Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Last of the Garlic Harvest

Howdy Folks,

The last of my for-sale garlic is gone - sold like crazy at the farmers market. Just to try it, I braided some as I was cleaning them off and thought you would enjoy seeing my amateur work.

For those of you who enjoy my fresh produce at the market and either got some of the garlic or missed it this year, I am planning on increasing the planting space for next spring's harvest. I was so pleased with the performance of the garlic, ease of growing and density of harvest, I'm going to plant the Purple Haze I grew this year and another variety.

If you have some garlic and have never tried roasting it here are a couple of options:

Roasting Whole Heads

Most Preferred: Slice off the tippy top of the garlic head to expose just a small part of each clove. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the cut top.
1) Roast on the grill on indirect heat for approximately 40-45 minutes - squeeze to test (don't burn yourself!) - it should feel softened.
2) Oven: at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Second Most Preferred: Separate the clove from the head and do NOT not peel. Toss in along side of any roast your are cooking, or place in a single layer in a pan and oven back at 400 degrees for approximately 25 minutes - squeeze to see if they have softened.

Roasting garlic mellows the flavor, bringing an incredible nutty taste to it. Squeezing the pulp from the skins is the easiest way to express the roasted garlic out. Add to mashed potatoes, spread on toasted bread with or without added tomatoes, basil and cheese, add to salad dressing.

Freeze in air tight container for long term storage. Refrigerate and use within a week for short term keeping.

CAUTION: For health-sake do not freeze whole raw garlic or onions.

Have a great 4th of July!!!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Banana Flower Bud

Howdy Folks,

On June 29, 2009, Deane spotted the banana flower bud on our Blue Java (aka "Ice Cream") banana plant. Hope you can see how the bud can just sort of appear - I circled, from left to right, in blue the bud as viewed from far away, then closer, then right up underneath it.

If you have followed my blog and newsletter you may remember we got our first ever banana bloom, followed by fruit, last fall. The challenge was that it really flowered too late for the fruit to develop to proper size. We decided to cut the fruit stalk off just before an impending freeze, hung the stalk in a back room and several weeks later we actually got to taste ripe bananas! That was okay, but I was really hoping our plants would fruit early enough this spring/summer to allow the fruit to ripen more fully before harvesting. I am really excited that we will get the true 'vanilla ice cream' flavor this banana is known for. Will keep you posted.

Did you know the whole plant is pretty much edible? The flower bud (as shown), the fruit, and the leaves (used for steaming food). I do not want to sacrifice a flower bud to try cooking with it, but I have used the leaves to steam things on the grill and it imparts a fruity flavor note to the food.

TIP: When serving food, especially with the July 4th weekend coming up, use edible leaves in place of doilies to display your delicious foods. Citrus, fig and banana leaves are all edible (meaning non-toxic, crunchy but safe) garnishes for your serving platters.

TWITTER: I'm now twittering! Catch my 'tweets' in the upper right side bar here on the blog, or sign up to follow me if you enjoy tweeting.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Local Food Source Finders, Greening: Factory Farming, and Miscellaneous

Howdy folks,

"Anything not benefiting from the addition of chocolate, will probably benefit from the addition of garlic." Culinary proverb

I thought that fun quote was appropriate for our household since I just harvested a bunch of garlic and I live with a confirmed chocoholic.

Just some notes on things and places I wanted to get in front of your peepers, while I get back in the groove of things.

In addition to for finding local farms etc. of organic or natural food sources, a new-to-me site is

If you want healthy sources of food, then you need to consider what it takes to raise the ‘healthy' food whether it be plant or animal. In many cases this means supporting small ‘artisan' farmers, ranchers, and food processors. Until the demand "grows" the supply faster, the cost will be a little higher for these foods. There is a savings to you and your family and it is the reduced need to supplement your meals with manufactured supplements or medical care. Think about it.

A fun blog post on Queen of the Night blooming by one of the horticulturists at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Not a food plant, but one of our Cinderella cactus in the desert -- the kind of bloom on an unassuming plant that just blows you away.

I want to make clear I am a total farm supporter — it is not fair for a community to put in developments near farms and ranches and then expect the farms and ranches to change their practices because they are farms and ranches now surrounded by ornamental back yards. It is equally clear that compressed factory farming techniques are the cause of some of the ‘complaints' from those ornamental back yards and can be addressed with humane-farming practices and more environmentally friendly farming practices.

To my vegan and vegetarian fans you may want to skip the rest of this blog.

Recently another new-to-me source was at our Mesa Farmer's Market - humanely-raised, grass- fed beef. The challenge I've had in finding a source for this beef (we indulge about once a month) is that most of the small ranchers have had to require 1/4 sides or large bulk poundage - way beyond my storage capabilities. — is a 3 generation ranch, dedicated to natural practices which they call from "pasture to palate." They maintain a total "green" approach to ranching choosing to share the land with all critters, while maintaining a ‘beyond organic' approach to ranching the cattle. Check them out. Oh, and grass-fed beef is shown to have higher Omega-3 oils than corn fed.

To do things the natural way, means smaller-non-factory-farming concepts which require a more "Artisanal" hands-on approach. What all that means is the good grass-fed beef is going to cost you more than factory-farmer-corn/"other feed"-fed. We don't eat beef a lot, but this is worth the extra price to maintain my personal preference for humanely handled livestock.

It is the same idea behind non-caged chickens. I do not want to get deeply (just some quotes and observations here) into one of the green-politic issues of factory chicken farming, but there is a brouhaha over California's recently passed "chicken welfare law" which requires producers to make cages big enough that the hens can stretch their wings without touching the cage walls.

"Industry wide, chickens are now provided an average space the size of an 8-by-11 sheet of paper." ... "Meanwhile, restaurant chains such as Burger King and Wendy's have started using more cage-free eggs at the urging of the society.",0,1276492.story

"These "battery" cages are stacked in rows four cages high, allowing each bird 67 square inches of room — about the size of a large shoebox." — 42&issue_num=34&l=1

This California Chicken Welfare Law is very similar to the law passed last year here in Arizona regarding pens for pigs. Before the law pens were designed to keep the pigs totally centered in a narrow pen where they could not turn around. The producers are adjusting.

Raising chickens can be a messy business, because they are not the cleanest birds in the world, but their manure and insect-eating propensities can be utilized in a well-managed program.

In a column last August, Arizona Republic Reporter, Linda Valdez, bought into the factory-farm is better concept, because the factory farmers had some well-crafted comments on small-farm cage-free approaches. Among the problematic comments was that farmers market cage-free eggs are washed in detergent. I don't know any farmers market suppliers who do that. As far as higher mortality and other issues raised in her column, I also do not have that experience.
Read her column for yourself and see what you think.

Bottom line: a 67 inch cube cage for an animal to spend all of its two life in is a ‘cost' too high for me to consider the best practice.

Likewise the practice of feeding a cow corn and "other" protein - ick - sources, supplemented with antibiotics to put weight on fast before their organs fail is also a ‘cost' too high for me to consider the best practice.

All of these factory-methods were designed to counter-act the problem of raising too many animals in too small an area — meaning the necessity of fight-reduction, the requirement of antibiotics to counteract the diseases inherent in close-quarter living conditions, and ‘designer- hybrid' livestock created to put on weight faster, or specialized enhanced feed which means created in a laboratory.

Some of the recent health scares of mad-cow and e-coli infected beef are directly related to non- grass-fed operations. Think about it.

A NOTE about cooking with grass-fed — most folks are so used to corn/"protein" fed beef that cooking with grass-fed requires a different learning and cooking curve, slow and low is the mantra. If you grill or pan fry grass-fed steaks the usual way you will get great flavored, but tough meat. Steaks and such benefit greatly from marinating for a couple of hours to create a perfectly tender steak on the plate.

If you want to have access to green-producers of food, you need to support them as best you can with your purchasing power. The more you as a consumer request AND use green sources of food, the more you will have available to you, at a fair price.

Have a great day,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady