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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vegetable Garden in Flint, Michigan? YES!

With this blog post we wanted to let you know about a really innovative and inspiring project that the University of Michigan, Flint is undertaking to convert a tax foreclosed property near to its campus to classroom space for university students, the community and visiting school kids.

The lot adjacent to the house will become a vegetable garden and demonstration site for urban agriculture.

The home on the left is the property that will be partially restored. This is a great idea and a wonderful way to bring back a bit of what was once a thriving town.

If you're interested in keeping up with this project, or learning more details about the other parties involved in the deal, visit: Urban Alternatives House or check out the blog entry from San Francisco journalist and Flint Michigan expatriate Gordon Young here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Edible Gardening Inspriation from Portland, Oregon

Sometimes when you start a gardening project it's hard to see the big picture. You don't always do things perfectly right the first time. Gardening is always a work in progress--at least that's what we find!

Here's a before and after photo from the Allan Family Edible Garden in Portland, Oregon.

BEFORE










AFTER










It's inspiring to look at the successes that others have created through hard work and innovation and think, "Hey, I could do that!" Personally, I'm not sure I could something like the Allan Family from Portland, Oregon has done, but it sure does give me the energy to try!! We've posted a before and after photo from their blog above, or you can check out their story and peruse many more photos here.

What do you think of their yard? When you take on a garden project do you document it with photos? If so, we'd love to see them. Go to our Facebook Fan page and post away! Nothing is better than a great before and after photo to remind you and others of where you've been and where you're at!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Artichokes

Taste: A chemical compound found in artichokes called cynarin inhibits the sweet receptors on our tongues, so desserts will taste especially sweet when followed by a course including these members of the lettuce family.

Harvest: Each flowering stem produces one large artichoke at the tip and several smaller ones below. Harvest the central bud first when its scales are tightly closed and the globe is about the size of an orange.

Health: This flower bud contains a flavonoid called silymarin, which works as an antioxidant to help protect artery walls from damaging LDL cholesterol.

Etymology: The word “artichoke” comes from the Italian word cocali which means pinecone.

Visit our website to learn more.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Our First Sign That Spring Is On It's Way!

Arlene found a few daffodil buds shootin' through the dirt in our rose bed. (See photo below on the left.) These daffodils were a surprise to us but after some asking around we found out that sometimes ground squirrels and/or gofers will dig up previously planted bulbs and then move them to another location. If you have ever been on the UC Davis campus, then you why we are placing our bets on the ground squirrels.

Will our daffodil mystery ever be solved? Who knows! But since they are here we are going to enjoy them! The photo on the right is of the large daffodil bed planted at the campus's main southern entrance, steps away from the Good Life Garden and probably the place where our guerrilla rodent gardener removed the bulbs to then replant!

Have you ever had anything unexpected pop up in your garden? Let us know what it was or is and how you think it got there!

In our attempts to find an answer to the garden mystery we found a few facts regarding these beautiful flowers...

American Daffodil Society recommends not refrigerating the bulbs before planting because it will cause them to bloom early and stunt their stem growth. Also, don't use nitrogen fertilizers or fresh manures because these are commonly associated with bulb rot.

Once you are ready, pick a place in your yard that is sunny with good drainage. Try to put your bulbs in the ground in the fall, about 6-8 weeks before frost is expected. Planting recommendations for standard bulbs include planting the bulbs in trenches or holes that are six inches deep and six inches apart. At the end of the season do not mow down the foliage, rather let the flower die back naturally because cutting too soon will result in bulb loss and fewer blooms in subsequent years.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Chard


In history: A member of the beet family, chard is grown for its meaty stems and tasty greens, but ancient Romans cultivated the plant for its roots as well.

Health: In a mere 35 calories per cup, chard supplies a staggering 700% of Vitamin K needs and a wealth of carotenes that protect your eyes from age-related loss of vision.

Did you know? Like its distant relative spinach, chard contains oxalates, which are a waste product of plant metabolism. Oxalates are responsible for the gritty film left on your teeth after eating the vegetable.

