Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Favorite Gardening Shows

Ninety percent of all the shows we watch on TV are public television.  For us, that is OETA on channel 13 out of Oklahoma City.

We enjoy Nature and Nova.  And, we watch a lot of the British mysteries, such as Masterpiece Mystery, few of which are as graphic or gruesome as most of the American produced shows.  Yet, they are, in many ways, much more challenging intellectually because of the complicated plots they usually involve.  

Gardening shows rank high on our favorites list, as well.  We greatly enjoy Growing a Greener World.  It features ideas for organic gardening and green living.  Many of the episodes feature a segment where a Chef Nathan (my idol!) prepares easy farm-to-table recipes.  If you click on the Episodes tab at the top of the above link, it will take you to a list of the seasons that have shown so far.  Scrolling through these, you will see the episodes.  Clicking on any of the episodes will allow you to watch them in their entirety.  

Here are some of my favorites:

  • The New Generation of Farmers   This show was so inspiring for me.  It features young people and some older ones, as well, who have left their cushy corporate jobs to pursue a more meaningful lifestyle growing clean healthy food without using chemicals or pesticides.  All the while, keeping it close to home where they can offer their communities the freshest food available that has not been brought in from foreign countries or trucked thousands of miles.  
  • Brooklyn Grange   This episode features a group of young people who have created very productive farms on top of buildings in New York City.  I was fascinated at how they managed to produce tons of fresh, organic produce in the middle of a large city.
  • Veteran Farmers   This show was emotionally moving because it featured Veteran’s Farm where returning veterans are trained in sustainable farming and organic methods of production.  Not only does this help create a meaningful career for these vets after returning from duty, it also helps them overcome many of the traumas they faced while overseas by giving them peaceful, quiet surroundings to live and work in, which in turn gives them a chance to work through some of the issues they returned home with.
  • There are many others, such as Chicken Keeping 101, How to Make Compost, Solitary BeesBackyard Bees and Polyface Farms.  You can find many more by scrolling through the list of episodes on the Growing a Greener World website. 
Of course, we watch Oklahoma Gardening which is produced by Oklahoma State University.  Their website is a wealth of information and many of these shows are available online, as well.

My newest favorite gardening show is Food Forward which deals with many of the issues facing us today, such as  Quest for Water , Food Waste, and Making School Lunches Healthier.

I hope you will check out some of the links above and find them as enjoyable and inspiring as I have.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


We meet the most interesting people at the farmers' market.  Some of them are customers; some of them are fellow vendors.  Some of these acquaintances turn into lasting friendships.  For example, there is Cindy (the veterinarian and foodie), Sarah (the chef), and Shonna (the beekeeper). 

The newest member of the market, and who is assigned the space next to us, is named Susan.  Susan is an auditor for the state, but she enjoys gardening, enough so that she has extra to sell.  She joined the market this spring and, like us, does not use any pesticides in her garden.   So, we hit it off right away.  

A few weeks ago she brought a jar of kombucha to the market and was giving out samples.  This was my first introduction to this strange drink.   If you have never heard of this, it is fermented tea.  Yes, you read that correctly.....TEA.  I was intrigued and she offered to give me the jar she brought to the market as a starter so I could begin brewing my own.  Here's what she gave me.

The layer of material on top is called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), also known as a mother.  It is a rubbery disk that floats on top of the tea as it ferments and closely resembles a byproduct of vinegar-making, also called a mother.  The fact that both kombucha and vinegar produce similar mothers should give you a clue about how kombucha tastes.  Once it is brewed, it has a tart and sour taste similar to vinegar, but it is also fizzy and, depending on how much sugar you add, slightly sweet, as well.

The SCOBYs form in layers as the kombucha is fed.  If you look closely, you can see older SCOBYs in the bottom of the jar.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.  So, let me go back and explain how I started my own kombucha.

I bought a gallon-sized jar with a spout, organic sugar and loose-leafed tea.

I use organic sugar, to keep the kombucha as pure as possible.  You could just as well use regular sugar and regular tea bags.

I took the SCOBYs out of the jar and reserved a cup of the kombucha.  I saved a couple of the SCOBYs in the rest of the kombucha in case I messed up and needed an extra one to start over.

Next, I brewed 4 cups of strong tea, to which I added 1 cup of sugar.  When this cooled to room temperature, I added it to the jar I had purchased (having washed the jar in the dishwasher first) along with a couple of cups of plain water.  The water you use should be non-chlorinated.  Then, I added the reserved cup of kombucha from the original batch.

Next, I peeled off one of the SCOBYs and added it to the jar.  

It sank into the liquid.

At this point, it had to sit for a week at room temperature while the mixture fermented.  It was obvious when fermentation started because bubbles began forming and rising to the top.  Also, a new SCOBY began to form on top.  

After a week, I tasted it.  It was okay and may have been fine for some folks, but I decided I wanted it a little stronger, so I let it sit a few days longer.  In the mean time, I bought another jar and divided the mixture in half.  To one half, I added 2 cups of tea, 1/2 cup of sugar and one of the extra SCOBYs I saved.  I began using the other half, drinking only small amounts each day....about 4 ounces.  How do you like my glass?  

So, now I have 2 batches of kombucha going.  One is brewing, while I am drinking on the other one.  

I am now doing what is called "continuous brew" meaning that I just keep adding sweetened tea every week to one jar, while I drink from the other jar.  However, at any point, I could brew a "batch" in the same manner that I did to begin with.

As you can see in the picture below, several layers of SCOBYs have formed and the bubbles indicate active fermentation.  Eventually, I will have to divide the SCOBYs and dispose of the older ones, either by feeding them to the chickens or giving them away to friends who want to make their own kombucha.

Kombucha is touted as having healing properties, but like any ferment it contains living bacterial cultures that may or may not agree with you.  So, it is best to start with small servings and see how it affects you.  The healing properties of kombucha may be attributed to the fact that it contains glucuronic acid, a compound produced by our livers which binds with various toxins for elimination.  

If you are interested learning more about  kombucha, you can find a lot of good information on the internet.  Here's a site with great information:  Kombucha Kamp.  Also, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is an excellent reference  book on, not only kombucha, but all kinds of foods made using fermentation, as well.

And, if you need a SCOBY to get you started, I have a bunch of them!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tomatillos with Salsa Recipe

One of the new things we are growing this year is tomatillos.  They look a bit like green tomatoes, but taste completely different and have a totally different growth habit.  Here's a tomatillo plant.

They have tiny yellow flowers.

The tomatillo fruits grow inside "husks" that dangle from the underside of the plant stems.

They are ready to pick when the fruit fills the husk and the husk begins to split.

I picked a bunch last week.  

Once the husk is removed, they look like small green tomatoes.

But, inside they don't look like tomatoes.  They look like this.

I made salsa with these.  The recipe I used is easy and requires only a few ingredients. 


1 pound tomatillos
3 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
1 jalapeno (more or less, depending on your taste)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
juice of 1/2 a lime
Salt to taste


Put the tomatillos, garlic cloves and jalapeno on a small sheet pan and roast at 425 degrees until they are soft.  They will char on top.  This is good and gives the salsa nice flavor.  Turn them a couple of times to get a good char on both sides.

When the tomatillos are soft and mushy, remove from oven and put in a food processor.  Peel the garlic cloves and remove stem and seeds from the jalapeno.  Put them in the food processor with the tomatillos.  Finally, add the onion and cilantro.

Run the food processor until everything is thoroughly chopped.  Add the lime juice and salt.  Pulse until incorporated.  Put in a small sauce pan, bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Cool.  Adjust seasonings to taste.