The Cranky Gardener

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Eat Your Vegetables

It seems like every week there is another announcement from the medical establishment about the health benefits of eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Some have even been elevated to the status of super foods. Regular consumption of these foods is said to help prevent many of modern man's common ailments, from heart disease to diabetes to hypertension to cancer.

Raising vegetables is a wonderful, healthy hobby. You'll get lots of exercise without having to buy an expensive membership to a fitness centre. Tending plants is therapeutic. You can tell all of your troubles to your tomato plants for a lot less than the $150 an hour you would have to pay a psychologist. They are better listeners, aren't as judgmental, and the psychologist isn't going to supply Vitamin C, lycopene or beta-carotene.

When you grow your own vegetables, you know exactly what has been sprayed on them and when. You can use organic gardening techniques to assure that you and your family aren't ingesting any chemical pesticides.

And your home-grown produce is going to taste much better than most supermarket produce. For one thing, you will be able to plant varieties that are seldom planted by commercial growers because they don't ship well. You will be able to harvest your vegetables at the correct time for optimum flavor. And your produce will be fresh, rather than something held in cold storage for weeks.

How could you not want to grow vegetables?

Last time we talked about starting flowers and ornamentals from seed. If you thought it was too hard to remember all of the different kinds of conditions necessary to grow flowers, then relax. Starting vegetables from seed is much easier.

First, most vegetable varieties can be sown directly where they are to grow. This doesn't mean that you can't start them in advance indoors in order to get a jump on the growing season. It just means that you don't have to. And you know how tiny and powdery some flower seeds are? Vegetable seeds, by contrast, are generally much larger and easier to handle.

Over the years I have used a variety of mediums to start vegetable plants. My favorite is extremely easy and relatively inexpensive. For several years I have used peat pellets. They come dry and compressed. When water is added they swell to form small pots.

I have a couple of tips for using the peat pellets. First, use hot water rather than cold to hydrate them. Your seeds will germinate better in the warm peat. And second, don't over-hydrate them or you may wind up with mold. If you buy the trays especially made for peat pellets, you can reuse them year after year. However, if you put the clear plastic covers outside they will discolour. So don't do that.

Category A

These vegetables should be started inside 6-8 weeks before time to set in the garden.

  • Artichoke
  • Celery
  • Eggplant (Aubergines)
  • Pepper (both hot and sweet)
  • Tomato

Category B

These vegetables are often started inside but can be sown directly into the garden while the soil is cool after the danger of heavy frost. These are cool-weather vegetables and are grown in the spring and fall.

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Onion

Category C

Sow these cool-weather vegetables directly into the soil where they are to grow as early in the spring as the ground can be worked. Most of these vegetables can also be started in the summer to mature in the fall after the temperature cools.

  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Collard
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leek
  • Lettuce (both leaf and head)
  • Mustard
  • Pak choi
  • Parsnip
  • Pea (English, snap and snow)
  • Radish
  • Roquette (Arugula)
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Category D

These warm-weather vegetables should be sown directly into the garden after all danger of frost passes. If you decide to start these inside do so in peat pots or paper pots that can be set directly into the soil without disturbing the roots.

  • Bean (all varieties)
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Chicory (Radicchio)
  • Corn (all varieties)
  • Cowpea (Black-eyed pea)
  • Cucumber
  • Melon (all varieties)
  • Okra
  • Peanut
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabaga (swede)
  • Squash (summer and winter)
  • Sunflower
  • Turnip

All vegetables require sun but there are a few that will tolerate partial shade. These are:

  • Cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Pak choi
  • Radish
  • Roquette (Arugula)
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Some vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and asparagus are started from plants or root cuttings. Onions, leeks and shallots are often started from bulbs or plants as well.

Sometimes you need dinner for one or two and sometimes you need to please a crowd. This week's recipe is for a fruit salad that is a hit at potluck dinners. The ingredients are available year round.

Hypatia's Fruit Salad


For the dressing

  • ¼ cup - 2floz, 60ml - orange juice
  • ¼ cup - 2floz, 60ml - pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup - 2floz, 60ml - lime juice
  • 1/3 - 3oz, 75g - cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup -8floz, 240ml - heavy1 cream, whipped

For the salad -

  • ¼ cup - 4floz, 120ml - lemon juice
  • 3 medium red apples, chopped
  • 3 medium yellow or green apples, chopped
  • 3 cups - 12oz, 300g - dark purple grapes, halved
  • 6 firm bananas, sliced
  • ½ - 3oz, 75g - cup pecans, chopped

In a heavy saucepan combine the orange, pineapple and lime juice. Add the sugar and the beaten egg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool. When cool, fold into the whipped cream.

In a serving bowl toss the apples and bananas with the lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Add the grapes. Stir in the dressing and mix gently. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Just before serving, add the pecans and stir. Makes about 20 servings.

The Cranky Gardener


22.04.04 Front Page

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