Monday, December 16, 2013

I just learned today of a new scam, this one about "nascent iodine" being sold at INSANELY high prices for EXTREMELY diluted solutions by Alex Jones at InfoWars and other sites relying on pseudo-science language and entangled claims of benefits. As I read these sites I have to shake my head at the incredible science illiteracy, poor grammar and spelling as they hawk a near valueless product. Ordinary tincture of the same size at SweetBay is $1.19, and is how everyone I know started supplementing iodine. Lugol's Solution was the preferred form for 100 years and for many people still is, being an aqueous solution of two forms of iodine readily absorbed by the body. Coastal Japanese have gotten theirs for centuries by eating kelp seaweed and benefited immensely despite not having access to this "energized mono-atomic iodine". No wonder I've long taken Alex Jones with a VERY large grain of salt, especially his "chemtrails" rants, but his hawking this stuff at a LUDICROUS profit margin and with simply false New Age mumbo jumbo to try to sound all "scientific" has simply now put him off my radar entirely. He and others selling this overpriced form of iodine should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

As always, Everwilde Farms filled my order quickly. I would recommend that anyone gardening in cold rural areas in Florida try this crop (actually a Vetch vs. a true bean) as for years as a Denver gardener I witnessed this ancient crop's mind boggling cold hardiness. The flowers are bizarrely beautiful...pure white with pure black markings. In Denver I ate them cooked, both when the pods were green and full of large tender seeds, and as a dried bean. The flavor and texture is very hearty and satisfying. In Denver we'd sow the seeds in the fall JUST before the ground froze and they'd emerge the next spring LONG before the end of hard frosts and even blizzards...the plants simply were not fazed. Since they LIKE cold I am probably growing them in one of my front north facing beds in between roses and glads and nasturtiums.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Donna Sue Wallace shared a turmeric tea recipe yesterday on FaceBook that has inspired me to today invent a salad dressing beyond my usual home made oil and vinegar, or store bought bleu cheese. After breakfast and sit ups I'll put into my Ninja blender the following: strong kombucha tea, Meyer's lemon juice, turmeric powder, ripe papaya, honey, sea salt, raw onion, raw moringa leaves, garlic, food grade diatomaceous earth, and coconut oil. I'll buzz it all up and store in the fridge to use on salads of mixed garden greens and raw green papaya. The health benefits of turmeric are well known and documented, but I am just not a fan of the taste in entrees, especially in the amounts that would be medicinal, so I've been experimenting with adding it to strong flavored things to mask the taste, like that awesome first batch of green papaya kimchi that I made in September. I suspect that its taste will be barely detectable, if at all, in this pungent salad dressing.

My catalog came yesterday....I can't speak well enough of this family owned and run company.....incredible assortment of certified organic seeds, grains, brassicas, green manure crops and more. Per pound prices of the various forage rapes like 'Bonar' are amazing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I've been making use of this out back using paper mulberry branches, and will soon be cuttings back my HUGE Bolivian Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) out front to use in the center food forest out back to nourish the soil and suppress weeds. Refurbishing the front bed that contains the 'Teasing Georgia' climbing rose that I pruned HARD a few days ago is the first time I've used rose canes cut off as part of a chop-and-drop layer on the open areas of the bed where a few hundred nasturtiums plus many hundreds of seeds of white sweet alyssum were sown Saturday. This was MUCH easier than hauling the thorny canes all the way out back to the compost barrels, plus was an easier way to add lignin and humus formers to a bed that has gotten sandy....I'm thinking/hoping that the nasturtiums, glads and white sweet alyssum will grow right up through them as they sag and decay... I might even add tithonia stalks to build up the soil there based on what I see the seedlings do. Today was my legal watering day, so I spread a 25 lb. bag of cheap white clay Publix cat litter all over the bed, then gave it a DEEP watering about 10 days, hopefully, hundreds of seedlings of 'Dwarf Jewel Mix' nasturtium and white Sweet Alyssum will begin to emerge through the fresh thin layer of aged wood chips mulch then the chop-and-drop layer of rose and turnera trimmings. Tomorrow I will splash onto that entire bed a Nutrient Soup of dried chicken poop, fish emulsion, trace elements and feed grade urea that steeped in water. In about a month I'll decide if I can add a layer of short pieces of Tithonia diversifolia stalks to add phosphorus and lignin formers as I want that bed's soil to get rich and damp. One red pentas, one dwarf yellow allamanda, one Lantana camara, one blue 'Victoria Salvia' and one Red Porter should round out the color palette. Barring hard frosts or freezes, this bed should look stellar by February. As soon as the new glads bulb order arrives, I'm planting about 5-6 dozen in this bed too as I want a riot of color and flower forms...the LAST thing I am is a formal gardener!

