Dill 101

Herb # 3: Dill!

dill

I was never a huge fan of dill in the past. I don’t know if we ever had it in the house at home, and I haven’t used it in my own cooking very often.

However, it smelt so good this summer on the farm. We also normally carry it at my store, therefore, it has begun to grow on me. It smells so fresh. (Plus, dill attracts the good guy insects, so it is good to grow in the garden, even if you don’t plan on eating it.)

Dill should be planted about 3 wks before the average date of last frost (May 3 for Montreal). If it’s not planted early enough, it may only develop the following year. However, if you let it establish itself, it will grow back every year.

You should plant dill 1/4″ deep. You can plant as many as you like along a row, but you will want to thin them out to 12″ apart. And you want to give 24″ between your rows.

Remember, you can lay out as many beds or rows of dill as you would like. You could just have one row alongside a row of another vegetable. Or you could simply have a small patch of dill at the end of a bed. But you want to give it enough room to grow. Dill especially has a long taproot. So if you do attempt to transplant it (which I wouldn’t recommend), you would have to do so while it is still a seedling.

Dill is another crop that you want to plant multiple times so that you can have a continuous supply as it does not last long once fully grown.

Dill will grow to be about 2-4 feet tall. Once it hits two feet feel free to snip away at the leaves with scissors. You can use them fresh, or dry them out. You can also use and dry out the seeds.

dill seeds

(Do not wash dill, or you will lose the oils that give it its flavor.)

Et voila! You’ll have fresh dill for dips, or fish dishes. Or whatever other recipes you come across. You can even add it to salads.

I’m excited! Hope you are too.

Happy Planting!

Cilantro 101

Herb #2: Cilantro! (one of my faves!)

cilantro

Apparently, whether or not you enjoy cilantro is dependent on your genes. To some people, cilantro tastes delicious and fresh, to others, it tastes soapy and yucky. (It tastes delicious to me and so I plan on planting a lot of it.)

I had hoped to grow cilantro indoors, but it’s actually not listed in my apartment gardening book, nor is it mentioned on Veggie Harvest as a plant that you can grow indoors. I’m sure you can, but I’m guessing it won’t grow as well as some others that you can grow indoors. So, in the garden it will go!

Coriander is best fresh and so it is a good idea to plant it every 1-2 weeks, so you have a continuous supply.

However, coriander isn’t very hardy so it is best to wait 2-3 weeks after the last frost date before planting it.

You should plant the seeds 1/4″ deep, in rows that are 8-12 inches apart. And you can plant as much as you want along your rows, but you will want to thin the plants so that they are about 12 inches apart in the row as well.

You can start picking/harvesting your cilantro leaves once the plants hit a height of 6″ or more. (I can’t wait to have fresh cilantro leaves to add to my dishes). Cilantro doesn’t store that long; you can keep some leaves or stems propped in a glass of water for about 2-6 days in your fridge but by day 6 they definitely won’t be as fresh as when you first picked them (I’m sure that’s pretty obvious, but figured I would mention it just in case).

Or you can harvest the seeds and use them as a spice (they are often used in Indian cuisine). To harvest the seeds, wait until the seeds and leaves turn brown (but before the seeds drop) or harvest the plant earlier and hang the plant upside down in a warm, dark, dry place for several weeks until they turn brown.

coriander

Et voila! You will have fresh leaves or dried seeds to give all of your dishes some extra pizzaz!

(In the garden, coriander grows well alongside caraway, eggplants, fruit trees, potatoes and/or tomatoes)

Happy Planting!

Sources:

Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington

http://veggieharvest.com/herbs/cilantro.html

Chives 101

Okay. Lets learn about some herbs.

To start with, chives!

chive

Chives are hardy perennials, that you can grow outside or on your windowsill! (I’m hoping to grow them in my apartment so that I can snip them off whenever I want to add them to my scrambled eggs, and/or salads, or simply use them as a garnish for a nice dish.)

For the longest time, I always used the terms “chives” and “green onions” interchangeably. However, chives are much smaller and thinner than green onions, and have a milder flavor.

I would like to start my chives from seeds, but they do take awhile to germinate, and actually need cooler temperatures to germinate (less than 15̊C). Seeds should be planted 1/2″ deep, in rows 12″ apart. Which translates to a pot that is at least 12 inches deep and about the same width if growing indoors. Outdoors, you can clump your chives. Meaning that you can plant them close together along the row (say about 25 seeds along 8 inches).

Chives will grow to be about 6-10″ tall. When you cut them for use, leave about 1-2″ of stem, and this will encourage them to regrow.

