Organic Aphid Control for the Conscious Gardener

Eastern Black Swallowtail in my Garden

It’s that time of the year, my friends. It’s Spring. There are glorious butterflies feeding on glorious flowers in our glorious organic gardens. Oh, and also aphids. Blech. I hate aphids. For those of us in Florida, they’re already here. I’ve been seeing them for a few weeks now. They’ve latched onto my Calendula and Oleander already, and I fear it won’t be long before they’re on my flowering tomato plants. For those of you a little farther north and/or west, you may not have these little jerks yet (and hopefully you won’t), but just in case, here are a couple organic remedies to try:

1. Good, old-fashioned powerful blast of water: Yellow aphids have made their way to my oleander more than once. They latch onto newly forming flower buds and attempt to suck them dry. Instead of putting any harmful sprays or costly organic sprays on them, I go right for the hose. With the nozzle on the most powerful setting possible, I go for broke. Holding each flower cluster in my hand, I spray all sides. The aphids fall off in an instant and the grass and neighboring plants get a nice watering. At first, I was afraid that the aphids would find their way to my other plants, but that’s never happened. Because they’re soft-bodied, I’m not sure they survive the blast. This works every single time, but you’ve got to be thorough when spraying.

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Healthy Oleander

2. Soapy water: My Instagram friend, Justin Gay (@theSeedsofXanxadu), has a YouTube video called “How I Handle Aphids.” Not only does he show how to identify them, but he shows exactly how to mix the concoction and how/when to spray. Not only does he love gardening and our Mother Earth, but he’s a really engaging guy and super fun to watch. Click here for his video.

Justin @ theseedsofxanxadu

Gardening is a lot of work, and organic gardening is even more so. But it’s worth it. It’s necessary to control pests in a way that preserves and protects our beautiful and essential pollinators like bees and butterflies. It’s also important to know we’re feeding our loved ones clean and healthy food.

There’s a lot to learn about eco-friendly gardening practices, but there’s a lot of wisdom out there. Thank goodness for people who love to share their successes and failures with the world. Our organic gardening community is growing all the time; the bank of knowledge is tremendous and “deposits” are being made daily.  Thanks to those conscious gardeners like Justin who willingly share their experiences with the rest of us.

Until next time, happy Spring, happy gardening, and happy harvesting.

Take care,

Jenna

 

 

 

The Crabbiest Cakes

20140402-203407.jpgWhat’s not to love about crab cakes? Barring any food allergies or other dietary restrictions, there’s nothing about this little piece of decadence that the tastebuds of the world shouldn’t fully appreciate. The more crab, the better.

I’ve had some of the tastiest Alaskan King crab leg meat frozen and just waiting for the right opportunity. Crab bisque happened. And now this. I painstakingly bashed those shells myself; I need this. I’m so happy, I could cry.

One of the best things about a top notch crab cake is the simplicity. They’re easy to put together and easy to make. They’re puuuuuurfect.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces of crab meat (you don’t have to use Alaskan king crab legs)
  • 4 ounces of saltines or other plain Jane cracker, processed or crushed (for my gluten-free friends, go with your favorite gluten-free cracker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Cornmeal (optional)
  • Butter or canola oil for frying

Method:

Make sure all of the crab is free of shell pieces and coarsely shredded or chopped.

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Combine all ingredients in the list except for the cornmeal and butter or oil.

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Form into patties, and choose any size you like. I prefer them on the smaller side. Then let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. This will help the patties set and stay together during cooking.

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One by one, coat in cornmeal. Just lightly press in the cornmeal and brush off the excess. A light coating is perfect. I love the added texture of this step, but you can omit it if you prefer.

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In your favorite skillet, add about a tablespoon of oil or butter and set the burner to medium-high heat. Gently add the crab cakes one by one to the hot skillet.

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In about two minutes, flip them over.

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See how easy that was?

No smoke and mirrors here…just delicious crab cakes. Oh, by the way, they freeze perfectly in an air tight container. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, a citrus aioli, or your favorite tartar sauce.

Crabby eating, everyone. Enjoy!

 

 

Spicy Indian Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Turmeric

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This is the long overdue part two of the nobody-knows-what-to-do with-this-cabbage post. If you have the memory of an elephant, you may remember the Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw recipe that I posted in February. This, friends, is what I did with the other half of that gorgeous head of crunchy purple leaves.

Inspired by this Girl Cooks World recipe, I made a little spicy sautéed cabbage of my own.

