January 26, 2015

Winterize your Chickens to Keep Them Healthy and Laying

As we are now well into winter, those who keep chickens may see a drop in egg production from your flock. Hormones produced by a chicken dictate the amount of eggs produced and as we get shorter days and overcast skies the chicken will produce less hormones, and thus less eggs. The colder temperatures can also stress a bird slowing egg production and even affecting overall health. If you are worried about your chickens being left out in the winter cold don’t stress, there are ways to protect your birds and keep the eggs coming.

 

IMG_0472

 

 

 

 

 

 

When raising chickens, the basic needs are adequate food, fresh water, and shelter. This is true all year, but it can be a challenge when there is six inches of snow on the ground and the temperature does not get much above 0. If you free range your chickens, as I do, then obviously food can be a concern. There are less bugs, blades of grass or weeds for them to eat so food has to be supplemented.

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good layer feed with 16% to 18% protein will help keep chickens healthy and laying. An addition of cracked corn will give them energy to face the cold. Table scraps can also be used to supplement as chickens eat almost anything and things like carrot peelings, egg shells, and old bread will provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

 

Heater watering bucket Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Heater watering bucket Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Submersible tank heater Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater

Submersible tank heater

Water is a problem in the winter as it will freeze and thus be of no use to the chickens. Freezing can also damage a plastic or metal watering can from the expanding ice. One thing anybody raising chickens in the winter should invest in is a heated water bucket or a submersible tank heater. Having to break the ice out of a watering bowl is not much fun and using a heated bucket will give your chickens a continuous supply of water. As many heated buckets are made for larger livestock, be careful that the bucket is not too deep or if it is deep, a platform for the chickens is provided. Smaller or bantam chickens will tend to roost on the rim of a taller bucket and stand a chance of falling in and drowning.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter for your chickens should provide protection from the wind and cold but should still provide good ventilation. A heat lamp can provide extra warmth for chickens but be careful that it is high enough that it will not start a fire and the chickens, in a frenzy, will not knock it down. Straw or other bedding should be provided. A good rule is to provide much deeper bedding in the winter for both warmth and to absorb the increase in waste products produced by the chickens. Chickens will not go outside as much when there is snow on the ground and there should be a way in place to account for longer hours inside.

 

As I said above, chickens slow their egg production due to shorter days. Chickens evolved to produce eggs when the chance of a chick surviving is the greatest. When days are longer the weather is warmer and chicks have a greater survival rate. Chickens should have approximately 14 hours of light to produce eggs. You can trick your chickens into thinking that the day is longer than it is by providing light that mimics the daylight. I use a florescent light with a full spectrum bulb. You can get by with just an incandescent bulb as well. You just need to have the light on in the evening when the chickens are starting to roost.IMG_0479

 

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding for anybody with the space to do it. And with a little extra care, your chickens will give you eggs all year long!

IMG_0470

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further information:

 

http://www.agriculture.com/livestock/poultry/feed/feeding-freerge-chickens-in-winter_292-ar28128

 

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/50346/entry/winter_egg_production

 

August 20, 2014

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration!

cropped-ISAlogo-v-tag

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration on Sunday, September 14th in Springfield. Six Central Illinois chefs will be preparing small plates featuring fresh, seasonal, local food. Each of the chefs represent restaurants that feature locally sourced products. Included in the lineup are:

  • Dustin Allen, Edge by Dustin Allen, Peoria
  • Aurora and Jordan Coffey, American Harvest Eatery, Springfield
  • Alisa DeMarco, Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana
  • Michael Higgins, Maldaner’s Restaurant, Springfield
  • Ryan Lewis, Driftwood Cocktails and Eatery, Springfield
  • Josh Lanning, Harvest Cafe, Delavan

In addition to the food, there will be live music and a silent auction. Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery, Rolling Meadows Brewery, and several Illinois wineries will provide beer and wine for the event.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is also looking for sponsors. Companies or organizations that do sponsor the Harvest Celebration will have their logo featured prominently in all event signage and in the program for the evening. Sponsorship opportunities are available at varying prices.

All proceeds raised from the Annual Harvest Celebration will go to Illinois Stewardship Alliance to help them continue their work promoting and increasing access to fresh, local food; providing education on conservation practices; and advocating for policies that aid small, family farmers.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Harvest Celebration will be held Sunday, September 14th at 5:00 p.m. at the Inn at 835, located at 835 S. Second St. in Springfield.

Purchase tickets by September 9th. Prices are as follows:

$75 for members

$85 for non-members

To learn more click here.

HarvestDinnerInvitation-page-001_zps692c398c

– See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/08/20/illinois-stewardship-alliance-is-celebrating-its-annual-harvest-celebration/#sthash.NBQfw0Ok.dpuf

June 23, 2014

Illinois Governor Quinn Approves Legislation Supporting Farmers Markets

Chicago, IL: With summer officially here and Chicago’s 61st Street Farmers Market as the backdrop, on June 21st Governor Pat Quinn signed into law HB5657, an important new piece of legislation that sets in motion a number of reforms that support farmers market and Illinois farmers. HB5657 was unanimously approved by both the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives this spring.

“This is a really important step when it comes to supporting farmers markets and community development, and a long time coming. Farmers, farmers market managers and those that support the burgeoning local food movement have been asking for and working towards a number of the reforms included in House Bill 5657 for several years,” said Wes King Executive Director of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “These reforms will help to support and sustain new and current farmers markets, the jobs they create, the business they incubate and the farmers, young and old, that call them home.”

 Gov. Pat Quinn Photo: WLS

Gov. Pat Quinn
Photo: WLS

 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance has been working alongside the Illinois Environmental Council, local health departments, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Public Health Association to develop HB5657.

 Galesburg Farmers Market  Galesburg Register Mail

Galesburg Farmers Market
Galesburg Register Mail

 

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria), who first introduced similar legislation in 2009; includes a number of provisions aimed at supporting and sustaining farmers markets and the farmers and vendors that attend them:

 

  • Consistent Statewide Farmers      Market Rules – creates a timeline for      Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Farmers’ Market Task Force      to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers      markets and strengthens that task force’s authority and process for      developing and finalizing said rules and regulations. The task force was      originally created in statute by the general assembly in 2011. The bill      gives the task force until December 15, 2014 to create their      recommendations. Currently food safety rules and regulations vary across      the state from county to county and city to city, sometimes dramatically,      creating a patchwork quilt of regulations for farmers and entrepreneurs to      navigate.
  • Statewide Sampling Program – Sampling of products is critical to any food      business including those at farmers markets. HB 5657 authorizes and      instructs IDPH and the farmers market task force to develop a statewide      sampling certificate program that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to      offer product samples at any farmers market in the state under one      certificate, and just as importantly, under one consistent statewide set      of rules. Currently related rules, regulations and permits are highly      variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and few farmers market vendors      offer samples.
  • Product Origin and Transparency      Provisions – Consumers at farmers markets      may assume that products sold at these markets are locally grown, but      there are some vendors that are actually resellers selling the same out of      state product as most grocery stores. HB5657 requires farmers market      vendors that sell unprocessed produce to have a label that states the      address where their products were physically grown. If the vendor can’t      disclose that, the vendor must list where it was purchased from.
  • Cottage Food Operations –      Cottage food – or non-hazardous foods made in home kitchens – is a growing      business in Illinois. Caps the fee that local health departments can      chargecottage      food operations for registering at $25 per year to minimize costs to these      small businesses.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be developing some materials on it to educate farmers and market managers about the impacts of it and we plan to host a couple webinars later in the summer with the Illinois Farmers Market Association to educate attendees about what is in the law and what are the potential impacts.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just, local food systems through policy development, advocacy, and education.

 cropped-ISAlogo-v-tag

Illinois Stewardship Alliance:

www.ilstewards.org

https://www.facebook.com/ilstewards

Illinois Farmers Market Association:

http://ilfarmersmarkets.org/

- See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/06/23/governor-quinn-approves-legislation-supporting-farmers-markets/#sthash.hhHBTuSg.dpuf

May 16, 2014

A Swan of a Chick

We had a chick named Camille that we bought at the Knox County Illinois Scenic Drive. In the human world this chick would be described as developmentally disabled.

Patrick1She was not active and seemed narcoleptic. She would just sit and pass out constantly and did not seem to know how to do the things chickens do. She was also small and a runt.

