitors.

Start sprouting 6-8 weeks before planting so they’ll be ready at the right time.  Wilted purchased slips need immediate planting – even if it’s too early.

One sweetpotato grows around 15 slips.  Each slip makes a plant that produces about 60 sweetpotatoes.

Sprout slips by burying the roots horizontally halfway deep in moist sterile seed mix placed on a heat mat beneath grow lights. Sprouts will form in about a week if you keep the seed mix moist. Another approach is to place a sweetpotato vertically (narrower root-end down) halfway in glass of water (like sprouting an avocado seed) set beneath a strong light source. When sprouts are 5”-6” long, follow the seed mix procedure described earlier.

Once slips reach 5-6” long, gently cut/twist from the sweetpotato.  Remove the lower leaves and place slips in a jar of water in a warm, sunny spot or beneath grow lights for root formation.

When the roots are 4” long, plant them 12”-18” apart and 4” deep in soil that’s generously amended with compost. Water thoroughly and expect sweetpotatoes in about 85-120 days, depending on variety. Remember to save some to start next season’s slips.

From their cultivation by Native Americans, their subsequent use by colonists, to today’s home gardens, it’s no wonder sweetpotatoes have been a sustenance source in the US for so many years. So why not make these “sweeties” yours too?

*Correctly Spelling “Sweetpotato”

The one-word spelling of “sweetpotato” was adopted by the national Sweetpotato Collaborators in 1989.  Basically, many plants have one-word spellings since with two words, the first can be interpreted as an adjective modifying a noun.  For example, “goldapple” is a tomato, and “gold apple” a variety of apple.  “Sweet potato” is a sweet tasting potato, while “Sweetpotato” signifies Ipomoea batatas.  For more details go to the following link:  https://wendyshomeeconomics.com/sweetpotato-did-you-know-its-one-word-its-scientific/

 

Resources:

Gardening Know How

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/sweet-potato/how-to-get-sweet-potato-slips.htm

Mobile Bay Magazine

https://mobilebaymag.com/the-humble-sweet-potato/

Texas A&M University

https://aggie-hort.tamu.edu/plantanswers/publications/vegetabletravelers/sweetpotato.html

 

Sweetpotato Slip Sources:

If you want to try purchased slips…

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

https://www.southernexposure.com/search/?q=sweet%20potato%20slips

Sprout Mountain Farms

https://www.sproutmountainfarms.com/category/certified-organic-sweet-potato-slips

Territorial Seed Company

https://territorialseed.com/

 

Recipe:

Roasted Sweetpotato Strips

One large or two medium sweetpotatoes (any variety) washed, then sliced ½” thick diagonally.  Cut slices into ½” strips.

Place strips in a microwave safe dish, sprinkle with water and cook covered on high about 3½ minutes. Drain off excess water. Gently rub strips with 1 teaspoon olive oil, then sprinkle with Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning.  Bake in a 400°F oven for about 25 minutes until lightly browned.  Makes 3 to 4 servings as a healthy side dish.

New Year Almondac

By Beet 2024 01 January

 

 

 

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. This might in part due to prices batting the budget beyond the back nut field.

If you love , sweet almonds, perhaps in this new year it’s time to propagate one. Do not confuse sweet almonds with bitter almonds, Prunis dulcis var. amara – the latter contain serious toxins and must be cooked prior to eating them. For centuries, almonds have been used as nutritionally rich food supplies. In addition, their taste has placed them on a pedestal of preference and great value.

Their importance isn’t new. Biblical references indicate almonds have been grown in Israel since 2000 BC in Canaan. In the book of Numbers, we read that Aaron’s rod blossomed and bore almonds (Numbers 17:8). They’re also mentioned in Genesis, Ecclesiastes, and Jeremiah.

Almonds were traded among ancient travelers on the Silk Road between Greece and Turkey, then exchanged for other expensive commodities.

The first almond trees arrived with the Franciscan monks near Sacramento, California in the mid-1700s. Today more than 25 types are grown commercially in California, and supply 80% of the world’s almonds. It’s also where the largest managed pollination event in the world occurs, as 1.1 million beehives are rented to do the job.

