Kimchi and ‘Kraut

It’s mid-July and we’re harvesting the last of our brassicas that were planted way back in the spring. The teaching garden at Tommy Thompson planted over 30 HEADS of three different kinds of cabbage, green, purple, and Napa. Although cabbage slaws in their many forms can be great for summer potlucks, we chose to invest our cabbage into communal batches of kimchi and sauerkraut (12 gallons to be exact). Below is a little information about fermentation, why we love it so much, and the recipes that we used.

IMG_8783

Fermented cabbage exists in many forms from many cultures and countries, though all rely on the same process. Cabbage turns into sauerkraut and kimchi through lacto-fermentation which releases healthy bacteria (probiotics) that breaks down harmful bacteria. All of this occurs in an anaerobic (oxygen free) environment, that is created by submerging the cabbage in a brine made of its own juices and lots of salt. Cabbage, which is typically hard to digest, is thus broken down into a digestible, highly nutritious form. More info about this process here. In Carolina’s words, “once you learn to ferment, you’ll want to ferment everything around you!”

IMG_8888.JPG
Cabbage + salt + massage

Most fermented cabbage starts with the same task of harvesting, cleaning (of slugs and dirt, leave the bacteria on the leaves!), and cutting up cabbage. We then add salt and massage the cabbage so that it begins releasing liquid. Then we add various things for various flavors and types…

KIMCHI-

(this recipe comes from scanning many recipes and picking and choosing based on what sounded good or what we had available)

~1 Head of Napa Cabbage

IMG_8809
De-slugging 11 heads of Napa cabbage

~1.5 TBSP Salt

~1 TSP Sugar

~4 TBSP Korean Chile Flakes/Powder

~1 Inch Ginger

~1 Head Garlic (we used garlic scapes as well)

~1 TBSP Miso Paste

~Carrots to taste

~Radishes to taste

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

SAUERKRAUT-

German/Traditional Style:

~1 Head of Cabbage

IMG_8892
Traditional sauerkraut with caraway seeds

~1.5 TBSP Salt

~1 TBSP Caraway Seeds

 

Curtido:

~1 Head of Cabbage

~1.5 TBSP Salt

~4 Carrots, shredded

~1-2 Onions, sliced

~2 Cloves of Garlic

~1 Jalapeño, diced

~2 TBSP Dry Oregano

 

Lemon, Garlic, Dill:

IMG_8893
Lemon, garlic, dill (and other garden flavor) sauerkraut

~1 Head of Cabbage

~1.5 TBSP Salt

~1 Head of Garlic

~2 TBSP Lemon Juice

~1 TBSP Dill

 

 

Feel free to scale these up or down depending on how much cabbage you have. We’ve been mixing ingredients in large storage bins and fermenting in 2 gallon buckets for more consistent flavor and success. The final, and VERY crucial step is to create the anaerobic environment for bacteria by submerging the cabbage in the salty brine. We have found success using a combination of a large cabbage leaf on top of the cabbage, a mason jar full of heavy things (for fermentation in wide mouth jars), or plastic bags ½ full of water that slouch over the cabbage. Once you’re submerged, you’re all set for fermentation to properly occur. Keep it in a cool place until you like the taste, then put it in the refrigerator and enjoy!

IMG_8879
Finished product!

 

Advertisements

It’s a Scorcha’!

 

Most of the northeast is experiencing a downpour for a few days, followed by a heat wave of hot and humid days in the mid 90’s! This extreme weather can wreak havoc on our gardens if we’re not prepared. Lucky for us, we’ve seen this coming for a week and know what to do when the weather gets a little out of hand this time of year.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 10.38.57 AMWhere the river is close, the soil is rich, but the water table is high and our gardens in the Intervale are susceptible to flooding time and time again. A year ago this week, a very rainy June was wrapping up with a similar downpour and flooded the lower half of our garden in Tommy Thompson for nearly a day and a half! This year we don’t foresee similar flooding, but with a combination of heavy rainfall and extreme heat, plant diseases lurk! Mildew on your squash and septoria leaf spot on your tomatoes are two common diseases that appear in a wet and warm garden.

So how can we prevent garden chaos in our garden in humid heat? Proper watering techniques.

35145941_1723300031092589_6450334137428475904_n
Garden Ed. Intern, Emily, helping Mary water the raised bed greens at Ethan Allen Homestead Photo by: Megan J. Humphrey
  1. AM/PM only!– Mid-day watering can burn plant leaves and most of your hard work will evaporate before your garden can use it. Watering early in the morning and/or when the sun is going down will help plants to recover from a long hot day and prepare for the next.
Watering Helpers
The garden neighbors came to help!
  1. Water the base of the plants, not the leaves!– Plants take up moisture (and nutrients!) through the soil via their roots. Wet, soggy leaves hinder good airflow around and through the plant while also creating the perfect environment for moister-based diseases. Watering under or closely to the base of the plant while keep the leaves dry will keep everyone happy and healthy!
  1. Water entire bed, not just around the plants– Dry soil tends to pull moister from wet soil. If you’re entire bed is dry except for around the base of your plants, they will not take up as much water as you think!
straw
Straw mulch doing it’s job!
  1.  Even moisture – Keeping evenly moist all day every day helps plants thrive and prevents cracking in tomatoes, kohlrabi, carrots, etc. A thick layer of straw mulch on beds is a great way to hold in soil moisture between waterings, but we’ll save our case for straw mulch for another day….

