Monthly Archives: August 2010

Top 10 Vegetables for Home Gardeners

Tomatoes top the National Gardening Association‘s list of the Top 10 most popular vegetables grown by home gardeners. A whopping 86% of gardeners said they planned to grow tomatoes, when surveyed.

Here are the Top Ten and the percentages of people who said they planned to grow them:

1. Tomatoes (86%)
2. Cucumbers (47%)
3. Sweet peppers (46%)
4. Beans (39%)
5. Carrots (34%)
6. Summer squash (32%)
7. Onions (32%)
8. Hot peppers (31%)
9. Lettuce (28%)
10. Peas (24%)

On the bottom of the list? The lowly Rutabaga only had 1% of gardeners’ support.

Looking for other Gardening lists? See these for ideas about:

Top 10 Heirloom Vegetables to Try

Top 10 Vegetables for the Urban Garden

10 Shade-Loving Vegetables

Once you’ve been inspired to plant, you may want to check out my earlier post, How to Get Growing if You’re a Total Beginner. Tomato season may be winding down (though hope remains for my Oregon Spring cherry tomatoes and a relatively warm fall), so the Gardening Association suggests planting fragrant fall annuals such as snapdragon, stock (below), and sweet alyssum.

Photos: Jean-noël Lafargue (top), Susan Sachs Lipman

Poster: University of N. Texas Libraries

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Happy 50th Avenue of the Giant Redwoods

50 years may be a lot to us, but it’s a mere blip to some redwood trees, the oldest of which live 2,000 years. (Most live 500-700 years.)

Regardless, the Golden birthday is nothing to sneeze at, particularly in regard to the Avenue of the Giants Parkway,  the 32-mile-long road that stretches from Garberville to Scotia, a bit inland from the Northern California coast, that is home to some of the oldest-growth redwoods in the world.

Originally a stagecoach road, the Avenue of the Giants was officially dedicated by CA Governor Edmund G. Brown on August 27, 1960. It seemed that the new,  high-speed Highway 101 allowed the Redwood route to become, in Brown’s words, “a serene drive where kids and families can cross the road at will, where traffic moves at a far slower pace.”

Luckily for us!

I had always wanted to take this drive, which my family did last summer. It was amazing to be in a tunnel of truly majestic redwoods.

We also visited one of the three world-famous drive-through coast redwoods, which I’d seen on postcards most of my life.

We drove through the Leggett Chandelier Tree.

We also got to walk through it.

The whole area is rich with wonderful and strange tourist stops, like the One Log House and Hobbiton, USA, both in Phillipsville, and various redwood-themed amusements and artisan shops along Highway 101.

I highly recommend driving the Avenue of the Giants and Highway 101, perhaps in conjunction with a trip to San Francisco, or the northern CA or southern OR coast.

The Save the Redwoods League offers 50 ways to explore the Avenue of the Giants, including a downloadable audio tour.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market

We are blessed in the San Francisco Bay Area to have an abundance of farmer’s markets, many of which operate year-round. The thrice-weekly farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building provides a multiple blessing, with its huge array of fresh, local foods, and the possible added fun of a ferry ride across the bay, the Ferry Building shops, and the energy of city shoppers bustling through a farmer’s market. Here are some snaps from a recent visit:

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Blueberry Thursday: Blueberry Corn Muffins

In the spirit of keeping those summer fruit recipes coming, here’s a recipe that combines two wonderful high-summer favorites, blueberries and corn. These muffins are inspired by both the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook and the Williams Sonoma Muffins cookbook and bears a bit of each.

Preheat oven to 400. Line muffin tins with paper.

You’ll need:

1 C. flour
1 C. cornmeal
1/3 C. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1 C. buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 C. mild cooking oil, like canola

1 2/3 C. blueberries

Sift first 5 dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk, egg and oil.

Combine the wet into the dry ingredients, being careful not to mix too much. (This last is important for a pleasing texture.)

Fold in blueberries, just to combine.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin’s center emerges clean.

Let cool and enjoy these tasty, hearty muffins!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

How to Save Nasturtium and Other Seeds

I love nasturtiums and this summer I had a real cascade of them tumbling over the deck boxes in their bright colors and peppery scents. I went to weed them the other day and noticed that many had gone to seed and still many others had dropped their seeds on the deck. I gathered the seeds excitedly, figuring that since they were intact and recognizable as the nasturtium seeds I’d planted before, I should be able to save these for planting in the future.

I since found a couple of wonderful resources about seed saving.

Mr. Brown Thumb has a lot of great information about collecting nasturtium seeds, complete with a video. He says that larger seeds are best, and that it doesn’t matter if the seeds are brown or green. This is good news because I found plenty of both.

About.com has a lot of great information about seed saving in general, including which other seeds are good candidates for saving:

Methods and Timing for Saving Seeds

Always choose the best quality plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables from which to save seeds. Look for disease resistance, vigor, great flavor and productivity. Next year’s plants will only be as good as this year’s seed. Harvest seeds either:

  • When the seed pods have dried on the plant (flowers, beans, broccoli, lettuce…)Keep an eye on the pods as they start to brown. Most seed pods will open and disperse on their own. You can catch seed by placing small bags over the seed heads when they look ready to pop or by pulling the plant just before completely dry and storing upside down in a paper bag.

Storing Saved Seed

  • Make sure the seed is completely dry, or it will rot or mold in storage
  • Remove as much of the chaff as possible
  • Store in a paper envelope, labeled with the variety and year
  • Place the envelopes into an air tight container, such as a canning jar
  • Store in a cool, dark, dry place
  • Stored seed is best used the following year

What Seeds Can Be Saved?

Open Pollinated or heirloom, self-pollinated plants are the only varieties that will grow true from seed, meaning the seedlings will be exactly like the parents. These are the seeds worth saving.

Self-pollinated plants are the easiest to save and include: Beans, Chicory, Endive, Lettuce, Peas, Tomatoes. You can also save many heirloom flower seeds such as: cleome, foxgloves, hollyhock, nasturtium, sweet pea, and zinnia.

I dried my seeds on this old bulb storage crate from the Netherlands. It’s come in handy for all kinds of drying projects.

I stored my seeds according to the above guidelines. I’ll plant them next year and will let you know how they do.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman