Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Turnip Greens

Before I started growing Turnips, I never gave their green tops a second thought. I planted several rows last Fall and after an early hard frost I thought I had lost the crop. Thankfully I didn't dig them up. I left them in the ground and to my delight, they greened up vigorously in the early Spring as soon as the snow melted. When the rest of the garden is nothing but rows of sown seeds waiting to grow you learn to use what is available at the moment, and in the early Spring this has been Turnip Greens for me. I am now finally able to harvest things like Radicchio, Arugula, Mustard Greens, and Chinese Cabbage; but for many weeks it was nothing but Turnip Greens. While I am enjoying my new level of variety, I have discovered the joys of these simple and often ridiculed greens.

Turnip Greens are loaded with vitamins A, C, and B complex, as well as a good source of the minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

These green are wonderful in soups. I have used them several times in Miso Soup. I also like to steam them. Throw a pile of chopped Turnip Greens into the steamer and layer on top of them some sliced Carrot, Celery, and then some nice fish such as Tilapia or Lemon Sole. Sprinkle on some Red Pepper flakes or diced JalapeƱo if you like a bit of heat. Let this steam for about ten minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Serve with a squeeze of Lemon. Fantastic!

... and many thanks to my buddy Ronnie who sent me a link to a unique variety of Turnip, Seven Top, that doesn't grow a harvest-able root. Instead it concentrates all of it's energy on a great tasting top! I think I'm going to give this a try next season.

Turnip: Seven Top

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cost of Genetic Modification

From Natural News website...

Bayer admits GMO contamination out of control

(NaturalNews) Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.

"Even the best practices can't guarantee perfection," said Mark Ferguson, the company's defense lawyer in a recent trial.

Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.

"Bayer was supposed to be careful," Downing said. "Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies."

The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.

Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.

"This is a huge victory, not only for Kenny and me, but for every farmer in America who was harmed by Bayer's LibertyLink rice contamination," Hunter said.

According to Hunter, the company got "the wake-up call they deserved."

Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I need to find a way to cover my Blueberry bushes so the birds don't steal all the berries. My plants are loaded with flowers!

In response to this post, The Giving Garden sent along a nice photo of a relatively simple way to support a netting system to keep the birds away from berries... (click the image to see a larger version) Thanks Giving Garden!

In response to is a photo of the blueberry... on Twitpic

the first transfer...

Transferred the seed starts into the cold frame. I moved all of the herbs I had in the cold frame into the herb bed, the Lemon Balm, Catnip, Basil, and Stevia. The Vegetable seedlings will do nicely in the steamy heat of the cold frame for the next 3-4 weeks before I transfer them over to the summer crop bed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Charlann Farm

Charlann Farm
586 Stonyhill Road
Yardley, PA 19067

Fresh Produce grown right on our Farm! Sweet Corn, tomatoes, peppers, zuchini, cucumbers, beets, pumpkins, gourds, and many other vegetables in season...also at the Lower Makefield Farmer's Market on Thursdays June - October.

details on Local Harvest

Friday, April 16, 2010

what's growing mid-way through April...

Here in the Mid-Atlantic area we have had near perfect Spring weather for gardening. Just the right amount of rain (ok, maybe a bit too much at times), gorgeous sunny days, and not too cold nights. All of this after a Winter of heavy insulating snow cover had added up to excellent conditions for the Spring veggies.

My Cold Crops are coming in nicely from the seeds I put down a few weeks back. I've got about a month left before I will turn this bed over to the Summer crops and the next month will provide an abundance of fresh Bok Choi, Arugula, and Turnips...

The Wintered-over Kale is still looking good...

I recently moved the Swiss Chard out of the Cold Frame and into the herb bed...

The early starts in raised beds have almost doubled in size since I planted them. Each of these beds have sown seeds of Carrots and Onions in the back rows that are all sprouting nicely.

Chinese Cabbage...

Mustard Greens...

