Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens

frosted kale is sweeter

dino kaleI have a confession to make. About kale. I know it’s a superfood, and healthy people eat lots of it (and love it!!!), but I have a hard time enjoying it. I’ve had some good moments with kale, like when a friend made a salad with baby kale greens, or a batch of kale chips turned out really well. I like it in soups. But for the most part I try to hide it in my food and pretend it’s not there. Because really, I’m not a huge fan of the taste.

Am I being too honest? I’m sure I’m not the only one. Actually, I’m writing this post based on the assumption that there are many other people like me, who might like to know:

 

How to Eat Kale and Love It (More Than You Already Do)

1. Find the right variety. My least favourite kale is Red Russian, so I don’t do a very good job of harvesting it. My daughter feeds it to her rabbit. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I planted so much of it… perhaps it was a moment of weakness for the poor baby seedlings I didn’t sell!

This past year I grew 3 varieties for sale and for my own gardens. I didn’t foresee a run on kale, so I ended up with 2 varieties in my own garden (but that’s ok, I don’t really like it that much….) If you try a few, in a few different dishes, it will help you decide on your favourite.

Red Russian (to me) tastes more bitter than the other varieties. I know people who love it and say it’s their favourite, so I would say it’s a personal taste issue. Dinosaur Kale (also known as Lacinato) is pictured above. It has a more mellow flavour. Curly Kale is the standard variety that most people are familiar with. I’m debating whether to try White Russian next year, having just heard of it recently. There might be other varieties too that I’m not familiar with – feel free to let me know what you’ve tried, I’d love to hear about it.

2. Learn the best way to eat your favourite varieties. Dinosaur Kale is my favourite type to eat in soups. I slice it across the leaf in long thin strips, so they’re like green noodles in my brothy soups. If I’m going to make flavoured kale chips, I’ll use the Curly Kale, since it holds more of the good stuff in its many folds.

There are other methods for eating kale, like dicing it really finely and hiding it in lasagna. Or adding it to stir fries, stems included. Some people like to steam it and eat it with vinegar, or cook it and mash it with potatoes and sausages (hello Netherlands, I’m looking at you…). Baby kale greens in salad are great; I think it’s because they’re still so tender.

3. Wait for it. Kale tastes better after it’s been out in a light frost or two. The cold temperatures signal the plants to convert starch to sugar, so they taste sweeter. Kale is not the only plant that does this; all the members of the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi) and roots (carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, beets) will do the same.

One year we left the Brussels Sprouts out all winter. They were protected by their huge leaves, but still spent time frozen outside. The kids were eating them like candy, because that’s what they were! So sweet, right from the garden.

4. Spice it up! Use it as a vehicle for your favourite spices/dips/sauces and see what happens!

 

Good luck, and let me know how it goes. You can find me on Facebook; feel free to start a conversation.

~Sarah

 

 

kefir: healthy homemade soda pop

kefir compositeThis is a family favourite. It tastes like ginger ale but has all the health benefits of a good probiotic like yogurt or sauerkraut.

Water kefir makes a fizzy drink if you seal it tight during the second phase of fermentation. Adding ginger, lemon, and dried figs has proved to be the best flavour combination at our house, probably because it tastes like ginger ale.

The figs provide the nutrition, sugar, and colouring, while the lemon makes it more acidic (better for fermentation) and the ginger is irreplaceable for authentic flavour.

In this post I’ll share how I make my water kefir. I’ve done some experimenting along the way and discovered what works best for the kefir grains that I have. Some people will do things differently, and that’s ok. According to some of the reading I’ve done, kefir strains can vary slightly and respond a bit differently to different types of sugar and nutrition depending on the composition of the grains. That is, in what ratios the various bacteria and yeast strains occur in the particular grains that different people may have.

No matter the finer details of your water kefir, though, there are some basic rules that apply to all.

How to Make a Great Water Kefir: 3 Basic Rules

1. Use natural spring water. Not tap water, because the chemicals will kill your kefir grains. Not distilled water, because this will also kill the grains; they’ll just die a slower death due to lack of nutrition. There are also natural mineral drops you can buy (ask at a health food store) if you have reverse osmosis or filtered water. I use spring water, but I also add these drops because I want to be sure my grains are getting all the nutrition they can handle. It’s working, because I have way more than I need and I’ve already given a few batches away. They grow if you feed them well!

