Wednesday, June 5, 2013

first harvest meal

Hooray gardening!
Picuted above is the first harvest from my 2013 home garden.  It is 5 shelling peas, 2 garlic scapes, and a meal's worth of mixed greens.  I planted a whole bed of mustards and kales this year.  They were scatter planted so the bed looks very wild, colorful, and textural.  With this bounty I made Japanese style greens with tofu. Basically a stir fry with a miso and sesame paste sauce.  It turned out really good!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops,4-25-2013

Class Thursday was preparing for the end of classes this semester.  The last class is next week already and I think I will really miss this class.  Having the opportunity to spend two hours a week talking about food and gardening with like minded people was really a pleasure.
Out in the plot we weeded and set up supports for the cucumbers and tomatoes.  We talked about the notes and map we need for class and the volunteers.  In the green house we potted up more tomatoes.
Later we gave our presentations   I won't lie I was unprepared, but my team came though.
So for next week I'll make corn bread and bring my family to meet the class and see what I've been working on.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops,4-18-2013, or Christmas in April

Eva had other obligations during the first hour of class Thursday.  We were instructed to lay the paths for the community garden.  I was on time but by the time I got out to the plot many people were already hard at work. Chris seemed to be organizing things and we were done only a little after Eva arrived.  Again she told us how amazing this class was. I wonder if she says that to all her classes.

After the paths we went into the green house.  There were many tomatoes to transplant as well as herbs.  It was getting really tight in the green house and time was coming for the sales, and to sent starts off to various projects.  Eva directed some of us to put things in different places and to take some out to the benches.  Now class was somewhat lightly attended that night but those of us that were there were suddenly happier then usual because Eva then told us that all the plants out on the bench were up for grabs!  It was like Christmas, better for me because I usually only get socks!  Somehow work still got done and no one got to greed.  How great is that?  We get to plant some of our hard work in our home gardens!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops,4-11-2013

This evening threatened rain, although it never did deliver.  We went out to the plot first.  We got to taste the first of the purple passion asparagus   That was an amazing taste, sweeter and more complex then any asparagus I had had before. There was a bit of talk about meat and the preparation of meat. Bryan and I did something funny.  People must have been punchy in class that night because everything was funny.

Carlo and I decided that the time for optimism was over regarding the cauliflower. We planted replacements between the ghosts of the last try. The kale looks great, the lettuce, leeks and beets looked encouraging.  Overall the plot looked quite handsome.  Tina is a weeding machine!

Back in the greenhouse we transplanted peppers for our team and for the class.  For the second week I harvested chamomile.  The chamomile has an aphid problem, I'm hoping the harvesting will help keep the aphid problem under control. I'd be really upset if it started to effect other plants. We washed the chamomile and Tina took some blossoms home to dry for tea.

Class finished up with a lab.  We tasted 12 types of tomatoes.  I'm afraid to say but winter tomatoes are always a disappointment to me, at least the slicing verities   Despite this there were two to add to my list of  out of season tomatoes worth buying.  The grape tomato "Santa Sweet" and the cocktail tomato "Amorosa".  The Amorosa was at least as good as my usual kamato.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops,4-4-2013

Our plot's raised bed, wish I had taken a picture last week when it looked full.
It was a lovely evening and I was looking forward to working in the plot.  Eva came into the class room and said "I have good news and bad news"  there was a groan from the class, she replied "
everything in the green house looks great, but every out in the plot froze".
We had had and under 30 degree night the night before and almost everything had froze.
We went out to the plot to survey the damage.  I think a good deal of our crops will survive but the cauliflower did not look good to me at all.  I was ready to pull the whole lot of it.
Eva and Adam though were optimistic about them so we left them.  Tina and I stayed with the plot to weed, plant carrots and lettuce.  Adam and Carlos went to the green house to transplant our tomatoes.
Mr. Toad was put out of the plot unharmed
Later we went back to the class room to watch some opinion pieces about bt corn. I'm no fan of Monsanto, they have to much power and are predatory sales people, but these pieces were scare segments with very little basis in reality.  

bt as I understand it is a chemical made by a bacterium that stops soft bodied insects from being able to feed.  I can buy it in a shaker can from my organic gardening website. It seems to only effect soft bodied insects. Americans have been eating GM since the 70s, I don't know enough to say it has had an effect on people.  There is some correlation but no causation had been proven.  I don't believe GM Products are equivalent  or that they should be allowed to go to market with out testing.  I don't think GM products should fall into the "Considered Safe" category they currently do, it should be evaluated as a new and novel product and have to be tested and reviewed by the FDA.  I also feel that it should have to be labeled as a GM product.  If there is fear that the product won't be purchased because you tell them what it is  maybe more thought needs to be put into that product.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-28-2013

