Category Archives: You can grow that!

Caramelize Onions in the Crockpot

Saving  Sweet Onions

The best ways to keep those giant sweet onions.

  • Caramelize

  • Pickle

  • Dehydrate

  • Caramelize

When there are too many onions, or find a great sale on them, its Caramelized Onion time. Fill a crock pot with sliced onions and allow them to slow cook overnight. When you wake up, you will discover the onions are transformed into a pricey gourmet treat I am too frugal to buy.

I started with several super sweet giant onions from the farmers market. Sweet onions have a short shelf life, so plan to freeze or dehydrate onions you will not use within a month. Super sweets should be refrigerated. Store onions in a cool, dry place. Sweet onions store for a maximum of three months, but storage types may last throughout the winter.

Caramelized onion pie with tomato and thyme. PBH

Once reduced to a pale golden layer of soft, fragrant onions, allow them to cool completely.  Use these sweet, tender onions as a base for soups, vegetable broth, or the best Onion Soup ever made. Caramelized Onions are the base for onion and tomato pie.

When onions are cool, store extra onions in one cup portions in freezer bags or containers. Label and date packages. Later, drop the onions, frozen, into soup, veggie broth, chili, or stew.

Sweet Caramelized Onions are tasty enough to serve as a side dish topping. Just season with a splash of herb vinegar, vegan butter, thyme, salt pepper. Serve over toast, on roasted vegetables or green beans. or layer in a vegetable lasagna.

Slice onions and add to crock pot with 2 tablespoons of vegan butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Make the recipe your own by adding a splash of white wine, cracked pepper, a spring or two of fresh thyme.

Caramelizing onions is a great way to extend the sweet onion season. Whether you are a fan of sweet Texas onions, Walla Walla or the famous Vidalia, give this crock pot recipe a try. It also works with other white or yellow onions, they just aren’t as sweet.

If you have red onions to keep, try making a quick refrigerator pickle recipe. It’s the best thing that ever happened to a grilled or roasted veggie sandwich.

  • Pickle

Red onions become beautiful pink pickles. The cost of a jar of pickled red onions in the local deli sent me home to make my own in minutes for pennies. PBH

Pickled Red Onions‬

1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 cups of white vinegar
herb sprigs or peppercorns (optional)

Slice 2 or 3 medium size red onions in 1/4” slices.

In a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vinegar. Heat and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add onion slices. Heat through and cook for 1 minute.

Add a sprig of herbs or a few peppercorns to the bottom of each container or jar.
Pack onions into pint canning jars or a container with tightly covered lid.

Pour vinegar over onions to completely cover the onions. Close the jars or containers and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Keeps up to three weeks in refrigerator.

Suggested herbs: oregano, dill, thyme or  small nasturtium leaves.

  • Dehydrate

Cut onion in half, then slice big sweet onions about 1/4 inch thick. PBH

To Dehydrate Onions

Another method of preserving a lot of onions is to dehydrate them. That intense onion flavor will boost onion flavor in French onion soup, and enliven any veggie burger.

When onions are completely dry, put them in the blender to make onion powder. It is a perfect, space-saving, long-term storage method for onions.

Rich onion soup served in bread bowls or topped with croutons. PBH

It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.  –   Julia Child

Onion Soup Recipe

  • 4 large sweet onions (about 3 pounds), thinly sliced*
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 4 -6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (your choice)
  • 1 or two fresh springs of thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • slices of baguette to top soup bowls
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
  • Fresh chives or  thyme leaves, for garnish

* any combo of mild or hot onions, leeks, shallots to equal 3 pounds

Instructions:

Heat a soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onions and stirring often until onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine has evaporated, add garlic, thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 6 cups of vegetable or mushroom broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 40 minutes and then remove thyme springs.

Ladle onion soup into oven-safe bowls. Top with a slice of baguette and spread each slice with 1 tablespoon of shredded vegan cheese. Place in a hot oven or under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is hot and golden.

Garnish with chives or green onions and serve.

The easiest way to grow alliums* and establish your own onion patch is with a starter pot of chives. Or, plant a clove or two of your kitchen garlic, or order onion starts from a commercial grower. The cheapest way to grow onions is to start them from seed.

*Allium is a genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives.

Plant these little onions 1 or 2 inches apart. As they grow, thin the onions throughout the spring untill plants are properly spaced for bulbing. PBH

Grow an onion patch

To Grow

Onions prefer light, sandy, loamy soils, good drainage and full sun. They will grow in other types of soil, including clay. Green onions can be grown in partial shade.

Begin growing onions indoors from seed about six weeks before the last predicted frost date. Sow in flats, then transplant onions to 1″-2″ apart. Harden off onion seedling before transplanting outdoors to prevent sunscald.

