Friday, July 31, 2009

Okra - A Southern Plant

I planted okra this year for the first time in my garden. Okra is a warm weather plant. As a member of the mallow family, some of okra's cousins are the hollyhock and the hibiscus. Okra originated in Africa and is mostly grown in the southern states, since the temperatures are higher in the summer time. My okra has not been growing as well since we have been having cooler weather. Hopefully, we might be able to get a little okra if the weather warms up.

You can go here to find out how to pick okra. When okra is fresh, it is best eaten in a few days, but if you have an over abundance of okra, you can either freeze it or can it. We like ours in soup. Ms. Charlotte canned hers with tomatoes, which Momma thought sounded good. Another good place to go for some okra recipes is Veggie Gardener. I hope to post later in the season if I get any off of my plants.

The answer to the Garden Guess is an okra leaf. Thank you to all who guessed on my post!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Carrots

This year, I planted some carrots. Our family loves carrots, especially raw for a snack. Carrots are a root crop. Queen Anne's Lace, celery, anise, caraway, dill, cilantro, cumin, chervil, fennel, parsley, parsnip and poison hemlock are members of the carrot family. Queen Anne's lace is sometimes known as 'wild carrot'. Poison hemlock is a poisonous plant, so it might not be good to forage for a wild carrot, since poison hemlock is a member of the carrot family and looks just like the rest.

Carrots can be a variety of colors from the traditional orange to purple. The orange type was first noted in Babylon. Charlemagne grew the purple type in his garden. During the 13th century, carrots were introduced to European countries by Arabian traders. The explorers brought them to South America in the 1500's. After World War 1, carrots started to be produced commercially in farms to sell in America. Now, carrots are a common vegetable in many gardens.

When I dug some carrots, I wondered if carrot tops were edible. After some research, I discovered that some people think that they are edible, but some think that they are toxic. I found out that the stem tastes like a bitter carrot. I nibbled at the leaves, and thought that they did not have a very strong taste. Some people consider carrot tops to be poisonous to children, but not to adults. After the controversial research, Momma and I decided that the compost could have our tops :)

Here is a good place for some carrot recipes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Garden Guesses

What is this plant? (This is a puzzle, not a problem. lol ) Please comment with a guess. I will post the answer on Friday. Check back to find out.

Please comment even if someone has already guessed your answer. This is for all ages! Enjoy the puzzle from the garden!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cucumbers

I have recently been getting lots of cucumbers. Daddy took some cucumbers to the people that he works with today. Daddy and Ben helped make me an arch for the cucumbers to grow up. I have 12 cucumber plants, since Daddy loves them so much. I planted two types of cucumbers: poinsette 76, and regular burpless hybrid.

Cucumbers are a member of the cucurbit family, which also includes squash, melons and gourds. They originated in India, near the Himalayan Mountains. The Bible mentions them in 3 places: Numbers 11:5, Isaiah 1:8 and Jeremiah 10:5. During the Roman Empire, cucumbers were grown for the Emperor. The Middle Ages also had cucumbers, as Charlemagne had them grown in his garden. Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce cucumbers to Haiti, and later, Jacques Cartier found cucumber plants being grown in South America. Cucumbers are widely used now as they are easy to grow in the garden and are tasty in many foods. The phrase "cool as a cucumber" originated from a poem that was written by John Gay in 1732.

Cucumbers are a good source of silicon, chlorine potassium, sodium, sulfur, fluorine and magnesium. Cucumbers also help digestion and constipation. They also are used in some beauty products.

Have you ever had a bitter cucumber? We normally have some in the middle of summer. Bitter cucumbers are caused by a chemical which is in the leaves and stem. Different fluctuations can allow the plant to place the chemicals in the fruit. Here is a list of the fluctuations:
  • Heat Heat can stress the plant causing it to produce bitter cucumbers.
  • Uneven Watering If a plant is unevenly watered causing it to go through stages of drought and over watering, it will also stress the plant.
  • Temperature Fluctuation If the temperature drastically fluctuates over a long period of time, the plant will become stressed to make it produce bitter cucumbers.
My family loves cucumbers and sour cream. I should have taken a picture of them last night, because Momma makes hers "by taste" just the way Daddy loves them. This is a very rough estimate of the ingredients. Here is her recipe:

Cucumbers 'n' Sour Cream
Enough cucumbers to fill a large serving bowl
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup sour cream
chopped green onion
ground black pepper (optional)

Slice peeled cucumbers into a large bowl. Add some chopped green onion to the cucumbers. Mix vinegar and sour cream together and pour over the cucumbers and onions. Stir until everything is coated completely. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and serve.

Ms. Charlotte at Canning Jars etc. posted on bread and butter pickles. Momma loves bread and butter pickles, so we might try this recipe. No one else in our family really likes pickles. Momma also has thought about making cucumber relish. A good place to get some other cucumber recipes is here. My brother and I just love to eat them plain too!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jalapenos

Yesterday, I dried some jalapeno peppers with Momma. We grew them in our practical pots. Jalapenos peppers are moderately hot. They grow best in full sun with lots of water. Jalapenos are ripe when they have a bright sheen over their green flesh. They can ripen longer and go into shades of dark green, black and finally red. The red jalapenos are sweeter, but are still hot.

The hottest part of the jalapeno is the ribs. Any thing that touches it also becomes hot. (The seeds are hot because they come into direct contact with the ribs.) It is necessary to wear gloves and protective glasses to protect your hands and eyes from being burned by the oil. If you do burn your hands from the jalapeno, you should apply rubbing alcohol on the burning spot to remove the oil. Then you soak your skin in milk to help take away the burning. If you do not have a dairy product, you can wash your hands in warm soapy water, and then soak your skin with olive oil or vegetable oil for one minute before you rinse the oil off.

You can dry the jalapenos like Momma and I did in our dehydrator, but you could air dry or oven dry them. Here is how Momma and I prepared and dried our jalapenos.
  1. I washed the jalapenos while wearing gloves to protect my hands from the jalapeno oil.
  2. Once the jalapenos were washed, I cut half-way around the top of the pepper with a paring knife like you would coring a bell pepper. I sliced all the way around the pepper so that it would be in half.
  3. Momma took the seeds out while wearing rubber gloves. She said that she could still feel a little burn through the glove!
  4. I laid the jalapenos on the racks of the dehydrator.
  5. The jalapenos dried for 11 to 12 hours at 145° until they were brittle. Most people dry theirs for 3 to 20 hours depending on the size and pepper.
We packed our jalapenos in a glass jar to use later for spicy foods. My Grandpa loves them in salsa! I think that jalapenos' name should be changed to "hot"apenos!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wild Blackberries

My family loves to camp in our pop-up camper during the summer and fall. When we went camping this past weekend at James River State Park, we found some wild blackberry plants while we were hiking. Daddy has always loved blackberries. Ben, Daddy and I enjoyed the blackberries as we picked the juicy fruit from the thorny plant. We normally will pick local blackberries in early August. Momma and I freeze the blackberries for cobblers and pies in the winter.
Blackberries have been around for a very long time. They were used by the Greeks and the Romans to treat illnesses. Blackberries are high in antioxidants. The wild blackberry plants have thorns, and they may grow near poison ivy. Be careful when you are picking the blackberries because both plants have three leaves! Most wild blackberries are tart, though I found out that when they are soft, they are sweet. There are blackberry vines and bushes. The bushes are more frost hardy than the vines. Boysenberries and loganberries were bred from blackberries. There are tame blackberry hybrids that are thornless and much easier to pick.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Pansy" Weekend

Today, I have another special from Olde-Books.com. They are offering a coupon for $1 off of Tip Lewis and His Lamp, by Isabella Alden, whose pen name is Pansy. Isabella Alden happens to be one of my favorite authors, so I am pleased to offer this e-Book to you.
Here is how to get the discount off of the e-Book at Olde-Books.com:
  1. Go to Olde-Books.com and enter by clicking the welcome book.
  2. Enter the code "gardeningformyfamily" in the blue box titled "Enter Coupon" nearest to the bottom of the left menu. You will not need to add the item to the cart, as when you click the "Submit Coupon" button, you will be automatically sent to PayPal checkout with the discount automatically applied.
  3. The offer ends on Sunday at 12:00 midnight EST.
Enjoy the e-book!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Giveaway!

Today, I got an offer from Olde-Books.com to host a giveaway for 2 days. It ends on Wednesday night at midnight. Olde-Books.com is offering my readers a free gardening e-book from the late 1800's. It is called The Book of Sports - Gardening by William Martin. This book is part 3 in the Book of Sports collection.
Here is how you can get this free book:
  1. Go to Olde-Books.com
  2. After entering the store, click on Contact.
  3. Fill out the contact form, and then say in the comments box that you came from Gardening for My Family, and that you would like the free e-book called The Book of Sports-Gardening by William Martin.
  4. Olde-Books will reply to you with an email. The pdf e-book will be attached to the email.
  5. While you are there, check out the other gardening books in the section Skills for the Family.
Please check back Thursday for another special offer from Olde-Books.com. Enjoy!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mint

Last week, we dried mint to use for tea this winter. The mint family has many members, such as oregano and catnip. There are many different flavors of mint. Some of the flavors are chocolate mint, apple mint, pineapple mint and spearmint. We grow spearmint and apple mint. Mint is very invasive, so having something to do with it helps. When we trimmed back our mint, we dried the trimmings. Jane, at Seeds to Sew, had a great idea for mint. She used their extra mint for refreshing cool mint towels. With the increasing heat here in the valley, staying cool is a job! Do you grow mint? If so, what kind do you grow?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Harvest from the Garden

I have been getting a lot of produce from the garden. The whole garden is filled up except in two places where onions had been. Most plants are picky about following after onions. I will get it ready for a later planting this fall. The garden blueprint is placed above to show where everything is growing.

Here is a list of the produce that I have gotten from the garden:
  • carrots
  • red leaf, green leaf and head lettuce
  • spinach
  • peas
  • green beans
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • radishes
  • cucumbers
  • herbs
Yesterday, Momma cut some cabbage. If you remember, I had been having some trouble with some caterpillars eating my cabbage. So, when Momma cut the cabbage, she found one under a leaf! It was exterminated after some pictures. Hopefully, that was the one and only culprit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Garden Tours - Part 5

Last Saturday, we visited our friends, the Burkholder family for the 4th of July. Mr. Burkholder grows a garden for their family. He is growing raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, lettuce, pole green beans, pole lima beans, bush lima beans, lots of tomatoes, squash, cabbage, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, wineberries, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes and potatoes. Mr. Burkholder also is growing walking onions. Have you ever heard of walking onions?

Mr. Burkholder has a very creative mind. He developed a drip irrigation system using PVC pipe and a liter bottle. Mr. Burkholder uses this system for his blueberries and rhubarb. The bottle neck was screwed into the PVC pipe while he torched the pipe in order to hold it together. Next, he poked holes in the pipe so that the water would slowly drip out. He placed a cap on the bottom so the water would stay in the pipe.

The water that Mr. Burkholder for his drip irrigation system is from his rain water collector that he designed. Here is how it works. The water rolls off of the roof and into the gutter. The gutter is directed to a hose that is connected to the top barrel. The top barrel is connected with a hose to the bottom barrel. The water drains down to the bottom barrel, where a nozzle is connected. When they need to get water to refill the irrigation system, they turn on the nozzle which is gravity fed. He is planning on painting the outside of the barrels black so that it will not mildew inside.

Thank you, Mr. Burkholder, for letting me tour your garden!

Monday, July 6, 2009

My First Blog Award!

