Pickled Red Beets

Pickled beets in jars and bowl

Tangy on a salad or crunchy in a sandwich, pickled beets are a kitchen staple for beet lovers. Our customer service manager, Dan Blei, shares his favorite pickling recipe.

  • 1 bunch red beets (about 6 medium to large beets). Bulls Blood, Detroit Dark Red, or Early Wonder work well for this recipe.
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Thoroughly scrub the beets and chop off tops.
  • Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, and drop the beets in. Allow beets to cook until they are tender and can be pierced with a fork, about 30-40 minutes.
  • Remove beets from water and allow them to cool before peeling skins off.
  • Slice beets into disks and layer into 8-ounce Mason jars, alternating layers of onions and beets.
  • Combine liquid ingredients, sugar, and seasonings, bring to a boil, and boil gently, uncovered, for 10 min.
  • Pour hot pickling liquid over beet and onion layers and place jars in the fridge.
  • Allow about a week for beets and onions to pickle.
  • Store in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to 3 weeks.



DIY Seed Bombs

DIY Seed Bombs

Flower Mix Bulb Companions

Seed bombs are fun to make, and an easy way to bring color to an otherwise dull section of the garden. They make great gifts! Kids love making seed bombs and winter is a perfect time to get your flower seeds ready to toss about in the spring.


  • 1 part mixed flower seeds native to your area (1 packet can make several seed bombs)
  • 4 parts natural clay
  • 1 part seed-starting mix or compost


  1. Roll out and flatten clay.
  2. Combine seed-starting mix or compost with the flower seeds and gently knead into the clay. Be sure to evenly mix all ingredients.
  3. Roll clay into a 1″” diameter tube.
  4. Cut or pinch off 1″ sections and roll into balls. Each seed bomb should be about the size of a small meatball.
  5. Place on a tray in a sunny window to harden for about 24–48 hours.

Wait for the recommended sowing time for your climate and toss the seed bombs into their desired location. In cold climates, sow 2 to 4 weeks before your average last frost date. In mild climates, sow fall through early spring. The seed bombs will dissolve over time and grow into a beautiful wildflower garden!

We’d love to see how creative you get with your seed bombs. Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Favorite Heirloom Stories

heirloom on seed packet

One of the reasons I started Botanical Interests was to continue the tradition of passing down gardening and plant knowledge to future generations of gardeners. Heirloom varieties fall into that same romantic notion—knowing that the seeds I’m sowing today are the “children” of the seeds sown generations ago. Whenever we find a good story, we include it on the seed packet. Here are some of my favorites.

Walla Walla’ onion: Peter Pieri, a French soldier, brought Italian sweet onion seeds from the Island of Corsica to the Walla Walla Valley in Washington in the late 1800s, hoping to sell them as green onions. Unfortunately, Pieri wasn’t able to sell the whole crop, so much of the onion crop was left in the field over the winter. He was surprised that the onions survived the winter, growing into a robust, large, slicing onion, and reseeded the following summer, making ‘Walla Walla’ one of the most cold hardy onions!

‘Padrón’ chile pepper: The ‘Padrón’ pepper became well known as a Spanish pepper but it was actually brought from South America in the 1700s by Spanish monks who cultivated it at their monastery near Padrón. There is now an annual festival held on the first Saturday in August in the parish of Herbón, in Padrón, Spain where everyone can taste these famous peppers. There is a local saying, “Los pimientos de Herbón (Padrón), unos pican y otros no,” which means “Herbón (Padrón) peppers, some are hot, others not”.

Jimmy Nardello’ sweet pepper: Guiseppe and Angela Nardiello of Southern Italy grew this pepper each year in their homeland, and in 1887 they immigrated to Connecticut, bringing the seeds of their beloved pepper. Their son Jimmy continued to grow and preserve this unique variety, eventually sharing it with the public before his passing in 1983. Since its release, it has gained a big following of foodies, chefs, and gardeners alike. Over the years, the spelling of the Nardiello name changed, but the flavor of ‘Jimmy Nardello’ persists, gaining it an entry into Slow Foods USA® Ark of Taste catalog in 2005 as a cultivar to preserve due to its rich, unique flavor.

Miss Jekyll’ love-in-a-mist: Gertrude Jekyll was a 20th century, influential garden designer and botanical painter, who used her knowledge to experiment with garden designs, specifically with perspective and complementary colors. Maybe for this reason she preferred to call herself a “garden artist” rather than a “garden designer.” But it was in her younger years that she selected and bred plants, including the love-in-a-mist that bears her name, primroses, foxgloves, and lupines. And perhaps her name sounds familiar? Gertrude’s younger brother was friends with the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed their name for his famous novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Russell Blend lupine: This stately mix of lupines was developed after decades of breeding work by George Russell (1857–1951) of York, England. He grew several species of lupines and let the bees pollinate the flowers. At the end of each season, he saved seeds from the plants he liked, always removing the plants he felt were inferior. He did this year after year, keeping seeds from only those plants with denser, larger flowers in bright colors and fast maturity. Russell was rewarded for his work at the age of 80 with honors from the Royal Horticultural Society, and an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire certificate) at the age of 94. His breeding efforts made it possible for gardeners in mild climates to also enjoy lupines, as previously the available lupines needed a winter period to perform well.

