Week Three: Brassica transplanting and companion planting

Students chose from a variety of starter plants after sitting to a lesson. Below are two students, Jenna and Ute, deciding who will get the red russian kale.


Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family. Before planting these brassicas, students sat down to a lesson on Brassica oleracea (the species that the vegetables belong too). Carolina drew pictures of cabbage, brussels sprout, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, while explaining that what we eat of these plants all differs! For example, kale we grow for its leaves while cauliflower we grow for its flower clusters.

A fun identifier of brassicas is given away by their other name: cruciferous. They are called this because their flowers form of a cross: four petals and four sepals.


Above is Kane planting collards in the communal brassica bed

We also planted potatoes! Here is brian cutting large seed potato into smaller pieces, leaving each part with about two buds.

5-24-16 CTGEA Student cutting large potato, each peice with a sprout

Two varieties of potatoes ready to be covered and grow in this raised bed below

5-24-16 CTGEA Potato planting set up

Companion planting is growing various crops near one another so that they can help each other out. After the brassicas, students planted two rows of potatoes, with marigolds on either end.

A marigold is a lovely companion for potatoes as it produces natural pesticides and protects potatoes from viral and bacterial infections. It’s smell repels insects that may be harmful while also attracting pollinators like butterflies.

To top it off, marigolds are edible (their peppery flowers), beautiful and easy to grow

Learn more about marigolds here: http://www.almanac.com/plant/marigolds

Also: What to dhu-barb (with all that rhubarb)

Nothing like a hot and sticky mid-May heatwave to whet our palates for Vermont summer rains. In the meantime, we have giant rhubarb plants that have gone to flower but won’t go to waste.

5-28-16 CTGTT Flowering rhubarb

We’ve gone ahead and cut the flowers off of each of the rhubarb plants. The cut was made at the base of the stalk that had flowered and the intention was to encourage the plant to continue to send energy to its leaves (rather than allocating it towards the growth of the flower). And from the vital, vibrant stalks that have grown, there have been spreads and cakes and gummies and more:


Rhubarb & Berries Sauce

3 stalks rhubarb

2 cups mixed, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries (frozen)

3 Tbsp raw honey (or a bit more if you want more sweetness)

1 star anise

2 cardamom pods

1 small cinnamon stick

1 Tbsp orange zest

½ cup orange juice

½ tsp aged balsamic vinegar (optional)

Slice the rhubarb in small pieces. Place it in a pot with the berries, orange juice, orange zest, spices and balsamic vinegar. Keep it on low heat until it starts to boil. Simmer the sauce uncovered, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Once it has acquired the consistency of marmalade, turn off the heat and add the honey to taste. Remove spices before serving.

Rhubarb Pudding Cake from Common Sense Homesteading: http://commonsensehome.com/rhubarb-pudding-cake/

And many more for the curious and the adventurous: http://www.saveur.com/rhubarb-recipes-desserts?image=9

5-28-16 CTGTT Rhubarb harvest bundled in its leaf


Above is rhubard harvest bundled in its leaf and below shows the first potluck… where there was plenty of rhubard (and other creative treats) cooked up!


5-26-16 CTGEA Potluck dinner



IN VERMONT, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RAMPS! A Student Presentation by Angela Ross

Last year I went Ramp foraging for the first time. Ramps (this is what Vermonters call wild leeks) are a big deal in Vermont, so much so that our paper featured Governor Shumlin’s annual ramp picking expedition. Click here to view Gov. Shumlin’s Wild Ramp Pasta recipe. The Vermont Epicure featured a story titled Stalking the Wild Leek, the Forage Press highlighted leeks as the April’s wild food of the month, and Seven Days ran a feature titled A Writer Gathers Wild Leeks by the Roadside last spring.

