Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Growing garlic—what’s the difference between softneck garlic and hardneck garlic varieties?

Growing garlic in your own garden lets you play with flavors you cannot find at stores. We carry more organic seed garlic than any other garden company, at the best prices, so plunge in and get garlicky.

How to grow garlic

The nuts and bolts of growing and harvesting garlic are right here for you, in the Grow Organic How to Grow Garlic video and their downloadable Garlic Growing Guide.

The question is, which varieties of garlic seed do you want to plant? Softneck or hardneck or both?

Garlic has a neck?

By the time you see garlic in the store it has been trimmed, but there is still a papery tuft that stands above the bulb. That’s the covering of the “neck” of the garlic.

Garlic also comes with different colored skins around the cloves. The cloves themselves are always a creamy white.

Softneck Garlic

This is the garlic you’ll find in most grocery stores. The bulb has a mild flavor. A great virtue of the softneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. sativum) is that it stores very well. Since the necks are (literally) soft, you can cut them nice and long for braiding. A braid of garlic makes a winning kitchen gift for friends and family!

Which to choose? California Early White has no hot bite in its flavor, grows rapidly and is ready to harvest early. If making garlic braids is your top priority, plant California Late White. You’ll get a stronger flavor with this garlic, and it does better in warm climates than the Early variety.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardnecks (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. These are the garlics that some compare to wines with subtle differences that reflect the regional soil and weather patterns. One simple benefit to the cook is the way some of their skins slip off smoothly. Hardnecks do not store as long as softnecks—cure them, eat them within 6-10 months, and get to know their distinctive flavors. Spanish Roja’s flavor in particular is rich and classic—it does have a shorter shelf life, of 3-4 months, so go ahead and enjoy this best seller early.

Elephant Garlic

This big guy is technically in the leek family, but you’d never know by the look or the taste. Kids love harvesting this giant of the garlic patch, and it keeps well too, with a mild flavor.

Storing Garlic

Garlic keeps best at 32-40 degrees with a relative humidity of 60-70. If you need help keeping tabs on the temperature and humidity in your storage area, try the Humiguide Thermometer or Digital Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer.

Garlic Combo Pack

Still can’t decide? That’s why Grow Organic created a Garlic Combo Pack, to let you try a little of this and a little of that—at a bargain price! It’s a gastronomical delight featuring organic California Early White softnecks, organic Russian Red and organic Purple Italian hardnecks, a conventional Elephant garlic, and even some organic French Red Shallots for delicate flavors.

A Garlic Book

Ron Engeland’s popular book, Growing Great Garlic is the ultimate guide for the organic garlic grower; in addition to practical advice, you’ll learn more about garlic in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

For more information on garlic watch our videos on Growing Garlic and Garden Planning & Crop Rotation. Get the scoop on Music, their most popular of the hardneck garlics. Learn how to grow garlic and its allium cousins with their article on What to Plant in Your Winter Garden.

Welcome to the World of Seed Garlic!

Plant some garlic this year, keep track of what you like, and experiment with new varieties in the years ahead. Once you start growing garlic at home you’ll be spoiled by having your own cured garlic to cook with, in such a range of flavors.

6 Amazing Vegan Brunch Recipes

Quinoa Porridge

Serves: 1

   1 cup unsweetened almond milk
   1/3 cup quinoa flakes
   1 tablespoon vanilla extract
   1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
   1/4 teaspoon ginger
   1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
   3 to 4 dried prunes, chopped (or other dried fruit)
   1 tablespoon maple syrup
   1 tablespoon raw sliced almonds

Bring almond milk to a boil in a pot over high heat. Add quinoa flakes, return to a boil, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Add vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and prunes and cook another 30 seconds, continuing to stir. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add maple syrup, mix well, and sprinkle with almonds.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Tofu Whip

