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Archive for April, 2015

Frank sent me some information to share. Here’s an interesting article on vegetable grafting.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-mad-science-behind-vegetable-grafting/2015/04/21/75764714-e47f-11e4-81ea-0649268f729e_story.html?wpisrc=nl_home&wpmm=1

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Fennel

Frank D. sent me the following information. It was an email that was distributed by the Herb Society of Nashville to Georgeann and she sent to him. The informational source is: Vegetable Literacy
by Deborah Madison

And here is some interesting information about Fennel

Fennel
Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum

Also known as bulb fennel, Florence fennel, and finocchio, this vegetable is less common than its cousins, celery and carrots, though it has been gaining more visibility lately. The edible fennel bulb is a slow grower and therefore expensive. (On the other hand, parsnips are also slow growing and a little costly, yet we seem to know them well.) The bulb tastes of anise, which many find a difficult flavor to warm to, even though it is quite mild in the case of fennel. Anise is, in fact, another name that’s used for fennel, and vendors at a produce terminal who don’t recognize it as fennel will usually know it as anise. The bulb is so crisp, sweet, wet, and altogether lovely, it’s hard to imagine that its subtle anise flavor is a problem for some, but it is.

Thinly sliced fennel, preferably cut on a mandoline so that it’s paper-thin, makes a particularly perfect fall or winter salad, with oranges and olives, or with mushrooms, thin shaving of Parmesan cheese, and even thinly sliced raw leeks. Thicker strips can be put out raw, too, with toasted fennel seeds and sea salt for dipping. When sauteed, fenn’s copious sugars caramelize, turning the bulb from pale green to gold and adding to its ephemeral qualities a certain depth of flavor. It is beautiful browned, then braised with finely diced celery and carrots and served with a garlic-rich mayonnaise or with one stained and flavored with saffron. It goes famously well with fish and potatoes, and the three might show up together in a soup or a stew. Of course, a bulb might be included in a gratin of fall or winter vegetables–potatoes, celery root–or turned into a soup and garnished with both its toasted seeds and its greens. It can replace or accompany celery in a fall-winter Waldorf-type salad, and it’s very good brushed with olive oil then grilled. People who like fennel will have no trouble finding many ways to use it, even the scarred outer leaves, which can be scraped with a vegetable peeler then used–perhaps cooked rather than used raw as they’re bound to be more fibrous then the protected inner sheaves.

As with all vegetables, fennel has its own set of nutrients. They include those flavonoids that imbue it with antioxidants, namely rutin and quercetin. Anethole, one component of fennel’s volatile oil that is responsible for its licorice flavor, has been shown to reduce inflammation, at least in animal studies. On the nutrient side, fennel provides its eaters with vitamin C, folate, potassium, and more, all of which benefit our health in important ways.

Roasted fennel seeds, often spooned into your palm as you leave an Indian restaurant, sometimes sugar coated and sometimes not, are thought to sweeten the breath and help digestion in general and digestive ailments of various kinds. You might make a tea of fennel seeds after a large meal to calm the tummy. Indeed, there’s a whole medicinal side to fennel, the seeds in particular. They are regarded as a purifier, as the base for an effective cough syrup, and as a repellant for fleas, which is why they are used in stables and kennels. Fresh fennel seeds are greenish before drying to a duller grayish shade. They are best used before they have lost their color. They have important culinary uses, too, whether in an herb or herb-and-spice mixture for coating tuna steaks before searing, as a component in a rub for ribs, as a seasoning in Italian sausages, or as a flavoring in breads. (try adding a tablespoon to a recipe of whole-wheat no-knead bread.)

Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is more of an ornamental plant than a culinary one. You can use the feathery greens, but they don’t have the lively burst of flavor that green fennel offers.

Fennel has a long history in the Mediterranean, Greece, India, and Pakistan. The Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE was named for the Greek word for fennel, marathon, which grew on the battlefield. According to Greek myth, fire was stolen from the gods by Prometheus, who hid it in a hollow fennel stalk. If fennel stalks can carry fire, they might also serve as the packaging of a special gift. Imagine opening two pale stalks and finding a golden ring within.

USING THE WHOLE PLANT

Few vegetables are more efficient than fennel. Chop the feathery fronds finely and use them to garnish any dish that features fennel. Or keep them in larger pieces and add them to salads. Tender stalks can be thinly sliced and eaten raw–sample one first to make sure they aren’t too fibrous–or added to soups, Stalks can also be used on the grill to impart their flavor to fish, or whatever lies above the smoke. As the stalks are hollow, smaller ones can be used as straws.

