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Posts tagged with Fruits

Take advantage of a low-maintenance workhorse: How to grow your own potatoes

In the realm of potatoes, a little work goes a long way.

In the realm of potatoes, a little work goes a long way. by Sarah Henning

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I garden. Basically, the takeaway is this: I do it because it's important to be connected to our food.

And though the last two growing seasons have been horrible for farmers and home gardeners alike, I still believe it's crucial to try if you can.

This weekend, I put my time and effort where my mouth is and worked in the garden with the kiddo to plant for the first time this season. We'd readied our three garden beds the week before, giving me the perfect canvas to plant my two garden workhorses: potatoes and onions.

Last year, I didn't get a chance to do potatoes or onions because of some scheduling issues with my time and Mother Nature, and we really felt it. Because of the heat, almost all of our other crops barely yielded a thing and because of timing, we didn't have either of our high producers to fall back on. Not cool at all.

This year I wanted to have a potato crop, even if I was going to be out of town on St. Patrick's Day. Though old farmers' tales say you should plant potatoes on St. Paddy's, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it. But I really do believe you can be late with potatoes and be perfectly fine. I've had two great potato crops — one planted right around St. Paddy's and one planted late, and they've both been terrific.

And by "terrific," I mean not only in the sense that you get a lot for very little time and effort. You also are growing one of the most no-nonsense plants available and if you have kids, they will love digging for the final product.

Our first potato haul a few years ago was pretty great, even the toddler can see that.

Our first potato haul a few years ago was pretty great, even the toddler can see that. by Sarah Henning

If you're up for it, I'll share my method for growing them. It will take you about two hours the whole week and you'll be good until late summer.

First, I grow mine in a raised 4x8 bed, under straw. I believe this method works if you're tilling straight into the ground, but you might want to check around to make sure there's not a better method for you.

What you'll need are some seed potatoes (available at pretty much any farm or garden store, plus some grocery stores). Look for ones that have several eyes. Take them home and cut them into smaller chunks, 1 to 2 inches across. Each chunk needs to have a couple of good-looking eyes.

Next, let them "cure" by placing them on cookie cooling racks for a day or two (up to a week).

My potatoes, curing.

My potatoes, curing. by Sarah Henning

When you're ready to plant, buy a bail of hay/straw, get out your gloves and trowel and get to work. I like to keep my potatoes in a single bed because it's easiest. You will want to dig holes at least six inches deep, and about a foot apart. Place the potatoes, eyes up, in each hole.

Eyes up to the sky.

Eyes up to the sky. by Sarah Henning

If you think you have more potato chunks than holes, just get picky about which ones you put in first. Ones with eyes that are already sprouting are the best, so they should get top priority.

Next, cover the potatoes with dirt, and then cover with as much hay as you can mound on. You're going to want to go for eight to 12 inches, on top.

The finished product, for now.

The finished product, for now. by Sarah Henning

Then, water them a bit (not too much!) and let them be. The only thing I do is add a bit more straw once it starts to get matted down, because you want to make sure your potatoes are completely hidden from the sun at all times.

Other than the straw, your only job is to watch the vines poke up. They'll grow, get tall and flowery and then they'll start to wilt and die. When the vines are dead, you can start digging for treasure right around the base of each dead vine. You should have a bunch of potatoes of varying sizes with each vine.

It really is that easy.

I'm not a garden expert by any means, but this is what works for me. You might Google around and find people who do something similar, or people who don't do it this way at all.

No matter how you do it, it's worth a shot. High yield for low investment. Plus you grew it.

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The case for gardening, even if Mother Nature doesn’t always agree

Our cherry tomatoes did great even with the bad weather the past two years. Good thing, too, because they are the only tomatoes the kid will eat.

Our cherry tomatoes did great even with the bad weather the past two years. Good thing, too, because they are the only tomatoes the kid will eat. by Sarah Henning

I might not get to celebrate spring break, you know, being old and all, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited about it.

Not only does it mean the unofficial start of warm weather (hear that, snow!?) and March Madness but also means that spring is here. Or almost here. Or close enough that we can all start thinking about gardening.