Patrick2We gave her away last year. The person who took care of her could not keep her any longer because she was actually a he and he started to crow constantly.

Patrick3We got him back.

Patrick4Now named Patrick, he is very active, feisty, and has incredible feathers.

Patrick8A complete transformation!

I am sorry that I do not have any “before” pictures to show!

Patrick5Patrick6Patrick7

April 25, 2014

Not Much Space to Garden, Try Tomatoes in Containers

Most people enjoy garden fresh tomatoes. The flavor of the home grown fruit of Solanum lycopersicum is far and above anything one can pick up at the local supermarket. For apartment dwellers or others who are spatially challenged as far as land for small scale tomato production is concerned, you are in luck. For there are many varieties of tomatoes, as well as many other vegetables, that can be grown in a very small space or even a container.

Container Gardening  Photo: Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University

Container Gardening
Photo: Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University

We in Northern Illinois are now entering the primetime of tomato planting season and so if you would like to grow tomatoes or peppers in containers there are a few things to consider. One is the size of the container. The larger the container, the happier the tomato plant will be. A three gallon container is probably the smallest type container to use, but with a five gallon or larger container you will probably do better. The container should allow for drainage so if whatever container you use does not have drainage holes, holes should be drilled into the bottom.

The soil should be a mix of good garden soil along with compost along with a little sand to improve drainage. This is especially true if you use a plastic container, such as a bucket or a storage container or tote. Feed the plants with any fertilizer labeled for tomatoes but keep in mind that the leaching rate will be faster in soil kept in a container. This will make it necessary to increase the feeding rate. It is also important to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Again, keep in mind that a container made of wood or other porous material will allow for water to evaporate faster than a plastic container would.

Tomatoes grown in containers Photo: www.insideurbangreen.org

Tomatoes grown in containers Photo: http://www.insideurbangreen.org

There are many tomato varieties out there that have been bred especially for use in a container. These varieties will of course do well in a container setting, but many heirloom or hybrid varieties will also do well and should be tried. Determinate varieties will grow better if you also have limited height in the spot that you are planting the tomatoes, such as on a balcony. If you are growing your tomatoes on a patio or a place with no such restrictions then you can use any type of plant as you can stake the plants, or use wire cages, as you would in a traditional garden or field.

I have tried a few tomatoes in containers and the following I have found to do great.

Several container varieties:

A cherry variety that does well in any container is Tiny Tim. It is a very compact plant but produces tons of flavorful cherry tomatoes. The seed for Tiny Tim are getting harder to find for some reason and it has been nonexistent in garden centers lately. It is an heirloom and many people have saved the seed for this tomato. The seed can still be found commercially at Victory Seed. It is an early producer that takes about 45 days.

Tiny Tim Tomato Photo: JandLSeed.com

Tiny Tim Tomato Photo: JandLSeed.com

A tomato hybrid that was bred for containers is the Patio tomato put out by Bonnie Plants. Bonnie Plants seems to have cornered the market in live garden plants at all of the big box stores so this variety is not hard to find. These plants are determinate and only grow to about 24 inches tall. It produces well and like many hybrids it is resistant to fusarium wilt (F), alternaria stem canker (A), and gray leaf spot (St). It matures in about 70 days.

Patio Tomato Photo: Bonnie Plants

Patio Tomato Photo: Bonnie Plants

Several determinate varieties to try:

Both Roma and San Marzano are determinate paste tomatoes. Both will produce well and can be found at many garden centers and most seed companies. As they are determinate, the plants are bush type plants and will stay relatively compact. This being said, you may still want to stake or cage them as they both will produce large amounts of fruit. The tomatoes produced by both of these varieties are excellent in sauces and I also like them in salad as well. They mature in about 70 days.

Celebrity is another determinate tomato that seems to do well in a container. It is a hybrid that produces larger tomatoes that are about 8 ounces and 4 inches across. It grows to about 3 feet and probably needs to be staked or caged. It is resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt races 1 and 2 (F), nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus (T). Celebrity take about 65 days to mature but produces well until frost.

