The Tomato Massacre of 2018

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” ~ Liberty Hyde Bailey

It all started 2 weeks ago at a party. I invited my favorite gardeners, Erin and Moses, from St. Simon’s Farm to the party. As we were enjoying refreshments and watching the small child run around like a crazy man – I took Erin and Moses for a tour of my garden.

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They immediately noticed my tomato plants. The tomato plants had been growing literally like a weed – there were branches everywhere and they had gotten to be almost as tall as I am. I was very proud of how abundant they looked and excited to show them to Erin and Moses. Always helpful, Moses gave me some advice about my tomato plants.

Moses looked at the tomato plants and gave a disapproving stare as he began to explain my problem. For tomato plants to be prolific, he explained, I would need to cut them back and streamline them. If the tomato plant is busy using its energy to keep making these long branches and leaves, it wouldn’t have enough energy left for a large harvest of tomatoes.

That was not what I was expecting. My big beautiful tomato plants were too big and beautiful? I was having a tantrum in my head. So like most things I don’t like to hear – I decided to put it in the back of my mind and deal with it later… For 2 weeks, every time I went in the garden (which is every day) I stared at the tomato plants. The more I stared the more I realized that Moses must be right. The branches were starting to break off themselves, and the leaves at the bottom of the branches were starting to turn yellow and die. Some clean up was necessary.

So yesterday, I finally took the plunge and started to clean up the tomato plants. With every cut, I was close to tears. So many branches, some with tomato flowers, some with some actual tomatoes all chopped off and tossed to the side. Moses said I could replant these branches but I had no more room in my garden plot for them. It was a massacre. Literally a garden massacre had occurred.

Later in the day, as I walked through my garden showing it to a friend, I realized how right Moses was. My tomato plants actually looked happy and healthy. There were no dead leaves, no sprawling branches, just healthy looking tomato plants still with many flowers and tomatoes growing on them. Again I am reminded just how many life lessons gardening can teach us. Just like the tomato plants it is important to cut away damaging acquaintances, friends or even activities so that we can reach our true potential. This is another lesson I am learning and working on as I grow older. It is ok to say no sometimes so that you can make sure you are surrounding yourself with people and things that help you grow instead of things that prohibit you from being fruitful. Its that extra effort and pruning that is necessary for true success.

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Green Beans are Sketchy

“Why shouldn’t you tell a secret in the garden? – Because the potatoes have eyes, the corn has ears and the green beans stalk….” ~ Unknown

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The green beans in my garden are sketchy, ninja vegetables… Green beans grow on a bush or a vine – I have both types in my garden. The Bush green beans, however, are the ones you should really look out for..

Green beans have large green leaves and produce little delicate white flowers. Then out of nowhere baby green beans start to emerge from the flowers. After the baby green beans appeared in my garden, I was excited but figured it would be awhile until they reached full size (I mean I have been waiting for my tomatoes to turn red for weeks now!). Then all of a sudden, like a ninja stalker, full grown green beans jumped out at me while I was watering. You know green beans are ready to eat when they are bright green and snap easily when bent. It is important to note that when a green bean is full grown and tender – you only have a little while to pick it or else it will go to seed, become hard and inedible. You need to be on your A-game in order to harvest green beans while they are edible.

Health Benefits of Green Beans: A serving a green beans is about 1/2 cup or 10 green beans. Green beans are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.

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Picking green beans is the other problem I have with this sketchy vegetable. They are such a sneaky vegetable. After you pick the string beans you should store them in a porous plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. This is the plan (this is always the plan) – pick the beans, store the beans and then partake in wonderful dishes with the beans. img_7855But the sketchy, ninja green beans are not having this plan. When we go to pick them, its like they put a spell on small child and I. Green beans are one of the few types of beans that can be eaten raw straight from the garden. After we pick them, these enticing vegetables, karate jump into our mouths and we regularly eat them before leaving the garden. We sit on the hammock snacking on our green beans while staring out at the garden and listening to the wind chimes and don’t realize what the green beans have done until it is too late and there are not enough green beans to bring back to the refrigerator.