Serves: 2 to 4

Maple Tofu Whip:
   1 (12.3-ounce) package non-GMO firm tofu
   1/4 cup maple syrup
   1 cup spelt flour
   1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
   2 teaspoons baking soda
   1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
   1/3 cup organic pumpkin purée (canned is fine)
   1 tablespoon maple syrup
   1 tablespoon vanilla
   1 cup almond milk

1. Drain tofu by placing it between two plates and setting a heavy pot cover on top of the top plate. Let sit for an hour, then blend tofu and maple syrup in a blender for about 30 seconds, until completely smooth.
2. Blend all pancake ingredients in a blender. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and ladle in batter by the quarter cup. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip using a spatula, even out (or thin out) pancakes with the spatula, and cook for two to three more minutes.
3. Top warm pancakes with tofu whip.

Sweet Potato Tempeh Hash

Serves: 2


   2 sweet potatoes, cubed
   2 tablespoons chopped onion
   1 clove garlic, minced
   1 tablespoon olive oil
   1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
   6 ounces tempeh, cubed
   1 cup vegetable broth
   1 teaspoon paprika
   1 tablespoon soy sauce
   Salt and pepper, to taste
   2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potato in a lightly oiled or nonstick pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
2. In a wok over medium-high heat, sauté onion and garlic in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add pepper, tempeh, and a bit of broth and stir frequently for 2 minutes. (Keep broth handy and always have 1/2 to 1 centimeter of broth at the bottom of the wok.) Add sweet potatoes and paprika, and slowly add remaining broth until it has all been absorbed by the tempeh and potatoes. Then add soy sauce, salt, pepper, and parsley. Mix well and serve.

Carrot Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese

Serves: 6 to 12

   2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
   6 tablespoons water
   1 cup sugar
   1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
   1 cup flour
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
   1/2 teaspoon ginger
   1/4 teaspoon salt
   2 cups shredded carrots
   1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
   1/2 cup raisins, optional
Maple Cream Cheese:
   1 (8-ounce) package vegan cream cheese, cold
   1/4 cup vegan margarine, cold
   1/4 cup maple syrup
   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a cupcake tin with wrappers or oil the tin well.
2. Mix flaxseed and water well, then beat with sugar and applesauce in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt and beat. When well blended, stir in carrots and, if desired, pecans and raisins.
3. Spoon batter into cupcake tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and let cool on rack completely.
4. Beat cream cheese and margarine in a large bowl until smooth. Add maple syrup and vanilla and beat again until smooth. If spread isn’t sweet enough for your liking, add up to 1/2 cup sweetener of choice and beat until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Serve muffins with cream cheese spread on the side.

Tofu Scramble

Serves: 2

   1 (12.3 ounce) package non-GMO firm tofu
   1 clove garlic, minced
   1/3 cup chopped onions
   1 cup chopped broccoli
   1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
   2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
   1 teaspoon paprika
   1 teaspoon ground saffron
   1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
   Salt and pepper, to taste
   1 cup shredded kale (stems removed)

1. Drain tofu by placing it between two plates and placing a heavy pot cover on top of the top plate. Let sit for at least an hour.
2. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, lightly brown garlic and onion, stirring frequently. Crumble tofu into pan and add remaining ingredients except kale. Stir frequently, until tofu reaches desired color, about 3 minutes. (If mixture becomes too dry at any point, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.) Reduce heat to low, add kale, and stir for 1 more minute. Serve with vegan toast and tempeh bacon, if desired.

Banana French Toast with Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter

Serves: 2

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Butter:
   6 tablespoons vegan dark chocolate chips
   4 tablespoons macadamia nut butter (or other nut butter)
   1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
   1 tablespoon vanilla extract
French Toast:
   1 banana
   1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
   1 tablespoon maple syrup
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   4 slices vegan bread
   1 tablespoon vegan margarine
   Fresh fruit, optional
   Chopped nuts, optional

1. Place all nut butter ingredients in the top of a double boiler and stir until melted and mixed well. (If you don’t have a double boiler, place a stainless-steel bowl on top of a pot of boiling water so that the bowl rests in the water but doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot, and melt the ingredients in the bowl.) Let mixture cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
2. Blend banana, almond milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla in a blender and pour mixture into a shallow plate. Soak bread in mixture for 1 minute, flip, and soak another minute. Add margarine to a skillet over medium heat and rotate pan so bottom is lightly coated. Add bread and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. To serve, top two slices of bread with a dollop of chocolate nut butter and fruit and nuts, if you like.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Salute Mother Earth on Her Day with Eco-Friendly Wine

When the work day is done and it’s time for laughter on the porch with friends, there’s no better accessory than a glass of good wine in your hand. Unfortunately, in these days of rapid climate change, conservation and the wine industry are increasingly at odds. Every time we buy a bottle now, there are lots of questions riddled with eco-guilt: Is it better to buy a glass bottle or paper box? Cork or no cork? Organic or biodynamic? Did this glass of wine displace precious wildlife?

“Viticulture has traditionally been concentrated in places with a Mediterranean climate, in countries such as Italy and Greece and in regions including California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys,” wrote Care2′s Kristina Chew. “As temperatures have risen and rainfall fluctuated and even lessened, growers in search of a suitable climate for their grapes have been moving to other areas, with huge implications for ‘habitat quality.’”

As I reported earlier this year, demand for cooler climate wines, like pinot noir, has grown over the past decade. As climate change causes California’s interior valleys to heat up, vineyards have begun to eyeball the cooler regions of Northern California and Southern Oregon–coincidentally the same limited regions where redwoods flourish. Putting wine lovers in the position of deciding whether their favorite beverage is more important than age-old trees.

Luckily, there are some wine makers that realize the importance of working in harmony with the planet, rather than in opposition to it. Recently, I had the opportunity to taste test some wines from just such an eco-conscious wine maker: Concha y Toro. What I found most impressive about these wines (besides the delicious taste) is the creative ways they’re working to preserve the land in and around their wineries.

The Wine

Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Chardonnay – I typically do not like chardonnay. I find it bitter and dry in the worst ways. But this chardonnay was a pleasant departure. Although the acid was still there, it was muted and palatable. The stronger flavor was of tropical fruit with a soft, clean mineral notes beneath. We enjoyed it with some grilled halibut and greens, and it was delicious.

Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – While I love all red wine, I’m typically a pinot noir kind of girl. I like my fruity wines, what can I say? This wine gave me another reason to consider Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner, however. The flavor was rich, but those fruity notes–cherry, black currant and dark plum–were still there to balance out the dryness. We enjoyed it with steak tips with a horseradish dipping sauce and sweet potato mash.

The Conservation

Wine production carries a significant water footprint, but with strong mitigation strategies in place, Concha y Toro uses 25 percent less water to produce a glass or wind than the estimated global average for the wine industry.

As the climate changes, Concha y Toro has chosen to place their newest vineyards in places that are naturally resistant to temperature changes. The “Riberas” or “riverbank” series is cultivated in areas with lower temperatures moderated by natural elements, like nearby rivers, elevation, and ocean breezes.

Like many wineries, Concha Y Toro is responsible for both cultivated and unplanted lands and forests. Rather than clearing these areas, the winery again seeks balance. Concha y Toro is committed to the conservation of 8,000 acres of Chilean native forest planted in harmony with their vines.

Lastly, the bottle. As of 2014, Concha y Toro has been able to reduce its carbon emissions by 3.3 tons, just by using lighter weight glass bottles.

[via Care 2]

Friday, April 18, 2014

20 Eco-Friendly Easter Egg Ideas

No plastic Easter eggs! Make that your mantra, and you’ve just banned quite a bit of the toxicity of Easter. Besides, you don’t need plastic Easter eggs, not when there are both beautiful, vegan alternatives to plastic eggs, and beautiful, creative, unusual ways to decorate traditional, edible Easter eggs.