For months, I’ve been talking with a part-time farmer friend who is growing several types of kale this year. With each little update on this process (picking seeds, ordering seeds, starting seeds indoors), I’ve gotten more excited about the coming growing season. I’ve had a garden for three years — three raised beds plus a pretty good-sized container garden on my deck — and it’s been fun, though not necessarily highly productive.

If I’m being honest, the last two summers have been a kick in the teeth as a gardener. Plants bolted. The bugs hit. Blossom end rot did in many tomatoes. Poor planning left some plants gasping for nutrients. My blueberries and raspberries were crushed by the heat, as were many of my container herbs — I’ve been able to kill three “unkillable” mint plants every single year (yes, the body count is at nine). Melons have never, ever thrived for me. Oh, and it turns out I hate weeding.

That entire paragraph probably makes you wonder if I have a black thumb or why I’d ever want a garden in the first place, especially since I apparently suck at it.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think I suck at it (the weather had a lot to do with my kill rate) and I actually do find it fun.

There’s something downright enjoyable about being able to go out and harvest what you put into the ground/raised bed/pot. And 100-degree temps, a hatred of weeding and bad luck aren’t going to change that.

Because, here’s the thing: I think it’s incredibly important to get reconnected with where our food comes from.

On the hunt for tiny strawberries.

On the hunt for tiny strawberries. by Sarah Henning

Growing up, we had a garden, but I only really remember harvesting tomatoes. And at the time, I don’t think I totally “got” how good a fresh tomato was. It was just a tomato that appeared in our backyard after way too frickin’ long.

In fact, not only do I think I didn’t get it but I also think I didn’t really appreciate that homegrown food at all. It was a novelty, and the big, smooth vegetables sans imperfections from the grocery store seemed more like “actual” food to me.

It’s silly to think about now, but I don’t know how I could’ve been so disconnected. And I don’t want my son to ever feel that out of touch with what he puts in his mouth.

It’s not that my parents didn’t try to interest me in our family garden, it’s more that the food culture was very different back then. We were in the middle of a shift from agricultural awareness to total blindness and back again — at least in my opinion and experience as a child of the ’80s.

Today, we have the advantage of a resurgence in restoring some awareness of our food chain, not only where we buy it from, but where food comes from in general.

And I want to keep that earth-to-table connection as plain as possible in my own kitchen, for my benefit and my family’s.

My son knows more about how foods grow and come to be than I ever did at his age, and I’d like to make sure that knowledge stays with him. Because he helps in the garden, he tends to try new things just because he helped pick them. He doesn’t like everything, but there’s a better chance he’ll try something if he gets to harvest it himself than if he helps me pick it out at the store.

He's got his picking tub and he's not going to let go.

He's got his picking tub and he's not going to let go. by Sarah Henning

So, I’m planning my three-season garden for a fourth straight year. I’ve learned I grow some foods rather well (potatoes, Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes) and some plants rather poorly (see my litany of murdered plants above), but I grow them, and that’s what matters.

My planned plants for spring, summer and fall are as follows. As for which will survive, your guess is as good as mine.

Potatoes (several types)

Onion sets (white, yellow, red)

Garlic

Shelling peas

Bush and pole beans

Strawberries (on their third year)

Blackberries (to replace my murdered berries)

Kale (black and curly)

Swiss chard

Spinach

Beets

Tomatoes (black krim, Cherokee purple, sungold and sun sugar)

Peppers (Italian and various bell)

Herbs: basil (various), mint (various), sage (various), rosemary (various), thyme, parsley, marjoram, dill, garlic chives, cilantro (which I hate, but comes in handy)

And anything else that ends up looking intriguing (which always happens)

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A couple of green things to try along with your green beer on St. Paddy’s Day

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day.

Another green beverage for you to try on St. Patrick's Day. by Sarah Henning

OK, I might be health nut, but I'm not crazy. I know some of you are going to roll your eyes at my upcoming suggestion to try to include as many green foods in your diet as possible on St. Patrick’s Day.

Yeah, I know it’s all about green beer, and that’s that. But you can’t just have green beer all day. Well, maybe you can, but you’ll feel a bit green if you do.