I would love to provide you with a variety of delicious green bean recipes and tell you I have tried them. Recipes like:

But alas – I haven’t gotten to try them. The ninja green beans keep winning. Keep checking back to The Flamingo Garden and hopefully one day soon we will beat the green beans at their own game and will transform them into delicious side dishes. But until that day you can find small child and I on the hammock munching away on our green beans while listening to the wind chimes…

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

The Seedlings are Crawling

“You have to get up and plant the seed and see if it grows, but you can’t just wait around, you have to water it and take care of it.” ~ Bootsy Collins

It has been about a month since we planted our Flamingo Garden. In some way taking care of a garden is like taking care of an infant or a puppy or maybe less intensive than that. Ok, so it is like taking care of a baby goldfish. Yes – I think that analogy works the best. Every day I go outside to the garden to check on its progress, water it and assess the situation for other things I need to do in the garden. Literally every day I am astounded by how different the garden looks and how much things have grown literally over night. Like a baby goldfish (or just a baby – the analogy has gotten away from me) I have been tracking the progress of the garden each week and documenting it via pictures. Again I am THAT mom (ahem – I mean goldfish owner or maybe gardener?)…


We had our first “harvest” from the garden about a week after planting. It was one lone strawberry. Yes, I admit – this was kinda a cheat harvest. When we purchased the strawberry plants, we bought one that already had a baby strawberry attached. Throughout the week that strawberry went from green to a beautiful red. I am not sure how it tasted but small child really seemed to enjoy it.

During week 2 the seedlings really started to sprout up from the ground. I quickly saw that I completely overseeded the carrots and the cucumber plants. In fact – the carrots looked like chia-pet hair there were so many of them! After much internal debate and discussions with my CSA farmers, I knew what I had to do. It was time to thin out my crops. It was completely heart wrenching to pull out baby carrots and cucumber plants and I complained the entire time I was doing it.

Week 3 was an exciting week in the garden. Things were really starting to pop up and look strong. My baby plants were starting to look like miniature versions of their grown up selves! In fact I had to tie up the tomato plants more because they were growing so fast and frantic and I even had one large tomato growing on the plants with many other plants starting to have flowers!

That takes me to now – approximately 4 weeks after planting. The garden looks completely different than when we started this operation. My baby plants are literally starting to crawl! In fact, I had to modify my trellis system for the beans this past weekend to make it easier for the green beans to climb!

I can’t wait to see what the next month brings to the garden. Until then ~

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

A Radish is Nothing Like a Beet

“Darling – you look radishing!” ~ Unknown

Let’s talk about radishes. The radish is a highly under-rated root vegetable. I was excited when Erin from The Urban Vegetable Garden Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program suggested that the radish be my “CSA Challenge” this week.

Health Benefits of Radishes: Radishes are a low-calorie vegetable that is mostly composed of dietary fiber. A serving of radishes is about 1/2 cup and contains 2 grams of carbohydrates (no fat and no protein). Radishes are high in Vitamin C – with one serving providing 14% of your daily needs. In addition, they are high in Vitamins K, B6, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid.

 

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Radishes

Radish Chocolate Cake Recipe:  I am going to start out this story by telling you it has been a long week and I have been under a lot of stress lately. This might not totally excuse my actions but it is what I am going with… (swallow). I typically get my CSA boxes on Wednesdays. So Thursday morning I was watching Jim Hensen’s Word Party on Netflix with my toddler.

This is a new show for the small child – where he gets to pretend to be the “big kid” and teach the “babies” all kinds of new words. There are many, many repetitive songs that get stuck in your head with this one. Sometimes I wonder if government agencies use toddler shows as torture devices..

So I am watching Word Party and I start googling recipes I can use to turn into my CSA challenge recipe. I thought it might be fun to turn it into some type of dessert and I find this very cool looking chocolate cake recipe on the Martha Stewart website. Small child and I went out for our regular errands and picked up the ingredients. I was excited to make my recipe.

Nap time is when the day started to fall apart. Or should I say lack of nap time. If you have ever had a toddler – you know a no-nap toddler is not a pleasant toddler. When you couple that with a stressed out mom trying to make phone calls and two crazy dogs – you have a recipe for disaster. So finally when the small child started to settle down and watch one of his shows, I started to make my recipe. I peeled and boiled the radishes and started to combine the ingredients to make the cake. I was so proud of myself that I even texted Erin about what I was doing.

