All posts by Botanical Interests

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.

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

 

And the Award Goes To…

swiss chard bright lights
‘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! 

Baked Cauliflower Tots

cauliflower tots

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.

cauliflower tots

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!

 

 

 

 

Caramelized Red Onions

Caramelized red onions

Red onions have a high sugar content already, so when you slow cook them with honey and apple cider vinegar, they get even sweeter! Make this versatile garnish to enjoy on cheese and crackers, in a grilled cheese sandwich, atop burgers, or over roasted chicken.

 INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter 
3 thinly sliced red onions (we used our new ‘Cabernet’ onion)
3 minced garlic cloves
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
fresh thyme leaves from 3-4 sprigs
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat butter and olive oil over medium to low heat. Add onions and cook for 20 minutes until translucent, stirring regularly so as not to brown the onions.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, and stir to incorporate.
  3. Cook down another 20 minutes until sauce thickens, and onions are dark.

Makes about 1 cup of caramelized onions.

Red Onion cabernet Botanical Interests

Giving Back All Year

all-sorts-of-veggies-and-fruit
Donation thank-you card from Lower Columbia School Gardens in Washington.

This time of year reminds us of what we are continually grateful for—our customers! We are always looking for ways to give back to the community to show our gratitude, not just at this time of year, but all year long. A few years ago, we began cultivating relationships with local schools and community outreach programs that may be interested in donations of seed packets for their gardens. The recipients were delighted, and soon the word spread, growing the program organically. 

As our company expanded, so did the amount of available seed without a home. Thus began our nation-wide seed donation program. We have been happy to provide seed for non-profits all over the U.S. that promote the joy of seed gardening—not only school gardens and community outreach gardens, but also 4H clubs, master gardener conferences, university sustainability centers, Earth Day urban garden projects, correctional-facility gardens, foster care gardens, and many more! We also donate seed-starting guides to schools, master gardener programs, and other educational programs.

It is truly inspiring to hear the wonderful feedback from those who have harvested from our donated seed. We love getting photos of 6-year-olds in the school garden who have just pulled their first carrot from the earth, or baskets full of home-grown veggies at the community outreach garden. One thing that especially touched our hearts this year was a heart-felt ‘thank-you’ from a correctional-facility garden.

So far this year, Botanical Interests has donated almost 50,000 seed packets! We love our donation program because it’s a great way for us to give, to educate, and to inspire, growing the gardener community!

We would like to thank everyone who has accepted our seed, and taken the time and effort to share their experiences, showing others just what pleasures come from planting a garden.

10 Essential Fall Garden Tasks

fall in the garden

  1. Compost disease-free or frost-killed annual plant material, or work it into the garden soil to decompose before spring. Simply cut disease-free plants off at the ground, leaving the soil intact. The root material will decompose and feed the soil. Diseased plant material should be removed from garden altogether and disposed of, preventing disease from re-entering the garden as compost or mulch. Clear out any other garden debris, too, eliminating pest habitat.
  2. Weed. Weeds are a haven for certain diseases to survive the winter, later spreading to your spring garden through soil, contact, or pests.
  3. Add fresh or aged, weed-free compost or manures to the fall garden soil so they have time to mellow before spring planting, feeding beneficial soil microorganisms over winter.
  4. Mulch fallen leaves with a mower (bagger on) or a leaf sucker, so they break down more quickly. Incorporate mulched leaves into beds or compost. Leaves increase organic matter, which helps soil absorb and hold water, as well as feed soil organisms. Save some mowed leaves for applying a 3″–4″ mulch to any overwintering plants like carrots, garlic, or perennials you may have in the garden (or save it for next year). Mulching bare winter beds can also help protect beds from wind erosion and keep cool weather weeds from germinating during winter. In addition to stifling weed germination, mulch reduces evaporation, saving water and keeping roots moist, and temperatures consistent.
  5. Cut back perennials. If you live in a wet winter climate, cutting back in fall can help plants from staying too wet and rotting. Because I live in a dry climate, I leave perennials standing because the stems gather leaves and snow, which keeps roots moist, and the seed heads draw birds to my yard.
  6. Clean tools. Remove any soil left on tools with a stiff, steel-bristle brush. Remove rust by scrubbing your tools with steel wool until the signs of rust are gone. Then rub the metal and wood with mineral oil, and store in a dry area.
  7. Make notes. As gardeners, we’re already thinking about what to do differently next year. For example, my oldest child ate cherry tomatoes faster than I could harvest; add one more plant! In your notes, record where vegetable crops were so you can rotate properly, not growing the same family in that bed but once in three years. Proper rotation reduces disease and pests.
  8. Soil test. Fall is a great time to do a soil test. For around $20–$30, a soil test will tell you what macro- and micronutrients your soil needs, how close you are to the ideal 5– 6% organic matter, pH, and other information that can help you get your garden in prime form next spring. Look to your local county Cooperative Extension Service, which often performs soil tests, or can advise you on a local place to submit your test.
  9. Store seeds in a cool, dry area. This is a good time to take inventory, creating a reorder for next year. Also, any liquid garden fertilizers and organic pesticides should be stored in an indoor area that won’t freeze, preserving the quality of these items.
  10. Request a Botanical Interests catalog!

