6 Weeks Later…

Happy birthday, seedlings!

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Our little tomatoes are six weeks old today, and they’re looking strong and healthy. Their main stems are a little squiggly, but we only lowered the seed tray so they could extend their growth upward yesterday. If all goes well, these little Romas and Italian heirlooms will be in the ground by the time the next six weeks rolls around!

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Our cayennes came up in good time, but our saved seed from our jalapeños and bell peppers last year never had any luck. We purchased a new batch from Botanical Interests and they’ve taken off with gusto. Underneath the plastic wrap (my mini, DIY greenhouse cover to lock in moisture until sprouting) are germinating butternut squash, cucumbers, and spaghetti squash. I’ve fallen in love with winter squash, which really can last the winter under the right circumstances. What other kind of perfect crop is there, that only requires growing, watering, and then a cool, open-aired and dark spot to lay low for the winter? No preserving, no processing required. Easy!

Speaking of birthdays, my new project is turning 3 days old – hard cider! I’ve no clue how this will turn out – I know that you are supposed to use a wine fermentation yeast packet to have best luck, but I read that bread yeast can make for a tasty brew as well. It was easy to set up – acquire apple juice without preservatives (these will kill the yeast) and a packet of yeast! This has to sit for at least 2-3 weeks before I can pour siphon off the yeast and then ought to rest for another 2-3 weeks to “age.” Apparently, there is a lot of fun to be had with trying different yeasts, honey, fruit mixtures, sugars, you name it. I’m looking forward to kicking off my summer break with a sip of my own homemade hard cider!

If you want to see the recipe and thoughts I’m following, take a peek here and let me know what you think. I’ll be sure to keep you updated! Cheers!

Juice Blend

My students are thoughtful, sweet, and love to share everything with me… including their germs.

I’m home sick today with a killer sinus bug. I’ve had a terrible sinus headache for two days, ran a low fever two nights ago, and I’ve been so congested that my head feels like it weighs 50 pounds. (Ironically, we watched a Korean drama with my mother-in-law on Saturday night where a serial killer used a kettle ball to club his victims in the head – I’m not so sure whose headache is worse at the moment…)

Last summer, my husband and I got a juice kick – we bought a $150 juicer and started researching new recipes and new ways to get extra vitamins and supplements in our diets. Evan likes to quote something he read that says our carrots are nothing like our grandpa’s carrots in terms of nutrition – our soil is less healthy, plant varieties and species are limited, and we ship our products across the globe (the longer the food goes unpreserved – frozen, canned, you name it – the more nutrients it loses). Today I was reminded that the juicer is a great way to help give me a boost of extra vitamins and nutrients that can help my body when it’s not at its fighting best.

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Nothing like the blood of my enemies to cure a cold. (Thank you, beets, for your ability to turn all juices into a ‘True Blood’-themed drink.)
My juice had the following ingredients, pictured below, plus a carrot: 2 oranges, two stalks of celery, an extra large carrot, an apple, a beet, and around an inch of ginger. It made about 16 ounces of juice, not counting the extra foam. Beets have a tendency to take any juice and turn it instantly dark red – and it sometimes shows up in your own waste later, so don’t be alarmed!
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Also, did you know that you can cut an ‘X’ into an orange and it helps the peeling process immensely? No more getting clumps of rind stuck under your nails or pulling off little bits at a time – it helps get your peel started a little more smoothly.

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Some argue that juicing adds a lot of sugar to your system – that is true, but I am willing to bet my system can handle natural sugars from plants ten times more easily than processed sugar and other added-sugar treats. Plus, let’s be honest – if I wanted some fruits and vegetables to snack on, I would have sliced up maybe two stalks of celery and added peanut butter, eaten maybe one whole orange (definitely not the two above), and maybe half an apple, also with peanut butter. I wouldn’t have gnawed down on a piece of raw ginger or an entire beet. But juicing let me bypass all the extra peanut butter I would’ve added and allowed me to bulk up on addition servings of vitamins and minerals.

Another argument against juicing – “You’ll just pee out most of those vitamins!” Yep, not all that I throw at my immune system will stick, but it’ll do much better than the organic bean burrito I was eyeing in the freezer. (Beans, cheese, and tortillas sure are delicious and filling – and add some good protein and carbs – but I seriously doubt that supports my immune system the way this cup o’ deliciousness did.

Juicing is also a great way to help get rid of those produce odds and ends – you can throw almost any of your veggies or fruits through your juicer (after cutting off the pieces you wouldn’t eat, like stems or rinds) and add an orange or apple or two to sweeten things and end up in good hands. I’ve juiced the end of a box of spinach that’s about to turn, parsley, stray carrots, a squishy pear, overripe strawberries, floppy celery – you name it! Do be cautious with garlic, onions, or ginger – these get potent FAST, so I’d generally suggest just sautéing your garlic and onions separately and maybe adding a tad of ginger at a time to your juice. Then, don’t forget to add the juicing remains to your compost – all that chopped up & processed fiber will break down quickly and does wonders for our garden and soil health.

Cheers!