Thursday, December 8, 2016

Peppers with a Purpose

By Chuck Richards

In late November, I finally committed to the bittersweet task of cleaning up what was the backyard edible garden. Being the Northern Hemisphere’s time to weather the Earth’s 23 degree tilt away from our energy source, my tomato stakes came down, and the remaining plant material went to compost. In the midst of this annual exercise of mind and body, I once again found humor in the absurd amount of hot peppers that I produce annually. By the time I was finished the chore, I had a more than fifty final hot peppers for 2016.

If my wife, our two toddler girls, and I solely ate hot peppers, I would never again have to wait behind that guy at the Giant who uses self-checkout with an overflowing shopping cart when the rest of us behind him have a few things in a small basket. But outside of me, no one in this house eats hot peppers. One can only push so many hot peppers on friends, family, and colleagues before people begin to talk. So, each year, I am committed to finding creative ways to utilize all those hot peppers and, lately, equally committed to being pleasant in the self-checkout line at the grocery store.

After I have made as many salsas as I can dream up, or tried every sandwich or variation of grilled chicken or burger with roasted hot peppers, or even spiced up a tomato sauce; eventually, there are still too many peppers and not enough time. Since they don’t keep forever, I have a few favorite ways to utilize them throughout the winter and all the way into the next growing season.

Crushed Red Pepper

I use my bright red cayenne peppers to make homemade crushed red pepper.  It’s very easy to do and pays long-term dividends with the spice and flavor it can add to many winter meals.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Remove stems, and cut the peppers in half;

2. Spread the peppers across a cookie sheet. Feel free to include some seed too;

3. Bake at 200° F (or less if your oven settings and time allow) for several hours. Use a fan or crack the oven door when you can, as air circulation is important for the process;

4. Crush! When the peppers are fully dried, place in food processor or take a rolling pin or knife to them;

5. Place crushed pepper in a shaker (I just clean out a used shaker and make my own label).

That’s it. It’s that easy. Just make sure they are fully dry, or they are more difficult to crush/dice.

Diced Peppers for Freezing

I use freezer sphere molds…banana, jalapeno, cayenne, serrano, habanero, etc. They are such a simple “add” to any dish throughout the winter when all you have to do is open up one of these molds and stir them in as you begin cooking or thaw and utilize uncooked in many different meals.

Save the Seeds

You can use these seeds for next year’s plants. I’ve been planting for years without buying any seed. Simply separate all the seeds and set on a surface to dry for a few days. Then, put them in a small paper bag, label it, and put it in a plastic storage in the back of the fridge until it is time to plant in the spring!


I think the most important tip is to be careful throughout these processes. I’m often too stubborn to use gloves, but it is a good idea to use some sort of protection from the capsaicin, which is the oily chemical responsible for the "hot" in peppers (genus capsicum)

Capsaicin is difficult to wash/scrub off as it is hydrophobic, and even after you think you are in the clear, you’ll rub your eyes and be instantly and very uncomfortably reminded why you should have been less stubborn.

If you are using the oven to assist your drying process, be sure to either have a window cracked for good circulation, and consider evacuating loved ones and pets prior to oven drying. That capsaicin can begin permeating your living space to the point of irritability. 


Search “OC Spray” on YouTube for a few examples of what a military/law enforcement dose of a capsaicin-based spray does to these poor individuals. Sure, these are extreme examples, but maybe they’ll help you remember these safety tips.

Hopefully this helps you enjoy these healthy and delicious hot peppers year-round!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Passyunk Gardens

A view of Passyunk Gardens from across Wharton ST.
Still productive in late October. 
By Stephanie Rukowicz

In addition to the productive edible food demonstration garden at the Horticulture Center, a second MG edible demonstration garden was added to the project list in Spring 2015: Passyunk Gardens. Located in South Philly at the corner of Wharton ST and East Passyunk AVE, this demonstration vegetable garden is maintained by volunteers.

