Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Tomato Issues

Blosson End Rot

Blossom End Rot – Photo by A13ean Use licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

Last year when we planted our tomatoes we had high hopes of having sufficient fruit to make a ton of spaghetti sauce to get us through the year. What we didn’t know is that the soil we had was not good enough. Our plants grew tall, almost 6 feet. They were full and bushy with tons of small fruit and flowers. But before the fruit could grow full size and ripen…the bottom end, the blossom end furthest from the stem developed a black, sunken, leathery patch!

Upon research I learned that the condition is known as Blossom End Rot. This is most commonly caused by soil lacking in calcium and lack of consistent watering. It can also be triggered in the earliest set fruits if the soil is too cold or the plant is not sufficiently hardened off.

There are all kinds of chemical fertilizers to handle this issue, and if that is the route you want to take then please ask questions of the people at your local nursery or plant store. They should be able to direct you. But for me personally, I do not eat anything I cannot pronounce (meaning applied to the plant, absorbed by the plant, then consumed by me) or known to be chemical (man made).

What I have done is to dig the hole for the plant slightly deeper than is normal. At the bottom of the hole I added powdered milk, lime, and crushed eggshells. About ½ inch of dirt was then placed above that, and then the plant. Around the base of the plant I sprinkled crushed eggshells to slowly leach additional calcium into the soil with each additional rainfall. The crushed eggshells also have the added benefit of stopping slugs from approaching the stem of the tomato plant, as they do not like the feeling of slithering over the sharp edges of the shells.  Through the season I can add powdered milk to the surface of the soil if it looks like even more calcium is needed.

To help combat the water end of the issue we have installed a sprinkler system (not perfected yet) and deeply mulched all the tomato plants to help protect the moisture from evaporating. As I write this we are in a heat spell with temps over 95 degrees Farenheit. The plants are looking great, the mulch and watering system seem to be working well. Our fruits are nearing full size and not one sign of the blossom end rot is here so far!

Check out my previous post on Tomatoes – Solanum lycopersicum

Why Garden Now?

The 2012 Garden

The 2012 Garden

Around this country, in fact around the world this is a time of great upheaval and change. The economy of almost every nation is at risk, and the everyday people of the nations are in even greater jeopardy. In Europe…Ireland, Portugal, and Spain (among others) have hit a period of economic turmoil. In Greece they are fighting a period of austerity to be ‘saved’ financially by the European Union.

As ordinary citizens we are being forced to find new ways of surviving this period. Many of us are without jobs, and even without unemployment benefits. Many of us may lose homes, spouses, families, security, and/or all loving support. One of the things that I have been advocating for several years is the return to the coping methods of the WWII period. It was strongly encouraged during this period to grow what was then known as a Victory Garden.  If people are not hungry, they can cope with other issues with more clarity of mind, and less despair.

Back in June of 2010 I wrote and published the following piece on just this subject….

“During World War II when food and so much else was rationed, people made their ration stamps for food go further by growing Victory Gardens. Today when there is so much pressure on us all to cut back our family budgets, going back in time and revisiting the Victory Garden seems a wise idea. If we just shuffle through our memories from last summer we would dredge up the salmonella scare on fresh fruits and vegetables. By growing our own, we eliminate that threat to our families. Two very good reasons to plan a garden now…. plant it…. tend it…. and harvest it.

It is time to stop complaining about rising food costs and try and do something for our own benefit for a change. It is time to stop looking to the government and big brother for the next fix. Our new president is doing everything in his power to help the American people come through this economic crisis. They are even planting a garden on the White House grounds this season…If the Obamas can do it, why can’t you?

An idea I was toying with was encouraging everyone to write Mr. President, request him to remind people about the Victory Gardens of the WWII era, and ask him to encourage the American people to follow his lead in just that effort. The rest of us can go to our local Town Councils and ask for Community Garden Space to be made available. We can grow more than we need, and knock on the single mothers door down the street, or the aged guy in the apartment complex where your elderly mother lives (you know the kind of people I mean!) and share your produce. Some food banks even accept produce that is locally grown, call, and find out if your excess can feed someone else this year. Someday you may need the same help!

Many of us have already cut expenses to the bone…. we own no credits cards, no loans, drive as little as possible, cut the car insurance back to state legal limits, have cut off cable or satellite TV, and have started our own Victory Garden…. We are making the effort to conserve…how about joining us?