Even with modern mechanization, like tree shakers for expediting harvesting, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has led to global decline of honeybees. With this threatening the almond industry, there’s even more reason to plant a sweet almond and attract some Mason bees for pollination.

Although many nut tasters prefer the flavor of pecans, raw, sweet almonds – with their satisfying crunch and distinctive taste – have become the prime ingredient for many foods, candies, pies and cakes.  They’re toasted and dipped in various coatings for snacks, ground into meal and flour for baking, and processed into butter. Move over peanut butter!

Almonds are not true nuts, in which the seed is contained in a hard shell that doesn’t naturally open to release the seed. Instead, almonds are edible seeds (or pits) of the fruit of the tree.  Like most seeds, they contain great nutritional value.  Consuming sweet almonds is very beneficial due to their generous offerings of protein, fats, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B, and E.

Almonds are also lovely landscape additions, given their elongated leaves and spectacularly fragrant five-petaled blush-pink flowers that perfume the air from late January through April. They’re hardy, deciduous trees that top out at 10-15’, and 6’-9’ for dwarfs, so perfect for most garden spaces.

While many require another variety as pollinator for fruit production, some are self-fertile. There are also dwarf and low chill varieties. Have limited space? Put in a dwarf self-fertile variety. Tolerating a wide variety of well-drained soils, newly planted almonds flourish with 8 hours or more of sun, good mulching, well-balanced organic fertilizer, and regular-deep irrigation (typically 1” per week over the root zone). Once established they need little supplemental irrigation.

After 2-3 years you can expect your first crop sometime in October. So, act now and acquire that sweet almond you’ve wanted to try.

Resources:

Britannica

https://www.britannica.com/plant/almond

Ty Ty Nursery

https://www.tytyga.com/History-of-Almond-Trees-a/368.htm

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/pages/growing-fruit-trees-almonds

 

Tips for selecting a sweet almond tree:

  • Make sure you know your areas chill hours (check with JCMGA for info)
  • If you have room for one tree only, make sure it’s self-fertile
  • If you want a dwarf tree, make sure the plant identification gives maximum height at maturity (smallest dwarf sizes are 6-9’)

Sweet Almond Tree Sources:

The following nursery sources have adequate information on their stock so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. For further assistance, they have knowledgeable assistants ready to help by phone or email.

Both of these sources have self-fertile and dwarf trees suitable for this area.

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/collections/almonds

One Green World

https://onegreenworld.com/?s=almond

 

Recipe:

Roasted Cocoa Spice Almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F

Line a jelly roll pan with heavy foil

1 lb raw almonds

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons organic honey

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Mix oil and honey, then pour it in a large zip-type bag. Add almonds. Close bag and massage until all are coated.

Mix cocoa, salt and spices in a large bowl. Dump in almonds and mix until all are coated.  Spread almonds on foil-covered pan. Bake in preheated oven about 15-18 minutes until centers are golden when broken open. Remove pan and let almonds cool.  Store in rigid containers (locking top plastic boxes, glass jars), in a cool dark place for up to 4 months or freeze to keep longer. Serve whole or chop for adding to or topping desserts or cookies.

 

Berried Treasures

By Beet 2023 12 December

“Here we go round the mul-’bry bush so early in the morning.”  While this old English song calls it a bush, Morus alba, Morus rubra and Morus nigra are actually trees. In the Moraceae family along with figs, breadfruit and jackfruit, mulberries (like quince and several other plants) have lost their positions in home gardens. However, new varieties and awareness campaigns are causing a comeback for this most valuable heirloom tree.

Mulberries have a rich history indeed. Native red fruiting trees (Eastern US coast) have been used for centuries by Native Americans. In the De Soto expedition of the mid 1500’s, explorers observed the Muskogee consuming dried mulberries and Iroquois mixing mashed dried mulberry fruit in sauces and cornbread. The Timucua in Florida consumed mulberry fruits and used their leaves and twigs for dye. The Seminoles used branches for bows.

