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Garden Preparation- Things To Think About- Some Basics

January 23rd, 2008 · 5 Comments

There are some thinks to think about when starting or preparing your garden.

1. One of the most important things is to know how much sun your garden gets everyday. If you gauge it at this time of year, remember the sun will be out longer and will be higher in the sky (and does take a little bit of a different angle during high summer months). Of you get less than six hours of direct sunlight, you need to plant accordingly. [Read more →]

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Welcome 2008 – Planning This Years Garden

January 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

Now is the time to start thinking about the garden of 2008. Start asking your friends and family what they want you to grow or just pick em yourself. When selecting seeds, a little preparation and planning can go a long way.

First, you need to know the basics when planning the Garden

So far, I have had one request…Brussels Sprouts. I got my mom to expand her garden this year after she loved picking her own home grown carrots. Now let’s see if she can keep up with the weeds. Ill try adding straw around her plants to slow them down. [Read more →]

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Winter Hibernation – Are you getting too many catalogs?

January 18th, 2008 · 1 Comment

The garden is sleeping but the garlic is growing. The parsley is still there. So is the thyme. So is the rosemary.  So is the kale, brussel sprouts, carrots, and cabbage.  Sounds like I still have a garden out there.

We’ve had a light winter so far and as the seed catalogs come in, I am starting to think about what I will grow this year. I am more and more interested in native plants or seeds that have come from this region, Long Island if possible. My garlic came from upstate. [Read more →]

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Garlic Planting Day

November 23rd, 2007 · 1 Comment

Today was garlic planting day; Four rows, 3 inches apart, each garlic 3 inches apart.  The bed had been prepped a few weeks ago with compost amendments and old mulch (from the tomatoes) mixed in to the soil.  I set up two strings lengthwise to to the bed and marked with marker every 3 inches.  Then set up a string going across the other strings so it can slide down the line and lay in a straight line to show where the garlic needs to be planted (in order to maintain straight lines for weeding purposes later).  The strings worked out for the first two garlics and finally I said forget about it.  I’ll wing it. [Read more →]

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Local Long Island Honey Resource – Raw and Unprocessed

November 22nd, 2007 · 2 Comments

I was browsing the Craigslist Farm and Garden section of Long Island (my article about Craigslist) and came across the following ad for local unprocessed and raw honey (3 varieties – spring, summer, fall). I am just going to copy the ad in here:

Local Long Island Honey - Raw and Unprocessed [Read more →]

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Autumn Olive Berry Reduction

November 20th, 2007 · 4 Comments

Autumn Olive Berries

A few weeks ago I went on a foraging walk with the “Wildman” Steve Brill. He showed the group a tree with edible berries and I knew right away I had seen them before, loads of them. So long story short, I had a wild harvest of probably about 15-20 lbs. of berries. I feel as if I barely made a dent in the grove either, so I did leave plenty for the birds. [Read more →]

→ 4 Comments Tags: Recipes · Shrubs

Chamomile

November 18th, 2007 · No Comments

In my Long Island Garden, I planted German Chamomile (back in 2004) and it has come back every year since then, in different places. It’s great! I allow them to grow where I want and pull the rest up. They are always one of the first garden herbs to show up at the end of winter, popping their cute little leaves out and saying “I have arrived!” For me, they grow into huge bushes that yield great harvests throughout the early summer. I love going out into the garden to smell the scented flowers. They smell just like apples! and every year, I get feelings of amazement and wonder and appreciation for this plant.

As the flowers start to show, I start to pick. From the time I start picking the little flowers, the plant starts producing more flowers, and the cycle continues until I am surrounded with chamomile flowers and am running out of space in front of my window to dry them. The way to pick them, run your fingers from the leafy parts up the stems until you hit the flowers and snap them off right into your hand. It is not uncommon to get 7-10 flowers in one lift. Dry them out in front of a sunny window (for about a week or so) and place them in a bag or closed container to be used as one of the best tea ingredients you will ever have. Some of the “fallen soldier flowers” that fall back into the ground are sure to turn into brother and sister plants next year. Each flower head (the yellow center) holds at least 50, maybe a hundred little seeds.

I use it at night before bed as a very relaxing tea. It is great mixed with most herbs. I love mint chamomile tea (maybe with some ginger and licorice root) for a good digestion tea. One of my other favorite uses for chamomile is for cosmetic purposes. I like to (maybe once a month) take a facial steam bath (that’s my name for it) by taking boiling water, pouring it into a big pot that is filled with an herbal concoction based around chamomile (other ingredients – lavender, wintergreen, rosemary, eucalyptus, and anything else you feel like) and fill up the pot 3-6 inches with water. Wait about 2-5 minutes so the water doesn’t burn. Take a towel, drape it over your head and position your face over the pot. Make sure the towel surrounds the pot so it keeps the heat in. However, if its too hot, you can use the towel to let some air out until you reached a comfortable temperature. I like to sit there for as long as necessary, allowing all the impurities sweat right out of the pores. Another thing I notice about doing this, well, this might sound a little strange, but it works for me. I bite my teeth together, and breath in through my teeth and out through my teeth, and this hot water vapor does something good to my gums and teeth. I do not know what it does, but it always feels like I needed to do it. After you are done, wash your face with warm water to get all the impurities off the skin so they do not re-absorb.

