The Gnome Herb Garden: An Introduction

“Gnomes Made Me Do It!” ~ Unknown

We did a thing this week. After weeks of staring and contemplating what to do with our front garden we finally made a decision. Herbs! We need more herbs!Β Herbs are kinda like the cowbell – you can never have enough! Yes, we have the aerogarden that currently contains dill, basil, thyme and parsley. Yes, we have the basil plants in the front garden but we NEEDΒ more!!!!

Supplies and Materials: Next it was time to shop. My mother in law was in town so we were provoked to go over for an adventure at Flamingo Gardens to peruse the herbs. Of course, we never do anything small so we left Flamingo Gardens with 8 herb plants and some organic planting soil. Β  Since this garden was going right in front of the house, where I will see it every day, I didn’t want to make it just an ordinary herb garden. I also have been trying to think of fun ways to get small child involved with our gardening efforts. Thats when the idea behind the gnome garden came to me! So we headed to Michaels and got some small white picket fencing and a few gnomes! It was then time to get to work!

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What We Did: We started by pulling out all the dead flowers, plants and other organic materials that had been hanging out in the garden since we moved in. We left the 3 eggplant plants, 2 tomato plants, 1 orange pepper plant, basil, the asparagus garden, purple sweet potato bush and the butter lettuce I planted a month and a half ago in the center of the garden. This left the two ends of the garden completely open and ready for re-planting! We added the soil to the garden bed – being careful to spread it evenly so the existing plants could soak up the nutrients as well. Planted our herbs. Added the gnomey (yes I just made that word up) details and labeled our herbs. Alas the gnome herb garden was born!!!

 

Meet the Herbs!

 

 

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

Planting Day

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday was planting day at my house. I woke up in a tizzy of excitement and anticipation for what the day would hold. First I re-reviewed my garden plans with my garden assistants (my husband and dad).

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Since this was our first real garden, I spent a lot of time developing theΒ garden plan. To develop the plan, I reviewed my gardening books, read the seed packets to determine how much light and space each piece of produce needed and alsoΒ tried to think about how each would grow for optimal use of our garden plot.

Then we went over to evaluate the space where we had prepped the garden to see if there were any additional supplies we would need. We determined we needed additional soil (for some reason we always need more soil), stakes (for the tomato and bean plants), plant velcro (to velcro the plants to the stakes), twine, a new rake and the plants we weren’t going to grow from seeds (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries and marigolds).

IMG_5945So after picking up our additional supplies it was finally time to plant our garden! I was especially glad my dad was with us – he has actually created a garden before so he took the lead.

  1. Β The first thing we did was plot out the rows. I wanted at least a foot in between each row so we measured it out and found out we had room for 9 rows in our garden bed.
  2. Then we started to make the mound of dirt using a hoe to space out our rows.
  3. Once our mounds were created it was time to plot out where the seeds/plants were going to go – using my garden diagram as a guide.
  4. It was finally time to start planting the seeds. For each seed packet, I read the instructions on the packet for how many seeds and how far apart they should be planted. I made a slight trough in the dirt, planted the seeds and then covered them with dirt.
  5. Next we planted the plants we had bought by digging holes, planting and then covering the plants with dirt.
  6. We added the trellises for the tomato and bean plants.
  7. It was finally time to water our garden. We wanted to give the garden a great start in life so we gave it lots of water to drink. New seeds need lots of water in order to germinate. SO MUCH WATER!

 

Now we wait, water, wait, water and more waiting to see if things start to sprout!

In the meantime, happy eating and gardening!

~The Gardening Dietitian

Carrots: From Root to Stem

“Going back to aΒ simpler life is not a step backwards” ~ YvonΒ Chouinard

The “root to stem” movement is an extension of the “head to tail” movement that popped up not too long ago. The basic idea is that by utilizing all portions of the plant we can eat in a more sustainable way, reducing food waste and increasing food availability. When using the “root to stem” philosophy you try to utilize waste ingredients you would normally throw out. In the case of the carrot – this would mean cooking with the carrot tops!

This week while getting my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, Erin (one of my local farmers) made a comment about cooking carrot tops. At that moment this week’s CSA challenge was born!

