YaYa Carrot & Spinach Beet

YaYa F1 Carrot is a Nantes type, delightfully crisp and sweet. The bright orange roots are so tempting I like to pull them fresh from the ground, and eat while  standing in the garden. Our last summer trial plantings were so popular we hardly had any left for cooking.

YaYa Carrot is a great example of modern selection and breeding. For such a sweet carrot it is unusually crack resistant. The texture has a perfect crunch that makes it a pleasure to eat. It draws admiration from all who may have forgotten how good a fresh carrot can be. It requires no complicated preparations with Vichy water and butter to coax forth flavor. Scrub and cut this carrot into sticks for enticing before meal snacks.

I’ve listed these two varieties together because they share top selling honors on our Nichols Garden Nursery website. One is a brand spanking new outstanding hybrid, the other, Spinach Beet, is an ancient green.

Spinach Beet is a variety we have fought to maintain in our seed collection. When there is a variety you love the best way to ensure it’s continuing existence is to grow it, eat it, share it, and talk about it. Heirloom seeds must be planted, eaten and enjoyed if the selection is going to endure.

Too tender to travel to markets it almost disappeared from the seed trade for several years. Spinach beet has a small taproot with large tender leaves and stems. It combines characteristics of both spinach and Swiss Chard with lots of tender leaves and excellent tolerance to heat and moderate cold. The planting I recently made will last through the summer and into early winter. It is marvelously productive and I recommend it for container growing since it can be recut so many times. The flavor is milder than spinach and not quite as earthy as chard.

Plants, Plants, Plants

Spent the day packing plants for my Bountiful Container Gardening talk at the New York Botanical Garden on June 27th. Preparing for a cross country trip with more than a hundred vegetables and herbs in various stages of growth is a challenge. Fortunately, Helen, our nursery shipping expert has it all down. Last summer she test packed plants in various ways for shipping and took their temperature to learn the best way to avoid heat buildup. When shipping in warm weather ventilated plants arrive in good condition and grow best. There is a science to everything and healthy plants mean happy customers. My plants are vented, have ice packs, cushioning, and are separately boxed.
I am looking forward to my time at NYBG, it’s our first visit to this famed historical garden. Keane and I will be taking photos and will post them when I return. I’m taking Amy Stewart’s new book “Wicked Plants” to read on the trip and Keane and I will visit the poisonous plant collection at Cornell. It’s maintained by the veterinary science department and should be very interesting.

Bountiful Container Talk@New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx, has scheduled a summer long series on food gardening. See special admission offer below. The weekend of June 27/28th 2009 is the kickoff event. I’m very excited to do a talk and demonstration on how to NY botanical garden conservatorygrow the foods you like in containers. I’ll show how to plant a container garden for SE Asian cookery, a summer salad garden, a multi- season herb garden and more. My talk is at 3:00 on the 27th, mid-morning I’m participating in a Q&A session and at noon I’ll be signing copies of my book, McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container.

Gardeners can harvest fresh, organic, beautiful food in the smallest spaces with just a little know how. I hope some of our Nichols Garden Nursery customers and blog readers in the New York area can come to my talk and if not visit the New York Botanical Garden this summer. Edible gardening maven, Rosalind Creasy, has overseen the planting and design of a demonstration family food garden and Martha Stewart has been busy with a herb garden she has installed. This is a rare opportunity to learn and talk with a variety of horticulturists and garden writers who are experts dedicated to home food gardening.

The Metro-North Railroad Botanical Garden station is directly across from the Mosholu Gate. Harlem Line. Driving directions are here.

For a special offer to this event go to http://www.nybg.org/promo/ and enter code EGDIG09 Buy one adult ticket pay 1/2 price for the second. This is a summer long offer with this promo code.

Nichols Plant Day 2009

Nichols annual Plant Day is Saturday, May 16, 2009. I will demonstrate straw bale gardening. Our newest demonstration garden is a living example of food gardens from The Bountiful Container-a complete guide to growing veegtabels, herbs, fruits and edible flower in containers. It is still a work in progress but the basics are installed with a couple Adirondack Chairs for relaxing in a home garden-like setting. I will be available to sign and inscribe the Bountiful Container, a 400 page guide to growing food in containers.

Linda Zeidrich will sign her new books, The second edition of Joy of Pickling and The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves 200 New Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits.

Master Gardener Jennifer Ewing will demonstrate how to easily construct a nearly weed free raised bed and how to use the hoop system to support deer netting, shade cloth and plastic. These beds provide a new easy, efficient approach to raised bed gardening.

We will be offering a discount on all in store purchases. Come join us for a little garden time and light herbal refreshment.

The Bountiful Container

I’m happy to announce the fourth printing of McGee & Stuckey’s, The Bountiful Container is now available. This 432 page book is a complete guide growing container gardens of vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. We’ve included recipes for using your home grown goods. Maggie and I researched soils, containers, fertilizing and every aspect of what gardeners encounter when growing in containers. I love experimenting with new techniques and varieties using pots and small space gardening. If your garden is horizontally challenged, think vertically! If you only have space for herbs, a few salad greens and a tomato in a large pot think how much flavor and variety you’ll add to your household.

This weekend, May 10th, I’ll be speaking and signing books at the Oregon City Farmers Market. Saturday, May 17, is the annual Nichols Garden Nursery Plant Day. If you’re in the area, drop by and enjoy light herbal refreshment, gardening demonstrations, tours of the herb garden and a great sale on plants and other gardening items.