Some detailed growing information and links about chamomile:

 

chamomileGerman Chamomile, Scented Mayweed (info from Dave’s Garden)
Matricaria recutita

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ay) (Info)
Genus: Matricaria (mat-ri-KAR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: recutita (re-KOO-tee-ta) (Info)

Synonym:Chamomilla recutita
Synonym:Matricaria chamomilla
Synonym:Matricaria chamomilla var. coronata
Synonym:Matricaria suaveolens

Category:
Annuals
Herbs

Height:
6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

Spacing:
6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

Hardiness:
Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Foliage:
Aromatic

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


Organic Seed Sources:

Me – If I have some (which I usually do) I will gladly give some to you.

Seeds of Change


Chamomile Links:


Botanical.Com’s Varieties of Chamomile

Wikipedia – German Chamomile

Garden Guide – German Chamomile Plant Information

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A Few Storage Recipes For Those Late Season Peppers – Hot Sauce / Onions and Peppers

November 13th, 2007 · No Comments

hot poblano pepper

Given the right care, even one hot pepper plant can produce an over-abundance of peppers. In this case, between my neighbor and I, we had about 20 plants. That is a load of peppers, many of which get neglected and go bad (for one reason or another).

2007 final pepper harvestSo the other day (the day before the first dip in temperatures around here) I went out to his yard and mine and picked all the peppers and tomatoes I could find that were still good. There were so many peppers, sweet and hot. I was left with a great opportunity. What to do with them though? I have dried peppers before in a dyhydrator and it worked good. I find that it uses heat and therefore gives the preserved food a cooked flavor (not that it’s bad, but it does use low heat). I was also concerned it could catch on fire.

I found Alton Brown’s technique to be very interesting. He makes a dyhydrator with 1 box fan, paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords and while it takes a bit longer to dry, it preserves the food with only air, no heat. I have never used this technique, but the next time I want to dry produce, you can bet Im going to try it. The reason I did not want to dry the peppers this year is because I dried so many of them a few years ago that I am still going through them. Basically, I don’t need them right now. So Ill try something new. I thought I would experiment with simple recipes that can last a while.

Hot Sauce!

I made two kinds.

hot sauce1. Poblano Punch

Ingredients:

  • About 15 Fresh Poblano Peppers (Green, Red or mixed)
  • 1-2 Carrots
  • 2-3 heads of garlic
  • 1 or more cups of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of white vinger
  • 1 cup of water or more
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon or more salt
  • 1 onion
  • Other Spices: Turmeric, Cumin, Dried Oregano
  • Hardware: Blender, Rubber Gloves, Bottling Supplies, Aluminum Foil

Roast Garlic in aluminum foil. Cut off top 1/4 of garlic head, place in aluminum foil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on it and wrap it up and put it in 350 degree oven for a while (30 mins or so – until it smells unbelievable). After you put it in the oven, start roasting the peppers. I use a cast iron pan and just pop the peppers in there on medium to medium-high heat. Keep flipping them once they blister up nice and black so they get blackened most of the way around. Chop and saute an onion in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Chop the carrot and simmer in the water for about 15 mins and then let it cool down a bit. Take the peppers out of the pan and place into a paper bag or put them in a bowl and cover them (anything to trap the steam coming off the peppers). After about 10-15 minutes, take the peppers out and remove skins. peeling peppersThey should come off easily, but could be a bit finiky. Don’t stress if some will not come off, it’s no big deal. Some people like to remove the seeds here, but I just pop off the tops and throw the peppers into the blender. This is HOT sauce.

Once the garlic and carrots cool down a bit, add them to the blender along with the onion, juiced lime, salt, vinegars, and the rest of the ingredients. Many recipes add a little sugar. I would have but forgot it and it was still good. Blend it together and add more water and/or vinegar to get the right consistency you want.

As I was making hot sauce I saw it was kind of hard to mess it up if you have the right ingredients. So at the end, I was adding more water, more vinegar, some garlic powder, some dried oregano, turmeric, cumin. And it came out really really good. Actually, it was a bit milder than I thought it would be, but I liked that too. Because of this and because I had a million more peppers, I decided to make a REALLY HOT sauce.

jalapeno and tomato mixture2. Jalapeño de Plainview

Ingredients:

  • Some tomatoes (roma, san marzano – for roasting)
  • 3 heads of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of salt or more
  • 1 cup of water (or more)
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more) of vinegar (white or cider)
  • 20-25 jalapeño chiles
  • 1-2 ripe mangos

Cut off the tops of the peppers and put them into a small saucepot with the water. Put the heat to medium/medium-hot and bring to boil. Lower heat to low for a few minutes and shut off heat. Let cool.

Roast garlic the same way as above recipe. I made both recipes in the same night, so I used the same batch of roasted garlic. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Warm up a pan and add a little oil. Place tomato halves flat side down until browned a bit. Chop up mango.

