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Archive for the ‘Edibles’ Category

Indigo Rose Tomato

‘Indigo Rose’ Tomato

Pink blueberries and now blue tomatoes!  Not just cool in color, the ‘Indigo Rose’ Tomato, newly released in 2012, is one a few exciting new tomatoes, part of a series of tomatoes bred by Oregon State University.

'Indigo Kumquat' Tomato

‘Indigo Kumquat’ Tomato

The reason this tomato sports a blue-purple color has everything to do with anthocyanin.

Research on anthocyanins has intensified recently because it is believed to offer protection from cardiovascular damage and have anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies show a role in vision improvement and diabetes prevention.  So how do you get more anthocyanin in your diet?  You get fruits and

'Indigo Apple' Tomato

‘Indigo Apple’ Tomato

vegetables that have this bluish-purple color like red cabbage, plums, eggplants and blueberries.

The purple pigment develops as the tomato is exposed to the sun. Portions shaded by leaves do not develop the anthocyanins. As the tomato ripens, it becomes less purple and the green turns red. The flesh is red but the anthocyanins are primarily in the skin and outer flesh.You can learn more about “Indigo Rose” and the Indigo Tomato Series on the OSU website.

'Indigo Blue Beauty' Tomato

‘Indigo Blue Beauty’ Tomato

Other fun Indigo Tomatoes you will find at The Plant Farm this year include: ‘Blue Beauty’, ‘Sun’ and ‘Kumquat’. Arriving soon from the Indigo Series are ‘Apple’ and ‘Blue Berries’

Healthy eating was never so much fun.

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herbsWe all know that herbs, especially fresh herbs picked right out of your garden or from your window box, can transform a simple meal into a flavorful feast. But herbs are so much more than deliciousness. They’re an essential part of the ancient and wondrous healing arts as well as a fragrant and decorative addition to your home.

Mint

Mint

Want a delightfully refreshing greeting when you come home from work? Plant mint in your walkway. This plant actually loves to be stepped on and every step you take will make your nose happy. Mint is an excellent remedy after a hard day of the stress you’ve been building up at the office. A few drops of essential mint oil on a cotton ball can help relieve migraines, improve your mood and all while making the room smell wonderful.

Basil

Basil

One of my favorite herbs is basil. I love cooking with it and I had heard that if you’re feeling tired, smelling basil will reduce your fatigue. What I didn’t know is that some basil is also excellent for better memory and clearer thinking. Added to bath salts or essential oils, many herbs have the power to balance our minds and transform our moods. At the end of this article I have a simple method for making your own essential oils and some awesome bath salt recipes.

Dill

Dill

The medicinal use of herbs can be found in almost all cultures and they are the base component of many modern medicines. But there is a certain comfort in knowing you have the ingredients for dealing with simple ailments growing in your backyard. For an upset tummy, try some mint, dill, basil, rosemary, fennel, or turmeric from your garden. For a memory boost, you could also try sage, turmeric or, what do you know, rosemary. You want antioxidants? We’ve got them in oregano, basil and that rosemary that keeps turning up.

Rosemary

Rosemary

Herbs can keep your garden healthy, as well. Our edibles expert, Kip Litehiser says, “There are a lot of herbs that are great for controlling pests in your garden and herbs are so easy to grow.” Rosemary is a robust plant that helps ward off cabbage moths, bean beetles, carrot flies and root knot nematodes. If you’re barbecuing in the summer, you can also put some of it on the grill to scare away mosquitoes. No one likes slugs feasting on their spring garden, but the sweet smell of lavender keeps the slimy pests at bay. It also looks beautiful in any garden and can attract friendly butterflies while deterring pesky moths and fleas.

And mint’s strong smell is exceptionally unattractive to a number of critters, including ants, aphids, rodents, cabbage worms and cabbage moths. I’m already thinking about how to make a garden border of mint and lavender. Herbs are naturally beautiful and with their wonderful fragrances they’re ideal for creative fencing and borders. I know our landscape expert, Ryan Sanders, has some charming ideas for your yard or garden.

Lavender

Lavender

On Sunday, March 24 at 1:00 pm, we’re excited to have Patrick Matthews of Blooming host Herb Gardens: Beyond Spice, a free seminar at The Plant Farm. The Plant Farm staff can set you up with a great combination of herbs to put in your garden this spring. You’ll not only have the ingredients for spicing up your kitchen and table, but the means to bring harmony and health to your family and friends.

Essential Oils

There is a quick and easy method of making your own essential oils that’s as easy as preparing mint julep: In a glass container, place you herbs. Gently crush or bruise the herbs, which will begin releasing the oil. Fill the container with a mild vegetable oil, such as canola, and seal the container. In two to three weeks, strain the herbs from the oil and bottle the oil.

