Archive for the ‘What Is It?’ Category

Cover Cropping for Home-Garden Success

April 22, 2009

From the good people at the Tilth Producers of Washington and Nash’s Organic Produce:

Cover cropping is a method used by organic growers to increase the biological activity and health of soil. A critical tool for soil fertility management in any size garden or farm, cover crops are fabulous nitrogen fixers and are an integral part of the natural cycling of nutrients.

Nash's cover crop seed blend returns nutrients to your garden's soil naturally, without the need for harsh chemical fertilzers. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Nash's cover crop seed blend returns nutrients to your garden's soil naturally, without the need for harsh chemical fertilzers. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

When planted in the fall, cover crops hold nutrients that are otherwise leached away in the winter, while protecting the soil surface from erosion. If used in the spring and summer, cover crops are ideal for fixing atmospheric nitrogen and building the soil’s organic matter. If your soil is particularly poor, begin cover cropping in the spring and apply two to three rounds, ending with a final planting in the fall (mid-September to early October).

  • Gardeners should use about 10 pounds of seed to cover crop 500-700 square feet.
  • Plant 1/2-1 inch deep and water as needed. If soil is not too wet, the seeds will germinate in cold soil, so cover crop seed can be planted in the cool spring.
  • When it is mid-calf height, turn the cover crop in with a space or shovel, inverting the top two inches of soil.
  • 2-4 weeks after turning it in, the cover crop should mostly be broken down, and you’re ready for a second round, or to plant your garden. Allow more time in the spring for the rye/vetch to break down. The ease with which it breaks down is directly related to its height, so don’t let it get too big before you turn it under.

Find a cover crop seed blend of rye and vetch at Nash’s Organic Produce at Ballard Farmers Market.

Communi-Tea Kombucha

April 16, 2009

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.

Communi-Tea Kombucha is sold in earth-friendly reusable bottles. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Communi-Tea Kombucha is sold in earth-friendly reusable bottles. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

The recorded history of this drink dates back to the Qin Dynasty in China (around 250 BC). The Chinese called it the “Immortal Health Elixir,” because they believed Kombucha balanced the Middle Qi (Spleen and Stomach) and aided in digestion, allowing the body to focus on healing. Knowledge of kombucha eventually reached Russia and then Eastern Europe around the Early Modern Age, when tea first became affordable to the populace. (For more information on the history of kombucha and more, go to Wikipedia.)

Communi-Tea Kobucha comes to the Market by bicycle power. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Communi-Tea Kobucha comes to the Market by bicycle power. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Communi-Tea has Washington’s first WSDA-licensed kombucha facility. The reuse their bottles and use an electrically-assisted bicycle trailer for hauling and deliveries.

Chickweed (a.k.a., “satin flower”)

April 11, 2009

Chickweed, or satin flower, at Nash's Organic Producer. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Chickweed, or satin flower, at Nash’s Organic Producer. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is probably taking over your spring garden bed as you read this, but surprising to most people is that the stuff you are throwing in the compost pile is actually a nice, tasty, grassy and nutrient-rich spring treat with many culinary applications. Native to Europe, it has become a prolific invasive weed in North America. It gets its name from the fact that chickens love to eat it, and I have never met a cockatiel that could resist it. It’s like candy to them.

While chickweed has some medicinal uses, some advise caution in its ingestion due to its high nitrogen content.

For more information on chickweed, go to Wikipedia.

Recipes:

Raab (a.k.a., “rabe”), as in Broccoli Raab

April 11, 2009
Nash's Napa Cabbage Raab, delicious simply sauteed in olive oil with garlic. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Nash's Napa Cabbage Raab, delicious simply sauteed in olive oil with garlic. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

 

Raab is only available in the spring, when over-wintered plants in the brassica family start to flower and send out their seed shoots. Raab is most tender before its florets burst into yellow or white flowers, and are a fantastic spring treat in stirfrys, raw in salads, added to soups, or on the grill. Some farmers plant specific varieties of broccoli raab, for example, that have been breed specifically for floret production. Most producers, however, take advantage of the natural life cycle of the plant by harvesting cabbage, collard and kale raab only in the spring.

(Thank you, Kia Armstrong of Nash’s Organic Produce, for providing this description of raab. Nash’s offers three kinds of cabbage raab, 2 kinds of kale raab and collard raab. As different varieties come on at different speeds, Kia explains, not all the raab are available at once, so look for a progressive wave of raabs in the first half of spring.)

Nash's Bok Choy Raab, nice stir-fried with your favorite mushrooms. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Nash's Bok Choy Raab, nice stir-fried with your favorite mushrooms. Photo copyright 2009 by Zachary D. Lyons.