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Sydney Jordan Brown

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.



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

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Organic Gardener Magazine, Australia. Sept 2018.

Arkansas State Parks


Sources for Elephant garlic seed:

Keene Garlic


Irish Eyes and a Hint of Garlic

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


Southern Exposure Seed Exchange



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

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


Johnny’s Selected Seeds

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



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.



Oregon State University, dry bulb onions Western OR Dec 2012

Johnny’s Seeds overwintering trials

The Westside Gardener by Travis Saling



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.


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:

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

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

They have heirloom organic beans.


Johnny’s Select Seeds

They have Fortex pole type beans.




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.

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Harris Seeds


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!

Rain Tree Nursery



Shooting Star Nursery

3223 Taylor Rd, Central Point




Very Berry Goat Cheese and Greens Salad

About 4 servings


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



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

You’ll find a multitude of varieties.


Pinetree Garden Seeds

They have several varieties.


Seed Savers Exchange

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.



It’s an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Tom that’s Truly Keenie

By Beet 2022 03 March


While Tom Thumb, no larger than his father’s thumb, may have been a long-ago fairy tale figure, Micro Toms are quite real.


Not familiar with this little tomato gem? You aren’t the only one. Solanum lycopersicum ‘Micro Tom’ was developed in 1989 by Dr. J.W. Scott and Dr. B.K. Harbaugh at the University of Florida, but it’s unlikely to be seen at local nurseries.


Where then does one find this charming and smallest tomato? Fortunately, it’s carried by a few specialty seed catalog companies.


So, why sow this miniature plant with its pea-sized fruits instead of a dwarf tomato? Genetic dwarf tomatoes (plants for another tale), while compact, are still too large to perch on a window sill or ledge.


They are not GMO but bred conventionally. Most are open pollinated, growing true-to-type unless crossed with another variety.


Micro Toms grow best in very small 4–6” pots. The plants grow to a whopping four inches and sometimes up to six inches! Their unique size is due to three genes, each from a spontaneous mutation.


A dwarfing gene is common in dwarf tomatoes. Another self-pruning gene is responsible for its being determinate. The third, sun-dwarfing gene results in extremely short internodes under high light intensities. Under less intense light, Micro Toms might be a bit taller, but not much.


Anticipate harvesting around 10 to 15 under-an-inch big fruits per plant. Remember, you can have a number of plants in a very limited space. Micro Toms will even grow and give you fruit during the winter months, when planted in a petite pot on the window ledge.


No, you can’t expect to feed your family on these dazzling little dainties, but you can surely have some fun in very little space.


Their taste is not bad. While not claiming to duplicate something like “Sungold” (not many taste better than that cheery little hybrid cherry), Micro Tomatoes taste sweet just the same.


Micro Toms produce fruit in 90–115 days like larger tomatoes. They definitely prefer pots to open ground. Also, seeds sown in April–May will give you plants that won’t mature in summer, so you’ll have fruits for winter!


With a bit of gravel in the base of a 4-6” pot filled with good potting mix, you can transfer seedlings sporting their first true leaves to their new homes. Watering with a 50% solution of fish and kelp should keep them well nourished throughout the season.


Put each plant in a pretty little pot tied with ribbon. Micro Toms make the perfect winter gift resembling a compact Christmas tree that will soon be complete with its own red, orange, or gold ornaments to decorate a delicate holiday dinner salad.


So, if you have quite limited garden space or a sunny window sill, but are passionate for your own home-grown tomatoes, then the Micro Tom is for you!


Seed Sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Micro Tom, Orange Hat, Spoon Tomato, and Cherry Berry

Plant World Seeds

Tomato Micro 

Urban Farmer

Micro Tom

Trade Winds Fruit



Tom Thumb Angel Hair Pasta (serves 4)

This is a lovely mixture of different tomato varieties.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups Micro Tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes may be substituted)

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

½ cup of half and half or nondairy substitute (soy, almond, cashew milk)

1 tablespoon homemade or fresh-purchased pesto

1/8 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground pepper

One 6 oz can organic tuna

6 pickled organic pepperoncini peppers, seeded, stemmed, and sliced thinly

1 tablespoon capers

Zest and juice from one organic lime

8 oz organic whole wheat or spinach angel hair pasta

2 cups home grown or organic arugula, washed and dried

10 Kalamata olives, sliced

Fresh shredded Italian cheese (Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio is great for this dish) or Parmigiano-Reggiano and Fontina


Bring 4 quarts water to boil and cook angel hair pasta al dente, about 2-3 minutes. Drain, toss with a little olive oil, then return to pot covering with lid to keep warm.


Heat olive oil in skillet then sauté garlic on medium until golden, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté about 1 minute. Pour in half and half or non-dairy milk, pesto, sea salt, and pepper. Gently stir to mix. Add tuna, pepperocini, capers, lime zest and juice, then stir again to mix.  

Coil angel hair pasta in 4 shallow pasta bowls. Top each with sauce, shredded cheese, arugula, and Kalamata olives. Serve immediately

Love Lettuces for Your Sweetheart

By Beet 2022 02 February

Prefer propagating to penning a love letter?  Instead of verses that aren’t quite flowing, get out and do some sowing!

Lay aside those lackluster letters and send your love a luscious bouquet of a dozen heirloom lettuces.  They’ll last much longer and taste far better than roses!


“Lettuce?” you ask.  Not just any lettuces, but the most spectacular crimson, brilliant emerald, speckled and other heirloom varieties grown from your own garden.  With varieties such as Merlot, Solar Flare, Trout Back and Outrageous Red, how could your sweetheart be disappointed?


Lactuca sativa, lettuce is the world’s most popular salad green.  Lac, the Latin root for “milk” appears in lactuca, its Latin name, and is derived from lettuce’s characteristically milky juices. In Old French, laitue means milky. In English, it became lettuce.


Today’s myriad types of cultivated lettuces likely descended from L. scariola, wild lettuces (prickly lettuce). Lettuce was originally farmed by the ancient Egyptians. Depictions of lettuce have been found on Egyptian tomb walls with Min, the male god of fertility, from around 2700 B.C.  Lettuce was served on the tables of Persian kings in 6th century B.C., praised by the Greeks and popular among the Romans not only to promote sexual stamina, but also to aid in digestion; they used the seeds’ oil for medicine and cooking.


Lettuce was transported by the Romans who introduced it to their subjects in Western Europe. By the 1400s, loose-headed lettuces had developed in Europe. Lettuce cultivation was substantial in France, Holland and Italy in the 1600s. American immigrants brought seeds they had cultivated with them.


Thomas Jefferson had 17 varieties of lettuce at Monticello. Many heirloom lettuces were developed in the US during the 1800s and later to accommodate the wide variety of growing conditions in the coldest to hottest areas. Many of those wonderfully colorful heirlooms were left behind for the more productive – but way less nutritious – varieties. Fortunately, heirloom lettuces have come back since the 1970s health craze.


In 2015, “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce was even cultivated by astronauts on the International Space Station.  Now that’s reason enough for offering a lettuce bouquet to someone special!

Those vivid, leafy whorls are also worthy for offering value to our daily diets.  They are a rich source of vitamins K and A, and provide minerals and fiber for very little cultivation or preparation.  They also make a most spectacular salad presentation.  Just try doing that with roses!