Some sites that have recipes from that time period are listed below…

            Barefoot in the Kitchen … wonderful list of recipes used during the Depression Era

The 1940’s Experiment offers a large number of recipes also…

Colleen Moulding has put together a site of Frugal Recipes from Wartime Britain

My husband and I have been working on expanding our garden. We have done a ton of hard work, and have more to go. The garden has doubled in size since last year. The varieties of plants have grown, and some plants neither of us have ever grown are experiments in the garden this time. Come help us sort through a garden of fresh produce…medicine and food from one source! All summer maybe I can share our plants, our trials and solutions, and our eventual outcomes!

Let Food Be Thy Medicine

Way back in ancient times Hippocrates (born 460AD) wrote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” What a wonderful concept!

Before the new age of commerce, supermarkets, and mass marketing most folks ate much more simply. They either grew what they ate, or purchased what they ate from a local farmer. They cooked it themselves, from scratch…no prepackaged breads, cakes, or anything else. No mixes with questionable ingredients. When you grew and cooked your own food you knew what you were eating.

Yes, I know it takes longer, it takes a commitment, but you get more satisfaction from the work and effort you put in, and as a bonus your weight will drop, your health will surely increase and you can enjoy explaining to others how you accomplished what they could not!

When you cut out the excess salt (also called sodium, among other names, on the product label) you will find that your weight drops significantly because your body is no longer acting as the county water reservoir! For example: when I stopped drinking soda pop, I lost 30 pounds in 1 month! That was the only change I made at that point, I stopped drinking soda, and lost weight! So simple, yet so healthy!

By reducing the water weight and the caffeine load in my body I also reduced the negative impact on my heart and blood pressure both of those offenders had inflicted. But coming off the caffeine was interesting; I developed headaches at first, splitting headaches! What I found was that that the soda pop I was consuming had citric acid in it. So I added some lemon juice to the water I was drinking and ate a few oranges and strawberries, the headaches eased off.

By eliminating the soda pop I also lowered the amount of sugar I was consuming so I not only lost weight, I also slowed down the inevitable tooth decay and gum damage it can cause! Plus I found out later that these drinks contain high levels of phosphorus which can interfere with the absorption of calcium! My family has a history of osteoporosis; I needed my calcium for my bones!

Changing the diet from the processed foods like soda pops are just one small example of what it means to have foods be your medicine. Not only do we need to eliminate the offenders, we need to add the more positive foods to our diet regime. We need to learn new ways of preparation to eliminate the destruction of the nutrients before we even consume them. And finally we need to make that commitment I spoke of earlier; it is a commitment to ourselves. As Roger Williams, PhD said “The human body heals itself and nutrition provides the resources to accomplish the task.” Part of our commitment is to provide our bodies with the resources to heal itself and to then stay healthy!

Specific foods also help our bodies deal with specific ailments or disorders. So finding out what to eat to promote our health, depending on what is happening within our bodies is vitally important to our overall health.

Finally an ancient Ayurvedic Proverb…

When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.

When diet is correct medicine is of no need.

Colorado four o’clock – Mirabilis multiflora

Colorado 4 O'Clock
Colorado 4 O’Clock

This native perennial herb grows from southern California east to Colorado and south into Mexico. They are capable of growing on open ground or in rock crevices up 7500 ft above sea-level. The magenta flowers bloom after rains from April to September. Mirabilis means marvelous or wonderful in Latin, and the flowers reflect this meaning!

From prehistoric to modern times the Native Americans of the region have found the plant useful in medicine and as a dye plant. The Hopis used the roots of older plants to strengthen the blood of pregnant women. Teas were made to treat rheumatism, body swellings, colic, eye infections, muscle soreness, and indigestion.

The dried root was ground into flour and added to bread to reduce the appetite. The root was also chewed and the resulting juice swallowed by Medicine Men to obtain healing trances and visions.

Navajo weavers would boil the flowers to make a light brown or purple color for dying their sheep’s wool.

Yule Log

The Yule Log
The Yule Log

The Druids would bless a log and keep it burning for 12 days during the winter solstice; part of the log was kept for the following year, when it would be used to light the new yule log. For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them.

The Yule log is also a symbol of honor and respect paid to the spirits of the forest. A large, fine log was selected and decorated with pine cones and evergreens, and placed ceremoniously in the family hearth. It was then lit with a piece of last year’s Yule log as a symbol of the return of the sun.

Today, when many do not have the fireplace to burn a true log a cake is made to represent this old tradition. The cake is often a sponge cake made thin, iced and rolled. The outside of the rolled cake is then iced to look like a log.

