Archive for the ‘Local Gardening Tips’ Category
Frequenting our local farmers markets in the Sacramento Region is fun even in these cooler autumn days. Seeing the pear harvest is exciting and delicious! Fruit farmers are bringing out their barrels of pears…but how do you know what type you want to purchase and consume? So many decisions! Pears are cousins of apples. American varieties come from Europe, where they migrated from central Asia. Early colonists brought the first trees to America where they thrived until blights became severe. Most pears are now grown west of the Rockies where diseases are less of a problem. In The Odyssey, the Greek poet Homer calls pears a “gift of the gods.” Asian pears are the oldest known cultivated pear. Pears come in so many varieties (10 that we know of – we have listed 8!) Here are a few to look for at the local farmers markets:
Click Here for pear types
Purple carrots, white strawberries and cucamelons?
No, I’m not going crazy, I’m talking about heirloom produce. I’m sure that you’ve heard of heirloom tomatoes, but what does the ‘heirloom’ prefix mean? An heirloom plant or vegetable is a crop that was commonly grown during earlier periods in history, but is not used in “modern large scale agriculture.”
More and more Farmer’s Markets are offering Heirloom produce. The heirloom seed market is growing rapidly as well. Many website offer a large variety of seeds for you to “grow your own” heirloom produce. Everything from black corn, chocolate colored sweet peppers and Merlot lettuce. (yes it’s deep wine colored!) One specific heirloom variety watermelon is a cucamelon. It is a light green fruit whose flesh is white, crisp and crunchy with a lemony tartness. The flavor is similar to a cucumber. People chop them up into summer salads or add them to a simple salsa. I personally eat them like pretzels or chips! Just add a tiny salt and pop them in your mouth! Delicious.
Food should be fun, interesting and enjoyable. Adding color, shapes and new varieties of produce is a simple, easy and great way to develop your palate and knowledge of food! Why bother with heirloom vegetables? Well, first of all, they’re something different. Who expects a blue pumpkin or a yellow tomato? Second, the taste. You might be surprised by how much more flavorful an heirloom vegetable is when compared to one of its modern equivalents. Third, most respond very well to organic treatment. This isn’t surprising, since most were developed long before chemical agriculture became the norm! Fourth, it maintains biodiversity. You never know when we’ll need those genes carried by heirloom produce.
Some heirloom veggies may seem quite odd by modern standards. We get so wrapped up in our expectations of what a certain type of vegetable should look like that we tend to forget that it took a while to breed our modern food plants to the standards that we now enjoy. For example, did you know that some heirloom cultivars of pumpkins are red, white, and even blue, rather than the standard orange? Similarly, carrots can be red, white, or black, and round instead of cylindrical. While a few unusual versions of both vegetables have made it into the modern seed catalog, they’re rare.
What about a simple, delicious and easy heirloom carrot recipe?
***Try and find some different sizes, color and shapes of the carrots for extra flair!
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 bunches heirloom carrots, scrubbed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp honey
1. Preheat oven to 400º. In a medium roasting pan, toss the carrots with butter, shallots, and thyme and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Place pan in oven and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
3. Remove from oven and drizzle over honey. Toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
Want to eat healthy and look like a professional chef while serving “heirloom” produce?! Try:
Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Gratin
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound baby Italian eggplants, peeled and sliced into rounds 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound goat cheese, coarsely crumbled (1 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush a large oval baking dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange the tomato and eggplant slices in a single layer of overlapping concentric circles. Scatter the thyme sprigs on top and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is barely tender and the tomatoes have exuded their juices.
2. Uncover the gratin and bake for about 25 minutes longer, or until the juices have evaporated and the vegetables are very tender. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I suggest your next trip to the Farmer’s Market you should ask the vendors if they have any delicious recipes or “new’ heirloom produce for you to try!
We are in peak season for summer squash and juicy tomatoes. Chefs are putting their skills to the test and coming up with some very delicious, healthy and creative dishes using these two key farm fresh ingredients. This Provençal summer dish is delightful as a starter or as a side dish with fish, chicken or cooked grains.