Sowing your sweetheart’s salad bouquet early will gift them with your “Love Lettuces” before you know it.  Of course, including a little rich dark organic chocolate never hurts either…

Seed sources:

Baker Creek


Pinetree Garden Seeds


Territorial Seed Company


Seed Savers Exchange  [Cassandra, please cut and paste the web address and create the link. We couldn’t do it. Maxine & Lisa]



Sweetheart Salad

Serves 4-6

6-8 cups freshly harvested heirloom lettuce (mixed colors makes it more spectacular)

2 smaller or 1 medium organic tart apple (Pink Lady, Pinova, Honeycrisp), washed, cored, sliced in thin wedges then cut crosswise into julienne strips

½ cup organic dried cherries (cut in halves) or cranberries

1/3 cup pistachio nuts

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Vinaigrette:  Mix the following ingredients together in a jar and shake well.  May be prepared ahead.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons organic honey

zest of one organic lemon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Gently toss salad ingredients together except for goat cheese and pistachios.  Pour half the vinaigrette and gently mix.  Use more if salad seems too dry.  Arrange salad on plates and sprinkle goat cheese and pistachio nuts on top.


A New Year’s Radolution

By Beet 2022 01 January

This year, why not resolve to try and bear your cross by sowing seed for Raphanus sativus?  Even if you fall short, the heirloom Long Scarlet radish that grows 5 to 7 inches long on a thin root will bear one for you.

Radishes belong to the family Brassicaceae, along with mustards and cabbages. Cruciferae is another name for this important family and means “cross-bearing.” All maturing plants in the cabbage family have flowers composed of four petals that are reminiscent of a lovely white cross when blooming.


Radishes have been doing their part by providing sustenance for thousands of years since originating in China. Gradually spreading westward, they became important foodstuff for the Greeks and Romans.  They were extensively cultivated in Egypt during the Pharaohs’ reigns and were consumed there before the pyramids were constructed.


Radishes were first documented in Europe in Germany in the 13th century.  They were cultivated in England by 1548, Mexico in 1565, and finally made their way to Massachusetts in 1629.


Today, radishes are readily propagated just about anywhere and in nearly every US state.  The Brassicaceae family (including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, mustard and radishes) is of great economic importance, providing much of the world’s winter vegetables.


Fresh radishes contain rich sources of ascorbic and folic acids, potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium.  

Their compact, pungent leaves can also be consumed (bet you hadn’t thought of that) by adding them to soups, sautéing them with olive oil and garlic, steaming them as a side dish or snipping some directly into your salad.  Delicious!  Move over arugula!


As for our featured star, the Long Scarlet radish, its tapered shape is similar to a carrot with a curved shoulder and distinct pointy tip.


The root’s vibrant, scarlet-pink skin is very thin.  The interior flesh is brilliant white, crisp and slightly sweet with a milder, peppery bite than most other radishes.


Unfortunately, for quite a long time, heirloom radishes were nearly replaced by the more familiar common round red radish. Seed for the Long Scarlet radish can again be found in select specialty seed catalogs.  Fortunately, someone reintroduced these seeds so we might again sow them in our own backyard gardens.


When those early birds get their worms, you’ll soon have your first Long Scarlet radishes if you sowed them in early spring.  When well-fertilized and provided with plenty of moisture, you could have your first taste in as little as three weeks!


Sowing directly in a fully sunny spot that’s loamy (add sand if compact) and well-composted is definitely the key for exceptional radish roots.  They’ll be sweeter and most tender the more rapidly they grow.


So, plan for that New Year’s cross-bearing with a Long Scarlet radish radolution!

Seed sources:

Long Scarlet radishes may be named Cincinnati Market radishes in some seed catalogs.

Pine Tree Garden Seeds 

Listed under the name Cincinnati Market radish. 

Urban Farmer

Has both Cincinnati Market and Long Scarlet Cincinnati Organic seeds.


Long Scarlet Radish Slaw


2 cups coarsely shredded radishes

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup tart apple cut in fine julienne strips

½ cup chopped toasted almonds or walnuts


3 tablespoons organic honey or agave nectar

¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix slaw ingredients in a large bowl or 2-gallon zip type bag.  Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until mixed.  Pour over slaw and gently toss, or if using bag, close zip and gently flip bag over several times with hands until everything is mixed. 

Serve immediately.  About 6-8 servings