Edible Flowers for your Vibrant garden

These edible flowers for your vibrant garden are flowers that you don’t want to miss planting and eating! Let’s take a look at a few that will make lovely additions to your garden and your plate!

Lavender –  oh sweet relaxing lavender, how I love you!

A little lavender goes a long way in any recipe. The flavour is quite strong so remember to use sparingly.  English lavender is the touted as the best for culinary uses. You should harvest your lavender right before the flowers fully open to get the essential oils while they are most potent.

Put a few dry buds in a sugar jar and use for baking. You can also chop a few of the fresh bud and bake with them by just adding them to the dough. Sprinkle a bit on a salad for a pretty garnish or use it to infuse lemonade or tea.

Check out Bon Appetit Recipe for shortbread here: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/lavender-shortbread-with-fruits-flowers-and-herbs

And genius kitchens recipe for herbs de Provence http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/herbes-de-provence-162668

Chive & garlic Blossoms This pretty, light purple, edible flower has a light onion flavor. Chive blossoms can be tossed in a salad or, more commonly, used to garnish a dish. garlic chives produce edible white flowers with a garlic flavor that is stronger than the leaf itself.

Hello epicurious…. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Goat-Cheese-Scalloped-Potatoes-with-Chive-Blossoms-103329

Food and Wine: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/baby-green-salad-with-chive-blossoms

Squash Blossoms

These are much more popular than I knew and quite versatile! Fried, baked or added to pasta, these blooms are delish! But remember, if you pick the blossom there will be no squash, so don’t pick them all!

Fried: This is one of the most popular ways to prepare squash blossoms. You just batter and fry them. You could even stuff them first with ricotta, fresh mozzarella, and/ or goat cheese, add your favorite herbs  like, basil, thyme or parsley and you will have yourself a side dish that is amazing! Try squeezing a little lemon and salt and pepper over them to finish them off.

Baked: If deep frying turns you off, or you just want to try something different, you could stuff the blossoms with cheese – savory or sweet – and then bake them in the oven. Steaming is another healthy option.  

https://www.thekitchn.com/try-this-recipe-3-cheese-stuffed-squash-blossoms-the-cheesemonger-175303

So there you have it! Edible flowers for your vibrant garden! Why not get started today?

 

Starting your garden!

I am so excited! The lilacs are blooming and that is the earth’s signal for us to start planting our vegetable gardens for the season!

Gardening is a great hobby and gives everyone who plants one access to clean fresh food. You can get my report on how to grow your own herbs that heal by signing up on our contact page.

Growing up on a farm, I learned at a young age to love fruits and veg. I wouldn’t even need to come inside to eat because i would be playing outside in the fresh air and sunshine, eating whatever was around to forage. We had grape vines, a cherry tree, wild strawberries, raspberries and a huge garden where i would often pick beans, peas or pull up a carrot to wash off under the hose so i didn’t have to go back inside.

I still find myself in awe of how something as tiny as a seed will grow into a magnificent plant that nourishes us. I get so excited to see those little seeds grow!

So come on, let’s get growing so you can see for yourself how vibrant food makes a vibrant you!

When deciding to start a garden you will need to start with a plan.

I didn’t do this at first, I just read a bunch of books and went willy nilly at it. I reaped some from the fruits of my labour, but I didn’t get  any extras to store for winter and some plants did not do well at all. 🙁  Now I have a garden journal so that I know where I have planted my veg in the past so I can rotate my crops for better nutrients for the new crops and I plan out where I am going to plant things that benefit each other for this year. Like the three sisters. Beans, corn and squash. These three have been planted for years all over the world. They stabilize the soil and help support each other, not to mention they are delicious.

While a smaller garden means less work and money, it will not produce enough food to sustain you for the winter months. Container gardens are fun and easy to maintain not to mention a necessity for small yards or balconies, but they do require more water and fertilizer.

One item that will ease your workload is to put down a 4-inch layer of mulch. This will reduce the soil’s need for water and helps keep weeds under control. Last years leaves or straw make a great mulch. I use both, and I have very few weeds.

Keeping your yard tools in good condition is going to make your maintenance tasks easier. So go ahead and put them away when you’re done, somewhere they are out of the elements.

Save your seeds at the end of the season; it’s cheaper than buying more and you can trade them with other gardeners. Some communities have seed exchanges where you can swap some of your seeds for new varieties!

Here are six things to consider when starting your garden:

Remember each garden will have a unique process for bed preparation, depending on soil conditions and available tools.