Our bench in the greenhouse just before we took them out to be planted.
Arrived just a bit late for class Thursday so I missed the opening remarks.  I met up with the class in the green house.  The weather was finally spring like  so we gathered up out cauliflower, beets, leeks and lettuce and went out to the plot.
The first order of business was to build a raised bed in the center of the blot, Carlo took charge of that task.  I think it took nine hay bales and six wheelbarrows whole of soil.  It looks quite smart.  The leeks and beets were then planted in the raised bed since they will benefit the most from loose soil and good drainage that we think we'll get from this bed.
Tina and I turned over the far bed, compost was mixed in and then the cauliflower was planted.  The lettuce was intercropped with the garlic.  We did some more tiding up and dusted the rest of the beds with compost just as the sun set.  Then there was a quick bit of tomato planting and fennel potting before we went back to the classroom for presentations.
Tina started us off with sunflowers.  She said this was her first powerpoint but if she hadn't told me I wouldn't have known.  Sunflowers are native to North and South America.  They like warm, moist soil.  The native Americans consider them the "fourth Sister".  They have a weevil problem and Russia grows the most sunflowers.  The most interesting part of her presentation for me was use of sunflowers for phytoremediation.  I'm going to have to look into that more myself. Tina concluded with some very good cookies!

Up next was Paula with the cranberry.  This was one of the more in-depth presentations we've had. Cranberries are evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines.  There are three types; Common, Small and American.  They are picky about soil type and conditions, they like acid peat soil, lots of water and a long growing season. It takes them six years to make fruit.  Paula also showed some videos of wet harvesting cranberries.  This is possible because cranberries have air chambers so when flooded, they float up.  Paula made two kinds of cranberry muffins and brought a very tasty cranberry preserve.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-21-2013

Last Thursday was very cold and windy.  It was far from spring like, despite what the mini-irises growing by the green house where telling us.  Thankfully we had plenty of indoor work to do.

This weeks' class opened with presentations   Matt started us off with Blueberries.  There are four main types; northern high bush, southern high bush, rabbit eye, and low bush.  The low bush type are the "wild" type.  They are native to North America, are relate to cranberries and are the second most popular berry after strawberries.  They have many health benefits.  Eva added that Bears need then to be able to hibernate.

Chris then presented Persimmons.  Unripe fruit are very high in tannin making them very astringent and almost inedible. The bark is deeply cracked, they are a very handsome tree.  The fruit comes in two main types the fuyu or tomato shaped and the hochiya or "acorn" shaped. 

After presentations we started at least 500 carrot seeds.  I have a feeling this is going to be like the Camille and the basil, it'll take over the greenhouse!  All of our starts look so good.  Our class's bench looks like the most glorious salad bar you've ever seen!  Now if it would just get nice enough outside to  plant them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-7-2013

This class we finished laying the paths.  Our patch ended up looking quite nice.  We still have a bit of work to do.  We trimmed the roses, cat mint, and asparagus but still have edging to do.  We really need to get the group together and figure out where everything will go.  The main bed had potatoes in it last year so the tomatoes and papers can't be put there because of shared diseases. Two of the three side beds have perennials in them so we have a little figuring things out to do.

We had three presentations this class.  To open, Christian spoke about chocolate.
Chocolate is one of those foods that I wonder how anyone figured out it was a good idea to eat.  Its so botanically strange.  Tiny flowers that grow from the trunk that turn into large finned fruit. He conclued with chocolate milk!

Bryan's presentation was on John Deere.  It didn't occur to me to choose a mechinery company but it is relevant. Deere seems to make a tractor for everything, but looking at slides of part numbers was no fun.  Thankfully we were rewarded with chips and salsa.

The final presentation of the night was Lisa's on sugar cane. She told the story of sugar cane though the cultural lens of being Porto Rican, which I found interesting.  She also had two kinds of sugar cane for us to sample which was also interesting.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

At home

Even with so much going on I haven't been neglecting my home garden preparations.  My cole crops have sprouted in the safety of my windowsill greenhouse, my peppers have yet to show and I should get to my tomatoes this week.  Outside I pulled up all the strawberry plants that last  years heat killed and mulled over the raised beds.  Age is getting to them, I fear the fungus that is growing from the wood will be the end of them soon, but I will get one more season out of them at least and then I'll give the boards back to the soil and start over.  I need to pull up the frost-bitten kale, ready the back bed for coles and the front bed for peas.  I'm also making myself wait, it might snow this week, and I really don't want to have to do everything twice!