Speaking of spring, that’s the perfect time to go foraging for leeks – I’ve learned that they are in season right before and up to a few weeks after Memorial Day in Vermont. I had no idea how secretive Vermonters are about their hidden treasures – I mean nobody wants to tell you were these spicy little gems are… My own mother swore me to secrecy when she showed me her spot in Randolph last year. Apparently I passed the test as she showed me where to find them in East Montpelier this year! The only hint I can give you is that they usually grow on a hillside shaded by trees (many times these are maples), and are relatively close to a natural water source (think brook or stream). If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d probably walk all over them while searching for them – personally, I think their leaves look a bit like lilies. Here’s a photo of my score this year:


An important reason why folks protect their ramp patches is that ramps are often over-harvested.  The seeds can take a year and a half to germinate, and the plants may not produce seeds until they are at least 5 years old. So if many plants are taken from a given patch year after year, that patch may not survive.  If you decide to experiment with ramps, harvest less than 5% of a given patch, or learn to cultivate your own. The NY Times has published more information on over-harvesting of ramps.

I google recipes and modify based on the ingredients I have collected the garden / Farmer’s Market or have readily available in my kitchen.

If you don’t own a food processor, I would highly recommend investing in one (or borrowing a friend’s, which I did the first few times I made pesto). So, for Ramp Pesto I googled recipes (I’ve listed a basic pesto recipe) and went from there.   Put the following ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy:

Wild Ramp leaves and bulbs                                            3-4 handfuls basil, rinsed

1-2 handfuls toasted walnuts                                           Olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon                                                               3-4 shallots

Salt (I use Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan)                             Small piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

2 spoonfuls sundried tomatoes with oil                            1 can Hearts of Palm or Artichokes, drained

The amount of Ramp leaves and bulbs depends on how much pesto you want to make. I made a big batch, so I filled the food processor full of ramps, drizzled with olive oil and blended until smooth. I emptied that into a big bowl, and then blended the rest of the ingredients and added to the ramp mixture. I add the salt and olive oil based on taste – after I blend the mixture, I taste it and add more if I think it needs it.

The Hearts of Palm (or artichokes), ginger, and sundried tomatoes are completely optional. I don’t use cheese in my pesto, so I think these give the pesto a nice dimension. I’ve experimented using pistachios and toasted pecans instead of walnuts – they are great options, really depends on what you like in terms of nuts. I’ve also used kale, oregano, and sage as my greens in the pesto – again, depends on your personal taste. The fun of it is finding out how different ingredients taste together, and what you like!   I tried grapeseed oil instead of olive oil – I would not recommend this substitution.

Here’s what my pesto looks like:

The Finished Product!
The Finished Product!

Here’s a basic pesto recipe you can use as a guide:


Basil Walnut Pesto via Once Upon a Chef

2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves                                     2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano                                        1/3 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                       1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Lucini or Colavita

Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until coarsely chopped, about 10 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper and process until mixture resembles a paste, about 1 minute. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly blended. Add the Parmesan and process a minute more. Use pesto immediately or store in a tightly sealed jar or air-tight plastic container, covered with a thin layer of olive oil (this seals out the air and prevents the pesto from oxidizing, which would turn it an ugly brown color). It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. (If you’re planning on freezing it, omit the cheese and stir it in once you defrost it.)

CTG Week 15: August 10th to August 16th – Lacto-Fermentation

What is Lacto-fermentation?

photo 1
Bright Beautiful Harvest

Fermentation is as old as life itself. At some point, many thousands of years ago, humans learned to guide the fermentation process to preserve foods, and these processes have been handed down through generation after generation.  Lactic acid, or Lacto-fermentation is a biological process by which glucose and other sugars are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate, a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria.  Foods that are “preserved” via this method are nutrient-dense, enzyme rich, and contain healthy probiotics.

Look at That Beautiful Cabbage
Look at That Beautiful Cabbage

It is the method used when making fermented foods that most of us are familiar with like sauerkraut, kimchi (a spicy sauerkraut eaten with most every meal in Korea), and yogurt. You have no doubt heard of many of these foods, and may have eaten a number of them yourself. Almost every country around the world uses this technique in some manner to produce their own culturally traditional foods.  Europeans consume lacto-fermented dairy, sauerkraut, grape leaves, herbs, and root vegetables.  The Orient is known for pickled vegetables, sauces, and kimchi in particular.  Farming societies in central Africa are known for porridges made from soured grains.

Denise Making Sauerkraut
Denise Making Sauerkraut

Here in the United States, pickles and relishes are a part of the American food tradition. In Alaska Inuit ferment fish and sea mammals.  Since the onset of the industrial era, most pickling is done with vinegar which offers some more predictable results, and does not employ lactic acid in the preservation process. Fermentation is like modern day pickling without all the work of sterilization. This fermentation process is reliant on the production of some good bacteria to help preserve the food. It is easy to learn the art of lacto-fermentation, with just a little patience, good instructions, and minimal supplies.