Et voila! There you have it. Fresh chives for any occasion. (Chives also freeze very well, and you can even dry them out, or use them to make infused vinegars).

You can grow them in the kitchen within arm’s reach or grow them in your garden. “Chives planted in the garden will grow for years once established” (veggieharvest.com).

If growing them in the garden, it is good to grow them alongside carrots, celery, grapes, roses and/or tomatoes. However you should not plant them near beans.

Happy Planting!

Sources:

http://veggieharvest.com/herbs/chives.html

Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington

Greta’s Organics

gretas

For those of you wondering where to get organic seeds for your garden this summer, check out Greta’s Organic Gardens.

It’s organic seeds for small(er) scale farming.

Its pretty local (from Ottawa, On.)

Plus, she is actually the mother of a friend of mine.

I will be buying most (if not all) of my seeds from her.

There are some larger companies such as Vesey’s, High Mowing, and Johnny’s Seeds. But they aren’t only organic, and often their seed packets are huge as they are for larger CSA operations.

Greta definitely gets my vote!

You can check out her website at : https://www.seeds-organic.com/

Songza

Okay, so this isn’t the most relevant post ever, but I just had to share it with you.

I’ve just recently discovered Songza (songza.com) and it is amazing!

songza

 

 

 

 

Its a bunch of playlists put together according to time of day, mood, decades, genre, activity etc and they rock.

I am currently listening to a Waking Up playlist entitled Walking on Sunshine. I’m trying to sit still and write this post, but it is proving difficult. I just gotta move! 🙂

Anywho. That’s it. That’s what I wanted to share with you. Check it out. I’m sure you’ll never go back to radio music at home.

How many grams of Sugar per day?

sugar

So after having watched the film Fed Up, I was curious about sugar in processed foods.

How much sugar are we consuming every day?

What is an ‘okay’ level of sugar to consume per day?

According to the American Heart Association, men and women should consume no more than 37.5 and 25 grams of added sugar (sugars not from fruits or vegetables) per day, respectively.

I believe most ‘servings’ from processed foods normally contain about 10-20g of added sugar.

So in just 2 Chips Ahoy cookies, or 2 tbsp. of ketchup, or 1 packet of natures path instant oatmeal, you are getting about half of your days worth of sugar. That is you are consuming about 10-15 grams of sugar when the MAXIMUM is 25 or 37.

The best thing to do is to avoid processed foods completely. Not just if you are trying to lose weight, but simply to stay healthy. (Just because you are skinny, doesn’t mean your body is happy on the inside.)

I can’t believe I never knew this before. I can’t believe I wasn’t taught this in school. The information is out there, often, we just don’t think to look for it.

So there’s the information. I wanted to share it with you. Hope you keep it in mind.

 

Resources:

http://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Added-Sugars_UCM_305858_Article.jsp

Arugula 101

(Arugula Salad

Okay!

So lets learn about arugula.

I love fresh arugula (I haven’t really heard of it used any other way). Be it arugula on its own, arugula mixed in with other greens, or arugula, beet and goat cheese salad. You can also make an arugula pesto.

It has a peppery flavor, and the longer you let it grow, the stronger the flavor gets. Which is why most people like to eat baby arugula, when the flavor is more mild.

Arugula is a cool season crop, so you can plant it at the beginning of the season (as soon as the soil can be worked) and at the end of the season.

As arugula is a direct seeded crop, you can simply sprinkle the seeds along a line (marked by a rake or other tool of your fancy), spacing the seeds about 1/4″ to 1″ apart. This spacing is good for harvesting baby arugula. If you would like your arugula to grow bigger, then you can either increase the spacing or thin the plants once they have started to grow.

(Thinning simply means to pull out some of the plants to give room for the others to grow bigger. Thinning involves using more seeds, but it can also be a way to ensure a certain yield.)

Your rows should be spaced 6″ apart, meaning you could have about 4 rows per bed (if you’d like).

And you want to plant the seeds about 1/4″ deep. So you can simply sprinkle some dirt over the rows. All seeds need light to germinate, but the smaller the seed, the more likely it is to fly away if it is not covered sufficiently. (Its a bit of a balancing act. The less cover the better normally, but you don’t want to not cover your seeds enough, and have them all fly away.)

Et voila! Arugula is a pretty hardy plant, so it should grow under most conditions. It doesn’t need compost to grow well, but compost definitely wouldn’t hurt.

Once the leaves are about 2″ long you can begin harvesting (which can be as soon as 2-3 wks after the plants germinate). I would cut individual leaves, because they tend to grow back for a bit, or you can simply pull up the whole plant if you’d like.

