French Broad Food Co+Op

Designing Your Own Vegetable Garden

Many gardeners like having a main vegetable garden area to concentrate their food production, but it doesn’t have to be all veggies. Feel free to include herbs, edible flowers, and fruits. When designing your own vegetable garden, it’s important to understand the basics.

Choose a sunny location

It’s critical to choose a sunny spot for growing vegetables. Most fruiting vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun a day for best results. Leafy greens, such as spinach and lettuce, can thrive with a bit less direct sun. If you assess your yard in winter, remember that deciduous trees that are then leafless will cast shadows as the growing season progresses.

While the ideal garden location has loose soil that drains well, don’t fret if your soil is less than ideal. You can improve it over time by adding organic matter, such as compost, or create raised beds on top of poor soil by bringing in the amount of topsoil and compost you need.

The right size garden

A 20- by 20-foot garden will give you room to grow a wide range of crops, including some that need a lot of space, such as sweet corn and winter squash. A 10- by 12-foot plot is sufficient for a garden sampler with a variety of greens, herbs, a few tomatoes and peppers, beans, cucumbers, basil, parsley, and edible flowers such as nasturtiums. Try including flowers in your garden, even if they aren’t edible, because they are beautiful to cut and bring indoors. Flowers also attract pollinating and beneficial insects to the garden. By growing plants in succession and using 3-foot-wide beds with 18-inch paths, you should have plenty of luscious vegetables for fresh eating and extras for sharing.

To design your garden from scratch, plot it on graph paper. Use paper with a grid of 1/4-inch squares, with each square representing 1 foot in the garden. Outline the beds in pencil, then fill in the plant names.

Preparing the garden space

Once you have a plan, you’re ready to measure out the garden. You’ll need a tape measure, plenty of string, 1-foot-long wooden stakes, and a hammer to drive the stakes into the ground.

For best sun exposure, orient the garden so the beds run east to west, with the tallest plants on the north end. This will reduce the chance of one vegetable shading another. Following your plan, drive a stake in each of the four corners of the garden.

At this point, you’ll need to remove any sod and rototill or turn the soil by hand to loosen the soil and remove weeds. If you’re starting in the fall to get a garden ready for spring planting, you have an option that will save you some hard work. Mow the area close to the ground and lay three to four layers of black and white newspaper over the garden area. Cover the newspaper with a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of straw, and cover that with a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of compost. The newspaper/straw/compost combination will kill the grass and weeds and provide a great habitat for earthworms to work the soil. By spring, the grass will be dead and decomposing, and you can work the soil.

Before you plant, have the soil tested to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels. Most vegetables require a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Add limestone to raise the pH in high-rainfall areas; add sulfur to lower the pH in the arid West. Your state university’s cooperative extension service or local garden center will have information on obtaining a soil test kit.

Lay out the beds

Now it’s time to lay it all out. Measure, stake, and outline each bed with string. To make a raised a bed, first loosen the soil using a shovel or a garden fork, then shovel soil from an adjacent path onto the bed.

Keep adding soil until the bed is about 8 to 10 inches tall. Smooth the soil on the surface of the bed by raking it flat with an iron rake. Draw the soil evenly between the string boundaries, letting excess soil fall off the edge of the bed outside the string. The object is to end up with a flat-topped raised bed that extends fully to the string boundaries about 8 inches above the pathway. Raised beds can be any shape you want, as long as they aren’t wider than 3 feet. The center of a bed is hard to reach if it’s any wider than that.

Feed the soil

It’s easier to address the soil’s long-term nutrient needs before planting, rather than after veggies are already growing. Build up the soil with natural fertilizers and compost. It may take time to build fertile, rich soil using organic fertilizer and amendments, but the nutrients from organic products are released into the soil slowly, providing weeks of nutrition to the plants. Once each bed is formed, add a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of compost over the surface and work it into the soil with your rake. Use supplemental organic fertilizers to correct nutrient problems discovered in the soil test and to side-dress vegetables during the growing season. These fertilizers can be in granular or liquid form.

What to eat?