I have my best luck growing onions from sets or starts. These baby onion plants are ready to plant. Even though sets are more expensive, they can be directly planted where the onions will grow. Or, plant them closer, thinning and using green onions until the remaining onions are properly spaced.

I buy onions and leek plants from Dixondale Farms. Start with well worked soil before planting. Onions are successful in the garden or in containers.

Spacing depends on the variety of onion. Generally, planting to 3″ – 4″ inches apart for green onions and thinning to at least 5-6 inches apart for bulbing onions. Proper spacing will affect the size of the mature onion.

Harvest onions a week after the tops have start to yellow and fall over

Most home cooks love having a year round supply of onions. They are easy to grow, take up little garden space and the varieties are endless. Onions are a recipe staple used in all cuisines of the world.

The New Superfood Sweet Potato Leaves

Even ornamental sweet potato leaves and flowers are edible. PBH

People eat sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, leaves around the world. While the tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, the leaves are rich in vitamin B, ß­carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein. Young, tender leaves are a good addition to green salads. The edible flowers are a beautiful garnish.

Sweet potatoes are the earliest thing I grow. Just impale a sweet potato  with toothpicks or skewers and plunge it into a glass of water.  Soon you will have fresh greens at a time of year when leafy vegetables are in short supply.

Plus, you are growing sweet potato slips ready in time for  planting season.

Checking on a tray of homegrown sweet potatoes, I discovered as few potatoes were sprouting. So, I decided to start growing them in water jars just to see something green.

Found in the storage bin like this. Sprouted and ready to grow ready to grow. PBH

For the past two years, I’ve ordered sweet potato slips from a certified grower.  I recommend that you do that so you can try a variety of sweet potatoes and choose your favorite for taste and compatibility in you garden.

This year, three varieties will grow the full circle. Starting plants from 2017 sweet potato harvest to growing the 2018 sweet potato crop. The complete cycle for my homegrown organic potatoes.

Planting and growing a whole new crop from my own sweet potato.This years crop is White Hayman, Beauregard and, Carolina Ruby. Grown from my stock, but I will be trying more varieties next year.

These companies have delivered strong, healthy starts to my door at just the right time.

Steele Plant Company

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

The entire sweet potato plant is edible: the tuber, leaves, stems and even the lovely flowers. PBH

Timing is everything when it comes to sweet potatoes.  First, takes 6 weeks to get sweet potato slips that are ready to be planted in warm garden soil. Then, it may take 100 days or more to grow a crop.  That’s a long growing season.

When the sprouts are about 5 to 6 inches long, it’s time to remove them from the potato. Grasp a sprout near the base and pull sideways. The sprout will pull away from the potato.

Place all the sprouts in another jar of water. In a very few days you will see little white roots begin to form and quickly grow from the sprouts. In about two weeks, the roots are ready to plant.

Pot them, or plant directly into the garden. Keep them well watered and weeded until established. Vines will grow quickly, smothering out weeds.

Growing my own sweet potato slips saves the cost of buying and shipping. But, I like the idea of completing the full growing cycle and being self-sufficient. It’s assuring to know where my food comes from.

Sweet Potato Greens

the new super food

Stems and leaves can be consumed as you grow slips, or harvested in the garden. PBH

Researchers report that sweet potato leaves are an excellent source of antioxidative polyphenolics, among them anthocyanins and phenolics, and are superior to other commercial vegetables. Harvest the top, tender first 4 inches of the vine for fresh eating raw.

Sweet potato leaves contain as many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as spinach. The oxalic acid in sweet potato leaves is less than one ­fifth that of spinach. The leaves are not as bitter as chard or kale and they have a softer texture.

Eat sweet potato leaves as a vegetable, in noodles and breads and as a tea. Try cooking them like you do spinach or chard. Harvest greens  about once a month, April through October.

Cooking tips: Saute the leaves with a little onion and garlic. Or, stir-fry and season with a little maple syrup.

Also, consider these sources:

Once giant sweet potatoes are cooked, they can be portioned out to refrigerate or freeze as a fast addition to any meal

Growing car parts: The Toyota Motor Company, in coopera­tion with Mitsui Company, is producing biodegradable plastics from sweet potatoes . Nearly 30 percent of Toyota’s plastic automobile parts will be replaced with biodegradable ones within ten years. Toyota Motor Company also envisions sweet potato use in the future as an energy source, much like alcohol and hydrogen.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff  Cooperative Extension Program. 

Chervil – You Can GrowThat!

If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall. Chervil’s delicate anise flavor and dainty appearance make this a must grow herb for herb gardeners and foodies.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, is a mild flavored, delicate cool season annual.

Direct seed chervil in early spring. Plant in filtered sun or light shade if climate is hot areas. Sow seeds an inch apart in well worked soil. Barely cover and keep soil moist. Germinates in 10 to 14 days.

