Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

12 Days of Christmas - 4th Day of Christmas

4th Day of Christmas — December 28th

Nearing year's end, many of us are tired and hopeful. It may be the human condition to always see the New Year as an opportunity for re-birth and renewal.

However, not wanting to rush the end of the year, there are still some ways to enjoy the old year.

Asparagus and strawberries! Now is the time to plant both as bare-root. Also when planned carefully, both can be planted in the same bed.

ASPARAGUS — traditional planting methods work best for the asparagus. Choose a spot which will get sun all year long. Work the soil very well to a depth of a foot and a half, adding in compost or well rotted manure. Dig out a trench of about a foot in depth and lay a mound of loose soil down the middle — you can make multiple trenches — they should be 12-18 inches apart. The asparagus ‘crowns' (roots) should be spread out over the mound, 12-18 inches apart. Now fill in the trenches and tamp down the soil lightly — mark where each ‘crown' is. The crown should be about 2-3 inches below the soil level. Water in well.

Asparagus harvesting is done in the spring, as the spears appear BUT, you need to give the plants 2-3 years before heavy harvesting. This spring, harvest only 1 spear from each crown, or if you are getting a lot of growth, you can harvest for 1 week, then allow the plant to re-generate/feed itself for next year.

Harvest by taking a sharp knife and cutting off at or just below the soil level BUT make sure you do not cut into the crown.

Next spring you can harvest for 2-3 weeks and by the 3 or 4th year you can harvest for 4-6 weeks. Allowing many spears to grow uncut means bigger crowns = more spears the following year.

A note — next year in December your asparagus will have produced lots of feather fronds and red berries. When the plant turns golden yellow almost all over, cut back to the ground.

STRAWBERRIES — like asparagus, strawberry plants have a ‘crown' from which roots grow. Unlike asparagus, the strawberry crowns must be planted above ground. After working the soil well, plant each strawberry plant holding the crown in one hand and spreading the roots over a mound of soil, filling in as you go. If the crown winds up below the soil line, gently loosen and pull up until the crown is fully exposed and tamp soil down well.

Water strawberry plants in well to ensure there are no air pockets around the roots.

The strawberry plants can be placed between the asparagus if you leave 18 inches or more between the asparagus, or they can be planted around the outside of the asparagus bed.



When was the last time you made the family "real" hot cocoa? It doesn't take long — the time it takes to warm milk to not-quite-boiling stage. And, as with many homemade foods, you control the ingredients.

Good quality cocoa powder (I use Hershey's but use one you like)
Options: candy cane, cinnamon, chili powder, whipped cream

For each serving the proportions are:
1 heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder
2 measured teaspoons of sugar
6-8 ounces of milk

In a pot place cocoa, sugar, a dash of salt (you only need one small dash of salt for the entire pot), and a little of the milk. Turn the heat on med high and stir the mixture to dissolve the dry ingredients. As the milk heats up the cocoa and sugar will dissolve and mix in well. Add the rest of the milk in a steady stream, stirring. Continue stirring as the mixture heats to desired temperature — DO NOT let boil. Pour into mugs.

Options: Mexican cocoa is made with the addition of cinnamon and an optional bit of chili powder if you like, stirred in the mix while heating.

OR add a candy cane hanging in the cup to use as a stirrer! OR, topped with whipped cream


Do you know about the Cherry Road Christmas Light Display?

This neighborhood in Mesa has a tradition of some awesome Christmas Light displays, AND, the cul-de-sac about 2 streets in has donation barrels for the food banks, at the entrance..

Collect some canned foods — try to image a dinner of only canned foods, meat, carb, vegetable and fruit — no cheapo stuff, please folks, but there is nothing wrong with canned tuna or salmon — think about a combination your family would like. Add some canned or jarred spices too!
Make up a thermos of Hot Cocoa for your enjoyment.
Dress Warm!

Directions: At the intersection of Country Club Drive and Guadalupe Road, turn west on Guadalupe and go to Cherry, turn north. There is a community park on the left and the cul-de- sac is about 2 streets up. Find a place to park — do not block someone's driveway! Drop off the canned goods and enjoy the walk through neighborhood. Some of the folks have backyard exhibitions too. Hours are: Sunset to 9 PM for all the displays. Street-side lights stay on later.


Old Time Radio:

Jack Benny's radio program always included references to his well-known stinginess (in reality, Benny was known as a very giving person). Enjoy his brand of comedy.

Mary comes over to help Jack trim his Christmas Tree. When she plugs in the lights, Jack gets a shock and he tries his hand ate being an electrician by wrapping the cord with "enough tape." Meanwhile a police officer stops by to talk to Jack Benny about disturbing the peace at the department store. Jack almost gets arrested for losing his cool with an old man that kept asking him "What should I buy my wife for Christmas?" and for breathing on someone's Christmas carnation. Listen free

Merry 4th Day of Christmas!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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