Established in 2011, the garden is all container. It began with high-raised beds that have no contact with the ground and, over time, additional tub containers have been added to maximize the use of space. Increasingly, perennial plants have also been added around the containers to develop a permaculture.  It is an interesting experiment in what's possible with these true urban conditions.

Passyunk Gardens is a community garden yet different from a typical community garden. All beds and containers are tended and harvested collectively. This togetherness allows for more community interaction, rather than the traditional community garden where individual plots are assigned and the majority of time spent at the garden is by individuals working in and harvesting from individual plots. Produce is shared with neighbors, gardeners and partner organization United Communities. In 2016, the garden donated over 200 lbs of produce to United Communities' food pantry.

A view inside the garden in July 2016.
Photo from garden's Facebook page

One of two murals that brighten the garden space.
PHS City Harvest program provides plants and gardening supplies which are supplemented by neighborhood donations and the support of Passyunk Square Civic Association. Plants are selected with community member interests in mind and experiments are encouraged. The garden has an established bed of hops (which are turned into beer for the annual neighborhood holiday party), grape vines, berries, horseradish, sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes), and a variety of perennial pollinator plants.

Trials have included store bought garlic vs. seed garlic, growing tomatoes in woolly pockets and hay bales, experimenting with sorgham from the Experimental Farm Network, a three sisters garden in 2015 and a four sisters garden in 2016 (sunflowers, corn, pole beans, squash), and testing different methods of planting potatoes and sweet potatoes in containers.

There is an extensive herb garden that features flavors from the diverse cooking traditions of its neighbors including lemongrass, papalo, and basil. The garden has also coordinated with neighborhood chefs from East Passyunk Avenue to feature plants of special interest to seasonal menus. Garden leaders are always ready to make bed or container space for new and interesting growing projects.

Make Music Philly Event at Passyunk Gardens in June 2016.
Photo from garden's Facebook page

Workshops and demonstrations are held at the garden during the growing season. Topics have included: seed starting, companion planting, seed saving, organic pest control, wintering the garden, cooking with an herb garden, and sauerkraut making and canning. The garden also hosts nearby schools and youth organizations for tours and hands-on workshops. Art and music events, potlucks, barbecues all play a role in the success of community involvement in this demonstration garden.

During the growing season, workdays are scheduled the first Saturday of the month. All Master Gardeners and trainees are welcome to join.

The garden hosts open hours throughout the growing season on Sundays from 4:00-6:00pm and all who pass by are encouraged to stop in and enjoy the space: an oasis in South Philly.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How to “Start Over” Your Lawn Grass

Chuck Richards

Each year, I toil with the notion of how much of the yard I am going to be able to surreptitiously convert from lawn grass to some new and exciting flower or vegetable garden area without it ending in unnecessary marital stress. While I shape up garden borders here and there, there is a standing compromise that there will be an actual yard, and not all garden. So, since I have to have a front yard, I wanted it to be nice, and ours has been very far from that for years.

It’s worth considering a “Start Over” if your lawn grass is 50% or more A) overtaken by stubborn weeds year after year, B) suffering widespread pest or disease damage, or C) just unsightly for any combination of those and other causes.

As is quite common in men, I suffer from a degree of color-blindness, which is not ideal for someone who spends countless hours gardening. That said, even I can tell that the below photo of my front lawn grass is an ugly, spotty, dull, green and brown mess.

We  had moved into our home several years ago, and the grass lawn had been completely neglected for what must have been a long time. It was full of weeds and suffered terrible grub damage. A shovel full of soil revealed dozens of grubs treating the grassroots like it was soft-serve ice cream at an Old Country Buffet. After a couple seasons of failed attempts to rehabilitate, focusing on the worst spots, I decided it was time for a more drastic measure. It was too far gone. I needed to “Start Over.”

Between fall 2015 and spring 2016, I had used leaves, cardboard, and mulch to snuff out old grass to form the border of the front walkway and garden area next to it (pictured in next photo). That method translates nicely into creating a garden, as it can be left in place and planted through. However, to “Start Over” a larger grass lawn area, I wanted to use something a bit more uniform and easier to put in place. Also, I didn’t want to use leaves or mulch, since it would be a place for new grass after the doomed weed lawn below the cover was killed off. I do not use chemicals, so spray was not part of the plan. The purpose of my plan was to both avoid chemicals leaching through the soil and into the local system, and also avoid sheering off valuable layers of soil by digging the grass out.

So, I started by mowing it down as low as I could and giving it a good soaking. This puts the remaining turf, which can be stubborn, in best position to fail. Then, after a modest investment in 20 mil plastic sheeting, which I spread across the lawn, I utilized all kinds of objects found around the house to hold it in place. Next, I just let late summer heat coupled with no sunlight or water for about 6 weeks to kill off the messy, old neglected lawn.

Avoiding chemicals is a great option, but the tradeoff is harder work, and more neighbors, joggers, dog-walkers, mail carriers, and everyone else interrogating you about the 1.5 months of a black, plastic for a front yard. I made sure to take the opportunity to explain the entire project to the many people stopping to ask before continuing on to the park across the street.

When average temperatures were between 60 and 80 degrees (best for grass seed), the plastic came up, and I got right to pulling up the dead grass, weeds, and roots. Not every spot was as simple to tackle as others, so again, I don’t want to gloss over the hours of hard work involved in this part of the project.

It was not easy or fun, but the payoff kept me going. Also, I noticed spectators were now making an extra trip or two, slowing down to see progress and check on my well-being at times where I was struggling a bit with the effort.

I was able to pick up a tiller on the cheap, capitalizing on a summer inventory-clearing situation at my local Lowe’s. I figured this would be a good machine to have for other PSU Master Gardener events. It will travel nicely in the old Jeep.

Hand tools will work, or local hardware stores rent out tillers, too. Once all the old grass was removed, the soil tilled and raked (the grubs didn’t survive the process!), it was time to seed, continually water, and await germination.

I took help where I could get it. My daughter was excited about turning 3 and showed it off by helping daddy grow new grass by watering while I sat down and rehydrated. Allow the new grass to grow at least four inches before even light traffic or mowing. The loose soil does best if you can avoid any compaction as new roots are forming. Those roots are the reason fall is an ideal time to do this. Come spring, you’ll have a head start when your dormant grass “wakes up” and grows even more root base than spring seeding would produce before the summer heat puts stress on the grass.

This is the new lawn in late October. There are a few spots that are a bit lighter, but overall, this new lawn grass is in great shape heading into the winter dormancy. In the spring, those few spots will be addressed, as well as taking good care of the rest, and 2017 will finally show the full long-term success of a lawn grass “Start Over!”


There are plenty of resources out there with more details about the types of grass blends to choose, especially for our area. There are guides that go into greater detail about the steps involved. Don't expect a “one size fits all.” Shop around and take what you like and leave what you don't. Good luck with your “Start Over” if you choose to commit! It is a very rewarding project.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Last of the Basil

Stephanie Rukowicz

The basil in my yard was looking great until the last week in October, and with colder weather on the way, I knew it was best to harvest the remainder of my basil and preserve accordingly. Last year, there was more basil than I could preserve at my community garden. I made several batches of pesto to freeze, then spent three days using my low-end dehydrator to dry a total of two quarts to use over the winter. 2015 was the first year I dried basil and wow, what a taste difference I found from the store bought version! I attempted the microwave version, but found I was easily distracted from a process that needed to be watched closely. If I had a nicer dehydrator, I'm sure the process would have gone much more quickly.

My basil harvest, end of season 2016.
This year, someone beat me to the end-of-season basil harvest so I just had a couple bunches from my yard.

