From Seed To Harvest

Archive for May, 2012

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Chamomile

Chamomile has been used for centuries by man to cure ailments. Basically there are two main types, german and roman chamomile. German chamomile tends to find its way into our american gardens. This relative of the daisy helps with nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. This vigorous plant is generally recognized as a carminative, tonic and a sedative.

Chamomile tea is the prefered method of use. Personally I like a bit of local honey with mine to sweeten the drink a bit.

Most literature I have read on this tiny flower suggest sandy soil in well lit locations. In our neck of the woods which is southern New York State our soil is much more compact. This has never really posed a problem. I have also grown it in full sun as well as shady areas and once again neither has really presented itself to be much of an obstacle. The first year that we grew this herbal we placed seed directly in the dirt. We have not had to plant seed since. In our garden chamomile aggressively has taken root makes an appearance every year.

Once chamomile blooms in early summer you will be able to harvest the flowers until fall if you keep removing the yellow and white heads. It is easy to dry and store. Simply place the heads on a plate so that they are not touching one another and occasionally roll them over to make sure they are drying rather than rotting. Store in a baggy with your herbal teas and enjoy throughout the winter.

Arugula

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Arugula, or rocket as it is occasionally called in the states, is new to our garden this year. Anyone who has grown lettuce knows that after a few hundred salads it becomes important to get creative and add interesting flavors to your greens in order to keep interest in the pursuit of health. That is exactly the reason that we decided to grow arugula this year and it has turned into an interesting treat not only in taste but in the historical sense as well.

Garden rocket is native to the Mediterranean. The Romans grew this relative of the radish and watercress for both its leaf and seeds. The seed was used as a flavoring oil. According to the Cambridge World History of Food there are records of it being used in aphrodisiacs all the way back to the 1st century AD, is there a better reason to eat your vegetables?    

Over the years one point of interest I have written about is how a gardener of humble means can eat gourmet simply by growing their own food. Arugula is a good example of this. A cornerstone of Italian cuisine as well as the American gourmet market one can grow rocket quite easily in their own backyard. This year I grew a number of greens and hands down the arugula had the best germination rate of the group.

Before trying it for the first time I read descriptions of taste that ranged from peppery,similar to a nasturtium flower, all the way to nutty on the palate. I would have to say that I found the loose oak shaped leaf to have a hint of nut that was not overpowering but really added a nice flavor to a potentially bland salad. I have also read that you can coat it with a little olive oil and steam it for a delicious side dish.  

Arugula is also very healthy for you as one may imagine. It is very high in vitamin A and C. It contains beneficial amounts of calcium and magnesium. It is also extremely low in calories.

If you happen to find yourself looking for something new in your garden or salad mix this year I would highly recommend trying some garden rocket. Whether your plot provides full sun or a shady corner it takes root quite well.       

French Breakfast Radish

ImageOur first harvest of the year is the French Breakfast Radish. As the name implies this particular radish is of French origin. It is first listed as appearing in the states in about 1875 in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Our seed stock was purchased through the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa a few years ago and our current harvest is from our own personal seed stock.

The radish is a surprisingly healthy vegetable. It actually has numerous benefits attributed to it. It is credited with detoxifying the kidneys and liver. The radish also is believed to help combat certain types of cancer. Specifically colon, oral and stomach cancers. It is extremely high in vitamin C, an antioxidant. The leaves of the radish actually contain six times the amount of the vitamin C found in the root. This cruciferous vegetable also contains vitamin K and B. The radish happens to be a good source of calcium, potassium and iron as well.

As far as planting radish seed is concerned a little trick that we use in our gardens is to plant them with our carrot seed. Obviously the carrots need to be thinned over the course of a year in order to produce a nice crop. By planting an early crop such as the radish with the carrot it naturally thins the carrots to an extent. Later in the season when you harvest the carrots you can plant another rotation of the radish seed for a fall harvest thus doubling your yield.

If you happen to grow heirloom varieties like we do you can save your own seed. This is rather easy with the radish. Simply allow a few of the plants to sit in the garden the entire growing season. They will eventually bolt and the flowers will produce green pods that hold seed. Allow the pods to dry on the plant and remove the seed from the dry pod by breaking them open with your fingers. Discard any moldy or weak seed. You can store your seed in your fridge and use it the following season.