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-28-2013

Image from here
With the daylight lasting longer and the temperature slightly above bone chilling we were out in the plot first thing this class.  We confirmed the marking lines that were set up the other day and began laying out the perimeter and main dividing paths.  The process for building the paths was to lay cardboard down, filling all weed infiltrating cracks with news paper and to then cover that with mulch.  We ran into a little snag, the line between our teams plot and the next ran though the edge of the existing garlic patch.  This was easily remedied by transplanting row of garlic from that patch to a more central one. I volunteered for the job and found it very enjoyable.  I can't wait to really dig in.  As the sun slipped below the horizon we were cleaning up and heading in.  Our next task for the evening was transplanting in the green house.

A survey of our plants showed that the tomatoes and peppers have sprouted, the leeks are progressing slowly, the beets look great and the lettuce looks like its ready to go out as soon as possible.  We transplanted many flats of basil.  Even at sprout sized this basil had a strong fragrance.  It made me wish from caprese salad and summer! As we packed up to head back to lecture Tina spotted a rather well fed looking rabbit watching us.  It looked very cute, but all I could think about was our lettuce being the first thing out and what that rabbit might want to do to it!

We finished the evening with presentations.  Kayla's presentation was on Hominy.  Hominy was a new discovery for Kayla and you could tell she had a good amount of enthusiasm for it. Hominy is flint or dent corn treated with an alkaline to remove its outer coating and make it more nutritious. I learned that the word for that is "nixtamalization".  Also that this process converts the corn to a complete protein and makes the niacin and calcium more bio-available. The origins of this process go all the way back to the Aztex and Mayans.  Kayla finished up her presentation with an excellent hominy casserole.

Following Kayla was Joe with his presentation on peanuts.  It may have been one of the most entertaining presentations so far. Peanuts have had some pretty funny names.  They have their origin in Peru, have been grown in the USA since colonial times and are actually pretty good for you.  There are four main verities grown: Spanish, Runner, Virginia and the Valencia. We also learned that they are a legume, not a nut and that they have a pretty flower.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-21-2013

As I walked from my car to class yesterday I hoped to myself that we wouldn't be going out to the plot.  It was bitter cold and I had forgotten my scarf and hat.
Class started and Eva said we were not going out to the plot!  I was relieved.  We then headed over to the green house, we were doing lab first.

Lab was such a hardship.  We were tasting berries!  I was a bit skeptical of berries out of season, but was pleasantly surprised. We tasted strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, 13 types total.  Really such a hardship! My favorite raspberry was the Driscoll's conventionally grown, my favorite strawberry was Passion Farms Organic, and my favorite blueberry was the Puelche Organic. There was only one brand of blackberry, and I did like it too.  This did change my mind about out of season berries, but they fit the budget better in season.

We then braved the cold back to the class room to view "The Botany of Desire".  This is the second time I've seen this film and I find it very enjoyable.  I think the cinematography on this one sets it apart, the film makers really wanted you to look at the pollen, the resin droplets, the textures of the plants profiled. Its also a very interesting idea that we co-evolved with the plants, each serving each other.

Following the film we had our presentations   I gave mine on the Svalbard Seed bank.  I really rushed mine, I'm not good in front of people.  Groups, yes, up in front, no.  Also I must remember you can't see your notes in slideshow mode in power point, I must print them.  The cookies went over well, though.  Laura's presentation was on Mushrooms.  Its one of my favorite foods so I'm afraid there was little new information for me there.

Back to the greenhouse!  Oh, the wind, I can't wait for spring.  We transplanted beets and planted tomato seeds.  We planted the tomatoes into 6 packs since next week we are having a field trip and won't be able to transplant them.  I hope the peppers will be OK.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-14-2013

cauliflower and lettuces 
For our valentine's day class, after a quick stop in the lecture room and head house, we went out to the garden.  Our task was to relay the boundaries of the garden. We roped-off the perimeter and used the rope to find the half and quarter points on each side.  After much rope wrangling we found that the plots really need sharpened up, but that is why we went though with all that work anyway.  With the garden divided into four plots each team picked a plot, we received plot two.  It has existing kale, asparagus  roses, and garlic.  I'm rather excited about the asparagus!  As the sun set we went over what we would be doing next class, if the weather cooperated, which would be to start edging and laying paths.

