Homegrown Salsa

homegrown salsa

While we are always touting the fresh flavors of homegrown vegetables, we cannot emphasize enough how much this is true for salsa made from homegrown ingredients. The freshest, brightest flavors are found when tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers are grown at home and blended into your personalized salsa. Here’s our favorite recipe!

½ white onion
2 jalapeños (we left the seeds in for a spicy kick)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 ½ lbs. Roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
splash of lime juice

fresh salsa ingredients

  1. Pulse the onion, jalapenos, and garlic into small chunks in a food processor or blender.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until well blended.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour for flavors to marry.

That’s it! Serve with tortilla chips or with your favorite Latin foods.

DIY Chive Oil and Vinegar

DIY chive oil and vinegarWith beautiful, edible flowers and delicate onion-flavored foliage, chives are at home anywhere—even in the flower bed! But chives don’t have to be just a garnish on your baked potato. Chive blossom vinegar or chive-infused oil work deliciously in a salad dressing. Try cooking your morning eggs in chive oil for a subtle, yet scrumptious, onion flavor, or add chive vinegar to your potato salad recipe. Chives are so easy to grow because they require little maintenance, and they are perennial!

Chive-Infused Oil: Blend one bunch (10–15 stems) of chives with 1 cup of light oil like vegetable or grapeseed oil in a blender until puréed. Cook over medium-high heat in a saucepan for about 10 minutes. Cool and strain over two layers of cheesecloth overnight. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Chive-Blossom Vinegar: When flower heads begin to fade from bright pink to a rosy color, harvest them for vinegar. Fill a glass jar loosely with flower heads, then fill with white vinegar. Put the lid on and place on a sunny windowsill. In 1 to 2 weeks, strain off flowers. Dilute with more white vinegar if the chive taste is too strong.

Chives Common Organic

Creative Color Combinations

Planning a flower garden can be a lot of fun, but choosing colors for your garden can seem overwhelming with so many choices. However, applying some basic color theory principles is a great way to get started.

There are four different approaches to color schemes: complementary, monochromatic, analogous, and triadic.

color schemes

The complementary color scheme uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Examples are orange and blue, pink and green, yellow and purple.

complimentary

The monochromatic color scheme uses variations in lightness and saturation of a single color. Examples are shades of light blue to dark blue or pink to dark red.

monochromatic

The analogous color sheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Examples are light blue to dark purple and light orange to dark red.

analogous

The triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Examples are yellow, pink, and blue.

triadic

For trend-setters, the Pantone Color Institute, (an authority on color and the communication of color), chooses a special hue each year based on what is taking place in global culture. It serves as an expression of mood and attitude for the year. This year they have chosen “greenery”. Grow some intriguing green blooms this year!

 greenery

“Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvinate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.” – Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.

We’d love to see how creative you get with your color combinations! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Natural Egg Dye from Vegetables

Natural Egg Dye from Vegetables

Natural egg dye

Pile up carrots, artichokes, beets, red cabbage, and onions on your counter— but not for dinner—for dying eggs! Working with vegetable dyes is an easy and natural way to dye Easter eggs this year, and it doesn’t take more than an hour!

Supplies

  • Cooking pot, 1 for each color
  • Plant materials 1–2 cups chopped or peeled
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Large bowl
  • Raw eggs
  • Ladle
  • Strainer
  • Plate with towels to rest dyed eggs on

Basic dye bath principles:

dye bath is a pot of liquid, mainly water, that contains a mixture of coloring materials (plants in our case) mixed with a fixative. Use a salt fixative when using berries with a ratio of  1/2 cup salt to 8 cups of cold water. Use a vinegar fixative  when using plants with a ratio of 4 cups cold water to 1 cup white vinegar. Without these fixatives, there is less color intensity and staining effect on the eggs.  Below is a list of plants you can use to get your desired color.

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Dyeing Colors:

Instructions

  1. Gather the plant materials you need for the desired color.  Use your judgement on quantities; the more you add, the more intense the color.
  2. Place all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil; continue boiling until you are happy with the intensity of the color.
  3. Strain the contents of the bath into a separate bowl to remove the solids.
  4. Return liquid to pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Boil eggs in color bath until fully cooked, about 10–15 minutes.
  6. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place onto a towel-lined plate.

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We’d love to see how creative you get with your vegetable dyed eggs! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

 

 

Patio Gardening is Easier Than you Think!

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I do not remember a time when I haven’t gardened. Even as a 20-something living in an apartment with a small balcony, I gardened. I suppose I am the epitome of “If there is a will, there is a way.” With some creativity (most gardeners’ middle name) and some specially selected varieties, my containers became absolutely beautiful, productive, and, as a thrifty 20-something, I was able to do it on a budget.