FRIED SUMMER SQUASH WITH TOMATOES and BASIL
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds medium or small zucchini or other summer squash, thinly sliced or diced (depending on what shape squash you use)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, grated on the large holes of a box grater, or peeled, seeded and diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped or slivered fresh basil (to taste)
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy skillet. Add the zucchini. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan, until the zucchini is lightly seared and beginning to soften, three to five minutes. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
2. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, then the garlic. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant — less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have begun to cook down, about five minutes. Return the zucchini to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is tender and translucent and the tomatoes have cooked down to a fragrant sauce. Stir in the basil, and taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat and serve hot, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
Yield: Serves four to six.
Advance preparation: You can make this a day or two ahead of time. Keep refrigerated, and reheat gently on top of the stove. The dish is also good cold, doused with a little lemon juice.
Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 111 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 10 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 20 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste), 3 grams protein
Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 74 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 7 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 13 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste), 2 grams protein
Be a part of National Can-It-Forward Day on August 13
On August 13, join millions of food lovers curious about canning to learn the ease of preserving fresh food as part of National Can-It-Forward Day.
Jarden Home Brands has teamed up with Canning Across America, a nationwide group of food writers, bloggers and cookbook authors united by a passion for canning, to create the National Can-It-Forward Day.
Gather your family and friends to celebrate the bounty of summer through home canning. Learn the ease of preserving fresh food through a day of home canning parties, online instructional canning videos and cooking demos, local events and more. We’ll help you every step of the way.
1. Host a Home Canning Party
Whether you are new to canning or a seasoned pro, canning is always more fun when shared with friends. So get a group and host your very own Can-It-Forward Day Home Canning Party. We’ll make it easy.
Let’s Get the Party Started!
Celebrate National Can-It-Forward Day by hosting your own home canning party. It’s easy and here are all the steps you need to get started:
Step 1: Mark your calendars for August 13 and pick a location to host your very own National Can-It-Forward Day Home Canning Party. Simply select any spot with a working stovetop and some counter space — your kitchen, community center, office break-room, etc.
Step 2: Spread the word – Invite Your Friends, Family, Neighbors and Co-workers for August 13, National Can-It-Forward Day! Twitter #canitforward
Step 3: Select Your Recipes. For National Can-It-Forward Day, we suggest Fiesta Salsa – it’s fun and easy and who doesn’t enjoy salsa made with fresh tomatoes?
Step 4: Decide how many jars of Fiesta Salsa you will be making at your party, just a few or a large batch.
Step 5: Download the printable Intro to Canning Guide, Party Tips Guide, National Can-It-Forward Day Regular Mouth Lid Labels, National Can-It-Forward Day Wide Mouth Lid Labels, and Party Games for hosting your own Can-It-Forward Day party.
Lid Label Directions: The National Can-It-Forward Day labels for the regular mouth jar lids are designed to fit AVERY 5293 Labels. The labels for the wide mouth lids are designed to fit AVERY 5294 labels. Simply download the PDF of your choice, insert the appropriate label sheet into your printer, push print and apply to your jars. Then show your friends and family what you created and listen to their oohs and aahs!
Step 6: Host your own home canning party and receive valuable coupons.
2. Can-It-Forward Day Web TV
Set your calendars and join us here for a full day of LIVE streaming coverage of National Can-It-Forward Day events taking place at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.
From 11 AM — 7 PM EDT/8 AM — 4 PM PDT, we will be airing live canning demonstrations by the experts at Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball® Home Canning Products and Canning Across America as well as recipe demos from top Seattle chefs. View demonstrations from the comfort of your own home or during a Can-It-Forward Day Home Canning Party! Ask our experts and chefs questions in our live Q&A.
Click here for the National Can-It-Forward Day Web TV broadcast schedule.
Click here for LIVE streaming video on August 13.
3. Participate in Person
Hey Seattle — let’s get canning! If you live in or are in the Seattle area on August 13, stop by Pike Place Market and participate in person! We’ll be celebrating with live canning demonstrations throughout the day, giveaways and sampling and more!
Here are some other recipes we will be celebrating on National Can-It-Forward Day.
Check them out for easy directions:
Prime melon season in the Sacramento Valley region is upon us and stretches into September.
There are some amazing melons to choose from. The varieties are bountiful when it comes to heirloom varieties.
Next visit to your local farmers market try to find these various types of melons and ask for a taste before buying!
Crimson Sweet: Crisp, sweet and mild with medium red flesh.