Chinese white mulberries (wild in China, then naturalized in Europe with leaves providing food for silkworms) were brought to the US in the mid 1800’s for making silk. Though this ultimately proved too costly a venture, the trees survived.

Native Asian black mulberries, cultivated in Europe since Roman times, are still used for their delicious berries and shade. Their leaves were fed to livestock and used for medicinal treatments. They became prized in the Tudor era when 10,000 black mulberry trees were mistakenly bought instead of white for silk production. Silk making was a bust, but the black fruits became all the rage in England.

Although many see mulberries as merely an annoyance, their delicious, nutritious and versatile native red, white naturalized, and black Asian fruits have become more sought after. While mulberries can grow 50 to 80 feet tall, new smaller varieties offer options for backyard gardens. Dwarfed trees still have distinctive delicious blackberry-flavored fruits with phenomenal amounts of beneficial nutrients.  It’s like plucking super blackberries from a tree!  Mulberries are bursting with vitamins (C, K1 and E), potassium, iron and fiber.  They also have phenolic acid, antioxidants and anthocyanins found in black fruits and vegetables.

No matter the variety, mulberries are deciduous — having toothed or lobed alternately arranged leaves along long, graceful stems.  Minute flowers bloom in late spring followed by fruits in white, pink, red, purple, or nearly black, harvestable by late summer.  Self-fertile trees have both male and female (monoecious) flowers on the same tree.  Others are single sex (dioecious) requiring a pollinator.  Although red and white mulberries tend to be the biggies, dwarf, weeping or contorted varieties and black fruited tend to be the most practical size, ranging from 8-10 feet at maturity.

Mulberries grow well in most well-drained soils (preferably away from walkways, patios, and driveways to avoid fruit stains) and away from water or septic lines they’ll want to tap into. They need half-day or full sun and are somewhat drought tolerant once established.  Summer pruning maintains a manageable height.  Fruiting usually begins 3 to 5 years after planting.  It’s well worth the wait. Given its great disease and pest resistance and lovely tropical-like foliage, why not give this tree a try? Then harvest some American heritage — rounding your own mulberry “bush” of bounteous, beneficial, and delicious fruits.

 

Recipe:

 Mulberry Buckle

Preheat oven to 375°.  Oil bottom and sides of a nine-inch cake pan.

Topping:

1/3 cup coconut sugar

½ cup organic white, whole wheat, or oat flour

½ cup regular rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ cup olive oil

Mix together all ingredients until crumbly and set aside.

 

Cake:

2 cups organic white, whole wheat, or oat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup coconut sugar

zest of one organic lemon

¼ cup olive oil

1 egg (substitute 1 tablespoon gold flax meal soaked in 3 tablespoons hot water)

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup milk (soy or almond or oat milk)

2 cups mulberries, stemmed

 

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, spices, sea salt, sugar, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, milk and egg until blended. Stir milk mixture into dry ingredients. Fold in mulberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle crumb mixture over top. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until cake center doesn’t stick to toothpick. Remove from oven and serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 8-10.

 

Resources:

One Green World

https://onegreenworld.com/mysteries-of-the-mulberry-tree/

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/pages/growing-fruit-trees-mulberries

UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions

https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/trees-and-shrubs/trees/mulberry.html

Baltimore Orchard Project

https://www.baltimoreorchardproject.org/our-blog/forgottenfruit

 

Tree Sources:

One Green world

https://onegreenworld.com/?s=mulberry

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/search?type=product&q=mulberry*

Both nurseries have many varieties including dwarf, weeping and contorted (this variety is more ornamental having less fruit).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranacopia

By Beet 2023 11 November

While taking time to give thanks for our great bounty this month, we might include Viburnum opulus var. americanum, the highbush cranberry.

If you’ve ever dreamed of making Thanksgiving cranberry sauce from your own fruit, dream no more. While lowbush (the true cranberry) cranberries likely wouldn’t grow here, highbush cranberries can.

