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Sydney Jordan Brown

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

https://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/amaranth

They have numerous heirlooms and new varieties.

 

Johnny’s Select Seeds

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/flowers/amaranthus/

 

Eden Brothers

https://www.edenbrothers.com/collections/amaranthus-seeds

8 varieties to select from.

 

Resources:

Oldways Whole Grain Council

https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/grain-month-calendar/amaranth-may-grain-month

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com/how-to-grow-amaranth

WhyFarmit

https://whyfarmit.com/grow-amaranth-from-seed/

 

Tips:

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.

 

Recipes:

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

https://onegreenworld.com/sea-berry-growing-guide/ 

 

Plant sources:

One Green World

https://onegreenworld.com/shop/

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

 

Portland Nursery

https://www.portlandnursery.com/fruits/seaberry

A list of available varieties helps you choose from inventory

 

Recipe:

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.

 

Sources:

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

 

Recipes:

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!                      

Pupzels                                                                     

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.

 

 

Gardening Safari

By Beet 2022 10 October

While most may never venture to view the giants of the vast Serengeti, one needs to go no further than their own garden safari to see Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum.

Elephant garlic, neither related to the African elephant nor a true garlic, is sure to satisfy your gardening ventures.

Also, while it may not sport the more familiar tusks of its namesake, its very impressive ivory cloves are trophies worthy of planting.

Elephant garlic is sometimes known as “Great Headed Garlic” and does indeed have huge-sized heads as large as or larger than an apple that may weigh more than half a pound. Individual cloves are as large as an entire bulb of true garlic (A sativum).   

It also has its own unique flavor. More closely related to a leek than to regular garlic, the flavor is much milder with slightly bitter overtones. Lacking true garlic’s sulfurous content, Elephant garlic is mild enough to slice and consume raw.

Elephant garlic has a rich history, according to Colin Simpson, Oxted, Surrey, England. It’s believed to have originated in the Eastern Mediterranean where the name “Great Headed Garlic” came from.

A famous botanist and gardener, John Tradescant the Younger, also included Elephant garlic in his 17th century English garden.

According to Simpson, it was American nurseryman Jim Nicholls, who rediscovered Elephant garlic growing in an old Balkan settlement in the Willamette Valley in Scio, Oregon in 1941. After propagating the most select disease-resistant cloves of what had been known as “Scio’s garlic” for 12 years, Nicholls released the bulbs on the market and renamed them “Elephant garlic”.

Not only is this hardy bulbing herb impressively large, but like its namesake it’s a wonder to see in its garden habitat.  Recognize it by its wide, strappy, bluish-green leaves. Its large bulb consists of five to six substantially sized cloves surrounded by bulblets. Plants grow to 3’ or more in height.

Early in summer, cylindrical stalks are adorned with a single spathe resembling a swan’s head. These pointy pods explode to reveal densely packed, mauve-tinted flowers that attract pollinating insects and can be made into unique arrangements when dried. They’re a dramatic backdrop for all who view them.

Elephant garlic’s mild flavor falls between garlic and leeks (for strong garlic flavor use true garlic). Use this magnificent herb raw, boiled, in soups and stews, baked, roasted, or pickled– not only for taste, but also for vitamins A, C and E.

Plant Elephant garlic in the fall for the highest yield, as it needs cold weather to divide properly. Plant cloves point up like true garlic, but 4” to 6” deep and spaced 10” to 12” apart (or follow your seed company’s directions for the Pacific Northwest) in well-drained, composted soil with some soft-rock phosphate (a product that includes calcium and phosphorus). Irrigate adequately until rain comes. When green leaves resume growing in spring, fertilize with nitrogen (fish meal or emulsion or blood meal).

Harvest when the first few bottom leaves are yellow. Stop watering before harvesting. Do not pull up the bulbs by the stalk. Instead, carefully unearth the heads – after loosening them – then gently pull with a digging fork or spade. Remove the excess soil and cure the heads in a well-ventilated shaded area for about two weeks. Then enjoy your harvest.

Remember to save your biggest and best bulbs for replanting next autumn.

So, venture out on a garden safari and you just might spot an elephant, or maybe even more.

 

Tips:  

Axillary bulblets surrounding main head can either be consumed or planted out. Leave in the ground for a second year to get sizable heads.

Flower stalks can be allowed to bloom but cutting immature scapes will produce larger garlic heads. Young scapes can also be consumed.