If the outer leaves of the bulb are scarred, they are often discarded. Their thick, rough appearance suggest that they won’t be good, but run a vegetable peeler over their surface and you’ll find they they can be quite edible, or at least usable in a soup or stock. Thinnings from the garden can be washed and put out as a nibble with some fennel salt. The flowers make a beautiful garnish

GOOD COMPANIONS FOR FENNEL

Olive oil, butter
Parsley, fennel seeds, saffron, thyme, bay, star anise,
orange, lemon
Tomatoes, celery, potatoes, olives, garlic, fish, shellfish,
pork
Ricotta, Parmesan, Gruyere, goat cheeses, blue cheeses

source:
Vegetable Literacy
by
Deborah Madison

HOW TO GROW FENNEL

Fennel thrives in sandy poor soil with lots of sun, and likes to be kept on the dry side. Too much water will cause it to rot at the base. It can have a tough time surviving humid southern summers; in such climates it grows best in spring and fall. Like other members of the parsley family, fennel has a taproot and is hard to transplant once it is past the seedling stage. Give it lots of room to grow and leave it alone. If you let the seeds mature and fall to the ground, you’re likely to have lots of baby fennel plants the next year. It’s best to grow your fennel far away from your dill, so that they do not cross-pollinate and produce seedlings of inferior hybrids.

HARVESTING FENNEL

Cut feathery fennel leaves off at ground level when very young. As the plants grow, cut off sprigs where they meet the stalks. Harvest blossoms after they show yellow, and the green seeds at any point. If you wish to dry the seeds, harvest them after they have matured and turned brown.

STORING FENNEL

Keep fennel leaves, blossoms, or green seeds in a resealable plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator. They will stay fresh for up to a week.

LANDSCAPING WITH FENNEL

Common fennel’s foliage is a bright, fresh-looking green that’s quite attractive in its own right. But if you’re looking for something really striking, bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’). It’s identical to the regular green form, except that the stems and leaves are a wonderful reddish brown color. Both are usually hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Fennel’s feathery foliage and upright form makes it a handsome background plant for a flower border. Enjoy the compact, leafy growth of ‘Fernleaf’ in the middle of the border or in a container. Fennel is a favorite food plant for the larvae of swallowtail butterflies, so it’s a good addition to butterfly gardens.

WHAT TO PLANT WITH IT

Pair fennel’s lacy green leaves with bold flowers and foliage for an interesting contrast. Angelicas, daylilies (Hemerocallis species), lady’s mantle, mulleins, and purple coneflowers are just a few good companions. With bronze fennel, great combinations are practically limitless: try it with orange calendulas, bright red ‘Jacob Cline’ bee balm, or bright yellow ‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’) for an eye-catching partnership. Bronze fennel’s rich brown foliage also looks amazing against chartreuse leaves!

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Seed Starting Mix

Naida sent this article for a reminder to us all:
Wanted to give all my gardening friends a heads up on a problem you may
not have experienced. Several days ago I decided it was time to start my
“Big Mama” and “Super Sauce Hybrid” tomato seeds. First I had to clear
a path inside my potting shed, where all my large summer garden
containers and statuaries were in winter storage, but managed to get to
the seed starting mix and a tray to bring to the house and sterilize.
I was concerned because the mix was several years old and the zip lock
top had opened allowing the soil to dry out, so I called Jennie to see
if she thought it would be good to use. She assured me that it would be
fine but to make sure to wet it thoroughly.
That done I filled each cube with my starting soil and set it in the
sink to absorb water. Day 2 – noticed that the soil was still dry as a
bone so I filled a spray bottle with water and started spraying the top
of each cube. Day 3 – top looks wet but when digging down found soil
from center to the bottom still completely dry. I continued spraying
the top while still soaking in the sink – even had my husband spraying
every time he walked by – but soon realized that the water was just
running out the bottom without being absorbed in the mix. Day 5 – soil
still dry from center down so I emptied the tray into a large pan and
wet and mixed thoroughly – Mission Accomplished and a good lesson for
next year learned!
I now realize that my problem with seed germination last year (3 plants
germinated out of 25) was probably that the starting mix was not wet
enough.

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Moles & Voles

I found this article on moles and voles and thought it was worth posting. If you have an issue with these guys here’s the link:

http://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-pest-control/how-to-get-rid-of-moles-and-voles?awt_l=AMlhA&awt_m=3i33mFvwIc2DE1m&utm_source=aweber&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20150214&utm_campaign=broadcast

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