2. Use white sugar. This was a hard sell for me, because I don’t like having white sugar in the house. I’ve tried brown sugar, I’ve tried using molasses with the white sugar for more nutrition, but this always ends up giving the kefir a bad flavour. So I use white sugar for the initial fermentation. And if you’re wondering about using honey, I would recommend against it due to the natural antibacterial and antifungal properties that honey has. You’ll kill your grains with kindness.

3. Use organic flavourings. During the second phase, when you’re creating your homemade soda pop, you’ll want to be sure that the dried fruit is not treated with oil or sulphates, because that will affect the outcome of your kefir. As well, using organic lemons means you can use them with peels on, which provides a more well-rounded nutrition profile for your grains. If you’re going to all this trouble to make a healthy, tasty drink, you might as well keep it pure.

Recipe for ‘Ginger Ale’ Water Kefir

As I mentioned, our family likes the ginger ale flavour the best, so the instructions here are for this basic recipe. I’ll also include some variations you might like to try.

Ingredients and Materials, Phase 1

1 L mason jar

baby facecloth or cheesecloth to cover opening of the jar

elastic to hold it on

3-4 heaping tablespoons water kefir grains

1/4 cup leftover kefir liquid from previous batch

1/4 cup white sugar

natural spring water, enough to fill jar to 2 inches below the top

mineral drops (optional, but recommended)

Instructions, Phase 1

It’s important that everything you’re using is clean, but there’s no need to sterilize your equipment. Put all the ingredients in the mason jar, stir, cover with the cloth and let it sit on the counter for 2-3 days. You will see bubbles – this is good! Sometimes the grains will get carried to the surface by the bubbles, then fall again when the bubbles pop at the surface. Fun to watch if you’ve got a million other things you could be doing.

Ingredients and Materials, Phase 2

strainer

container to strain the liquid into; I use a glass 4-cup measure with handle and pouring spout

jars that seal; I use the bottles from IKEA that have the rubber seal flip lids (here’s a pic)

1 slice of organic lemon, cut into small pieces (so they fit in the bottle)

1″ square piece of ginger, peeled and diced

1 dried fig, diced

Instructions, Phase 2

Strain the kefir grains out of the liquid. You can then put the grains back in the jar with 1/4 c of the liquid and follow instructions above for starting all over again with Phase 1. If your grains have doubled in volume, you can even start 2 batches!

Pour the strained liquid into the bottle, then add the flavourings above. Seal and place on the counter for 2 days or so.

**Important**

Be sure to ‘burp’ the bottles at least twice a day. If you don’t let out the buildup of gas, there’s a chance that the fermentation could cause the bottle to break. Just flip them open in the morning and evening and close them back up again. I sometimes will do this 3x a day because I really don’t want to deal with exploding glass bottles.

And that’s pretty much it! Have fun, try different flavours, try it plain (yuck), try eating the grains (tasteless but fun and squishy – probiotic gummy bears!!), share it with friends.

Oh ya – alternative flavours…

Our family also enjoys cranberry/lemon/dried apricot. We tried using limes, but found it turned bitter. Maybe if they were peeled they would add a better flavour. If you try it let me know! Prunes are also good for flavour.

We tried adding lemons, apricots, prunes, and molasses (not all at once) to the first phase of fermentation, and basically found that it doesn’t really help. If anything, it makes the flavour worse. Especially the molasses. Blech. However, it is good for feeding the grains because of the nutrients in these foods. So it’s a good idea to do that every once in awhile. I have a few batches going, so I add a dried apricot to one of them and a dried prune to the other. When I strain the grains, I will then mix them up so the more well-fed grains are mixed with the ‘plain’ grains that I didn’t feed. I’m hoping that in this way they will get all the nutrition they need without compromising flavour.

***Edit***

ALSO: Rachael added that kefir doesn’t do well if it’s exposed to metal (unless it’s stainless steel), so a plastic strainer would probably be better than an old rusty metal one. Thanks Rachael for reading this over and checking it for me!

~Sarah

Credits

Thanks to Rachael Ward, of Bailey’s Local Foods, for sharing her water kefir grains with me! It’s been a fantastic (and yummy) learning experience for me and my family.