Mickey Lee: Red flesh w/ a clean taste and a slightly grainy texture.
Moon and Stars: Bright to pinkish-red flesh and a sweet-tart flavor.
New Orchid: Pale orange flesh and a rich, honey-like flavor.
Yellow Doll: Yellow flesh, slightly tart.
Muse & Late-Harvest Melon Family:
Ambrosia: Sweet, floral, and deeply flavorful orange flesh.
Canary: Dense green flesh with a sweet flavor that’s musky in a good way, like grapes.
Charentais: Deep orange and juicy with a flowery aroma.
Eel River: Super soft texture, gentle flavor, and elegant perfume; orange flesh.
Ha-Ogen: Chin-drippingly juicy, with slightly savory, tropical flavors and pale green flesh.
Honeyloupe: Hybrid that tastes and looks like a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew; bright orange, sweet and juicy.
Galia: As sweet, juicy and succulent as a summer peach, with soft green flesh.
Green Nutmeg: Tiny, single-serving melon. A bit spicy, with bright green flesh.
Tuscan: Earthly, clean flavor with hints of cucumber. Rich, amber-colored flesh.
How to choose a melon:
Give it the once over: Is it symmetrical? Check. No bruises? Check. No soggy areas? Check.
Find the Couche (coosh): That’s the flat spot where the melon rested on the ground. If it doesn’t have one, it was harvested too early.
Locate the “full slip” or belly button, where the melon attached to the vine. It should be smooth and clean, a sign it was ripe enough to detach on its own.
Lift it: Does it seem heavier than it looks? Good! That means its juicy!
MELON TIP: If your melon doesn’t smell strong and fruity, let it sit a day or two to ripen before you cut into it. Watermelon doesn’t ripen after picking so you need to use the steps above to pick the ripest one right off the crate.
September 13, 14 and 15th @ the Sonoma County Fairgrounds
Come witness farmers, gardners, chefs and food organizations as they gather together in what will likely be the largest event for heritage agriculture ever held. Learn from America’s top growers and food celebrities! Dozens of seed companies and organizations will be present. Workshops, demonstrations and great music!
See over 4,000 varities of heirloom produce on display showing the diversity of heirlooms. You will be able to browse through over 200 exhibitors and purchase organic, natural and original food products, art and garden related items from many unique vendors.
You have the opportunity to learn from nationally renowned speakers, writers and farmers! Guest speakers will be sharing their wealth of information and experience throughout the entire exposition. Priceless knowledge and expertise with Dr. Vandana Shiva.
All profits from the National Heirloom Exposition will be donated to school garden projects and other food and garden-related charities.
For more information and further details visit: www.theheirloomexpo.com
Gardens are bountiful with zucchini this time of year. Zucchini can be used in many amazing dishes; appetizers, entrees, soups, desserts, drinks….you name it….it is a very universal vegetable and here is one more way to put it to good use in your kitchen!
- 3-4 medium/small sized zucchini
- 1 cup Chevre cheese or similar artisan cheese
- 1 cup porcini mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 to 2 tsps white truffle oil
- 1 tbsp jalapeno, finely diced
- 1-2 tbsp each of finely minced fresh green onion/parsley (or whatever you feel like)
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350.
Slice each zucchini in half, and hollow out the seeds with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of salt, pepper and oil. Place in oven for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is tender, but not overcooked.
Take out of oven to let cool a bit and prepare cheese mixture.
Sautee mushrooms and jalapeno, until mushrooms have softened. In a medium bowl, add goat cheese, mushroom mixture, fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Mix and spoon into the zucchini boats.
Pop on your broiler, and broil until the goat cheese is melted.
Recipe could be used on the grill as well with some amazing results. Enjoy!
Imagine Sacramento offering a “People’s Garden” which would provide fresh organic produce for the area’s homeless and needy. The garden would also serve the people of Sacramento as an outdoor classroom and a community hub for all ages. What if Sacramento offered a garden project where their locally grown food is sold to restaurants, at Farmers Markets and community organizations with similar aims of improving neighborhood food security. Individuals who would be hired to work the large garden program would see the farm as a place for self-growth and healthy community development, while beautifying their neighborhood.
