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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Easy Herb Drying Rack

DIY Herb Drying Rack

Preserve the bounty from your herb garden by drying! One of the best and easiest ways to dry herbs from your garden is on a drying rack. Our rack not only gets the job of drying herbs done, it looks great in your kitchen while doing it!  If you don’t have these items at home, you can find them at grocery, hardware, and craft stores.

Supplies

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Instructions for the Rack

  1. Remove glass and backing from picture frame.
  2. Screw hooks into interior of picture frame. Be sure to allow adequate space between rows for herb bundles.
  3. Tie twine to hooks.

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Instructions for Drying Herbs

  1. Harvest herbs in the morning after dew has dried, when flavor is at its peak.
  2. Bundle small bunches of herbs together with string.

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  1. Hang bundles on rack upside down.
  2. Allow herbs to dry in a cool, dry location, preferably indoors, and out of direct sunlight. Essential oils can degrade in temperatures over 86°F.
  3. Allow herbs to dry completley (they should crumble easily in your fingers). Drying time may be a few days to a few weeks, depending on the variety and moisture content.
  4. Use within a month or strip the foliage from the stems and store in an airtight container in a dark area away from heat.

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We’d love to see how creative you get with your herb drying rack! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.

Fresh Dried Garden Tomatoes in Olive Oil

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Nothing says summer like fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes from the garden! As many of us start our tomato seeds, we can also start thinking about the endless ways to enjoy these garden gems. One of our favorites is drying, for a sweet and tangy burst of tomato flavor that enlivens your favorite dishes. Some excellent varieties to consider for drying are Principe Borghese, San Marzano, Speckled Roman, Italian Roma, and Supremo. Any and all cherry and grape tomatoes will also make excellent dried morsels!

Ingredients

  • Fresh-harvested paste, roma or cherry tomatoes (as many as your oven racks or dehydrator can fit after tomatoes are halved)
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  1. Slice all tomatoes in half, and gently remove seeds. IMG_3228
  2. Place halved tomatoes in the oven on a sheet pan or on dehydrator racks with the cut side facing up. IMG_3230
  3. Lightly salt each slice
  4. Set dehydrator to 150°F (10 to 12 hours), or oven to 250°F (4 to 6 hours).  Dehydrating time will depend greatly on the size of your tomato slices.  Dried tomato slices should be crisp but still pliable.
  5. Using tongs, quickly dip tomato slices into red wine vinegar.
  6. Layer tomato slices into clean canning jars, leaving about ½” of space in each.
  7. Fill jars with olive oil, completely covering all tomatoes. IMG_3264
  8. Store tomatoes in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Use tomatoes and oil in salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, or eat them straight from the jar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the Award Goes To…

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‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard in Judy’s Garden

For me, gardening is a labor of love. I make a thoughtful plan every year and try different tricks (like my grandpa “Pop’s” advice to soak beet and morning glory seeds), but even after all that, sometimes I get a less-than-desired result. It’s been one of my missions to share my passion for gardening, helping home gardeners be successful no matter what level of gardener they imagine themselves to be. That’s why offering varieties that are proven performers is a must! All-America Selections (AAS) winners and other Botanical Interests-tested, reliable varieties are essential to ensuring our customers have the best choices for home gardening.

In 1932, W. Ray Hastings, the Southern Seedsmen’s Association of Atlanta’s president, suggested that a network of trial gardens be grown and evaluated by skilled, unbiased judges in different U.S. climates. With this evaluation process, gardeners could truly know if a new cultivar was actually improved and how it might perform in their area. Industry leaders must have thought that was a great idea because from this, AAS was born, and began announcing winning varieties the very next year.

The AAS objectively trials and chooses reliable, high-performance winners. They judge varieties on yield, novelty, earliness to bloom or harvest, pest and disease tolerance, and overall performance. In more recent years, they have added that varieties need to have at least two improved qualities and cannot be genetically engineered (commonly referred to as GMO). AAS is still the only national, non-profit agency evaluating plant varieties, and we are so grateful for their work!

At Botanical Interests, we strive to inspire and educate our fellow gardeners, supplying varieties you can trust because we value your trust! Just in case your Pops didn’t give you all the tips you need, we research sowing and growing tips for easy-to-follow instructions inside each seed packet, so you can simply get growing! 

Decoupaged Garden Journal

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It’s so helpful to keep a record of your garden’s life so that next year you can remember the little tricks that worked so well, and avoid some that didn’t. Garden journaling can be as simple as writing about your garden daydreams and taking pictures, or as thorough as recording measurements and keeping notes about growth.