  1. Aerate – Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil (to invite oxygen, water and root growth) without turning it over (to preserve structure and microbiology).  
  2. Weed – All competing plants must be pulled up. Be sure to get all the roots or else they will come back.
  3. Amend – Now is the time to add fertilizer or soil amendments.  adding ash from the fire pit for potassium and higher pH.
  4. Mulch – Apply a layer of mulch of your choice until soil is covered.  Mulch protects soil from moisture loss, weed growth, and erosion from wind and rain.
  5. Plant – Direct seeded tomatoes, beans, peppers and transplant seedlings
  6. Companion planting is another lesson to learn. Multiple species can  grow well together, each contributing to the greater ecosystem.  For instance, legumes and their rhizobia (bacteria in their roots) build nitrogen in the soil.

Starting your own garden is so rewarding! When you are outside in nature you have a real appreciation of where your food comes from and the work it takes to grow.

Have you started your garden? What do you like to plant?

 

National Grilled Cheese day!

National grilled cheese day is Wednesday April 12th this year! What a delicious day it is!

With so many ways to prepare grilled cheese there is a flavor for everyone to savour. From the old to the very young everyone loves a good old grilled cheese.

To celebrate I am posting a few recipes today. There will be a  classic grilled cheese with caramelized onions (my fav)  and a couple of vegan options for all my vegan friends. Let me know how you like your grilled cheese! Enjoy!

Grilled cheese with caramelized onions.

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

4 slices crusty homemade bread or your favorite kind of bread

4 ounces old cheddar grated.

DIRECTIONS

Heat 1 tablespoon in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until melted. Add onions, cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized and rich brown in colour (about 45 minutes) If onions look like they may burn, add 1 tablespoon of water. Transfer onions to a bowl and wipe out skillet.

Return skillet to heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter in the pan. Add bread slices and cook until pale golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cooked-side-up. Divide cheese  and onions evenly between each slice. Cover with additional slice.

Melt 1 more tablespoon butter in skillet and add both sandwiches to the pan. Cook, until deep golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes each side. Serve immediately.

 

Garden inspired Grilled cheese (vegan, dairy and gluten free)

INGREDIENTS

2 slices gluten free bread

¼ cup non dairy cheese (Daiya)

1-2 tablespoons thousand island dressing

Small green onion finely sliced

1/2 avocado, sliced thin

1 large garden tomato, sliced

2-3 leaves spinach

DIRECTIONS

Toast bread, place on cast iron skillet, toast each side for a couple of minutes or until golden brown. Spread one slice with 1 tablespoon thousand island dressing, arrange cheese on the other slice. Arrange green onion on one bread, tomato slices on the other. Warm in skillet for 7-9 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from pan, drizzle another tablespoon of thousand island onto the melted cheese. Top with avocado slices and spinach and the other slice of bread. Enjoy!

And for our next grilled cheese….. Drumroll please…. Something fancy!

This will be the one I try out! I got the recipe from One green planet! Check out the original recipe here: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/fancy-strawberry-balsamic-grilled-cheese/

 

Fancy Strawberry Balsamic grilled cheese. (vegan)

INGREDIENTS

2 slices of rustic style bread, I used sourdough

2-3 slices vegan cheese

1-2 tablespoons vegan butter

Small handful of spinach

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar, or sugar of choice

DIRECTIONS

In a small saucepan, add the strawberries, balsamic, and sugar. Bring to a boil before lowering the heat to medium and stir constantly, breaking up the strawberries with the back of a wooden spoon.

Once the balsamic has reduced, a nice thick jelly will have formed, remove from the heat and set aside.

Add more butter to a frying pan and melt over medium heat. Add your bread and toast one side of each peice of bread to golden brown. Remove and on the toasted side layer the cheese, strawberry balsamic reduction and spinach. On the other side layer another slice of cheese.

Add more butter to the pan and then add the pieces of bread with the strawberry/spinach concoction. Cover the pan with a lid and over low to medium heat, start to toast and watch the cheese melt. After a minute or two add the piece of bread with only cheese on top and press down lightly with a spatula. After another minute,flip the sandwich over and cook another minute until the bread is golden brown.

Remove from the heat and enjoy!

Now for my meat loving friends… I can’t forget them on national grilled cheese day!

 

Pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich

 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups leftover pulled pork

4 slices 12 grain bread

1 cup grated mozzarella

½ cup grated old cheddar

butter

salt & pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS

Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat.

Divide the pulled pork between two of the 12 grain slices.

Top with the cheese then sandwich the remaining bread.

Butter the top and bottom of the sandwich then place in the preheated pan.

Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes per side until the cheese has melted and the sandwich is golden brown and crisp on both sides.

Remove from the pan and serve.

 

Well there you have it! Options for everyone! Which one will you try? Do you have a favorite grilled cheese that you would like to share? I would love to try them out!