I also had some spinach to use up so I decided to make a double batch of pesto. I make a vegan version (no cheese), and like to cut the richness of basil with another green. Here I used spinach, but my favorites are basil with arugula and basil with broccoli rabe leaves.

Recipe adapted from La Dolche Vegan! by Sarah Kramer, p. 177
For 1 lb of dry pasta use:
1.5 c fresh basil, packed (I use leaves, flowers and tender stems)
1.5 c spinach (or kale, arugula, broccoli rabe leaves)
1/2 c walnuts (I use raw, but toast walnuts for more flavor. I've also used cashew or almond, you can soak first for more creaminess)
2 large or 4 small to medium garlic cloves
1/4 c nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 c olive oil

Add ingredients to blender in order listed. Know your blender--if you don't have a Ninja or Vitamix you may want to chop garlic instead of adding whole cloves. Add water slowly (1 to 4 T) if needed to desired creaminess. Makes approximately 1c, enough for 1 lb pasta and some fresh tomatoes - sliced or diced.

I think next year I will try the recipe for basil dipping oil that Michele posted a while back. Infused olive oil can be pricey, but it is so delicious. I would love to master my own version.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Edible Demonstration Garden: 2016 and Beyond

By Stephanie Rukowicz

The 2016 season was another successful one for the MG Edible Demonstration Garden at the Horticultural Center.  A team effort led by Lois Fischer resulted in the garden winning another award in the PHS Gardening and Greening contest: Garden of Distinction.
The Edible Demonstration Garden earned a
Garden of Distinction award from PHS in 2016.
The current garden space is approximately 1300 square feet. To give you an idea of the variety of fruit, herbs, and vegetables grown during the past season, see below.

Fruit: 2 varieties of blueberries and figs; gooseberry; passion fruit; and rhubarb
One of two varieties of fig tree at the garden.
Fruit cages protect the blueberries from birds and squirrels.

Herbs: 7 varieties of basil; 6 varieties of sage, three varieties of lavender, two varieties of nasturtium, parsley, rosemary, savory and tarragon; chives; cilantro; dill; epazote; fennel; germander; lemon verbena; loveage; mint; oregano; rumex; and stevia

In the foreground of this photo is the herb garden
in early summer. 
Vegetables: 9 varieties of pepper; 5 varieties of tomato; 5 varieties of beans; 4 varieties of eggplant; 2 varieties of arugula, kale, and zucchini; cardoon; carrots; garlic; kohlrabi; okra, onion; radish; spinach; squash; and swiss chard

A close up of the squash, beans, and arugula bed.

More vegetables! Look at that beautiful kale in the center of
the photo.
Exciting plans are in the works for 2017 and beyond. A three-year expansion was kicked off by an end-of-season work day in October. Next season an additional 1000 square feet will be added, nearly doubling the garden space. By the end of year three, the garden should be approximately 4500 square feet, including an additional seating area for visitors (and gardeners!) to rest or linger.

Thanks to those who came out in October to clear this large bed!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hedge Now to Prevent Winter Losses: Cuttings to propagate tender perennials

By Stephanie Rukowicz

Stephanie Rukowicz

The winter climate in Philadelphia has been quite variable over the past 10 years. In the past 7 that we've lived at our current residence, two consecutive Winters were so cold that the Springs that followed saw my 60+ year old fig tree die back to the ground and the loss of my rosemary plants. This was soon after Philadelphia saw a one-half zone change. Here in South Philly, the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has me in zone 7B.

Not one to bring in pots of tender perennials to overwinter, I take a different approach. As part of putting my garden to bed, I now take cuttings of many zone 7-8 plants and trees I would be sad to lose. If we end up having a typical mild winter, the worst that happens is I have more to plant or more to give away come Spring. Some cuttings can be easily propagated by taking cuttings and putting them in water, changing water every day (or when you can remember) until they root. This Mother Earth Living author even discovers how to use water for Bay Leaf cuttings with 100% propagation success rate (page 2 of 3 in article).