Once back in the green house it was time to transplant some of our plants.  We transplanted our cauliflower and lettuce into 6 pack trays.  We also planted our peppers. I out-ed myself as dyslexic during this class because I kept putting the tags on the wrong side of the tray.  Its not a big deal.  Since our team didn't have a ton to transplant we helped one of the other groups with their massive amount of Chamomile.  Truly overwhelming amounts of Chamomile.  I hope people like tea!  Also we went over the proper use of the watering system in the green house.  Remember to turn off the sprayer at the sprayer then the wall so that the next person to use it doesn't get sprayed when they turn it on at the wall.

Once the head house was cleaned up we went back to the lecture room for the two presentations of the day.
The first was about Potatoes.  I learned they are native of the Andes region and that they are members of the nightshade family.  Also that they need a pH of 6 for best health.  The warming cup of potato soup was very welcome after being outside! The second presentation was about tea.  I learned that it was discovered 5000 years ago, that it needs 50 inches of rain a year and that it could be propagated form cuttings or seed.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Movie Review: King Corn

The Peabody-winning documentary from Mosaic Films Incorporated, King Corn, part of 2013 Pennypack Sustainability Series, came out in 2007.  The film opens with college friends, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis rushing down a hall to have their hair analyzed in an Isotope geochemistry lab.  The result of the analysis is that most of the carbon that makes the two men up is has its origin in corn. 

How can that be?  With that question in mind and inspiration from Michael Pollan they head to Greene, Iowa to grow an acre of corn with the intent of following it into the food system.  They almost instantly have to face their misconceptions about farming.  First, family farms are nearly a thing of the past, farming corn is an industrialized process.  Second, planting corn is a loosing proposition without subsidies, if it weren't for the $28 the government pays per acre of corn they'd have lost money. Thirdly and possibly most shocking to them, this corn isn't "food" its raw material.

Though the season we are shown how little the corn farmer does personally. A quote form Ian "Planting 31,000 seeds was not exactly a hands-on experience. But then again, it only took us 18 minutes."">With time to kill they research the steps to come.  Speaking with the manager at the grain elevator they learn their corn is a drop in the bucket and will be next to impossible to follow.  They are left with the probabilities to work with. 30% is for uses other then food, 5% would be made in to sweeteners and the remaining would be used to feed cattle.  

They then head off to Colorado to learn about cattle farming and again have to face their misconceptions. They are faced with the distasteful practices of the concentrated animal feedlots, that cows eat corn not grass.  CAFs could not exist without cheep corn and antibiotics.  Later they attempt to learn about making high fructose corn syrup.  Only one person in manufacturing, out of all that they contacted, would see them and then they couldn't tour the plant.  They then attempted to make HFCS at home, it involved caustic chemicals and in the end was disgusting. 

They began to conclude that corn was a bad idea, that there may just be to much corn in the world and they found corn farmers, scientists, and others who agreed with them. So in the end, they converted their corn field to grass and played baseball.

Having lived in a farming community some of their revelations were not new to me. It was a good documentary in that it was entertaining and it will inspire viewers to question what they eat and how it got to their plate.  But the Omnivores Dilemma was much more informative and showed alternatives to this view on farming.  Either way inspiring questions is always the first step in changing the status quo and I feel this will movie will aid in that.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-07-2013

This weeks class started with a chilly walk out to the garden.  We were introduced to the four plots and the existing perennials. Which are purple passion asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and roses.  We learned a little about the history of the garden as well, it had once been a trial garden for Burpee seeds.  Some of the "rules" for the garden are, don't work alone, don't leave the gate open and never leave tools out.

After warming up a bit we had the first two presentations of the semester.  Adam opened with a presentation about the Kiwi fruit.  I learned that they were originally from China and had been called Chinese gooseberries.  The name was changed to avoid a berry tax and to inform people they were being grown in New Zealand. We were also informed that Hayward is the most popular cultivar. In closing his presentation he asked that we try the kiwi with the skin, which I had never done. It wasn't bad.

Carlo's presentation was on a tropical fruit, the papayas.  They originated in South America and were transported all over the (tropical) world by Spanish explorers.  I learned that India grows the most papaya and that it is the third most popular tropical fruit.  Also that Sunrise is the most popular cultivar.  Sunrise is resistant to papaya ring virus.  Carlo brought dried papaya in for us to sample.