Health Benefits of Carrots:

Carrots are full of antioxidants including vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is known for its role in eye health (specifically helping with the mechanism that lets you see well at night) but this fat soluble vitamin also helps you maintain good brain function and have healthy skin. In addition, Vitamin A works with Vitamin C to reduce inflammation in your body which can be a factor in cancer and heart disease incidence. Carrots also have a high fiber content which helps with your digestive system.

Prepping the Carrots: Root to Stem:

So the challenge was to try and prepare the carrot so that we could eat every part of it. As such, I scoured the web and found the most popular way to do this was by roasting the carrot roots and by turning the carrot tops into a carrot top chimichurri sauce. There were several recipes online but I decided to use this one from Love and Lemons as my base – I then made a few tweaks and adjustments from there.

So the carrot roasting part was pretty simple and resulted in DELICIOUS roasted carrots!

While the carrots were roasting, I made the carrot top chimichurri sauce. This is where things got a bit more complicated. So when making chimichurri a lot of the recipe is the addition of different herbs and spices to taste. While I enjoy making recipes like this – because I can be creative – I had never had chimichurri so I wasn’t sure what this Argentinian sauce was supposed to taste like. The chimichurri I made included about 1 1/2 cups of carrot tops, 1/4 cup of fresh basil from my aerogarden, 1/4 cup of cilantro from this week’s CSA, a pinch of dried oregano, 4 garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp of red pepper and lime seasoning, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil. I threw everything in the blender and set it to puree to chop/mix up!

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When the carrots were done – I topped them with the chimichurri sauce and then it was time to taste!

Carrots topped with chimichurri

Recipe Review

First of all, both my husband and I agreed the roasted carrots were amazing! Even the small child liked snacking on the roasted carrots. I included a bit more salt than the recipe called for and they tasted kinda like a tender carrot french fry (which is what I told the small child they were).

As for the chimichurri the reviews were mixed. Part of this might have been the modifications I made on the recipe… The chimichurri sauce had a very earthy taste. You could tell it was made of super fresh ingredients but the vinegar and carrot tops made it a bit sour coupled with the rough texture of the ingredients it was an acquired taste. I kinda liked it and thought it seemed like something you would serve at a fancy dinner party whereas my husband was not a fan (although he did eat it!).

Happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian

My Flamingo Garden

“If you build it – the food will grow.”

We moved into our new home in December of this year. The previous owners were avid gardeners and had planted various vegetables including asparagus, tomatoes, and basil in the front garden. In the backyard they had 3 massive garden beds that had completely grown over and were a total mess. Since we have been working with various garden and CSA projects recently I knew I wanted to keep the gardens but not in their current form. And so my flamingo garden was born!

The first thing we had to decide is where we wanted the new garden. Our backyard has a clay tennis court that wasn’t taken care of and the previous owners put their garden beds right in the middle of that tennis court. Since we have a VERY active small child we decided we wanted to turn the tennis court into a field for the child to run and play sports on when he gets older. A small section on the corner of the yard was already fenced off and contained an ugly tan garden shed. We knew it was the perfect place for my garden.

 

So I took the wood and cinder blocks from the existing garden beds and moved them over by the tan shed to plot out my garden. The wood and cinder blocks were surprisingly heavy – so thats about as far as I got that day.

I am a novice gardener so I decided I needed to read a lot of gardening books so I would be prepared for spring planting. In addition, the new garden area needed some sprucing up to get the aesthetic I was looking for in a garden – because you know it needed to be cute! We live in Florida so I wanted to give the garden a tropical beach feel. I started with the shed. It desperately needed a paint job and the obvious choice was turquoise of course.

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Painting the shed

I taped up the edges of the shed with painters tape and actually spray painted the whole shed turquoise. My brother made fun of me for about 2 weeks over the spray paint but it was quick, easy and I think had great results! I also felt the wood around the garden bed needed a bit of sprucing up so I spray painted them (outside only) a lime green color.

Next we needed to dig up the grass that was in the middle of the garden space. For this I needed my husband’s help because lets be honest I don’t really do manual labor. πŸ™‚ Small child loved this part and insisted on helping his daddy. I went and got flamingos for the garden (because every florida garden NEEDS a flamingo) and a hammock so I could sit and watch the boys work.

 

So soil composition for Florida gardeners is a complicated topic. After reading several gardening books I was and am still confused. Since this is our first attempt at gardening and we have the boards to create a somewhat raised bed we decided to add organic raised bed soil to our garden. We added about 10 bags of natures care organic raised bed soil. We will see how this works once we start planting!