Barbecue Rosemary cuttings taken from my
community garden.
The sunniest window sills are typically crowded by early spring with cuttings, sweet potatoes, and seedlings, but for the last month of Fall and first month of Winter, rosemary and fig cuttings brighten my window when the view outside gets a little gray.

The above cuttings were taken in late October, when we were having unusually warm weather. I decided to take cuttings from a variety of rosemary unfamiliar to me until this spring: Barbecue. Named such for its sturdy stems, said to be strong enough to use as skewers for shish kabobs, infusing the food cooked on it with flavor of rosemary.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

PWD Rain Check Program - Stormwater Management Tools for Residents

By Stephanie Rukowicz

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) continues to run its Rain Check Program, which was created to help residents manage stormwater runoff at their homes. Residents are encouraged to attend a free workshop and upon completion can sign up to have a free rain barrel installed at their property, or a receive a discount on the installation of a downspout planter, rain garden or porous pavers. PWD funds the program, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) manages it.

Rain Check downspout planter in front of a
row home. 
There is a flex pipe attached to the downspout,
draining into the planter. To the right are
overflows to the sewer system. 

We had installed one rain barrel at a downspout from our main roof, but were interested in a second to capture the runoff from our garage roof. In September 2015, my husband and I attended a free, one-hour Rain Check workshop located at PHS (20th & Arch) and signed up to have a free rain barrel installed the following month. The installation occurred as scheduled and was completed very quickly. We have used the water captured to water our young street trees during this past hot and dry summer. One year later, I highly recommend participation in this program. It requires minimal time investment yet benefits both individual residents (free water collection) and the entire city (diverting stormwater from combined sewers during rain events).

Free rain barrel provided, delivered, and
installed through the PWD Rain Check program.
Installer cut a hole through downspout and
attached a flex pipe that includes a special
diverter which allows rainwater to flow through
downspout to sewer system when rain barrel is full.

PHS also sends out reminder emails for seasonal maintenance, as well as a reminder email to drain and disconnect your rain barrel before winter. Considering our first rain barrel was purchased for $100, this deal to get a free rain barrel delivered and installed can’t be beat.

Upcoming workshops are currently scheduled through the end of November, but if those don’t work for your schedule, you can request to be notified when new dates are added.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mantids in the Fall

by Stephanie Kearney

I was recently approached by a neighbor about praying mantids (the plural of ‘mantis’).  She wanted to know if there was some reason why she was seeing them in her Philadelphia garden now when she never remembered seeing them in the past.  

We are now officially in autumn, and it is actually quite common to see mature mantids this time of year.  Though eggs hatch in spring, we don’t usually see the tiny babies until they’re about 2 inches in length or longer, which doesn’t happen until late summer.  These larger mantids are easier to spot, and can often be seen hunting for prey – which for them is an extensive list.  Praying mantids are generalists, which means they will eat practically any insect in your garden.  This might sound like a good thing, but they eat beneficial insects too, and an overabundance could disrupt your ecosystem.  It’s also important to note that there are a few different species of mantids in our area, and only the Carolina mantis is native.  They are distinct from the rest as they are brown and smaller than their larger green cousins. 

As the weather turns colder, a female praying mantis will choose a branch on which to lay her eggs.  The foam-like, hard case, called an ootheca, may contain 50-200 eggs set to hatch in the spring.  I’ll be on the lookout for oothecae (another fun plural) on my shrubs as this season progresses, and I’ll be paying close attention to population changes next year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


by Michelle L. Dauberman

So you planted some Stevia in your herb garden this year and now it’s time harvest and use this trendy new sweetener.  Here are some suggestions on how to get the most out of your Stevia plant:

1.  Harvest your Stevia plants as late in the fall growing season as you can.  The longer you wait the sweeter the leaves will taste.
2.  Before the light frosts begin to settle it will be a good idea to lightly cover your plants.
3.  Protecting your Stevia plants extends the growing season but be sure to harvest your plants before the killing frost.  If you wait too long you will lose your plants.
4.  Now you’re ready to harvest, trim each stem from the base of the plant.
5.  Remove each leaf from the stem and place them on a drying screen or a net.
6.  On a warm fall day take the leaf-covered screen/net and place it in direct sun for about twelve hours.  You can also use a dehydrator but utilizing the sun is better.
7.  When your Stevia leaves are completely dry they are ready to be used or stored.