 

Welcoming Back our Familiar Foes

The beautiful thing about being some of the first to have plants in the ground first is, of course, early abundance and garden joy; the downfall is that the pests also love the early growth. These past few weeks a good bit of gardening in community has meant managing pests in community, with bouts of frustration, triumph, and good lessons. This year, following the spotting of our first potato beetles, Vic Izzo, entomologist, professor, gardener, researcher and more, paid us a visit to teach us about the pests in our garden.

IMG_8599
Vic teaching us about pests in the garden

Before we began identifying pests, Vic introduced us to the idea of integrated pest management. Pest management methods fits, more or less, into four categories: cultural, mechanical/physical, biological, and chemical. These represent varying levels of intervention and are traditionally thought of as a hierarchy, with cultural as the least invasive and chemical as the most. Vic encouraged us to think less rigidly about the “hierarchy,” and address our unique circumstances as small scale, community gardeners by mixing and matching pest management methods.

Here are our most familiar and persistent pests, with Vic’s suggestions, as of the end of May:

Flea Beetles: Flea beetles overwinter in the soil and emerge as soon as there’s plant matter to munch on, aka our brassicas. The most common indicator that they’ve found your young brassicas is many tiny holes in the leaves of your plants. For us, this happened very quickly. Our first pest management effort was covering the plants with row cover. Larger brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, kale etc. can survive flea beetle bites once they get bigger, so we were able to use row cover while they were young. This would be considered a physical/mechanical pest control, because we created a physical barrier to keep the beetles out. Something else we’ve done to control flea beetle is spray Neem Oil, an organic, plant based oil, directly onto the plants. Sometimes row cover just isn’t enough, or it doesn’t fit over your beautifully large broccoli, or it’s causing other pests to breed around those plants (swede midge in our case), or it’s keeping beneficial insects (like pollinators and natural predators) out. We’ve taken row cover off for all of those reasons in the past few weeks. Monitoring the plants regularly, such as every time you water, is crucial at this stage to identifying the best pest management method for your unique garden.

Flea beetle
Flea beetles on a cabbage leaf

Leaf Miner: Leaf miner most commonly, and most drastically, affect our spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. They lay white eggs on the back of the leaves and then burrow into them, eating away at the cells, leaving only their paths and the shell of the leaf. Leaf miners leave the leaves when they are adults and then they fly away to continue wreaking havoc. We typically manage, or try to manage, leaf miners by pruning off any leaves with damage (and taking them far, far away from the garden) and mushing eggs off where we see them. However, these are often persistent and very hard to manage even with that. Vic had recently heard from an entomologist colleague that they had had luck using sprays made with Spinosad, a naturally occurring bacteria, in controlling leaf miner. The spray he brought us is called Captain Jack’s Deadbug, but it is also bought in larger quantities at a different concentration under the name Monterey. This could either be considered a biological or chemical control, depending on what you consider the bacteria. Vic told us we didn’t need to panic and use it yet, but to try it out in the case of a true infestation.

IMG_1935
Leaf miner damage on Swiss chard

The list of pests for us goes on, including three striped potato beetle on our Solanaceaes, slugs on our cabbage, and more that we are anticipating with row cover and leaf checks. If you have any unknown pests in the garden or need advice on managing them, feel free to reach out to UVM Extension’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic here. In the meantime, we harvest and enjoy each other’s company in the garden!

IMG_8607
Another garden guest hanging out in the hose

 

Gardening In Community

Hello 2018!

The snow has melted, the ground has thawed, and the sun is out to welcome us into the gardening season, though the Community Teaching Gardens have been buzzing for months with planning, planting, and harvesting! Unique to the advanced class, we start our seeds back in late March at Red Wagon Plants, one of our generous supporters and community partners! You could say we’ve hit the ground running this season…

Like last year, we are hosting two courses this season – beginner and advanced organic gardening! But, we’re shaking it up a bit with a new approach to garden education for the advanced class. This year, we are hard at work achieving three goals:

1.) building off of our beginner knowledge to become better gardeners,

2.) producing as much consistent harvest as we can for all participants, and

3.) fostering more intentional community in our garden education.

img_17471

In order to do all of that, we are growing almost all of our food collectively instead of tending to our own individual beds, much like the Garden at 485 Elm in Montpelier, VT. Our broccoli’s are all in one bed and our beans are all in another. In the spirit of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models, we collectively accept crop failure and reap the bounty of our successes.