Yesterday, Ms. Charlotte over at Canning Jars etc. nominated me to receive the Kreativ Blogger award. I was touched that Ms. Charlotte would pick me. I love Canning Jars etc. because I am just learning to can, and she kindly answers all of my questions. She even encourages me on my own blog! Thank you, Ms. Charlotte for giving me my first blog award!
In order to accept this award, I have to write 7 things that are interesting about myself.
  1. I enjoy reading old and out of print books. (One of my favorite sites is Olde-Books.)
  2. I play the piano, and I will teach myself the ocarina. The ocarina is like a flute.
  3. I record silly songs with my brother that we make up. Ben and I call it "BenAnna Radio".
  4. I love animals, especially Kathie, our black lab, and Maggie, our black cat.
  5. I have a pet hermit crab named Rosie. Rosie is 1 1/2 years old, which is quite old for a hermit crab.
  6. I like to scare my brother and listen to him scream especially now that his voice has changed! :)
  7. I enjoy camping with my family and our dog in Virginia State Parks.
These are the blogs that I nominate to win the award:
  • The Girotti family at Mountain Musings. They are great friends, and have a very unique blog. Mrs. Girotti always felt that somebody in our family needed to have a blog, so I took the challenge.
  • The Castleberrys at Farming Wisconsin. They blog about their homestead life on their family farm. I also love reading their books.
  • Mrs. Brodock at Teaching Good Things. I have enjoyed her garden challenge, and I appreciate her thoughts and encouragement.
  • Mrs. Bettie Need at Titus 2 Joy. I love her godly encouragement as a young girl! She also is my adopted Grammie.
  • The Servens at The Serven Clan. They blog about their life as a family. I enjoy listening to their CD's. We are learning to sing parts at church using their CD's.
  • Mrs. Murphy at Linda's Contemplations. She has some great thoughts and some wonderful stories. One of my favorite stories is Sammy, our new dog.
  • Granny Miller. She has stopped blogging, but she has left her blog on the internet. I still enjoy reading about her agrarian life. She always took time to answer my questions.
To accept the Kreativ Bloggers award, do the following:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
  2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
  4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
  5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
  6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
  7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
Thanks to everyone who visits my blog! I enjoy learning about gardening for my family!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Garden Sitting

I have been garden sitting for some friends of our family this past week.
Ben and Momma helped me water the plants and pick some produce.

Hannah said that we could keep some of the vegetables and berries. We all loved the raspberries that we picked. We picked enough berries to make some freezer jam.

How many did you eat, Ben?
Brave Ben saved us from the fake snakes!
I hope that you had a great time, Hannah!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dehydrating Parsley

Momma and I dehydrated some parsley to use during the winter when fresh parsley is not available. We normally use it on breaded chicken and fish.

Parsley is from the carrot family. It is not very strong, but has its own flavor. Parsley is commonly used as a garnish in many dishes.

One thing that you can make is a creamy parsley or a ranch salad dressing. (Ben loves ranch dressing!) We have had a lot of lettuce, so different salad dressings are a treat.

Parsley Salad Dressing
Ingredients:
½ cup salad oil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 scallions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sour cream (or fresh plain yogurt)

Combine all ingredients except sour cream in food processor, blender or bowl and mix well. With machine running (or using whisk if preparing by hand), slowly add sour cream, blending thoroughly. Refrigerate in an airtight jar. Makes about 1 cup.

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Ranch Salad Dressing

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons dry parsley flakes
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons onion salt
1 quart mayonnaise
1 pint sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint buttermilk

Directions:

Combine all ingredients. Allow flavors to blend overnight. Reduce recipe in half if desired.

Makes 2 quarts, and stores well chilled for a few weeks. Use for salads or any other recipes requiring a ranch dressing.

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The stems and leaves of parsley can be dried. Dehydrated leaves are used for flakes, while the stems are best for powder. The stems take much longer to dry than the leaves do. We only dried the leaves, since we do not use parsley powder. We dried the parsley leaves for 20 hours at 110°.

Below is the process that we used with our Nesco American Harvest dehydrator:

We washed the leaves and let them dry on a towel.
After the leaves were patted with a towel to remove excess water, we laid them on the rack of the dehydrator.
Once the parsley was dehydrated, we broke off the leaves and placed them in a glass jar.
We have two jars of parsley flakes for the winter!