Lecture finished with a review of the siting part of the text.  We went over the number of people needed to feed 100 people.  2.5 acres.  We reviewed the importance of microclimates. Water, source, quality and delivery to site.

After lecture we went to the green house to check on our seedlings and for lab.  Our cauliflower looks very encouraging as does the lettuce but as of the 7th there were only 2 leek seedlings up in the whole tray.

For lab this week we had the tasty, yet sticky task of tasting 13 different orange citrus. I got to try my first Cara Cara, and it was very good but my favorite was the California mandarin "cutie".

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 1-31-2013

Our second class opened with a movie.  The Silence of the Bees, a Nature production (2007).  The topic was Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006.[1]  This wasn't the first time I had heard about CCD, the movie painted a dire picture for our current food ways if the challenge of aiding the bees was not met.  It first outlined the possible causes for CCD and then illustrated though antidotes or interviews with scientist which were plausible; parasites, virus, starvation, poison, and which were not; cell phone interference.
Although, at the time, there was no concrete conclusions most signs were pointing at a virus that was weakening the bees and their resistance to parasites, virus, starvation, and poisons. 
The second part of class we sorted a collection of donated seed for various purposes   The class will be helping out with the local food pantry, Philabundance, Urban Creators, Cheltenham high school, temple medical herb garden, and greek related plant sales. After the sort our groups got to choose plants for our plots. It took all the strength I had not to just fill my pockets and run. Such temptation. After much deliberation this is our crop list:

Carrot Carnival Blend Organic SeedsCarrot- Carnival Blend
Lettuce-mesclun "valentine"
Sunflower-lemon queen
Pepper- jewel-toned bells
Edamame-butter bean
Cauliflower- chef's choice blend
Leek-king richard
Beet-Detroit dark red
Cuke-west Indian gherkin
Tomato-John baer
Very colorful but not to "weird" for the food pantry
Lab today was an introduction to the tool shed and seed starting protocol.  Also, apple cake, but more on that later.  I learned that what I'd call a pitch fork could also be a cultivator.  Standing there listening her talk about pitch forks, all I could think was that one good thing about losing the farm was I didn't have to hay ever again if I didn't want to.  Being the shortest in my family meant I had to be up in the hot, dusty, hay loft.  I don't miss that one bit. After our trip to the tool shed we went back to the green house.  Eva presented us we apple cake made from the apples from the previous lab.  It was dairy free, heavy on the cinnamon and very good.  Following that we started our seeds.  Adam and I filled a whole tray with leeks, while Carlo, Tina, and our newest member Joe splitting a tray between cauliflower and lettuce. Other groups were planting their beets, I'm worried now that we should have started ours too, but I think we'll have time.  Next month we'll start the peppers and in the weeks following that we'll do the tomatoes.  


Monday, January 28, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 1-24-2013


My birthday and my first day of class for the spring semester.  I have been looking forward to starting classes again after my leave last semester.

Eva got things started right way with introductions.  I am neither the only CRP student in the class nor the only masters student.  After the introductions we went over the syllabus and watched a slide show that showed the evolution of the school's garden as well as notable gardens that Eva has traveled to.  I have a few new places on my list of places to travel to.

Later we were split into teams.  I'm with Carlo, Adam and Tina.  I'm worried that there may be personality issues with this group but I think we will get along well enough to do what we need to.  I am looking forward to developing a workable and productive plot with my group.  Given that I'm always wishing for more garden to experiment with this is an exciting opportunity. There are a few presentations to be given during the semester, and bringing food is encouraged.  Since I love to cook (and eat) I think I will really enjoy this class.

As lecture ended we were guided over to the green house for an introductory tour and lab.  The word of the day for the the green house is TIDY, as in keep it tidy.  Its not just for looks either, its for health of the plants, efficiency of work, and respect for others' projects.

Lab itself was a tasting of 21 verities of apples.  Notes were made on verity, texture, appearance  flavor and aroma.  As well as origin and grower. Good thing I like apples.  It was quite a marathon.

Something new.

It has been a while since I've posted.  I'm chalking it up to having other priorities this past year.  Currently, in my quest to become a better gardener, I have enrolled in Horticulture, Food Crops.  One of the requirements of this class is to keep a journal of each class, so I thought why not dust off the old blog for that purpose!