Want something to fill with candy? This list has it. Want something extra fun and unusual to do with yet another carton of hard-boiled eggs? This list has it.

Vegan Easter Egg Alternatives

  • Egg carton Easter eggs. Bum a few cardboard egg cartons from a friend, and turn them into Easter eggs of your own.
  • Embroidery floss Easter eggs. These eggs made from embroidery floss or yarn are delicate, but quite beautiful.
  • Felt Easter eggs. Using Eco-fi felt (which is made from recycled plastic soda bottles), you can sew your own Easter egg stuffies. Decorate them with buttons and ribbons instead of dye.
  • Papier mâché eggs. These papier mâché Easter eggs are a favorite of mine; the kids can paint them, they’ll last forever, and they hold treats!
  • Pine cone Easter eggs. Painted pine cones make great Easter eggs. 
  • Rock Easter eggs. Rocks are just as fun to paint as eggs. 
  • Upcycled book page eggs. Pages torn from broken books are transformed into three-dimensional eggs. 
  • Wooden eggs. Wooden eggs are fairly easy to source, and you can do so much with them–paint them, color on them with Sharpies, decoupage them, glue on buttons or photos. Your imagination is the limit.

Other Easter Egg Alternatives

  • Felted wool Easter eggs. When my kids were too young to decorate Easter eggs, these Mama-made felted wool Easter eggs were just the thing–big, soft, and colorful! 
  • Felted wool sweater Easter eggs. Sew Easter egg stuffies from prettily patterned wool sweaters. Here’s how to felt wool sweaters.
  • Hollow chocolate Easter eggs. Use the embroidery floss technique above, but substitute melted chocolate–yum!

Natural Easter Egg Decorating

  • Blown-out eggs. Decorate them however you’d like when you’re finished; blown-out eggs will keep beautifully indefinitely.
  • Earth Paint Easter egg dye. Natural Earth Paint makes an Easter egg dye kit that uses the same natural ingredients that you’d use to make your own Easter egg dyes, but in a quick and easy kit form. 
  • Homemade natural dyes experiment. What color would the spices in your pantry turn an egg? Now’s the time to find out! 
  • Plant silhouettes. These dyed eggs show the delicate silhouettes of leaves, stems and flowers. 
  • Ruby eggs. Why dye the eggshell, when you can dye the egg itself? These hard-boiled eggs are dyed in beet juice, so they turn out beautiful and fun, but with no unwanted synthetic chemical coloring. If you use natural food coloring, you can dye your peeled eggs in even more colors. And if you’re still hankering for even more egg dyeing fun, check out Green Living Ideas for more natural egg dyeing tutorials. 
  • Vegetable-dyed Easter eggs. There’s nothing but wholesome, food-based pigment in this dye. Secret tip: to get a beautiful crimson color even more vibrant than food coloring could yield, use yellow onion skins.

Upcycled Easter Egg Decorating

  • Melted crayon Easter eggs. Use up your broken crayons to decorate eggs with a marbling effect.
  • Silk tie Easter eggs. Use those tacky silk ties to make beautifully patterned Easter eggs.
  • Tie-dyed Easter eggs. If you’ve got some junky old fabric scraps that you don’t want to use for anything, then use them to make these tie-dyed Easter eggs; fabric is the key ingredient to create that tie-dyed look on the eggs, but you don’t want to use your nice swatches, obviously.
[via EcoWatch]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

10 Incredible Vegan Recipes You Can Whip Up In 10 Minutes or Less

In today’s modern age of fast-pace everything, we tend to lose sight of what really matters — like quality, nutritious food, for instance. We aim for the convenient and least nutritious over the more healthier, wholesome (but longer to prepare) foods. Let’s take oatmeal for example: there’s the instant versus the slow-cooked oatmeal. The former is laden with sugar, salt, and other unnatural additives, while the latter is a bit longer to prepare, but contains little to no sodium or sugar (unless you decide to add them, of course) and has a myriad of benefits for you in the long run.