‘American Legion’ flanders poppy: Long known as the corn poppy because it flourishes as a weed in the grain fields of Europe, the Flanders poppy as it is now often called, grew profusely in the trenches and craters of the WWI war zone of historical Flanders Field along the coast of Belgium and France. Lt. Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Army field surgeon was inspired to write the poem, “In Flanders Fields” after the burial of his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer who was killed in battle. The corn poppy has since become a symbol of wartime remembrance. The significance results from the fact that on the World War I battlefields of the Flanders region, poppies sprang up in abundance to blanket the fields with a sea of red. The red poppy is symbolic of the blood that was shed there. (368 U.S. soldiers from World War I are buried in Flanders Field cemetery in Belgium.) In 1920, the American Legion adopted this red poppy as its memorial flower. This packet is dedicated to those men and women who fought for the Allies during the two World Wars; as time passes, the number of men and women from that unique generation dwindles. We must not forget the lessons they learned. We must strive to hear the stories they tell, and respect the price they paid for future generations to be free.

Which are you favorites? Share with us!

Online-Exclusive Varieties

‘Black Pearl’ ornamental pepper

Sometimes I find some really fun items that I just have to have, but that you will only find in our online store.

If you’re a daredevil looking for the next hot pepper, try the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ Ghost pepper for real heat intensity or the ‘Scotch Bonnet’ for Caribbean dishes. I really love to surprise people with the Rat Tail radish; a radish you grow for their flavorful seed pods that grow above ground! If you’re looking for impressive ornamentals, ‘Black Dragon’ coleus will definitely please, and it is one of my favorite shade plants. ‘Purple Majesty’ ornamental millet is also a show-stopper as the center of attention in containers, and kids love the fuzzy flower spikes.

We also have a few dozen, themed collections that I have hand-picked to speak to specific gardeners’ needs and wants. For example, the Frost-Tolerant Vegetables and Southern Kitchen collections are created for the cold-climate and warm-climate gardeners respectively, while the Children’s Garden collection features seeds that are easy to handle and/or grow, even for the youngest gardener. My personal favorite is the Moon Garden collection, which includes bright white and night-scented blooms that glow in the moonlight.

I hunted to bring you what I consider the best hand tools—Burgon & Ball tools.  They are endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society (one of the world’s leading horticultural organizations), and are functional with a classic design. I use them in my own garden, so I wanted to bring them to you. There are also soil thermometers to help you determine the best time to sow for maximum germination and a beautiful seed packet storage bin that comes in blue or burgundy.

So take a look around, experiment, I hope you find the perfect variety to make your garden, cuisine, or vase uniquely you!

Meatless Eggplant “MeatBalls”

Meatless Eggplant balls recipe

With purple being the new color of health foods, we’re celebrating! These meatless eggplant “meatballs” are savory, a little smoky, and light. Try them over pasta with a little Parmesan cheese, or in a pita pocket with Greek tzatziki sauce.


1 tbsp olive oil
2 eggplants, skin on, cubed
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/2 c bread crumbs
To taste:
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds.
3. Add eggplant and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse and mixed. Do not purée.

eggplant balls recipe

5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and make eggplant mixture into balls.
6. Place on sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then roll over and bake for 10 minutes more.
7. Place under broiler until crispy, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Top 5 Reasons to Garden from Seed

Gardening from seedGardening from seed has big advantages

Even though I have gardened from seed since childhood, the experience of taking what looks like a tiny stone, sowing it, and watching it grow still seems magical; it is faith realized, and it nurtures me as I nurture it. While sometimes that inspiration is all I need to garden from seed, there are some other very important reasons, too.