Using your home grown sweetener is easy.  Just crush or grind the leaves to taste and drop them in you favorite beverage or dish.

If you’d like to store your Stevia leaves for future use put them in any air-tight glass container and they will remain sweet for around two years.

For information on the health benefits of this sweetener:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Revitalize your garden for next year

Michele Koskinen

Summer is in our rear view mirror and we gardeners are looking forward to next season. There is much to do before the winter sets in. Cleaning the beds, removing any diseased plant material, composting your raised beds, maybe caring for a few cole crops through November, planting buls for a spring bloom, getting the vegetables beds ready for early spring planting (remember when you couldn't start because of the snow on the ground) and other chores you may have each year.

This past year, looking at my garden did not inspire me.  I see a tired, overgrown, wrong plant wrong place garden that was beautiful 5 years ago but now some love and tough decisions are required. So where do I start?

Do I remove the weeping cherry that is failing or try to save it?
The Magnolia is getting too tall and looks crowded in the corner…..Prune and lighten up the small specimen or remove.
One Hydrangea seems to not have good growth or bloom this year. Investigate how to help it become vigorous again.
Move some of the perennials and divide other's.
Add a piece of art to the garden.

The two photos are my timeline of two years that show the problems that became more obvious this year. This is one of my tools for reinvigorating the garden. After all, we do forget from year to year what did well and what needs to be changed.

Garden Shot 2015 July Magnolia getting too large for space
Yes you see veggies with my flowers.

Garden in late June 2016…Coneflowers reseeding everywhere, hosta needs to be divided, back beds not showing well this year.


The list below are questions and suggestions you may use to look at and evaluate your garden.

1. Photograph and map your current garden for reference.
2. If you have kept a journal every year, check back for any comments or photos on your garden. This allows you to remember any changes made over time.
3. Make a list of what you like and dislike about your current garden.
4. If large trees, shrubs or  perennials need to be removed or pruned, decide the how, who, and what will replace them.
5. Is your garden all seasons, or spectacular in two seasons? Do you want to extend the beauty of the seasons by adding another or happy with what you have?
6. Are your plants perennial, mixed, or mostly annual? How about your vegetable and herb garden.
7. Start planning now if you are going to add shrubs, trees or perennials. Many could be planted at this point and watered until the first frost. Fall plantings are often less traumatic for many species and will have a head start in the spring.

Remember that gardens are not static and last forever.  They grow, are beautiful and often need our help to remain beautiful and inspiring. Change is not a bad thing.

For more inspiration check out these articles:

Journals for the garden     previous blog
Photography of the garden…..previous blog

Updating you garden/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Peas, peas and more peas...please.

by Michelle L. Dauberman

When I was a very small child, growing up in central PA, I remember how accessible home vegetable gardens were and in the beautiful garden that my parents planted I recall running through rows of string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, radishes, beets, peas and even several 30’ rows of sweet corn.

I bring up the past in today’s post because I remember with fondness how close we were to our food (literally and figuratively) and I recall, with a wink, how I would help with the harvest and by harvest I mean picking and immediately eating the yields, especially the sweet peas.

In this year’s PSU Edible Demonstration Garden you will find some tasty and tempting peas as well.  Sugar Snap Peas to be exact.  To get these wonderful green peas and pods plant them in average garden soil, full sun, don’t let them dry out completely and remember to support your plants.  As it is with most plants in the pea family they are climbers and welcome the support.  For vegetable gardeners with limited space you can grow your peas in pots and containers but make sure that you get the bush-style variety.