Finally it was time to add details to really make the garden look special. I added some plants on each side of the garden shed, a spring wreath to the door, a statue one of my colleagues gave me to remind me my mother is watching us from heaven and two plastic adirondack chairs with cushions to add some seating for when we want to sit and watch our garden grow.

 

This weekend we will finally be ready to start planting!!!

Happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian

 

The Seminole Pumpkin

I joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. As part of a CSA my local farmers bring me a box of vegetables each week – delivered right to my office! CSA programs are a great way to get to know your local farmers, try out fruits and vegetables that you might not have found in your local grocery store and membership has been associated with various health benefits.

In some ways being a part of a CSA is like being on the TV show “Chopped”. You get a box of random vegetables (some of which you have never heard of) and you are challenged to find a way to cook and serve these vegetables to your family. Sadly, there is no cash prize at the end of the week but sometimes you get some cool recipes that you wouldn’t have found otherwise. This week my local farmers challenged me to figure out a way to cook the Seminole Pumpkin.

The Seminole Pumpkin is a common pumpkin variety found in south Florida gardens due to its ability to tolerate the Florida heat. These pumpkins weight between 6-12 pounds and are firmer and have less fibers than a traditional pumpkin you buy on Halloween. According to my web search – one of the best uses for the Seminole pumpkin is a fried pumpkin bread. Read more about my attempt at making this traditional recipe below – including my visit from the local fire department.

Fried Seminole Pumpkin Bread

1. Cook the PumpkinΒ 

So little did I know just cooking the pumpkin involves a TON of steps.

Cook Pumpkin Part 1
Step 1: Take off pumpkin stem
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Step 2: Cut the pumpkin in half
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Step 3: Scoop out pumpkin seeds
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Step 4: Make sure there are no seeds left
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Step 5: Place pumpkin halves face down and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes
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Step 6: Scoop out insides into a bowl

2. Mix in the ingredientsΒ 

Once you get through cooking and prepping your pumpkin – you finally get to start working on the actual recipe.

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Step 7: Mix in all ingredients (1/2 cup white sugar, 3 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp cinnamon)

3. Heat vegetable oil in fry pan (1 inch deep)

Don’t forget to put on the fan above the stove!!!

4. Form patties with pumpkin mixture and lightly fry in oil for 4 seconds each side

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Finished product!!!

SPECIAL TIP: Again make sure you turn on your oven fan BEFORE you start heating the oil or else your house may or may not fill up with smoke and ADT may or may not call the fire department which may or may not be required to come check on your house……

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The fire truck that visited my house this afternoon….

Happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian

The Pineapple

“Be a pineapple, stand tall, wear a crown, & be sweet on the inside.”

Without a doubt, pineapples are my very favorite fruit. You have to admit they are pretty cool – with their tough exterior and bright, sweet meat inside. Plus they always remind me of summer, which is by far the best season of the year.

Nutritional Benefits of Pineapple:

Pineapple is a great source of Vitamin C, is fat-free and low in sodium. When we think of pineapple we typically think of bromelain. Bromelain is just a mixture of enzymes found within the pineapple plant. This enzyme can act as a meat tenderizer making pineapple the perfect addition when you are cooking meats like ham. Some people also take bromelain as a dietary supplement due to research showing it is effective in reducing symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation (i.e. reducing the causes of your stuffy nose!) when used with traditional medications.

Growing Pineapple:Β 

So my mom calls pineapple a garbage food because you can grow a pineapple by the part you would typically throw away – in this case the crown of the pineapple.

Step 1: Chop off its head! Cut the pineapple about 1/2 inch from the top.

Step 2: Separate the top and bottom portions of the pineapple. The top will be used to grow a new pineapple!

Step 3: Take a photo with your pineapple – because gardening is fun!

Step 4: Pull off some of the lower leaves to expose the root.

Step 5: Let the roots dry out. There is some debate online about how long they should dry but my plan is to let the roots dry out for 1 day before planting.

Step 6: Take a break to enjoy your fresh cut pineapple!

 

 

So currently the top of my pineapple is sitting in the kitchen drying out a bit. My plan is to plant it in a large pot with planters soil in the next day or two and update you on the progress. Until then – happy planting and eating!

~The Gardening Dietitian