Friday, 31 October 2014

Celery is Cheap to Buy and Fussy to Grow

Few gardeners try to grow celery because it is cheap to buy and fussy to grow. But it does taste good and fresh if you grow your own, and frankly, traditional methods of growing celery are fussier than they need to be. Blanching the celery to produce a white stalk is no longer considered to be a necessity. All that mounding of soil, shoring up of plants and tying of collars and what have you got? A plant with fewer vitamins, the green celery we buy in the store is proof of the fact that today’s green varieties do not need blanching to taste good.

You can grow celery in any climate if you time it right. It does take a long time to grow up to six months from seed to harvest and dislikes hot summers. So start it in the fall in hot areas, and in early spring in cold ones. The short frost free season in very cold states is compensated for by relatively summers. Celery like those

If growing celery still seems hohum to you, consider celeriac, also called “celery root” or “celery knobs.” This gourmet celery makes a delicious, turniplike root that is hard to find in stores and is easier to grow than ordinary celery. It is tasty in soups and stews and makes a great cooked puree. My favorite way to use it is raw, marinated in a vinaigrette or remoulade dressing.
Select a Site
If you have mucky soil, or a high water table you have an ideal place for celery, and you owe it to yourself to grow it. Celery by choice grows in marshes. But if you don’t have wet soil you can still grow it. It will also tolerate partial shade. You do not need a lot of space for a celery crop. An 8 foot row will grow at least a dozen bunches of celery, or the same number of celery knobs.
Select a Soil
Celery is a heavy, even gluttonous feeder, it needs very rich soil. It is an equally voracious drinker. Spread a four inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost over the soil and dig it in well to a depth of six to eight inches, to give the soil fertility and help it retain moisture. I would add some bone meal and wood ashes as well. Or use another kind of organic matter, such as peat moss, and dig in a handful of 10-10-10 for each plant. The ideal pH is 6.0 but 5.5 and 7.5 is usually tolerable.
Given a choice, it is easier to buy seedlings than grow celery from seed. The seeds are tiny, take about two weeks to germinate, and are fussy about light, warmth and moisture. But local nurseries seldom have a good range of varieties, and they may not have celeriac at all. So you may want to raise a seed crop anyway. For a late summer crop, sow the seeds indoors four weeks before the last average frost date; for a fall crop, sow in May or June. Sow in flats of light sandy soil about 1/8 inch deep. Cover with damp sphagnum moss and keep out of direct sun in a spot that is 70 to 75 degrees by day and about 60 degrees by night. Transplant seedlings to peat pots when they’re 1 ½ to 2 inch tall, and spring transplants go in around the time of the last average frost. The plants should be three to five inches tall, and spaced six to eight inches apart. Set the crown a bit below soil level, or in a deep trench if you’re blanching, filing the trench as they grow. Even if you have enriched the soil, give each seedling a cupful of liquid fertilizer on planting, mixed according to the directions on the container give them another in two weeks or so.
Water, well particularly in drought Mulch, and protect the young plant sif night temperatures are below 55 degrees consistently, so that the plants will not form a tough flower stalk but a nice head of tender leaf stems instead. Keep the bed weeded. The finely branched, hungry roots will not tolerate competition. Celeriac is grown the same way.
Pests and Diseases
Good seeds, good soil and steady watering will ward off most disease. Early blight and late blight of celery are fungus diseases best fought with a tidy, debris free garden, and if necessary a fungicide. Celery worms can be picked off, but do consider that they will turn into the black swallowtail butterfly if not destroyed. I’d spare these lovely creatures, even if it came to a choice between them and my celery.
Pick outside stalks as you need them or harvest a whole plant, cutting it off at the base when it looks like a mature bunch of celery. Sometimes you can prolong your harvest past the first frosts in fall by mulching heavily with straw. Celeriac roots can be dug when they’re two to four inches in diameter. Unlike regular celery they store well in a cool cellar.
Good green varieties are “Giant Pascal” “Summer Pascal”, “Florida 683”, and “Utah 52-70”, “Golden Self Blanching, is yellow celery that people seem to like. The most common celeriacs are “Alabaster” and “Giant Prague” “Giant Smooth Prague” is a bit earlier.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Okra Plants

Okra grown for its edible seed pods, a handsome plant to have in the vegetable garden. It has showy pale yellow flowers with red centers not unlike a hollyhock. Okra haters are not impressed by this. They claim that the pods are prickly on the outside and slimy on the inside, and that if they want showy flowers they can grow petunias. Okra lovers, most of whom live below the Mason Dixon line, point out that modern “spineless” varieties aren’t prickly at all and that the viscous inside is the magic ingredient that thickens a good gumbo a hearty stew. “Gumbo” is also another name for the plant itself. 

