Category: Vegetable

Vegetable and Flower Gardening In a Small Area

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Vegetable & Flower Gardening In a Small Area - By Jimmy Boswell – Gluten Free Chef

You don’t need a large area to grow fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits. In many respects you don’t even need a garden. Over the years plant breeders have been developing varieties of plants designed to be grown in a small area or in containers. They have also focused on taste and high yields from small plantings.

Positives for container gardening
  • Don’t have to worry about weeds
  • Less garden pest problems
  • Self-watering planters means you can water less
  • Great for porches, decks, patios, and balconies
  • Easy to control soil health

The Small Vegetable Plot – Kids Can Grow

I am a keen advocate of small container gardens. When there is little or no space for a conventional garden planting a few pots and containers with some vegetables and herbs can be very rewarding both in the produce that you grow as well as the fun and happiness that it offers.
It is also something that you can get the kids involved with. Being in containers there is very little weeding required and kids can have their own pots growing things that they like to eat. They can care for their plants, watch them grow and when they harvest, the smiles on their faces is priceless.

I had my own little plot in the main vegetable garden and I remember digging, planting and harvesting, with a little help from Dad. I loved picking my produce and was always proud of what I grew.

Kids Gardens

Always, set space aside in your garden for the kids. Choose plants that are fun and easy to grow. Good plants for kids’ gardens are cherry tomatoes, herbs, sunflowers, and edible plants.

Diversify kids gardening plants to include various smells, textures, and tastes (like Mint) to keep them interested.

Container gardening is also great for kids. If worried about the kids getting messy, container gardening is great choice.

Getting Started

As I have mentioned container gardening does not take a lot of space but there are a few considerations when starting.

Light/Sun

Vegetables need about 6 or more hours of sun each day. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed. In Winter with lower sunshine hours there are a few crops that can survive in light shade, lettuce and other greens, broccoli, but if you can’t provide sun, you might want to reconsider having a vegetable container garden. More so if you are getting kids involved. The last thing you want is to have a poor result for the children.

Water

Vegetables also require regular watering. Without regular water vegetables will not fill out and some, like tomatoes, will crack open if suddenly plumped up with water after struggling without for awhile.

On my deck I have lots of containers with a wide variety of plants. I do not have a tap close so when I need to give them a good watering I have plastic containers that are larger than the pots with the plants in them. I fill these large pots with water and place the plants in them and let them soak. I usually mix some liquid fertilizer in the water and give them a food at the same time.


Soil/Potting Mix

Vegetables need a soil that is rich in organic matter. The potting mix/soil is important to the growth of all plants, but more so with vegetables, because even taste is affected by the quality of the mix you are growing them in.

With a potting mix rich in organic matter it will not only help plants to grow but will also retains moisture.
Specialised Varieties

When you are looking for plants to grow in containers look for plants labeled with terms or words such as patio, pixie, tiny, baby or dwarf.

These will be varieties that have been bread for containers. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn’t mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less.

Herb Gardens

Herbs are generally pretty easy to grow and hearty. They need loose, well drained soil. But do not require a lot of attention. You can inter-plant with vegetables to use herbs for organic pest control. Or plant a separate herb container. It is a good idea to plant perennial herbs like chives, lavender, mints, oregano, rosemary, thyme, tarragon.

Planting herbs is a great way to supplement a small vegetable garden, too. Say you just decide on a few tomato plants. Growing herbs expands what you can cook with those tomatoes. Or just slice them fresh with a few sprigs of basil. Fresh foods are good on their own, too!

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Roasted Pumpkin Garlic Soup

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Its chilly, raining and I am in the kitchen cooking. Have some chicken stock on the simmer. Just about to roast 1/2 pumpkin, about 1kg, 1 whole head of garlic and will make Roasted Pumpkin with Garlic soup.
The mix of spices in this recipe gives it a mellow Indian taste
1kg (2.2 lb) pumpkin I use crown
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt
fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
1/2 tsp each ground cumin and cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon fresh chilli, crushed (optional) or ¼ ground chilli powder.

First thing to do is cut the pumpkin into medium wedges, skin on. I don’t cut them to small as I am roasting them without pealing to get a bit of extra flavour in to the pumpkin while it roasts. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper in a roasting tin.