The important thing is not to be intimidated. Fermented foods are some of the safest preserved foods and they are easy for even a beginner to prepare. With just a few easy steps you will be well on your way to some great lacto-fermented treats.

Basic Sauerkraut Recipe

1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2-quart widemouth canning jar (or two quart mason jars)


  1. Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible.
  2. Slice the cabbage:. Cut the cabbage into thin ribbons.
  3. Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over the top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first, it may not seem like enough salt, but gradually, the cabbage will become watery and limp, more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. Tamp down the making sure all the cabbage is submerged under the liquid.
  5. Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in the jar.  You can also use the lid to your mason jar just make sure that you leave the lid loose to allow air flow.
  6. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, screw on the cap, and refrigerate. You can allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or even longer before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
  7. Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be.

CTG Week 14 August 3rd to August 9 – Learning to Can and Preserve

It’s harvest time, and many of you have an abundance of crops that you aren’t quite sure what to do with. You can always give them away, but don’t you want to enjoy your hard earned vegetables throughout the winter?   Canning and preserving your own food is fun, easy, and affordable. With a few tips, some good instructions, and a little time, you will be canning and preserving up a storm.

photo 1
Preparing for Some Pickles

I bet you remember your Grandmother’s pickles as being the best thing you ever tasted, and you probably know exactly where you put that recipe that she wrote down on a paper napkin in 1987! Your favorite family recipes and vintage cookbooks that were handed down to you from trusted family cooks might seem like the way to go, but before you get started, you want to make sure you are following food preservation guidelines that are both scientifically tested and up-to-date. Take a peek at the following websites below for some current and reputable information.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation


USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning


The second tip is to be sure you use the right equipment for the types of food you are canning. For example; a good pressure cooker is a must to preserve low-acid vegetables like green beans, potatoes, and corn; or for meat, fish and poultry. Make sure your jars are free of chips and that your lids are in pristine condition.

photo 4
Slicing & Dicing

Using improper canning materials and methods will leave you susceptible to the threat of botulism. Botulism is a rare, but serious illness caused by a germ called Clostridium Botulinum. The germ is found in soil, and can survive, grow, and produce toxins in a sealed jar with low oxygen conditions. Consuming a small amount of food containing the germ can affect your nervous system, cause paralysis, and even death.   Sure, it is important to follow guidelines, and take the proper precautions, but this blog post is not meant to dissuade you from getting into the kitchen to preserve some vegetables.

photo 2
Mixed Vegetable Pickles

Take a look as this basic pickle brine recipe from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving to get you started. Check out the book for more great recipes and instructions for getting your pantry stocked with delicious canned goods.

Basic Pickle Brine


  1. 1 cup of vinegar that is 5% acidity. (It’s the acidity that helps protect and preserve your canned vegetables. Your standard grocery store vinegar is fine. Just be sure to check the label to make sure you are working with the right stuff). 
  2. ½ cup of water
  3. 1 tablespoon sugar
  4. ½ tablespoon of canning salt
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for about three minutes making sure that all the ingredients have dissolved.

Canning, pickling and preserving is not only delicious but it is a whole lot of fun too. So read up a little, get in the kitchen, roll up your sleeves, and start canning. Come next January, you’ll be glad you did.

Peg’s Fresh Tomato Sauce

Wondering what to do with your plentiful harvest of fresh cherry tomatoes?  Well look no further!  This recipe, shared by CTG student Peg, is sure to add some serious flavor to any pasta dish and leave your taste buds tingling!

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Cherry Tomatoes and Olives

Source: http://www.splendidtable.org


  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 4 – 6 anchovies, finely chopped/mashed or 1 T anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or 2 t fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup tomato sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 cup olives (black or kalamata) – sliced
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons capers – chopped
  • Fresh parsley or basil – 1/4 cup
  • Cooked pasta


  1. Roughly chop the cherry tomatoes in a food processor and place in a colander over a bowl to catch the tomato juice.
  2. Let drain 5 – 10 minutes, press on the chopped tomatoes to get as much juice as possible – hopefully around 2/3 – 3/4 cup.
  3. Put olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, anchovy paste and oregano in a skillet, saute until garlic is golden.
  4. Add tomato juice and tomato sauce (if desired – this will make the sauce thicker with a little more body) and saute for 3-5 min until reduced by half.
  5. Add chopped cherry tomatoes, olives and capers and toss until heated through.
  6. Add fresh herbs and serve over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Easy and yummy!

