Nature Walk and Plant Identification at the Nature Center

On May 23 from 6:30-8:30 pm we will learn how to use a dichotomous key to identify woody stem plants. You will receive a hand out. We will be at out new home the Nature Center located at 430 Riverside Drive. This will be a great meeting place with lots of room inside and out close to our mission. Bridgett Phillips will be our guide for our walk and teach us how to use the dichotomous key to identify plants.  We will walk around the nature center and surrounding areas.  We will be having a brief meeting afterward with job descriptions for new officers to be elected. Come and join in on the fun, sign up to be a volunteer or an officer today as well.

Advertisements

Central Texas Seed Varieties List

If you want to be a successful gardener in Central Texas you need to know what varieties to grow and when to plant them.  These are two crucial items that will play a big role in whether your garden will succeed or not. Let me explain a little further.  Scarlet runner beans are a beautiful bean coveted for the beautiful edible flower.  It grows in the northern states without a problem.  In Texas you can grow it in the very early spring but it is tricky as our weather turns hot so very fast. Therefore it is not a recommended crop as it burn out really fast.  Now the Rattlesnake pole bean however grows like crazy and performs well in the heat.  It is made for  the heat as are tepary beans which are also drought tolerant.

All of the seeds on this list are open pollinated.  This means that you can keep the seeds from the current year and save them for the next.

All of the varieties have been grown and tested for a minimum of three years.  You cannot grow a crop for one year and say it does well.  You need to have a trail that is consistent.

If you grow an open pollinated vegetable that is not on the list please email me and let me know.  Please let me know how long you have been growing it.  I will collect information.  Even if you have only grown it for one year it will help as it will add up if many of you email.  We need to all work together. If you have been growing it for three years it can go directly on the list. Sharing is a valuable resource that gardeners have with each other.

The list is also posted under our Library tab any time you want to go and look at it.

Seed Varieties List Page 1

Seed Varieties List Page 2

Seed Varieties List page 3

Seed to Table – Spinach

Spinach

Spinach is thought to have come from ancient Persia or Iran.  Spinach was brought into China where it was termed as the “Persian Vegetable”. It was said to have come into Nepal around 647 AD.

Next spinach found it’s way into Sicily then Arab and Germany by the 13th century. England and France came into Spinach in the 14th century.  In 1533 Catherine de’Medici not only became Queen of France but she insisted on having spinach at every meal.  This is why dishes made with spinach are named Florentine.  Now that is my kind of Queen!

Why do  you think that spinach was such a hit?  It is so nutritious!  it belongs to the amaranthaceae family.  It is chock full of phyto-nutrients that are life savers in many  areas. Spinach is very low in calories and fats while providing about 25% of your daily iron.

Fresh leaves also  provide you with vitamin A, lutein, zea-xanthin and beta Carotine as well as omega3 fatty acids.

Spinach can also pack a whopping 402% of your daily needs of vitamin K, This helps with bone mass and preventing Alzheimer’s.  Like that is not enough Spinach has high levels of B-6, B-1, Folate, Niacin and  Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc.

This is all very exciting for me as it is getting a lot of iron and strength with out eating meat.  I always feel energized when I eat spinach.  There is one thing that you are probably not aware of.  You need to eat citrus to make the protein complete, when eating raw spinach.  So have an orange with your salad today.

Planting

Choose a sunny well drained location for your spinach.

Spinach germinated well in cold soil that is between 38-40 degrees F and up to about 60 degrees.  It gets fussy over that.  It does not like acid soil either so we are very lucky in that regard.  The trick is to plant your spinach early and then replant every 2 weeks. Spinach also likes nitrogen and boron.

There are two different types of spinach the savoy or  darker crinkled type, and the smooth leaved type.

It is advisable to soak your seeds for 6 hours or overnight to help them to soak up some water and become more pliable. Then plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep and about 3 inches apart. You want the plants to be about 4 inches from each other in the end.  It takes 37 to 50 days for spinach to reach maturity.  You can snip off the outer leaves when they reach 3 inches long or you can cut the entire rosette off.

Strawberries grow well with spinach.

Make sure to water in the morning not in the evening as wet leaves spread disease. The diseases that you have to worry the most about is Downy Mildew and fusarium wilt. The insects that attack spinach are Aphids and leaf miners.

Do not store spinach next to apples, melons or tomatoes as they give off ethylene gas in the fridge and will make your spinach spoil.

here are some healthy spinach recipes

and more recipes and still more.  Happy Cooking!

Recycle Your Pots For a Fundraiser

Recycle Pots

Edible San Marcos is working on a fundraiser and we can use your help.  We can use your old pots from vegetables and flowers.  This will help in two ways. First off it will keep them out of the landfill and second we will be reusing them.

If you want to wash them out first in a 10 percent bleach solution that would be wonderful.  If not that is fine too.

You can bring the pots to the monthly meeting or to the community garden.  Just email us first.   Or we can meet you at a coffee shop or at your house.  Just email us at ediblesanmarcos@gmail.com and let us know what would work for you.  If you are interested in helping us raise plants let us know.  You can be part of the fundraiser in other Ways too!