My hero of fermented foods!

You know it is December in Tampa when two clusters of Raja Puri bananas, and your 'Cramoisi Superieur' rose are thriving in your front yard.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas meeting of the Tampa Rare Fruit Council Sunday.

Perfect weather, low 80s, nice breeze, big turnout, TONS of food, no plants or seeds as usual, just food and conversation though some of us brought seeds, plants, produce to share with friends. Great way to wrap up a fine weekend., always nice to see favorite people. The Bayshore Garden Club is a very picturesque place for our monthly meetings.

Friday, December 6, 2013

This year was the first time that my 'Triumph' muscadine grape did not bear an abundance of fruit....I got just a token harvest. I wonder if the cause was last winter being SO mild that I did not have to cover tomatoes or even basil, so it got very little chill. It grew lushly in our first wet summer in eight years but gave me just several handfuls of fruits. On the other hand, the "Gray Street Grape" on the hen house bore very heavily. It seems that "Gracie's Grape" on the north end of the hen house may have died....I'll know for sure next spring.

Finding one of these growing wild in west Tampa in 1987 helped inspire me to move to Denver. It is a flower arranger's dream.....each floret is attached to the main stem by a tiny stem that behaves like copper wire....which ever position you push the florets to they stay! I'm assuming these seeds are the wild hybrid....I can't think of the name of the hybrid that I planted in Denver clients' garden. In Denver a true perennial...made a dense underground mat of rhizomes, utterly problem free...fingers crossed for here!

Live and Learn!

I love Everwilde Farm seed company....I just placed an order, mostly of things I grew in Denver just to try here as experiments that I'll not hold my breath over. Just $15  plus $4.50 shipping for literally thousands of seeds! Ordered: Broad Windsor fava bean, mixed coleus (a nostalgia order as coleus was my first plants obsession when 19 in Albuquerque), Obedient Flower (more nostalgia....finding one in the west Tampa trailer park I lived in in 1987 was one of the inspirations to move to Denver where it THRIVES), Scarlet Nantes carrot (I usually grow Danver's Half Long), McKana columbines (LONG shot for Tampa!), Maximillian Sunflower (LOVES Denver, long shot for Tampa). I'll be sure to share the results of these trials.


A Tampa gardener I know so far only on FaceBook surprised me yesterday with an odd pod of okra in the mail like none I'd ever seen before...very dramatic striping. On FB he told me it is Abelmoschus caillei from Africa, very heavy bearer and that the pods stay tender a long time. He got his seeds from ECHO...he says to cover them with boiling water (!) let cool 12 hours then sow right away. He then added a pic.....I love the intense yellow of the blooms plus the rich burgundy of the stems and leaf ribs. I'll be sure to share seeds with folks so we can get this treasure out there in the gardening community. So kind of Jim to mail me a pod out of the blue like that!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I LOVE fava beans of any kind but for some reason have not grown them in Denver they were brutally cold tolerant and self sowed readily, here they are a winter crop, so I'll buy a bag of dried ones from the store (hopefully) as a cheap source of seeds. The kind I grew in Denver had amazing white and black flowers that reminded me of zebras. For years I was paranoid to try them due to that possible, sometimes fatal, enzyme reaction that affects a TINY number of people whose ancestry stems from a small region in Europe (they are not a bean but a Vetch). Great source of protein and to me very satisfying eating. I was turned onto them not long after I moved to Denver in 1987 by a very gifted elderly gardening neighbor who grew vast numbers of them in his back yard. Today my 84 year old Italian neighbor told me the name her family called them (lupinta?) and that her Mom would soak raw ones in vinegar, then each bean had the skin peeled off to eat the inside as finger food just like my neighbor did except he picked them right up off the frozen ground and ate them right there. There are many kinds...I see bags of small seeded types at Asian markets but I will hold out for the giant ones I grew in Denver that I got from that neighbor.....much bigger than a lima bean. In Denver they were insanely cold hardy...late/early hard freezes and snows did not faze them, but as soon as spring warmth settled in, they failed quickly.