Decorating your garden journal can be a fun, family activity that will beautify and personalize it. We’re decorating ours with seed packets, and you can too by following these steps:

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Garden Journal (Paper cover works best)
  • Seed packets
  • Glue stick or rubber cement
  • Mod Podge
  • Small paint brush
  • Scissors

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  1. Cut the front off of the seed packet.

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  1. Attach each packet front to journal cover with adhesive.

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  1. Continue attaching packets to cover, overlapping slightly and wrapping the edges of the packets around the cover.

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  1. Using a paint brush, apply a liberal coat of Mod Podge to the entire surface of the journal. You can add multiple coats for additional shine if desired. Wait 15 minutes between coats.

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  1. Allow to dry thoroughly and keep out of direct sunlight.

Get tips for garden journaling and free printables on our website at: https://www.botanicalinterests.com/articles/index/category:secrets-to-success

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

Baked Cauliflower Tots

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What are cauliflower tots? The answer to your tater-tot yearnings without all the fat, carbs and starch! So good for you, simple to prepare, and a great way to sneak more vegetables onto your kids’ plates.

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of steamed cauliflower
2 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Mash steamed cauliflower and mix in all other ingredients.
  • Form into tots and place on greased cookie sheet.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned.

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Serve with your favorite condiment (chipotle mayonnaise shown in picture).

The Value of Gardening from Seed

garden with seedsThere is nothing like harvesting supper right from the garden. One of my favorite memories is of one of my daughters’ sleepovers. I handed out some old wooden bowls to the girls and told them to go get something from the garden for dinner. They were so surprised to get food right from the back yard! The fresh flavor and high-nutrient value of just-harvested food cannot be denied, but there is also something so special about eating something that minutes before, was growing in our garden, having been tended with loving kindness, and is free of pesticides and GMOs. Seeing those young ladies use the same bowls I harvested in as a child really brought it all full circle, and that they wanted to repeat the tradition every time after, made my heart soar!

So for me, the real value in growing from seed isn’t just “dollars and cents”—it is in the quality of my food, the joy of fresh air and productive exercise, and even a bit of a spiritual connection to the earth, definitely a kind of therapy. 

Costs less. Growing from seed costs exponentially less than purchasing plants and produce. For example, a 4″ tomato plant can run you $4, while a plant sown from seed costs 35 cents or less on average. A bunch of colorful, organic carrots is typically priced around $4, while a packet of the same organic carrot seeds is about $2.99, and typically results in about 160 carrots, even after thinning!

Diverse varieties. Don’t limit your bouquets and cuisine to the mainstream! We frequently hear from new gardeners that they never even knew they liked tomatoes until they grew a variety bred for flavor, and not shelf life. Botanical Interests offers over 600 proven varieties so you can sow and grow exactly what you are looking for. 

Organic garden. The choice of organic food and goods is a lifestyle path that many have adopted. Whether you want to support organically-grown food for health concerns, reasons of environmental stewardship, or aiding pollinators, growing your own food and flowers using organic methods ensures you know exactly what goes onto and into your plants, where your food came from, how fresh and nutritious it is, and green; you simply cannot get more local! When goodness and love go in, goodness and love come out in the harvest.

Size matters. While buying big, beautiful, ready-to-transplant plants gives us instant gratification, studies show there is an ideal amount of time from germination to transplant, so when roots overgrow their little “cells” it causes stress on the plants, leading to lower yields, bolting (premature flowering), and bitter flavors. Bigger isn’t always better!  Starting from seed allows you to choose the ideal transplanting time frame for your area, which is based on your average last spring frost date. Also, ornamental plants (especially tall varieties) grown in small cell packs may have been sprayed with growth inhibitors that result in cute, stout plants, unnaturally flowering in tiny cell packs. While the look draws you in, that inhibitor lasts, meaning plants won’t be as big and beautiful in the landscape as those grown from seed.

No root disturbance. Nature direct-sows and so should we, in many cases. Many varieties perform best when direct-sown. Plants sown in place experience less stress, and because of that, mature more quickly. This is especially true of quick-to-mature crops like mesclun and cilantro, or  root crops, sunflowers, and those in the Cucurbit (cucumbers, squash) and bean and pea families to name a few.

Growing from seed is a skill anyone can learn that gives back “in spades”; the pinnacle of freshness, pride in the harvest and beauty, and natural therapy, not to mention cost savings,  plus, you get food and flowers!