Yule Log


  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mocha Cream Filling:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

Mocha Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons milk


  1. Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Place egg whites in a small mixing bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks on high until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until thick and lemon-colored. Combine flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to egg yolk mixture until blended.
  2. Beat egg whites on medium until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Stir a fourth into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining egg whites until no streaks remain.
  3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back (do not over bake). Cool for 5 minutes; invert onto a linen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Peel off parchment paper. Roll up in the towel, starting with a short side. Cool on a wire rack. In a mixing bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and coffee granules. Beat until stiff peaks form; chill. Unroll cooled cake; spread filling to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Place on serving platter; chill.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat frosting ingredients until smooth. Frost cake. Using a fork, make lines resembling tree bark.

Plum Pudding

Christmas Pudding (by Matt Riggott frm Edinburgh, Scotland)
Christmas Pudding (by Matt Riggott frm Edinburgh, Scotland)

Plum Pudding is a traditional boiled pudding heavy with suet, dried fruit, and nuts. It is a dessert that is traditionally served on Christmas Day in England. The original recipes begin to appear in the 17th century and later. Its final form can be traced to Victorian England, but plum puddings origins can be traced back as far as the 1420’s. It began as a means of preserving meat. The chief ancestor is the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction, which originated in Roman times. At that time it was a dish of preserved meat, thickened with bread and full of currants.

A Sussex Recipe for Christmas Pudding



To make two 1-pint (0.56 litres) puddings (remember: use the same measurements throughout (imperial or metric))

½ pound (lb) (225g) raisins

¾ lb (340g) currants

½ lb (225g) sultanas

½ lb (225g) sugar (or less)

¾ lb (340g) shredded suet (can be vegetarian; see note below)

½ lb (225g) breadcrumbs

¼ lb (110g) crystallised peel

2 teaspoons (tsp) cinnamon

2 oz (55g) almonds (chopped, but not too small)

1/3 cup (about 60g) flour

1/3 pint (about 190ml) milk

3 large eggs (beaten)


Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1/3 of a nutmeg


1.Mix and stir well.

2.Place in pudding basins, and cover with cloths or buttered greaseproof paper, tied tightly in place with string.

3.Steam for 7 hours and keep till Christmas day.

4.To prepare for serving, steam for 2 hours. Times can be reduced by using a pressure cooker


Suet can be difficult to find in some countries, e.g. the USA. Butter is an excellent substitute. To incorporate the butter in the mixture, melt it in a microwave or saucepan, and pour into your mixing bowl.

It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver 3d piece (the threepence), or a sixpence. However this practice fell away once real silver coins were not available, as it was believed that alloy coins would taint the pudding.

Once turned out of its basin, the Christmas pudding is traditionally decorated with a spray of holly, then dowsed in brandy, flamed, and brought to the table ceremonially – where it should be greeted with a round of applause. It is best eaten with brandy butter, cream (lemon cream is excellent) or custard. Christmas puddings have very good keeping properties and many families keep one back from Christmas to be eaten at another celebration later in the year.

The Wassail Bowl

“Here’s to thee, old apple tree
Whence thou mayest bud
Whence thou mayest blow
Whence thou mayest bear apples enow.”

-Wassailing Songs, England, January 5th

The tradition of the Wassail started in pagan times in England and Europe to awaken the apple trees. It was used to encourage a bountiful harvest the following year, it often occurred around Yuletide. The Wassail Queen would often be lifted up into the tree to place pieces of toast, soaked in the wassail punch, into the branches of the tree. The toast and Wassail was an offering to the tree spirits and a reminder to the apple of what to do. The Queen would also recite an incantation that went something like this:

Here’s to thee, old apple tree,
That blooms well, bears well.
Hats full, caps full,
Three bushel bags full,
An’ all under one tree.

Hurrah! Hurrah!

The term Wassail comes from the Middle English wæs hæil, meaning good health, and was used as a salute during the ceremony.

Apple Wassail Bowl

6 small tart apples, cored and sliced (leave the skin on)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 quart apple cider
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, + some for sprinkling
1/4 cup granulated sugar ( or sugar substitute)
4 thin lemon slices

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10 x 6 x 1 1/2-inch baking pan.
  2. Core the apples and slice into rings, arrange in pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, sprinkle of cinnamon and bake in preheated oven until tender. Set aside.
  3. Just before serving, pour cider in saucepan and heat to just below boiling point. Stir in remaining ingredients over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Remove lemon slices. Pour mixture into punch bowl.
  5. Garnish with apple slices.

Makes 12 servings.

Wassail Bowl (from Wikpedia)

Wassail Bowl (from Wikpedia)