Okra is popular in the south because it is a warm weather crop that won’t bolt yellow, die, or otherwise misbehave in midsummer. It just gets taller, lusher and more productive. It is a little hard to get started up north but redeems itself by being, unlike eggplant, a fast maturing crop once warm weather settles in. So even if you don’t plant until late June, you can still pick okra two months later if you urge it along a little. You only need a few plants for the home garden, though any extras can be frozen sliced or whole. Dwarf varieties are available for small spaces. It is disease free and rarely decimated by bugs. 

Choose a site 

Select a sunny site where the ground will warm up quickly or even raised beds in the north. The more okra you want to eat or freeze, the more space you need. The first time you grow it, start with 6 plants in an area of about 40 square feet. You might put an early lettuce crop in with it. But otherwise assign the whole plot to okra for the season. If you grow it each year, rotate the crop. 


Okra prefers a light, well drained loam with plenty of organic matter. Avoid heavy soils that warm up slowly especially up north. A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is best and moderately high fertility. It is suggested a healthy shovelful of compost or aged manure worked into each planting hole. 


Buy new seed each year and speed up the normally slow germination process by soaking or freezing the seeds over night or nicking the seed coat with a file. Wherever you live, make sure that the weather is consistently above 60 degree and not too wet when you sow. the seeds will just sit and rot in cold, wet soil. In the north start them a month or two earlier indoors in peat pots. Sown outdoors, seeds should be planted an inch deep in hills or rows and thinned to at least 18 inches apart. Bear in mind that the plants get tall 5 to 6 feet in warm climates. Dwarf varieties that grow to 3 to 4 feet are more convenient for the home garden. In the north space them far enough apart so that the sun can shine on all the pods to ripen them. Make sure plant either 18 inches apart with 3 feet between rows or on a grid with plant’s two and half feet apart each way a little closer for dwarf kinds.   


It is important not to let growth lapse. Gardeners use numerous warm up devices to bring the young plants along if it’s chilly raised beds, hot caps, grow tunnels, portable cold frames and sheets of black plastic slit to allow the plants to grow up. Keep plants well watered if it is dry. Mulch is a good idea. And top dress every few weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer. 

Pets and Diseases

So use the collars around transplanted seedlings to protect against cutworms. Occasional pests such as corn earworms cabbage, loopers and stinkbugs can be picked off. Aphids and flea beetles can be knocked off with a hose. Diseases such as fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt are best dealt with by crop rotation.  


Okra pods are ready for picking several days after the flowers drop but before they’re fully mature. If you wait until the pods reach full size, they’ll be tough. The stems should still be soft and easy to cut, the pods 2 to 3 inches long. Some varieties can be picked at about 4 to 5 inches. When the plant is in full production it requires to be picked every other day. If some pods have gone too far, pick them anyway and feed them to whatever will eat them, even if it’s the compost pile or the garbage can. Otherwise the plants will stop producing. Use gloves when you pick if your skin is sensitive to the prickles on the pods. Okra plants, if picked regularly, will continue to produce until frost. In the south growers sometimes cut the plants back almost to ground level in midsummer, top dress them, and let them resprout for a whole second crop.


Good varieties are “Clemson Spineless” the old standby, and “Clemson 80” an earlier, more productive version. “Emerald” is a tall, spineless, very productive variety. “Annie Oakley” is a tall early producer. “Dwarf Green Long Pod” is a good short variety. “Blondy, an All-America selection, is short and bushy with light green pods. “Red Okra” has red pods; white velvet has white.  

Cauliflower is the Sweetest, Mildest Tasting Vegetable

Cauliflower really is a flower the big, lumpy white ‘head’ that we eat is a cluster of flower buds nested inside a cabbage like plant. It is believed that cauliflower is the sweetest, mildest tasting member of the cabbage family, but home gardeners grow it far less often than the other brassicas. Perhaps it won’t tolerate either very hot or very cold weather, so there is only a short season before and after the summer heat in which you can grow it. Or most varieties need to be “blanched” their heads covered with leaves while they’re maturing. Unblanched heads turn green and don’t taste as good as white one.
Yet cauliflower certainly has its place in the garden. It is a good source of calcium and other vitamins, it freezes well, it is expensive to by in the store, and it is not difficult to grow if you know and respect its need for a steady supply of water. There’re even purple headed varieties that look like broccoli when cooked but taste nonetheless like cauliflower and do not need blanching.
Select a Site
You should select a sunny well drained spot where other cabbage family vegetables have not grown recently. Space requirements are the same as for cabbage.
Select a Soil
Provide the same soil conditions that you’d for other brassicas. The soil should be fairly rich, particularly in nitrogen and potassium. The pH should be 6.0 to 7.0. And plenty of organic matter should be incorporated into the soil, so that it will retain moisture. It is best to dig compost or well-rotted manure into the soil the fall before planting.
Cauliflower can take a little frost at the very beginning and the very end of its life, but not much. It really needs at least two months of cool but not frosty weather to come to maturity. This means you can plant it in fall or late winter in warm climates. In cold ones it is usually a fall crop of which there can be many successions, each a week or two apart. Plant fall crops from late May to early July, depending on how cold your climate is. The idea is to allow two to three months between the time you set it out and the first frosts. Purple head cauliflower takes longer about 85 days to harvest.
Well, for spring crops start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before setting the plants out. Keep the seeds at about 70 degree if you can, with a steady supply of moisture. The roots do not like to be disturbed in transplanting, so use peat pots. When they’re about six inches tall they can be planted outside, as long as it is no earlier than three or four weeks before the last expected frost. You can set the plants outside to harden off several weeks earlier. Set the plant about 18 to 24 inches apart. Build a saucer of earth around each plant to help it to hold water and use cutworm collars fall crops of cauliflower can be down directly in the garden, but to save space use a cold frame or the “nursery bed” section of your garden to get late plants started, and then transplant to their growing place. Otherwise sow them in hills and thin them to one seedling per hill.
The most important thing about raising cauliflower is to keep the growth going. It cannot sit out a hot dry spell. If it is dry, give the soil a good soaking to the depth of about six inches. Mulch will also help keep the soil moist. If the heads still are not growing bigger, top dress the plants with liquid fertilizer. The white flower head that emerges is called a “curd” or a “button” when it is egg sized, blanches it by bending over the big leaves that surround it so that they cover the curd; then tuck them in on the opposite side, breaking the ribs of leaves to keep them from springing back. If the head still doesn’t stay covered, tie some leaves together at the top with a string or rubber band. The idea is to keep light and moisture out but let some air in, and also leaves some space in which the head can grow. The heads should not be covered when the plant is wet, or they may not. Water the ground around the plants and keep the soil water constant.
Pests and Disease
For pests and disease treat cauliflower the way you would broccoli, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. Root maggots are sometimes a problem in the fall crop.
Check the heads from time to time to see if they’re large enough about six inches across but still tight, with the buds unopened Some varieties have larger heads up to 12 inches so consult the information on the seed package or in the catalog. When they’re ready, cut them right away, just below the head, and either use them or freeze them. If you pull up the plant, roots and all, it will keep in a cool cellar for at least a month.
The snowball varieties such as snowball and snow king are large headed late crops. But “Super Snowball” ‘Snowball Improved’ early white snow crown hybrid and snow king hybrid mature faster. Self blanche has leaves that curl over the head by themselves purple head is a popular purple variety.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cilantro is Sweet-Smelling Herb Which Has Healthy Reputation to Healing Spices.

Cilantro, also known as coriander or “Dhania”, is a sweet-smelling herb with wide, subtle lacy leaves and a pungent smell. It belongs to the apiaceous family also recognized as the carrot family which includes of plants like celery, parsley, cumin, parsnip and carrot. This delicate herb has its origin in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor (Turkey) regions. The nutritional profile of coriander seeds is diverse from the fresh stems and leaves. Because leaves are mainly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate content of dietary minerals. 

Even though seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they do deliver significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese. The plant normally grows up to a height of 1 to 2 feet and possesses dark green, hairless, soft leaves having a capricious shape which are broad at the base of the plant, and slim and feathery higher on nearby the flowering stems. Coriander seeds have a health-supporting reputation that is rich in the list of the healing spices. In many parts of Europe, coriander has traditionally been brought up to as an "anti-diabetic" plant. However in the Asia, it has traditionally been used for its anti-inflammatory properties. 
In the United States, coriander has recently been studied for its cholesterol-lowering effects. Moreover all parts of the plant are edible, and it is the fresh leaves and dried seeds are most widely used in cooking. However Cilantro seeds are round to oval in shape, yellowish brown in color with a flavor that is aromatic, sweet and citrus as well as slightly peppery. Their seeds are usually used as spice. Moreover different people may observe the taste of coriander leaves contrarily. Those who like the Cilantro say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavor, while those who distaste it have a strong aversion to its taste and smell, likening it to that of soap and bug. Like other spices coriander is available throughout the year providing a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. 

The fruit of the coriander plant comprises two seeds which, when dried, are the portions used as the dried spice. But when it gets ripe, the seeds are becomes yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. Coriander seeds are available full or in ground powder form. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Super Food You Need To Know About Lucuma Benefits

Lucuma is pronounced (loo-koo-mah), also known as the “Gold of the Incas” and is so common in Peru. And they mostly use in ice cream flavor and even trumping vanilla and chocolate. Lucuma (Pouteria Lucuma) is a super healthy fruit that has been eaten by Peruvians since 200 A.D., but modern science is just now getting a clue of how nutrient-dense this fruit actually is and how it could offer great healing potential. Europeans discovered Lucuma in the fifteen century, calling it “egg fruit” due to its shape and since the flesh of the fruit is the same color as an egg yolk. 

Lucuma tastes like a combination of maple syrup and sweet potato to some, or a mango crossed with an apricot to others. Though the fruit can be hard to come by owing to the fact that they grow at altitudes of 4,500 to 10,000 feet, the powder can be obtained from numerous health food stores. According to the Peruvian people, Lucuma is a symbol of both longevity and fertility. 

Although it doesn’t rate as high as other foods on the ORAC chart such as sumac, another super food in its own right with an off-the-charts ORAC value, Lucuma is full of necessary nutrients and can be used as a healthier substitute for sugar. The super food Lucuma is available in powder form here and mostly used in desserts, lending its naturally caramel flavor to anything from smoothies, raw cheesecakes, cookies, super food balls and, of course, ice cream. Its tree is called lucumo, and in Ecuador, the tree is called lugma.

Here’re some useful benefits of lucuma, as well as its nutritional profile:

1. Lucuma is highly useful in beta-carotene, perhaps you might have guessed with its yellow-orange color that lucuma is rich in beta-carotene, an imperative source of vitamin A which human bodies need for better vision, supporting cellular growth, and even assisting with immune system reactions. Beta carotene may well protect against other cancers as well, including esophageal, liver, pancreatic, colon, rectal, prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancers due to its strength as an antioxidant.

2. Lucuma is a natural sweetener and it can sweeten foods without spiking blood sugar, and it comprises beneficial nutrients that sugar alone lacks. Lucuma is also an awesome natural sweetener being low in sugars and low on the glycemic scale, but adding a subtle sweet flavor to your dishes.

3. Lucuma is well iron with rich as it improves the transportation of oxygen into cells and is an energetic nutrient to pregnant and breast-feeding women. Proper levels of iron contribute to energy levels as well. 

4. A vegetarian source highly rich in niacin (Vitamin B3) however most meat-eaters get their B3 from steaks and chicken, vegetarians and vegans will love this vitamin from lucuma. This nutrient helps in digestion, muscle development, and the regulation of stress and sex hormones. 

5. Lucuma is super fiber rich food, which can aids in digestive system work properly, plummeting constipation and bloating. 

6. Lucuma is very helpful in wound healing and anti-Inflammatory cinnamon, ginger, and lucuma smoothie for a healthy and tasty treat. 

7. Lucuma Nut oil is anti-viral and anti-bacterial which can also prevent colds, flu, and other viral or bacterial diseases, possibly making it a sound substitute for pharmaceutical antibiotics in many cases.