So a few adjustments later and a Radish Chocolate Cake was born…

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium radishes (peeled)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Martha Stewart chocolate glaze 

Directions

  1. Boil whole radishes until tender – approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Drain and puree radishes in a food processor
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl
  5. Slowly add in eggs, water, oil, vanilla and pureed radishes
  6. Coat a 9 inch round cake pan with cooking spray and add parchment paper to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  8. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes
  9. Turn cake from plan and let cool completely – right side up
  10. Add chocolate glaze and decorate as wanted once cake is totally cool

Enjoy!

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

Eggplants, Eggplants Everywhere!

“If you research it, plant it, water it, stress over it, add in extra dirt, stress some more, hand fertilize it, and wait – it will grow!” ~ The Gardening Dietitian

The eggplants in my garden have been a source of “gardening stress” for me since we moved into our new house. When we moved in the previous owner proudly showed me the flowing eggplant plants while proclaiming, “you will have fresh eggplants any day now!” So I excitedly waited for the eggplants to appear… I waited and waited and waited.

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Eggplant flower

A month later – lots of flowers and still no eggplants. Of course I blamed myself – I must have done something wrong. So I started researching eggplants. Did you know they are technically a fruit just like tomatoes? The gardening blogs I read said there were 2 reasons that my eggplants would produce flowers but not fruit: 1. The eggplants were not getting enough water and 2. They were not getting fertilized by bees. So I started with watering – it seemed easier to deal with. I deep watered my eggplants every other day. After another several weeks and much stressing (and complaining) still no eggplants.

Next I knew it was time to try hand fertilizing. I then pulled out a paintbrush and with the help of my toddler hand fertilized all the eggplant flowers we could get our hands on. He really enjoyed “painting the flowers.” I was confident that this would solve our problems! Ha! A few weeks later still no eggplants.

 

MEANWHILE my CSA boxes were FULL of eggplants! Every gardener I follow on Instagram seemed to be busting at the seems with eggplants and I sadly kept watering my plants knowing I was an eggplant failure.img_5731

AND THEN IT FINALLY HAPPENED! I walked outside and I saw it. A real, live eggplant growing on my eggplant plant. I ran inside and made everyone come check it out – my brother, his friend Sarah (hey Sarah!), my husband, my son – everyone! I had grown an eggplant! One beautiful eggplant. I didn’t want to pick it, I didn’t want to eat it, I just wanted to sit there and watch it grow. I did eventually pick that first eggplant and it was the most delicious eggplant when we finally ate it!

 

Today I have about 6 or 7 eggplants growing on my eggplant plants at the same time. More eggplant than I know what to do with. I think the real problem with my eggplants not producing fruit was that it just wasn’t time yet. Patience is a skill I am constantly working on. I want things “right now” but timing makes a huge difference when it comes to gardening and when it comes to life. Now when I see an eggplant – like a talisman it is a tangible reminder that everything happens in its own time and that sometimes I need to just slow down and enjoy the journey.

 

Happy Planting and Eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

MicroGreens: Sunflowers

“Good things come in small packages.” ~ Unknown

This week’s Urban Vegetable Garden Community Supported Agriculture challenge food was sunflower microgreens. When Erin dropped them off, she compared the microgreens to the veal of vegetables because of their tantalizing flavor and vibrant color (plus they are baby plants).

Microgreens are edible immature greens that are harvested less than a month after germination. Although they have been a staple of fine dining establishments for awhile – microgreens are hot hot hot right now! Perhaps it is because they are super easy and quick for home gardeners to grow (only 1-3 weeks!), it could be the poignant taste of baby greens or most recently the health benefits that have been touted around the web!

IMG_6393Uses: Microgreens are used as edible garnishes, salad ingredients and as a bright and vibrant component in a variety of dishes.

Health benefits: Microgreens are thought to have higher concentrations of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than their adult counterparts. Microgreens are not all created equally however, and some have more nutritional benefits than others. Some of the best for phytonutrients and antioxidants according to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Science include: red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth and green daikon radish.

So I was ready to engage in the challenge. As I looked up potential recipes, I noticed a trend that many people combined sunflower microgreens with cream cheese and avocado into either a dip or a sandwich. I couldn’t find an exact recipe for this tantalizing sounding dip so I decided to create my own – and I am so glad I did!

Ingredients:

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  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup of sunflower microgreens
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

 

Directions:

  1. Peel and pit avocado
  2. Combine cream cheese, avocado, sunflower microgeens and lemon juice into food processor
  3. Serve and enjoy!
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Sunflower Sprout Dip!

Happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian