Monthly Archives: March 2013

growing parsley

baby parsley

 

Parsley is one of the key ingredients in that famous cure for the common cold: chicken soup. It is slow to germinate but grows well even in colder temperatures once it’s sprouted.

 

I’ve put together an info sheet for Parsley, as it’s one of my favourite herbs to grow and preserve.

 

Growing Parsley SKG

 

When it’s ready for harvest, I put it in my dehydrator for a few hours. When it’s dry, it gets stored in glass jars. Or big ziplock bags, whatever is handy at the moment. Glass is preferable but sometimes life is hectic and messy and not as well-organized as the photos on Pinterest.

 

I use parsley in chicken or turkey soup. Bone broth is a very healthy way to get calcium, particularly if you are lactose intolerant. After roasting the chicken or turkey, I boil the bones with parsley, bay leaf, sage leaf, and thyme. I usually let it simmer for at least a few hours on low. Sometimes all day, if I have the time.

 

When the boiling is done, I strain the broth, putting everything in the green bin. This way I don’t have to worry about kids eating the bay leaves or freaking out about the limp leafy stuff in their soup. The flavour has already been imparted and the broth is ready to sit all night in the fridge.

 

In the morning, I pick off the hard fat on top and strain the broth through cheesecloth (actually, it’s an old curtain) so there are no little grungy bits for anyone to complain about either. From there I add celery, carrots, kale (minced), and whatever else is in the fridge and asking to be dropped in soup.

 

In the garden, parsley takes care of itself. It doesn’t mind being cold and wet, unlike some other heat-loving herbs, so it’s a good candidate for a shadier location if you’re working with limited space. Another thing I love about parsley is how easy it is to collect the seeds. There are instructions in the info sheet above; just follow the link to a printable PDF. The parsley in the photo above was grown from seeds I saved myself. Parsley will flower in its second year of growth, providing you with lots of seeds for the following year but not very many greens for preserving. I usually grow another new batch of parsley while still allowing last year’s batch to grow and flower. It comes up early in the spring – always a welcome sight in the garden after a cold winter!

 

If you’d like to learn more about growing and cooking with herbs, particularly in containers, you might want to attend the workshop I’ll be leading at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery on May 25. See link below for details.

 

Herb Container Gardening

 

Thanks for reading. If you have any other great ideas for parsley, please let me know! You can share in a few ways:

 

1. On the Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens Facebook page.

 

2. In the Kitchen Garden Club – by SKG Facebook group.

 

3. Use the contact form to email me.

 

Happy Spring!

~Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

determinate vs indeterminate tomatoes

silvery fir tree tomato

 

If you’ve been poring over seed catalogues, trying not to drool on the photos of tomatoes, you may have noticed that tomatoes can be classified according to whether they are determinate or indeterminate. If you’re wondering what this means, read on.

 

It’s actually fairly simple. Tomato plants that are indeterminate will keep growing until hit by frost. These are the tomato types that are grown year-round in greenhouses. They can grow to enormous heights – a friend who worked in such a greenhouse said they can get 15 or 20 feet high, pruned and trellised on twine. They use ladders to harvest them! In the home garden, though, they will most likely die at the end of the season, after their sprawling vines have taken over a good portion of your garden. You’ll want to stake these ones, unless you want them vining through your beans and lettuce.

 

Determinate tomato plants have a set life cycle; they grow, they flower, they fruit, they die. If you want to grow tomatoes in a pot on your patio or balcony, look for determinate types. My favourite is in the photo above: Silvery Fir Tree. The tomatoes are a normal-looking slicing tomato, bright red and tasty. The leaves, however, are the most delicate, feathery, pretty-looking tomato leaves. The photo below shows a comparison between normal leaves and Silvery Fir Tree leaves.

 

regular and silvery fir tree tomato leaves

 

Last year I put together an info sheet about growing tomatoes. If you’d like a refresher, please follow the link below for a printable PDF. The blog post is here.

 

Growing Tomatoes SKG

 

I’ve got some seedlings started now. They’re about 2 inches tall and wanting to be transplanted into bigger pots already, since they’re tired of sharing space. I planted the seeds in batches together, rather than in containers that would keep the individual seedlings apart. Tomatoes are easy enough to separate, but I need to transplant soon or the roots will be a tangled mess.

 

Some of my favourites, along with Silvery Fir Tree:

 

Chocolate Cherry (indeterminate): My kids request these EVERY year since we first grew them. A very tasty tomato that has darker patches.

 

Snow White Cherry (indeterminate): A pale yellow cherry tomato that has mild flavour. This year I’ll be planting them beside ‘Black Prince’ …. just because.

 

San Marzano (indeterminate): A paste tomato that is just about DRY inside when you cut it open. Cooks down into sauce very quickly.

 

New ones for me to try this year:

 

Humph (indeterminate): Awesome name, isn’t it? I can’t remember the description but I knew I had to have these. We’ll see how they turn out.

 

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge (indeterminate): Just what it sounds like, I’d imagine. Another one I just had to try.

 

Eros (determinate): I’m a sucker for names. Tomatoes used to be called ‘Love Apples’…. so… you know… had to try this one.

 

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Happy growing! Let me know what you’re up to. Join the Kitchen Garden Club on Facebook, or like the Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens page to stay in the loop. OR get these posts via email: sign-up link is to your left.

 

Cheers,

~Sarah

growing strawberries

strawberries

 

Strawberries are the most rewarding fruit to grow at home. They are hardy to zone 3 (BRR!) and grow on their own in the spring, producing sweet yummy fruit by the end of June.