 

References for this article:

Oregon State University Extension Service, September, 2021

https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/get-your-garlic-primer-planting-growing-and-harvesting

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com/elephant-1-2-lb

Organic Gardener Magazine, Australia. Sept 2018.

https://www.organicgardener.com.au/blogs/elephant-garlics

Arkansas State Parks

https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/ozark-folk-center-state-park/craft-village/herbs/herbs-gardens/elephant-garlic

 

Sources for Elephant garlic seed:

Keene Garlic

https://keeneorganics.com/product/elephant-garlic-naturally-grown-garlic-cloves/

 

Irish Eyes and a Hint of Garlic

https://irisheyesgardenseeds.com/?s=Elephant+garlic

(A detailed growing guide is available on this site.)

 

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

https://southernexposure.com/products/elephant-garlic/

 

Recipe:

Roasted Elephant Garlic Spread

1 to 2 heads Elephant garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (regular or lemon)

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese or equivalent block of firm tofu

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Toss garlic cloves with oil, sea salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Place all in a large piece of heavy aluminum foil, then seal the packet closed. Place on a medium low heat grill and cook about 15-20 minutes until brown and soft. If using an oven, preheat to 400° and roast for about 35-40 minutes.

Let garlic cool to room temperature then put in a food processor with cream cheese or tofu and olive oil. Pulse on and off a minute for chunky texture or longer for creamy.

Serve as a spread for snacks, sandwiches, or wraps.

 

 

 

Over the Fields and Through the Woods…

By Beet 2022 09 September

…to grandmother’s winter garden we go. Grandmother sure knew what she was doing when she sowed onion seed in autumn!

Allium cepa, specifically in this case, overwintering onion varieties, are something we northwestern gardeners should consider sowing in our autumn garden plots.       

Why plant onions for overwintering? If you’re looking for more succulent, sweet, and milder onions for your seasonal menus, then these are for you.

Also, given our fickle springs, onions sown at that time often do poorly. It’s very frustrating to find all your diligent efforts result in little to harvest. Slow to germinate, onions that are sensitive to cold temperatures can leave you with very pungent golf balls instead of succulent onion bulbs.

Despite a few challenges, overwintering onions offer not only earlier harvestable bulbs, but also different varieties. Both bulbing and bunching onions can be overwintered. If desired, you can still supplement them with spring sown onions to extend the season.

Overwintering onions also withstand freezing weather. Since they’re in the ground much longer than their spring counterparts, they develop much stronger root systems. Most of their growth also takes place in early spring when soil moisture is most ideal.

These onions also mature and dry in early summer, between June and July, when days are longest for good curing. Hence, you get more superior bulbs that will bring you joy for your efforts as well as the tastiest bulbs.

Sowing overwintering onions in September is best, as the hottest days should have somewhat lessened. For August sowing, you need to select more bolt-resistant varieties to avoid this undesirable occurrence.

Overwintering onions may result in superior harvests and their seed is more vigorous than other types of onions.

To help with sprouting, always purchase quality seed (order from reputable seed companies) and sow only current year seed.

After sowing about ¼” deep, cover seed with fine compost or seedling start mix.  Both hold water and help with germination.

You’ll also want to thin appropriately according to the varieties you’ve sown as overcrowding can result in poor plants. Ideally, you want your plants about ¼ inch in diameter as winter begins.

Although you can sow directly in open garden plots, raised beds are preferable. They not only have superior drainage, (onion seedlings are very susceptible to rotting in heavy-wet conditions) but more friable soil. The use of hoop houses also helps manage moisture during the winter.

Raised beds also hold moisture more evenly–a must for successful overwintering. They help prevent pink root problems and promote general root health by minimizing nitrogen loss. Ultimately, this all means more vigorous bulbs for you to savor earlier.

Onions will start regrowing in late January-February. Once growth starts, side dress them with blood meal, then repeat again in mid-April. Use a complete balanced fertilizer in mid-May.

Once tops start to turn golden (except for bunching onions that should be harvested while still green earlier in spring), stop watering about two weeks before pulling the bulbs.

In no time, you’ll be grateful that grandma had such a great idea. You, too, can enjoy those lovely sweet and succulent overwintering onions.

Seed Sources:

Leeks may also be included for overwintering.

Territorial Seed

http://territorialseed.com

They have Red Spring, Hi-Keeper, Walla Walla and White Lisbon bunching onions.

