Build and Rebuild

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” ~ Dolly Parton

Hi.. Remember me? It has been awhile since I have blogged. We lost touch in May and June of this year but now it is July, (an odd season for Florida gardening I am learning) but I am back. For more on what happened in the “lost months” see the gardening log below:

May 2018

  • 17th: The rains began. At first I was excited – the garden needed water and I thought the rain was better than dragging the hose out to the garden to water it. Plus isn’t rain supposed to help the garden grow?
  • 19th: It is still raining. Three days and nights of rain, hard rain. Doesn’t this rain know that we are in Florida? There are supposed to be light sporadic afternoon showers, not continuous hurricane like rains in May! I hope it stops soon. It is all just so wet, I haven’t been able to check on the garden in days.
  • 20th: Finally, the rain has stopped but the entire yard is flooded. I have to put on rain boots and carry Lulu (our King Charles Cavalier) outside just to take her for a walk. The garden is FLOODED! Hopefully the water will recede quickly. How bad could it be?
  • 25th: The waters have “mostly” receded but it is all gone. Dead. Finite. Months of planning and working in the garden destroyed. I don’t even want to go out there any more….

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June 2018

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  • 2nd: I will focus my efforts on the herb garden in the front. The orange mint is a bit “wilty” but otherwise everything seems to be thriving after the rain. I better go out and start weeding it.
  • 4th: I can’t just avoid the backyard forever (mostly because small child keeps running out there). Let me go and look at the garden. Wow, the strawberry plants and peppers are ok and so is that new row of okra I had planted right before the flood. I can’t believe those baby plants survived. And the little blueberry bush plant seems to be ok.
  • 11th: I need to get the pumpkin seeds in the ground if I want pumpkins by October. Lets get these pumpkins planted in the watermelon bed. I will deal with the main garden later.
  • 20th: It is time. Time to plan. Time to rebuild. Time to clean out the dead plants, add lots and lots of dirt and start up the summer garden. Plus the nature’s care organic soil I like is on sale at Lowes.img_9731

Several hours later…… small child and I planted three different types of squash, two rows  of sunflowers and a raspberry bush.

The garden is once again starting to come alive reminding me of a few things:

  1. Overwatering is real.
  2. My backyard floods.
  3. You can always start over.
  4. Some plants are like people, surprising and resilient.

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    July 5, 2018

I am reminded of stress theory. When a crisis occurs (in this case the flood) we have 3 options for the outcomes: Option 1 – give up and things will get worse. Option 2: Adapt and stay at the same place you were when the crisis occurred and Option 3: Rise to the occasion and end up better than you were before the crisis occurred. Some plants I thought would survive because they were big and beautiful before the storm like the tomatoes died. Some plants are the same now as they were before the storm like the blueberry bush. Other plants, like the okra seeds I had just planted before the storm hit weathered it well and are now flourishing. If I were asked today “what kind of plant would you be if you had to be a plant” I would say confidently that I would be an okra plant.

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

 

Gone to Seed

“Gone to Seed – the stage in gardening in which the flowers are not blooming and the leaves have fallen off the tree sending it’s seeds into the soil.” ~ Oxford Dictionary

Ever since I started gardening I have heard and lived slightly in fear of my fruits and vegetables going to seed. I swear everyone talks about it!img_8489.jpg

  • I showed a picture of my eggplant to my boss the other day and her immediate response was, “you better hurry up and pick that before it goes to seed.
  • I didn’t pick my cauliflower and instead let it grow into pretty little white flowers. When I looked up what happens when you don’t pick cauliflower the online response was that it was going to seed.
  • When I have an especially tasty crop of peas and my dad asks me to save the seeds. (Ok that one was a little different but still relevant).

Ok – maybe EVERYONE isn’t talking about it but its still a popular topic amongst gardeners – when and how to pick your produce so you don’t lose it when it goes to seed.

Is going to seed really as bad as I think?

I did a bit of research on the topic. Some people call is bolting when your crops go to seed. Also – it is not necessary a bad thing to go to seed. In fact, its nature’s way of perpetuating crops year after year.  Some gardeners even recommend that you let some of the things in your garden go to seed so that you can perpetuate a crop that is used to the conditions in your garden. This is especially recommended if you have a particularly good crop of something or if its extra flavorful. Also if you collect the seeds from your current crops – you don’t have to buy new ones each year.

How do I save my seeds after something has gone to seed?

Apparently you can not just collect seeds and throw them in a baggie. They will mold (I know this not from experience but from a certain farming friend emphatically informing me when I innocently suggested such a thing). First you need mature seeds – for some plants (like cucumbers and squash) this means waiting longer than you normally would to pick the produce – usually this is when you can hear the seeds rattling around inside. Next you need to dry your seeds. You can place them on paper towels and then put them in a safe, dry, cool storage area like a dark closet or basement (if you have one). Once the seeds are properly dried you should put them in a sealed airtight container where you can store them in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to use them! Important tip – be sure to label your stored seeds so that you know what they are when its time to plant again!

The cilantro has gone to seed.

 

Right now my cilantro is going to seed. Its been going to seed for awhile now and is actually starting to move past the flowering stage to develop the actual seeds. It has been kinda fun watching the process however it means less fresh cilantro for my recipes! After much googling (as per usual) I have learned that you can extend the growing season by picking the cilantro more before the flowers begin to sprout. Once the flowers start to sprout you can still eat the cilantro but the flavors will be more tempered. Sometimes that can actually be a good thing – especially if your cooking for people that don’t love the taste of cilantro but its important to the integrity of the dish (like in my homemade pico de gallo).

The other interesting thing about cilantro is that when it goes to seed it actually becomes the spice coriander.  Coriander seeds are used for curries, curry powder, pickles, soups and stews.

FUN FACT: Coriander is actually a member of the carrot family!

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

 

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