Collard Greens...

and Baby Bok Choi from seeds are my favorite Spring crop...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

more medicinal herbs...

Here are a couple more medicinal plants I am growing in the garden, to be used in herbal tea blends.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

From the Non-Timber Forest Products Program at Virginia Tech...

The leaves of Catnip have traditionally been chewed as a remedy for alleviating toothaches. The inhabitants of Southern Appalachia have used it since the eighteenth century as a remedy for cold. Tea made from catnip has been used to relieve intestinal cramps and gas discomforts. Recent researches show that consumption of teas containing catnip has anti-cholinergic effects. Catnip has been used for relief of insomnia and prevention of nightmares, and has a mild anti-spasmodic effect and is used to treat cramps. The juice from the leaves was used to stimulate menstrual flow. It has been used in the treatment of children’s ailments, such as colicky pain, flatulence and restlessness. The herb has also been used as a cold remedy, for hives, as a diaphoretic, a refrigerant and an anodyne. (Please refer to the Dictionary of Modern Herbalism by Mills for further information on these terms.) Poultices made from catnip have commonly been used for toothaches, though they can be applied to any part of the body. They have been applied to sore breasts of nursing mothers and to the neck for tonsillitis. The flowering tops of catnip yield up to 1.0 % volatile oil, 78 % being nepatalactone, the main attractant to cats. Thymol extracted from catnip has beneficial antiseptic uses on the skin and in the nasal and pharyngeal

It is important that you exercise caution when considering using catnip products for medicinal purposes; seek professional advice before using them.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

From the University of Maryland Medical Center's Complementary and Alternative Medicine Index...

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a "calming" herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to help promote relaxation.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

strawberry leaf tea

I have always dried my own herbs for culinary use. I savor my dried Oreganos, Basils, and Thymes throughout the winter months. The flavor of these freshly dried herbs is far more intense than anything that can be purchased at the grocery store. I have never really focused much on the medicinal use of herbs, even though one of my favorite reference books is Back to Eden, the herbal medicine guide written by Jethro Kloss in 1939, and revised and updated many times since. The book has sold over 5 million copies since it's original printing, and while it contains many outdated remedies, it also contains hundreds of tried and true common sense ways to use herbs to improve and maintain optimum health.

Last summer the CSA I belonged to, Pennypack Farm, had a Medicinal Garden that some of the members were working on as a special project, and it inspired me to focus on learning more about growing herbs with specific medicinal properties, and learning more about possible uses for some of the plants that already grow in my garden.

In reading Back to Eden, I discovered that Strawberry Leaves have a very beneficial quality to the entire digestive system, They are considered a tonic and a diuretic, and help to cleanse the stomach and intestines. Over the weekend I picked some Strawberry leaves from the garden and thoroughly washed them before dehydrating them in the oven. In a few hours I have a nice batch of dried Strawberry leaves to use as an herbal tea. The taste is a bit grassy and dull. Nothing at all like the fruit. I added some fresh Ginger and a small piece of Cinnamon to improve the flavor of the tea. I plan to continue to pick more of these leaves through the season, as well as harvesting some Blueberry Leaves, which I have discovered have even greater beneficial qualities than the Strawberry leaves do. My goal is to have at the end of this garden season, not just a nice supply of culinary herbs, but also a wide collection of medicinal herbs to last me through the Winter months.

Back To Eden

Monday, April 12, 2010

the zen of legumes...

Jean Fitzgerald's recent essay on Mindfulness and Eating really gave me pause for thought several times in the past few days. I have been focusing more intently on the process, or art, of preparing food. The concept of an Alms Bowl and only consuming a specific and finite amount of food at each meal has also struck a nerve with me and my tendency to keep eating without conscious thought to the need to stop short of expansive regret.

I thought about the art of process this morning as I prepared some Black-eyed Peas. Every Monday morning I try to prepare a new batch of legumes to have for the week ahead. I rotate between Garbanzo beans, Lentils, Black Beans, Pinto beans, etc. so I don't get bored with the same thing week after week. I'm not a fan of canned beans. Way too much sodium in them and I don't like the slimy liquid that surrounds the beans inside the can. I think that is the biggest reason I was never a fan of any type of bean. I always thought of them in the context of that slimy liquid in the can. Upon recently discovering the joys of preparing dried beans from scratch, I am now a devotee of the legume. Home cooked legumes are no comparison to canned in my humble opinion, just like home grown vegetables are no comparison to store bought.

But everything worthwhile has a price and preparing legumes at home requires a little more time, patience, and commitment than the convenience of opening up a can. Most beans require overnight soaking, so if I want to make them on Monday morning I must remember to get them ready on Sunday night. Beans need to be washed and picked through to get rid of any small foreign objects that might have gotten in with them by mistake. There is an opportunity here for quiet reflection and meditation on the importance of quality sustenance and healthy eating as we methodically pick through the beans and wash them before soaking. Waking up on a Monday morning knowing that I have planned ahead and have a pot of soaked beans ready to cook is a simple way to start off the week with a positive outlook.

The cooking process is simple. Most beans require only a gentle simmer in water for thirty minutes or so to produce wonderfully plain cooked legumes that can be used in any variety of ways. I often prefer to enhance them in simple ways. This morning I simmered my Black-eyed peas in water and a bit of Olive Oil, a small can of Tomato Sauce (Hunt's No Salt Added), a couple Bay Leaves and a generous amount of Red Chili flakes. The peas soak up all of these flavors and the result is really delicious!

The result is a simple bowl of peas to keep in the fridge all week for an accompaniment to breakfast, lunch or dinner. But it is much more than that. I value this simple bowl of food because I invested time and preparation into it. My time has value, so the food has value to me. I appreciate it a thousand times more than I ever could some peas that came out of a can. A hundred cans of Black-eyed peas will always be exactly the same. No two batches of peas I make at home are ever the same. I am not a precise cook. I rarely measure. One week I might simmer my peas in four cups of water, the next week it might be five. One week I might simmer them for 30 minutes, the next week I might forget about them and discover they have simmered for over an hour. The added spices change each week with my moods and tastes. Every batch is a unique and personal statement. The result of a simple art of preparing food.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eating in the Now...

Writer and Artist Jean Fitzgerald has contributed this wonderful essay on the Mindfulness of food and daily living.

I credit Thich Naht Hahn, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, for 'saving' my life. After I read his two books The Miracle of Mindfulness, and Anger, I understood that Mindfulness, concentrating on doing one thing at a time, and doing that one thing with full attention and focus, is something that I have to work very hard to achieve, and must PRACTICE for the rest of my life.

When I am creating art, I am mindful. When I watch a beautiful, artistically created film, I am mindful. While alone and reading, I am mindful. At most other times of the day, especially when I am communicating with others or eating, I am not mindful. I am not, as contemporary philosopher Eckhart Tolle expresses it, Living in the Now. I am busy thinking of several things at once, interrupting someone else's flow of spoken words, finishing their sentences, and eating like a very, very hungry wolf. I often stand to eat, or eat while I watch a movie or while I am talking on the phone.

By not bringing my entire attention to bear on the act of eating, I am robbed of essential experiences. I am not focused on smelling my food, chewing my food, or even, really, tasting my food. I am not aware of my breathing and swallowing. I overindulge until I feel pain in my upper GI tract, just below my chest. My stomach enzymes are unprepared to receive the onslaught, nor is my mind grateful and appreciative, moment by moment, of an awareness of sensory bliss. Finally, I am not prepared to STOP eating, to stop drinking. I've eaten so rapidly and mindlessly that I want to continue chewing, and it is a revelation to recognize that I could chew for hours, even if after dinner, for example, I am consuming snacks of some kind. When I stand to leave a restaurant, I feel awkward, stiff, as if I should be wearing flowing robes to cover and hide my stomach. The athlete that I used to be is chagrinned and dismayed at the difficulty of unfolding belly and legs from underneath the dining table. There must be an alternative approach to food and eating...

I typically don't know where the food I eat was grown or processed, how much salt or sugar is in it, or what effect it is having on my body. For example, one of my favorite foods currently is Tom Yum soup. I order it at Thai restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants, and Chinese restaurants. I recently discovered that the paste used to make this delicious lemongrass soup has 3300 mgs of sodium per serving. (from Maesri brand label) No way!!!! Panic. Well, there must be a different possibility so that I can still have Tom Yum Soup; I'll have to make it myself without all the salt. I am confident that I will find the means to preparing my own low sodium paste.

Thich Naht Hahn states:

Our anger, our frustration, our despair, has much to do with our body and the food we eat.We must work out a strategy of eating, of consuming to protect ourselves from anger and violence. Eating is an aspect of civilization. The way we grow our food, the kind of food we eat, and the way we eat it has much to do with civilization because the choices we make can bring about peace and relieve suffering.The food we eat can play a very important role in our anger. Our food may contain anger. When we eat the flesh of an animal with mad cow disease, anger is there in the meat. But we must also look at the other kinds of food that we eat. When we eat an egg or a chicken, we know that the egg or chicken can also contain a lot of anger. We are eating anger, and therefore we express anger.

Today we are not ignorant of commercial methods used to confine chickens that provide us with eggs and their meat, and Thich Naht Hahn goes on to detail these familiar agricultural techniques. In his view, by robbing chickens of natural light, the space to move freely and to rest, as well as the ability to peck at the soil to find food, chickens are driven mad with frustration and suffering. The farmers chop off their beaks to keep them from pecking one another to death while living in these miserable conditions. Thich Naht Hahn promotes utilizing and eating only organic farm produced food: eggs, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables nurtured with a conscientious, compassionate, morally aware and honest heart. He regards body and mind as one. The impact of how we eat, and what we consume, upon our well being and health is inseparable. Many people are beginning to realize that what happens to the body also happens to the mind, and vice versa. Modern medicine is aware that the sickness of the body may be a result of sickness in the mind.

He goes on to comment:

Eating is a deep practice...Our eyes are bigger than our stomach. We have to empower our eyes with the energy of mindfulness so that we know exactly what amount of food we really need. The Chinese term for the alms bowl used by a monk or nun means "the instrument for appropriate measure." We use this kind of bowl to protect us from being deceived by our eyes. If the food comes to the top of the bowl, we know that it is largely sufficient. We take only that amount of food. If you can eat like that, you can afford to buy less. When you buy less food, you can afford to buy organically grown food.We try not to consume things that nurture our anger, frustration, and fear.

Today, I may not experience the physical or emotional pain of eating food that is not grown organically and conscientiously. My stomach may not have been injured yet by mindlessly over-consuming. These effects appear to usually be cumulative over a great deal of time, except in individually unique situations where perhaps the individual has been unaware of great harms being contributed rapidly and/or that they possess a particular physical abnormality or weakness. But at some point in time, each of us will have a moment of reckoning with the urgent requirement to take good care of our bodies and our minds. Then comes the retrospect; A wealth of moments that can exist as spiritually creative and deep awarenesses, moveable feasts, have been lost, just for a lack of enthusiasm for practicing Mindfulness earlier in our lives.

This morning I made (on low heat so as not to lose important vitamins) a dish with lentils (buy bulk, it is cheaper and you don't have to ingest BPA's from cans which give you estrogen - the wrong kind) and chopped organic garlic, a small bulb vidalia onion, fresh chopped beets and carrots, parsley, and mint, and a half a teaspoon of raw honey. I cannot tell you how delicious it was; I could drink the sweet, reddish juice it made! No added sugar, no added salt. Because it was a labor of love, I mindfully ate a half a bowl, and put the rest of it in the fridge for dinner.

Namaste. Consume with me, mindfully and with attention to one thing in the moment, and please let me know your results.

