Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More Jersey fresh FIGS picked off the tree today! #GardenCuizine

More Jersey fresh F I G S harvested today from a local Italian family's organic backyard garden. 
Hope our little fig tree produces figs someday! 
Spero che il nostro piccolo albero di fico produce fichi un giorno!

Note: the wicker basket shown was handmade from a basket weaver in Sicily.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fiberific FIG butter recipe! #GardenCuizine

 Homemade Fig Butter
 High Fiber * Honey Sweetened
Our young fig tree is still far from yielding fresh figs. Most of our South Jersey summer has been so dry that our little fig tree is happy just to be alive, let alone bear fruit. A recent culinary treat was coming across fresh figs being offered from an Italian woman nearby my office in Vineland, New Jersey. She shares her prolific organically grown fig harvest with the community.

One order, led to another and another. We have so many nutritious, fiber-rich figs, but you can only eat so many! And, unlike apples that have a decent shelf life, fresh figs only last a few days. No wonder you usually just find dried figs at the market. What can you do to preserve figs? Drying them was not an option, since we don't own a dehydrator. Fig jam came to mind. 

After making our first batch of Fig "Jam", Harry decided it was better named - Fig "Butter". Figs are rich and filling and make a spread that tasted rich, like apple butter. Apple butter just doesn't have the little visible seeds. And fyi, you can use store-bought dried figs to make nutritious fig butter - just add enough water to hydrate and soften the figs first. 

Using the recipes provided by Pomona's Universal Pectin, here is how we made our fig jam, aka fig butter, using fresh figs. Enjoy it in your sweet and savory recipes.

Yields: about 5 cups

4 cups ripe Figs (3 1/2 cups will be okay too)

1/4 cup Lemon Juice (we didn't have any fresh lemons at the time for lemon juice, so we used Key Lime Juice and it worked just fine)

Pomona Universal Pectin (a low methoxyl brand of pectin extracted from citrus peel; it comes with pectin powder and calcium powder): 3 teaspoons pectin powder; 4 teaspoons calcium water (the calcium water recipe comes with the Pomona Pectin).

1/2 cup Honey

Putting it all together

  • Wash the figs and trim off the stems.
  • Let the figs get really ripe. We put them in a plastic baggie in the fridge and in few days they were juicy and breaking open. If your figs are not really ripe and soft, you can cook them with a little water to soften them before smashing. 
  • Directly in a medium size sauce pot, smash the figs using a potato masher.
  • Add the citrus juice and calcium water. Mix well. Bring mixture to a boil.
  •  In a separate small bowl combine the pectin with the honey. I noticed if you don't combine the pectin with the sweetener first and add it directly to the fruit, it will clump up and not dissolve well.
  • Bring back to a boil. Stir in the pectin-honey blend. Remove from heat.
  • Puree the honey sweetened fig mixture in a blender or using a hand held mixer.
  • The fig mixture is ready for canning. Follow water process canning guidelines. 
Buon Appetito!

GardenCuizine Nutrient Analysis Fresh Figs: calculated from USDA nutrient values
Good Source of dietary Fiber and Potassium
3 medium Figs (150g): dietary Fiber 4g (18%DV); Potassium 348mg (10%DV); Vitamin B6 0.12mg (8%DV); Magnesium 26mg (7%DV); Calcium 52mg (5%DV); Vitamin C 3mg (5%DV); Vitamin A 213IU (4%DV); Iron .56mg (3%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
Figs Fruits and Veggies More Matters
Pomona's Universal Pectin
Fig Butter, Goat Cheese and Carmelized Onion Crostini recipe

Photo collage and blog post Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Another day of Spectacular Butterflies in the Garden #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Painted Lady

In the midst of reaping the season's healthful fruits, veggies and herbs, don't forget to take time to admire the blooms and butterflies! Buddleia butterfly bushes, also known as Summer lilacs, attract all kinds of butterflies (and interesting moths and hummingbirds) like a magnet. Today our Buddleja davidii 'Bicolor' is full of visiting Painted Lady butterflies.

By planting a variety of nectar producing plants, shrubs and trees, you create attractive gardens for you to admire, as well as beneficial habitats for insects and wildlife. 