Cut the top off a head of garlic and drizzle a little oil over the cloves and wrap the garlic in tin foil and add to the pumpkin. Roast at 200C for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft.
About 5-10 minutes before the pumpkin is cooked coarsely chop the onion, celery and carrot and fry over a medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the ground cumin, cardamom and turmeric and fry briefly. Add the stock, salt and pepper to season and chili (if you like a bit of heat in your soup). Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.
Once this is simmering remove the pumpkin and garlic from the oven and let cool till its cooled enough to handle. Remove the skin from the cooked pumpkin and then squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the soup along with the pumpkin. You may need to add some water at this stage to just cover the vegetables. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Once cooked blend in batches and adjust the seasoning to taste if needed.
I serve with some sour cream and chopped chives or parsley.

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>Mixing and Storing Herbs and Spices

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Mixing and Storing Herbs and Spices

Dried herbs are stronger in flavour than fresh leaf herbs. To convert dry to fresh measurements, use approximately 3 tablespoons fresh to each tablespoon dry. In most cases use 1/3 to ¼ the amount of dried herbs as is called for fresh. In general ¼ teaspoon of spice is enough for 4 servings.

Mixing Herbs – when seasoning with herbs and spices try to complement your dish by not overwhelming the flavour of the food. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavours.

For long-cooking dishes, such as soups and stews add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. For best results try crushing the herbs before adding to your dish. For shorter cooking-dishes try adding dry spices earlier in cooking. Fresh spices and herbs should be added towards the end of cooking.

Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, don’t use more than three herbs and spices in any one dish. The exception to this rule is East Indian cooking, which often calls for 10 or more different spices in one curry dish.

Try replacing herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different – such as Marjoram instead of Oregano, Savory instead of Thyme, Coriander (Cilantro) instead of Parsley, Anise seed instead of Fennel. Mixing herbs and spices will provide you with greater creativity in food preparation by allowing you to create a variety of exciting and uniquely seasoned dishes. You may just create a recipe that will be one of a kind, beloved by everyone. 

Storing Herbs – store spices in a cool, dark, dry place. Heat, humidity, and excessive light will result in the dry herbs and spices losing their flavour more quickly. A good way to store herbs and spices is in small, airtight glass containers. If stored properly, dried herbs and ground spices will retain their flavour for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. To keep larger quantities of herbs and spices fresh, store them in tightly sealed containers in the freezer.

Do not store dry herbs and spices near any humid source, such as sinks, dishwashers, kettles, coffee makers, on counter tops, stoves or microwaves. Avoid storing dry herbs and spices inside the refrigerator due to the high humid environment. Avoid storing near heat sources such as stoves, top of microwaves and refrigerators. For best results grind whole spices in a grinder or mortar & pestle. If you want to enhance the whole spice flavour, try roasting the whole spice in a dry skillet over a medium heat, being careful not to burn them.

Drying Herbs – try drying herbs on racks, slats or upside down by their stems. For best drying, place your herbs in a well ventilated, dry, cool environment. Ensure that you have plenty of air space and turn every few days. Another alternative to drying is using the microwave by laying the herbs out on absorbent paper and cooking on low for 3 minutes. A dehydrator is also another excellent option.

Harvesting Herbs – the best time to pick the leaves or flower buds is when they start to unfurl. Try to harvest your herbs early in the day and before noon at the latest, as the herbs are most potent then. Seeds must be collected when they turn brown and brittle. Never pick herbs in wet or humid conditions.

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Vegetable Freezing

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Vegetable Freezing

Autumn is here and for many people its harvest time and as Autumn gets into full swing there lots of vegetables to be saved. 

Successful freezing depends on how quickly you can reduce the temperature of the food. Slow freezing may not make the food inedible but will affect flavour and, more importantly, nutritional value. Fast freezing halts bacterial growth instantly and produces very small ice crystals, which causes less damage to the cell structure of the food.
Before you commence preparing food for freezing you should turn your freezer on to its super or fast setting – preferably 3 hours or so before. This just keeps the motor running and drops the temperature as low as possible. When the food goes into the freezer it will cause the temperature to rise as the food cools. The super setting ensures the food already there remains at optimum temperature and the food being frozen cools as quickly as possible.