Now comes the fun part: deciding what to grow. The simplest and seemingly most obvious way to decide what to grow is to think about what vegetables you like to eat. Beans, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, and greens such as Swiss chard and arugula, are probably the easiest vegetables to grow. That said, if you hate beans, don’t grow them! Once you decide on your favorite veggies, you can learn more about how to plant them.

Many vegetables are best started from seeds sown directly in the ground (direct-sown); others go in as seedlings. You can grow your own seedlings indoors or buy them. In early spring, a week or two before the last frost, direct sow crops that grow best in cool weather, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips, as well as the many delectable exotic greens such as arugula, Asian mustards, and mesclun mix. These greens grow particularly quickly from seed. After the last frost, direct-sow warm-weather vegetables, such as beans, cucumbers, corn, and squash. Among herbs, dill, basil, and cilantro are sure bets from direct-sown seed.

Transplants

Some vegetables need to be planted outside as transplants because they take so long to mature. Others just grow better from seedlings, rather than seeds sown in the ground. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower can be started either way, but setting transplants outside usually works best. Eggplants, leeks, peppers, and tomatoes need to be started from transplants because they need such a long growing season.

Right time to plant

The average date of frost in spring is the key date to use in garden planning. If you don’t know the date for your region, check with your local cooperative extension service or garden center.

You can safely plant the cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, parsley, peas, radishes, and spinach, a few weeks before the last frost date. In mild-winter climates, these crops are usually planted in fall for a winter garden. Arugula, beets, leaf lettuce, parsnips, potatoes, and Swiss chard are a bit less frost-hardy but still grow well in cool weather. Plant warm-season vegetables, such as green beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes only after the threat of frost has passed.

Special tips and techniques

There are special tips and techniques that can make your veggie garden more efficient and productive. One popular method is succession planting. A good example of succession planting is growing a warm-season crop like beans in the same spot where you just harvested a cool-season crop like spinach. In most areas, the spinach is finished early enough in the season to allow you to plant a mid-season crop of green beans that will mature before frost.

Interplanting is another way to maximize your planting space. Plant quick-maturing crops, such as lettuce, around slow growers, such as broccoli. The lettuce will be harvested by the time the broccoli needs the space.

When growing more than one of any type of vegetable—tomatoes, for instance—plant several different varieties. This increases the chance of success, since some varieties will perform and taste better than others. It also extends the harvest season if you plant early, mid- and late-season varieties.

The miracle of raised beds

In general, raised beds are the best way to grow the most vegetables with the least amount of work. The only times when raised beds are not a good option are if you have sandy soil, live in a very dry area, or are growing crops that need hilling and mounding, such as potatoes. Otherwise, raise the soil!

The benefits of raised beds

  • They warm up and dry out faster in spring, so plants get a jump on the season.
  • You can grow more vegetables in less space and create attractive, well-organized planting areas.
  • They save on the amount of fertilizer and compost used.
  • They’re less work, especially if you make permanent raised beds bordered with wood, bricks, or stone. You won’t have to remake the beds each spring.
  • The plants will have healthy root systems because you won’t be stepping on the planting bed, compacting the soil and making it hard for roots to grow.

Information courtesy of the National Gardening Association, www.garden.org.

Baked Marinated Tofu

Total Time: 10 minutes active, 40 minutes total

Servings: 4

Adding flavor to tofu is a snap with this simple video recipe that makes for a delicious main dish or snack.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh garlic
  • 2 teaspoons warmed honey
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or toasted sesame oil
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Place the grated garlic and ginger in a medium bowl. Add the, honey, light soy sauce mirin, water and oil. Whisk well to combine all ingredients
  3. Place tofu cubes in a single layer in an 8×8″ glass baking dish. Take care not to crowd the pieces of tofu. Pour the marinade over the tofu pieces, turning them to coat well on all sides.
  4. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Rotate pieces and bake for 15 more minutes, checking periodically that the liquid has not completely evaporated. Remove from oven and serve hot with dipping sauce or use in stir-fries.

Serving Suggestion

Eat as a snack, use in a stir-fry, or serve with a peanut dipping sauce.