Chervil grows to 10 -12 inches tall.  Once seeds germinate and grow 1 inch tall,   thin seedlings to one plant every 6 inches or so. Chervil has a delicate tap root and does not transplant well.

Plant chervil in partial shade or, in the spotty shade under other plants. It grows best in moist soil and cool spring weather.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a nonmayonnaise based potato salad.

As soon as the weather heats up, chervil plants bolt (flower and set seed) By June, my plants have set seed. After seeds are brown and dry, I’ll collect them to reseed in the fall and  next spring.

Although you probably aren’t going to eat enough chervil to make a nutritional impact, it is a flavorful source of calcium and potassium.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines Herbes

Add fresh chopped chervil at the last-minute to enhance to bright flavor in any dish.

The famous French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

 

 

 

Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown  fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm.

Chervil Herb Butter

One of the best ways to preserve chervil is in butter.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chervil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend lemon juice, and chervil into softened butter. shape butter into a log and chill. Refrigerate or freeze butter log.

Chervil is sometimes used as a tarragon substitute. When cooking with chervil, add to dishes at the ending of cooking to preserve the delicate flavor.

Use chervil or chervil butter in omelets and scrambled eggs.

Companion plant chervil near cabbages and kale. Chervil is said to help repel slugs. It is easy to grow as a container plant.

Chervil is a delicate herb with a short season. It’s rare that you will find it in the market. If you want to enjoy this herb, it’s best to grow it from seed. Make sure to save some seed so you can grow it again in the fall.

adding mixed herbs to the pot outside the kitchen door. Fresh Fines Herbs are always at the ready.

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Vegetables flowers are fall favorites

My Favorite Fall Flowers are Vegetables

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The fruit may not be mature enough to harvest the pleasure of the lavender blooms make this plant garden worthy.

The eggplant may not be mature enough to harvest this fall. But, the pleasure of the continuous lavender blooms make this plant garden worthy.

The prettiest flowers still blooming in my garden, are vegetables. Next year, I’m growing okra in the flower beds. The big daffodil colored flowers are gorgeous.

Okra Flowers are as pretty in the flower bed as they are appropriate for the vegetable garden.

Okra Flowers are as pretty in the flower bed as they are right for the vegetable garden.

You may think of these flowers as vegetables. Even if you don’t eat okra, consider growing the plant just for the blooms. The big yellow discs look like the pink flowers of the hibiscus or sorrel plants.

img_2741The dried calyes of the hibiscus flower will be ruby-red tea this winter. The plant has beautiful garden-worthy flowers even though the goal is to produce tea. The pink flowers will bloom until frost.

One-inch lavender flowers of eggplants are blooming nonstop in this cooler season.  A light frost will kill the plants before the eggplant fruits are mature. I’m growing the eggplants for the flowers, not the vegetables.

Today I picked half a dozen Anaheim and Pablano peppers plus a pint basket of okra. All of these plants, the peppers, okra and the eggplants are blooming and thriving.

As you order seed for next spring, consider mixing some traditional vegetable crops into the flower beds. The prettiest flowers in the fall garden are vegetable plants.

Eggplant flowers are nonstop bloomers until frost.

Eggplant flowers are nonstop bloomers until frost.

It’s November, zone 6 in Missouri. Vegetable gardening could have been over two months ago. But, container grown vegetables have become the season extending flowers of the season.

 

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You can Grow that: Beans!

Try one last crop: beans.

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Plant a few beans every two weeks for a steady supply of green beans this summer. photo: PBH

Plant a few beans and see what happens. photo: PBH

Gardening is always a gamble. This late in the year, you may or may not have time to get in another crop or two. One gamble I’m willing to make it is beans.

A few cents worth of bean seed might or might not have time to produce a crop. You may have some seed left over. Take a chance on the seed in the clearance rack. Or just grab a hand full of dried pinto beans from the kitchen cabinet.

green beans

Mascotte French Filet Bean plants are small enough for hanging baskets.

I’m gambling that if I water and weed my little bean patch, I’ll end up with a bonus crop of fresh green beans. If an early freeze hits the area, that’s OK too. Just turn those bean plants into the soil.

Either way, you get fresh green beans or you get improved soil ready and waiting for spring planting.

Beans are nitrogen-fixing plants. They draw nitrogen from the air and make it available to the soil. By adding nitrogen to the soil, the N of NPK in fertilizer, you are enriching the soil for the next crop you plant.

Purple Hyacinth Bean Flowering Vine Seeds

Purple Hyacinth Bean Flowering Vine looks like a pole snap beans with scarlet flowers.

Some plants that fix nitrogen into the soil are legumes, like peanuts, clover, beans, alfalfa. Beans are fasting growing legumes. It will cost you little or nothing to poke a few seed in the ground.

French Green Beans Almondine

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