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June 30th, 2010

Sugared Flowers

sugar flower

Take your kids to work day invaded our offices last week, and Organic Gardening entertained the kiddos with a project that combined our love (nature) with the kids’ love (sugar). The kids candied pansies and mint leaves, and most were shocked when they actually enjoyed how they tasted. So we decided to share this little project with all of you; it’s a great way to keep kids busy, but if done delicately it can also be a beautiful pastry decoration (and if you manage to put the two together, free labor!).

Start with a bowl of egg whites, a bowl of white sugar, a paintbrush and any edible flower or plant.

01 egg whites sugar flowers

Brush the egg white carefully onto the leaves or petals of the plant, making sure to cover every part.

02 paint petals egg white

Then dust, dip, or paint the sugar onto the wet leaves or petals.

03 dip or paint sugar

Let dry (most of the kids skipped this step in favor of a sugar rush) and use in any number of creative ways (cakes, drinks, waking up in the morning)

04 let dry

Below are some flowers Christa did at home

sugarflower3sugar flower2

Thanks to Megan and Sean for being great models, and our Photo Director Christa Neu for her pictures

June 29th, 2010

Salmon, salmon everywhere…

Anyone who knows me knows that my first and true love is salmon. I love salmon sushi, salmon pasta, salmon mousse; if it’s made out of salmon, I love it. One of my favorite salmon recipes is my family’s poached salmon which, I kid you not, has three ingredients. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first the not-so-tasty topic of GMO’s. The FDA will soon decide on whether to approve the sale of salmon which has been genetically altered to grow twice as fast as it normally would. nytimes.com has a great article on the topic, and I can’t speak intelligently on the issues of food politics or scientific modification of organisms. The question I would like to pose is much more basic – should we eat this stuff? I love salmon (clearly) and I’m all for inexpensive, healthy food, and theoretically, creating more salmon would lower its price. But should we be altering other living creatures on a genetic level? We’ve been altering plants for years (40% of american corn is genetically modified – The World According to Monsanto), is that more okay than altering fish? I have never walked up to my grocer and asked if any of the produce I was buying was a GMO. Have I helped support an industry that has modified food, and therefore encouraged it to move on to animals? These aren’t questions that can be answered in a blog, but they are questions we should be asking ourselves. We, hopefully, ask our doctors and our pharmacists questions before we put lab-created medicine in our bodies. Why don’t we do the same thing with the food we eat every single day?

Even after all of that, I could still go for some lox. If you are able to get non-farm raised, wild salmon, try my family’s poached salmon recipe, it may be the simplest thing you’ve ever made.

Poached Salmon

Ingredients

1 small salmon fillet

2 Tablespoons fat free mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon dill

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put salmon in a glass baking dish. Spread mayonnaise on top of the fillet, and sprinkle dill to cover the mayonnaise. Fill the baking dish with approx. 1/4 inch of water, and cover with aluminum foil. Put in oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy!

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June 24th, 2010

Basil blight, or the end of my dreams

A report came on NPR last night that left me so terrified I wanted to get out of my car and give it all up, right there and then. It wasn’t a report on the oil spill or the wars, it was a story on a new basil blight that has been appearing over on this side of the country. I’m nowhere near qualified to go into the science or specifics of basil blight, so you can read and hear the NPR report here. But the idea of loosing my precious basil made me want to cry. My basil is such a faithful, trustworthy plant. Everything else in my garden is flirting with producing, kind of looking coy and sprouting a flower here and there. The basil is producing and bringing me loads of gardening pleasure, while the other plants are currently just using me for my water (full disclosure – I would too if I was a plant in this heat wave, but I digress). The report said that cases have been reported in New York, New Jersey and Ohio, amongst other places. Let’s think about this – it’s a disease transmitted through the air, and what’s the air that connects New York, New Jersey and Ohio? That’s right, it’s Pennsylvania! The home to my poor, dear, sweet basil. You should all read the NPR article, it has great information and pictures on what to look for. I especially like the suggestion at the end of the article, that if you find the spores on your basil, harvest what isn’t affected, and start stockpiling pesto. For ideas on how to preserve basil, in case you get hit, check out this article from Organicgardening.com.

isn't it beautiful?

Isn't it beautiful? photograph by Rob Cardillo

June 14th, 2010

Needy Plants

I feel that my revelations in this blog are only news to my fellow newbies and myself. I can just picture all of you experienced gardeners, shaking your head at my wonderment over something you learned 25 years ago. But alas, I suppose I’m here to entertain you, and remind you of when you, too, were a newbie gardener. So today’s revelation: plants are as needy as three-year-old children! They require constant care and attention, and if you leave them by themselves for, say, a weekend, they’re likely to not survive. Now, I would never dare leave a three-year-old alone for 10 minutes, let alone 2 days. But I leave my plants alone all the time, and trust that they will fend for themselves. With the rare exception – basil, which I’m convinced will grow anytime, anyhow, possibly in the desert – my plants are all sickly and sad when I return from a few day’s absence. Now I know that I need to care for my plants, but I didn’t realize that when I planted my garden, I was putting myself in the position of parent for the next five or so months. I’m too young to be a parent. I’m not ready. My life has turned into an episode of “16 & Sprouting.” But with my trustworthy friend Mimi by my side, I think I’ll be able to overcome these co-dependency jitters and raise a garden that will eventually get on okay without me. Or one that will live in the basement and snack on Doritos all day. Here’s hoping for the former.

June 11th, 2010

Ode to a fallen comrade

It was with great sadness last night that I uprooted the first plant to give me joy. It was my pea plant, the one that sprouted and gave me such happiness way back when. This pea gave me the courage to believe in myself and my shoddy gardening skills. It made me think that I, humble little katie, could create life. That I could plant a seed, give it water and watch it grow. But just as I held that little pea’s creation in my hands, I also held it’s death. Yes, with the same hands that gave that little pea life, I took it away. I took it away by leaving for two weeks, by ignoring it while I moved and by foolishly trying to transplant it into my bigger community garden plot, when clearly all it wanted was to stay in its cozy little container and produce pods. My pea plant left behind 7 pods, which were promptly eaten by my fellow gardener. I will never forget you, dear pea plant. May you compost in peace.

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