Tomatoes in Containers Photo:www.finegardening.com

Tomatoes in Containers Photo:www.finegardening.com

Other varieties:

Better Boy hold the world record for the amount of tomatoes produced by one plant. This plant produces tons of tomatoes and does well in a container. The fruits of this plant can be over one pound each so it would be advisable to cage this plant in a sturdy container. The flavor of the Better Boy tomato is excellent even though it is not an heirloom. Better Boy is an indeterminate variety and is resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt (F), and nematodes (N). It matures in about 70 – 75 days.

Better Boy Tomato Photo: Burpee

Better Boy Tomato Photo: Burpee

Green Zebra Tomato Photo: Burpee

Green Zebra Tomato Photo: Burpee

An heirloom variety of tomato that I have found does well in a container setting is Green Zebra. This is an indeterminate plant that produces smaller green striped tomatoes. They have excellent flavor and matures in about 78 days. This plant can reach 9 feet in height so staking is probably required.

As with all tomatoes the varieties listed above need plenty of full sun. They need even watering to ensure that fruit will not rot and keep in mind what was said above about what material the container is mad from.

Fresh garden tomatoes are one of things to look forward to in the summer. Just because you do not have a lot of space or a backyard to grow tomatoes does not mean that you can’t still grow your own! Try a few in a container this year!

Better Boy tomatoes  growing in containers Photo: www.agardenpatch.com

Better Boy tomatoes growing in containers Photo: www.agardenpatch.com

A few places to find container tomato plants and seeds:

Victory Seeds

Bonnie Plants

Burpee Seeds

February 19, 2014

David Rosengarten’s Chicago Comfort

This is an homage to Chicago from the host of one of my favorite early Food Network shows. David Rosengarten hosted “Taste,” an informative show about food and wine. His show aired back when the Food Network was about food and not about celebrity and contests and all the crap that the put on the network these days. From the self description at his blog:
“Journalist, television personality, and cookbook author, David Rosengarten has covered great food products, restaurants, wines, gastronomic travel destinations, and related subjects for over 25 years. He has written hundreds of articles and contributed hundreds of original recipes to publications such as Gourmet (where he was Restaurant Critic from 1996 to 2000), The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Harper’s Bazaar, Departures, The Wine Spectator and Newsday.”

http://drosengarten.com/blog/chicago-comfort/

January 16, 2014

Illinois Agricultural Groups to Hold ‘Meet the Buyers’ Event for Farmers

From a press release put out by the Illinois Farm Bueau:

Farmers throughout Illinois are invited to attend a Meet the Buyers event to meet local and regional food buyers Feb. 18, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Orland Civic Center in Orland Park, Ill.

“We have great plans for farmers to hear from several buyers and meet with the buyers one-on-one,” said Cynthia Haskins, manager of business development of compliance, Illinois Farm Bureau. “This will be our 14th Meet the Buyers event and we expect it to be one of our largest.”

Additionally, the Orland Civic Center provides a venue that will allow more buyers to participate and more farmers to attend.

“This event will include buyers who are looking for local fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, artisan cheeses, dairy, poultry and value-added products,” said Bob Rohrer, manager, Cook County Farm Bureau.

Plans are underway and buyers such as chefs, retail grocery stores and chains, foodservice distributors and schools have been invited to participate.

“In this industry the difficulty for producers often lies in making the right connections,” said Kendra Buchanan, local foods liaison, Illinois Department of Agriculture. “This event is the perfect setting for the proper people to meet and begin building working relationships.”

University of Illinois-Extension will present introductory information about two programs, MarketReady and Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs). MarketReady is a program designed to teach best commercial business practices between growers and various retail markets. GAPs are a set of recommendations that can help improve the quality and safety of the produce grown.

“This program gives farmers an opportunity to explore a wide variety of new market possibilities,” said Ellen Phillips, local food systems and small foods educator, University of Illinois Extension.

The following organizations are partnering to coordinate the one-day event: Illinois Farm Bureau, Cook County Farm Bureau, University of Illinois-Extension, Illinois Specialty Growers Association, Illinois Department of Agriculture, and several surrounding Farm Bureau offices.

The event is free to farmers. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to the Cook County Farm Bureau at 708-354-3276 by Feb. 14, 2014.

November 6, 2013

Salsas, a great way to use up the last of the crop!