Here’s my suggestion: Try to fit in a few extra green things on Sunday.

Even if you do OD on green beer, you can at least feel like you didn’t lose a whole day’s worth of healthy eating. It’s all about balance, people. Balance your green beer (or pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, and whatever the heck else green dye ends up in) with some things that are naturally the right hue, and you might not feel half bad coming Monday.

Your head still might pound if you went overboard on the green beverages, but at least you’ll know you made an effort.

If green beer isn’t your thing and/or you have kids, maybe make a game out of eating as many green things as you can on Sunday. That’ll probably work with kids and adults, and maybe start a habit or two.

The following are just a few suggestions of pretty green things to try out Sunday (or anytime). They’re mean, they’re green and they’re super good for you.

Brussels’ sprouts: It’s pretty obvious from both this column and my space in Delicious/Nutritious that I’ve been crushing pretty hard on these little guys. They’re just so wonderful roasted with a hint of salt, pepper and garlic and a little crisp on them (which is saying a lot because I hate my food blackened). If you haven’t tried these little guys, give them a go. If you don’t like them, just do a green beer chaser and you’ll be just fine.

Spinach: I buy a giant tub of baby spinach every week. It’s so perfect for adding “something” green to nearly any meal because it’s so mild and forgiving. Throw it in your morning smoothie (only the color will change, it’ll taste the same — promise), use it as a bed for roasted veggies, beans, meat or other more “dense” foods, add it to the top of a homemade pizza (seriously), and you can even juice it, should be so inclined.

Avocado: This green, unsweet fruit is full of fabulous monounsaturated fats, plus vitamin C and 9 grams of fiber (for a whole avocado). Use a quarter or half of an avocado to jazz up a smoothie, salad, sandwich or pretty much whatever. I probably don’t have to tell you what an awesome fruit it is.

Kale: Everyone knows kale is my food BFF. It’s nutritional profile is excellent, and though it’s an acquired taste, once you’ve acquired it, you’re golden. The tough leaves need a little aid, so saute them, make kale chips, or “massage” ripped up leaves with avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice to use as the base of a salad. If you’ve already discovered the joy of kale and are used to the taste, try it in your next smoothie or juice. It’s not nearly as mild as spinach, but it’s a good nutritional kick in the pants.

Green kombucha: This is kind of a cheat. There’s only one or two kinds of kombucha that are green, so it’s OK if you try one that isn’t green. What you’ll find in kombucha of any color are strains of bacteria similar to those in yogurt (aka the good bacteria that makes your gut happy), plus copious amounts of B vitamins and folate. So, what’s in the green version? Super food water-loving plants blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella. Sounds fishy, tastes good.

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Immunity help in a glass (I hope)

For this week's food page, I wrote about smoothies — a drink for which my fandom never seems to wane. Which, of course you already know if you read this blog regularly.

My story included a bunch of possibilities for great smoothies, depending on your health goals in the new year.

I have my own health goals in the new year, too, of course, but right now my most immediate health goal is not getting the snotty, goopy cold my kiddo has contracted from his school friends. Though, as the other parents out there know (and non-parents, too, probably), avoiding a child's cold can be like trying not to get damp in a hurricane.

When kids aren't feeling well, they want to cling and be comforted and wipe their little noses on something nearby, and it's probably not going to be on the tissue you handed them five seconds earlier. Rather, your pant leg, sleeve, shoulder or whatever appendage is nearest to that little face is probably what they're going to go for, especially while feeling all achy and in the mood to cuddle.

Therefore, since last Friday, I've been washing my hands constantly, reminding myself NOT to touch my face and trying to combat the kiddo's cold with my best weapon — a smoothie. The kiddo will drink nearly anything if you call it a smoothie. So, I've been working on his immunity and mine with greens in blended form.

A recent favorite has been this one, which involves greens in two forms: spinach and a green powder, which is made up of a plethora of healthy plants from the land and the sea.

I don't know if it'll keep this cold at bay (or heal the kiddo any faster), but it can't hurt.

Double Green Smoothie

1 banana

1 handful spinach

1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder

1 teaspoon Vitamineral Green or any other green powder (spirulina, chlorella, a mix)

1 to 1-1/2 cups water

Blend all in a blender. Serves 1 to 2.