  1. Know what you grow. Did you know that many of the conventionally-grown vegetables at the grocery store test positive for pesticide residue even after washing and peeling? Growing your own allows you to choose what goes into your family’s food. Here is a list of vegetables that are the worst offenders when it comes to pesticide residue.
  2. Save money. Growing from seed is much less expensive than buying plants or produce, especially organic choices. For example, most food gardeners I know grow green beans because the quality is so much better than the grocery store and they are a pretty easy crop (they also add nitrogen to the soil!). A seed packet of bush beans sows about 12 feet of bean plants which will yield about 5 lb. of beans. The cost of the packet is $2.39. A six pack of plants will run you $3-4 and plants 2′ (pssst green beans don’t transplant well so expect lower yields). Five pounds of (less than fresh) green beans at the grocery store will cost around $11. Did we mention the seeds in our example are certified organic?
  3. More choices. Grocery stores and garden centers offer only a fraction of available selections. Gardening from seed gives you the option to grow something unique, exotic, or rare.
  4. Reduce plant stress. In many cases sowing seeds in place versus transplanting from greenhouse-started plants leads to quick, stress-free growth, meaning faster, and often more flowers and more fruit, especially in the case of root crops of plants sensitive to root disturbance.
  5. Perfect timing. There are advantages to starting some crops early, usually vegetables that tolerate transplanting and take a long time to mature, like peppers, onions, or tomatoes. Starting these indoors gives me a head start in my shorter growing season, as I would never see a pepper if I sowed it directly outdoors.

I can’t tell you how many times I have wandered out to the garden saying, “Let’s see what’s for dinner.” I slow down from my busy day when I stroll out to the garden with a glass of wine and my favorite wooden bowl to see what peaks my culinary interest that evening. Such a personal reward for all my elbow grease in the garden!

What inspires you to grow from seed? Share your inspiration with our growing community in the comments below.

Choosing a Container

Container gardening is a growing trend as new gardeners start out, and veteran gardeners look to expand their growing opportunities. We answer a lot of questions on this topic, like which varieties to sow, or where to place them, but many gardeners want to know how to choose a container. There are a lot of factors that could inform one’s choice for a container. And really, almost anything can be a container. Upcycling buckets, watering cans, and wine barrels are great ideas. But I’ve seen some great containers made from tree stumps, baking pans, bags, and nylons! Just be sure they’re clean, have drainage, and are the right size and material for your needs.

growing containers

SIZE. Simply put, size matters. Bigger containers are often better. They hold more soil, and therefore, potentially more water and nutrients. This gives your plants more resources and room to grow. This also gives you a bigger margin for error…always a good idea when dealing with living things.

What’s the right size? When is it big enough? I like to use some common comparisons to help answer this. Most people are familiar with a ½ wine barrel. This is big enough for 1 large, or 2 small tomato plants, or about 10 bush bean plants, or 6-8 heads of lettuce, or about 3 pepper plants. Flowers are another story. There are so many types of flowers that grow to so many different sizes, that it’s hard to say. Look at the final size of the plants to start. If you want an airy look, give them a little more space. If you want your container more or less overflowing, then give them a little less space. I tend to over-ambitiously jam them in, fertilize, and let them fight it out.

Lastly, size has two dimensions—volume and depth. If you are growing long- or deep-rooted things, like carrots or Echinacea, in a container, then your plants will be better served by a deep pot than a wide, shallow one.

DRAINAGE. Let me say it again, DRAINAGE. Make sure that your containers have a few holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Containers that don’t drain lead to soggy soil that suffocates plants’ roots. If your container is watertight (and it’s not a water garden) put some holes in it. If your container sits very close to the ground or some other surface, you may want to raise the container up slightly or add some holes to the side of the container very near the bottom. I drilled some holes in the side of the bottom of a huge pot I had that I couldn’t put on risers and it made a big difference.

MATERIAL. Almost anything can be a container. That being said, you need to consider how what it’s made of will affect its performance. Porous containers, like terra cotta, allow water to escape through the side of the container. This may be good if you live in a wet area or tend to over-water. This may be challenging if your containers are small or you live in a windy or dry area. You can line the inside of porous containers with a layer of plastic and reduce water loss. Just remember to maintain drainage.

growing containers

Think about whether you plan to move your container in case of frost. If not, make sure it is made of a frost-proof material.

If you are choosing wood, remember to use a rot-resistant wood like cedar or oak. Just be sure not to use pressure-treated wood if you are growing edibles. You don’t want the chemicals to affect the quality of your food.

CLEANLINESS. If you are reusing or repurposing a container, be sure to clean it thoroughly. Scrub away all dirt and debris. Wash it well and if you want to get it really clean, rinse it with hydrogen peroxide or a 1:10 bleach solution. One of the best sanitizing agents is the sun. If you have the time, let your clean containers bake in the sun for a week before filling them with soil.

 Once you’re set up, you’ll be a container gardener in no time!


5 Gardening Resolutions for 2018

Garden planning and resolutions 2018

2018 is knocking at the door, and seed starting is right around the corner. Our holiday break gave me some time to reflect on how I can improve my gardening practices this coming year, in other words, resolutions!