Seize the Day bath salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● 10 drops rosemary essential oil
● 10 drops lemon essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried rosemary leaves

Seize the Sleep Bath Salts
Ingredients:
● 4 cups Epsom salts
● 1 cup Sea Salt (a coarse grind)
● ¼ cup lavender essential oil
● 3 Tablespoons dried lavender blossoms

For each recipe:
Combine the salts, essential oil and dried herbs into a large mixing bowl (I prefer to use a ceramic bowl) and mix until the oils and herbs are thoroughly distributed in the salt. If you don’t like the mess of the dried herbs you can skip them or make a tub tea-bag by putting the herbs into a cheesecloth and tying off the top.

It’s best to store your bath salts in a glass, air-tight jar. At bath time, add ½-1 cup of the salts while filling your tub. Give the water a swish, lower yourself in and exalt.

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Onions, ginger, potatoes and carrots

Onions, ginger, potatoes and carrots

It’s time to dig into a fascinating subterranean subject: root vegetables. According to the boring dictionary definition, root vegetables are edible plant roots or modified stems that have evolved or been bred to act as energy storage organs for the plant as a way of storing up sugars, starches, other carbohydrates and nutrients.

But that’s like describing vintage champagne as grape juice that’s a bit fizzy. The fact is, root veggies aren’t bland at all. If all you’ve ever experienced is ground ginger off the spice rack or horseradish out a jar, then you’ve never tasted them. Fresh ginger has a symphony of tastes that can make Asian dishes soar and when you have a bit of fresh-grated horseradish with your roast beef, your eyes will water… with pleasure!

Fresh Horseradish

Fresh Horseradish

These are what we mean by staple foods. Root vegetables are among the most versatile, diverse and nutritious things that can come out of your garden. A properly mixed crop of root vegetables can not only give a beautiful harvest of fresh, colourful bulbs and tubers, but can set your table with dishes packed with vitamins and other nutrients.

A lot of what we call “root” vegetables are actually modified plant stems, but taproots are the real deal. A taproot is an enlarged root that’s broad at the top, fleshy and tapers off at the bottom. From this, little fibrous roots spread. Some tasty varieties of tap roots include beets, radishes, turnips and…

Did you know carrots aren't always orange?

Did you know carrots aren’t always orange?

…Carrots! They are such a sweet, crunchy and low calorie treat that even my dog tries to sneak them off my daughter’s plate. Did you know that carrots aren’t always orange? It’s true. They can come in any color from white to purple. It wasn’t until Dutch plant breeders in the 17th century got going that we had the long, orangey treats we have today. At the store, we have several seed packs of heirloom carrots in a rainbow of colors.

Okay, here’s one you might not know. A bulb is a root vegetable, but not a root. That’s right. It’s a fleshy, globe-like stem that lets plants like tulips and dahlias survive the winter. It also gives leeks, garlic and elephant garlic (no, it’s not the same) their crisp, pungent goodness.

Copra Onions

Copra Onions

Ah, the onion! People have been eating onions for at least 5,000 years. The Egyptians had a prayer, “Lord, give me bread and onions” and the builders of the pyramids were fed them. And ancient Greek athletes used to eat huge quantities of onions while training.

There are gorgeous varieties of onions: Walla Wallas, Copras and Red Zeppelins as well as the more familiar yellow, white and reds. All parts of the onion are edible and you can eat them on their own or as an ingredient in salads or soups; boiled, fried, or roasted, the list is endless!You want to talk onion nutrition? Onions are packed with antioxidants and have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. Onion extract may even reduce scars.

Walla Walla Onions

Walla Walla Onions

If you want to have a go at growing onions, remember that they’re a cool-weather plant and if it’s too hot they grow and flower too fast. This means it’s best to start them indoors to give them a headstart on their four-month growth cycle. Plant them as soon as the ground is workable and you can harvest in early summer.

The root vegetable most of us are familiar with is tubers. They are another modified stem, but instead of bulbs, they come out as a starchy growth for both storing food and reproduction. They include yams, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, groundnuts and one of my favorite comfort foods, potatoes.

Austrian Crescent Potatoes

Austrian Crescent Potatoes

Potatoes are bursting with goodness. They’re the egg of the root world and a person can live healthily on potatoes with just some milk or butter to make up the vitamins A and D that potatoes lack, so pass the mashed potatoes!You can even be adventurous with your garden-grown spuds. Branch out from the comfortable Russets and Reds and you’ll find the delicious and cool new varieties we have at The Plant Farm. Austrian Crescents are rich, firm fingerling potatoes prized by chefs. Viking Purples are vibrant, deep-purple mid-season potatoes. They adapt well to many types of potato dishes, but I think they’d make an awesome mash.

Viking Purple Potatoes

Viking Purple Potatoes

With potatoes, carrots and onions growing in your garden, you have the foundation for hundreds of delicious dishes to feed your loved ones. To get the best seeds and starts, and skilled advice from our knowledgeable staff, come down to The Plant Farm. We can get you set up to grow a successful root vegetable garden. Here’s a delicious tuber-and-bulb-based recipe to tempt your taste buds:


Sweet Onion and Potato Bake

6 potatoes (or 12-15 Austrian Crescent Fingerlings), do not peel
2 large sweet onions, such as Walla Walla onions
1 stick butter (or 1/2 cup of oil for lighter option)
1 tsp. salt (or salt substitute like Mrs. Dash)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic
optional: for added kick add 2 tsps. of mustard or play with other spices you enjoy.

Slice onions and potatoes about 1/4″ thick. Create alternate rows of potato and onion in casserole dish. Melt butter and add seasonings. Pour over potatoes and onions. Bake in a 400 degree oven, covered for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

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bare-root-trees…Bare root that is. You knowledgeable shoppers know that getting a good bargain means you skip the pretty packaging and grab the good deal when it appears. It’s exactly the same with bare root season. We’ve mentioned in previous blogs that buying the bare root version of plants is an excellent way to save money, but there’s more to it than just stretching your dollars.

Kip Litehiser

Kip Litehiser

For instance, there’s the outstanding variety of plants available in bare root form. According to Kip Litehiser, our edibles expert, bare root season is when you’ll find the best selection of your favorite edibles like cane berries, grapes and blueberries. “It’s also a superb time to start working your soil,” he says. “The soil is starting to warm up, even at night, so you can get your bare root edibles into the ground, so they can take off. And we’re all itching to get our hands in the dirt.”

Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders

We’ve also just heeled in the rows and rows of ornamental trees (above) and shrubs we’re offering in 2013. When I talked with our Landscape Design expert, Ryan Sanders, to get his top pick for this coming season, he said, “I like the dappled willows. They are a year-round visual interest with variegated leaves that are creamy white to soft pink in season. In the fall and winter the branches are a brilliant red; a very eye-catching ornamental specimen.” He also suggested the flowering plum and cherry trees because of their early, beautiful spring blossoms.

Dappled Willow

Dappled Willow

Another great reason to buy bare root is that the plants have a larger root mass, which means they are ready to spread out and establish themselves in the soil right away. This translates into healthier, happier, more productive plants. Ryan had a couple of other bare root tips, like picking up a transplant fertilizer. Working the fertilizer into the soil before planting helps reduce transplant shock and gives your plant a good initial food source. Staking your newly-planted bare root trees until they are firmly rooted in the soil will also increase success.

Mary Archambault

Mary Archambault

I’ll give you one more reason. My favorite, in fact: it’s so much easier to transport and handle the bare root plants. Without the extra soil and pot, even I can lift them into the car and work them into the soil at home by myself. Mary Archambault, one of our Certified Professional Horticulturists on staff, told me she was able to transport three bare root fruit trees in her little Saab recently.
One drawback to the bare root season is the limited window of opportunity. These babies are going to start waking up soon and when they do we have to send them back to our production team and start potting them up. bare-root-blueberriesThat means now is the time to grab that great deal. Come check out the selection and talk with our knowledgeable staff members like Mary, Kip and Ryan!

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BareRoot Berries 001It’s time for the talk. That’s right, we need to talk about the berries and the bees because February is the month to pick up your bare-root berries and your mason bee cocoons. You know, a bowl full of fresh berries is a true summer delicacy, but growing that luscious summer fruit starts right now.

Mmmmm... fresh, healthy, delicious Blueberries!

Mmmmm… fresh, healthy, delicious Blueberries!

Have you decided what sort of berries you’d like? The Plant Farm has a huge variety of bare-root berry plants tucked into sawdust beds waiting for you to bring them home and plant them in your garden. Ripe, flavorful Raspberries; dark and juicy Blackberries; tart, fat Gooseberries; crisp, festive Cranberries or even succulent grapes… okay, they’re not berries, but they are succulent and we definitely have bare-root grape vines. And then there’s my favorite: Blueberries. Where’s the bowl and cream, am I right?

