Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.

Buying Fresh Vegetables

 

I am a gardener and have been lucky enough to enjoy fresh garden grown vegetables for years. Fresh, as in just picked from the garden. Each harvested vegetable bring back memories of my childhood. I learned to garden as a kid in a NYC garden in Crotona Park in the ’60s. My brother and I spent several enjoyable summers growing, picking and eating just about anything that could be grown. The double benefit was I also learned to cook fresh food because of it. In season, we would each come home with two shopping bags full of fresh fruits and vegetables. What wasn’t eaten raw, my grandmother would prepare for dinner so we learned how to shuck, simmer and sauté a whole host of things.

Here are some tips on buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, apples and most things are easy, just check for bruises and firmness. Take a good sniff. Does it smell earthy or fragrant? Look at the stem (many places remove them). If the stem appears old or shriveled, it hasn’t been freshly picked. Kiwis past their prime will be bald and dark brown while still being firm. Avocados will be very soft. Mangos will be soft and wrinkled. Greens (mustard/turnip/spinach) will have slimy leaves in the bunch, yellowing leaves, and the stems will be trimmed very short. Lettuces/cabbages (red leaf, green, endive, etc) will have a lot of dark spots on the edges of the leaves, browning on the stems, and the root stump will be trimmed very short.

Always wash your produce no matter where you get it. Even if it’s organic, free range or GMO-free. Wash it and, if appropriate, throw it in your refrigerator.  Some things, like green tomatoes, will continue to ripen on your counter. Unfortunately, my green tomatoes don’t last long  because I love fried green tomatoes, grits and scrambled eggs. Store bought stuff is usually just picked and packed. So you may want to soak it to remove as much bugs and dirt as you can.

Sometimes over-sized produce isn’t always a good buy. Larger produce that’s normally solid inside will become hollow due to the size and when it does, the cavity begins to rot. This is fairly common during a rainier seasons. The two worst offenders are strawberries and potatoes.

CornucopiaSure, you can buy canned but why should you when you can get fresh (frozen clearly a second choice).  There is usually some place in the world  growing what you want, so you can get it at the local market. With that said, be price conscious. Do you really need watermelon in December when it’s half that price in-season. Best to buy local and in-season. Learn to adjust your tastes a bit. It also supports the local economy and you know, a rising tide raises all boats.

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Filed under: CGCooks, CGGrows, Community Green, Food, Healthy Eating,

The Tomato Diaries

2394629_240624_tomato20for20letterhead

Tomato Tips

The first thing you will want to know is whether your tomato plant is determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato are bushier, have fruit that typically ripens around the same time and have a shorter growing season.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining, have fruit that ripens throughout the season and will typically grow until the first frost. Pick what’s best for you based on your reason for growing, available space (indeterminate tomatoes can climb to great heights!) and the length of your season.

Tip One

Soil has a great impact on how your tomatoes will turn out. The better you prepare the soil, the better they will grow. Consider Double Digging. Remove the top layer of soil and loosen the next layer with a garden fork. Mix compost into the top layer and return it to the top of the bed. Add compost as a top dressing before you plant. You should also side dress your tomatoes with compost near the base every few weeks.

Tip Two

Add calcium to the soil by adding egg shells. You can do this before planting. Save eggshells, let them dry, crush them and add them into the soil. After planting, sprinkle them on the ground to either side-dress existing tomato plants or bury in the soil before planting new seeds or transplants. The calcium in the eggshells provides nutrients to your plants keeping them healthy and protecting against blossom end rot. The eggshells can also help other members of the Nightshade family like peppers and eggplant.

Tip Three

You want your tomato plant to develop a strong and deep root system. To help with this, bury the transplant on its side. You will see little hairs on the plant near the soil line. All of these will develop into more roots for your plant. Add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to the bottom of the hole and cover with an inch of soil when you plant.

Tip Four

When you start to see little, tiny tomatoes sprouting, prune your plants. Prune from the bottom up, removing all the leaves below the first set of fruit. Remember most fungi, disease and pests attack the leaves and leaves near the bottom of the plant are most susceptible.

Tip Five

Prune on sunny days, during the hottest part of the day. The sun will help the plant to heal the wound faster, lessening the chance of disease and pest. Only prune your plants once a week, so they don’t get stressed.

Tip Six

Basil and tomatoes taste delicious when eaten together, but they also help each other out in the garden. Plant tomatoes next to basil, peppers, borage and marigolds for better flavor and pest protection.

Tip Seven

Feed your tomato plants weekly or bi-weekly starting as soon as they have their first set of true leaves (the leaves that look like tomato leaves; they will start forming right after the first two leaves sprout). If your tomatoes aren’t ripening, they are most likely hungry and need to be fed.

Tip Eight

Harvest the unripe tomatoes before pulling out your tomato plants at the end of the season. You can let your tomatoes ripen sitting next to a sunny window or make fried green tomatoes!

Filed under: CGGrows, Community Green, Food, Gardening, Healthy Eating, , ,

The Tomato Diaries – About Tomatoes

2394629_240624_tomato20for20letterheadWelcome to the Tomato Diaries:

There are hundreds of tomato varieties from tiny cherry to huge beefsteaks. Tomatoes are America’s favorite garden vegetable. Tomatoes are either indeterminate or determinate.  Indeterminate tomatoes sprawl but you will have to prune them or they will put too much energy into vine production. Indeterminate tomatoes produce until stopped by frost, disease, or lack of nutrients. Determinate or bush tomatoes set fruit over two-week period and stop. Tomato varieties are developed for slicing, canning, juicing, or stuffing and some produce extra early. There are varieties resistant to common tomato diseases and every type of climate.

Planting

If you grow tomatoes from seeds, they will germinate in about 1 week when the soil temperature is 75° – 85°. It will take 2 weeks at 60° for germination. Lots of folks start seeds indoors in a sunny spot near a south-facing window. Low light will make seedlings leggy and weak. Once seedlings emerge, water regularly  and keep the temperature no higher than 70°F.  Once a week feed with compost tea or fish emulsion.

When the first true leaves appear, transplant the seedlings to individual pots (plastic cups), burying the stems deeper than they stood previously. After transplanting, give the seedlings more sun and less water. Harden off the plants before planting them in the garden. Plant them where they will get full sun. When you transplant. do it on a cloudy day to lessen shock.

Make the planting holes larger than normal. Put several inches of sifted compost mixed with a handful of bonemeal in the bottom of the hole. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts into each hole for magnesium which promotes plant vitality and productivity. Try not to disturb the soil around seedling roots when you set them in the hole. Set the lowest set of leaves at soil level and fill the hole with a mix of compost and soil. Many gardeners like to plant the stem horizontally in a shallow trench so that only the top leaves show. Strip off the leaves along the part of the stem that will be buried. This may produce more fruit. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: CGGrows, Community Green, Food, Gardening, Healthy Eating, , ,

Fordham University Students Cleanup Bissel Gardens

An absolutely wonderful group of students from Fordham University came out to Bissel Gardens on April 8 for our 1st Spring Cleanup this year. They did a fantastic job. We appreciate their help and realize we couldn’t get planting this year without them.

Bissel Gardens has Volunteer Cleanups every 2nd Saturday of the month thru November and opportunities for new gardeners, especially veterans. Why don’t you join us!

Email Chuck Vasser for more info.

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Filed under: Bissel Gardens, CGGrows, Community Gardens, Community Green, Environment, Events, Gardening, It Takes A Village

The Tomato Diaries

2394629_240624_tomato20for20letterheadWelcome to the Tomato Diaries: I am going to plant 6 different tomato varieties, from Beefsteak to Cherry, this year. I will duplicate the plantings in 5 gallon buckets and compare the results. The Tomato Diary will keep you updated and provide tips on growing great tomatoes. Let’s begin with one of the most common complaints and concerns about tomato growing.

Why Tomato Plants Split

A tomato split (or crack) is caused by the tomato plant absorbing water too quickly.  The inside expands but skin can’t stretch to accommodate the extra fluid.  So, the skin splits and heals up.

This can happen for a few reasons

  1. You forget to water regularly and the soil gets to dry.  Then you finally remember and water a lot to make up for it or it rains.  The plant drinks up the water super fast and the skin splits.
  2. Your water regularly (everyday after work) but it is extremely hot today.  The soil evaporates and the plants dry out.  When you get home from work and water, the plants absorb the water too quickly and the tomatoes split.
  3. Your soil is sandy and does not have enough organic matter to hold water.  The plants dry and the next time it rains the plants absorb water too quickly and the tomatoes split.

You can prevent tomato splits

  1. Maintain soil moisture by watering frequently and deeply. This will decrease the chances of rain splitting your tomatoes.
  2. Maintain soil moisture covering the soil with mulch. This will prevent the water from evaporating.
  3. Don’t over fertilize to prevent the plant from growing too quickly.
  4. Choose more resistant varieties if you live in a hot climate.

You can eat split tomatoes

You can eat tomatoes with splits. You should pick them as soon as possible.  They don’t last as long because of the weakness in the protective skin.  Just cut out the affected area and enjoy.

Filed under: CGGrows, Community Green, Food, Gardening, Healthy Eating, , ,

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It takes more than a village to raise a child in today's world. The world is more than flat or round or sun and moon. It's also the village on the other side of the river. The objects in the sky are different from that view. Community Greens, griot-like, tells a story. I invite you to share my view.

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