Monthly Archives: January 2013

Plant of the Month – Mustard

Anxiously awaiting for the cold to break drives me crazy every January.  The cabin fever resulting from being indoors gives me a chance to plan and plot for the coming year’s garden.  It also makes me horribly anxious to get planting.  So anxious, I felt it wouldn’t hurt to get a jump start on some herbs.  Things I can grow in pots on my windowsill.  The herbs have sprouted and with them my hopes for the garden.

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This is the month to plant cole crops if you want to push the season, but the best plant in my opinion is Mustard.  Mustard is an amazing plant to me.  I get giant leaves and after it goes to seed, I find mustard growing in every nook and cranny around the yard by fall.  I have some in a pot on my porch that have survived the cold of winter.  I noticed one yesterday in the cracks in my brick sidewalk.  So easy to grow and excellent for cold weather.  Tasty too.

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Mustard can be harvested young for salad greens, or for sauteing or stewing.  Large leaves should be cooked in a good stock or with a ham bone.  Flowers can be used as edible garnish.  The seed can be ground to make your own homemade mustard.

mustard

Plant mustard in flats or in rows 1/8th inch deep.  Mustard will last quite a while before bolting in cold weather.  In warm weather, it can bolt in as little as 30 days.

Varieties:

This is by no means a complete list, but it should be enough to send your imagination soaring.  I tried not to include hybrids, please forgive me if I did.  Kitazawa Seed Company seems to have the biggest selection of greens out there.

If you want to try something different, make your own mustard.  There are many recipes out there for mustard sauce.  I have had a lot of luck with this one that I redacted several years ago for a food festival.  Amounts of everything are really flexible.  If you want to start with the ground mustard seed and experiment with the amounts of other ingredients you will probably find interesting combinations that suit your pallet more than this one.

Medieval Mustard

  • 1/2 C Mustard Seed
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 1/4 C red wine
  • 1/4 C vinegar
  • more wine as desired

Toast mustard seed in a dry cast iron skillet until it begins to pop.  Grind it in a mortar.  Add honey, wine and vinegar to make a thick paste.  Thin as desired with more wine.  If you prefer a sweeter mustard, add more honey.  Substitute vinegar and wine as desired to alter flavor.

(Based on recipe in “The Forme of Cury”  ca. 1390 Lumbard Mustard)

Book Review: The Vegetarian Myth

I read A LOT.  It occurred to me that it might be helpful to pass along some of the things I have on my bookshelf.  Last summer my brother sent me a copy of “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith.  What a fantastic book.  The information is astounding and seems to be well researched.

The book is set up into chapters based on all the different arguments you hear when you are a vegetarian.  This author has apparently heard them all and remembered them.  I spent time as a vegetarian and I never felt better.  It is part of my discovery of my love of food.  Being a vegetarian opens you up to so many things out of necessity.  I don’t feel like there is enough time in the world for me to eat everything I want to eat.  Getting married and having children caused me to rethink and incorporate meat back into my diet.  All these arguments covered in this book were said to me at one time or another.

These are the major chapters:

  • Moral Vegetarians
  • Political Vegetarians
  • Nutritional Vegetarians
  • To Save the World

What was I?  I was a vegetarian because after moving into the city I started having horrible skin conditions.  It took me a long time to figure out that I react poorly to meat additives.  I like meat, I love sausage.  I can’t stand fake meat.  It wasn’t that I was opposed to the morals of eating things with eyes, I was opposed to being sick all the time.  Eating a locally produced organic diet serves me just as well.  Many of the points covered in this volume emphasize this understanding.

I enjoyed this book.  The writing style often belabors the points being made, but there is good information available to the reader.  I also like the endless resources to back up the authors claims.  It’s an easy read and doesn’t take long.  If you are interested in food security issues and diet this is an excellent read.  Bear with the author, the journey may seem a bit long at times, but overall the areas of thought that are opened up are well worth the time.

People interested in Geoff Lawton’s permaculture and Joel Salatin’s ideas will also find this fascinating reading.

Happy Reading!

Click on the link above to purchase this book and support this blog!

Spiderpig!

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The side yard went through some radical change last week.  Two of the principle players of the Carondelet Urban Farm, Mark and Handy Dan came over and set up this lovely functional pig pen in the side yard.  The farm has a pair of pigs at another location breeding for food.

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In about an hour and a half, Spiderpig was in his new home!  What am I going to do with him you ask?  I don’t know.  My main concern was a constant source of manure.  The rabbits and chickens just don’t provide enough.

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He’s a neat little guy, a micropig.  We feed him restaurant scraps and help the community be more sustainable.  He couldn’t be easier to take care of and he is enjoyable company.  I keep straw for his bedding which keeps the smell down and look forward to cleaning out the hog floor for the garden.

The chickens like him too.

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Adding livestock to the garden increases the output of vegetables and makes gardening a more satisfying experience overall.

This is what I am reading this month. (Click on the picture to buy and help support this blog!)  Hopefully I can get a review out soon.  It’s really geared to raising regular hogs in a hog operation, but I think it will provide useful information to having a pig in the yard.

Planning Your Garden

One of the topics that seems to hang most people up about gardening is how to go about planning it.  Last night at Iron Barley, I spoke to a packed house on this issue for the Carondelet Community Urban Farm.  It was a blast, but unfortunately we did not make enough handouts to meet the demand.  To rectify that for those that were there, here is the handout:

Garden Planning

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We had a lot of great questions last night and hope to be able to go more in depth in future installations of our Urban Tech series.  Stay tuned for more classes!  If you have any questions about garden planning, or would like some time with a consultant please contact us at the garden on facebook and we will see what we can do.  This is all volunteer and we will be able to help as we have time.

One of the main pieces of advice I can give you is know yourself and start small.  Make a list of common vegetable you can eat.  Start with the easy ones.  Find a style of gardening that works with your mental state.  I don’t like a lot of work but don’t mind putting in some effort to get it off the ground right so I choose biointensive planting.  I really hate to water the garden.  Some people hate to dig more than water so Lasagna Gardening might be the way to go.

This is the time of year that seed catalogs come in daily.  Sit down with them and fantasize.  In addition to a few standards, pick something that looks fun.  After you get the basic garden planned out, think about crops that might fit in the beds before the tomatoes are out or after you harvest your broccoli.  But remember each step adds complexity, don’t get carried away.

Keep a journal.  Hobby Farm has a great printout available on line to help you in that endeavor.  When the season is over, think about how much you can comfortably expand next year, try to keep it small enough to be fun and not overwhelming.

Good Luck.

Click on the pictures below to purchase helpful books on this topic (and help support this blog):