Hayley and JacobBased on my past years’ experiences in the Community Teaching Garden, I am completely confident in my ability to plan, grow, and care for a small garden plot. Switching to a communal model in the advanced class this year has been an exciting opportunity to develop skills in production gardening and working collaboratively. Having shared responsibility for the garden deepens our sense of commitment to the whole space, and growing together means we can produce a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers– something I would be reluctant to do on my own. We also have a lot of fun! The season is off to a great start and we hope to see you in the garden soon.” – Hayley 

img_19462
The season is warming up fast, so this week we harvested our first crop of butterhead lettuce before it bolts and each student took home at least one head!

 

Registration is Open for the 2018 Community Teaching Garden Program

It’s Winter in the garden, but we’re already having sweet dreams of greens and beets and peas and all of the sweet things Spring will bring. Won’t you join us this year?

Registration for the 2018 season of the Community Teaching Garden program is officially open, with both beginner and advanced level courses offered. Both courses provide  comprehensive, hands-on curriculum designed to support gardeners in both theoretical and practical aspects of organic gardening, and include field trips, cooking activities, explorations in herbalism, legendary potlucks and much much more.

Click here for more information or to register for the upcoming season!

With Warm Holiday Wishes,

Your Pals in the Community Teaching Garden program

Tommy Thompson covered in snow
Tommy Thompson Community Garden under a blanket of snow.

A Sweet and Vinegary End to the Season

Greetings from the Community Teaching Gardens! We hope that you had a bountiful harvest and an enjoyable end to your season. As we wrapped up at the Ethan Allen Homestead and the Tommy Thompson Community Gardens, we were able to come together for a few final work days; to clear and cover our beds, to plant our garlic, and to fortify ourselves for the cold winter ahead with some tasty fire cider, a vinegar-based immune boosting beverage.

Fire Cider 3
Fire Cider prepared in the Community Teaching Garden advanced course. Yum!

But before we get into all that! It wouldn’t be the Community Teaching Garden if there wasn’t a potluck. Sure enough, we gathered in early October we one final time to share a meal together and celebrate all that we have learned this season. With that, if you, our dear reader, are interested in learning with us next season, please keep in mind that registration for the next year’s Community Teaching Garden will open in December. For more information, check out the Community Teaching Garden page on VCGN’s website.

CTG Graduation Photo
Happy graduates of the Community Teaching Garden beginner and advanced courses.

 

Fire Cider, which was widely popularized by notable Vermont Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, is a simple and fun way to boost your health during the cold winter months. Including many elements that heat the body and clear it of illness, like horseradish, ginger, and spicy hot peppers, creating your own fire cider at home is as easy as chopping up a batch of ingredients, tossing them in a large jar, dousing them with vinegar, and giving them a hearty daily shake as they rest on your counter for a month.

A quick inventory of our garden added some fun herbs like sage to the mix. Using the basic recipe posted above, you can create endless variations to suit your palate. After a month, you strain your ingredients and add honey to your liking. Store your fire cider in the fridge and use it whenever you would like a sour tonic, a soothing vinegar tea, or a flavorful salad dressing.

As we close the season, we send one final thank you for joining us in our learning journey!

We hope to see you in the garden next year,

Your pals in the CTG

Seasons Collide Over Plant-Based Dyes

This week the Community Teaching Garden experienced a taste of two seasons! We harvested apples from tree adjacent to our garden as well as our first watermelon of the season. On the hot late-summer evening, we were happy to join together to learn a new skill: making plant-based dyes.

Apples from a nearby tree
Apples from an adjacent tree, a dye-making resource book, and sample patches from our dear teacher Carolina.

With the goal of making some plant-based dyes in mind this season, we planted indigo and coreopsis— two common plants used in dyeing. We also harvested some wild-growing goldenrod to make a third dye. A wide range of plants and techniques can be used to create dyes in your own garden, so don’t limit yourself to our examples!

For our dye project, we wanted to create vibrant colors using easy materials and a quick process. Protein-based fibers, like silk and wool, tend to be easier to dye, so we started by creating silk scarves and swatches. Plant based dyes work better if the fabric is treated with a mordant. After soaking our silk in the mordant and preparing our dyes (boiling our coreopsis and goldenrod in water for about an hour) it was time to begin!

Dyeing our silk swatches with coreopsis and goldenrod was as simple as draining the dye and soaking the material. To create our indigo dye, we headed back to the VCGN offices, where we combined indigo with ice and water in a high-powered blender and strained the plant material to create our dye.

It was hard to believe that the bright green dye would produce blue fabric, but indigo needs to oxidize before it takes it’s trademark color. After soaking for just a few minutes, students rinsed their silk to find it had transformed into a lovely robins egg blue color.

Final Product
At the end of the evening, several students display their plant-based dye projects.

While it was a brief introduction into the world of plant-based dyes, the students in the Community Teaching Garden course were very inspired and hope to have a bright future ahead of them as they continue to create natural dyes.