Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Seed Saving ~ Part 1

It is a cool, rainy day and the last day of day-light-saving time here in Idaho. Although I have done some research on saving seeds, I spent the morning online, studying how to save the seeds from my basil and zinnia plants. Next I will tackle the nasturtiums. The cool weather and mild frost took out the basil about a week ago and the zinnias are slowly turning that monochrome color that tells me that it is time to harvest seeds for next year's flower bounty. Today, I've started by harvesting the flower heads - where future new life resides. 


As you can see, these basil plants are done for the year. They started going to seed in August, when the bushes were crowned with dainty white flowers and buzzing with honey and bumble bees. They are now brown, and some would say ugly, but I can still smell the sweet aroma of basil as I cut off the seed heads. 


You can almost see where the seeds are hiding in this picture - deep inside where the white blossoms used to be. The plants have started to dry out, making the seeds easier to harvest.


These plants were damp, due to a slight drizzle this morning, so I laid them out on a rack so they could dry completely before I start harvesting the seeds. There are hundreds of tiny black basil seeds hiding in this tray of flower tops. In a few days they will be dry and easy to harvest.  


Zinnia seeds, on the other hand, are easier to see and to harvest. The flowers no longer have the vibrant color of summer, but they have a different kind of beauty and contain the seeds for next year’s crop. At the end of each petal is a seeds. I’ll show you how to get to the seed in 'Saving Seeds ~ Part 2.  




Harvesting Zinnia seeds is best done when they are really dry. Therefore, I laid the flower heads out on the racks I use for my seedlings. The overhead lights will hopefully accelerate the drying.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lemongrass propagation

I bought a small pot of lemongrass this past spring from a local nursery. It didn't look very healthy so I never dreamed it would grow so fast and be so beautiful. I has put all of my perennial grasses to shame. 



Lemongrass grows in dense clumps in tropical or subtropical climates. Therefore if I leave this out in the garden, the freezing Idaho winter will kill it for sure. It is not a perennial in zone 6. 



I’ve decided to propagate this wonderful grass by dividing the root clump. This turned into quite the a chore last Saturday. I was hoping to be able to cut out a section of the plant to put in a pot. 



I had to dig up the whole plant in order to separate it, but I was able to divide it into five pots. I plan to put these in the greenhouse once the weather changes. I was able to save a number of stalks with roots to start new plants. I certainly have more than I need and will share with friends and family. 



The fresh stalks and leaves have a clean lemon-like odor because they contain an essential oil, which is also present in lemon peel. If you have never used or smelled lemongrass, find a recipe and pick some up from your local Asian market. 

Lemongrass has long been used as a flavoring in Asian style cooking and also has many health benefits. When added to recipes, the citrus-like flavor of the lemongrass herb powder or dried leaf adds a unique element to the meal. Though lemongrass is more widely known for its use as tea, it may be added to curries, beef, fish, poultry, seafood and soups.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why we grow peppers...

and celery, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. 



I mentioned in a recent post that celery is one of the dirty dozen foods that when conventionally grown, contains high levels of pesticide residue. Well, peppers are also listed as one of the twelve. If you have ever purchased an organic red pepper in the grocery store, you know it cost about 4.99 per pound. Because I love peppers and think they are beautiful, I grow my own. This year we’ve had a particularly good crop of all kinds of peppers. In addition to yellow and red bell peppers we have sweet banana, sweet cherry red, Poblano and serrano peppers. Plus a few I cannot recall the names of. I’ve become particularly fond of one called a Lipstick pepper this year. The plant produces a lot of fruit and is sweeter than the red bell. I plan to grow these from seed next year and I may plant a whole row. 

~red bell peppers~

~yellow bell peppers~

~sweet cherry red peppers~

~Lipstick peppers~

We’ve been canning sweet pickled peppers. With this recipe we can use every variety along with fresh garden shallots. They are beautiful and will be a real treat in the middle of winter on sandwiches or on an antipasta platter. 




For the past few days, I can hardly keep up with the harvest. I’ve been cutting up the red and yellow bell peppers and dehydrating them for soups and stews this winter. I’m about out of freezer space so this makes the most sense and they are beautiful in the jars. A large pepper shrinks down to about a quarter cup of dehydrated peppers, which you simply toss into soups, stews and sauces. 




If you are interested in the other dirty dozen and the clean fifteen foods, check out the link at ewg.org. You might be surprised.