Tidying up the garden is so satisfying, and also appreciated next spring. Fall garden, get ready for a sprucing up—here I come!

Warm Baby Greens Salad

Warm baby greens salad

We’re loving all the microgreens and baby greens we grow in our Kitchen Garden Kit. While chilled, crisp salads are cool and refreshing in the summer, we like to warm it up in the winter, still using nutritious, baby greens in this colorful, tummy-warming dish.

INGREDIENTS:
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2–3 teaspoons of garlic salt
1 cup of quinoa (cooked by package directions)
3 cups of spinach baby greens or Superfoods baby greens
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato cubes with 2 tbsp. olive oil and the garlic salt. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes until tender and browned. Mix potatoes with cooked quinoa and baby greens; salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Serves 2.

 Baby Greens Superfoods 7321_l-babygreen-spinach_rgblr

5 Tips for Long-Lasting Pumpkins

pumpkin carving

Autumn is here, and nothing says October like “pumpkin”—pumpkin lattes, pumpkin hummus, pumpkin ravioli, and roasted pumpkin seeds. In addition to delicious food dishes, there are so many creative ways to decorate pumpkins for fall, and I feel inspired!  (Speaking of pumpkin decorations—did you know that the Jack O’Lantern came from an Irish myth? In the myth, Jack put an ember in a hollowed-out turnip, and he became known as “Jack of the Lantern” which was shortened to Jack O’Lantern over time. The full story can be found inside our carving pumpkin seed packets along with other facts and organic gardening tips.) No matter what your creative inspiration, here are some tips to enjoy your creations longer.

  1. Choose your pumpkin carefully. A soft stem, nicks, or bruises are indications that they may have started rotting, so these pumpkins will not hold up as long.
  2. Decorate pumpkins. Painted, glittered, and stenciled pumpkins are beautiful and hold up much longer than carved pumpkins. Painting pumpkins is a creative, interactive, and fun project for your “little pumpkins”, too!
  3. Carve only a few days ahead: All carved pumpkins look their best in the first three days, so schedule your carving party accordingly. Keep carved pumpkins clean and sanitized to prevent mold from taking over. Soaking your carved pumpkin in a diluted bleach solution has proven to be the most effective method for keeping a carved pumpkin fresh and rot-free for a full week (possibly a little longer). Read our article for more tips on this method: Keeping Carved Pumpkins Fresh.
  4. Do nothing. Really! For carved pumpkins, several so-called remedies like glue and hairspray actually cause mold to build up more quickly than doing nothing. An all-natural pumpkin can last up to a week, too, although the carving may shrivel a little bit (a great asset for a spooky, witch face carving!).
  5. Be sure to bring pumpkins inside (carved or not) if the temperatures drop below freezing, as they could be damaged.

Inspire us! We would love to see your pumpkin photos! Enter them in our photo contest for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to Botanical Interests online.