Monday, September 28, 2009

Saving Heirloom Pepper Seeds Video

Saving Heirloom Pepper Seeds

Hot peppers and peppers in general (Capsicum annuum), delight many gardeners, cooks, and folks who like their food hot and spicy. They are a healthy-favorite veggie to grow in a home, work or school vegetable garden. Other than an occasional stake or two to support tall plants, peppers rarely have problematic insect attacks and grow easily, without much fuss or attention. Peppers thrive in the heat and sun of the summer, which is why they grow so prolific in Mexico and warm, tropical regions like Jamaica and Hawaii.

Heirloom peppers will come true from seed. The end of the summer and early fall, when your pepper harvest is at its peak, is the best time to save seeds for next seasons garden. Saving seed is easy to do. This video by Rita Heikenfeld shows how to do it in a method that vertically cuts the jalapeno (or any kind of pepper), leaving the seeds attached to the center core membrane - (membrane is the hottest part of the pepper, even more so than the spicy seeds).

Once the peppers are sliced and the seeds exposed, the peppers can be hung or placed on a plate to air dry. When dry, the seeds will easily fall off the membrane. Dried pepper seeds can be stored in spice jars or added to spice blends, and most of all, they can be planted when you are ready in the Spring. Peppers take longer to mature than tomatoes, it is best to try and plant the seeds indoors (under fluorescent lights) a week or two before tomatoes. I try and start ours here in the Garden State (NJ, zone 6b), just before St. Patty's Day in March.

GardenCuizine Nutrition Analysis: calculated from USDA nutrient values
Excellent Source: Vitamin C
Good Source: Vitamin B6

Serving Size: One hot chili pepper (45g); Calories: 18; total Dietary Fiber: 0.7g (3%DV); Iron: .46mg (3%DV); Potassium: 145mg (4%DV); Manganese .08mg (4%DV); Vitamin C: 65mg (108%DV); Thiamin: .03mg (2%DV); Riboflavin: .04mg (2%DV); Vitamin B6: .23mg (11%DV); Folate: 10mcg (3%DV); Vitamin A: 428IU (9%DV); Vitamin K: 6.3mcg (8%DV)

Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories for adults and children age 4 or older

Related Links:
Thousands of peppers in the Genus and Species: Capsicum annuum
Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 21, 2009

GardenCuizine Recipe: Roasted Rosemary Potato 'Fries'

Oven Roasted Rosemary Potato 'Fries'
A Regular on our GardenCuizine home menu

Rosemary is one of our favorite garden herbs. It is easy to grow and easy to harvest. To harvest, simply take in cuttings, rinse to clean and hang in bundles to air dry. We hang ours from our pot rack in our kitchen. Then after several weeks, when it feels good and dry, the rosemary easily rubs off onto a sheet pan. Rosemary is best stored in airtight containers; we use large, wide mouth jars.

To make Rosemary Roasted Potato 'Fries' you really don't need to follow a specific recipe, but if you would like one, mine is soon to be published on Dave's Garden. In general, all you need to do is wash, dry and thickly slice your favorite baking potatoes (skin on), lengthwise. Then season and bake
until golden brown.

These delicious Oven Roasted Rosemary Potato 'Fries' call for Parmesan cheese, rather than any added salt. The cheese adds a bit of calcium and great flavor, with a fraction of the sodium found in heavily salted French Fries (as long as you don't overdo it, of course). And because of oven roasting -- rather than deep frying, like typical Fries -- they are much lower in fat.

Freestyle Recipe:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
  • Sprinkle sliced potatoes with a little olive or vegetable oil and a generous serving of dried rosemary
  • Add some grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino or Soy cheese if vegan), fresh ground black pepper, a generous amount of garlic powder*, and a pinch of ground or fresh sliced cayenne pepper (No added salt)
  • Toss all together to evenly coat
  • Spread the potatoes out on a baking pan
  • Bake in preheated oven (occasionally turning) until well browned
* Garlic powder works better than fresh minced. Fresh will burn unless added near the end of cooking time.

For nutrition data, more information about the aromatic herb Rosemary (R. officinalis), and a detailed recipe for Roasted Rosemary Potato 'Fries', check out my Dave's Garden article:
'Osmarini, Rosmarinus officinalis'.

