Thursday, July 31, 2014

Plant of the Week: Gentian

This plant has been recognised as the source of a valuable drug since the time of the ancient Egyptians, for there are records of it on. a papyrus found between the bones of a mummy at Thebes, and it was also probably one of the sacrificial herbs which were buried with Egyptians of high rank.

The old name Gentian was given it in early Grecian times in honour of a King Gentius, who experimented with herbs. There are many varieties of garden Gentians, most of them of the mar­vellous blue of the summer sky, though Gentiana lutea, a large Alpine variety, is of soft bright yellow.

As a rule, unfortunately, Gentians are not very easy to establish in gardens.

The Gentian is an annual, and its root (the part required for medicine) is small and short. It has a very bitter flavour, which at once associates it with tonic drugs. Flower-lovers will be glad to know that nearly all the supplies of the drug come from the Yellow Gentian, which grows abundantly in various mountaino­us parts of Europe, so there is little fear that our own sparsely scattered Gentians will be eradicated.

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Artwork: Gentiana Sceptum

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tips from the Farm Kitchen: Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets ought to be re-seasoned at least once a year.

To begin, wash the skillet, making sure to rinse and dry. Melt bacon grease and run it all over skillet, inside and out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place skillet in the oven upside down with a cookie sheet on rack below to catch drippings.

Continued at Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

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Artwork: Cast Iron Skillet

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Garden Markers from Heathcote, Ontario

Now available in Home and Garden Center:
Garden Markers direct from the designer and manufacturer in Heathcote, Ontario.

Based on a small farm in the lovely Beaver Valley area north of Toronto which borders Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment, the producer's goal was to design a strong stake for a home garden -- something that would not break or easily bend. The objective was to have a simple, pleasant appearance and not be distracting from the beauty of the garden.

The garden markers they designed are available as 3-inch, 6-inch and 10-inch stakes. They are reusable, never rust and are two-sided with lots of room for marking.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Rural Delivery: The Northern Spy and Other Edible Antiques

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

A Rhode Island Greening is about as common in the contemporary American kitchen as a butter churn. It's as likely to be used as a woodburning cookstove or an icebox. Few of them have ever been microwaved.

The Northern Spy, once a standby at neighborhood grocers, is rarely seen in today's supermarkets. It's gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and the stagecoach. Just try to find one.

The Greening and the Spy are both apples, two of the finest-tasting varieties ever to touch the American palate. But today they are "antiques," each more than a century old. Each has been replaced by varieties of apple better suited to the mass-production technologies of the modern era: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith.

Continued at... The Northern Spy and Other Edible Antiques

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Artwork: Northern Spy

Home Grown: Planting a Second Crop

It may be midsummer, but you can make it spring again in your vegetable garden. Don't let the summer heat cheat you out of more fresh vegetables. Go for two crops this year.

Gardeners across much of North America generally plant summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, sweet corn, southern peas, snap beans, cantaloupes and eggplant in March and April and finish the harvest around the middle of summer.

Much of the continent has a subtropical climate, however, and that means another round of summer crops can be squeezed in before the first frost in  mid-October or November.

Continued at... Planting a Second Crop

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Artwork: Kentucky Wonder Organic Beans

Growth Spurts: The Big Get Bigger, Whatever the Weather

The size and age of plants has more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers.

A fundamental assumption in most ecosystem studies is that temperature and precipitation directly influence how fast plants can take up and use carbon dioxide. Warm and wet environments allow plant metabolism to run fast, while cold and drier environments slow down metabolism and lead to lower biomass production in ecosystems.

This assumption is mostly true, as countless experiments have demonstrated that temperature and water control how fast plants can grow. But when applied to an entire ecosystems, the assumption appears to be flawed.

continued in Growth Spurts

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Artwork: Pine Sapling Sprouting

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Have You Tried... Gooseberries?

Indigenous to much of Europe and Asia, gooseberries belong to the same genus as currants. They grow naturally in alpine thickets and rocky woods and have been widely cultivated.

Popular with gardeners in the United Kingdom, gooseberries are less familiar in the Americas because federal and state governments outlawed their cultivation to prevent the spread white pine blister rust. The federal ban wasn't lifted until 1966.

Continued at... Gooseberries

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vegetarian Jerky from Bayside, California

Now available with Jerky in Specialty Foods and Beverages:
Vegetarian Jerky direct from the producer in Bayside, California

This unique product is a perfect imitation of real beef jerky, but without the beef.

Vegetarian "Beef-Less" Jerky was originated by Mark Turman of Californiavin 1995. Working at home, he combined special ingredients with a soybean base to come up with the veggie jerky that he began marketing.

He sold the recipe and his jerky business in 1998 to his friend, Eleanor White, who continues to provide a jerky that's preservative free, fat-free and high in protein for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

The vegetarian jerky is available in Hickory Pepper, Cowgirl, Hot Chili Pepper and Teriyaki flavors as well as in combination and sample packs of multiple flavors.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Home Grown: Tips for Growing Tomatoes by the Ton

Water your tomatoes every week, unless you have lots of rain.

Spread a 1-inch-thick layer of manure around the plants two or three weeks after you plant them. Or give your plants a drink of garden tea every few weeks all summer long.

Mulch your plants to keep their roots cool and to keep the tomatoes off the ground.

Look for big, green, ugly tomato worms. Pick them off with your fingers and kill them

Continued at... Tips for Growing Tomatoes by the Ton

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Artwork: Tomato Trellis Twine

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Home Grown: Sun Protection for Tomato Skins

The sun's rays are tough on our faces and arms, but we can wear sunscreen to reduce the damage to our skin. Tomatoes don't have that option. Exposed to bright sun, the fruit can heat up dramatically, reaching temperatures as much as 18 degrees warmer than the surrounding air.

Sunscald damage to your tomatoes depends on their stage of maturity, and the intensity and duration of the heat. The fruit is most susceptible when it is green or when the first pink color begins to show (called the breaker state).

Continued at... Sun Protection for Tomato Skins

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Artwork: Better Boy Tomato