Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Herbed Vinegar

Add clean herbs to the bottle.  Wine bottles work well.

Some herb combinations:
Chive, tarragon, basil
Sage, rosemary, thyme
Basil, thyme, oregano
Basil, garlic chives
Tarragon, garlic chives

Fill the bottle with vinegar to within an inch of the top.  Make sure that the herbs are covered.  Let the vinegar steep for at least 2 weeks.  You can use any type of vinegar, but white vinegar is the best to preserve the flavor of the herbs.
Use within 6 months.

New Seedlings at the Greenhouse

What a crew we had today.  We have started the seeds for the hot peppers and most of the eggplants. We also planted a new lettuce bed.  We enjoyed a freshly made greenhouse salad with French bread and finished with cupcakes.  It was sunny and warm.  A little island of summer locked in a sea of ice! 
Here are some suggestions for starting seeds.

Guidelines for Starting Seedlings

1. The general rule is that seeds should have a sterile pot and potting mix with no fertilizer. Potting mixes prevent soil compaction and are free of insects, disease and weed seeds. A soil that is fine outside where nature can keep these pests at bay, would put your seedlings at risk of problems like damping off and cut worms, and compact soil makes it difficult for tender new roots to develop.

At the greenhouse, we use Promix which is a mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, dolomite lime (to stabilize the pH) and a wetting agent for even water absorption.

Spagnum moss is well draining yet water retentive.
Perlite looks like styrofoam but is a volcanic mineral. It aids in air and water retention.
Vermiculite is a mica-type material that is heated and expanded. It holds water and nutrients until the plants are ready to use them.
Dolomite lime sweetens the mix which is naturally acidic.
The wetting agent makes it easier to wet the mix.

2. The potting mix should thoroughly damp but not soggy before using. If the soil is not wet place the tray on a soaker tray until the surface just begins to show the wetness. Don't let the mix get too wet or the seeds could rot.

3. Fill 6 packs with mix and gently tamp it down. About ¼ inch from top is good.  Put one seed in each compartment. Read the package for the seed depth. 1/8 to ¼ inch is typical depending on the size of the seed. Larger seeds are planted deeper, for example, beans are planted 2” deep. Some seeds need light to germinate and should be placed on the soil, others need darkness to germinate and are planted deeper.

4. Label each 6 pack with specific name, and date planted. Flower seeds should be marked with height. Zinnias and marigolds, for example, come in cut flower and border heights.

5.  Place seedling in a germination bed or on a heat mat or other warm place. It is important to read germination temperature. Some seeds germinate at cooler temperatures. Most vegetable like to germinate at about 75, but some flowers need lower temperatures.

6. Most seeds need to be kept moist to germinate. Check seeds in the germination bed to make sure the soil is damp and sand under the flat is also damp. Soggy soil can rot the seeds so it is important not to over-water.

6. Seeds in the germination bed have a humid environment because of the plastic cover. You can also do this with a plastic dome. It is a good idea to remove the plastic for a short time everyday to give the plants fresh air.

Betsy brought us a recipe to try with all the kale at the greenhouse.

 Kale Salad

This was one of the winning recipes from the Slow Food sponsored kale cook off & festival in 2011 at Mermaid Farm & dairy.

1 large bunch of kale (about 12 leaves) removed from the stalk
1 tsp coarse salt
11/2 tbls apple cider vinegar
1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted sunflower kernels
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1crisp apple, diced small

Tear or slice kale in thin strips.  In a large bowl, mix kale with salt & message vigorously for 3 minutes!!  This breaks down the fibers & releases some of the bitter flavor.  (This causes the kale to shrivel up & you have way less kale than you thought!!)  Toss with vinegar & evoo!  Add remaining ingredients & serve!!!

(If doubling recipe, do not double the amount of salt.....then it becomes too salty!!)