 

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

http://johnnyseeds.com

They have T-448, Bridger, Desert Sunrise, and Walla Walla along with Bandit organic leeks.

 

Recipe:

Caramelized Spring Onions and Peppers

1 ½ pounds spring onions (bunching, regular onions or a mix of both) red and/or yellow, washed, roots and skin removed then sliced in 2” pieces for bunching and thin crosswise slices for regular onions

2 large sweet red peppers, washed, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary minced

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup each sweet sherry and organic apple juice

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Heat oil in heavy-lidded sauté pan until it’s hot but not smoking. Toss in onions, peppers and rosemary.  Cook on medium heat until limp, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and gradually add sherry, apple juice, balsamic vinegar, honey and sea salt. Stir to mix, then return to medium heat, stirring until it bubbles. Cover with lid and continue cooking on medium low about 15-20 minutes until liquid has concentrated into a glaze and onions are a golden color. Serve hot or cold as relish, on a burger, sandwich or salad, on seafood, poultry or vegan dishes.

Store in fridge.

 

Resources:

Oregon State University, dry bulb onions Western OR Dec 2012

https://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/oregon-vegetables/onions-dry-bulb-western-oregon

Johnny’s Seeds overwintering trials

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/vegetables/onions/overwintering-onions-from-seed.html

The Westside Gardener by Travis Saling

https://westsidegardener.com/articles/1998/overwintered_onions.html

 

 

Four Paws Approved!

By Beet 2022 08 August

This article is derived from my experiences over many years with my pets in my garden. 

Whether with canines (or felines), after a long winter’s wait, we bolt from our banishment lured by greenery beckoning us outside.

Dropping to knees, or bellies, we plunge in with gloves and paws plowing deep into moist soil we’ve missed for way too long.

While each of us pursues their own pathway of preferred plant or prey, this probing and pawing is only the beginning between pets and their human gardening companions.

Nothing equals the loving bond that grows between a gardener and their furry friend(s). Together they dig, cultivate, plant and bury what brings each a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

For those who’ve never promoted paw prints upon their perfectly manicured plots, they don’t know what they’re missing. They’ve truly forsaken the animal element in the fundamental foundation of gardening: For me, God’s intentional pairing of plant, animal and human sustained by the seasons of life. Of course, furry garden partners aren’t for all.

However, while buds burst into bloom, gardeners joining with their furry friends find fulfillment with this most natural partnership. Sometimes it’s humorous, sometimes exasperating, but always endlessly rewarding.

Tilling through the growing season, pet-accompanied gardeners develop a sense of flexibility and patience from accepting unexpected subtractions and modifications to their plotted plans. While partners may not always agree upon the prioritized placement between plant and bone, they remain bound by that unbreakable bond of gardening together.

Concerned that pets have different perspectives on aesthetics than yours? Adding structural boundaries that are pleasing to you may curb four-pawed friends from pursuing places you prefer them not to go.

Adequate raised beds, decorative fences and gates not only provide pleasant backdrops for bushes, vertical structures for vines, accessibility for harvesting crops, and enhance the grounds, but also provide barriers for your companions.

Of course, anything without barriers should be considered fair game. However, replanting the rearranged or replacing the missing is much less significant than the alternative of solitary gardening for pet-loving gardeners.

While poop patrol pick up is a regular activity and replacing prized potted plants a persistent practice, they’re far less inconvenient than withstanding unpredictable weather or a multitude of munching insects.

Just expect your planting zone to include mysteriously disappearing gloves or trowels, possible tooth-pocked plastic pots littering the lawn, and a driftwood log to provide a prominent perch for some afternoon landscape patrol.

Whether canine (or feline), you’ll find the inclusion of pets provides that final element to both enhance and complete your gardener’s partnership with plant and soil.

Ultimately, the silhouette of the gardener’s wide-brimmed hat and their partner’s pointy ears against that last ray of sunshine would seem the perfect garden composition.

 

 

Safe-Proofing Gardens for your Pets

If you love your pet(s), make them not only welcome but as safe as possible in your garden space.

The ASPCA has a great resource, a long list of plants that are toxic and non-toxic for pets, sortable for dogs, cats and horses.

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

 

Plotting for your pet(s):

Old rug remnants or door mats placed to catch early morning sun or afternoon shade make great landing spots for naps.

Crumpled foil placed below soft soil surfaces deters felines from using an area as their litter box.