 

Raw Food Diet

cleanse-homepageI have been studying and experimenting with raw food for over twenty years.  I first heard of food combining (that is for another day) and raw food back in my early twenties. I ate only raw food for two months. I felt wonderful and really enjoyed some of the cold soups that I made along side of the salads. But let me tell you that the raw food diet has come a long way in twenty years! So many more recipes… and of course the internet is great for accessing all kinds of recipes!

The raw food diet has been around for many years. Our ancient ancestors started out eating raw food, before we mastered the art of fire. So it is something that has been around for generations and gets revisited by many people.

What is the first thing you think of when you think raw food diet? I use to think of  people munching down on salads and thought, Wow, is that all these raw foodists eat? I mean I like salads don’t get me wrong and fresh salad right out of my garden is the best around no doubt, but it does leave me to wonder how does one survive on salad alone?

So why eat a raw food diet? Some people are using a raw food diet to kickstart their way back to healthy eating, while others end up really liking the way they feel when they eat this way, that it becomes a way of life for them.

Personally, I am a curious girl. I started experimenting with this as it seems to be a healthy alternative to the western diet and I am always looking for something new to eat that is different, nutritious and keeps me healthy, and hey adding more veg to your diet is something we can all do to make us healthier.

It makes sense to me that, as humans we started out eating only raw food as we hadn’t mastered the art of fire, but I have to tell you that I love cooking! So I choose to eat a mixed diet of both raw and cooked food.

Is raw right for you? Well, the Ancient Greeks fasted for health and Pythagoras was a vegetarian who fasted for 40 days and lived on raw food consisting of figs, olives, fruit and vegetables.

However, only you will know what is right for you. Listen to your body and go ahead and experiment a little. Read up on all the different foods you can try. There are so many ways to get all the excellent nutrients you need to be a vibrant you!

Are your Seedlings in Trouble?

Green_Seedlings_Growing-

When staring a garden, nurturing your wee seedlings requires attentiveness, love and some patience. To keep your sensitive seedlings safe and healthy you will need to recognize when they are not well. Here are some signs that your wee ones are in trouble and what might be the culprit:

  1. No germination – Causes could be that it is too cold or hot, growing medium dryed out, seeds were planted too deep or not deep enough, seeds are old, not enough light or improperly stored or seeds rotted in the soil. (damping off disease)
  2. Mold or Moss – Causes could be that there is not enough air circulation or too much moisture.
  3. Decaying or falling over– this could be damping off disease. Damping off disease is a horticultural disease or condition, caused by a number of different organisms that kill or weaken seeds or seedlings before or even after they germinate.  This can be caused by the soil or the containers not being sterilized. Before you reuse your containers be sure to sterilize them! Other causes include not enough space for your seedlings to grow, poor air circulation, too much moisture, low light or cool temperatures.
  4. Stunted growth – is possibly caused by poor nutrients in soil or low temperatures.
  5. Spindly growth – could be caused by overcrowding your seedlings, not enough light or too much fertilizer.
  6. Leaves that curl under–  Could be too much light or too much fertilization.
  7. Pale or discoloured leaves – May be insufficient lighting, too much water, not enough nutrients or fertilizer burn.
  8. Poorly developed roots–  Some causes include low temperatures, poor soil nutrients, poor drainage and compacted soil that doesn’t leave enough air for the roots.

These are just a few things to keep an eye out for when you are germinating your wee ones.  Your seedlings need just the right conditions to grow up to be vibrant plants, so get out there and grow!

 

Succession planting

succesion plantingSuccession planting is an important part of gardening if you want to utilize your space to get as much food as possible. You can avoid situations where the whole crop comes in at once and you will have an ongoing supply of veg throughout the season. It is nice to have a steady supply ready for harvest over a long period and this reduces the risk of crop failure by having another crop ready to  come in.

Here is a sample of some crops that I have successfully succession planted:

  • Cucumbers -every three weeks. I like this so i can have fresh cucumbers and have lots to make into pickles
  • Kale – every three weeks. Kale is prolific. As long as you are trimming it, it will continue to grow. It is nice however to have some fresh baby kale throughout the season.
  • Beets– every two weeks. Mmm beets and beet greens!
  • Green beans– every ten days.
  • Melons – every three weeks
  • Sweet corn- every ten days. There is nothing like fresh organic corn in the summer time!
  • Radish– every week.
  • Spinach – every week. When I have a surplus of spinach I like to blanch and freeze it for the winter months.
  • Carrots, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli – twice a season. This way you can have a summer crop and some in the fall to store for winter.
  • Basil – every two weeks. A nice way to store extra herbs are in ice cube trays with olive oil… Freeze and re thaw when needed.
  • Tomatoes and peppers can be planted a couple of times as well if you have the space.