Alyssa’s Fermentation Recipes

While sharing her acquired knowledge on fermentation with the Ethan Allen class during her project presentation, Alyssa provided some absolutely delightful treats to really get a ‘taste’ of what she’d be learning.  As promised, here are the recipes that Alyssa utilized when completing her project.  Enjoy!

Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts


  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, for flavor)


  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Mixing bowl
  • 2-quart widemouth canning jar (or two quart mason jars)
  • Canning funnel (optional)
  • Smaller jelly jar that fits inside the larger mason jar
  • Clean stones, marbles, or other weights for weighing the jelly jar
  • Cloth for covering the jar
  • Rubber band or twine for securing the cloth


  1. Clean everything: When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your mason jar and jelly jar are washed and rinsed of all soap residue. You’ll be using your hands to massage the salt into the cabbage, so give those a good wash, too.
  2. Slice the cabbage: Discard the wilted, limp outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into quarters and trim out the core. Slice each quarter down its length, making 8 wedges. Slice each wedge crosswise into very thin ribbons.
  3. Combine the cabbage and salt: Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Begin working the salt into the cabbage by massaging and squeezing the cabbage with your hands. At first, it may not seem like enough salt, but gradually, the cabbage will become watery and limp — more like coleslaw than raw cabbage. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut with caraway seeds, mix them in now.
  4. Pack the cabbage into the jar: Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them into the canning jar. If you have a canning funnel, this will make the job easier. Every so often, tamp down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar.→ Optional: Place one of the larger outer leaves of the cabbage over the surface of the sliced cabbage. This will help keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid.
  5. Weigh the cabbage down: Once all the cabbage is packed into the mason jar, slip the smaller jelly jar into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with clean stones or marbles. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid.
  6. Cover the jar: Cover the mouth of the mason jar with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or twine. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in the jar.
  7. Press the cabbage every few hours: Over the next 24 hours, press down on the cabbage every so often with the jelly jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
  8. Add extra liquid, if needed: If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage.
  9. Ferment the cabbage for 3 to 10 days: As it’s fermenting, keep the sauerkraut away from direct sunlight and at a cool room temperature — ideally 65°F to 75°F. Check it daily and press it down if the cabbage is floating above the liquid.Because this is a small batch of sauerkraut, it will ferment more quickly than larger batches. Start tasting it after 3 days — when the sauerkraut tastes good to you, remove the weight, screw on the cap, and refrigerate. You can also allow the sauerkraut to continue fermenting for 10 days or even longer. There’s no hard and fast rule for when the sauerkraut is “done” — go by how it tastes.While it’s fermenting, you may see bubbles coming through the cabbage, foam on the top, or white scum. These are all signs of a healthy, happy fermentation process. The scum can be skimmed off the top either during fermentation or before refrigerating. If you see any mold, skim it off immediately and make sure your cabbage is fully submerged; don’t eat moldy parts close to the surface, but the rest of the sauerkraut is fine.
  10. Store sauerkraut for several months: This sauerkraut is a fermented product so it will keep for at least two months and often longer if kept refrigerated. As long as it still tastes and smells good to eat, it will be. If you like, you can transfer the sauerkraut to a smaller container for longer storage.


  • Sauerkraut with Other Cabbages: Red cabbage, napa cabbage, and other cabbages all make great sauerkraut. Make individual batches or mix them up for a multi-colored sauerkraut!
  • Canning Sauerkraut: You can process sauerkraut for longer storage outside of refrigeration, but the canning process will kill the good bacterias produced by the fermentation process. See this tutorial from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for canning instructions.
  • Larger or Smaller Batches: To make larger or smaller batches of sauerkraut, keep same ratio of cabbage to salt and adjust the size of the container. Smaller batches will ferment more quickly and larger batches will take longer.
  • Hot and Cold Temperatures: Do everything you can to store sauerkraut at a cool room temperature. At high temperatures, the sauerkraut can sometimes become unappetizingly mushy or go bad. Low temperatures (above freezing) are fine, but fermentation will proceed more slowly.