 

Modify the Hazards

–  Use non-toxic chemicals.

–  Thoroughly dig in additives such as blood and bone meal, fish and kelp. Spray the area with tea tree oil or citrus spray to deter consumption

–  AVOID cocoa or coconut mulches: they are poisonous to pets. Chemicals in cocoa/chocolate can be lethal for pets.

–  Fold back sharp metal fence ends. Keep sharp tools off ground.

–  Make sure garden stakes are too high to penetrate pets playing chase.

­-  Plant non-poisonous plants.

 

15 pet-friendly plants to get started from Great Garden Plants nursery: https://blog.greatgardenplants.com/15-dog-friendly-plants-for-your-garden/

Astilbe Astilbe

Crane’s Bill/Hardy Geranium Geranium

Tickseed Coreopsis

Coral Bells Heuchera

Crape Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica

Perennial Hibiscus Hibiscus

Creeping Phlox Phlox stolonifera

Forsythia Forsythia

Catmint Nepeta

Thymes Thymus

Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia/Salvia yangii

Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta

Maiden Grass/Chinese Silver Grass Miscanthus sinensis

Stonecrop Sedum

Roses Rosa

 

No Strings Attached

By Beet 2022 07 July

Beans, beans, the magical fruit

The more you discover, the more you’ll toot…

You’ll certainly toot your horn for Phaseolus vulgaris, specifically French filet beans, (also known as haricots verts). Once you’ve savored them, you’ll know why they’re so sought after.

While there are many kinds and colors of green beans, there’s nothing quite like a French filet bean.

“Filet” actually translates as “string”—not because of unpalatable fibers holding the pods together but denoting their “string-like” shapes.

Filets weren’t always French either. Cultivated over 5,000 years in Central and South America, they were brought as dried beans by Columbus to Europe in 1493.

The first green beans cultivated prior to the 17th century were nothing like today’s beans. Likely tough and stringy, they were grown as garden ornamentals rather than as food.

Although first used dried, it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century in southern Italy that cross breeding produced more palatable beans consumed in their immature pod form.

Even with the development of Blue Lake truly-stringless beans in 1962, haricots verts remain the most tender, succulent and delicious green beans around.

While French filet beans may grow similarly to other green beans, that’s where it all ends. These slender-podded totally-stringless beans grow very straight and to remarkable lengths – up to 12” long. Although best harvested when the diameter of a pencil, they remain stringless and tasty when more mature.

Despite the famous filet bean with its dense, buttery flavor being the choice for American’s palates, it’s not commercially harvested. Filets are difficult to efficiently pick at peak flavor, so if you want them, you’ll only get them from your own garden.

To get more of these wonderful bean plants, as well as to beat chewing night critters, sow seed indoors. Start indoors in late April through the first part of May, about two weeks before the last frost date.

Presprouting beans is a great way to start your crop.  Place beans on wet paper toweling on a large dinner plate, then cover with a vented microwave dome. Unsprouted beans can be discarded before you waste planting duds.

Pot up sprouted beans (you might want to sprinkle in some inoculant bacteria to stimulate nitrogen-rich root nodes) in six packs after they have about 1” of growth.

Keep beneath a good light source until seedlings have some true leaves and are about 3-4” tall. Acclimate them outside about 5 days before planting out.

Pole-type filet beans are best since their beans aren’t prone to tip rot and remain straighter when grown vertically on supports. Sheep wire and 7’ steel posts work well for plant support.

Lasting much longer than other varieties, you’ll be harvesting filet pods until the frost nips them in the tips! Then devour them steamed and buttered or grilled with olive oil and garlic…delicious and nutritious!!!

So, if you want the greatest green beans, just remember:

The more you toot, the better you’ll feel

When you offer your filet beans for many a meal!

 

Fun Fact:

Did you know there’s a National Bean Day?  Paula Bowen created it to honor her father (a pinto bean farmer). It celebrates both shelled as well green beans on Jan 6th. It’s also the date of Gregor Mendel’s death in 1884. An esteemed scientist and Augustine friar, the results of his pea and bean breeding experiments formed the basis of modern genetics. This in turn contributed to the beans we eat today.

 

Seed Sources:

Pine Tree Garden Seeds

https://www.superseeds.com

They have Fortex (they grow to an amazing 10-12” long) and Monte Gusto, a pole wax bean with very long-straight pods. Both are stringless.