Replacing crops that have finished producing with a new crop in the same place is another way to succession plant. Just be sure that you are planting something that works well for the time of year you are planting. For example, plant peas in the spring then cucumber in the summer and Kale in the fall. This way you will get a wider variety of veg in the same amount of space and your vibrant garden will never be empty throughout the growing season. By varying the types of veg that you grow in each succession you will be preventing the depletion of some nutrients. Crop rotation is important so that you are nourishing the soil which will in turn give you higher yields. Also make sure to feed your soil in between planting to keep production high. I like to add a bit of compost to my soil in between and or sometimes watering it with some compost tea.

I use my google calendar to keep track of when I need to plant my next crop… any calendar or journal will work as well for you to keep track of yours. I like to keep a journal of where i am planting what as well, so that I can utilize succession planting from year to year to ensure good crop rotation.

 

Starting a garden

gardenThere are so many wonderful reasons to start your own garden. Sunshine, fresh air, free therapy and the freshest produce around to name a few!

If you are thinking of starting your own garden you will need to find some space that gets at least 6 hours of full sunlight per day. You will also need your garden to have good drainage. So if you have a backyard space then look for a spot in the yard where no puddles remain after a good rainfall. If you are planning to use container or vertical gardening you will need to ensure that there are drainage holes in your containers.

Once you have found the best spot then you get to ask yourself what you need from your garden. Do you want to make a lot of tomato sauce for the winter, then planting tomatoes will be on your list. Do you like having fresh fruit? Then melons or berries will be on your list.

My goals for this year is to grow, harvest and preserve as much food as I can for my family over the winter. Every year my garden gets a little bit bigger, more things added. This year I will add some vertical space to my garden so that I will get higher yields in the space I have and a fruit tree.

One of the easiest gardens to grow is a salad garden. It can be grown just about anywhere and is a great place to start if you have never tried gardening before. Containers and Vertical gardens are great for this type of garden. All kinds of greens, onions, cherry tomatoes, chilies and beans are some ideal veg for this garden.

And let’s not forget herbs. Herbs can very easily be grown in pots and vertically.

Once you have your location and you have an idea of what you would like to plant then you have to get your space ready. You will need to prepare your soil, whether it is tilling and adding compost or prepping your containers with good quality compost. High nutrient, non compact soil is what you are going to need.

Once you have that ready you can then decide moving forward what you need in terms of compost next year. I love composting as it is my give back to Mother Earth for helping me grow beautiful veg for me and my family. You can check out different kinds of composting here.

Next is choosing your veg. If you are new to gardening then I suggest starting with asking yourself, “what will i eat?”  This is a good guideline on what to plant and if you enjoy eating what you grow you will feel more motivated to keep your garden growing.

There is a wonderful community of gardeners out there that will be happy to share seeds, plants and knowledge with you if you shall seek.  In the community where i live there is a couple of seed exchange programs and plant exchanges that you can swap different plants or seed to get some new varieties in your garden.  This is a great place to exchange some seeds if you get too many in a package to use.

You can start your garden from seed or transplants whichever works best for you. I love starting my veg from seed as I save all my seeds from the year before and i love to watch them grow into fruition.

Let’s talk mulch. Mulch is a must if you want a more low maintenance garden. Mulch deters weeds, keeps in moisture and add vital nutrients as it decays. Mulch comes in the form of leaves, wood chips and old weeds that haven’t gone to seed.

Now for watering, fruits and vegetables need a light water every day or two. Once your plants are mature they will need a couple of inches of water per week, more in hotter regions or well drained soil. I have a rain barrel that I water my gardens with as I don’t want to add chlorinated water from the city to my garden.

You will need to harvest and weed your garden regularly. Some crops mature in as early as 20 days after planting, so check them regularly so that you get your harvest before the squirrels, raccoons, skunks or other critters get them. Weeds will shoot right up after an intense rainfall so be sure to get out there and pull them out. I just leave them on top of the soil as mulch. Most of all have fun starting a garden!

Get out of the Grocery store

farmers-market-local-produce-520What is with the grocery stores these days? It is the place we all go to shop for food, but I find that there is little actual food in these stores. Have you stopped to read the labels on some of the products in there? It’s frightening! For me my rule of thumb is, if I can’t read it, it isn’t food and I am not going to be eating it or feeding it to my family.

With all the marketing and clever disguises the food companies assault us with it is no wonder disease is on the rise. We are no longer eating food we are eating food like substances.