Mendez Elementary School Garden

Mendez Elementary School

Mendez Elementary School

Well the year ended with a bang.  Hays County Juvenile Center with the help of John Griffis came out early on December 23 and helped Edible San Marcos with a dig in at Mendez Elementary School.  The kids at Mendez have been wanting a garden very badly.  The second grade teacher Mr. Adam Voglewede was key in getting the garden started.  He had gardening experience as a child and this fostered his gardening movement. Mr. Voglewede had told his students that the area where they wanted the garden may look different when they get back from break.

When we got to the school to work on December 23, the kids surprised us, instead by putting a sign in the window thanking us for helping them. When we saw the sign it about brought tears to our eyes.  It stopped us all in our tracks. It made us thankful for helping out the little children. Their appreciation was the biggest Christmas gift anyone could have ever wanted. Edible San Marcos and Hays County Juvenile Center worked very hard to surprise the little children.  We wanted the kids to be surprised when they came back to school.  We were hoping to have the hard work of digging the beds done so that the children could concentrate on the planting.

The boys from H.C.J.C. had fun on December 23.  It was a brisk morning. Before long there were stories of families that had raised chickens.  Next thing you know I am hearing “Maim, look at the size of this earth worm!” Earth worms got tossed to and fro a little bit but did not get harmed.  The grub worms got removed and saved for the chickens.

I brought a lemon bunt cake for the boys to eat and they loved it.  They did not go for seconds because they didn’t think there was enough to go around.  Once they were assured that there was enough for all, it was gone in seconds.  Then fresh oranges went down quickly. It was a great day.  Afterwards I went and looked at their garden site.

You should come out on a dig in sometime, or volunteer at one of our schools.  It is so enriching.  Rest assured you will leave with a smile on your face.  I am thankful that we were able to help so many children this year.  If you aren’t able to dig or volunteer on site, you can make donations.  It takes money to keep our programs running. We also need volunteer to do office work. It can be done from your own home, or from our office.

Have a Happy New Year and we look forward to growing with you!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Winter Vegetable Soup

Winter Vegetable Soup

This soup was made from vegetables in my garden.  The only things that were not from my garden were the barley, beans, and the Vegetable Better Than Bullion.  You can purchase the Better than Bullion at Cornucopia .Better than Bullion is an organic vegetable stock.  You use one teaspoon per cup of water.  I keep it in my freezer after I open it, then I take it out and thaw it for about 15 minutes, take out what I need and put it back in the freezer, it works great.  I always have it on hand .  It has the best flavor around,  If you are not vegetarian Better than Bullion has a great chicken stock as well that is made from roasted organic chickens.  I like the convenience of not having large cans or boxes. If you do not have a garden you should be able to get all of the produce at a local farmer’s market as they are in season right now. Feel free to substitute any green or beans as you see fit.

1 Sweet Onion Chopped

3 Cloves Garlic MInced

2 Tbl Olive  Oil

1 Cup Pearl Barley

3 1/2 Quarts Water

1 Bay Leaf (remove at end of cooking)

1 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp Celery Seed

3 Lg Collard Leaves Chopped (2 cups packed)

17 Lacinato Kale leaves (1 Cup Packed)

3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary Chopped (1 Tbl)

2 Heaping Tbl Vegetable Better Than Bullion Base

1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley

1 Tbl Fresh Marjoram Chopped

1 Tbl Fresh Oregano Chopped

1 Tbl Fresh Lemon Thyme Chopped

1 Inch Piece dried Ancho Chili (remove at end of Cooking)

2 Cups Sliced Carrots

4 1/2 Cups Broccoli and Cauliflower Florets

15 Oz Cannellini Beans (if using canned, rinsed and drained)

1.  Saute onion, garlic and barley in olive oil over medium  to medium low heat until onion is almost transparent.  About  5 minutes.

2.  Add water, Celery Seed, Black Pepper, Ancho Pepper, Better Than Bullion, Bay Leaf, Oregano, Marjoram, Parsley, Lemon Thyme and Rosemary and simmer for 30 minutes until barley is close to done.

3.  Add Collards, Kale and Carrots. Cook for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.

4.  Add Broccoli and Cauliflower. Turn up heat and  let the soup get hot enough that you see steam rising off of the top then turn it off.  Immediately scoop it out into bowls or into container to freeze for later.  Do not let it boil or leave in the pot or the broccoli and cauliflower will get mushy. You want the vegetables to maintain their integrity.

5.  Enjoy! You can change it up with the many different vegetable that are in your garden right now.  I also like lentils in my soup as well.  You can also trade out potatoes for the barley.  I just use what I have on hand, that is the joy of soup.

Seed To Table – Onions

Onions

Onions

History

The history of onion is one that is so unclear as wild onions have been growing for centuries. Most archeologists agree that bulb onions originated in central Asia.

One thing that we can say for certain is that onions have been cultivated for over 5000 years.  In 3500 B.C. there were onions growing in Chinese gardens. In 2500 B.C. there was a Sumerian text text that told of a person plowing over the governor’s onion patch.