 

The Seed Vault

https://www.theseedvault.com

They have heirloom organic beans.

 

Johnny’s Select Seeds

https://www.johnnyseeds.com

They have Fortex pole type beans.

 

 

Recipe:

Grilled French Filet Beans

1-1½ pounds of fresh filet beans, washed and stem end removed

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed

1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary (or tarragon)

1/8th teaspoon sea salt

a pinch of coarse ground black pepper

 

Parboil beans in water to cover for about 2 minutes.  Drain.  Put beans in a zip-type gallon bag. Mix together in a small bowl the oil, garlic, minced rosemary, sea salt and pepper. Pour over beans. Seal bag and gently flip over several times until all beans are well coated.

Grill beans over low setting on grill for about 10 minutes until brown marks are visible. Serve immediately or cold. Makes about 4 servings.

 

Somewhere Growing Over the Rainbow

By Beet 2022 06 June

Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue

And the dreams that you dare to dream

Really do come true

This is especially true if you sow, Beta vulgaris subsp, cicla, Swiss chard, in all its vibrant range of colors.

Swiss chard Beta vulgaris subsp, cicla

From bright yellow, blood red, white, crimson, peppermint stripe and fuchsia to lime green and coral stems, Swiss chard can bring a rainbow right from your own garden bed.

Also known as Silverbeet, leaf beet, and spinach beet, to name a few, Swiss chard is surprisingly way more familiar to the other side of the Atlantic than to our own American soils.

A member of the same family as spinach, Amaranthaceae, Swiss chard originated in Sicily then later was cultivated in England.  It was listed among beets in 1848 when colonists brought it to America. (Swiss was added to its name to distinguish it from French spinach, 19th century).

Cultivated both as vegetable and ornamental, this hardy biennial plant provides not only succulent-ruffled-leaves but thick-sweet stems. It’s a wonderful substitute for spinach since, unlike spinach, it contains no oxalic acid.

While Swiss chard is low in calories, it’s high in magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.  One cup of cooked greens has 700 times the RDA of vitamin K and 200 times that of A, all without the oxalic acid found in spinach.

You can indulge in this delicious nutritious green both raw and cooked.  Have it as a salad, tossed in stir fries, used instead of spinach in lasagna or a frittata, made into pesto, have wraps with the steamed leaves, and more.

Swiss chard can be directly sown early in spring as soon as soil can be worked, or sown in late summer for fall crops.  You can also start it inside, about a month before the last frost date.

Sow seeds outside in rows 14”-18” apart (inside in sterile seed mix in 5” squares covered with ½” seed mix), then thinly cover and gently pat down with a 1/2” of compost mix.  Water thoroughly.

Once sprouted, thin direct sown seedlings to 8-12” apart, or similarly, plant out (after acclimating for several days) seedlings started indoors.

Keeping Swiss chard mulched, free of weeds, side dressed with rich compost, and watered thoroughly (once weekly unless very hot, then twice weekly), will give you a great rainbow to enjoy all season.

Unlike spinach, it will grow in both cool and summer heat, and survive mild frosts as well.  Although as a biennial Swiss chard wants to set seed its second year, one can clip young leaves and stems in early spring until starting a new crop.

Why not sow your dreams with rainbow rows of Swiss chard?  Not only will it bring a vibrant splash of color to your garden, but your menu as well.

Some Fun Facts:

 

Despite the “Swiss” reference, chard isn’t Swiss at all but a native of the Mediterranean.

It’s believed the name “chard” derived from the French word “cardoon” which is carde furthering the confusion with the thistle cardoon that’s not a leafy green at all.

Swiss chard’s age is unclear, but Aristotle mentioned using red-stalked chard around 350 BCE as a medicinal plant.

Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

https://www.rareseeds.com

Pinetree Garden Seeds

https://www.rareseeds.com

Harris Seeds

https://www.harrisseeds.com

Recipe:

Spicy Sautéed Toasted Coconut Chard

1 lb chard, washed, with stems cut in small crosswise slices, leaves chopped

1 red organic onion, washed, peeled and cut in half vertically then cut in thin slices

4 large cloves of garlic, skinned and minced fine

1 2” piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

zest and juice of one organic lime

3 tablespoons sesame cooking oil (canola is good substitute)

½ cup unsweetened organic coconut flakes, toasted (toast in 350° oven about 8-10 minutes until light brown)

1/3 cup unsalted dry roasted almonds, (Trader Joes) chopped coarse

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon spicy sweet chili paste (Amy Chungs)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Heat cooking oil in heavy pot then toss in garlic, onion and chard stems.  Sauté for about 3 minutes until limp.  Add chard leaves and sauté until limp.  Add in ginger, lime zest and juice, coconut milk, honey, chili paste and salt.  Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes until all is tender and juices have been reduced.  Toss in toasted coconut and almonds and toasted sesame oil.  Stir until well blended and serve hot.  Makes about 4 servings as a side dish or atop rice as a base for grilled poultry or fish.