Nutritional Information

225 Calories, 15 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 125 mg. sodium, 9 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 16 g. protein

Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili

Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili

Recipe Information

Total Time:

55 minutes; 25 minutes active

Servings: 6

Sweet, hearty and delicious, this chili is sure to please the entire family.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 sweet potatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Additional salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Warm oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage; break up any large chunks and sauté until no pink remains. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a bowl; cover. Add onion, bell pepper and sweet potato to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Return meat to pot.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, beans, broth, water, spices and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and stir in beans. Cover and simmer until chili thickens slightly, about 30 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serving Suggestion

Sweet potatoes are a tasty way to add important nutrients to your diet like Vitamin A, fiber and even protein. Substitute your favorite sausage, ground meat or meatless alternative if you prefer. Have fun topping the chili; try a spoon of plain yogurt, cilantro, diced avocado or tortilla chips—you can’t go wrong!

Nutritional Information

440 calories, 13 g. fat, 60 mg. cholesterol, 930 mg. sodium, 63 g. carbohydrate, 15 g. fiber, 21 g. protein

Sweet and Sour Vegetarian Meatballs

Sweet and Sour Vegetarian Meatballs

By: Open Harvest Co-op Grocery

Recipe Information
Total Time: 55 minutes, Servings: 4

These tasty vegetarian meatballs make a delicious appetizer or accompaniment to fettuccine Alfredo or mushroom risotto.

Ingredients
2 large eggs
Oil to grease pan
1/2 cup shredded Colby cheese
2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup crushed herbed stuffing mix
1/4 cup cottage cheese
6 tablespoons pecan meal (grind about 1/2 cup pecan halves)
Sauce
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
10 tablespoons apricot jam
6 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoons minced yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Oil a sheet pan with sides or an oven-safe casserole dish.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all vegetarian meatball ingredients. Once thoroughly combined, roll into 1- to 2-inch balls. The mixture should yield approximately 16-18 vegetarian meatballs. Place them in the oiled pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn them and bake another 15 minutes.
While the vegetarian meatballs are baking, mix together all sauce ingredients in a separate bowl.
After the vegetarian meatballs have baked for 30 minutes, coat them with the sauce and bake another 10-15 minutes. Serve warm.

Serving Suggestion
Goes great with fettuccine Alfredo or mushroom risotto.

Nutritional Information
Per Serving: 490 calories, 27 g. fat, 108 mg. cholesterol, 54 g. carbohydrate, 4 g. dietary fiber, 12 g. protein, 871 mg. sodium

 

Apothecary Skills Class Update

Immune Support and Syrup making

Every year we seem to be bombarded with a new group of viruses and flu. Luckily, we herbalists have a wonderful array of plants that can help. I cannot stress enough to be prepared! In the spring and summer, when so many of these plants are in their season is when we should think about preparing our winter medicines. Drying herbs, picking berries, and tincturing the wonderful fresh abundance of the season is not only fun and connects us to the seasons and the land, but gives us the wonderful health benefits of these plants when we need them.

One of the stars in cold and flu prevention and treatment is certainly elderberry. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis) is both delicious and has anti viral properties. Elderberries are terrific as a tea and a syrup. Here are recipes for both:

 

Elder Echinacea syrup

1 cup elderberries

½ cup echinacea angustifolia root

2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger (or 1 Tbsp. dried)

4 cups water

2 cups raw local honey

Place 4 cups of water into a pot with the herbs. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the herbs and add 2 cups of local honey and a splash of brandy or whiskey (if desired). Mix well so that the warm elder echinacea decoction blends thouroughly with the honey. Store in the fridge and take 1 Tbsp. daily during cold and flu season.

I love to make an elixir with the above syrup. Add 2 ounces of the elderberry syrup with 2 oz. of Herbs, Etc. Deep Health formula. The deep health blend contains a blend of both mushrooms and adaptogens. We know that stress can make us sick, it depletes our ability to fight off viruses and infections, so this is my everyday during the cold season support. 