  1. Get Organized

When it comes to getting organized, I always start out with a shopping list and a calendar. When I first started planning my garden years ago, these sowing guides helped me create my first planting calendar, and from there, I make tiny changes year to year based on my notes, like, “Sowed beans too soon; wait another week or use a soil thermometer to be sure.” I also record what I started and when in my garden journal, but where I need improvement is remembering to write down my gardening whims. The best part about gardening is the delight and creativity in doing the unplanned, but I typically forget to record it. The same goes for recording things like first blooms, butterflies, and harvests. Recording my garden observations will give me a fun goal for improvement in the following year and will slow me down and make me take time to observe the garden. So I don’t forget, I am putting my garden journal right by the back door next to my gloves and dirt-covered garden boots—voilá!

  1. Discover Something New

I have been gardening so long, I admittedly have a list of favorites. I love my tried-and-true varieties, but each year, I reserve some space to experiment so that I may find some brand-new loves! Keeping notes on these newbies will be especially important, too. Last year, I tried popcorn, but this year it may be our new Utrecht Blue wheat, Parisian Gherkin cucumbers, or a giant pumpkin! Just thinking about them makes me excited!

  1. Grow Natives

In the West (and everywhere), pollinator habitats and water resources are big issues. By adding natives to my garden collection, I am providing pollinators with high-quality habitat and food, while adding beautiful but tough plants that need less care and often, less water. Natives are a “win-win” for your home garden.

  1. Share More Veggies

This year, one of my resolutions is to grow more so I can share more of my vegetable and herb garden bounty with friends and the community. Fresh vegetables are sparse in the food banks, and since I have such a full, edible garden, it’s a no-brainer to give. Successive sowing of vegetables and herbs, keeps the harvest going strong all season, too. More to give! So, whether you grow extra veggies to give to food banks, practice Meatless Mondays, or just for the peace of mind of knowing where and how your food is grown, we can all benefit from making the edible portion of our gardens bigger. Check our Seed to Saucepan blog for some fresh recipe ideas, too!

  1. Container Gardening

I’m also going to add more containers to my gardening plan. I plan on mixing form and function by combining container-friendly vegetables, herbs, and flowers, celebrating the senses with scented herbs and blossoms that call in the pollinators for the veggies.  Containers also keep plants warmer in the summer, something peppers and other heat-loving vegetables will appreciate with our cool nights in Colorado, not to mention they creating cozy outdoor rooms, perfect for entertaining or just relaxing with family.

Phew! That’s a tall order of gardening resolutions, but I’m certainly up for the challenge. Our faithful customers inspire us, too! What are your gardening resolutions? Please share in the comments below.

Baked Whole Pumpkin Soup

This whole pumpkin soup recipe creates a deliciously-elegant display on the dinner table. As is, the recipe is gluten free and simple to adapt for a paleo or vegan diet. Serves 4-6.


  • 1 whole pumpkin (or other round, winter squash), approximately 4–5 pounds, washed (we used a ‘Red Warty Thing’ winter squash)
  • 1–2 teaspoons unflavored oil for greasing pumpkin and baking dish
  • 1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
  • 2 medium-large leeks, sliced (substitute 1/4 cup onion, diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½–3/4 cup heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, optional
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (or other seasoning of choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375°F.

 Make a lid on the top of the pumpkin by cutting around the stem at an inward, 45° angle. The lid should leave a large enough hole so you can fit your hand in, and work inside the pumpkin. Remove and discard (or save for roasting) the seeds and long fibers by scraping the sides of the pumpkin with a metal spoon. Apply a bit of oil to the outside of your pumpkin and to a baking dish it can sit in, using a brush or paper towel.

Put the butter or oil, leeks, garlic, apple, broth, and salt in the hollow pumpkin. Replace the lid of the pumpkin to cover. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven. Using a hot pad, remove the lid, and wait until the pumpkin is cool enough to work in. Using a metal spoon scrape the pumpkin flesh into the soup mixture, being careful not to puncture the pumpkin shell. If you are using an immersion blender add the cream, goat cheese, and garam masala (or chosen seasoning) to the pumpkin and purée, being careful to avoid puncturing the pumpkin wall. If using a blender, put all ingredients in the blender in small batches, blend until smooth, and return soup to the pumpkin shell. Add pepper and check seasonings. If you are not serving the soup right away, store the pumpkin and soup separately in the refrigerator. Reheat soup inside the pumpkin at 375°F.

Sprout Burgers

sprout burger recipe

Sprouts aren’t just for salads and sandwiches! Add your sprouts to a few basic ingredients and enjoy a nutritious meal in under 30 minutes. You can add any flavor profile you like—Italian, spicy, smoky—making this a truly versatile recipe.

1 cup radish sprouts, finely chopped
2 cups lentil sprouts, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ cup flour
¼ cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (or whichever seasoning you like)
2–3 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable)

1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Spoon mixture into pan in a round shape. 1 to 2 minutes on each side until browned.

Serve like a burger on a bun with the typical burger fixings, or without a bun and garnished with salsa and sour cream (as shown in picture). Makes about 10 patties, depending on size.