This recipe is an entry
in the O food contest, hosted by Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso. The contest is open annually to food Bloggers to help spread awareness of Ovarian Cancer.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.

Related Links

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

The Cowgirl Cure Foundation
Ovations for the Cure

Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 7, 2009

GardenCuizine Recipe: The Best Basil Pesto

Italian Basil Pesto 
with a Japanese secret ingredient
Preserving your garden harvest of Basil by making Pesto will provide you with the flavor of fresh basil throughout the year. We freeze our pesto in 16-ounce (473ml), or smaller sized containers. Small size containers defrost quickly when set out on the counter while you are preparing the meal. 
Fresh (vs. dry) Basil for Pesto 
Dried basil can be used in certain foods, but for the best garden pesto use fresh rather than dried. Growing your own makes the pesto even better. 
What is the Japanese Secret Ingredient? 
The unusual, non traditional, non Italian, secret ingredient is Umeboshi Vinegar. I got hooked on using Ume vinegar years ago, when I had my health food store and restaurant (Garden of Eden Natural Foods and Country Kitchen, Inc.). Ume Vinegar is made with Japanese Plums and Shiso leaves preserved in a salty brine. Using just a small amount imparts terrific flavor. And when coupled with a small amount of added grated cheese, you will not need to add any table salt to the pesto.
Sicilian Olives
Another key ingredient is good quality olive oil. Depending on the size of your basil harvest, you can end up using quite a lot of olive oil when making pesto. We purchase a large (101oz, 3L) can of Italian Olive Oil and use this as a good excuse for an excursion to the Italian Market in Philadelphia, PA. The organoleptic quality (taste) and my Sicilian heritage make extra virgin olive oil made from Sicilian olives my first choice. You can find many fine olive oils on the market from around the world including: Spain, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. Putting it all together The recipe can be easily doubled. Two times the recipe (double) fits nicely into a standard household food processor bowl, just blend down the first addition of basil before adding in the next batch and add the nuts last. Umeboshi vinegar can be found in Asian, gourmet and natural food markets.         Yields: one 16oz (2cups, 473ml) container    
4 cups (~120-160g) fresh Basil leaves* 
1 cup (237 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
¼ to 1/3 cup (~25+g) grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino or Soy) 
¼ cup (34g) toasted pignoli (pine) nuts (or other nuts such as walnuts) 
1 teaspoon (~5ml) Umeboshi vinegar (optional) 
1/2 teaspoon (~1g) fresh ground black pepper 
1 Tablespoon (~8g) minced garlic  
*We usually stick with basil, but you can mix in other edible, aromatic leaves from your garden too such as: Shiso, Mint, Arugula or Cilantro.
  • First, sanitize a kitchen sink; then fill it with water to rinse the fresh cut basil. We put the basil in large pots with water like you would cut flowers to let the leaves air dry. This allows time to admire your gardening efforts. Sometimes we let it dry overnight. When the leaves are dry, hand pick all the good leaves from the stems and place into a large bowl. Reject any brown or bad looking leaves.
Toss the stems and rejected leaves (if any) into your compost pile.
  • Toast the nuts, set aside. After all your ingredients are ready, begin filling a food processor* bowl with everything except the nuts and garlic. Mix and chop down the leaves, using your judgment as to how long to mix the pesto. You want to leave some texture to it.
  • Add the garlic. Mix some more.Taste the pesto and adjust the seasonings if necessary to your liking. Add the nuts last and don't over mix. Pour the pesto into freezer safe containers, label and store.
*Pesto can also be made using a large mortar and pestle     Buon Appetito!
Related GardenCuizine Posts:   Pomodoro Sauce  GardenCuizine Product Spotlight: Umeboshi Basil, King of Herbs      Related Links: Health Benefits of Olive Oil by Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD Mayo Clinic        A Stroll through Philadelphia's Italian Market by Jeff DiNunzio National Geographic Traveler         Basil, the King of Herbs by Diana Wind, Dave's Garden             GardenCuizine Nutrition Analysis: calculated from USDA nutrient values Italian Basil Pesto, 1/32 of recipe Good source: Vitamin K  Serving size: 12g, Calories: 73, Calories from Fat: 69, Total Fat 8g (12%DV), Saturated Fat 1g (6%DV), Vitamin A 163IU (3%DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 1mg (6%DV), Vitamin K 15mcg (18%DV), Calcium 15mg (2%DV), Sodium 45mg (2%DV), Manganese 0.1mg (6%DV)

