Saturday, July 24, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

Well, we have a giveaway winner! The winner was drawn old-school in order to accommodate entries that combined, for example, a comment and following in one comment submission. Each entry was written on a slip of paper. All entry slips were combined in a bag and then mixed and shaken. Finally, one slip was drawn at random. I'd like to thank everyone who entered Please Be edible's first giveaway. This was fun!

The winner of the $60 CSN Stores gift certificate is Debbie C! Debbie C, your email address has been forwarded to CSN Stores and you should receive your prize via email before too long. Enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cozy Mystery Challenge

This is completely unrelated to food and gardening... But Su-sieee! Mac recently blogged about belatedly joining in the 2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge and it looked like so much fun I had to join in too. Briefly, a cozy mystery is a mystery sans naughty language, sex scenes, and gore and often involves an amateur sleuth. You can follow the bookshelf link to the right (looks just like the pic above) for more info, a fantastic book list, and the opportunity to join in too!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homicide In The Garden

That's the title of the post I intended to write today. It was going to be a double homicide. And I was going to perpetrate it. In the end, though, I just couldn't go through with it. I hope the two near-victims appreciate the reprieve. More than that, I hope they redeem themselves; but I'm not holding my breath.

You see, last year was the first year I tried the much celebrated Sungold tomatoes. They produced well but, like most of last year's tomatoes, tasted watery because it rained all freaking summer last year (except the time I was away which was crazy hot and bone dry and, naturally, did in much of the garden. *sigh*). This year, I gave the Sungolds another chance. It's been a tense relationship from the start. They have severe B.O.

I tried to ignore it. I tried to be sympathetic. I hoped it would go away and be replaced by that lovely normal tomato smell. It didn't. It got worse. The other day when I touched one of the Sungold plants it made my hands reek. When I came inside, The Girl actually recoiled from the smell... after I had washed my hands twice. The relationship just seems headed down a dead end road. Even with the new garden bed, space is at a premium in my food plot. Everybody needs to pull their own weight and, I now realize, not offend the gardener.

But I couldn't pull them out. I haven't given them a fair trial. I would just be wrong.

So, I'll check freecycle for someone giving away hazmat gear and walk wide circles around this variety. I won't grow them again next year. And I'll no doubt spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what nutter of a plant breeder thought it would be cool to introduce to home gardens tomato plants that cause gardeners to smell like roadkill with a side of toxic waste.

Please also see Would You Eat This? I'm so curious to know!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Would You Eat This?

Paula Crossfield over at Civil Eats recently posted an interview with Daniel Imhoff, discussing his new book The CAFO Reader. If you don't follow "food news," CAFO refers to Confined Animal Feeding Operations. It's an interesting interview and I encourage you to read it. However, at one point, Imhoff states "Ultimately where we’re going now is in-vitro meat, where we don’t need animals at all, we just clone tissue, and manufacture animal flesh." I've been thinking about this for several days and I'm curious... would you eat this?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Few Quick Recipes That Are Healthier Than Fast Food

It has been really interesting to me to read your challenges and concerns about eating healthier in the comments of the giveaway post. Many of them are my challenges as well. Over the last six (almost!) months, I have become much better at avoiding fast/convenience foods and eating healthier instead. But... I totally understand the problem of not having the time, or energy, to cook a healthy meal after a busy day. So, here are a few of the "quick but healthier than fast food" recipes I fall back on when I just don't feel like cooking.

The first one I have posted before. That's my Who Hash recipe. The only caveat with this one is that it does involve rice (brown rice, because it's better for you! * Ha! Naturally, having posted that, I then read this article that presents a different view of that. You be the judge!). Sometimes I am too tired to wait for rice to cook. But rice is also something that can be made ahead of time (heck, you can probably even freeze cooked rice for a quick go-to). This is such a simple, filling food- and the kids love it.

Next is what I call Cheater's Chili. I know chili aficionados will be appalled, so it you consider yourself in that category please look away now. Cheater's Chili caveat: involves canned ingredients. I try to avoid canned ingredients these days, but on days where the choice is between canned or take-out, I try to go for the can.