The revamped solar shower water heater is up and running and working great.

The 'Giant Red' or 'Red Giant' mustard is JUST mature enough to start to have that wonderful wasabi-like kick that is wonderful raw inside raw spring rolls, home made sushi and in salads. Cooked it becomes a mild green. Since 1984 I've also grown the VERY similar 'Osaka Purple' plus the very frilly 'Green Wave'. When mature and eaten raw they can make your sinuses explode! In Denver neighborhood kids would come to my front door each summer to ask for leaves and they'd "play chicken" to see who could take the biggest bite and NOT blow it out, their cute little faces bright red, eyes watering! I'm likely to try it in a kimchi once the plants are a lot can get knee high in good conditions. The mustard oil responsible for the heat is an excellent source of dietary sulfur.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

This is simply mind boggling and enraging! Now that the couple is suing, I hope they wipe up the floor with these petty asshole city officials! That front yard is lovely!

A few of my friends are pursuing eating aerial yam tubers with special cultivars of Air Potato that are edible, the concept being that the mother tuber remains in the ground and you eat ONLY the aerials. Each fall my Yams (Dioscorea spp. and cultivars) make FAR more aerials than I can plant or give away. Past efforts of boiling them were not good, even though I am a "garbage gut", so now I've tried this approach and the result was DELICIOUS! Despite the "binder" not doing a good of that (I had no eggs) my first ever experiment of making patties from aerial yam tubers was definitely a success! Yesterday I boiled them in salty water for about 20 minutes, poured off the brown water and let them drain and dry last night at room temp. Today I chopped them in a big pot with something that is either a donut maker or potato masher made of stainless steel until they were small chunks and crumbs, then poured in a "binder" I made in my Bullet blender from cooked Estrella chaya leaves, one yellow onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a dollop of sour cream, couple heaping tablespoons of soy flour to boost the protein, a little bit of olive oil and water. I mixed it all thoroughly, then put the hand made patties in olive oil on medium heat, covered at first, until nicely browned. I served the patty atop a bed of fresh arugula and Giant Red mustard leaves and two kinds of onion leaves, with ripe papaya and a slice of Meyer's Lemon on the side. EXCELLENT, plain or with ketchup. Since this was an experiment the batch is small, maybe enough to make 2-3 more patties. Next time I'll make a BIG batch and freeze the surplus. Had I had eggs I feel that the patty would not have fallen apart when I flipped it.

I'm getting tired of enjoying fresh rose blooms and eating home grown bananas and papayas and assorted veggies daily when I could be back in my old Denver house...maybe I should buy it back and "escape" Tampa?! LOL!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

At YamFest a Muslim gardener kindly gave me a bottle of the extracted oil, plus two bags of the seeds meant to be used as a spice...of course I have planted some. There are a GREAT many incredible anecdotal claims made about the health benefits, much like I saw in Colorado in the early 90s about crystals....vendors making incredible claims but offering ZERO empirical evidence. I posted about this issue on FaceBook when the claims popped up again, and my own efforts to Google studies yielded very little. But my remarkably brilliant young friend Timothy Lane turned his steely attention to the matter and posted on my wall this remarkably detailed study based on SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY vs. New Age woo woo...there is a LOT to absorb but it seems like it truly does have nutritional and medicinal value. Cellophane bags of the seeds are cheap at Indian markets. In Denver I grew the ornamental species Nigella damascena whose nibbled seeds reminded me and friends of watermelon. Both should do well here in central Florida as winter annuals is my guess. Thanks Timothy!!

A LOT of people are having vast numbers of them this year, but many are posting on FaceBook and elsewhere that they don't know what to do with them, especially the varieties that never become sweet and flavorful regardless of how ripe, a quite common phenomenon that makes some people that they dislike papayas. Here are the ways that I and others are using large green papayas that have had the bitter skins and seeds removed: small raw chunks in salads for a nice crunch chunks added to Thai stir fry pickled kimchi chunks added to soups sliced, dipped in egg, breaded and fried varying versions of Thai/Vietnamese/Filipino green papaya salad

Monday, November 18, 2013

Oldie but Goodie.....