One company is offering a huge opportunity for cities like Sacramento to partake in such an idea. Nature’s Path Organic believes that urban farming is a model of sustainability that can help make fresh, organic food available to everyone.
“Our goal is to plant it forward”, notes Arran Stephens, founder and CEO of Nature’s Path. “By providing access to healthy, organic food and the education needed to grow it, we hope to encourage and cultivate socially responsible community leaders who will bring people together to feed those in need.”
In 2011 Nature’s Path is putting their money where their hearts are by offering GARDENS for GOOD program, providing $65,000 in funding to support 3 urban farm projects. Have a project in mind?
Here is how you can get involved:
1. Nominate: visit www.facebook.com/NaturesPath and “Like” Gardens for Good to enter an urban farming project into this year’s grant contest.
2. Participate: View applications and vote for the project that you believe is making the greatest impact on their community.
3. Activate: Spread the word and activate your community to support urban farming in your neighborhood. Help their mission go viral!
Sacramento – are you ready to make a difference and start planting your “People’s Garden”? Plant it Forward!!
THE LIFE OF A ZUCCHINI SEED:
As you plant your tiny little zucchini seeds and you nurture the soil surrounding the seeds, you always wonder as a gardener…..should I plant more? The plant begins to grow and prosper but still you are thinking…..will this one plant be enough to suffice me through the summer?
The plant takes on a whole new life and the edible squash blooms begin to poke through the vine branches. The excitement begins to build with anticipation of when the first vegetable will appear. The vine is growing, the green hue is becoming more and more prevalent, the blossoms turning into an amazing flower, tiny little squashes are beginning to pop up throughout the vine. More water, please. One evening you go check on your growing vines…..everything looks great but still not big enough to harvest. You have a gardening dream and it is abundant and fresh.
Next morning you go to take a status check on the crop and look down……”Holy Garden Hoe”! You take another look down and to your amazement your squash blossoms and tiny squash have grown 10 inches in length and 5 inches in diameter overnight. There’s not only one or two but 5 of the same size. You scratch your soil infested hair and take a second look. Maybe you are still in that gardening dream? Touch, feel, smell. Nope…..this is your precious seed that has been nurtured and loved by you. It is time for Zucchini Season and the crop is ready to flourish you with TONS of amazing vegetables. The vine keeps producing and producing deep green and yellow zucchini. Now what?
Zucchini (aka courgette) can come in many varieties throughout the world. Some amazing features about this abundant vegetable:
- One of the very low calories vegetable that is used during weight reduction and cholesterol control programs. Zucchinis provide only 17 calories per 100 g. Contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Its peel is good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation and offers some protection against colon cancers.
- Courgette is relatively moderate source of folates, consists of 24 mcg or 6% of RDA per 100 g. Folates are important in cell division and DNA synthesis. When taken adequately before pregnancy, it can help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus.
- It is a very good source of potassium, an important intra-cellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte; helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium.
- Fresh fruits are rich in vitamin A; provide about 200 IU per 100 g.
- Furthermore, zucchinis, especially golden skin variety are rich in flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the body that play a role in aging and various disease process.
- Fresh fruit is good source of anti-oxidant vitamin-C. Provide about 17.9 mcg or 30% of RDA per 100g.
- In addition, they are also good in B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and potassium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.HOW TO SELECT ZUCCHINI
- At your farmers markets and stores, choose small to medium sized zucchini featuring shiny, bright green skin, firm and heavy in hand. The best size for zucchini is 6 to 8 inches long and 2 inches or less in diameter. Some big sized varieties with marrow are specially grown especially for stuffing. Minor superficial scratches and mild bruises are oftentimes seen on their surface but are perfectly fine.
- Avoid overly large courgette with pitted skin or those with flabby or spongy texture. Also, avoid those with soft and wrinkled ends as they indicate old stock and state of de-hydration. Go for organically grown products to get rich flavor and nutrients content.
- At home, place them in plastic bag and store inside the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator set with adequate moisture. They can be stored for up to 2-3 days.
PREPARATION and SERVING METHODS
- Wash zucchini thoroughly in cold running water just before cooking. Sometimes the fruits may require light scrub at places where prickles or dirt attached firmly. Trim the neck and bases. Peeling of skin is not advised.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS and RECIPES for the BLOOMS in our next posting on