Cheater's Chili

brown a pound of ground beef (with onion if you have it, but it's fine without too)
if there's a lot of fat, drain it off (I don't bother if the meat was very lean)
dump in a couple cans of pre-seasoned chili beans (I like Bush's)
dump in a large can of diced tomatoes
chop a green bell pepper and toss that in
add chili powder
stir while heating through
eat and put leftovers in the fridge

And this last "recipe" is really just a way to prepare salmon (Pacific wild-caught is best, but honestly, you could do a variation of this with canned salmon for less money).

Yummy Salmon

Cover the bottom of a large pan with diced tomatoes, basil, garlic, chopped onion, and chopped/sliced black olives. You can use canned seasoned tomatoes and it works great. Lay the salmon fillet on top of the mix. Cover and heat until salmon is cooked through. The flavors melt together nicely. You don't need to stir this or anything, but use a medium heat so it cooks quickly but doesn't burn to the bottom.

Okay, one more thought... We stir-fry pretty often. I don't really consider stir-fry to be super quick, but it just occurred to me that if I pre-cooked the meat when it was convenient and kept it in the freezer, I could toss it in to re-heat with the veggies and save some time. Especially if I had cooked rice in the freezer. Has anybody frozen cooked rice? How did it work out? I think I have to go try that now... Anybody else care to share your "quick but healthier than fast food recipes"?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Buying Local And Balancing Needs

It wasn't that long ago that I finally started feeling a bit settled about my "buy local" routine. I had figured out what day I needed to go out to the farm store in order to get milk before the gallons of organic whole milk sold out. And I'd found a substitute free-range organic relatively-local egg source after becoming concerned about the cause of the brittle egg shells on the local eggs at the farm store. But recently, I experienced a bit of a setback.

The farm store changed milk suppliers. Previously, we were able to buy gallons of organic whole milk. It came in standard plastic gallon jugs from a creamery a bit north of here in Pennsylvania. I'm not a fan of plastic; but storing multiple glass half gallon jugs in our refrigerator is just not practical. It's also more expensive.

When the farm store switched milk suppliers, they changed to a more local creamery. This outfit has various fancy certifications and shaves a few food miles off the end product. But, for my family, there are a couple problems with this change. The first problem is that milk is now only available in glass half gallons. Also, the price to buy a gallon of milk is now roughly $7.50, compared to the $5.95 for the plastic jug we were previously buying. But there's still another problem. We think the new milk tastes gross. I've never really imagined myself to be a milk connoisseur, but let me tell you, these milks are two completely different beasts.

Now, we had discovered a while ago that the natural food store carries the same brand of milk we had been purchasing from the farm store (which is closer to us). But, the natural food store carries an even smaller quantity of milk than the farm store, and the delivery day is a problem. You see, the natural food store is where I found the eggs I've been buying. But, the delivery day is different for the eggs and the milk, and if you don't get out there on delivery day you don't get what you are after. Plus, the natural food store is farther away. Multiple trips out there each week would burn up a lot of gas.

Honestly, the logistics of buying healthy local food is sometimes daunting. I understand why so many people don't make a serious effort to buy local. It is far more convenient to go to the grocery store and get everything at once, regardless of how it was produced. It's cheaper too. In the short run. But once your eyes are opened to the long-term costs to your health and environment, it's hard to go back to buying standard grocery store fare. Plus, I've become spoiled by the rich tastes of food raised right. I recently purchased grocery store brand organic, "cage-free" eggs in a pinch. They were pale and tasteless and so disappointing.

So far, the "solutions" I've come up with have been less than optimal. I know I'm not the only farm store customer who us unhappy with the change. The farm store is pushing hard to sell the new brand, but I'm hoping that they'll switch back to the previous brand. Until then, my choices seem to be either eggs or milk, or to buy non-local organic milk or eggs at the grocery store.

Sometimes buying local is a balancing act.Maybe it always is. In a strange way, I've come to appreciate the challenge. When I have to work a little more for the food I want to feed my family, I appreciate it a little more. The extra effort makes me think consciously about the food choices I make and is a reminder of why it is important to make these choices. Sure, I'd be quite happy for the process to be easier. But in the mean time, I try to embrace the bumps in the road as opportunities not to be missed. I've come a long way since February!

