Starting Seeds in March

This has to be the longest winter I can remember. In 2008 we had lots of snow but it didn’t stick around for 3 months as it has this year. We can’t even put up our third greenhouse yet due to snow on the ground! Did I mention it is March 3rd?

tomato-seeds-2tomato-seeds-racks

Above are pictures of our tomato babies, as yet unborn. There are approximately 5000 seeds in the various gray cells. We bottom watered them with almost a gallon of hot water for each flat on March 1st and then the were moved to the shelves under the lights. In about 7 days they will germinate. It’s actually quite exciting checking them everyday, most times twice a day, to see if they’ve raised their tiny, green heads.

tomato-seeds

This is a close up of some of the cells. I spent several hours every day spreading the tiny seeds in rows of 50 to 35 seeds in each cell. This year I even used tweezers to keep them orderly. Doing it over a couple days saved my back big time!

Once they get their first set of true leaves, I will transplant them into 3.5″ pots and they will go out into the greenhouses.

One very important tip when starting seeds: Use a sterile seed starting/germination mix. It will help tremendously in not getting damping off. Nothing is worse than seeing them lush and healthy one day and watching them fall over the next. Very sad. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting tomatoes or petunias in a greenhouse or inside your family home. Since I started using a sterile mix I haven’t had damping off. You can get it at NW Seed and Pet and possibly other big box stores.

Mucho Nacho Jalapeños and Emerald Fire Jalapeños -A Germinators Dream! (at least this year)

Every once in a while you meet a plant that you really like. This year, mine is the Mucho Nacho Jalapeño and the Emerald Fire Jalapeño, Peppers are notoriously hard to germinate, especially the superhots (Carolina Reapers, Ghost and Trinidad Scorpions) and the hot (Tabasco, Habanero, Serrano, Hungarian Yellow Wax etc.) to mildly hot (Jalapeños, Numex Big Jim, Anaheims, Poblanos etc.) Some of the hot peppers can take up to 4 weeks or more to germinate and then if you get 50% you think you are doing pretty good.

 

mucho-nacho-jalapeno2Mucho Nacho is a new one for me this year. It is supposed to be hotter, fatter, longer, more prolific, well, you get the picture, than a regular Jalapeño. It was the first one to germinate and it was very happy, vibrant and healthy. Lush. I can’t say enough about it.

emerald-fire-jalapeno

The Emerald Fire was a close second. Germination on both of these were close to 90 – 95% which is really good. Nice strong stems, beautiful true leaves, easy to handle when transplanting into 3.5” pots.

For those of you who germinate your own seeds in a greenhouse you can understand how happy I was to handle these guys. Some plants, especially flowers practically require magnifying glassed and tweezers!

jalapeno-green-pepperMucho Nacho Jalapeños – 68-70 Days

An impressive Jalapeño from Mexico, large, 4” fruits are fatter, thicker, heavier, hotter, and up to a full inch longer than regular Jalapeños. They start off green and mature to red. Vigorous and prolific, they set heavy loads about a week earlier than is typical of Jalapeños.

ad8bf754-f0b0-446d-992d-573a80710745_1000Emerald Fire Jalapeño – 90 Days

These hot peppers are good for salsa, pickling, grilling, and stuffing, Extra-large, thick-walled, crack-resistant peppers, plump and delicious. Emerald Fire is very prolific and there will be enough peppers to share with your friends and family!

Winner of a 2015 All-America Selection, Emerald Fire is compact enough for patio containers, but may need some support to hold up all the peppers! Easy to grow, standing up to heat, humidity, and refuses to crack. Long season but worth the wait!

Super Hot and Hot Peppers Planted

Trinidad-Scorpion-Hot-Pepper

Yesterday, I planted my super hots and hot peppers. The super hots are: Trinidad Scorpion, Chocolate Trinidad Scorpion, Carolina Reaper, Ghost Pepper and Peach Ghost Pepper. The plain old hot peppers, the one that destroy-your-tastebuds-but-don’t-take-your-face-off are: Tabasco, Serrano, Cayenne, Hungarian Yellow Was, Thai and Habanero. The next peppers are still too hot for me; they are Jalapeno, TAM Jalapeno (customer request, supposedly a milder Jalapeno) Padron, Anaheim, Poblano,Chinese Five Color and Golden Greek Pepperoncini.

Super hot peppers are notorious for poor germination and long time coming up. That’s why I start them sooner than the sweets. Hot peppers like Habanara and Cayenne also require longer germination times.

I always use a germination mix which is finer than regular potting mix and supposedly sterile which cuts down on things like damping off, a fungal disease. Nothing is worse than seeing the babies raise their pretty green heads and the next day wondering why they all fell down. And died. Very sad.

They are under lights in our dining room, nice and toasty warm. I bottom watered with hot water to get them started. Once they come up I will use warm water.

As i look out at the white beauty, I marvel that I am able to start seeds so early. We use ordinary space heaters to keep the greenhouse warm.

Be on the look out for more posts describing the peppers. Gives you something to look forward to…warmer temps, green grass, daffodils and crocus….

 

Chinese Five Color – a customer favorite, hot but not too hot, so they say. I am a wimp!

pepper chinese five color

Delicious Pumpkin Pie With Lower Sugar

This a delicious pumpkin pie recipe that uses splenda and a little bit of brown sugar. It’s very good and hard to tell it’s low sugar. I roast my own pie pumpkins.

30175_easy_pumpkin_pie.jpg

How to roast pumpkins: Buying cans of pumpkin is easy but in my opinion you never know how long that pumpkin has been in the can. It is incredibly easy to raost your own. Pie pumpkins are better for baking than the ones people use for jack 0’lanterns. They are smaller, less stringy and sweeter.

To roast a pumpkin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half, scrape seeds out (you save them for roasting), place pumpkin halves, cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet covered in foil. By placing them upside down, they don’t dry out (form a crust) and they steam.Bake pumpkin for about 30 – 50 mintues, dependent on size of the pumpkin, until they are easily pierced through the skin  with a fork. They sometimes look like they are collapsing. Let them cool. I scrape the pumpkin straight from the baking pan into the blender.

Here’s a tip: pour in the half and half (3/4 cup)and then place enough pumpkin that the liquid rised to the 2 3/4 cup line on the blender. 

I love this recipe because it is so simple and doesn’t dirty up every dish in the house. Put all your ingredients into the blender, blend and pour.

Ingredients:
1/2 Package pie crust
2 Cup mashed pumpkins
3/4 Cup splenda
1/3 Cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamom
2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pinch Salt
3/4 Cup half and half
3 Large Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla

Note: You can use 1 tablesppom of premade pumpkin pie spice instead of mixing your own

Instructions : Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fit piecrust to pie plate. Mix all ingredients in a blender, pour into pie plate. I put the pie pan on the oven rack and then fill, it keeps spills to a minimum. Bake 50 – 60 minutes or until set in the center

Update on the Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash in My Last Post

I tried the smallest Uncle David”s Dakota Dessert squash and it was really good, First I roasted it with nothing on it to get the flavor. The first bite was a little vegetal, the next, in the thicker part of the piece was dry and slightly sweet. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t get full flavor since it was the smallest and least developed off the bunch.

pumpkins and squash 2016 - 3.jpg

Once I tasted it for unadulterated flavor, I threw some butter, brown sugar and spices; mace and allspice on top. You could also use apple pie spice or nutmeg. I put the dish back into the oven, at 350 degrees until it melted. Oh boy was it good!

Winter Squash Harvest 2016

pumpkins-and-squash-2016---2.jpg

Check out all my squashes! This is what we harvested after our first frost.New England Pie pumpkins (although two of them got a little ahead of themselves and grew a bit bigger than they should have, but I am sure they will be as delectable and sweet for pies as their smaller brethren), Aunt Reba’s acron squash and Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert squash. Whew, what a name. For those of you who wonder where I got my seed, I found a new seed company called Fedco . Frdco Seeds Can’t wait to try these. I like my winter squash sweet and dry so here’s hoping they are as good as their descriptions.

pumpkins-and-squash-2016---4.jpgThe pie pumpkins were not all the way orange but are turning. They also took over the garden, even running up into a pile of pots we had on the side of the shop.

pumpkins-and-squash-2016---3.jpgUncle David’s Dakota was almost as exuberant. However, I am pleased to say that Aunt Reb’s, as advertised, was not about to take over the world. It stayed in a 3 to 4 foot area, behaving very politely to it’s neighbors. don’t we all wish our own neighbors were as well behaved!

So, you couldn’t feed the neighborhood with this harvest but there are only two of us now and it is enough. My husband would rather have a root canal without out anesthesia than eat winter squash so it’s all on me. Yummmmmmm/

What a Fabulous Idea: The Apple Dust Especially

This is from the blog site: One Tomato, Two tomato. Thanks to the blogger. Apparently you can do this with the skins taken off tomatoes when you are slipping them in order to can them. What a great idea!

Dried Apples and Apple Dust

I am constantly creating new healthy items that are easy to pop into lunches or have for snacks.  Since it’s the middle of winter, my local apple orchard isn’t exactly open.  But my coop had several bags of “seconds” organic apples for only 99¢ a pound.  Time to fire up the dehydrator.

My latest endeavor is apple dust and dried apples.  I got the idea for apple dust from drying leftover tomato skins from canning.  The skins are dried in the oven, then pulverized, and used to sprinkle on pasta, pizza, rice and beans.  Why not do the same for apple peels?  My dust (more like bran) had a lovely pink color from the apple varieties I used and a light apple flavor.  The best part of the dust is the kick of fiber, antioxidants and nutrients found in apple peels.  Don’t let them go to waste!  I like to add apple powder to yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes and muesli. The actual dried apples were pretty good, too.  They barely lasted a week in my house.

5 of 6 Zucchini Recipes: Zucchini Cornmeal Cookies

Better late than never, right? I fell off of my horse 6 weeks ago and haven’t felt too good lately. Broke 5 ribs and sprained my ankle. Too make matters worse/better? I am having a total knee replacement in 2 1/2 weeks. To make a long story short, I haven’t been able to complete my zucchini recipes. So here goes. These are brilliant cookies. Yummmmm

Zucchini Cornmeal Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon packed finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

1 medium zucchini, grated on small holes of a grater (about 1 cup)

med104831_0909_lemon_cornmeal_vertInstructions :

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Add flour and cornmeal and mix until mixture is crumbly. Add zucchini and stir until a thick dough forms. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are light golden brown at edges, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool completely on wire racks.

 

4 of 6 Zucchini Recipes (this one looks too good to pass up)

Zucchini Gratin.jpeg

Zucchini Gratin

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 zucchini, sliced into half moons 1/4-inch thick

2 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded

1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/4 cup grated sharp white Cheddar

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Instructions :

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish.

In a large heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add zucchini and tomatoes, about 7 minutes Add thyme, and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Add mixture to the buttered casserole dish.

In a medium size bowl, add brown sugar, eggs, and half-and-half. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the milk mixture over the zucchini and sprinkle with both of the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of The Neelys

3 of 5 Zucchini Recipes

corn zucchini fritters.jpeg

Zucchini Corn Fritters

Total Time: 45 min

Prep: 25 min

Cook: 20 min

Yield:6 to 8 servings

2 medium zucchini, coarsely shredded

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 ears corn, kernels cut off 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

Vegetable oil, for frying

Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Wrap the zucchini in a kitchen towel and squeeze dry.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and egg in a large bowl, then stir in the corn-onion mixture and zucchini. Add the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.

Heat about 1/8 inch vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, scoop scant 1/4 cupfuls of the batter into the oil and use the back of the measuring cup to flatten the scoops. Cook until the fritters are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. (You can make the fritters up to 2 hours ahead; reheat in a 375 degrees F oven on a rack set on a baking sheet.)