Variously called squashberry, mooseberry, moosewood viburnum, lowbush cranberry, few-flowered highbush cranberry, pembina, pimbina, or moosomin (in Cree Language), highbush cranberries (not a true cranberry) produce red fruits very much like the traditional true cranberry bush.  Both high- and lowbush cranberries are North American natives.

Although the fruit (or drupes) strongly resemble true cranberries in taste, appearance, and autumn maturing, these two plants are quite different. While lowbush cranberries are in the Ericaceae, heather or heath family, the highbush is in the Caprifoliaceae, honeysuckle family. This family has some 400 species with 11 trees and many shrubs, all native to North America.

Highbush cranberries can be found across the US and Canada: from Alaska to Oregon in the west, and east to northern Virginia, with isolated populations in New Mexico.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service lists highbush cranberries as “endangered” in Indiana, “rare” in Pennsylvania, and “threatened” in Ohio.

An important staple, Native Americans consumed them fresh and dried, especially in pemmican. They also used the bark for coughs and digestive disorders, leaves and twigs to gargle for sore throats, and stems for birch-bark basket rims.

Today we can dry them and use them as true cranberries for making jams, jellies, juices, and, of course, the traditional Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Like true cranberries, they have high vitamin C, phytonutrients, and anthocyanin content. The American variety, which can be identified by convex petiole tops where they meet the leaf blade, is the edible variety. The berries of the Viburnum opulus var. Americanum do have a mild toxicity, so that eating large amounts could cause stomach upset. Inedible European varieties have concave petioles with sunken tops. Although challenging, make sure you know which you’re getting if you want edible fruit!

Topping out at 8 to 10 feet tall, and similarly wide, American highbush cranberries make wonderful edible landscape shrubs with attractive woody bark and glossy, dark green, slightly crinkled, maple-like leaves that turn red-gold or purplish-red in autumn. They prefer filtered afternoon light, and rich, moist, well-drained soil, though they are drought tolerant. Short drip-line sprayers do best to keep surrounding soil wet but not too soggy.

May to June brings a bounty of two different petite-white flowers. The outer, very showy ring of 5 petal florets is sterile, but within them are similarly-shaped smaller 1/4” clusters of fertile florets. Viburnum are pollinated by wind and insects. Fruiting starts at about 5 years. After flowering, fruits form in green clusters, turning to ruby-red by late August-September. They’ll not only stay on the bush, but also will taste best when harvested after a frost. This makes them sweeter, more intensely flavored, and easier to pick than their ground-hugging counterparts. Plus, you’ll get rave reviews for growing the berries for that traditionally expected Thanksgiving sauce.  Enjoy!

 

Highbush Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

3 cups highbush cranberries, stems removed and put through food mill or food processor then a sieve to remove seeds and stems

1 quince fruit, washed and diced

¾ to 1 cup organic sugar, honey or agave

Zest and juice from one each organic orange and lemon

1/2 cup port wine or organic apple juice

2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger root

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Pour cranberry pulp into a medium to large, heavy pot along with quince and all other ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring. Turn heat down to medium-low or to a bubbling simmer.  Cook for about 20-30 minutes until mixture is thick like jam. If still thin, cook another 10-15 minutes until thick.

Let mixture cool. Pour into sterilized jars or storage container(s). Keeps refrigerated for about 2 weeks or can be frozen. Use warm or cold.

Resources:

The University of Maine

https://extension.umaine.edu/cranberries/highbush-cranberry/

Native Plants PNW

https://nativeplantspnw.com/highbush-cranberry-viburnum-edule/

Edible Wild Food

https://www.ediblewildfood.com/highbush-cranberry.aspx

Washington College

https://www.washcoll.edu/learn-by-doing/food/plants/adoxaceae/viburnum-trilobum.php#:~:text=The%20berries%20of%20the%20Viburnum,cooked%20into%20jams%20and%20jellies

 

Plant Sources:

Note: Some sources sell this bush under its old name Viburnum trilobum instead of Viburnum opulus.