If you are among the gardeners that stripped your pepper and tomato plants of fruit when the word of upcoming hard freezes were approaching a while back, you may have a surplus of peppers and tomatoes. The tomatoes are probably green and and the peppers hot. There may seem to be limited ways to use green tomatoes or hot peppers but there are many recipes that call for them. Sauces and salsas are great way to use both!

 

Green Tomato Salsa Verde Photo: Moderncomfortfood.com

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Photo: Moderncomfortfood.com

 

 

Green tomato salsa is a great way to use up many of the tomatoes and hot peppers that are left on the vine when freezing weather sets in. This recipe, adapted from the Ball canning guide, is also a great way to store the tomatoes for the winter. It is a green tomato salsa that is sort of like a Mexican salsa verde made with green tomatoes instead of tomatillos. The recipe makes about 6 (8oz) half pints:

Ingredients:

7 cups chopped cored peeled green tomatoes (about 12 medium)

5 to10 jalapeno, habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups chopped red onion (about 2 large)

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup loosely packed finely chopped cilantro

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:

1.) Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

2.) Combine tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic and lime juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

3.) Ladle hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

4.) Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

 

Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce Photo: FarmTrucksOrganics.com

Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce

Photo: FarmTrucksOrganics.com

Originally from the Eastern Thai city of Sri Racha, Sriracha sauce has become popular in the U.S. in recent years due to Huy Fong Foods in Orange County, California. Although it has been used for many years in Thailand and Vietnam as a dipping sauce, primarily for seafood, the Huy Fong version has a growing following in this country. Chinese-Vietnamese David Tran began the company in 1983 after arriving in California. Although the commercial variety is popular, you can use your own produce to make a homemade variety. The following recipe is from the LocalKitchen blog which makes  5, 4-oz jars:

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups white vinegar

1/2 lb habañero peppers, stemmed & halved (seeded if desired for less heat)

1/2 lb red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped

1/4 cup smashed, peeled garlic cloves (about 1 head)

1/4 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)

1 scant tbsp kosher flake salt (use 2 tsp if using a fine-grained salt)

 

Day 1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add peppers & garlic and push under liquid. Cover and allow it to sit overnight (or for several nights; mine sat for about a week).

Day 2 (or 7). Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Strain liquid from pepper-garlic mixture into a medium saucepan. Bring brine to a full boil over high heat; boil, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 the original volume, or to a final volume of about 1/2 – 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add the vegetables, return to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth, or leave slightly chunky, per your preference. Return to the saucepan, bring sauce to a simmer, then fill hot jars to 1/2-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

Sambal Oelek Photo: The Food Network

Sambal Oelek

Photo: The Food Network

Originally from Indonesia, sambal is a sauce that is made primarily of chili peppers. There are many types of sambals with many differing ingredients depending on their use and the region of Indonesia that they originated from. Sambal oelek is one type of sambal that is popular in the United States, also due to Huy Fong Foods, and is a spicy sauce made from Raw chili paste. It can be used as the base for making other sambals or as an ingredient for other cuisines. Some types of this variant call for the addition of salt or lime into the red mixture. The term “oelek” or sometimes spelled “ulek” is a stone mortar used to make the paste in Asia. Since sambal oelek is primarily made with the fewest ingredients, it is the easiest to make. This recipe is from the Food Network.

1 lb red chile

5 1/2 ounces garlic, peeled and chopped

5 1/2 ounces tender young ginger, peeled and chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (white part only)

6 fluid ounces vinegar

8 ounces sugar

salt, to taste

1 tablespoon lime zest, chopped

 

Directions:

1.) Blend the chilies, garlic, ginger and lemon grass in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

2.) While processing gradually add the vinegar.

3.) Place the pureed mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

4.) Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

5.) Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

6.) Add the salt and lime zest.

7.) Remove from the heat, cool and bottle in sterilized jars.

 

 

All of these recipes will help give you a use for all of the green tomatoes and hot peppers that you may not have any other use for. Canning these salsas is also a great way to store them for the winter.

 

A good tip if you are trying any of these recipes:

When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.

September 30, 2013

Exotic Vegetables for the Garden – Asian Vegetables

Now that the 2013 gardening season is winding down it is not too early to start planning for 2014. Most gardeners have their favorite varieties of tomatoes, peppers or potatoes and already have a plan in mind as to where they will go and how much will be planted. Anticipating the coming of the seed catalogs later this year, gardeners with a little flair for experimentation may want to add some exotic or ethnic vegetables to their 2014 planting roster. This week I will talk a little about Asian vegetables.

Vegetables from Asia that are familiar to many American gardeners include bok choi and Chinese cabbage. There are other Asian greens though, that are easy to grow plus pack a great deal of nutrients. Komatsuna is a relative of the turnip family. Also called spinach mustard, it is a large leafy green grown in Japan, Taiwan and Korea. With dark glossy green leaves it is rich in calcium and vitamin A. They can be harvested at any stage and prepared like spinach in the early stages and more like cabbage as they mature. The flavor grows stronger and hotter if allowed to mature and if grown in hot weather. Komatsuna can be stir-fried, pickled, boiled and added to soups or used fresh in salads. Tatsoi is a very similar green that is becoming popular in North America.

Komatsuna Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Komatsuna Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Tatsoi Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Tatsoi Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Pickling is a quite common way to preserve vegetables in Asian countries. Greens, such as the ones mentioned above, as well as just about any vegetable grown, are pickled in one form or another in Korean, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Melons are no exception as with the aptly named “Pickling Melon.” Similar to pickling cucumbers of the west, but much larger, the young melons can be eaten raw or added to a salad as you would a cucumber. Pickling though, is the most common preparation used for this vegetable in Asia. The pickling melon is also versatile enough to be baked stuffed with beef, pork, chicken or vegetables or even used in a stir fry.

Bitter melon is another cucurbit that can be pickled, stuffed, or used in soups. It is native to Southern China and thrives in the heat and humid climate of mid-summer. It has twice the beta carotene of broccoli and is high in potassium and calcium. It also contains high amounts of fiber, phosphorous, and Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3 and lutein, an important nutrient for eyesight.

 

Bitter Melon Photo: SeriousEats.com

Bitter Melon Photo: SeriousEats.com

 

Daikon Radish is a very large rooted relative of the radish. Used in many ways from Japan to Bangladesh, this vegetable can be stir fried, baked, or used in soups. It can also be used fresh in salads.  In several cuisines the leaves are used in various ways. These include a dish, made for the Japanese Festival of Seven Herbs, which is seven-herb rice porridge (nanakusa-gayu) that is eaten on January 7. The daikon can grow quite large and there are contests for the largest daikon in Japan. It is used frequently in Korean kim chee. Like many Asian veggies, the daikon is often pickled.

 

 

Daikon Radish Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Daikon Radish Photo: Kitazawa Seed Co.

Yardlong Bean, also called Chinese Long Bean or sometimes Asparagus Bean, is a bean that is not directly related to the common pole bean, but is grown in much the same way. As its name implies, it grows from 14 to 30 inches long. It is used in many stir fries, soups, or in many dishes that call for green beans.

 

Yardlong Bean Photo: Lion Seeds

Yardlong Bean Photo: Lion Seeds

 

Chinese broccoli or gai-lan, a broccoli relative, is also called Chinese kale or kailan. The edible vegetable consists of a tender green flower stem with buds of what will become white flowers. The leaves and stems are light to medium green in color. Different varieties of gai-lan vary in stem length and color from light to medium green. It grows best in cooler weather and is great in stir fries.

The vegetables mentioned above are grown in much the same way as their western counterparts. The leafy greens and the daikon are grown like other brassicas, the melons like other cucurbits and so on. The list I have discussed only includes a few of many more vegetables grown by Asian gardeners that can just as easily be grown in our country.  If you feel a little adventurous try an Asian vegetable in your garden next year! In Future articles, I will talk about vegetables from other parts of the world.

 

PurdueUniversity has several publications on growing Asian vegetables including: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/V3-488.html

And  http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-187.pdf

A couple of sources of Asian vegetable seeds are:

Kitazawa Seed Company http://www.kitazawaseed.com/

Evergreen Seeds http://www.evergreenseeds.com/vegetableseeds.html

September 23, 2013

Saving Tomato Seed is Easy

It’s the end of the garden season and, in taking stock of what you produced this year, you may have some standouts in taste and quality among the tomatoes included in the bounty of your garden. You may have received a really great heirloom tomato from a friend and wish you could get some of those seeds for yourself.