Been hearing from's the good news "Indian Shallot" is a TRULY perennial multiplier, tops die back in summer, lift bulbs and store else they will rot.(I feel 99% sure it is a "Potato Onion", which is a shallot cultivar). Allium canadense truly perennial for me and others for years now IF grown in DAMP soil, tops die back in May, no need to lift the bulbs. "Chinese Chives" (allium tuberosum) super reliable, almost invasive but some folks not wild about the taste. I can deal with small amounts, tends to remind me of Society Garlic, which is not an Allium My strain of Allium fistulosum is proving reliably perennial for me and others, grows year round, great seed setter. Jury still out on a few strains of Potato Onions we are trialing but looks hopeful. Tops die back in early summer, lift bulbs else they rot. Chris moved to Live Oak, is trying some there in that colder climate. "Eliska's Bunching Onion" a good multiplier, truly perennial, good seed setter......VERY close to my A. fistulosum, possibly the same. Been growing a Mystery Onion from Jon and Debbie Butts a few months now....definitely multiplying all summer, Jon says about 1 of every 12 makes a viviparous reproductive stalk much like that of Allium canadense. Now the bad news: After growing EXTREMELY vigorously at H.E.A.R.T. in Lake Wales for just under a year, the base species of Perennial Sweet Leek (Allium amperalosum sp?) that Josh Jamison grew in large numbers, have now all apparently died and vanished. I checked mine yesterday.....still alive but has actually gotten smaller. BUMMER as the flavor was excellent and the clumps were huge and grew FAST from seed and division. He gets MUCH colder there than I do in south Tampa, is in a bowl, gets teens now and then, but even that extra chilling did not seem to help it be perennial. See pics.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I have a few friends who love to make fermented foods of many kinds, and Paul and I have been having fun making differing kimchis. I've gotten VERY fond of raw green papayas as it gives me CRUNCHY kimchi vs. the usual soft, almost mushy texture of the store bought Chinese cabbage kimchi. Today I started a big new batch of green papaya kimchi, but I am trying 4 new things.....vs. soaking the chopped veggies overnight in brine then draining and rinsing, I just tossed them with the amount of salt I want to REMAIN in the kimchi. My goal is to make my kimchis less salty, in part because I tend towards moderate high blood pressure, and also so I can taste more the flavors. For the first time I am flavoring/coloring a kimchi with genuine Korean red pepper powder...has little heat so am likely to add the last bit of homemade habanero sauce...into my biggest Bullet blender went some water, a whole small ginger root, several LARGE cloves of garlic, roasted sesame oil, approx. heaping tablespoon of sugar for taste and to feed the bacteria. Tomorrow afternoon I'll squeeze out the salty water, mix in the flavoring goodies in the Bullet blender, and pack it all into quart jars. The third new thing I am doing is that I'll inoculate one of the jars with a spoonful of Lifeway kefir and will label that jar as such. I MAY inoculate another quart with maybe 1/2 cup kombucha. The mix of veggies is: raw green papaya, yellow onions and carrots run through the food processor (I have yet to get the hang of the mandoline slicer), chopped onion leaves and daikon leaves and Giant Red Mustard leaves. I won't taste any of the jars until February. The 4th new thing I am doing is I will let one quart sit on the counter at root temp for a week before it goes into the fridge.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I'm going to risk sounding like an "old know it all" but I DO want to share what I feel is a valid thing to keep in mind. Some gardeners are trying crops here that thrive in much colder climates and I do too as trying "risky" crops (like my Windmill palm tree and "Florida" roses in my Denver yard) is a great way to learn and I am glad to see folks doing that. But bear in mind that sometimes the first year a northern perennial does well here, leading some exuberant folks to declare "this and such does fine in Florida". Often, they falter in year two or three due to lack of winter chill, or even in year four as happened with the VERY promising strain of Egyptian Multiplier Onion that Allen Boatman brought in and shared....first three years it thrived in ALL test gardens, large scale and small scale, then as we entered year 4 the bottom fell out in all test plots! I'm not saying don't experiment...DO and share the results. But I've gardened in Michigan, New Mexico, north Florida by the Georgia border and my first veggie garden was here in 1967 when I was in 9th grade, and feel that we should not forget that many/most northern perennials ARE northern perennials because they NEED winter chill. But I know a woman in Weekee Wachee who has gotten bearded iris from her summer home in Illinois to make it past that third year! It was my 15 years in Denver that I came to appreciate the role of winter dormancy for the longevity of MANY plants like peonies, lilacs, forsythia, hydrangeas, Oriental Poppies, tulips, daffodils, rhubarb, apples, pear, plums, asparagus, cherries, Concord grapes, comfrey, bearded iris and MANY other perennial flowers and herbs, raspberries, plus a vast number of roses....on and on and on. Sadly, northern folks move here to retire and end up badly missing so many of them, having assumed they grow here in "the land of flowers". Not lecturing, just sharing some experiences of mine with brave new gardeners.