You should not plant arugula with or near strawberries and/or pole beans.

But arugula does grow well with: bush beans, celery, carrots, nasturtium, mint, dill, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, rosemary and potatoes.

Seeing as arugula is best fresh, it can be a good idea to use succession planting. This means spacing out the time between plantings. You could probably have 3 plantings in the spring, and another 3 plantings in the fall.

So there you have it. You now have all the basic info you need to grow arugula.

Happy Planting!

 

If you would like some more info on arugula, check out: http://veggieharvest.com/vegetables/arugula.html

It was my resource for the above information!

 

Fed Up

Oh my.

I just watched a movie that I believe our entire population should watch.

It’s called: Fed Up

fed up

I know I have recommended other books and movies in the past. And I still very much recommend them as well. But, if I had to choose just one, I think I would have to choose Fed Up.

It’s not a movie about the horrible treatment of food animals.

It’s not a movie about GMOs.

It’s not a movie about organic food.

It’s not a movie about exercise.

Instead

It’s a movie about sugar.

It’s a movie about processed foods.

And it’s a movie about the power of private food corporations.

And I could leave this blog at that.

What follows is simply some of the information provided by the film which shocked me.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of things on nutrition, health and fitness. So I’ve come across a lot of information. And yet, this movie was able to teach me some things which I did not know. It also called attention to some things, which I had never noticed.

For example (and I will give just one, because I am tired, and need to go to bed, but after watching the moving, I felt that I could not not blog about it):

All processed foods (organic alike) come with an ingredients list. We all know this.

And on this list, we are told how many calories there are per serving.

On this list, we are told how many grams of proteins, carbs, and fibres etc we are receiving per serving.

On this list, we are even given the % Daily Value, which gives us an indication as to how much fat, cholesterol and sodium etc we are taking in, based on how much we need per day.

We have all noticed these things.

However, have you ever noticed how the ingredient list does not give us a % Daily Value for the sugar category.

It gives us the % Daily Value for carbohydrates. They list sugar under the carbohydrates section, but they do not give us a % Daily Value for sugar.

And unfortunately for us, the % Daily Value for carbohydrates does not translate to % Daily Value for sugar.

And therefore, we do not realize how much added sugar we are consuming in our diet.

Let me tell you, it is way too much!

You can choose all the “healthy” fat free, low cal foods that you want. But they contain just as much sugar as their unhealthy counterparts. (You take out the fat, you take out the flavor. How do you make up for the lack of flavor, you add sugar of course!)

In fact, many (if not most) processed foods that we consume, and I’m talking about just one can or jar or bottle (not a day’s worth of food), contain more sugar in one ‘serving’ than we need in a whole day.

That just blows my mind.

Many movies make us want to move. And then a few days later the effects die off.

But I hope that you will all take the time to watch this movie.

And I hope that it will make you want to do something about how you eat, how your kids eat, how your family eats, and what our society offers us.

It has definitely sparked a fire under my butt.

Plant List

Okay!

So how about a gardening blog. It’s been awhile!

It’ll just be a short one though.

I am going to share with you my list of plants that I intend to grow this summer.

My list started out short, with only basics at first. Then I became ambitious and my list got a long longer. But then I took the time to figure out the space needed for each plant (by researching the spacing between rows, and spacing within row). Knowing how much space an individual plant took up, and estimating how many plants I would need (based on how much I want to eat/produce), I was therefore able to estimate how much total area I would need for each variety of vegetables.

I then used this information to eliminate some vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, which take up a ton of space. I also eliminated brussel sprouts because, not only do they take up a decent amount of space, but based on my experience and what I’ve heard, they don’t always produce that much, nor are they quick to harvest. Celery is off the list because it isn’t guaranteed to grow well in our climate, and as much as I love the crunch, it is unfortunately lacking in nutrients.

The veggies I have decided to grow, I have split into two categories: direct seeded vegetables and transplanted vegetables. Normally, it is best to transplant whenever possible, because when you transplant vegetables, you are able to control the initial growing conditions (soil, temp, moisture, light, wind) and your seeds are therefore more likely to survive. However, it simply isn’t practical to start some plants indoors, and/or, it isn’t necessary.

The vegetables I will be direct seeding are as follows:

  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • beets
  • potatoes

(notice that root vegetables should be direct seeded)

  • beans (pole preferably)
  • peas (sugar snap)
  • leafy lettuce types (arugula, spinach, lettuce mix: asian greens)
  • and garlic (already done!)