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories for adults and children age 4 or older

Photographs and Blog Article Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved. rev 8/27/11

Saturday, September 5, 2009

GardenCuizine Product Spotlight: Umeboshi

Umeboshi 梅の実 Plum

About Umeboshi
Umeboshi is a pickled plum Japanese specialty. Umeboshi plums are commonly referred to as Japanese apricots or Chinese plums and grow on Prunus mume trees. They actually are more of an apricot than a plum and ripen to an apricot color. The plums have a similar taste to apricots when cooked and made into jam or jelly.

Shiso Perilla Herb
Japanese apricots are a natural orange color that is transformed to a beautiful purple-red 'plum' shade by the addition of Shiso (Perilla frutescens) leaves. Perilla is an easy-to-grow, annual garden herb that is available in red or green varieties. Red Perilla is what naturally colors the Umeboshi plums during their fermentation process in vinegar.

Umeboshi Products
Umeboshi vinegar is a derivative from Umeboshi making and is available in Asian, Gourmet and Health Food markets. In addition to vinegar, other Umeboshi products include whole pickled plums and Umeboshi paste. Umeshu, another popular Ume Product, is mostly found in Japan. It is a sweet liqueur made from Umeboshi plums, rock sugar and 35% distilled spirits (Shochu) or Vodka. Supplies to make Umeshu are abundant in Japanese local markets during plum season (May-June).

Moderation is Key
Umeboshi products are high in sodium due to the way they are made with layers of added salt atop the plums to extract the plums juices. However, they contain less sodium than pure salt and when used in moderation -- like you do salt -- Umeboshi can still be a part of a healthy diet. The fruity, salty taste adds excellent flavor to many foods including rice, sushi, onigiri, grain salads, pasta salads, steamed vegetables, and salad dressings.

For more information, check out my Umeboshi 梅の実 Plum
article published on Dave's Garden

Related Links:

Photo: Unripe Ume Fruits by Sekiuchi. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License. P. mume

Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Stand by Me Video: Help the Hungry

All ages, races and social classes of people can find themselves experiencing times of financial need. With that in mind, enjoy this video of talented individuals 'Playing for Change' and lets keep working together to help others.
Thanks Mom for sending me this video link. It is really great and I'm happy to share it with GardenCuizine readers around the world.

Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Make a Hot Pepper Ristra for Good Luck!

Chile Pepper Ristra
Ideal for air drying Hot Peppers

Mexican folklore says that hanging a Ristra on your door or in your home brings good luck! As you harvest your hot peppers, now is a good time to think about stringing together those with thin skins into a Mexican 'Ristra' to air dry. You can easily do this with a large needle and thread to connect the peppers. They can simply hang together in a long line, or the ends can be attached to form a wreath shape.
There are many ways to preserve your pepper harvest besides Ristras. Peppers can be preserved by pickling, made into hot sauce, jelly, canned or blanched and frozen. However, one of the simplest ways is to air dry hot peppers in a Ristra.