Ingredients:

  • Half head of purple cabbage, cut in chunks and leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method:

Heat the oil over medium-high in your favorite heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet and add the mustard seeds. They should start popping in just a few seconds. HINT: a splatter guard is your best friend in times like these.

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Once the seeds stop popping, remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne.

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Add the pan back to the burner, add the cabbage and salt, and toss to coat with the oil and spice mixture.

20140324-183430.jpgSauté for two to three minutes if you like the cabbage to still have a considerable crunch. I like mine cooked a bit longer, so I go for about four minutes. After it’s cooked to the texture you prefer, add the balsamic vinegar, toss to coat, cook for another 30 seconds, and that’s it! Serve at any temperature you like.

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Happy healthy eating, everyone!

 

Calling all Foodies: It’s Crunch Time for our Broccoli Harvest

We find broccoli easy to grow around here. No joke. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t give us problems. We always get an amazing yield, and the harvest is sweet and tasty. Starting them from seed indoors in December is easy peasy…

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Hardening them off in late January is a safe bet and, planting them in February is a piece of cake.

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We love the brassica family around here. Pests aren’t an issue, and we find them slow to flower. There’s a long sweet spot with these plants and, therefore, they’re a staple in our winter-spring garden.

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The one issue with the ease of growth (stupidest phrase you’ve ever heard, right?), though, is trying to come up with unique recipes for these perfect florets.

Broccoli slaw? Check.
Roasted broccoli? Check.
Broccoli and orzo pasta? Check.
Steamed broccoli? Check.

What to do, what to do…

This is where you, my friends of the blogosphere, come in. I need some new and interesting broccoli recipes! Healthy or coated in cheese and butter (oooooooh, breadcrumbs, too), all things not mentioned above are welcome. And, what’s more is that if I make it successfully and love it to bits, I’d love to post it to Delicious Daydreams!

Thank you, culinary whizzes, for your help. Happy cooking!

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“…gonna kick it root down!”

It’s Fiesta Friday, and The Novice Gardener throws a wicked party! I’m wearing a leopard baby doll dress, hot pink jelly shoes, three slap bracelets, and the biggest Aqua Net bang wave you’ve ever seen. And what’s more is that the Beastie Boys “Root Down” is bumping in the background. I’m partying like it’s 1994. And, my friends, this song is the inspiration for these roasted, locally-grown golden beets. I hope my bangs don’t catch on fire.

Look, there’s a party goin’ on, and I don’t want to waste this outfit in the kitchen. This recipe is a quick and dirty one, so I’ll be flirting with the cute boy in one-strapped overalls and a Kangol bucket hat in no time. See him over there drinking a Zima? He’s all mine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound golden beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large pinch of sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and quarter the beets.

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Toss all ingredients in a non-stick oven-safe vessel.

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Roast for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven until the beets start caramelizing.

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That’s it! Sweet, tender, earthy, sexy beets. These root veggies have my heart, and the simpler they’re prepared, the better.

Now where’s that cutie? Oh no, really?!? He left with the girl in the cropped velour blazer and high-waisted Bongo jeans? Seriously? Oh, I get it. She drives a Miata.

Who wants the next dance? The Beastie Boys are on again, and it’s totally my song!

My Secret Life as a Granola Pusher

Happy Fiesta Friday, everyone! My name is Jenna, I own Happy-Go-Lucky Granola, and my Fridays are crazy. For the past two months, I’ve baked lots and lots of vegan and organic granola products for the City Island Farmer’s Market in Downtown Daytona Beach, Florida. Happy-Go-Lucky Granola is my pride and joy. It’s also a source of near exhaustion, but, friends, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s my hectic, yet amazing, reality.

These are my granola bars…

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This was my first day at the market (and things have changed a lot since then)…

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These are my friends that come to buy, nosh, and chat…

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This is my happy-go-lucky life.

Happy Fiesta Friday, friends,

Jenna

Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw

Being a foodie definitely has its perks. I’m often the recipient of food stuff that friends purchase and realize they’ll never use. Gold beets? Sure. Twenty pounds of AP flour? Absolutely. Stunning head of magenta-colored cabbage? Bring it on.

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This cabbage, my friends, is the reason for this rainbow-colored vegan delight. It couldn’t be any easier of a recipe, and any excuse to use a mandolin slicer just about makes my day. It could also be adapted for the paleo diet if you nix the salt and sugar. Truth be told, the veggies probably have enough sweetness on their own, but I really dig the sweet/tangy flavor combo, so I do it up with no shame. And the salt is essential for helping the other flavors pop.

Ready for this? Don’t blink.

Ingredients:

  • half head purple cabbage, roughly chopped
  • half yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • half green bell pepper, julienned
  • one large carrot, thinly sliced
  • half sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar

Method:

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Fold to incorporate the wet and dry items together. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

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There. Done.

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Happy and healthy eating, my friends,

Jenna

Garlicky and Lemony No-Fail Kale

This stuff isn’t just a garnish, people. (…although I admittedly used to think so.) If Popeye only knew about this super veggie, he’d be singing a different song…one that rhymes with kale. I understand why kale recipes are everywhere. This leafy relative of broccoli and cauliflower is easy to prepare, can be eaten raw or cooked, is very versatile, and is loaded with oodles of vitamins and minerals. And did I mention it’s delicious?

Last night, I was tuckered out. I spent five hours gardening (not the casual, flower-picking, clean fingernail kind of gardening either). I hauled bags of soil, turned compost, pulled impossible weeds, planted flowers, sewed seeds, potted up, and then had to put all the stuff away. Dinner was the last thing I wanted to do, but we gotta eat, right?

I ended up making seared tiger prawns with Israeli couscous and (drumroll, please) kale. But ignore the first two parts of this meal; the kale stole the show. Fresh lemon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, and sea salt turned this sturdy green veggie into a robust, bright, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing side dish. What’s more is that it took less than five minutes to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (click here for a time saving tip)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Place olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Bring heat to medium.

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Add the chopped kale to pan and give a good stir.

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Add the water and place the lid on the pan. This will help steam and soften the kale.

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Cut a fresh lemon and enjoy the smell.

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Remove the lid after about a minute and squeeze the lemon juice into the pan (avoiding the seeds). Also add the red pepper flakes and sea salt. Stir again.

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Once the majority of the water has evaporated, the kale is done. Magical, isn’t it?

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Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

That’s it. That’s really all. I promise.

Happy and healthful eating, everyone!

Some Bunny is Happy…

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…and that bunny is me. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about teeny, tiny carrots. Now I’m going to bestow you with a warm and fuzzy, so brace yourself. My mom and aunt, who happen to be adorable identical twins, we’re visiting from South Florida, and they know I love, love, love to garden. While they were getting the nickel tour, my mom picked one of the carrots and practically had a giggle fit over it. So, regardless of whether they (the carrots, not the twins) were ready or not, it was time for them to be harvested. I wanted to pick the crop of Short and Sweets…together. Why? Because my grandpa, their father, was an organic gardener back in the 50s (and even subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine) way before organic was en vogue. I knew this would bring back happy memories. And it did.

This could be one of my favorite family moments. While we may have pulled a lot of tasty carrots, nothing will compare to the memories we’ve made.

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As always, happy gardening, my friends.

- Jenna

Sowing the Seeds of Love…and Tomatoes.

It’s about that time, my friends. For Floridians (or maybe just overeager ones like yours truly), late January is when a lot of us start sewing seeds indoors. It goes a little something like this: sow, sow, sow, pot up, pot up, pot up, harden off, harden off, harden off, plant in the garden, and pray we don’t get a freakish March frost.

Last year, I went a bit bonkers with purchasing heirloom seeds from Tomatofest. I’m a sucker for the pretty colors and vivid descriptions. And i may be a smidgeon indecisive. For my small garden, I purchased around 15 varieties of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes from tiny to mammoth, Thailand to Arkansas, yellow to black, and tart to sweet. Now I feel compelled to use them all before they expire. I act like it’s a sacrifice, but I’m a square foot gardener who loves a challenge. Spacing? What’s that?

In my favorite seed starting tray and using my favorite seed starting mix, I sowed Chadwick Cherry, Thai Pink Egg, Black Zebra, Arkansas Traveler, Healani, Martino’s Roma, Yellow Ripple Currant, and Hawaiian Currant tomatoes.

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Based on my last post entitled “My Tomato Cheers and Jeers of 2013,” I’m betting that the Thai Pink Egg and Healani tomatoes will do well. And if 2012-13 is any indication,  I’ll inevitably fail with the Black Zebras and won’t get a single one. Lousy, stinking, son of a…. I digress.

It’s a new beginning! This is every gardener’s most hopeful, positive Pollyanna-ish moment of the year. I’m feeling good. We’ve got a ton of good compost, lots of Azomite, and we’ve starting using bone meal (which, by the way, is fantastic for lots and lots of big, beautiful blooms). Here’s to a prolific tomato 2014!

Until next time, my fellow gardeners,

Jenna