Or you may have a true heirloom, one tomato that has been passed down from generation to generation. There are many reasons to save seeds from year-to-year. Some other reasons that I did not mention above are that saved seeds are free and it is a lot of fun to do-it-yourself. To show you how to save seeds from every vegetable grown is nearly impossible in one article, so since tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown, I will demonstrate saving tomato seeds.

One word of warning, saving tomato seeds can be kind of gross, but the following is the way it is done by commercial seed companies. It is also the way it is done for other kinds of produce with interiors that can be described as gloppy or gooey, such as cucumbers and cantaloupes. In fact, in nature these types of vegetables take advantage of the fact that an animal will carry its fruit away, but not eat the gooey part. Nature uses bacteria then to separate the seed from the glop.

An  heirloom variety that I am saving

An heirloom variety that I am saving

 

Another variety I am saving that started as a volunteer

Another variety I am saving that started as a volunteer

To save tomato seed the first step is to pick out specimens that have qualities that you want to keep. Whether this is size or taste, choose what you want to see growing next year. Tomatoes are self fertile so what you save will more than likely breed true. That is to say, you will get the same variety when you grow the seeds again. This is not necessarily true of hybrids though. They may revert back to one of the breeding stock that they were derived from rather than their current form, but there is also a chance that you will get the same hybrid. This is called hybrid stabilization. Also, pick fully ripe fruit from healthy, disease free plants.

 

 

"Goop" in a clear jar with a little water added

“Goop” in a clear jar with a little water added

The seed from the tomato will be fermented to release it from the goop in the tomato. To start this process, cut the tomato across the “equator” of the fruit. Scoop out or squeeze out the “goop” with the seed that is encased within it into a clear container, such as a jar. (Cutting across the “equator” of the fruit makes it easier to squeeze out the seed). Add a little water to the jar to help suspend the seed; it does not need to be full. Too much water will slow down the action of the bacteria that are fermenting the fruit.

Mold forming on the surface of the seed-water mixture

Mold forming on the surface of the seed-water mixture

 

 

After a couple of days you will see mold forming on the top of the water. When you see this appear, gently stir the seed and water. If you do not stir, the mold may affect the viability of the seed. In a few days the viable seed will sink to the bottom. Skim off all of the material that floats, including any floating seeds. Dump the remaining seed into a strainer or colander that has holes that will not allow the seed to pass through.

 

Viable seeds have sunk to bottom

Viable seeds have sunk to bottom

Using a garden hose (preferable) or a kitchen faucet, spray the seed to wash away the remaining glop. The seed may stink at this point and you may want to do this outside. Once the seed is clean, you will want to place the seed on a coffee filter or on a wooden surface so it can dry. If you use a paper towel or a piece of office paper the seed may stick. Plastic surfaces may cause the seed to rot before it is dry. Put the seed in a warm dry place and let them dry until they break readily, instead of just bending. Store the seed in a cool dry place in an envelope or in a dry mason jar. Some people freeze seed but you really need to know the moisture content to do this as the seed may rupture if the moisture content is too high.

Fermented seed before cleaning

Fermented seed before cleaning

Cleaning seed with a hose

Cleaning seed with a hose

 

Seeds after  cleaning

Seeds after cleaning

If you save only the best seed year after year you will have a true heirloom, totally acclimated to the climate of your garden location and you will have varieties of tomatoes you can call your own. As I said, the process above can be used for cucumber and cantaloupe seeds. You will have to let the fruit of these become very yellow and ripe and save seed from fruit after the vine has died. There are many publications and websites that show how to saves seeds from all possible vegetables grown.

The Seed Savers Exchange has a tutorial on saving tomato seeds here:

http://www.seedsavers.org/Education/Webinar-Archive/#tomato

The author, Nancy Bubel, has written several books on seed starting and saving:

http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Seed-Starters-Handbook/dp/0878577521

Another good book on saving seeds was written by Robert E. Gough:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Complete-Guide-Saving-Seeds/dp/1603425748/ref=pd_sim_b_6

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.