Related Link
Butterflies and Moths of North America

Photo Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Today in Our Garden #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Today In Our Garden
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
August 25, 2012

Finally, a fun and productive day in the kitchen. Harry canned up some garden Salsa, and I canned up some Fig Butter. We took photos and will share the recipes asap. Meanwhile, our garden is full of produce and beautiful butterflies and blooms. And, unfortunately mosquitoes too! Hopefully none with West Nile virus because I was attacked while putting water in the bird baths tonight.

Clockwise top left to right:
  • Cosmos
  • Butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) attract butterflies and hummingbirds! 
  • Salvia splendens 'Red Hot Sally' and Yvonne's Salvia
  • Jersey tomatoes
  • Basil - the variety shown is Ocimum basilicum 'Blue Spice', which we let self sow in the garden
  • Chicory (Cichorium Intybus)
  • Peppers - Pepperoncini, round hot peppers
The orange, black and white butterflies shown in both photos are called Painted Ladies - the most widespread butterflies in America. Besides buddleia, their favorite nectar sources include cosmos, asters, joe-pye weed and ironweed - all of which we have. To attract butterflies to your yard, garden or porch, just plant some of their favorite nectar plants.

Happy Gardening!
Related Links
The Story of Yvonne's Salvia
Photo collage Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We’re all at risk for heart disease ♥ Lower yours! ♥ Eat more #GardenCuizine ♥ Be active @Rosie

As you may have heard, celebrity Rosie O’Donnell is thanking her lucky stars and guardian angels for enabling her to survive a heart attack. Her LAD (left anterior descending artery) was 99% blocked. A coronary artery stent was used to open the blocked area, which is a small coil that expands inside the artery to keep it open for blood flow to the heart. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Know the risk factors 
for heart disease
  • · High LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • · High triglyceride levels
  • · Reduced HDL (good) cholesterol
  • · High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • · Physical inactivity
  • · Smoking
  • · Obesity
  • · Diabetes
  • · Eating a diet high in saturated fats (French fries, pizza, cheese steaks, chips, cookies, cake, candy…) 
  • · Family history
Act now to improve the risk factors that relate to you. What will your heart do today?
  Eat and Cook 
with more GardenCuizine!
Eating more Whole Grains, Fruits and Vegetables can naturally lower your cholesterol and improve your health. Plant foods contain natural plant compounds called plant stanols, which have been scientifically shown to lower cholesterol. In addition, plant foods are generally low in fat and sodium - just what the doctor ordered as part of a heart healthy diet.  

A registered dietitian can customize a meal plan for you and provide complete dietary guidelines. Eating a diet low in fat, sodium and dietary cholesterol makes good disease prevention sense and is not just for those who have heart disease.
Related Links My Heart Attack
Coronary Heart Disease

Cooking for Lower Cholesterol
Plant Stanol Recommendations

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy #cats +hummingbirds! Harvesting Heirloom Tomatoes for Salsa #GardenCuizine

Today In Our Garden
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
August 17, 2012 
Clockwise from left to right:
  • Who said cats and dogs can't be best friends? As you can see, Lucia (a feral cat rescued from farmland in Bridgeton, NJ) is a happy and spoiled kitty! Our cats live indoors so they don't kill the birds, go astray or get killed by cars. Lucy is best friends with Holly, our sweet and very old dog (a rescue from a neighboring town called Mt. Holly). Holly goes out, but can't make it to the garden any more and stays in more than out too. She can't walk without assistance anymore. We haven't splurged for a doggy wheelchair; I'm sure she could probably use one at this point. Lucy is never far from Holly's side.
  • Our hummingbird activity continues in full force - the most ever this year! In recent news, hummingbird nectar producing plants are diminishing across their migratory route due to drought-related weather conditions. If you live along their route you could help out by hanging humming bird feeders and growing nectar producing plants.
  • Cannas are still blooming around the garden border along with Lady in Red salvias (Salvia coccinea), both easy- to-grow humming bird favorites. We also have potted Hamelia patens hummingbird bush, wild trumpet vines and late blooming hostas (including Krossa Regal) and cleome that attract hummingbirds.
  • Thyme is abundant, can take the heat, and is an easy plant to grow cascading out of pots 
  • Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Black Russian' heirloom tomatoes are a strange 2-toned color. At first glance, they look like Cherokee Purple heirlooms. After letting a few burst open on the vines, we learned that Russian Black must be picked while still green on the top before their rosy bottom halves get over-ripe and explode! These will be used in a batch of homemade salsa.
Happy Gardening!
Related Links
Homemade Salsa Carol's Heirloom Collection Blog 
Hummingbird Pollinators
Tango, the Garden Cat - a feral cat story for adults and children
Photo collage Copyright (C) 2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Filet a Fish * Mediterranean Seabass "Branzini" #GardenCuizine