One Green World

http://www.onegreenworld.com

They have American highbush and Kalinka (Ukranian sweeter variety).

Raintree Nursery

http://www.raintreenursery.com

They have Kalinka and Ukraine varieties.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter, Peter, Pepon Eater

By Beet 2023 10 October

 

Given that the pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo (from the Greek pepon, meaning large melon), has delicious flesh and a delightful design, it’s become a squash icon and symbol of autumn.     

It’s no wonder Peter dined with delight and Cinderella’s fairy godmother chose a pumpkin to conjure her creative carriage.

Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squashes, muskmelons, watermelons and gourds. While pumpkins are classified as winter squashes, not all squash are pumpkins.

Pumpkins are actually fruits, as they have seeds that develop from mature ovaries of the plant’s blossoms. Their versatility has given them great value since their cultivation.

Despite somewhat unclear origins, the earliest records of domesticated seed remnants and consumption date back to approximately 8750 BC and 7000 BC in Oaxaca, Mexico.

There’s also evidence of domestication in North America, (Missouri in 4000 BC and Mississippi in 1400 BC) and in Central America. Pumpkins were shipped to Europe and other parts in the world during the 16th century.

Pumpkins have a long culinary and medicinal history. Native Americans roasted and dried pumpkin strips to eat and store. American colonists originated “pumpkin pie” by removing seeds then filling pumpkin cavities with honey, milk, and spices and baking them in hot ashes. No pan to wash here! Seeds were also likely roasted by the Aztecs as high protein snacks.

The pulp and sap of pumpkins has long been used medicinally in North and Central America for burns. Another by-product, pumpkin seed oil, is usually mixed with other oils and used for cooking and salad dressings.

Their decorative contributions are many, including dried strips woven into mats by Native Americans, mini varieties for tabletop decor, and of course, Jack O’ Lanterns, a Celtic tradition started with smaller turnips, beets, and potatoes in Ireland. Arriving in America, the Irish readily carved pumpkins into lanterns for scaring off tortured souls (like Stingy Jack) on Halloween.

Pumpkins are high in iron, vitamin A, protein and fiber that support anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antifungal properties.

Cooked flesh is found in pies and is delicious in soups, pasta, salads, desserts, preserves, candies, beverages, (beer and hot spiced cider) or roasted and dried. Cook edible leaves like any greens, stuff and fry flowers and roast seeds (pepitas).

Pumpkins come in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes besides the classic rich orange ribbed rounds – from petite decorative pumpkins to gigantic monsters (largest ever recorded – 2,323 pounds!). Typically though, most grow to 20-40 pounds, and field pumpkins can reach up to 65 pounds.

Planting pumpkins is easy. Start seeds inside or outside in good potting soil or well amended garden soil, sowing seeds 1” deep. Sow 3-4 seeds about 10-14 days before last frost in 4” pots inside and the same depth outside in 5” high flattened mounds that warm more quickly than flat soil.

Keep all consistently moist and indoor seeds at 70-75°F. Once sprouted (in about 5-8 days), acclimate inside seedlings a week before planting outside.

Provide generous amounts of rotted compost for nutrients and mulch. Supplement with balanced organic fertilizer and plenty of horizontal (or vertical) space.

Whether planted for pies or for that giant first prize, the mighty pumpkin never disappoints!

 

Resources:

Armand’s Harper Valley Farms

https://harpervalleyfarms.com/history-of-pumpkins/

HerbaZest

https://www.herbazest.com/herbs/pumpkin/pumpkin-origin-history

Pastorino Farms

http://www.pastorinofarms.com/abt_pmks/history.htm

 

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=pumpkin

Pinetree Garden Seeds

https://www.superseeds.com/search?type=product&q=pumpkin

Territorial Seeds

https://territorialseed.com/search?q=pumpkin

 

Recipe:

Pumpkin Scones

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover a cookie sheet.