Tarragon Roasted Chicken

Tarragon is growing by leaps and bounds and the delicate, fresh anise-like flavor pairs beautifully with salads, eggs, fish and chicken. Today we made a simple roast chicken stuffed with tarragon. I picked a small handful of tarragon shoots cutting to the soil line to encourage new growth. As mentioned in earlier posts I grow tarragon in a container.

To infuse the tarragon flavor throughout the chicken I gently lifted the skin and pressed tarragon under it on as much of the chicken as possible. I placed the stems in the cavity along with several more sprigs. Notice the pattern tarragon makes under the skin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 large fryer/roasting chicken
10 to 12 shoots fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon type mustard
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper

Remove giblets and any excess fat that can be trimmed away. Work the tarragon under the skin. Mix oil, mustard, salt and pepper together and rub over chicken. Place additional tarragon inside cavity, reserving one tablespoon leaves. Place chicken in a small roasting pan and place in oven. I started with the breast down for 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes or so I give the pan a little shake to keep the breast from sticking. When back has browned carefully turn the chicken and continue cooking until breast is browned in approximately 45 minutes. An instant thermometer placed in the thigh or breast will read 170 degrees when done. When thigh and leg move easily and juices no longer run pink chicken is done. Thermometer test is easier.
Strain and defat juices, salt to taste and add one tablespoon minced tarragon. Use juices as a sauce. Heat and add a little white wine, white vermouth or apple juice until right consistency. A couple teaspoons of cream smooth the flavors if you desire a little extra richness. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Easy Gardening Tip – Water

Plan now for summer water conservation. Choices include drip tape, porous leaky pipe, and drip emitter kits. Combine any of these with timers and you are delivering proper amounts of water to each area of the garden. Avoiding overhead watering reduces disease and increases yields. Less time spent on weeding is a significant advantage. Obviously, a bed of mesclun, a row of tomatoes, and a container garden all have differing needs and there’s a proper setup for all. Garden supply stores are better stocked in spring than midsummer when the water crunch hits. Take a look around now to determine which is best for you.

Porous leaky pipe made of recycled tires can clog if your water has a high sediment content. If they are only going to be in place for a year and soon end up in a landfill you may want to select a different system.

Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates by Robert Kourik is considered the bible on this topic.

How To Grow Tarragon

Tarragon is one of my most easily grown herbs. I say this because it wasn’t always this way. Our home garden soil tends to be wet and cold in winter. Tarragon dies back in winter and is often the slowest plant to reappear in late spring. After a particularly cold wet winter we may not see it at all. The photo below was taken in early November shortly before harvesting.

Tarragon container

The solution is to grow it in a container. Drainage when using potting soil is no longer a problem, the container warms early in the spring and you’ll harvest tarragon all season. Best of all, if you have a division or a small container bring it indoors in January when foliage has died back and soon vigorous delicious shoots will appear.
Tarragon’s roots will tightly intertwine and it can choke itself out if not divided every one to two years. If planting in the ground pick a sunny well-drained location. Plants benefit from a good fertilizing at the start of the growing season. Work some crab meal or aged chicken manure into your soil. I recommend container gardeners fertilize with fish emulsion
French tarragon does not set seed, so don’t be tempted to buy a seed packet. It will be Russian tarragon which is nearly tasteless. Regular using and cutting of plants early in the season develops a desirable compact growth habit. Later I will post some cooking hints for this classic herb

Those Terrifying Thai Peppers

Some days begin with a good chuckle. This morning I opened BBC news and read about a terrorist alert in London. You can go to this url for the full story:Burning chilli sparks terror fear. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7025782.stm It really does sound right out of Monty Python. However, since this blog is The Gardener’s Pantry, I remembered my container planting of Demon Red Thai Peppers surrounding a plant of Thai Basil. This container will move indoors for a few months as I continue to harvest those little red hots and basil.

Thai Pepper and Basil

When I bring a container indoors I check it for insects and anything that might be living near the drainage hole. Insects on peppers and basil aren’t usually much of a problem outdoors but may emerge inside your home or greenhouse. Keep an eye on plants and wipe off any eggs you see on the underside of leaves. if you see those little round pillbugs coming out of the drainage hole place the container on a tray filled with cornmeal. If something is flying around or on the leaves figure out what it is before trying to treat the problem.

Salvia guaranitica Anise Scented Sage

Of all the plants in our little herb garden, the lovely and long blooming Salvia guaranitica is the one most favored by hummingbirds. Our home herb garden is primarily culinary herbs. It includes edible flowers and a few herbs attractive to pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds. I went out in the late afternoon with a book and camera in hand hoping if I sat quietly the hummingbirds would appear. After about ten minutes I heard the little buzzing “chewit” call of the Rufous hummingbird. She made a dive for the blue sage with the large hooked flowers.

Salvia guaranitica with hummingbird by Helen Hilman

This photo is compliments of Helen Hilman who took it at our nursery. My own attempt was about as successful as photographing fairies in the garden.

To grow this sage, select a well drained spot in full to half sun. This plant will grow 4’to 6’tall. When winter temperatures fall below 20 degrees plants often do not make it through the winter. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to simply treat this plant as an annual for all the joy it brings. A light fertilizing during the growing season is all that is needed. Like all my perennial herbs, I stop fertilizing in early August to help the plants harden off for winter. Clip it back close to the ground in late winter for best summer blooms. The foliage is edible but relatively flavorless. Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palette assures me the flowers are safely edible. Their beauty, moderate water needs and lure for hummingbirds make them a valuable garden plant. When grown in container plants rarely exceed 3′ but will grow and bloom vigorously. They may become potbound after one season and need a larger pot. Divide to start another container or share with a friend.