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A healthy start to the new year

Have you resolved to be healthier in the new year? Maybe to start working out or sneak in a few more fruits and vegetables into your diet?

Well, I've got a two-part inspiration kick-starter this morning for those of you trying to go for health in the New Year.

The first is a really inspiring video from my second favorite Spanish athlete, Kilian Jornet. (My very favorite is Rafael Nadal — I've been following him since he was 16, so don't give my guff about just liking him for the biceps.) Kilian is an ultrarunner/super athlete who is as likely to run 100 miles as he is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or ski down some of the world's steepest slopes. He made this joyful video to welcome in 2012, and it's a pretty inspiring 3 minutes.

The second bit of inspiration is something for those of you looking to eat more fruits and veggies in 2012. As you can tell from this blog, I'm a huge fan of fruits and veggies, and I'm about as likely to eat them in a salad as I am in a liquid form.

So, for any of you who might have a juicer stored away somewhere, get it out, dust it off and check out this juicy recipe we made on New Year's Day (pictured above). It's not the prettiest juice out there (Is it green? Is it red?), but it's tasty, healthy and packed full of some really beneficial fruits and veggies.

Green Juice Glass of Red

1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 large pomegranate)

4 stems kale (I used dinosaur kale)

1 head celery

2 small apples, cored

Run all through the juicer. Serves 1. Enjoy!

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A liquid lunch (or breakfast) your kid will love (yes, even the picky ones)

That smoothie didn't have a chance. And, yes, he drank most of my portion, too.

That smoothie didn't have a chance. And, yes, he drank most of my portion, too. by Sarah Henning

So, last week was our first week of the year without a CSA. Which stinks, but which is also inevitable when living in our neck of the woods (stupid hard winters). That said, one of the questions I consistently get when blogging weekly about what my family eats is this:

"Does your kid REALLY eat that?"

Well, yes and no.

Truth be told, my little guy (who is nearly 3) is just as picky as any other toddler out there. There are days when he would give any college student a run for his or her mono-mealing money. Yes, he'll request cheese morning noon and night. He ate dried cranberries at every single meal last Sunday. Whenever we eat out he'll eat nothing but French fries, no matter where we are.

But, at the same time, he does tend to make pretty good choices (French fries aside). And one of his favorite choices is also a really sneaky way to keep his fruit and veggie intake high, no matter how much cheese he ate in the last 24 hour period: smoothies.

If you've checked out the other smoothies (and juices) on this blog, you may have noticed there's not much to them. They're usually just fruit and water, maybe some spinach thrown in for color or protein powder for an extra kick. I don't like to add a bunch of bells and whistles because then I become accustomed to them and so does my little guy, who will drink nearly anything we give him as long as he gets to "pick his straw" (we use the "decorative dots" from Glass Dharma).

So, generally, anytime I make a smoothie, he'll drink it. And yes, there is photographic evidence of him drinking:

The kiddo tears into his smoothie. He doesn't seem to care what flavor it is, as long as he gets to pick out his straw (we use reusable glass straws from Glass Dharma).

The kiddo tears into his smoothie. He doesn't seem to care what flavor it is, as long as he gets to pick out his straw (we use reusable glass straws from Glass Dharma). by Sarah Henning

So, Saturday, before a trip to the Lawrence Farmers' Market, I made a double version of one of my favorites, the Cherry Chocolate Bomb Smoothie from my friend Kristen.

And he drank all of his, plus half of mine. Such a hoss (as you can see from the first photo). Try it on your kids and you might just have them thinking they're getting a treat when really they're getting super nutrition.

Cherry Chocolate Bomb Smoothie (Recipe by Kristen Suzanne)

1 cup filtered water

1 frozen banana, chopped

1 cup frozen cherries

1/4 cup hemp protein powder (I rarely use it)

2 tablespoons hemp seeds (Not necessary, but they have a bunch of good fats!)

2 tablespoons raw chocolate powder

Splash vanilla extract

Blend this goodness up, and enjoy it as it helps make your day one of the best days ever!

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