Mediterranean Seabass
Grilling fish is among the easiest and healthiest cooking methods. Low in calories and lean, European seabass - a farm raised fish popular in Italy, Spain, France and Greece - has become a favorite of American Chefs too. We tried it last night for the first time in New Hope, PA, at Nikolas - new this summer to the indoor/outdoor dining at the Logan Inn. The fish was grilled and tasted like it had also been gently smoked. The chef served the fish whole, glazed in oil with garlic and seasonings, served with a grain and vegetable. 

Portion Size
European seabass can be grilled whole and served as a single entree, but is enough protein to count as two servings. See the video below on how to filet a whole fish to yield two portions.

Eat More Fish
Branzini is tender and bland - the seasoning and cooking method can determine how you like the fish. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to "Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry". 

For the prevention of heart disease, the Dietary Guidelines recommend having about 8 ounces of fish per week to provide adequate Omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

European Seabass
Mediterranean Seabass along with salmon were among the first commercially farmed fish. During our recent visit to Sicily we did not experience Branzino; swordfish entrees were ubiquitous. Northern Italians refer to Mediterranean seabass as Spignola; Greeks call the fish lavraki (λαβράκι). In Spain they call it Lupina. No matter where it is served, European or Mediterranean Seabass is a favorite.

How to Filet a Whole Fish 
Like most whole fish, you have a filet on each side of the back bone.
video courtesy of Cosmos Seafood

Note: According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, due to their high mercury content, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week and not eat tilefish, shark, swordfish or king mackerel.
Related Links
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Photo and blog post Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Today in Our Garden #GardenCuizine #gardenchat

Today In Our Garden
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
August 11, 2012 
The gardens are flourishing with vegetables, herbs and blooms thanks to recent rain. 
From left to right, clockwise:
  • Black-eyed Susans are naturalizing in garden beds with water sources that are provided for wildlife in several areas around our yard.
  • Baby blue morning glory weeds are climbing all over. Butterflies and bees are loving the Joe-Pye Weed.
  • Grandmas apple-mint (Mentha suaveolens) is in full bloom. 
  • Asparagus is going to seed.
  • Hardy hibiscus blooms continue to provide garden cheer.
  • Italian basil is ready for harvest. We plan on preserving it in olive oil and freezing.
  • Heirloom tomatoes are almost ripe. Tomato shown in the photo may be Limbaugh's Legacy Potato Top, a pink beefsteak.
Today in Our Garden spotlights a mere sampling of what is in bloom at the present time. Of course, we have many other plantings in bloom too. Hope you enjoyed the brief garden tour.
Happy Gardening!
Photo collage Copyright (C)Wind. All rights reserved.

What happens to Asparagus plants during the Summer? #GardenCuizine @EatRight

Asparagus Berries
Long after the Spring harvest, Asparagus officinalis goes to seed. Female asparagus produce seeds that look like small red berries. Yes, there are male and female asparagus plants! Female plants put more energy into making berries (seeds) at the end of the season - as you can see in the photo shown above, which was taken today. 

We would like to add more male plants to our asparagus patch to yield even more nutritious spears. Asparagus can be grown from seed, if you don't mind waiting 2-3 years for the plants to mature. We prefer to start asparagus from crowns (established roots that can be ordered from growers). Either way, asparagus grows easily and carefree. Asparagus are perennials, which means they will come back every year.

After the spring asparagus season, the spears will grow into a tall dense clump of asparagus ferns throughout the summer. Resist the temptation to cut back untidy asparagus ferns until they are completely dead; there should be no yellowing left. You could also just leave them alone through the winter and trim the dead ferns back in early spring before any new growth begins.

Asparagus provide dietary fiber, plant stanols and many nutrients - especially a good source of Vitamin A, Iron and Folate.

GardenCuizine Asparagus Nutrition: 80g uncooked (approximately 4 large spears): protein: 1.76g (4%DV), dietary Fiber: 1.6g (6%DV), Iron: 1.72mg (10%DV), Magnesium: 12mg (3%DV), Phosphorus: 40mg (4%DV), Potassium 160mg (5%DV), Zinc: .44mg (3%DV), Vitamin C: 4.4mg (7%DV), Riboflavin: .112mg (7%DV), Niacin: .784mg (4%DV), Folate: 40mcg (10%DV), Vitamin A: 604IU (12%DV), Vitamin E: 1.37IU (5%DV), Vitamin K: 33.2mcg (42%DV)

Related Links

Growing Asparagus
Growing Asparagus in the Home Garden

Photo and blog post Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Garden Spotlight: Chiltepin Peppers * Hot Stuff in a berry-sized Pepper! #GardenCuizine

South Jersey Garden Spotlight 
Chiltepin Peppers
 Shown growing in USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
Chiltepin Peppers (Capsicum annuum var. aviculare) look like berries; they can be easily dried and used ground or crushed to add flavor to your favorite foods. A little goes a long way; don't let their size fool you. The little peppers are hot stuff at 50,000-100,000 Scoville units - compared to Jalapeno peppers at 3,500 to 8,000 Scoville units

Hot pepper heat varies depending on several factors, including the region where grown and growing conditions. The Scoville organoleptic scale is a measure of the capsaicinoid compound that makes hot peppers hot (0 to 16 million units). Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville created the scale in 1912.

Chiltepin Peppers, also known as Bird Peppers, are a food source for birds in some regions. But in our South Jersey garden, we've never had that concern. Perhaps, because the majority ripen indoors in the fall. Chiltepin plants need a long growing season. We grow our Chiltepins in pots and usually bring them indoors when frost threatens. 

To harvest, wait until the peppers are red and ripe, then pick off the plant and let dry out. We dry Chiltepins inside on a plate, then when completely dry, store in spice jars. Bird pepper skins are thin enough that they dry nicely, without getting moldy inside. 

Clinical studies have shown dietary capsaicin to have properties that may benefit weight loss and lower fasting glucose and leptin levels.   
Related Links
Ark of Taste: Chiltepin Pepper 
Bird Peppers Dave's Garden Plant Files Info 
Scoville Scale for Peppers
Homemade Ground Pepper Spices by Diana Wind, RD
Photo and blog post Copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Today's Harvest: Lots of Cherry Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, Italian Basil #GardenCuizine

Today's Garden Harvest 
South Jersey
USDA Zone 7a (formerly zone 6b)
August 3, 2012 

At around this time in the gardening season, we start to lose control of our somewhat neat and tidy garden. The heat is oppressive. Asparagus ferns, Chia and tomato plants have gotten tall and seem to be leaning every which way. Weeds, especially morning glory, are all over - even though it seems like we just weeded. 

Despite the slight chaos, nature knows best. Oregano is blooming, along with dahlias marigolds, cannas and other flowers that border our backyard garden. Garlic chives have buds. The show and harvest continues.

We don't remember ever having so many hummingbirds! The attraction must be the growing addition of cannas, salvias and their favorite nectar plants. Today, as the hummers buzzed overhead, we harvested a nutritious bounty of:
 Vitamin C and Lycopene-rich Cherry Tomatoes 
Swiss Chard 
 and a few handfuls of herbs: Italian Basil, Thyme, Shiso Perilla

Now is the time large batches of basil should be harvested. We have basil growing in a few different raised beds and plan to process it into pesto, portion and freeze. Maybe tomorrow...
Photo and blog post copyright (C)2012 Wind. All rights reserved.