 

2 cups white whole wheat or oat flour

1 cup regular organic rolled oats (not quick or instant)

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup organic coconut sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts (almonds, pecans or filberts), optional

¼ cup olive oil

2/3 cup pureed pumpkin

½ cup buttermilk

extra buttermilk and organic coconut sugar (for topping)

 

Mix together flour, oats, sea salt, sugar, ground spices and grated ginger. Pour in olive oil and blend until mixture is crumbly. Mix in nuts. Pour in pumpkin and buttermilk, then mix with a wooden spoon or clean hands just until mixture clings together, then gather into a ball. Transfer to parchment paper and flatten to an 8”-9” round. Score the round into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Brush the top with a little buttermilk and sprinkle with some coconut sugar. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until top is golden. Serve warm or freeze for longer storage.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Recipe:

Roasted Winter Radishes

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line a low sided baking pan with heavy foil.

Ingredients

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.

 

Resources:

vegetablefacts.net

http://www.vegetablefacts.net/vegetable-history/radish-history/

Rare Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com/blog/post/winter-radishes-from-the-sweet-to-the-sublime

Terroir Seeds

https://store.underwoodgardens.com/Watermelon-Radish_Red-Meat-Winter-Raphanus-sativus/productinfo/V112

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://www.rareseeds.com

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.

 

Resources:

Ty Ty Nursery

https://www.tytyga.com/Apricot-Trees-s/1832.htm

Encyclopedia Britannica

https://www.britannica.com/plant/apricot

Harvest Time Foods

https://harvestimefoods.com/21511/the-history-of-apricots-and-why-theyre-called-yellow-plums/

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/pages/growing-fruit-trees-appricot

National Today

https://nationaltoday.com/national-apricot-day/

WebMD

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1190/apricot-kernel

 

Sources for apricot trees:

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

One Green World

https://onegreenworld.com/?s=apricot

Raintree Nursery

https://raintreenursery.com/search?type=product&q=apricot*

Shooting Star Nursery

https://roguevalleynursery.com/retail-clients#availabilitylist

 

Recipe:

Fresh Apricot Crisp

Preheat oven to 350°

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

 Filling:

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.

 

Topping:

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!

 

 

Resources:

Britannica

https://www.britannica.com/plant/basil

The Spruce Eats

https://www.thespruceeats.com/the-history-of-basil-1807566

Homes and Gardens

https://www.homesandgardens.com/advice/how-to-grow-basil

NOURISH by WebMD

https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-basil#:~:text=The%20eugenol%20in%20basil%20can,and%20blood%20vessels%20to%20relax.

 

Seed Sources:

Pine Tree Garden Seeds

https://www.superseeds.com/search?type=product&q=basil

Baker Creek

https://www.rareseeds.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=basil

Territorial Seeds

https://territorialseed.com/search?q=basil

 

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?

 

Resources:

Encyclopedia Britannica

https://www.britannica.com/topic/edamame

Specialty Produce

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Edamame_Shelling_Beans_17810.php

Old Farmer’s Almanac

https://www.almanac.com/plant/edamame

 

Seed Sources:

Victory Seed Company

https://victoryseeds.com/search?q=edamame&options%5Bprefix%5D=last

Pinetree Garden Seeds

https://www.superseeds.com/pages/search-results-page?q=Edamame

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=edamame

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

 

Recipe:

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.

 

Tip:

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:

Appropedia

https://www.appropedia.org/Jerusalem_artichoke

The Spruce Eats

https://www.thespruceeats.com/jerusalem-artichokes-sunchokes-history-1807670

GrowVeg

https://www.growveg.com/guides/growing-jerusalem-artichokes-sunchokes/

 

Tuber sources:

Jung Seed

https://www.jungseed.com/category/s?keyword=Jerusalem+artichoke

Groceryeshop

https://groceryeshop.us/plants-seeds-bulbs-177/6-tuber-jerusalem-artichokes-sunchokes-for-eating-or-planting-ABSB09NY4PCDB-236661

Gardens Alive

https://www.gardensalive.com/product/jerusalem-artichoke

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

 

Recipe:

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.