Do not try to freeze too much in one go – never more than 10% of the freezer capacity at a time.Also, the colder the food when it goes into the freezer, the less work the freezer has to do.

Vegetable Freezing Outline

Blanching time is in boiling water. Unless otherwise noted, chilling time in ice water should be the same as blanching time.
Vegetable
Preparation
Blanching Time/ Chilling Time
Asparagus
Wash and sort stalks according to size, discarding blemished stalks. Break off ends. Stalks may be left whole or cut into 30-50mm long pieces.
average diameter stalks – 3 minutes thicker stalks – 4 minutes.
Green Beans
Snap off tips. Rinse, then cut or break into desired sizes or freeze smaller beans whole.
3-1/2 minutes.
Italian Snap Beans
Wash, snap off ends and slice into 1″ to 1-1/2″ pieces.
3-1/2 minutes.
Beets
For young, tender beets-
Remove tops and cook until tender. Chill, then remove skins. Leave small beets whole. For medium to large beets, slice or cut into pieces. Pack into freezer boxes or bags.
not applicable
Broccoli
Remove leaves and tough ends. Cut through stalks lengthwise, leaving stems with 1″ to 1-1/2″ diameter heads, or cut into pieces. Soak in salt water (2 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water) to remove any insects and larvae. Rinse with tap water and drain.
pieces – 4 minutes
stems – 5 minutes.
Brussels Sprouts
Wash and trim any tough outer leaves. Soak in salt water (2 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water) to remove any insects and larvae. Rinse with tap water and drain.
medium sprouts – 4 minutes
large sprouts – 5 minutes.
Carrots
Remove tops, peel, and wash. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices.
3-1/2 minutes.
Cauliflower
Remove leaves, trim and wash. Split into individual 1″ to 1-1/2″ pieces. Soak in salt water (2 tablespoons salt to 1 quart water) to remove any insects and larvae. Rinse with tap water and drain.
4 minutes.
Corn-on-the-Cob
Husk, remove silk and trim off ends. Blanch in a large stockpot with 10 – 12 quarts of boiling water.
24 small ears, under 1-1/4″ diameter – 8 minutes
14 medium ears, 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ diameter – 8 minutes
10 large ears, over 1-1/2″ diameter – 11 minutes
Chilling time in ice water should be twice as long as blanching time
Corn – Cut from cob
Husk, remove silk and trim off ends. Use a corn cob cutter or a curved grapefruit knife to remove kernels from cob.
4-1/2 minutes
Kohlrabi
Remove tops, wash, peel and cut into 1/2″ cubes.
2-1/2 minutes.
Mushrooms
Wash and remove stems. Freeze smaller mushrooms whole
Cut medium and large mushrooms into 1/4″ slices.
To prevent browning, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid per quart of blanching water.
small whole mushrooms – 4 minutes
sliced mushrooms – 3 minutes.
Onions
Chopped onions can be packed and frozen without blanching To freeze larger pieces of onions or small whole onions – Peel onions, wash, and cut into quarter sections (except very small whole onions).
1-1/2 minutes
Green Peas, shelled
Wash and shell peas.
1-1/2 to 2 minutes
Sugar Peas or Edible Pod Peas
Wash; Remove stems and blossom ends; Leave whole.
2-1/2 to 3 minutes
Peppers
Chopped bell peppers can be packed and frozen without blanching.
For pepper halves or slices…Wash, remove stem and seeds. Cut in halves or slices
halves – 3 minutes
slices – 2 minutes.
Pumpkin
Cut; scoop out seeds; peel; and cut into pieces. Bake or steam until tender. Cool, then strain in a ricer, food mill or process in a food processor until smooth. Pack into containers and freeze.
not applicable
Spinach
Sort; remove any blemished leaves and tough stems; Wash.
1-1/2 to 2 minutes
Zucchini
Select 5″ to 7″ long, tender zucchini. Wash, peel and cut into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices.
1/4″ slices – 3 minutes
1/2″ slices – 4 minutes

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