The Miracle of Mindfulness

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Friday, April 9, 2010

the miraculous

It could be assumed that after years of gardening one might become complacent about the whole process. Certainly, tasks like weeding and digging are chores I could do without, but the entire growth process from seed to harvest has never lost it's magic for me. No matter how many times I sow seeds in soil, I am always astounded by the miracle of germination. On Easter Sunday I started my seeds, and now only five days later I have mini plants! Each variety growing at it's own individual pace. These tiny plants are going to feed me abundantly throughout the next six months. Squash seedlings looking enormous next to the tiny Wild Arugula shoots. The heirloom Tomatoes still holding out below the surface of the soil. I always find it interesting that seeds that are saved from home gardens take much longer to germinate than commercially packaged seeds, and I would like to find out why that is the case. Is there something added to commercially prepared seeds to enhance germination? I'm not even referring to commercial Hybrid seeds, but even high quality organic seeds such as those sold by Renee's Garden seem to germinate much quicker than the seeds I save from home. For several years now I have been growing some heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes from seeds given to me by my friend Robert, who lives in Upstate New York. These seeds are always the last to germinate, so slow in fact that the first year I grew them I thought they had failed to germinate because all of the other seeds that were sown at the same time were well under way by the time these Roma's decided to poke their heads above the soil. If anyone has an answer to the reason for this difference in germination rate I would love to hear your comments on the subject.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hooray for Heirloom Apples!

Laura Pedrick for The New York Times

...a nonprofit group called Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT), which works with Slow Food, has declared this the year of the heirloom apple.

The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (Chelsea Green's Master Grower Gardening Series)

The New Book of Apples: The Definitive Guide to Over 2,000 Varieties


It's been several years since I've grown leeks in the garden. Seems like the large number of tomato plants always win out over leeks for garden space. I love leeks and this year they are back in!

Leeks (Allium porrum)

Leeks belong to the lily family, along with their close relatives onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, and chives. The leek is a striking and graceful vegetable. Broad, flat, dark leaves cascade like a fountain around the contrasted white of its base. Milder and more refined in flavor than onions, leeks produce a pleasing aroma and sweeten as they cook. And there are no tears while cutting a leek.

Cooking tips:

-Leeks may be cooked whole; try braising or baking.

-Steam or boil leeks for 10-12 minutes. Top with butter, a dash of salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

-Substitute leeks for onions in recipes and notice the subtle flavor changes.

-Puree cooked leeks for a soup base.

The above information is from the wonderful book...

From Asparagus to Zucchini

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter tradition

It's become part of my annual Easter tradition to get my seedlings started. It symbolizes rebirth and renewal as well as dovetailing nicely with the timing for the safe date to plant outside here in Zone 6, which is May 15th. What better way to celebrate Easter Sunday than to sow some life giving seeds? So after dinner with my family, I set out 72 seeds starts... my Amish heirloom seeds that I saved at the end of last year's harvest, some heirloom Roma tomatoes a friend has saved from his mother's Italian garden, as well as some Cherry Tomatoes, Wild Arugula, Eggplant,Patty Pan Squash, and some French Breakfast Radishes.

Spring has now officially arrived!

not-so-quiet food....

KFC's newest creation....Bacon and Cheese sandwich on "Fried Chicken" bread. 32 grams of fat and almost 1400 mgs of sodium

The Double Down

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quiet Food

I don't own this book but I stumbled across it while doing some research for a story on the spirituality of farming and eating. The quiet food concept seems to be an offshoot of the slow food movement with an emphasis on reverence and mindfulness towards the cooking process and food consumption.

"It introduces us to the possibility of making cooking and eating into an exquisite meditative occasion - an antidote to our fast food culture. Ultimately our enjoyment of things depends on the quality of the attention we give them. Cooking and eating are no exception. "Quiet Food" is about food that has been paid reverent attention".

Quiet Food: A Recipe for Sanity