 

I would recommend bird netting if you’re going to grow strawberries, because there are many critters who would love to get their paws or beaks on your strawberries. It’s available in garden centres and hardware stores, but I’ve also found it in the dollar store, so check a few places if you’re interested in getting the best deal.

 

I’ve put together an info sheet for you, partly from my own experience and partly with the help of an awesome Strawberry website.

 

Growing Strawberries SKG

 

If you give them a try, let me know!

 

~Sarah

 

growing peppers

candlelight pepper plant

 

Peppers are such a rewarding plant to grow yourself. Unique varieties of hot peppers and sweet peppers add new flavours to old dishes, and they also give a gardener something else to talk about. (As if we didn’t go on and on enough already!) Here’s an info sheet to help you grow your own:

 

Growing Peppers SKG

 

As always, you are welcome to join theKitchen Garden Club – by SKGon Facebook, in order to connect with other food gardeners. We ask questions, answer other questions, show’n’tell our plants and harvests, and share useful info with each other. It’s been amazing to be part of this wonderful community of garden-loving, food-growing people.

 

This year I’m planning to grow some interesting pepper varieties. They’re already seeded and incubating in my germination chamber (new and improved this year, thanks to some helpful input from a member of the Kitchen Garden Club).

 

Jalero Jalapeno: Like a Jalapeno, but ripens from pale yellow to red instead of green to red. Also has a more mellow, smoky flavour. I’m planting the seeds I saved last summer. They’re special because I didn’t have a normal garden last summer. Our family left our house in Kitchener on July 23 and didn’t move into our new home in Hamilton until August 30. My garden was a gypsy garden, travelling from campsite to campsite with us for 6 weeks of the summer. Not everything in the garden made it to Hamilton, so I’m happy that these peppers survived and provided seeds for me to use this year.

 

Thai Red: Awesome little hot pepper plants produce a LOT of little hot peppers. They are just right for pickling; one per jar gives a nice bite to dills. I got in trouble from my sister because I didn’t grow them last year. So, they’re on the list and planted this year already! I’m looking forward to some spicy dills.

 

FISH: These peppers are on my list every year. Also hot peppers. They are so pretty as plants, even before the peppers come. The foliage is variegated, so it looks like an ornamental garden plant. THEN it flowers and produces pretty peppers that are variegated too! They ripen from green/white stripes, to orange, purple, a rainbow mix, then finally to red and then they’re done. You can eat them at any point, or just let them stay on the plant and watch the show as they ripen. So pretty and fun. And a great addition to hot sauce.

 

Garden Sunshine: Here’s a sweet pepper. Ripens from yellow to orange to red. Another beautiful garden addition that gets sweeter as it ripens. You can eat it at any point, but I like them red.

 

Tequila Sunrise: A new favourite from last year, also part of the gypsy garden. It’s a sweet pepper that is shaped like a hot pepper, thin and pointed at the end. My kids enjoyed picking them out of the garden at our campsites and eating them for breakfast.

 

Corno Di Toro: Something new I’m trying this year. I bought some HUGE Italian seed packets and this was one variety. A sweet pepper, I think – that’s what ‘giallo’ means, right? – but shaped like the horn of a bull (again with the assuming – d’ya like how I ‘read’ Italian?). And they’re yellow. Should be fun!

 

What pepper varieties are you growing this year?

 

Cheers,

Sarah

 

seed starting

baby cukes

 

Happy March! Today is the day I will start many different kinds of tomatoes and peppers and perennial herbs. You still have time to get organized and start your own. Need some pointers? An older post on the SKG resources page has a printable info page.

 

http://sarahskitchengardens.com/start-seeds-indoors/

 

Most of the people I’ve talked to over the years have run into trouble with lack of heat, not enough light, or some combo of the two that proved to be deadly for their seedlings.

 

It’s important to keep seedlings warm, even if you’re keeping the rest of your house at lower temperatures to save on heating costs. Plants can’t put on another sweater like you can, and if you want healthy plants they really need to stay warm.*

 

…Unless you want to grow kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other members of the brassica family. They can survive a light frost outdoors, so they should be able to handle an eco-friendly refrigerator home.**

 

As for light: I’m finding that even with my super amazing south-facing windows here in our new house in Hamilton, I need to supplement with artificial light. It makes for stronger seedlings. They’ll be less likely to grow spindly and tall if they’re getting extra lighting indoors.

 

Another thing that will help make your seedlings stronger and more sturdy (and prevent damping off!) is to turn on a fan at the lowest setting and aim it right at them. It’s kind of like lifting weights for them. Their stems will grow more of the tough fibres that help keep them from falling over or breaking.***

 

Check out this printable sheet for more information. If you have any questions please contact me, I’m happy to help. And if you can think of anyone who could use this information please share the garden love.

 

Happy planting!

~Sarah

 

Notes

 

*I create a little ‘germination chamber’ for starting my seeds. To see pics please join the Kitchen Garden Club – by SKG on Facebook. All are welcome! I just posted photos about this, PLUS you get to meet lots of other people who are growing their own food. In this group we ask questions, help each other out, and have show-n-tell regularly.

 

**I had a refrigerator house when we lived in Kitchener. I was never warm in winter, even with layers. Our new house is half-n-half. The basement requires long underwear and the upstairs requires stripping to shorts and t-shirt. Not sure if that’s an improvement or not.

 

***Please note: They should be twitching slightly, not bent over as if in a hurricane. Think gentle breeze, not gale-force wind. Move the fan farther away from your plant babies if the lowest setting is overkill.