And the vegetables I would like to transplant (we will see how much indoor space I have) are as follows:

  • onions and leeks
  • peppers
  • tomatoes (trellis)
  • cucumbers (trellis)
  • kale
  • cabbage (napa, chinese and bok choy)
  • and possibly some cauliflower, broccoli and eggplant (they take up space, and may not grow that well)

Of course if we lived in a warmer climate, the need to transplant wouldn’t be as great either. It’s just that, when the growing season is short (as it is in Montreal), not only do you want to transplant to ensure that each seed succeeds, but you also want to transplant in order to extend your season and therefore get not only more vegetables out of the season, but bigger vegetables as well.

And last but not least, the herbs! Which give flavor to our dishes and can also be medicinal. I hope to plant at the least, the following:

  • parsley!
  • cilantro!
  • basil!
  • chives
  • and dill (I don’t use dill that much as a flavoring, but it does smell good, and it’s very good at attracting beneficial insects)

So that is my list!

I’m hoping to blog daily, or almost daily, about each vegetable individually. This way, we can learn together, how to properly care for each one.

I’m off to bed for now though.

Sweet dreams to all!

Toronto

It’s Sunday night, and I am on my way back home from the big T.O.

I’ve never been to Toronto before. I’ve been near it, and I’ve driven by it, but I’ve never actually visited the city or the downtown core.

Now why, you may ask, did I go to T.O?

Well, it seems that everyone I know is moving there.

I have a friend that moved here about 8 years ago now (which makes us both feel old), two friends that moved here because they work as stewardesses, and are stationed out of Toronto. My cousin moved here with her boyfriend (they are both educators and were much more likely to find jobs out here). Two other friends/family members that moved out here for work. And my bestest friend, who just moved out here for work over the Christmas break. It seems Toronto is the place to be. And so out I came.

Now even though I came out to Toronto during the coldest part of the year, and even though I’ve grown up as a Montrealer making fun of T.O. (even though I’ve never been), I had an awesome time. Granted, that is because I have awesome friends whom I love. But it’s also because, I must admit, Toronto is pretty cool. I wasn’t here long, and I really didn’t see much. But I think my expectations were so low (sorry) that it definitely surpassed them.

Nevermind that it’s always fun to explore a new city.

Even though the Via Rail isn’t an airplane, and Toronto is only 5 hrs away, and not across the ocean, when I got to TO, I got the same excited feeling I get whenever I visit a new place.

And I would definitely take the Via out to Toronto over driving here any day. If you get one of the shorter trains (4.5 to 5.5 hrs), you get here just as fast (if not faster), and it is a much more pleasurable experience than driving. You can read your book, access the internet, eat food, drink wine (although I think this is the first via ride where I haven’t ordered a glass, reminder: detox, reminder: I took the via home all summer from the farm), and pee whenever you want. I love to drive, but the 401 is just sooo boring. So the train definitely wins.

I pulled into Union station on Friday around 330PM and had about an hour and a half to kill before meeting up with my girl friends. I was in an extremely good mood that day. I don’t really know why, I believe it was a combination of not having to work, getting to see my friends, exploring a new place and not being in any way rushed. In fact, when I got to the ticket booth in Montreal my smile was so big the ticket issuer couldn’t get over it. He kept asking me why I was so happy, my first response was “I was just born this way” because I couldn’t really explain it any other way.

Anywho, point is, when I got to Union Station I simply started to wander around, with no particular destination in mind, as I would when travelling anywhere else. I was in no hurry and was happy to just take in the sites (even though it was a lot of construction). I was following the signs for the Eaton’s Center and the Skywalk (I had already toured the food court) when I came across an information point. I explained how I only had to kill an hour or so, and I was given a couple of options, some indoors, some outdoors. I could walk along the skywalk and go to CN tower. I could go to Ripleys Aquarium. I could go for a bit of a walk to the “bohemian” shopping district with health food stores and thrift shops, or I could take a 10 min walk and go to the St-Lawrence Food Market.

Now, I’m sure I don’t even need to tell you where I went. But for those of you who may not know me as well, I chose the Food Market 🙂 The 10 min walk was a breeze, even with all my bags (baglady remember). There were a bunch of little funky shops and restos on the way. And, guess what was in front of the Market. The LCBO! Wonderful. I was very content. Now I’m not drinking this month, but I had time to kill, and although I haven’t found the prices to be any cheaper at the LCBO, they do have a much different selection, and a much better selection of organic wines and beers. AND you get airmiles. I am actually coming home with no purchases from the LCBO (I have too many bags already) but it was enjoyable to simply window shop. Food and drink stores make me feel like a kid in a candy shop, it’s lovely.

