Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sprouting Seeds Indoors

An incoming email indicated that the techniques for sprouting seeds are not well known, so I hereby offer them. It's easy to do anywhere, and provides us a nice salad ingredient all winter long. Sprouts don't compete with the garden veggies I harvest in warm weather, but they are always a treat this time of year.

You need a proper container, I think. I have two lids with holes that fit over standard Mason jars. Trina has a much prettier container that is nice to bring to potlucks.

Put two or three tablespoons of sprouting seeds in the jar, cover them with water, and let it sit overnight upright. Then pour out the water, and put it on its side to drain.

Henceforth, three times a day pour in fresh filtered water, shake it a bit, and pour out the water. Resume its sideward position with the seeds. I do this before I go to bed, when I get up,and mid-to-late afternoon as convenient.

Keep the jar on your counter. NEVER put it in the sunlight if you can avoid it or the sprouts sizzle. (The same is true for fresh tomatoes ripening inside).

In four days I usually have edible sprouts. After six days I put the remainder in the refrigerator. They last maybe a week, so I start another before the previous jar is completely finished.

I buy seeds mail order from Johnny Seeds. One pack lasts years for the two of us. I think Trina said that the health food store on Bloomfield Avenue also carries them. It's just west of Midland Avenue, I think, but it may be just west of Park Street. It's above where the stairs go down.

We like alfalfa sprouts best, but there are many choices, and some people prefer other types or a mixture.

It's easy and nutritious. Happy indoor gardening!


Read More......

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blizzard Challenges

I just got in from beginning to work the hardest I ever have for a single dinner. Tomorrow evening it will be time to have some yummy fresh vitamins amid this holiday eating! I was surprised at the thrill I felt when I could see about an inch-worth of the corner of the cold frame that contains my coveted Chinese cabbage. As I shoveled and pushed more, I realized that there was about a yard of snow above most of the cold frame, apparently the contribution of the roof and the greenhouse window. After all, we've had "only" about two feet of snow directly here.

Little did I know last Thursday as I dug for root crops for the first time this season how they would be used. I thought I was harvesting for guests, but they all drove for home suddenly Christmas evening after the predictions became more dire and imminent. They are now glad they did. I savor 27 hours of wonderful holiday festivities, which feels good.

So the carrots I dug Thursday are still abundant and will probably serve Fred and me for a at least a week. We had our first parsnips of the season Thursday evening. Yum! The parsnips are smaller than usual this year, in contrast to the carrots. I measured one carrot that was slightly more than two inches in diameter.

After my guests left Christmas evening, I went out to harvest Chinese cabbage for Sunday evening's dinner (as a consolation) and then closed the cold frames in the dark. Good thing I did that!

Amusingly, we each ate eight "fresh" tomatoes for last evening's dinner. There are more green ones, and they seem to ripen nicely. The taste is definitely competitive with store-bought tomatoes, although not up to summer tomatoes. We were glad to enjoy them on December 27, mostly products of last January's starting.

The lettuce in our greenhouse window is abundant, as is the parsley in our refrigerator, picked before the great cold not long ago. The basil, raised for the first time in the greenhouse window this year, adds a nice touch, and there are abundant sprouts. So our salad in midwinter is delightful.

Happy eating in the holidays!


Read More......

Friday, December 17, 2010


Winter has arrived. Perhaps you noticed.

What a difference in the garden from just this past Saturday, when I sat out in it comfortably talking with a guest! Greens that stood up proudly then have lain down. The carrot tops that looked like the ones in the store but more so no longer look like they are trying to feed the roots.

This means it's time to put the plastic bags of leaves down on top of the carrots and parsnips to keep them warm for the winter. This is a sizable job, but now accomplished. This year had the new quirk that I had packed all those plastic bags myself (because others are using paper bags), so I was critical of how they had been packed as I took them from the other side of the driveway to the garden. Isn't it interesting how the human conscience finds ever-new ways to annoy us?

The best culinary part of the week was the two meals of collards (with the traditional Italian recipe), the only two probably this fall. Yum! They have been attacked by some bug I haven't seen, but I've covered them with floating cover for winter, so maybe I'll get more delicious collard meals in March.

We also had our last two meals of the season's pac choi, picked before they lay down, but that's not so sad because we will now start eating Chinese cabbage from the cold frame. I've kept the cold frame closed the past few days because the temperature hasn't peeked above freezing. Today I should give them some fresh air in midday.

We now swing into our winter diet. The refrigerator freezer is packed, so it doesn't look like we will go hungry during January and February. By March I will be harvesting (I hope) collards and maybe other newcomers from the garden.

The first crop of lettuce from the greenhouse window is ready to harvest and delicious. I have been alternating for salads with arugula that I picked before the below-20 weather. I still have enough tomatoes so that it appears we'll be eating them at least until Christmas. They taste fine, and occasionally one reminds me of summer. I won't begin harvesting carrots from the garden until the tomatoes are gone, so it appears I'll have plenty of carrots for an abundant winter.

The second crop of winter lettuce is over 2" high, and I will start a third by Sunday. This has worked in previous years for a steady supply of winter lettuce from the greenhouse window. Yesterday I started my first jar of alfalfa sprouts, which complement my winter salads. Yesterday we ate the last of fresh peppers and today we will finish the fresh celery. I have plenty of frozen peppers and refrigerated celery leaves; both will flavor the many stir-fries in our winter eating.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying preparations for Christmas, when both my kids come home. I hope you are enjoying the holiday season too! Soon we will have more sun again, but we know the cold is here to stay a while.


Read More......

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Open Garden Report, solar panels, yellow celery, carrots

What a great morning I had yesterday at the open garden! Everyone was so kind and appreciative! It really gave me a "high."

There were lots of "oos and ahs" over my cold frame that is chock full of Burpees two-season Chinese cabbage. It is believable already that I will harvest two meals a week throughout Jan. and Feb. of fresh vitamins for stir-fries from them. In answer to a question, I said I cut the leaves around the edges and the plants keep growing. I have used this cold frame for years. I bought it from Johnny Seeds, and put it up and down every fall and spring.

"I did close it last night."
When pushed further, I observed that I put a large plastic over the cold frame when snow is predicted. Otherwise it freezes shut. Then I can shovel snow off the cold frame, then push the rest off with a brush, and then open it to pick dinner.

The first question was about my solar panels. How did I feel about them? They have been a far greater financial benefit than I expected. Not only do I get large REC payments capably administered by my solar panel maven Bob Simpson (, but last month my electricity bill was less than $3. When I said this, I heard a gasp. I added that this was with a refrigerator that dates to 1965. I saw eyes widen. "We bought it second hand in 1975 for $100, so I know its age only from repairmen, but it serves my needs and I know someone who has had five refrigerators during that time because they don't last. It certainly isn't energy-efficient, but the solid waste problem is worth considering too."

Someone else asked if we had a large battery. "No, our solar panels are connected to the grid." The dial runs backward much of the time, which is why my electricity costs are so little. Admittedly, last month seemed to be an all-time low, but they are never high.

I said I was very impressed with the installer, Jake Wig, who Bob had recommended to me. However, I am not happy with the state or local government's "help." The state required installing posts in the attic in any house over 30 years (are they really less well-built than newer ones?), to support the panels, which are light enough for me to pick up myself. The town harassed Jake about fire safety, but he seemed saintly to me. However, I am very pleased with the cooperation of PSE&G, who have a special telephone-answerer for solar panel customers. Someone else commented that she is plagued with telephone solicitations by alternative energy sources, so she investigated those who have already switched. The majority are unhappy because after a short introductory offer, the prices soar, and you must wait six months to get back to PSE&G. I said some more pleasantries about PSE&G and repeated my sentiments that I wish our governments would catch up in cooperating with solar panels.

Someone commented that her celery has turned yellow. "So has some of mine. I tasted it, and it seemed fine. So I serve yellow celery to Fred and he eats it and never comments." Smiles all round.

My carrot tops are many and big. I pointed to a row of plastic bags filled with leaves and said when the weather turns really cold at the end of this month and the tops drop, I will put those bags over the carrots. That insulates them from the serious cold. Then I shovel snow off the top of a bag, pull up the bag, pull a week's worth of carrots, and replace the bag till next week. It will take 8-12 bags, I think, to cover the bed.

In the summer I thin the carrots first to a half inch, then a month later to an inch, eating the "finger carrots," then a month later to two inches, eating store-sized carrots that are the thinnings. This means the winter carrots are two-inches apart, which some need to be. "That's why I'm not having success with carrots," observed one visitor.

I pointed out my unimpressive kale, which, like the collards, has been attacked by some bug this year. Kale goes through out winter without protection and was my major winter salad green when I was raising kids. With the carrots and seed sprouts raised indoors, we had good winter salads. Now with only two of us, I can raise enough lettuce in the greenhouse window for winter salads. I could point proudly to them yesterday. For the first time this year I am (successfully) raising basil in the window, which is a nice addition to salads already.

Happy eating!


Read More......