These are the essentials:

  • At least 4 hours of sun
  • Water
  • Containers with drainage. (Think outside the box! You can use 5 gallon pickle buckets from the local sub shop as long as you drill holes in the bottom.)
  • Potting Soil
  • Liquid Fertilizer
  • Most importantly, if your space is really limited, narrow down your list by choosing only the plants you love to eat & flowers to attract pollinators.

With 4 hours of sun you can grow leafy crops like lettuce, rainbow colored Swiss chard, mustards, and herbs. Leafy crops are beautiful with so many textures and colors; they almost look ornamental. Leafy greens and herbs will be happy even in short or smaller pots; however, the smaller the pot, the more often you may need to water. I would recommend pots that are around 8″ deep or greater.

Garden at the balcony

With 6 or more hours of sun, the possibilities with fruiting crops like tomatoes, peppers, melon, eggplant, beans, and cucumbers are nearly endless! In the case of tomatoes, determinate types or semi-determinate types stay shorter, but if you have a trellis that can support a 6′ indeterminate tomato, go for it! Tomatoes, in particular, need a good amount of root space; I would recommend a 5-gallon, bucket-sized pot. Peppers and eggplant do well in a 3-gallon pot. Beans (pole or bush) cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash need at least 1.5’ or so. Left untrellised, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash will appreciate about a 2′ wide pot to support plants.

Typically, cucumbers, squashes, melons, tomatoes and pumpkins are generally thought of as space hogs, so we intentionally carry some real space-efficient choices. ‘Spacemaster’ is an excellent bushy, rather than vining cucumber especially for small spaces. The same is true of ‘Gold Nugget’ winter squash, which is very compact, and I love that each squash is a perfectly delicious serving for two! ‘Emerald Delight’ gives and gives dark green, tasty zucchini all summer from productive, compact plants that are resistant to powdery mildew and other diseases. ‘Minnesota Midget’ is also a space saver and produces the most delectable, 4”, sweet melons in no time! ‘Lizzano’ is a well-behaved cherry tomato, perfect for hanging baskets or other small spaces. ‘Jack Be Little’ is the cutest little pumpkin you have ever seen, and the flavor is actually amazing. These diminutive pumpkins make perfect bowls for pumpkin soup, or beautiful, long-lasting fall décor.

Young Cucumbers on vine

Here’s another great tip I learned: Growing vertically gives you more room! Use wall planters, hanging baskets, or trellises. A piece of lattice, cattle panel, or remesh (the less expensive option) is sturdy enough to hold up tomatoes, small winter squash, and cucumbers. Create your own vertical planters using pallets, gutters, or sticks and strings to help you bring your garden to new “heights”. If you build it, plants will climb it.

Remember, no matter the space, the miracle is in the seed. Seeds are programmed to grow, they just need you to give them that little bit of soil, sun, water, and love.

We love to hear what and how you are growing! Please share your patio garden tips with us in the comments below.

 

4 Transplanting Steps

Planting vegetable garden

The precious seedlings you started indoors need time to adapt to life outdoors. Their climate-controlled environment and perfect growing medium has given them a great start, with little to no stress, but now it’s time to give them a new home in the garden.

No stress here! To reduce any transplant stress, harden off your seedlings to help them adjust to the outdoor conditions. Gradually expose your plants to more sunshine and elements each day until they are acclimated. (Read complete instructions in our article, 5 Steps to Hardening Off Seedlings.)

Get ready! I dig a hole with my transplanter, the same depth as my starter pot, but three times as wide. The transplanter has measurements on it, making this task really easy. I’ve found that this is also a good time to mix in some compost if needed (two parts soil to one part compost is a good ratio). Water seedlings before transplanting them so that their roots are more flexible and less likely to tear. A dilute mixture of liquid kelp or seaweed fertilizer in the water can help them handle the stress of moving, too.

 Time to transplant. I usually transplant in the evening or on a cloudy day to ease the seedlings into their new home. You will find that even well-hardened-off seedlings may wilt if they are transplanted in the heat of the day. They will recover, but the stress can slow progress. I love how our paper pots reduce stress at transplanting, so I use them every chance I get. I’ve found that if I soak the bottom, the perforation tears even easier. I just place my seedlings in the hole and backfill, making sure the garden soil level matches the soil level in the pot and cover the top of the pot with soil. You really only want to bury a lot of the stem of plants like leeks or tomatoes.

Grow baby grow! While the seedlings are growing new roots in their new home, they need lots of water, so for the next few weeks after transplanting, I’m diligent about their moisture levels. I poke a finger in the soil (just far enough away so that I’m not disturbing roots) every couple days and make sure not to let them dry out.

It’s that simple! By following these transplanting tips and more organic gardening tips found inside Botanical Interests’ seed packets you are well on your way to enjoying a beautiful and bountiful garden season!

As always, we welcome your trusty tips and tricks in the comments section!

 

Squash and Spinach Quesadillas

squash and spinach qusadillas

These quesadillas are both sweet and savory thanks to our ‘Sweet Meat’ winter squash. Super quick and easy to make, you can even prepare the filling ahead and keep in the refrigerator for a healthful dinner in minutes!

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
3 bunching onions (green), chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed
1 cup roasted winter squash (Sweet Meat or Waltham Butternut)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces goat cheese
6 whole wheat flour tortillas
cooking oil

Directions:

squash and spinach quesadillas

  1. Sauté spinach, onions, and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes, just until leaves are wilted.
  2. Add black beans and roasted squash. Cook until heated through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cook 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, spread goat cheese on two tortillas.
  4. When filling is heated, add to one tortilla, then stack the other on top.
  5. Brown in pan with another teaspoon of cooking oil.
  6. Repeat for remaining tortillas.
  7. Serve warm with cilantro, sour cream, and salsa on the side.

Baby Greens Living Centerpiece

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Delight your guests during spring get-togethers with a baby greens living centerpeice. This centerpiece will beautify your table and provide guests with a fun, self-service way to add some baby greens to their dish. “Baby greens” is
 a term used for both individual varieties of greens, and for mixes of vegetable varieties grown for their leaves at a height of only 2″–4″. Baby greens supply a heavy dose
of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients— almost four times as much as their mature counterparts.

Supplies

If you are using the Botanical Interests Kitchen Garden Kit, follow these instructions, otherwise, continue to the following steps.

Instructions

  1. Fill container with a light-textured, fertile, well-drained potting soil or seed starting mix/”media”. The medium should consist
 of some organic matter; or plan to fertilize with a organic, balanced, liquid fertilizer.
  2. Sow seeds in a single layer, and cover with 1/8″–1/4″ of soil.
  3. The medium must be kept consistently moist, but not soggy, at all times. Mist or water from the bottom to avoid disturbing seeds or splashing media on the leaves. If sowing into a container with more than 3″ of soil, keep just the top 3″ moist until seedlings emerge.
  4. Place indoors, on a sunny windowsill or underneath grow lights for 14 to 16 hours per day.
  5. Baby greens are ready to harvest 25 to 35 days after sowing, when they have true leaves at 2″–4″.
  6. Place on the table with a pair of herb scissors so guests can snip their own greens!

Learn more about growing and harvesting baby greens on our website.

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You Can’t “Beet” These Chips

beet chipsHome-grown beets are delicious root vegetables, and the leaves are considered by some to be the best of all greens!  Roasting and pickling are traditional ways to prepare beets, but we’re marching to a different “beet” with these oven-baked beet chips! So quick and easy to make, you’ll even get the kiddos to enjoy them. 

INGREDIENTS:

2–3 whole beets (or however many you wish to make)
A couple tablespoons of olive oil
salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Peel beets, but remember, red beets stain! We use gloves or paper towels to protect our hands. (Or you could use Golden Boy beets that don’t stain!
  3. Slice into thin rounds. A mandoline will make this much easier (see photo). 
  4. Spread out on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt to draw out excess moisture. After about 15 minutes, blot dry with clean paper towels. 
  5. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Place beet rounds on baking sheet and add a pinch more of salt or any other herb or seasoning you’d like. 
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until crisp.

beet chips

Beet Chioggia Organic Beet Golden Boy   Beet Detroit Dark Red

 

Sowing it Forward!

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My May Day tradition is to share seedlings with friends, family, and neighbors. It is easy and enjoyable in late winter to sow a few extra seeds with loved ones in mind. I would label little plastic cells with masking tape and cut the cells apart—it wasn’t elegant but it was functional.

Then a few years ago, eureka! I had the idea for our fun, recycled paper pots that make it easy to not only start our seed, but share the seedlings with friends, family, and neighbors! There is nothing like seeing the excitement of a gardener’s face when given a little life to tend in spring! The pots solve other gardener obstacles as well—they can be individually labeled with variety, date sown, and at transplanting, the perforated bottom tears away so I can plop the whole biodegradable pot in the ground. Before we designed the larger 3” and 4” recycled paper pots, I never bothered starting cucurbits indoors (squash, cucumber, melon) because they do not like the inevitable root disturbance at transplanting. The perforated bottoms on these pots means I no longer have to worry about root disturbance, and I can grow longer season watermelons!

I knew there had to be other home gardeners that were not only plant-sharers like me, but that were also looking for a greener, easier way to start seeds. Because so many gardeners loved the 3″ paper pots, we added a 4″ and 1½” pots with a tray so gardeners have more options. More options equals more sharing!

Share what you are sowing! Tag us with #botanicalinterests or comment below.

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