Blueberries are delicious and they are also very nutritious. They are a low glycemic impact food, which is great if you’re watching your sugar (or if you’re going to drown them in cream). They are an excellent source of the essential dietary mineral manganese as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals have the potential to affect diseases such as cancer, stroke or metabolic syndrome. Did I sell you on the Blueberries? The Plant Farm has over 16 varieties of Blueberries to choose from. I encourage you to check out our Blueberry information sheet.

bee-in-handTalking about Blueberries reminds me that we need to talk about the bees, too. Mason Bees that is. You probably know that Mason Bees are a great pollinating partner for your Fruit Trees, but did you know that they will also pollinate your Blueberry shrubs? Mason Bees are great little pollinators because they don’t discriminate as to where they gather pollen and because, ironically, they aren’t very efficient in gathering their pollen. It’s gathered dry on their hair, which means it’s more easily scattered to each flower they visit. Mason bees are easy to raise and interestingly they don’t usually sting because they are solitary bees with no hive or queen to protect.

Mason Bee expert Dave Hunter

Mason Bee expert Dave Hunter

If you’d like to know more, Dave Hunter is giving a fascinating seminar this Sunday at The Plant Farm, where he’ll discuss the threat to traditional bee populations and what you can do to help. When you come in for the seminar, you can pick up your bare-root berries!

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seed-startingIt’s time to banish the winter blues, so who out there is hoping Mr. Groundhog won’t see his shadow so that spring will come early? I know at The Plant Farm we sure are! Daily shipments of inspiring new plants and tools arrive at our receiving dock. Seeing the new product come in has us excited to plan our gardens and get some seeds sprouting!

TPF's Edibles Expert Kip Litehiser

TPF’s Edibles Expert Kip Litehiser

This year, we wish you abundance and a thriving new garden. To that end, I had a chat with our edibles expert, Kip Litehiser, about what factors are necessary for a successful garden and how he prepares for a new garden season.

Right about now, Kip is planning what he’ll grow this year and he’s purchasing his seeds so he can get his seedlings going. Kip likes to break his seed starting into two phases; early starts, which he does indoors, and later in the spring, seeds that will be sown directly into the ground.

Plant lettuce early and you'll harvest more often.

Plant lettuce early and you’ll harvest more often.

“February is the time for early starts like your tough-to-grow-in-the-ground plants; parsley and hearty herbs, artichokes and onions,” he says. It’s also a good time to start plants you’ll want to harvest early and often, like lettuce and beans.

Soil temperature is a key component in raising crops and our Pacific Northwest climate can be challenging in that regard. “Warm soil is key. It’s almost more important than sunshine. Sunshine is obviously important, but you can have sunshine and still have cold ground soil,” Kip says. That’s why Kip prefers to use

The soil in raised beds warms more quickly.

The soil in raised beds warms more quickly.

raised beds for his garden. The soil is up off the ground and takes on the sun’s warmth more quickly.

Plants that need a longer growing season than our Pacific Northwest climate affords need to be started indoors. This allows the plants to become more established and hardy. They will be stronger when they are transplanted into the garden soil in mid-to-late March. The Plant Farm has your back on this one. We’re once again offering a Seed Starting Success Kit designed to make starting your garden from seeds easy and efficient. Like last year, the kit includes an excellent seed starting soil and Dr. Earth Starter, an organic fertilizer. This year we’ve added a couple of cool
The secret to success is our Seed Starting Success Kit

The secret to success is our Seed Starting Success Kit

new tools: A Lusterleaf Rapidclip Seed Sower, for more accurate seed dispersal, and a Planters Pride Self Watering Grow System with Coir pots. Coir is a biodegradable, coconut husk fiber that allows you to transplant your seed start into the ground, pot and all, protecting the root system when transplanting.We know how intimidating or frustrating starting seeds can be. For personal attention to your questions and concerns, come into The Plant Farm and look up our Edibles expert, Kip. He’ll be thrilled to share his knowledge so you’ll have a successful seed starting process this year.

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A festive holiday welcome from The Plant Farm

A festive holiday welcome from The Plant Farm

Heedless of the wind and weather, it’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly.  Okay, I promise not to serenade you with any more carols, especially since I’m mixing up the lyrics, but I do want to share with you that the holidays are in full swing at The Plant Farm.   We’re always thrilled about our holiday selection, but this year we have an abundance of plants and products.  We have fantastic ideas for your holiday decorating, beautiful and festively wrapped host/hostess gifts and tons of potential presents for your green-thumbed loved ones.

Are you getting your home ready yet?  The holidays really start to take shape when I get my tree and the last few seasons that means a living Christmas tree.  With a living Christmas tree, you have the beauty and fragrance of a live tree gracing your home and after the ornaments are packed away, you have a lasting, living memory when it takes up residence in your backyard.  A living tree also means you can find a unique tree silhouette.  A friend used a Cloud Pine and being a traditionalist where Christmas trees are concerned, I was skeptical, but once decorated it was lovely and very festive.

