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Beginners And Experienced Gardeners Love Growing Herbs!

March 25th, 2012

With gorgeous spring temperatures close to arriving, you may be toying with ideas on what to grow in your garden this year.  If you are new to gardening, growing fresh and flavorful herbs is a great way to begin the journey.  Many herbs found in Uncle Herb’s Favorites are perennial, meaning they last for three or more seasons (think of the “P” as “permanent”). Fresh herbs like chives, fennel, oregano and sage are all perennials found in this herb seed kit, and are easier to maintain without replacing them each season. Stop by and read our informative herb gardening guide for more tips on how to effectively grow your own herbs!

If this isn’t your first rodeo, perhaps you are looking to expand your selection of herbs in your garden.  A steady supply of herbs just a few feet away is naturally more ideal than running to the store for an expensive, commercially packaged herbs.  Uncle Herb’s Favorites has 10 varieties of herbs that can enhance salad dressings, salads, meat, tofu, and even desserts and drinks. You’ll also find that we offer the freshest seeds around! All of our food kits use Myler® bags to keep each seed at its best, and are then placed in a container that is FDA approved for long-term food storage.  You can trust that our kits are unlike the store bought version; they are water and rodent proof, and re-sealable so that seeds stay fresh between plantings.

Looking to dry your own herbs for long terms use? We found this informative article that will guide you through that endeavor. Spring is here, and it’s a great time to get growing!

Click on image below to view Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed varieties.

 

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Hot For The Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper!

March 19th, 2012

Looking to spice up your meals at dinnertime? Consider, for a moment, the Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper found in The Producer as well as Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles. This bright yellow pepper that ripens into a brilliant red will entice your taste buds with its bright, sweet flavor.  It tastes sweetest fried, but can be baked, sautéed or even grilled for full flavor.  If you are new to growing peppers, plan on sowing the seeds indoors in mid to late March.  When spring is in full swing, you’ll find that they will become the coquettes of your garden. While you nurture and dote on them; they will ripen and plump, and undoubtedly bring promise of a flavorful dish!

Contrary to the popular belief, peppers are not annuals. Yet, they can be easy to grow if offered warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight.  These frying peppers also do quite well in drained soils rich in calcium and phosphorus. Be sure to harvest them when they are green or mature, and use gardening scissors so to not damage the plant.  Picking peppers when they are fully mature also encourages new buds to form.

These peppers are exceptionally flavorful when cooked in olive oil, and make a great addition topped on your favorite sandwich, or added to a stir-fry.  The recipe below is fresh and tasty — one bite will have you lingering over the thought of leisurely dining on a Mediterranean coast. The best part?  This sandwich can be ready in 20 minutes. Is it just us, or is it hard not to puff up your chest a bit when making a delicious sandwich using vegetables from your own garden?

Mediterranean-Style Vegetable Sandwich

(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

1 medium sized eggplant, sliced length-wise into ¼ inch thick rounds

1 tomato, sliced into rounds

½ onion, cut into half moon slices

5-6 Antohi Romanian Specialty frying peppers, de-seeded and sliced

8 ounces of Mozzarella cheese, ¼ inch slices (optional)

10-12 basil leaves

4 teaspoons Balsamic vinaigrette

¼ cup olive oil

8 slices of crusty French bread

salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lay a single layer of the eggplant rounds on a baking tray.  Brush each round with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway for even cooking. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the pan, and add the onion, a pinch of salt, and your frying peppers.  Sauté until tender and fragrant.

Once the eggplant has cooled, layer on the eggplant, onions, peppers, basil and cheese (if using) on a slice of crusty bread.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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How To Compost Indoors Safely And Effectively

March 17th, 2012

Many of us associate composting with the big sandbox in our backyard filled with kitchen scraps and coffee grounds.  If you’ve never tried composting before, it entails taking organic waste materials like fruit and vegetable peels, coffee and tea grounds, eggshells, and even gritty materials like cornmeal, and adding them to a barrel to decompose.  In turn, a composting pile can produce a rich fertilizer for your home garden.  But how does one effectively compost if they are living alone and do not produce many kitchen scraps?  Or perhaps, have limited outdoor space and/or opportunities to change the land?  It’s also not easy to compost outdoors in inclement weather.  For many, indoor composting is the answer, and has become a safe, accessible and effective way to create rich, fertile soil for your garden.

Why Compost?  For one, it reduces the amount of organic waste that ultimately ends up in landfills.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency claims that 14% of food ends up in land mills each year.  14% may not seem like much, but remember that rotting materials eventually transforms into methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  If you already recycle your paper, cans and glass, why not do the same with food scraps? Every little bit helps!

Secondly, it’s more sanitary. Placing food scraps to rot in your neighborhood garbage can ultimately leads to rodents, raccoons and insects.  It can also be quite malodorous — which tends to linger until Tuesday’s trash pick-up day. When done correctly, composting in your home reduces the potential of these nuisances, while also posing less imposition to public health and safety.

Most importantly, composting can create a rockin’ fertilizer for your home garden. Not only is it money saving, but it’s also is rich in nutrients and acts as a soil fertilizer, soil conditioner, and even as a natural pesticide.  It’s commonly used in home gardens –- but many also use this key ingredient in landscaping, agriculture and horticulture.

Throw Them In, Don’t Walk On Them! Eggshells, and almost anything leftover from your garden is suitable for composting.  Yet other scraps, odds and ends from around the house also work well in your compost.  This includes coffee and tea grounds, gritty flours, weeds, cardboard, and even dryer lint.  What tends to not work well for less experienced composters are meats, oils, dairy products, animal droppings and overdoing it with liquids. See a full list of composting do’s and don’ts here.

 There are two popular methods to effectively compost indoors.  View the step-by-step instructions to make an indoor compost area of your own!

Aerobic Kitchen Composting: This method of composting requires two bins or containers designed for composting.  The organic matter in the containers ferments naturally using approximately a 70% moisture level, and without heat and oxygen. Each bin should fit either under a sink, in a closet, or can be left out in view.

Step 1: Create two composting bins by finding a leak proof, durable and reusable container with a sealable lid. The bin should be about 10 cubic feet, or 24×24 inches.  A small garbage can will also work just fine. The trick here is to avoid containers that are too deep, or it could lead to unwanted odor.

Drill holes at the bottom of the container for aeration.  Set the container on bricks, and place a tray underneath to catch any liquid.  Using two bins allows one for processing, and the other may be used to add more scraps to.  Once one bin is ready for fertilizing, the other will be processing.

Step 2: Add 1-2 inches of a dry mixture to the bottom of the container.  This could be torn newspaper, cardboard, straw, dead leaves, peat moss, sawdust from untreated wood, cartons, or a combination of these materials.

Step 3:  Distribute the daily kitchen scraps (or weeds, dryer lint) on top. Cover the scraps with more dry mixture.  Some practice adding soil and lime to the dry mixture for more odor control.

Step 4:  Turn the soil every few weeks with a compost aerator or something comparable to create air passages.  If your compost is prone to heavy leaking, or has an odor, simply add more dry bedding and mix it well with an aerator.

Vermicomposting: similar to aerobic kitchen composting (yet not for the faint of heart!).  Adding Red Wriggler Worms in the composting bin will attain an even richer, more fertile compost. Red Worms are built for eating organic matter, and can compost half of their body weight every day! If you’re worried about having worms in your home, keep in mind that these worms are odorless, and help to more efficiently decompose kitchen scraps.

Step 1: Line the bottom of the can with rocks to prevent any worms from escaping. Follow steps 1-4 for aerobic kitchen composting. Leave out any citrus, alcohol, or spicy foods like jalapeños and peppers to keep the Ph level at about a 7.  The ph level is is an important monitor for creating an ideal worm thriving environment.

Step 2: Once the bin has its first layer of kitchen scraps, place the worms in for a “welcome meal.” Continue layering dry bedding, kitchen scraps, and worms until the bin is full.  Most dry bedding works well for worms, but avoid acidic peat moss as it will bring the ph level lower than 7, making the environment too acidic.

PS ~ Vermicomposting for kids.

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Outdoor Composting For Beginners

March 16th, 2012

If you’ve never attempted composting, and have a sizeable backyard near a water supply — run, don’t walk to get started! Compost is a mixture of organic matter (as in leaves, twigs and kitchen scraps) used to improve the soil’s structure while providing nutrients. Composting can also be done indoors, but we find outdoor composting to be more versatile and easier to manage for beginners.  Once you’ve created a designated area to compost, they key is knowing what works well in your compost, and what does not.

Why Compost?  For one, it reduces the amount of organic waste that ultimately ends up in landfills.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency claims that 14% of food ends up in land mills each year.  14% may not seem like much, but remember that rotting materials eventually transforms into methane, which has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.  If you already recycle your paper, cans and glass, why not do the same with food scraps? Every little bit helps!

Secondly, it’s more sanitary. Placing food scraps to rot in your neighborhood garbage can ultimately leads to rodents, raccoons and insects.  It can also be quite malodorous — which tends to linger until Tuesday’s trash pick-up day. When done correctly, composting in your home reduces the potential of these nuisances, while also posing less imposition to public health and safety.

Most importantly, composting can create a rockin’ fertilizer for your home garden. Not only is it money saving, but also is rich in nutrients and acts as a soil fertilizer, soil conditioner, and even as a natural pesticide.  It’s commonly used in home gardens –- but many also use this key ingredient in landscaping, agriculture and horticulture.

Before You Get Started: All composting should contain 3 primary ingredients: kitchen scraps and other organic matter (vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells, gritty flours like cornmeal, coffee and tea grounds and dryer lint), dry bedding (leaves, twigs, soil, newspaper, cardboard and sawdust from untreated wood), and water. Be sure to leave out all animal products like meat, bones and dairy, as well as oils, diseased plants and dog/cat feces, as these can lead to unwanted pests.  See a full list of safe materials to compost here.

To ensure the process is smooth, the following tools will prove useful as you compost: 1-2 composting containers (if using), a wheelbarrow, water hose, pitchfork or compost aerator, and a shovel. Although there are comparable tools one could use, a good composting system will require at least most of these.

To avoid pests, insects and animals, add in more dry materials periodically — this will help aerate the pile, and will alleviate any bad odors. Some also practice adding red wrangler worms to the pile, as they can decompose the compost more quickly, preventing critters from investigating. To ensure a larger animal will not disturb your compost, use a container with a sealed lid for all decomposing matter.  Secure it even further by placing a large rock on top, or wrap it with a bungee cord.

 A Step-By-Step Guide To Outdoor Composting:

1. Choose a shady area in your yard that is close to a hose or water supply.

2. Decide whether you prefer to dig a pit, or use a sealed container for your compost pile.  Although both are effective, containers do help prevent against pests, raccoons and insects. See this guide for building your own composting container.

3. Chop and shred all dry materials and kitchen scraps before adding them to the compost. Begin by adding a 6-inch layer of dry bedding (see list above).

4. Add a 3-inch layer of kitchen scraps (things to never compost here).  Next, top the kitchen scraps with another 3-inch layer of dry bedding.  Spray some water on the dry bedding to create a moist but not wet compost pile.

5.  Continue this process of layering kitchen scraps and dry bedding to the compost.  Aerate the pile once a week with a compost aerator, pitchfork, or something comparable.  This helps to prevent an odor, and allows the compost to ferment evenly.

Harvesting Your Compost: Depending on how large the compost pile is, when to harvest the compost pile will be different for everyone.  A general rule of thumb is to allow 4-8 months of processing before harvesting.  When ready, shovel the dark, soil-like compost to the top while pushing the under-processed compost to the bottom for more time to decompose. If the compost is too damp, add soil to it and mix well.

The compost to soil ratio should be 1 to 5 as you harvest it.  Or, use it on plants that are already established by adding 1 inch around the plant, or 2 inches dug into the soil.  You’ll find the compost will enhance your garden with its nutrients, leaving your garden more vibrant and sustainable.

Do you practice composting in your own yard? What are some tips you’d give to beginners?

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Moroccan Cauliflower Salad

March 13th, 2012

Rich flavors, smells, and colors warm up this cool cauliflower salad. I use herbs and peppers from my Humble Seed garden.

Ingredients:
I large head of cauliflower (any color or variety will work)
1 small red onion
1 sweet bell pepper (red or orange)
1 can organic chick peas drained an rinsed
1/2 cup of Castelvetrano olives (pitted and halved)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I grew and dried and ground my own from my Humble Seed garden)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
5 sprigs of thyme (leaves removed)
1 clove garlic smashed or diced super fine
The zest from one orange
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
8 tablespoons Spanish or Italian Olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for roasting)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 425. Wash and cut all of the cauliflower from the head. After drying the cauliflower line a baking sheet with tin foil and lay all of the cauliflower on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then coat the cauliflower with the turmeric, paprika, and cumin. Toss the florets until they all get covered in the spices. Roast the Cauliflower for about 15-20 minutes or until just barely fork tender. You want the stems to be tender enough to eat but not mushy.

While the cauliflower is roasting, finely slice the red onion and julienne the sweet bell pepper, then set them aside.

Next roughly chop equal handfuls (about 1/4 cup) of cilantro and parsley.

If the cauliflower is still in the oven, take a minute to toss together this super easy dressing. I use a jar with a lid, but a bowl and a whisk will work just as well. Begin by combining the lemon juice, the white vinegar, the zest from an orange, thyme leaves, and the smashed garlic. Mix all these ingredients together before adding the oil. If you are using a bowl slowly incorporate the olive oil while whisking all the ingredients together. If you are using a jar add the olive oil, screw on the lid and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE!

Now allow the cauliflower to cool down completely. Once it has cooled and come to room temp you can toss everything together.
Mix the bell pepper, onion, chick peas, olives, and cauliflower together then coat and toss with citrus dressing. Salt and pepper to taste. Then enjoy this bright nutritious salad!

About Katheryne:

 

Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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