The St-Lawrence Market was wonderful. It actually reminded me a bit of a food market that I visited in Valencia, Spain. There were even a few organic shops. I only wandered around a bit, because Tina and I would be going back the next day to visit and buy food for our dinner Saturday night. On my way out I got myself an organic herbal tea to keep myself warm on the walk to her place.

So Friday night, I had dinner with two of my girl friends at a very funky and chic Mexican restaurant in the distillery district (voted one of the best places for Mexican in Toronto). And it was very good. We had some yummy guacamole (made at the table), a veggie dish, a meat dish, and a fish dish. Now normally I would be telling you exactly what was in the dishes, but Tina is the one who did all the ordering. She is good at making decisions, and I’ll eat just about anything. So I don’t quite remember the exact ingredients (except for xni-pec) but it was very delicious.

Afterwards, we simply went back to Tina’s place for tea. Now, that’s partly because my other friend had to drive home, and partly because I am not drinking this month (I had a virgin margarita at the restaurant) but it’s also very much because we are now in the later half of our 20s (yikes!), and simply enjoy going home for tea and taking it easy.

On Saturday, we made our way back to the St-Lawrence Market for lunch and dinner shopping. They actually have a local market set up across the street on Saturday that runs until 2PM. Local veg, fruits, wine, pies, desserts, coffees etc etc. We found a lovely raw vegan food stand (Crudacafe) and had ourselves some carrot/beet/ginger juices and a lovely gnocchi with basil cream sauce and zuchinni noodles. It was delish.

Now I think one of the best parts of the trip (and i’m probably overhyping this) was what we did next. On our way back home, we stopped in the distillery district at Hastens (a mattress shop). Now this is not just any mattress shop, it is THE mattress shop (Distillery District is an artsy area with some very expensive stores). Hastens makes a bed that they sell for 130,000$. A bed for Kings and Queens. Literally (royalties buy it as gifts for each other). They have other beds too of course, but even the cheap beds are 10,000$ at least.

In the shop, they have 2 of the 130,000$ beds. They are in a private room that is cordoned off and you can only go in with a salesperson. Lucky for us, it wasn’t busy when we walked in, and the salesperson asked us if we would like to ly in the bed. Our response: Yes Please! (why the heck not?!). We promptly informed him that we weren’t actually going to buy a bed, which I believe he was already well aware of, but he had had good sales the month before and was simply being nice. We had to take off our boots and coat, so as not to get the bed dirty, and he very nicely tucked us in to a 130,000$. (What?!). We couldn’t help but laugh as we lay side by side in an (extremely comfortable) bed priced higher than some houses.

I must say, it was lovely. The beds pretty much sell themselves (if you have that kind of money that is). It was just as nice as getting a massage. If I had that kind of money, I think I might very well have bought it.

So yes, I think the highlight of my trip to Toronto was lying in a 130,000$ bed. Saturday was a lovely, relaxing day. We made a delicious dinner with the goods we had bought from the Market: marinated halibut and shrimp kebabs, cooked sweet potatoe, tomato and parsely salad, and dry roasted shitake mushrooms and zucchini with a drizzle of truffle oil. Hmm hmm good.

We danced around to music like girls do, and played wi-bowling (cuz we are cool like that). We had considered going out, but the idea only crossed our minds near midnight, and well, bars close early in Toronto (boo). So instead we finished off the evening/middle of the night with a marathon of Once Upon a Time (which Tina has now sucked me in to somehow).

Sunday morning I met up with two other friends who mean the world to me. I took the tram for the first time to meet them at a restaurant called Beast (it actually aired on You Gotta Eat Here). One of their specialties is bacon maple donuts (drool). But they were all sold out. So we had one of their other specialties: gnocchi “poutine” with brisket. It was pretty darn good. And the meals themselves were awesome as well. I would definitely recommend it if ever you get the chance to go.

I hung out with my friends, and they were nice enough to drop me off at the train. The tram was fun, but trams and buses make me nauseous. And now I am on the Via rail (probably close to Kingston).

So that was my trip to Toronto. It may not be the most exciting tale, but I had a wonderful time and plan on coming back again in the future. I will add to the story then.

For now, I wish you a lovely evening. Keep warm in the next couple of weeks. Take your D vitamins and try to keep your spirits up during the coldest part of the year.

(I really believe we should all just hibernate during this time of the year. When it’s cold like this we should all be wrapped up by a fireplace, sleeping and eating, conserving our energy. I don’t care if the rest of the world is working, most of them aren’t living in a climate where the weather drops to 40 below Celsius.)

Anywho, like I said, keep your spirits up. A smile can warm up a whole room.

toronto