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend away. Add more liquids, salt or more fresh chiles to taste. Bottle and give to friends. It can keep in fridge for a long time, if it lasts that long.

Onions and Peppers
peppers and onions

I bought a 50 lb. bag of onions last month at a big farm stand out east and have been keeping it in the garage. I also had an overabundance of sweet peppers, so it was fairly obvious to me what I needed to do. Saute a mass amount of onions and peppers, like the vendors at the Jets games. Then, borrow a pressure cooker from my friend and bottle it. It was the firs time I used a pressure cooker by myself. The results were fair.

Chop the onions and peppers in fairly large pieces, and remove all the seeds and veins of the peppers. Then saute them in batches with a bit of olive oil and salt.

sterilize jarssterilize jarsFill sterilized bottles with onions and peppers. Use pressure cooker to finish bottling process. I will write a later article about how to use a pressure cooker, once I master the technique. Right now, I am a mere novice. Only two of the bottles actually closed properly, however, after a night in the fridge, the rest closed as well. I don’t trust them enough to take them out of the fridge though.

So hopefully the peppers and onions will hang around a while. They are quite versatile for a boost of flavor many dishes. They add sweet, savory, and down home flavor, especially because the peppers were grown in our backyards (as organically as organic can be). Just today, I used it in some leftover pasta to give it some depth of flavor. Top a steak with it, or the famous “Sausage, Peppers, and Onions,” or stuff them in a baked squash.

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Wildman Steve Brill’s “Into the Wild” Adventure

November 10th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Wildman Steve BrillLast Sunday, Jen and I went on a nature walk with the “Wildman” Steve Brill. The premise of his walks is to learn about foraging for edible plants in the wild. He is a quirky man with loads of information about nature and local plants. He made music from his mouth by clapping his hands together in front of his mouth and changing the pitch of the sound with his mouth. He turned each mouth clap into a note and played little songs for the kids, young and old. What a monkey! What a fun guy! or shall I say Fungi? Quite the mushroom connoisseur. There were two kids on the tour that have definitely been on his tours before. As we walked along the trails of the Muttontown Preserve, he would say “heres a good spot for mushrooms , look around” and these two kids would run into the woods searching for mushrooms. It was like a small “Wildman Steve Brill” scout club.

There were a variety ages there, and everyone seemed to enjoy the walk.

Things he identified that were of interest to me include:

- Autumn Olive Berries – This was “the” big hit of the day. Steve pointed them out to us and they were quite plentiful in this area at this time of year. So many people were collecting them and eating them all day. What was funny to me is that I realized I had seen those berries for years and years while hiking in the trails and had no idea they were edible. So a few days later, I called up my buddy Jon and told him to come meet me to collect some berries and we filled up bags and bags of them. They are now sitting in my fridge and I have yet to decide what to do with them. Im thinking about making wine, or preserves, or some kind or sauce for Thanksgiving, or just freeze them. I will post the recipes, whatever I wind up doing with them.

- Sassafrass – I knew about using the root to make root beer, but he told us how, and its on his website here.

- Sheep Sorrell – Tasty Wild Field Green

- Crab Apples – Never knew about these. You can eat them. They are a bit tart, but the soft ripe ones are kind of sweet. But theres a fine line between ripe and bad.

- Spice Bush – Used to make Tea

- Bay – Huge Bay Leaf Shrubs – Ill never buy them in the store now.

- Jewel Weed – I learned to rub it on you if you have been bitten or stung by any insect (such as bees, mosquitos, etc) and it takes the pain away. You can recognize it by the way water shapes and shines like a jewel when it lands on the plant.

-Garlic Mustard – Learned to identify the seed pods and eat the seeds. mmm…mustard.

-Poor Mans Pepper – Tastes like pepper, I think it tastes like Arugula a little, like the Arugula flowers

- Privot – Poison Privot

I will certainly be on more of his tours now. You can find his schedule on his website. He asks for a donation of $12 per person and sells books and dvds as well. I bought his book “Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places.”

The one thing I took away from the lessons is never to eat something unless you are 100% sure you can identify it.

I will add to this posting a bit more solid information and links and photos on the plants we identified. Check back.

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Garlic Planting – Restoration Farm – CSA

November 9th, 2007 · 2 Comments

So I volunteered today at the Restoration Farm in Old Bethpage. The keepers of the farm, Dan and Caroline, are great people, really, really great people. I grew up around there and remember visiting The Old Bethpage Village Restoration, but I never knew there were farm animals around; pigs, cows, chickens, and horses. What a fantastic place! Not to mention its a great open space in Nassau County and some of the houses there are from the 19th century. As soon as I walked in, I felt I had taken a step back into time, to simple times.

We planted about 2,000 garlic cloves in 3-4 hours in a mixed bag of weather. I did some raking of beds and planting of garlic. After we finished planting a bed garlic, Dan would run the “spreader” over it with some aged manure. After we were done, the garlic received a nice shower to settle into their new homes. It was a beautiful day.

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