Holiday whimsy abounds

Holiday whimsy

If you want to be quirky and traditional at the same time, you could go with one of the adorable Dr. Seuss Christmas trees we brought in from T&L Nursery this year.  They have trained Goldcrest Wilma and Lawson Ellwood Cypresses into a distinctly Grinchy posture, wrapped them in bright red ribbon and adorned the tip with a single ornament.  This is just the right touch of Christmas whimsy.  I don’t know if my gardening skills are up to it, but I’m thinking about trying it with a larger Cypress next year…

Need an idea for a lovely host/hostess gift this season?  Beautiful winter-blooming plants such as Hellebores, Cyclamen and Camellias are bright and cheerful, and they’ll keep blooming through winter.  This year, the Cyclamen and Hellebores have holiday wrapping and cute little Santa or presents tucked inside. Hellebores or Christmas Roses, as they are sometimes called, are deer-resistant winter blooming perennials.  They have delicate, almost Victorian-looking blooms that are lovely in holiday displays and make them a great centerpiece for a holiday table.  The wrapped Cyclamen is going to make a charming and budget-friendly gift for my daughter’s teacher this season.

Speaking of charming, the custom container-gardens at The Plant Farm are a fantastic way to spruce up your front door and could also make a wonderful gift.   We can help with the perfect Custom Planter for you.  We have everything you need to pull together your vision or we have a variety of unique, already planted container-gardens.

Already assembled gift packs make shopping easy!

Already assembled gift packs make shopping easy!

If you’re looking for gift ideas for your gardening friends and loved-ones, this year The Plant Farm elves have outdone themselves.  They’ve created several ready-to-go combos and kits that will make completing your shopping list easy-peasy, and the names alone will delight them.  What gardener wouldn’t love to receive a gift kit called Berry Pancakes? It contains a combination of berry plants, protective netting and soil amendments for successful growing.  Know someone who’s going to make a “get-healthy-this-year” New Year’s resolution?  Then the Growing Salad kit would be perfect.  It’s a seed starting kit filled with all the veggie seeds you need for delicious salads all spring and summer.

Not all the gift packs we’ve created this year have an edible theme, but if edible sounds appealing to you, then the season for Bare Root Fruit Trees is just around the corner.  A fruit tree is a gift that continues to provide delicious treasures season after season.  Right now, you’ll save 10% off the regular price by pre-ordering and we will provide you with an attractive certificate detailing what your loved-one will receive.  I gave a 5-way Apple Combo tree to my husband last year and it was a huge hit.

Mason Bee starter kits make a wonderful gift.

Mason Bee starter kits…a wonderful gift.

Or maybe the recipient of your holiday giving already has fruit trees and you want to get them something to ensure crop success each season.   I was thinking a Mason Bee Guide & Starter Kit would be great follow-up gift for my husband, the aspiring orchardist.  Mason bees are excellent little pollinators and they are very easy to raise.  They are able to pollinate an estimated 97% of the flowers they visit each spring, which make them an excellent gift for those with established fruit trees or as a complement to a gift of Bare Root Fruit Trees.

Another excellent gift idea for gardeners with established landscapes is a Winter Pruning Service certificate.  Pruning is an essential part of promoting plant growth and increasing blooms.  It also keeps your plants attractive and healthy.  The Plant Farm now offers Pruning Services at $40 an hour and when you purchase the service as a gift we’ll provide you with a charming certificate.

Gift Certificates are the perfect solution when you can't find the perfect gift...

Gift Certificates are a perfect solution when you can’t find the perfect gift.

In addition to the pruning service, we now also offer Landscape Design services.  Have a special someone who is considering a yard or landscape makeover in the coming year.  One hour of Landscape Design is valued at $50.  A combination of design services and a gift certificate for the plants they’ll pick later on would be an awesome gift…

Okay, so there are so many more holiday gift ideas The Plant Farm has to offer, but I promised to keep the word count down.  There are many, many more you’ll find when you visit.  But if you’re still having trouble finding that perfect gift, there is a perfect solution – a Plant Farm gift certificate. Now through Christmas gift certificates are on sale [link to page].  Slip a gift certificate into their stocking and let your gardener choose the perfect item.

The Plant Farm is privileged to be rapidly approaching our 30th year of offering quality plants and gardening products to the greater Smokey Point area.  From everyone at The Plant Farm at Smokey Point, we wish you the warmest, happiest of holidays and a hale and hearty new year!

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