Onions were used as an object of worship in Egypt as they symbolized eternity. Why an onion you may ask.  It was because of the structure of an onion being a circle within a circle. The onions were painted in pyramids and used at banquet tables as well.

Indians, Greeks and Romans alike all used onions for its medicinal values.  Some may have gone a little too far, such as the Greeks by rubbing their bodies down in onion juice before competition. They probably chased the competition away with the smell!

The Romans brought the onions to England and Germany. From England the bulb onions came to America.  Bulb onions were planted in America in 1648. However the Native American Indians were eating wild onions called ramps.

Cultivation

What you see on top is what is happening below. For each leaf on the onion plant there is a ring of onion below.  The larger the leaf is the larger the onion ring is!  Onions form tops first and depending on the variety they then form bulbs.

Onion sets are actual onion bulbs that have reached one inch in diameter and then have been pulled to stop growing.  Onion transplants are onions that have been growing about 2 months

There are two different varieties of onions, short day varieties and long day varieties.  Long Day Varieties are for the North(North of the 36th Parallel) and start forming the bulbs when the day length reaches 14 to 16 hours. Short Day varieties are for the South and start to bulb when the day length reaches 10 to 12 hours.

There are other varieties of onions that you can grow to add variety to your dishes.

Egyptian Walking Onions Produce a small bunching onion on the bottom and a  small onion on the top that falls over and walks.

Potato Onions are a bunching onion that is a larger than a bunching onion  or a shallot and produces a hill of onions.

Shallots are a bit more pungent and divide, they also like a drier environment.

Bunching Onions produce a large green top and a small shallot on the bottom.  The beauty of bunching onions is that they produce nice fresh green onions in the winter and spring time while you are waiting for your main crop of onions to come into fruition.

Onions prefer a soil Ph that is between 6.2 and 6.8.

Beans and peas do not like onions so beware of that when you are planning your garden.

You need to choose a sunny location to grow onions. Plan your rows the same direction as the prevailing wind to prevent diseases. This will help you keep your onions aired out the natural way.  Onions need fertilizer when you plant them. They like fertilizer with a high phosphorus content.  It is good to add one inch of well rotted compost as well.  Other good sources of amendments are Gypsum which add calcium and sulphur and loosen the soil.  Colloidal phosphate adds phosphorus  and calcium which is needed for good root structure. Greensand or granite meal are good sources of potassium. Dig a trench that is 4” deep. Put the fertilizer in the trench and then cover with 2 inches of soil. Plant the onions 1” deep and 4” apart. Water well.  You need to fertilize again 3 weeks after planting, and again 2 to 3 weeks later. Continue watering and feeding the onions as they have a very shallow root system.  When the neck starts to feel soft, and the ground starts to crack and the bulbs start to form hold back on the water and on the fertilizer.

Cultivate regularly to keep the weeds at bay as they will hinder growth.  Remember that the onions roots are shallow so be very careful. Do not cover the onion bulb with soil or it will hinder bulb formation.

Covering the ground with mulch or straw can help to retain moisture and prevent weeds as well.

Harvesting

Harvest the onion when the tops turn yellow or brown and fall over.  Pull the onions and let cure for 2 days in the field. Make sure when you pull your onions that they are not in the scorching sun or they will get sunscald.  There is a method called shingling that is used to prevent sunscald. When you pull your onions make a windrow.  Then take the tops of one row to cover the next. You can also dry them under a shady tree or in the garage.  Drying in either of these methods will take a few days longer but you will not get sunscald and hence you will not be open to a host of  other fungal diseases. Bring them in and let them dry fully on screens.  Once dry clip the top and the roots to 1 inch. Store the onions in a mesh bag or wrapped in aluminum foil in the refrigerator.

I have compiled a complete list of diseases and insect that can attack your crop of onions.  There are links to follow so you can see pictures and read about the various diseases.  If I would have written about them all this would have been the longest onion article in history and you would have been bored out of your mind! So use this as a reference if you get in trouble.  Remember to rotate your crops.  I can never say it enough and I know you may be tired of hearing it.

Diseases

Purple Blotch – Purple lesions on the leaves

Blue Mold

Downy Mildew

Bacterial Soft Rot

Basal Plate Rot

Botrytis Bulb Rot

Black Mold

Dodder

Mushy Rot

Neck Rot

Onion Rust

Pink Root

Smudge

Powdery Mildew

Smut

Sour Skin

Southern Blight

Stemphylium Leaf Blight

Sunscald

White Rot

Tip Blight

Insects

Onion Thrip – A sucking insect that rasps the leaves. Thrips cause the onion leaves to turn grey. Thrips look like dark or yellow specks.  Use insecticidal soap.

Onion Maggots

Root Knot Nematode

Lesion Nematode

Stem and Bulb Nematode

Garden Springtail

Lesser Bulb Fly

Onion Recipes

http://recipes.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Category:Onion_Recipes

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/onions/onionrecipes.html