Air Drying
Air drying is an easy way to dry hot peppers, especially if they have thin skins. Pequin, a tiny, round Chiltepin (Capisicum annum var. aviculare, 'bird pepper') hot pepper, is one of my absolute favorites. Chiltepin's don't even need to be strung on a Ristra though, they can simply air dry on a plate or sheet pan. My favorite Rista peppers are usually long, thin cayenne or Thai peppers. Remember, thin skinned peppers work the best for air drying.
Pepper Skins, thin or thick?
If your peppers have thick skins such as Tomato Grower's large red thick cayenne or any brand Jalapeno pepper, they will not work well in a Ristra. After several days, the moisture trapped within thick skinned peppers will contribute to mold inside the peppers, making them unsuitable for culinary use. I find many hybrids have skins too thick to air dry, even if I poke a few pin holes in them. They are all different though; for example, Burpee's long thin slim red cayenne peppers dry well, and so does Tomato Grower's Kung Pao hybrid. Both have thin walls for easy drying on a Ristra.
  • Please post a comment if you have a favorite pepper that works well for Ristra air drying
If your peppers are thick skinned, one way to avoid mold forming inside the peppers is to cut them in half lengthwise using culinary shears. This will permit optimal air circulation. Allow the pile of cut peppers to dry on a large plate or sheet pan and stir them around every few days. When they are thoroughly dry, they can be stored in airtight containers. Obviously, after the peppers are cut in half they can't be used in a Ristra, but they will still be a tasty seasoning for your foods throughout the year.
If your not sure if your peppers have thin or thick skins, let a few air dry on a plate for a week or two then cut one open, if it appears moldy inside, discard the moldy ones and from then on your best bet is to start cutting that variety open to air dry, and preserve them by another means.

Ristra Home Decor
In addition to being useful and functional, Ristras store dried peppers in an artistic, decorative way that looks great hanging in your home. Ristras make appreciated and thoughtful gifts from your garden too. Store bought Ristras, unless stated otherwise, may have been shellacked or varnished and should not be used for culinary purposes. For the safest and best Ristra, make your own!
Ristra Strings
The Ristra is just a bunch of hot peppers attached together by a thread, string, or fish line.
I use a large needle and thread and simply string the needle with the thread, making a knot at the beginning (and again at the end). Then string together the peppers, pushing them together to close up any gaps.
  • Ristras can be all sizes and shapes. I tend to use the simplest method and allow them to hang straight down, but as I mentioned you can connect the ends and make a wreath too.
  • Ristras can hang to dry outside under an overhang, from a pot rack in your kitchen, or in any dry area.
Don't leave your Ristra hanging forever!
Ristras look great hanging in the kitchen; however,don't get too attached and let it hang up there for years to collect dust. Especially since the peppers are the real deal and not fake. A good rule of thumb is to use the peppers as you need them throughout the off season, and then before the new harvest, take what is left down and store the leftover peppers in an airtight container.

Related Links
Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes
by Doug Perez and Martha A. Sandoval, El Paso Community College
Cluster Braid and Red Chile Sauce Recipe by Priscilla Grijalva, New Mexico State University Extension

Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Basil, King of Herbs

Italian Basil
King of the Herbs

BASIL (Ocimum basilicum) is derived from the Greek word meaning King, 'basileus'. There are many varieties of basil, some are excellent for culinary use, such as 'Sweet Basil' (O. basilicum). Others, like 'African Blue Basil', can be eaten too, but are most often used as ornamental plants in the yard or garden. Throughout history, basil has inspired mythology, names, and has been a pleasant flavor, sight and smell, enjoyed by gardeners and people around the world.My other favorite culinary basil's include: 'Large leaf Italian', 'Red Rubin' , and 'Sweet Genovese'. Not as preferred, but still included in our gardens are the Citrus basil's such as, Lemon and Lime cultivars of O. americanum. Both types make a zesty pesto that is especially good on fish dishes. And, as I'm writing this, I'm thinking that they would probably work well in desserts too. There are many species and hundreds of other basil varieties, which makes growing basil so interesting and fun!
Grow your own basil to get the most for your money.
In the supermarket, herbs are usually sold in small bunches. When you grow your own you benefit by being able to freshly pick the basil at your convenience, as you need it. Basil is readily available in garden centers or is easy to grow from seed. The many varieties of green and burgundy color, aromatic plants can be grown in the garden or on the porch or deck in pots. Basil prefers good drainage, full sun and hot weather.

In addition to the flavor, adding basil will add nutrition to your meals too (like most herbs). Basil can be added to soups, salads, stews, desserts, breads, egg dishes, pizza, sauces and many foods. Basil is the main ingredient in 'pesto', which is my favorite way to preserve the basil harvest.

GardenCuizine Pesto recipe to follow
  • For a Nutrition profile and more information about Basil check out my article -- 'Basil, the King of Herbs' -- published on Dave's Garden
Related Links:
Basil, the King of Herbs
Article by Diana WindGardenCuizine Pomodoro Sauce
Organic Herb Gardening

Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved..