Instant Payday Loan Lender Instant Payday Loan Lender

The Nine Easiest Plants to Grow with your Kids

October 17th, 2011

Children are fascinated by plants and animals, especially if the
outcome is edible or impressive. The only problem is that they’re also quite
quick to lose interest when less-than-spectacular results are achieved after a
long wait. Obviously there’s an element of risk to cultivating any plant, but
we felt we should draw up a list of the plants we found the easiest and the
most satisfying to grow. Most of them don’t require too much specialist
knowledge, and nearly all of them can be grown in confined spaces. All of them
will capture the minds of youngsters and adults alike, hopefully inspiring more
people to grow their own vegetables at home.

We’ve decided to split this post into two categories – vegetables,
and everything else. The “everything else” category is an eclectic mix of
this-and-that, but we felt we ought to give precedence to the vegetables
section for two reasons: Most youngsters are interested in food and, boys
especially, will be doubly entertained by the notion of snacks growing in the
garden. Also, healthy eating is one of the most important elements of education
and the knowledge your child needs to nourish itself will last a whole
lifetime.

Vegetables

Lettuce

This might not get your child’s heart racing at dinner time, but
if they’re used to the dingy, dank stuff from supermarkets then they have no
reason to be excited. Home-grown lettuce with vinaigrette will bring your child
‘round to salad being acceptable, even if they’re unconvinced currently.

Carrots

The only thing we should mention with this is that carrots are
liable to bend and be knocked out of shape by rocks in the soil. Your child will have the opportunity to
plant a seed in the ground, and then mysteriously dig up an eight-inch root in
that exact spot a few months later.

Radishes

Your child may or may not like radishes, but they’re among the
easiest plants to grow and will encourage an interest into more diverse tastes.
If your child does not like them, consider “sculpting” them by scoring them
slightly then plunging them into cold water. They’ll look cool, and taste a bit
less tangy.

Bell peppers

Incredibly easy to grow, but even easier to incorporate into
dishes. You can toss them into salads, add them to kebabs, use them to garnish
dishes, put them in your Bolognese… they have a certain sweetness which you’ll
be able to appreciate even more when you eat them straight from the garden.

Tomatoes

Again, so easy to grow and they work in many summer meals. These
are so easy that a lot of people don’t even bother with planting or pots – just
score some holes into a bag of compost and away you go. Watch out for tomato
blight – the same spores which demolish potato harvests - and if you detect signs of blight in your plant, pick all the
fruit at whatever stage and turn it into chutney.

Everything Else

Basil

This will grow indoors quite happily, provided it has the sunlight
it needs to photosynthesise. (Never too young to start
learning about these processes!) The magic of basil lies not in its biology but
in its taste, which brings any Italian dish to life. Try cooking the leaves on
pizza for an aromatic addition.

Rosemary

Alongside its sister Thyme, these two stalwarts of the herb
cupboard are evocative smells for anyone who grew up in a foodie household.
There are different types of thyme for your child to explore (try the
distinctly citrus-scented lemon thyme) and rosemary goes almost too well with
lamb.

Strawberries

Who doesn’t like strawberries? They’re incredibly good for you,
even if served with cream, and they’re fun to grow. Once they’ve established
themselves, they’ll put out “runners” and colonise whole areas of the garden.
After three years, dig them up and start again to maximise fruit production.

Garlic

Plant garlic in Autumn or even Winter, covering them up with hay
and watering them in the Spring (once you remember what all that hay is doing
all over the garden). The flavour of garlic is a brilliant addition to many
dishes and is a key ingredient in a lot of French cuisine.

 

About the Author:

Dee is a freelance writer and a proud mother of two.  She writes for several sites, one of which
deals in truck rental which might be handy if the kids grow too much vegetables!

Be Sociable, Share!

How-to Dry Herbs for Cooking and Decorating

May 12th, 2011

 

With their intoxicating aromas and ability to transform dishes into palate pleasing wonders, herbs are simply sublime. Throughout history, herbs have been used in many ways and for many reasons. Ancient Greeks used parsley as a cure for stomach ailments; early Dutch settlers planted chives in meadows so that cows would produce chive-flavored milk; and early American settlers burned herbs for their fragrance, stored herbs with linens, and used herbs for illnesses. These are just a few ways that herbs have been used throughout history. In some way, shape or form, herbs have been used by different cultures around the globe.

If you have an abundance of herbs growing in your garden or if you would like to preserve some of your herbs to enjoy year-round, you should dry some of your harvest. It’s easy to do, and it is a great way for you to savor the herb gardening season and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Once dried, you can enjoy your herbs for cooking or decorating. Tie pretty ribbons around bunches of dried herbs then hang in increments from a string for a simple, sweet window swag; add dried herbs to glass bottles filled with olive oil, which you can use to decorate your kitchen counter with and for flavoring salad dressings and sauces; or make an aromatic sachet with dried flowers and herbs to tuck into travel bags or scent a drawer.

When cooking with dried herbs—if you’re substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs—one teaspoon of dried, crumbled herbs is the equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs. Before storing dried herbs in air tight containers, look for any dried herbs that may show signs of mold and toss those out. To retain flavor, store leaves whole then crumble them when you’re ready to use them. Dried herbs will last for about one year and should be kept out of the sunlight.

There are several ways that you can dry fresh herbs, but we’re going to keep it simple and provide you with the steps for air drying low moisture herbs, such as bay, dill, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Air drying is the easiest process and least expensive:

1. Cut healthy herb branches mid-morning from plant. Cutting herb branches mid-morning allows for any morning dew to dry from the leaves. If you cut too late in the afternoon your herbs may be wilting from the heat of the afternoon sun, and you don’t want that. Note: The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower—this is when they contain the most oil, which is what gives them their aroma and flavor.

2. Check the leaves, and pull off any diseased or dry leaves and make sure there are no insects on leaves.

3. Pull off lower leaves from herb branches, approximately one inch from bottom so that you have space to tie them together.

4. If the leaves are dirty, you can rinse herbs with cool water, but make sure to gently pat them dry with a paper towel as wet herbs will mold and rot.

5. Combine 5-6 herb branches together then tie with string.

6. If you want, label a paper bag with the name of the herb(s) you will be drying inside. Make several holes in the bag then place the herb bundle, leaves down, into the bag so that the stems are at the opening of the bag. Gather the open end of the bag around the stems and tie closed with a long piece of string. Hang the bag in a well ventilated, warm room (70 to 80 degrees F). You can dry herbs without placing them in a paper bag, but the paper bag helps keep dust off of the herbs while they’re drying.

7. Check herbs in approximately two weeks then periodically until dried. The drying process should take approximately 2 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

Be Sociable, Share!

Seed Spotlight: Lancer Parsnip

November 14th, 2010

 

One of our favorite cold-weather root vegetables is parsnip. Cultivated in Europe since ancient times and a relative of the carrot, the ivory-colored, fibrous parsnip offers sweet, nutty flavor and celery-like fragrance. It can be harvested through the end of November, and if you wait until after the first frost of the year, you’ll find that they are delightfully sweeter, because cold temperatures turn the parsnip’s starch into sugar.

Because parsnips are so fibrous, they’re generally cooked before eating. Parsnips are the sweetest of all the root vegetables and easy to prepare. They can be cut up or left whole then baked, cut up or left whole then boiled and mashed with butter and cream, cut into big chunks then microwaved, or peeled, sliced and steamed like carrots. Vitamin C-rich parsnips make a great addition to roasts, soups and stews. Flavors that complement this root vegetable include: allspice, brown sugar, chives, cinnamon, ginger, maple syrup, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage, to name a few.

Here is a mashed parsnips recipe, perfect for pairing with roasted meats.

Mashed Parsnips

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Preparation

Place parsnips in a large saucepan then cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to the water. Bring to a boil, lower heat then simmer for about 12 minutes or until parsnips are very tender. Drain parsnips then place in a food processor. Add butter nutmeg, cream, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; Process ingredients until smooth. SERVES 4

Be Sociable, Share!