 

Rosemary Gladstars’ Nutritive Tonic Berry Good Tea

2 parts dried elderberry

2 parts dried rosehips

1 part dried blueberry

1 part dried hawthorne berry

Blend all berries together and add 1 Tbsp. per cup of water. I like to infuse this one a bit longer (an hour or so) to get more goodness. I also love to add aronia, goji, and or bilberry to this for extra antioxidant support. If desired, add lemon juice and or honey to taste. Deeelicious!

Apothecary Skills Class Update

A wonderful group of folks have been attending the monthly apothecary classes here at the co-op and so much has been made and shared. I thought I would share some recipes for those of you who were not able to attend. Enjoy!

Assorted blogs and podcasts  that we love

Sustainable Herbs Project- A wonderful body of articles and info tracing our beloved herbs back to their source. It has amazing information on what we can do as consumers, as herbalists and as teachers to protect these plants that we love and how to protect the farmers/wildcrafters who provide them.
 
United Plant Savers- A wonderful organization focused on the preservation of medicinal plants. Any herbalist will benefit from the list of at risk plants, in depth articles, and even how to create your own botanical sanctuary.
 
Northeast School of Botanical Medicine
 
 
Castanea blog
 
 

Chickweed Pesto Recipe

With the warmer than normal weather we have had, my chickweed patch has been abundant! Chickweed loves to grow in the cooler seasons…it actually thrives fall through spring, disappearing in the heat of summer. This is part of chickweeds medicine too, it is cooling. One of my favorite hot rash allies, it makes a wonderful salve blended with comfrey, yarrow, or plantain. As an herb, chickweed is rich in minerals and vitamin c. It makes a lovely and delicate herbal vinegar to add to salads or greens. Chickweed is also useful in tea or tinctures for those with heat…infections, inflammation, fevers. She cools things right down.

My friend Lupo shared this pesto recipe many years ago. It has become a favorite wild nourishing food!

Chickweed Pesto

3 cups of chickweed
1 ½ cups walnuts1 cup parmesan (or feta)
2-5 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except olive oil in a blender or food processor. Slowly drizzle in chickweed until incorporated. You may have to stop processor and scrape down edges once or twice to get it all consistent. This is such a wonderful fresh tasting pesto. Excellent on bread, as a veggie dip, or on pasta or potatoes.

Enjoy, and remember to eat something wild everyday!

by Melissa Fryar

Apothecary Skills Class Update

A wonderful group of folks have been attending the monthly apothecary classes here at the co-op and so much has been made and shared. I thought I would share some recipes for those of you who were not able to attend. Enjoy!

The Bulk Basics

The Bulk Basics

French Broad Food Co-op boasts the largest selection of bulk herbs in the Southeast! We’ve got just about every bulk herb, tea, and spice that you could imagine. In addition to the herbs and spices, we have all fair trade coffees, grains, nuts and flours (including rice and flours for those who are on gluten-free diets).

Buying in bulk is one of the most economical ways to shop natural foods! It’s also one of the most Earth-friendly. You save money by not paying for packaging and that’s less cardboard and paper products used in the process. 

We welcome you to bring your own containers:

Just weigh the empty container on the scale in the bulk room and write down the weight before you fill it up.

One benefit of Co-op Ownership is special Owner sales, and the next one features our amazing bulk department! This January 22nd Owners save 10% on bulk foods, liquids, and herbs all day long.

If you aren’t an Owner yet, joining the co-op involves completing an application and making a payment toward the $250 equity share. This payment can be made in yearly installments of only $25 over ten years. Get for more information here.

 

Black-Eyed “Peacadillo” Salad

Black-Eyed “Peacadillo” Salad

Total Time:  30 minutes; 15 minutes active

Servings: 6

This zingy bean salad makes a delicious accompaniment to bean and rice burgers, fried green tomatoes or cornbread.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup corn kernels, cooked
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preparation

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serving Suggestion

Serve this zingy bean salad with vegetarian bean and rice burgersfried green tomatoes or cornbread studded with jalapeño peppers and cheese.

Nutritional Information

211 calories, 8 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 532 mg. sodium, 32 g. carbohydrate,2 g. fiber, 7 g. protein