Enjoy your peas and I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the harvest!

For more information on peas check out this PSU Extension publication:

HortLine New email address for all Philadelphia Gardeners

Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners' Horticultural Hot Line -- HortLine -- has a new email address.

Send your questions about flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, soil health, pruning and all other horticultural topics to this email address. A qualified and knowledgeable Master Gardener will answer your email and help to solve your problem, or find someone who can.If you have photos to illustrate your problem, please send these, too.

Not a Philadelphia County gardener…….check you local or state Extension for their Hot Line. Master Gardeners are always ready to help with your questions.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kalette - A New Addition to the Garden

 By Michelle L. Dauberman

As I was walking through the PSU MG Edible Demonstration Garden this week I noticed an unfamiliar plant tag.  At first I wasn’t sure if I was reading it correctly but there it was plain as day, “Kalette.”  Hmm, Kalette.  Now if you’re a plant geek like me a name like this rates high on the curious meter so off I went to do some research.

This is what I found:  Kalette is the brainchild of British seed house Tozer Seeds and it is a hybrid cross between the Brussels Sprout and English Kale thus making it a very interesting vegetable indeed.  According to the plant’s website (yes, Kalette has its own website - sponsored by Tozer Seeds America) it is sweet and nutty and it can be sautéed, roasted, grilled or eaten raw.  Sounds pretty good, right.

Truly what’s not to like yet the appearance of this new vegetable lead my thoughts to GMOs.  These days when anyone mentions GMOs an ominous tone of dread sets in and I had to curtail my kneejerk reaction upon learning about this hybrid and recall that gene crossing through traditional, non-GMO, hybridization and open pollination has a rich, deep, safe and tasty history in the garden.
A history that is alive and well and it is showing up in the form of plants like the Kalette.

Want to learn more about other, traditional, non-GMO hybridizations (like the apple tree and a couple canopy trees)?  Check out this PSU Extension online publication:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is kale still the new “it” vegetable? You bet it is!

By Michelle L. Dauberman

Kale has been a regular in our PSU MG Edible Demo Garden for years now but what’s keeping it around?

First off, kale is a member of the cabbage family, Brassica oleracea, and it is related to other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and brussels sprouts.  Not surprisingly then Kale shares their health benefits and it contains antioxidant (disease fighting), high fiber (digestion aid), high iron (great for the liver), calcium, and vitamin A (immune system aid).

As we all become more and more health conscious foods that have this kind of an impact on our overall systems are bound to stick around.

Secondly, kale is a beautiful addition to any vegetable or ornamental garden.  It is easy to grow and it comes in so many striking red, green, blue and purple hues that it’s sure to make a visual impact wherever it is planted.

Thirdly, kale makes a great chip!  Cut the main vein out of the leaf and then dice or tear what is left of the leaf into smaller pieces.  Drizzle these kale pieces/chips with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes and voila, a healthy snack!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Edible Flowers?!

By Michelle L. Dauberman

Yes, that’s right, edible flowers.  The folks in charge of the PSU Master Gardeners Edible Display Garden have added something fun to the garden this year:  A container full of plants with edible flowers.  With a special thank you to Clearview Nursery, who donated several of plants, here’s what you’ll find in our garden this year.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache ‘Blu Boa’)
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
Nasturtium (Tropaelum majus)
Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Give them a try in your garden today and for more inspiration here are a couple of quick and tasty recipes:

Anise Hyssop Tea
Steep 2 teaspoons of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried flowers in a mug of hot water for 7-10 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.

Nasturtium Omelet:
Serves 1
                50g/2 oz tender runner beans
                2 eggs
                30ml/2 tablespoons milk
                2 nasturtium seeds
                2 young nasturtium leaves
                4 nasturtiums, petals only
                Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste
                15ml/1 tablespoon butter
Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste

For an additional blog on edible flowers  Grow, Then Eat your flowers