I started my journey by reading the Yemoos Nourishing Cultures website – the FAQ is very detailed and will likely cover any questions that you still have after reading this post. You’re welcome to ask me questions, but you can also head over to their website to see what they have to say.

using a cold frame in your garden

cold frame

 

Happy Autumn! The days are getting shorter and colder and many gardeners are starting to tidy up their gardens in preparation for winter. If you have a cold frame, however, you can extend your season with cool-weather crops, protecting them from frost in their own little mini-greenhouse bubble.

The ideal time to prepare for growing in cold frames is August, because you can make a space in your garden, set it up, and sow some seeds before the temperatures start dropping. It’s not too late for baby greens, though! And there are some very cold-hardy greens that are a bit unusual but definitely deserve a chance if you’re interested in growing during cold weather.

Why Build a Cold Frame?

A cold frame can protect plants from frost and colder temperatures so you can continue to eat from your garden, sometimes even when there’s snow on the ground. In fact, I read a book recently by Niki Jabbour, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, that explains how to grow your own food 365 days a year! The author lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, where it snows and gets really cold in the winter, so she makes good use of cold frames. Her book is my main information source for this post. I recommend reading it if you are interested in extending your growing season.

 

Cold frames can be used in spring as well, to get a head start on the growing season. Many cool weather crops thrive in a cold frame before the garden is even ready for the tomatoes. That’s a topic for another post, though.

 

 

How to Build a Cold Frame

 

A few years ago I came into a pile of old windows, and hubby build me some frames that fit the windows. They were triangular cold frames, built so the windows rested on the frames. The windows could be propped open with stakes, or I could slide them across the frames so they were partially open. When the temperatures were nice I could take the windows right off and lean them against the end of the frame. You can see these frames in the photo above.

 

There are lots of plans online for building cold frames, so I won’t go into too much detail here. You’ll need to figure out what works for you. Some people use straw bales and put windows on top. Super easy, no carpentry skills required!! Others use plastic instead of glass, and pvc tubing instead of wood. It’s really about personal preference. I’m more interested in what to grow in the cold frame, so I’ll let you research the building for now. If you find any good plans, let me know and we can share them with everyone else.

 

Here’s an example of cold frame plans: http://www.almanac.com/content/cold-frames-gardening

 

 

What Can be Planted in a Cold Frame

 

Due to the cooler temperatures and less available sunlight, fruiting plants will not do very well in a cold frame. So you’re basically looking at greens and more greens for your fall salads. Since it’s nearing the end of September, options are further limited. Next year we’ll need to start thinking about this in July, prepare/plant stuff in August, then harvest in the fall and winter for the crops that are more ‘cool’ weather instead of ‘cold’ weather. The following are the hardiest and will handle the colder temperatures if they’re planted right now.

 

Arugula can be planted now, and if you keep it in a cold frame you’ll still be eating it when there’s snow on the ground. If you like a milder flavour, though, you should plant a few batches. As the plant gets older the leaves get more bitter.

 

Claytonia can also be planted at this time. It’s a green that is similar to spinach in flavour, and grows best in cool weather. When it flowers, you can eat the flowers and leaves together without any noticeable decrease in flavour.

 

If you like baby Kale, you can sow that in a cold frame right now too. The young tender leaves are great for salads, as I discovered once when a friend brought a salad that was made more of kale than lettuce! It tasted fantastic.

 

Mache, or corn salad, can be sown in a cold frame every 2 weeks until mid-October! It’s a good way to get fresh greens in winter. It will stay alive throughout the cold season with some protection.

 

 

General Guidelines for Growing in a Cold Frame

 

1. Don’t fry your plants. This may seem like a silly guideline, but it’s not. The cold frame will get really hot if the day is sunny. You might need to prop it open just a crack, to allow extra heat to escape, even on a cold day. So keep an eye on your plants, especially when it’s sunny outside.

 

2. For additional warmth at night, you can cover the frame with a foil blanket (one of those emergency blankets) and/or an old comforter.

 

3. Don’t expect vigorous growth when the weather is cool. Things will not grow as fast as they do in the summer due to less available sunlight and colder temperatures at night.

 

 

What Next?

 

Thank you to Susan for suggesting this topic. I’m open to suggestions for other topics, so please use the contact form or facebook group to let me know if you have any other requests!