So what are our options?  Some people say that eating local and organic is expensive or that they don’t have time to make meals. Have you calculated the cost of being sick lately? A little prep time once a week goes a long way in terms of eating healthy and getting healthy meals out to your family in a timely manner.

Here are some other options for frugal and healthy shoppers, that want to vote with their dollars and get away from the grocery store nightmare.

  • Join a food co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) -this is a great option a real tangible way to vote with your dollars.  You can signup and receive weekly fresh produce from the people in your community. With co ops, they will require a membership or volunteer time in lieu of payment. Definitely a great alternative to the traditional grocery store.
  • Grow food in your space plant in containers of all kinds, vertical gardening is a wonderful way to utilize space, find a sunny window sill to grow kitchen herbs or turn your backyard into an urban farm!  Not only is gardening cheaper than therapy but you get tomatoes and you know exactly where your food is coming from and what went into it.
  • In season produce– cheaper and nutritionally superior, this is the way to go for healthy and frugal shoppers alike and when it’s local you are helping your community. If you buy too much you can always blanch, freeze, dehydrate or can your extras for the winter months.
  • Buy local– change your shopping habits and buy from your local farmers. You get to know where your food is coming from and get to know and support the people in your community. Find a local farmer here http://croptouring.com/
  • Buy your staples in bulk– buying in bulk quantities reduces the prices to lower or equal to the prepackaged items found in a traditional grocery store.
  • Forage– this is one of my personal favorites as there is so much food/medicine out there that we overlook every day. Lots of greens, berries, fruits and something for every ailment. After all our mother earth is here to sustain us. Don’t forget tho if you are taking from her it is a good idea to give back. I like composting as my giveback to the earth.

With making these few changes we are voting with our dollars and saying no to harmful pesticides, chemicals, gmo’s and artificial processed ingredients. Say no to the traditional way of shopping and get involved with your community at the same time.

 

3 Natural Antibiotics that you can grow in your Vibrant garden!

I don’t know about you but I find it is scary knowing that there are antibiotic resistant super bugs out there. Today i am going to look at what kind of natural antibiotics we can use to help us when we are sick. After all, as Hippocrates said,  “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

GarlicGarlic

Even though garlic is such small vegetable, it packs a huge punch when it comes to antibiotic properties. Garlic also transforms meals into a aromatic, bold and healthy experiences. I have even eaten garlic in ice cream… and it was delicious!

Garlic is a “bulb,” it is a couple of inches in height and diameter and has numerous small separate cloves. You can plant garlic cloves in the fall and cover with straw and it will come up in the spring, it will spiral around and produce beautiful scapes that garlic-scapescan be eaten just like the garlic itself.

When garlic is crushed, chewed or chopped it allows the sulfur containing compounds to mix and create a new compound called allicin. Allicin is very valuable in terms of health benefits. It has been associated with having antibacterial and anticancer properties, along with cardiovascular benefits.

Crushing the garlic and allowing it to sit for 5 – 10 minutes will allow the compounds to interact and create the valuable allicin.

You can purchase dried, powdered and fresh garlic in markets throughout the year, however, fresh is best! And if you are growing it yourself, bundling it and hanging it in a cool spot, it will keep for the year until your new crop sprouts up in the spring!

Echinacea_Prairie_SplendorEchinacea

This is a popular wildflower and garden plant, the purple coneflower as it is also known as, is also a popular herbal products. It has been used to prevent and treat the colds,  influenza and infections. Echinacea is one of the most researched of immunostimulants.

It was also one of the most popular herbs used by Native American Indians. They used Echinacea for coughs, colds, sore throats, infections, inflammations, tonsillitis and toothaches just to name a few.

Some people can experience an allergic reaction to echinacea if they are already allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds or any other members of the daisy family.   

You can also grow this in your vibrant garden and harvest it to make teas, tinctures and compresses.

 

Oregano_02Oregano and the oil of oregano

Oregano… not just a spice for tomato sauce and pizza. This versatile herb has long been used as a medicine as well.

It has been used for respiratory disorders like coughs, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders like heartburn and bloating. Other uses include treating menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections and headaches.

Amazing right? Well that is not all!

Oil of oregano is a staple in my medicine cabinet. It is known to be taken orally for parasites, allergies, sinus pain colds and flu. Just a few drops under your tongue is usually enough to do the trick.

The oil can also be used topically to relieve the itch of insect and spider bites as well as to relieve athlete’s’ foot, canker sores and dandruff.  I like to mix it in carrier oil for massages to relieve muscle pain.

All of this and you can grow it in your own backyard! In the fall you can trim it, bundle it and let it dry, then store it in a glass container to have on hand throughout the winter season!

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