Looking for a something with a little more spice?  The following recipe for fermented tomato salsa is muy delicioso!

Fermented Tomato Salsa



  • 2.5-3 lbs of tomatoes of choice
  • 1-2 onions (yellow, white, or red)
  • Fresh Cilantro to taste (I use 1/2 cup or more)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons celtic salt
  • Spices to taste ( I use salt & pepper only, but cumin, oregano, or powdered chili could be added)
  • Peppers (sweet or spicy…I use jalapeno but sweet peppers work well too if you don’t like spicy!)


  1. Chop tomatoes, peppers, onion and cilantro (garlic if you decide to use it)
  2. Toss all ingredients into large bowl
  3. Add the citrus juice
  4. Add salt & pepper (other spices at this time, if you like)
  5. Pour into quart or half gallon size mason jars and cap
  6. Leave on the counter for approximately 2 days
  7. After fermentation is complete, store in refrigerator for up to 9 months


CTG 2014 Week 17: August 23rd to August 28th- Student Presentations, Leek Harvest, and Garden Upkeep


  • Student presentations
    • Digestive Bitters with Shelley
    • Lacto-fermentation with Alyssa


  • Leek harvest
  • Weeding, weeding, weeding!
Leeks from Tommy Thompson

Beautiful weather, lovely people, and amazing veggies, what more could we have asked for during week 17 of the Community Teaching Garden program!  This week we heard from another group of students as they shared some of their growing gardening knowledge with us all during some interesting, and quite delicious presentations.  The Ethan Allen group had a wonderful leek harvest Monday, while unfortunately the Tommy Thompson group saw most of their crop ruined by a pop  \    lation of leek moths- don’t worry, the Ethan Allen students will be sure to share some of their bounty!


Examining Mexican bean beetles
Winter squash is on the way

Student Presentations:

On Monday evening, Shelley and Alyssa kicked off another round of project presentations with their discussions on digestive bitters and lacto-fermentation, topics they’ve both been experimenting with throughout the season.

A great reference to spirited bitters

Shelley began with a history on the incredible health benefits of incorporating bitters into your diet.  Bitters, which are often extracted from cultivated or wild herbs and roots, have traditionally been employed for their natural ability to aid digestion.  While we often balk at the taste of something bitter in our mouth here in the US due to our acquired tastes for sugar and salt, bitters are often consumed in other countries and it seems to be on the rise here as of late.  From the mouth to the small intestine, bitters help stimulate healthy digestion, and taking some prior to meals can help one feel satiated faster, thus preventing over eating.  As Shelley noted, bitters are often infused into cocktails, but can also be taken as tinctures and even included into delicious recipes.  Shelley kindly brought examples of each, and we all relished in the sensory experience of tasting bitters.  The following is a delectable recipe for bar nuts that Shelley kindly shared with us, and we can promise they’re amazing!

Sweet & Spicy Bar Nuts:

So delicious that we ate them all!


  • 4 cups mixed, unsalted raw nuts- preferably a mixture of cashews, pecans, walnuts, and almonds
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T Angostura or other aromatic bitters
  • 1 T Maldon sea salt (or coarse sea salt)


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spread nuts on baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake at the 5 minute mark.
  • While nuts are toasting, combine brown sugar, butter, rosemary, cayenne, cinnamon, honey, and bitters in a large bowl.
  • Add the warm nuts to the bowl and mix them to thoroughly coat.
  • Add salt and mix again

Best served warm, but can be stored in an airtight container for a few days!

Diggin’ deep for the leeks at Ethan Allen

Alyssa followed suit with another spectacular presentation as she shared her experiences with fermenting her garden harvests.  As she talked about the benefits of lacto-fermentation, she set up a lovely picnic with the sauerkraut and fermented tomato salsa she had crafted.

A good omen

After putting some serious garden maintenance in during class this week, the gardens are looking quite spiffy!  We’re ready for some more delightful harvests, and are excited to have Denise back in our midst next week!