About the veggie: Chard is one of the few vegetables that contains red and yellow betains—a type of pigment that produces the bright stem and vein color seen on certain types of chards. Red betains contain antioxidants; yellow betains do not. Betains are also found in beets, amaranth and prickly pears.

Visit our website to learn more.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Lettuce

Health: Deep green lettuce leaves provide a wealth of nutrients, including Vitamins C and K, and folate, along with the minerals potassium and magnesium. Supplying only 25 calories per cup, lettuce is a nutritional bargain and excellent for heart health.

In history: Garden lettuce is thought to be a selected variety of Lactuca serriola, a wild lettuce found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is believed to have been first cultivated in Egypt but was also a favorite amongst the ancient Greeks.

Harvest tip: To achieve an extra nutritional boost, harvest in the early morning for maximum carotene content and flavor.

In the garden: Lettuce prefers cooler conditions so plant in early spring or late summer.

Did you know? Medieval paintings often depict the lady of the house harvesting frilly lettuces. These delicate vegetables were considered dainty enough to be touched by refined hands.

Did you know? The lettuce family, or ‘Compositae,’ is the second largest family of flowering plants, and yet it only contributes to a few food plants.

Visit our website to learn more.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Carrots

In history: Cultivated white during classical times and yellow in medieval times, carrots did not get their trademark orange color until they were bred by farmers in the 17th century to honor the royal Dutch House of Orange.

Health: Known for being packed with beta-carotene, carrots supply over 300% of the Daily Value (as Vitamin A) per ½ cup when steamed. Studies show diets rich in beta-carotene from vegetables like carrots lower the risk for breast, prostate and other cancers.

In the garden: Most varieties of carrots should be harvested when they are no more than 1½ inches in diameter. This prevents them from developing an unpleasant woody flavor.

Companion planting: Plant carrots near lettuce; lettuce leaves will keep the sensitive carrot seedlings safe by providing moisture and shade. Their different growth cycles allow the harvesting of the lettuce just as the carrots need more space to grow.

Did you know? Pigments called carotenoids are responsible for most of the yellow and orange colors in fruits and vegetables as well as the red of tomatoes, watermelon and chillis. These pigments are so named because the first member of this family of pigments to be chemically isolated came from carrots.

Learn more by visiting our website.


Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Seasonal Fruit Profile: Olives

Growing tip: Olive trees are hardy, drought-tolerant and can bear fruit for a thousand years.

Did you know? The olive is a unique fruit—it is inedible unless cured, and is the only fruit from which a food oil can be extracted. (Other food oils are extracted from nuts or dry grains). The pulp layer surrounding the large central seed can be up to 30% oil.

In history: Olives were first planted in California at the San Diego Mission in the late 1700s, with the first olive oil reported to be produced in California in 1803.

About the fruit: Olives are native to the area that today includes Syria, Iran and Palestine; cultivation then spread to the Mediterranean basin 6,000 years ago.

Health: Olives are high in monounsaturated fat, which studies have correlated with cardiovascular health.

In the garden: Our olive trees are trellised to demonstrate the ‘super-high density’ olive farming method gaining popularity in California. Trees trained in this manner can be planted closer together than traditional olive orchards and can be harvested mechanically.

Learn more about olives by visiting our website.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Celery



Did you know?
Celery was a thin-stalked and aromatic herb called smallage before gardeners developed the milder more thick-stalked version that we know today.

About the veggie: Celery is a native of damp European habitats near the ocean. Its distinctive flavor comes from chemical compounds called pthalides which are also found in walnuts and an herb called lovage.

In history: The type of celery with which we are familiar today was bred in fifteenth century Italy, and was considered a delicacy until the nineteenth century.

In the kitchen: Celery is often mixed with carrots and onions to form the base of many different types of dishes such as the French mirepoix, Italian soffrito, Spanish sofregit, and the Cajun “trinity” of aromatics in Louisiana.