Don’t Be Gloomy! Get Yourself a Sweet Goumi!

By Beet 2022 05 May

 

 

Elaeagnus multiflora, Goumi berry, also known as Cherry Silverberry, Cherry Elaeagnus Cibie, Longpipe Bush, and Daio-Gumi has many names and many benefits. Not so well known in the USA, the Goumi berry (not to be confused with the Goji berry) has been rising on the garden scene.

It originated in China, Korea, and Japan. It’s one of three edible species of Elaeagnus including Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia). Although both Autumn and Russian Olive are invasive, the Goumi is considered the least invasive of the three but has not shown itself to be a problem in Oregon.

 

How is the Goumi good for us as well for our gardens? As a perennial, the Goumi (unlike annuals whose short life span takes nutrients from soils to mature rapidly) has better roots for absorbing minerals from soils.

In the Elaeagnaceae (oleaster) family, it’s a nitrogen fixer. So instead of taking from the soil, the Goumi actually renews it with nitrogen, benefiting nearby plants as well. So, planting more than one is even better. Note that it grows to 6’-10’ tall, so plan accordingly.

The Goumi berry also requires little fussing over and generally prefers poor soil. Once established, it’s also drought tolerant. It’s long-lived and doesn’t need replanting.

Along with improving soil for neighboring plants, the Goumi berry is bee friendly. It provides us with edible fruit! Note that each berry contains a single large seed. If you’re gardening following permaculture principles, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect species.

This super-powered plant beautifies the garden. Its emerald-colored oval leaves have a shimmering silver underside.

Early in spring, creamy bell-shaped flowers fill the air with a delicious fragrance. Following on are bright scarlet silvery-speckled drupes that resemble cherries.

Whether part of an edible hedge or an orchard tree neighbor, both you and your other plants will benefit from its plant-based nutrition, garden beautification and what appears on your dinner plate.

Goumi berries taste great when completely ripe. Immature berries are astringent like unripe persimmons. When ripe, their tart sweetness resembles pie cherries or sweet rhubarb.

They’re great in many recipes, whether consumed fresh out-of-hand (when ripe), cooked, made into jams, jellies, desserts, or more.

They can grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-9, and roots have been known to survive to -20 F. Established shrubs tolerate drought and air pollution. Growing in shade though a half day of sun is preferred. They are pest and disease resistant and partially self-fertile.

So, get rid of the gloomy. Bee friendly and plant and treat your garden to a sweet Goumi!

Seed Sources:

For this season, it may be a challenge to acquire a Goumi. But don’t despair, it’s worth waiting for them to come back in stock.

One Green World

They have a wait list that’s definitely worth getting on!

http://www.onegreenworld.com

Rain Tree Nursery

http://www.raintreenursery.com

 

Locally

Shooting Star Nursery

http://www.roguevalleynursery.com

3223 Taylor Rd, Central Point

541-840-6453

 

Recipe:

Very Berry Goat Cheese and Greens Salad

About 4 servings

Vinaigrette:

2/3 cup Goumi berries

¼ cup white wine vinegar

2-3 tablespoons honey or Agave nectar

2 tablespoons fresh French tarragon, minced fine

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

juice and zest from one organic lime

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

 

Salad:

6-8 cups mixed fresh salad greens, like arugula, red and green lettuces, baby beet, kale, or chard (from the garden or market)

½ cup each strawberries (quartered), blackberries, and raspberries

4 oz of goat cheese, crumbled

¼ cup lightly salted pistachio nuts

 

Pit Goumi berries then purée in food processor. Add wine vinegar, honey, tarragon, garlic, mustard, oil, lime juice, zest, and sea salt. Pulse until well blended. Put excess vinaigrette in glass jar to store for up to 2 weeks.