My lifelong favorite leek, I started a flat today, one packet from this great company contains 1,000 seeds! In past winters I grew them in token amounts.....this year I want to try them in borders out front with the roses and nasturtiums plus of course in container gardens out back. I can imagine some wonderful soups made with them and true yams. (Dioscorea species).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

kimch-/meat pancakes

Excellent new way to enjoy firm tofu steaks.....brown in very hot coconut oil flavored with roasted sesame oil, serve with a thin film of Indian mango chutney.

Andy Firk shared this on FaceBook for those of us who rely heavily on the true yams (Dioscorea species and cultivars) as staple crops. HOPEFULLY this released NON-native insect won't decimate our yams along with the invasive, nasty tasting Air Potato (D. bulbifera).

Autumn ritual at Starnesland.....boiling, draining and freezing Velvet Beans (Mucuna pruriens).

Here in central Florida people are beginning to harvest their sweet potatoes....I like to wait until the vines die back some for best flavor and sweetness. I'll be trying these recipes for sure!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

About eight years ago I bought seeds of food grade Velvet Beans (Mucuna pruriens) from ECHO in Ft. Meyers, and have been selling/sharing them ever since. For folks growing them for the first time, I want to be sure they know this type lacks the stinging orange spines they may have read about on-line...instead there is a purplish-brown soft velvet on the pods as they mature. They have a very long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, and a few pods worth of the cooked seeds inside the pods eaten daily in three week cycles can in men delay the graying of hair while adding muscle mass (clearly the latter never happened but I do have brown hair at 60 and so wonder if that is why). I learned of them eight years ago from two guys at my gym who had visibly packed on the muscles by taking the pricey gel caps in those same three week cycles. Being a tightwad, I bought the seeds instead. I've served them often as finger food at parties, eaten like edamame soybeans after simmering them about half an hour in a dipping sauce I make using soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, onions, hot pepper, roasted sesame oil, brown sugar and water run through the blender then thickened with cassava flour...the cooked seeds' taste and texture is like a mix of boiled peanut and lima bean. Bummer I never got the pecs I wanted so I'll settle for brown hair at 60.

Now I understand why the 70% rain chance vs. 40% two days ago!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paul, Emily and I are enjoying making kimchi more and more as a staple then a treat, and I am getting EXCELLENT results using sliced/chopped raw green papaya as the bulk of mine. Later this winter I'll use more traditional kimchi crop plants like brassicas, especially Asian brassicas plus I'll try Morris Heading collards. Some years ago I made kimchi soup that came out wonderful, and at a meeting of the Tampa Rare Fruit Council some years back I feasted on kimchi many folks that day said "sounds gross" but these small, hand-held crepes were scarfed up in no time. This recipe looks especially good!

Many thanks to Andy Firk for his having dreamed up today's YamFest about perennial food crops for Florida, and to Josh Jamison and H.E.AR.T. in Lake Wales for hosting the event. Both guys gave concisely delivered yet info-packed presentations, and I enjoyed the free flow of questions and answers between them and attendees, and between attendees. I loved the potluck, got my first ever taste of wild boar, loved Emily Jamison's kimchee fermented three weeks OUTSIDE of the fridge (this inspires me to make my next batch room temp too) plus I was proud of Cracker for doing well with the other dogs, even the ones not on leashes as he is not around other dogs very often except at the beach. The plant swap near the end was fun too. Thanks to Marabou Thomas for my first ever cutting of Redonda (sp?) chaya. And thanks to Haroun Aaron Moffatt for those nigella seeds and nigella oil and that root for tooth and gum health. A very nice day all around. Our donations of cash vital to survival in this culture went to very good causes. Nice to see favorite folks and meet new ones. I got home soon enough to have to have done very little of the night driving I dislike.