 

~Sarah

 

 

greenhouse tour 2013

greenhouse is full

 

So far our little home-build greenhouse is doing really well in its first year. I’m happy with the insulating factor and how well the expensive automatic vents are working. I’m heating it with a heater that fits on top of a BBQ propane tank, mostly on the low setting. It’s hard to believe but the greenhouse is now FULL and I need to build a shelf for the plants that are not yet planted but will need to have a place here.

 

I like to snap photos on cloudy days, they seem to turn out better for me somehow, so I took a few this morning as I was inspecting the troops.

 

I hope you enjoy the tour.

 

red brandywine tomatoes

 

Tomatoes! Lots of tomatoes. These ones are Red Brandywine.

 

bronze amaranth

 

Bronze Amaranth. Striking decorative plant that is also edible… the young leaves and the seeds.

 

fernleaf dill

 

Fernleaf Dill. Grown more for the leafy parts than the seed heads, so it’s great for fish and soup and other dilly dishes.

 

marjoram

 

Marjoram. Doing very well! This is sometimes referred to as a mild form of Oregano. I think it has its own flavour, but it does remind me a bit of Oregano. It’s a tender perennial, so it needs some help to overwinter.

 

indian lemongrass

 

Indian Lemongrass. This tray was in the fridge for a month, with seeds in, to help them germinate. It worked well and they’re doing great now in the greenhouse. This tastes great in tea or in stir fries.

 

black hungarian pepper

 

Black Hungarian hot pepper. A favourite that people have requested since I first started growing them a few years ago. They look like a dark purple Jalapeno, and have the same type of heat. The flavour is more mellow, though, especially if you let them ripen to a dark red.

 

bean flowers

 

The beans I grew indoors are still flowering and producing beans! They’re pretty happy in the greenhouse, although it was a bit of a shock for them at first, adjusting to the increase in light levels.

 

wild asparagus

 

Last but not least – the wild asparagus has been transplanted and is doing well.

 

How are your seedlings growing?

 

Share pics in the Kitchen Garden Club, or like the Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens Facebook page to stay connected.

 

Happy planting!

~Sarah

growing basil

lime basil

 

Basil likes it hot, but slow; don’t be too eager to get it into the garden. I learned this the hard way, with plants that were either sunburned from introducing them to the outside too fast, or plants that were frostbitten from the very lightest of frosts that didn’t faze the other plants one bit.

 

It’s a very sensitive plant, in other words. It responds quickly to moisture and heat, germinating in about 2-4 days if it’s warm enough. It gets a sunburn from spring sunshine if it’s outside too long for the first time. It can sense frost before the frost even arrives, shrivelling up in horror at the impending doom.

 

Maybe a slightly neurotic plant, but it has a huge following. It’s not that hard to grow once established in the garden. Pesto and tomato sauces are a common use for it, but it also does well in salads and on gourmet pizzas. Treat it well and you will have plenty of opportunity to try many delicious dishes.

 

Here’s a printable info sheet about growing basil (PDF) for you:

 

Growing Basil SKG

 

~

 

Here are the varieties I’m growing this year, maybe you might like to try some too. It’s not to late to start them indoors!

 

Genovese: Classic pesto basil.

 

Cinnamon: Pink flowers, purple stalks, and a cinnamon scent. Sweet and spicy.

 

Lemon: My all-time favourite. Delicious citrus scent and taste.

 

Lime: Fantastic flavour. Makes a nice light pesto and goes well with Mexican food, especially if you’re not fond of cilantro.

 

Purple Ruffles: Does double duty as an edible AND ornamental. Very pretty in the garden as an accent plant, with good flavour for purple pesto.

 

Thai: Green leaves with purple stems and flowers. Spicy flavour.

 

Holy Red and Green: This one, I grew for the name and the foliage. It’s kinda fuzzy, which surprised me at first. But it has a mellow flavour and looks pretty in the garden too.

 

Are you growing some different basils this year?

 

~

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Growing Herbs in Containers, I’m giving a workshop at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery on May 25. You’ll plant your own container full of herbs (included in the price), and take home recipes too.

 

Link to workshops at KWAG

 

There are only 5 spots left, last I heard, so sign up now if you’re interested.

 

~

 

Happy gardening,

 

~Sarah

 

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.

 

**

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.