Translate that insight into other areas of a supermarket, such as the freezer aisle, and you’ve got yourself a unhealthy crisis. And, since we’ve learned that big food industries aren’t looking out for our best interests, it’s about time we say bye-bye to these processed food giants and make our own foods at home. Here are some easy tips to minimize your consumption of processed foods.

But, it will require time — lots of time that I don’t have, you might say. Nope! That’s only if you want to, of course, but home-cooking does not have to take hours away from your day. It’s all about planning. Know what you want to buy the week or weekend beforehand; designate a day of each week to plan what you want to have for the next. Your next step should be to go to market and bring a shopping list for ingredients you might not have for your upcoming recipes. It should be easy from here. Here are 5 secrets for making quick and healthy vegan meals at home. Just choose a recipe and get cracking! Here are 10 recipes made under 10 minutes or less to get your creative juices flowing:




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Effective Natural Remedies to Cure Spring Allergies

Spring allergy is commonly used to refer to hay fever, a seasonal allergic rhinitis attack experienced by more than 35 million Americans every year as the season changes and many allergens start to blossom - during springtime. As pollens scatter and travel through air, people as far as hundreds of miles away unknowingly sniff them, triggering allergic reactions, such as sneezing, coughing, eye and nose irritation and runny nose.

Many over-the-counter medications for spring allergies are available at affordable prices. These drugs, nonetheless, can cause several side-effects and unnecessary expenses. Common side-effects include drowsiness, headache and occasional loss of appetite. Why bother experiencing them when there are scientifically proven natural remedies that can aid in fighting spring allergies?

You can try the following alternative treatments for safer and effective relief.

Garlic: On clinical studies, quercetin, a natural compound found in garlic and onion, is observed to mimic the antihistamine effect of certain drugs. When regularly added to the diet, spring may just pass without causing hassle sniffs.

Onion and apple are good sources too.

Cayenne pepper: Like garlic, it also contains quercetin that can act as antihistamine. But more than that, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent throat and nasal irritations. Some people prefer using cayenne pepper because the natural heat it produces in the body is said to comfort irritations caused by allergens.

Thyme: This herb is proven to be an effective natural expectorant that can relieve phlegm production during the onset of spring allergies. Even some drugs add it to their components for much more effective decongestion benefit. It also has high antimicrobial properties that aids in fighting infections caused by phlegm.

To experience its benefits, drink a tea made from fresh thyme twice a day or buy prepared brands that preserve the natural properties of the plant without altering its chemical components.

Chamomile: A healthy and delicious drink, chamomile tea can also relieve itchiness and dryness of the eyes. By placing a cold tea bag for five to 10 minutes, you will feel the immediate effects against allergic reaction.

Elderberries: This fruit is insanely high in antioxidant content and phytonutrients that are best used against flu. As it strengthens the immune system, it also makes recovery from cold faster. Its anti-inflammatory effects can be experienced by drinking fresh juice or even wine made from real fruits.

Chicken soup: Medical experts considered this as a mere hoax until a year ago when a research showed surprising benefits to the recovery rate of subjects experiencing the common cold. Since spring allergy triggers nasal fluid build-up, it is a smart idea to have chicken soup not only on a rainy day but during springtime as well.

Neti pot: Oprah considers this product as one of her favorite things because of its fast action against clogged nasal passages due to allergens. Cheap and natural, it safely soothes the passage using sterile water and a dash of salt.

Acupuncture: This ancient art of healing is said to relieve swollen nasal passages at a faster rate than some herbs do. Acupuncture is also said to strengthen the immune system; thus, strengthening the body's defense against spring allergies, or any kind of allergy for that matter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Organic Gardening: 10 Tips to Success

Organic gardening is the method of gardening that utilizes only materials derived from living things, ie. all natural plant foods and pesticides. Once you know the basic tenets of this practice, organic vegetable gardening is simple. And the payoff is enormous: no toxic chemicals, no waste, better for the environment as a whole, and not to mention a crop full of natural, delicious vegetables. Remember these 10 steps and you'll have a successful crop in no time!

Soil. It all begins here. Amending your soil with organic material such as composted manure or yard and kitchen scrap compost will get your dirt off to a good start. The inclusion of organic material provides a solid basis of nutrients for your plants which helps to cut down on the need for commercially made fertilizers and improves soil structure making it easier for your plant to absorb the important minerals they need. Sandy soil will not hold its moisture well. Heavy clay soil may prove too dense for healthy root development.

Fertilizer. In addition to compost, your plants will enjoy a healthy dose of other organic foodstuffs like worm poop and pee (we call this worm tea), eggshells, Epsom salts, bone meal, blood meal...the list goes on, but the key word is all-natural. Mother Nature knows what she's doing and these sources provide essential vitamins and minerals for your plants.

Beneficial insects. When planning your garden, educate yourself on which plants repel insects, which plants invite them, and what each bug eats. For instance, ladybugs eat aphids, which is a good thing because aphids will suck the life from just about any plant! By inviting ladybugs into your garden you are employing a natural form of pest control and not toxic chemicals.

Layout. When designing your garden, it's important to adhere to spacing guidelines for your plants. By keeping them close, their leaves will shade the ground beneath them. This not only cuts down on weed growth, but also helps the soil retain water, cutting down on water usage. Organic gardeners are excellent custodians of the environment. Too close, and you'll invite the growth of fungus and disease.

Companion planting.
Including a wide variety of plants in your garden and planting them according to their relationship with others helps in many ways. For instance, bean plants fix nitrogen into the soil, which corn plants use to produce healthy cobs. Corn provides support for the climbing vines of the bean family. Add squash to the base and you have instant weed control!

Crop rotation. This is the practice of rotating a plant's location from season to season. Relocating your plants cuts down on soil depletion and disease infestation. In addition, plants like beans will actually put nutrients into the soil that can be used by the next crop, ie. corn. Disease will be reduced because the organisms that infect one plant pose no harm to the next, so rotating eliminates the likelihood a disease will spread.

Conserving water is a key component of organic gardening. Good watering practices include the capturing and storing of rain, the use of drips hoses, and plenty of mulch. With a sprinkler system, a large amount of water can be lost to evaporation. If sprinklers must be used, it's best to water in the early morning or early evening hours. Using mulch around your plants is another way to conserve water because it keeps the soil moist longer, requiring less water to be used.

Weeds. Weed removal is best done by hand, without the use of chemicals. While tedious, this duty can be cut down tremendously by the use of smart planting. Remember, keeping plants close helps prevent weed growth. Natural mulch is another great method. Not only does it help prevent weeds, it has the added benefit of providing nutrients into the soil as it breaks down.

Cover crops. These are the plants you grow in between seasons. They help to replenish the soil with vital nutrients and prevent soil erosion. They can also be used to feed the beneficial insects in the absence of your vegetable crop and keep weeds at bay.

Seeds. Organic gardening is all about using sustainable methods and what better way to be self-sustaining than to use your own seeds! The practice of saving seeds has been around for centuries and ensures you "know what you grow." But to ensure purity and avoid cross-pollination, you must keep some distance between the same plants of different varieties. You don't want to be disappointed when you plant those tomato seeds next year and discover the result is a hybrid--and not the decadent beefsteak tomato you were looking forward to. Only heirlooms can produce the original fruit, not hybrids.

Organic vegetable gardening is all about sustainable practices. It's conservation at its best, because you are using what you have and what you can find in nature. From fall leaves to leftover food, you waste nothing in an organic garden. Plants help each other, insects play a role...why even Mother Nature helps by delivering an extra shot of nitrogen in every rain drop!

But more than being a good steward of the environment, organic gardening makes for a healthier you.