This post is a participant in Fight Back Friday, generously hosted by Food Renegade.

Also, check out our first GIVEAWAY!

A Giveaway! $60 Gift Certificate

I've wanted to hold a giveaway at Please Be Edible for a while now, so I was thrilled when CSN Stores contacted me offering one of my lucky readers a $60 gift certificate good at any of their online stores. Whatever your household needs, I'm pretty sure these folks have it. And really, who wouldn't love sixty bucks toward stuff they need?

Maybe you have a dog like our Luna who has put you in the market for new dining room furniture. Don't ask. Seriously. I'll cry. No naughty dog? CSN Stores has everything to go on or under the dining table too. How cute are these glasses? Or maybe this rug?

Or maybe you need new kitchen gear instead? Personally, I'd be thrilled to take home these gems...
Need something else? Swing by CSN Stores for the full range of options.You get the idea, right? Good stuff, and lots of sale prices!

So, the "rules":

Each entrant has up to three chances to win.
1. For your first chance, leave a comment below telling me your biggest challenge or concern regarding eating healthier.
2. For an additional chance, mention this giveaway on your blog or any social media (and then post a comment below telling me you did).
3. And for another chance, follow this blog with Google Friend Connect and post below telling me you did (or that you already follow).

You must enter by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, Friday July 23, 2010. One entry will be drawn at random and announced Saturday July 24. You've got one week to get your entries in!

The $60 gift certificate is a one-time use certificate. You have to use it all at once, at one of the CSN Stores shops. Winner will be responsible for shipping charges. International fees may apply if winner resides in Canada.

Per CSN Stores, this giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. (I know, I know...sorry!)

The winner will be announced in a separate blog post on July 24. When submitting entries, please make sure I can reach you via email as the gift certificate will be emailed to the winner!

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Help! Calling All Birders!

Earlier this evening, I opened the back door to let Luna in and something weird happened. She didn't bound over to me. In fact, she stood at the edge of the patio smiling at me, but not approaching. I called her. She nudged something on the ground. The something on the ground moved. I called Luna more firmly. She came in. I went out.

Luna had a bird. I think it is a young mourning dove, but I'm not 100% confident. Can anybody confirm that for me? The poor thing lost a lot of feathers (including its' tail feathers), but seems to be generally okay otherwise. I don't believe it can fly now. We have it in a big box with mixed seed from the bird feeder and some water. My goal is to keep it alive until it can fly again. Advice?!?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nature: 1, Gardener: Wha...?

I walk my garden every day. Several times. Weather does not deter me. So, I like to think I have a pretty good idea of what's going on in my garden, more or less, at any given time. But apparently this is yet another example of the human ability to delude oneself.

Today, as I was checking in on the original bean bed, I glanced over to the grape trellis and noticed the grapes are filling out nicely. I stepped over for a closer look.

See? Grapes. Plump and round, just like they're supposed to be. But what's that behind the grapes?

It's the nest of one clever bird! I'm sorry to report that I don't know who built this. I imagine whoever it was is probably done with it by now. But perhaps they'll be back sometime since they managed to find such prime real estate. This nest was built straddling the wooden top rail of the grape trellis. No shaking or weaving and bobbing in the wind. It is surrounded by grapes, which means the bugs come right to whoever is sitting on the nest. Plus, the giant grape leaves both shelter this nest and collect water right at the front door. I'm totally impressed! I have walked past this nest everyday- probably for months!- and had no idea it was there. Nature wins again!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Sometime very early this morning, the sound of the storm beginning worked its way into my still sleeping mind. By the time I got out of bed, it had been raining for perhaps a few hours. I was so relieved to look out the window and see my garden completely soaked. As I drank my coffee I thought about what a precarious life it is to depend upon rain arriving in a timely fashion for one's food crops to survive- the kind of existence the settlers lived, but also which many people around the world still live today. I feel fortunate to have the ability to turn a knob and water my garden when it needs it. But I also feel a responsibility not to abuse that ability. I've lost a lot of plants this year because I have refused to water that which I cannot eat.

In a way, this heat and drought has been an opportunity in the garden. This environment has forced plants to really fight for it and has made choosing which plants to save seed from far easier than it might be under more accommodating circumstances. For example, shortly after the first bean planting was up and looking good, some critter (bunnies, I suspect) went through the entire bed nibbling off all the leaves and chewing the stems to nubs. Only three plants were left with leaves on them. Fortunately, two of those were the Golden Rod Bush Beans I had planted the last of and hope to save seed from. A burst a hopefullness and the inability to force myself to look at the carnage again combined to result in me leaving that bed alone to see what would happen. Maybe some of the nubs would come back?

Miraculously, most of the nubs came back. Some of those plants have done ridiculously well and are now sporting beans. Those plants have been marked for seed saving because, honestly, a gardener can't ask for more from a plant than to survive and produce through bunny attacks, neglect, extreme heat and drought. Similarly, in the new garden some of the tomatoes are really taking off while others, like the Romas, are struggling. Same thing with the peppers, all of which I nearly lost to insect damage early on. So, while it is a worry and a pain to garden through a summer like this one has been so far, it is also a blessing to be able to select for seed from plants that are really outdoing themselves under these circumstances. And the best thing about it is the seeds are free, and no lab is required to produce them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Garden Weirdness

So. It's been so long since I've posted that I was actually too chicken to check and see when my last post was. Things have been busy here. Like much of the East Coast, we have been getting creamed by this heatwave. Lawns are brown and dormant. Even some of the trees appear to be going dormant- leaves turning brown and falling off, as if it was fall. That's a bit worrisome. But my garden is what's really been on my mind lately.

Because I put the garden in late this year (after finishing the spring semester and then digging the new garden bed), it was not well established when the heat hit. Oh, and then there's the "huh?" problem I had getting it going. Where I live, the soil is almost without exception a little on the acidic side. I mean, I had never seen a soil sample test alkaline... until problems in the new garden led me to test the soil. After finally getting plants into the new garden, they immediately started deteriorating. The leaves turned chlorotic. Bugs began devouring them. They didn't put on any new growth. It was bad. And, the few tomatoes on the Romas developed blossom-end rot.

Blossom-end rot is linked to uneven watering and calcium deficiency. I knew the problem was not uneven watering, so naturally, this pointed to a problem with calcium uptake. Often, BER can be treated by applying lime. On acidic soils, this really isn't often a problem. On alkaline soil, however, applying lime could cause trouble. Most plants are not fans of a highly alkaline environment, and liming decreases acidity. So it was a good thing I didn't rush out to the garden with my bag-o-lime, and instead decided to test the soil. Lo! It came up alkaline. This was such an anomaly that I had to repeat the test to believe it.

The alkaline test result presented me with a bit of a quandary. How to increase calcium and acidity...quickly? I suspected that, for some unknown reason, soil calcium was bound up rather than absent. A little research turned up the solution, which was to apply fertilizer intended for acid-loving plants. This variety of fertilizer is high in sulfur, which increases acidity.

Let me tell you... this was an almost miraculous cure. It took a few days to begin to see results. At first, the only sign of improvement was the hint that perhaps the bugs were devouring the garden less quickly. But over the first week or so, the leaves started re-greening. At this point, just about everything seems to be growing well, flowering, and setting fruit. The one big exception is the Roma tomatoes. While they did set some fruit, the plants themselves are barely hanging on. I'm not sure why either. When I transplanted the tomatoes, the Romas appeared the strongest. Unfortunately, they went downhill fast.

It's more than a little disappointing, too. I was relying pretty heavily on the Romas this year and now it looks like I'll harvest very little from them. The pair of San Marzanos I received from a fellow master gardener is doing well though. Not well enough to fill the pantry with jars of tomato sauce- but hopefully there will be enough "regular" tomatoes to still put up some sauce.

Oh well. The garden is always a "win some/lose some" proposition. What else is there to do but Keep Calm And Carry On?