Mix together greens and pile on 4 individual salad plates or in shallow bowls. Divide among plates and sprinkle the berries, goat cheese and pistachio nuts over the greens. Pour vinaigrette over as desired and serve.

 

 

 

Growing for the Green!

By Beet 2022 04 April

 

It’s been a stiff competition, but we have a finalist for our Gardener’s “Olympic Green Medal.”

2022’s winner is…Brassica oleracea, for team Heirloom Cabbage! And what a huge family team it is.     

Wild cabbages (ancestors of cultivated heirloom cabbages), as well all others in the Brassica family, (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts) can be traced to the Mediterranean. Brassicas then spread to coastal northwestern Europe including the southern coast of England, western France, and Holland.

The word brassica derives from bresic, a Celtic (Northern European) word for cabbage. Many European and Asiatic names for cabbage are derived from the Celto-Slavic root cap or kap, meaning “head”. The late Middle English word cabbage derives from the Old French word caboche (“head”).

The Romans also cultivated a varietal team with three main differences: crinkled or curly-leaved like kale; smooth-leafed, open-headed cabbages; and a wild lot with small-roundish leaves.

Unfortunately, many of the earliest heirloom cabbage varieties have vanished, but there are still many available today that are worth exploring and propagating.

While today’s cabbages are usually “heading” types, heirlooms take other forms.

There’s the Wakefield group, those with pointed heads; the Copenhagen group, forming round balls; drumheads with flattened heads; and Savoys varying from very loose-leafy heads resembling giant-crinkled kale, to monster-sized drumheads. (Most Savoys are the hardiest cabbages of all heading varieties.)

Unfortunately, many of the oldest varieties are no longer around. However, the home gardener can cultivate a number of wonderful unique heirloom varieties they’ll not find at any market.

Whether heirloom or not, good soil is what creates winning cabbages, with ground that’s generously amended with the richest compost (manure-mix is the best).

Sow your seeds indoors (about 6-8 weeks before last frost) ¼” deep in sterilized soil mix.  Sprouting should happen in about 7-10 days in 50-75° F heat.

Pot seedlings up when they’re about 3-4” high. Once they root in a couple weeks, acclimate them outside (harden off) by gradually lengthening their exposure time. Plant out in spring, spacing 18-20” apart depending on variety.

Cabbages are thirsty creatures, so keep them consistently irrigated (no overhead watering) and heavily mulched to retain moisture. Keeping plants cooler avoids bolting.

Row cover is key to keeping pests away. Using a frost-blanket type keeps more sensitive varieties from freezing in early winter.

Heads are ready for harvesting when firm and filled out. Cut from the stem with a sharp knife. If enough remains, the stem will soon give you “mini” cabbage side sprouts like Brussels sprouts to clip and savor.

From tight, round or frilly ruffles to pale green, bright emerald, variegated purple, or rich ruby red, heirloom cabbages astound the avid gardening spectator. Guaranteed!

So, what does that mean for today’s home gardener? We have quite a variety of heirloom cabbages to select from that will surely bring home that “Olympic Green Grower’s Medal” to grace supper, picnic, or pickled (there’s nothing like homemade kraut!) presentations.

 

 

Seed Sources for Heirloom Cabbage:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

http://rareseeds.com

You’ll find a multitude of varieties.

 

Pinetree Garden Seeds

http://superseeds.com

They have several varieties.

 

Seed Savers Exchange

http://seedsavers.org

They have five varieties.

 

 

Braised Heirloom Cabbage

 

One large heirloom cabbage, any type, cut lengthwise in thick wedges

One large organic red onion, peeled and cut in thin wedges

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1/3 cup white wine or red for red-leaved varieties (Vermouth enhances cabbage sweetness)

1/4 cup chicken or turkey bone broth (or vegetable stock)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

fresh ground sea salt and pepper

3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 300° F. Put cabbage and onion wedges in bottom of a Dutch oven or other heavy, ovenproof pot. Mix together garlic, olive oil, honey, white wine, broth, and minced rosemary. Add about 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and a few twists of ground pepper or to taste. Pour over cabbage and onion. Cover tightly with lid or heavy foil and cook for an hour.

Rotate cabbage and onions, then braise for another 30 minutes. Then, remove from oven. Increase oven to 400° F. Pour balsamic vinegar over vegetables and roast uncovered for about 20 minutes until glazed and tender.

Serve hot. Makes about 6-8 servings loaded with vitamins and minerals as well a delicious taste.