Preparation: The main function of stems and stalks is to support the above-ground portion of the plants and also to conduct nutrients—thus they are often stiff or woody. For this reason, celery needs to be de-veined before cooking to keep the tough fibers from adding what some find to be an unpleasant texture to their dishes.

How to store: The moment a vegetable is cut off from its nutrients, it begins to consume itself and create waste products which affect taste and texture. For example, upon harvest, celery begins to absorb its own water which causes its cells to lose pressure, thus making the vegetable limp and chewy. For this reason celery should not be stored for long periods of time.

Learn more by visiting our website.


Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Cabbage


Nutrition: Cabbage is packed with fiber, vitamin C and folate­—a B vitamin known to protect heart health. One cup of raw shredded cabbage supplies about 25% of the Daily Value for Vitamin C and potassium in under 20 calories.

About the veggie: The cabbage family, called Brassica, is extremely diverse, and includes kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and mustards.

Chemistry: The strong aromas and flavors in many members of the cabbage family are the result of chemical reactions that trigger the vegetable’s defensive system upon tissue damage. This type of chemical defense mechanism inspired the inventors of the synthetic mustard gas used in World War I.

Etymology: The word cabbage comes from the Latin caput meaning “head.” It is the only form of vegetable in the cabbage family that has a short stubby stem inside the head with leaves that form around it. This is different from kale and other members of this family, which have stalks that remain visible as leaves emerge.

Did you know? Cabbage has been cultivated for centuries in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. According to ancient Roman mythology, cabbage originated from the sweat of Jupiter, the king of gods.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Beets

Varieties: The candy-striped Chioggia variety (pictured here) originates from the eponymous Italian town and was likely brought to the United States in the 1800s by Italian immigrants. Beets have a high content of geosmin, which gives them their earthy taste.

Harvest: Beets will become woody and tough in warm weather, so harvest spring-planted beets before temperatures start to rise. Depending upon the variety, harvest beets when they are between 1 and 4 inches in diameter

Nutrition: Beets owe their bright red color to betacyanin, which also acts as a potent cancer fighter. Beet greens are loaded with folate for heart health along with carotenes known to protect eyesight. Raw or steamed beet greens are high in Vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus.

In history: The beet that we know today is a form of the beet chosen for its edible roots centuries ago. The vegetable was essential to both ancient Greek and Roman civilizations; in Greek times beet roots were long and sweet—so sweet that in 300 BCE the philosopher Theophrastus reported them sweet enough to eat raw. Today, standard red table beets are about 3% sugar, whereas sugar beets, the variety selected for sugar production, contain up to 20% sucrose.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Seasonal Vegetable Profile: Fennel


In history: Though not scientifically proven, ancient Roman women may have used fennel as a diet food with the belief that it was an appetite suppressant. In the Middle Ages the seeds were used as a popular method to curb appetites during Lent. Fennel is believed to have been introduced to California over 200 years ago by the Spanish.

Health: One cup of raw, sliced fennel supplies almost 20% of the Daily Value for Vitamin C and over 10% of fiber needs for only 25 calories.

In the garden: While mature fennel can withstand light frosts, this plant thrives in a temperate or sub-tropical climate where it can enjoy a sunny, warm position in moisture-retentive soil. Two forms of fennel are commonly grown: one for the seed and young leaves used as herbs, and the other for its flavorful base which is eaten as a vegetable.

Did you know? The chemical that gives fennel its distinctive aroma is called anethole. It is one of a group of phenolic compounds that is thirteen times sweeter than table sugar, and is the same chemical that flavors anise seeds and star anise.

Enjoy it: Alice Waters, Chef, Author and Proprietor of ground-breaking Chez Panisee Restaurant in Berkeley, California, has allowed us to publish her recipe for 'Shaved Fennel, Artichoke and Parmesan Salad' on our web site.

Sources:
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner: New York, 2004.
Health content provided by Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis, www.lizapplegate.com
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