Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Congrats to GG Winner - Plus, Fresh Food Tips From Readers

We're pleased to announce that Lara Zelman of Massachusetts has won a free, autographed copy of Grocery Gardening. Congratulations, Lara!

A warm thanks to all who participated in this random drawing. I loved reading everyone's favorite ways to eat fruits, vegetables and herbs. Although I know it wasn't easy to pick just one...

As Lara (@GoodCookDoris on Twitter) wrote, "So hard to choose a favorite! I love cilantro ... mixed up with fresh avocado and lime juice. It has such a bright, vibrant flavor."

Photo Credit: The Marmot on Flickr

Basil was a particularly popular herb, receiving most of the responses. Annica Janes (@rootsandflowers on Twitter) says she likes to grow "tons each summer and make it into pesto which I freeze in ice cube trays and then transfer to freezer bags. This way we have garden goodness all winter long." She tosses the pesto cubes into tomato soups or homemade pasta topped with chicken and roasted red peppers.

Sara uses basil with eggplant. "One of my favorite things from the garden this year," she wrote, "was a slice of grilled Japanese eggplant, with a tomato on top with fresh basil and some mayonnaise and garlic dolloped to hold it together." She said it tasted so good, "I couldn't stop eating them."

From California, Susie Johnson throws basil into her bruschetta, which she makes with hybrid 'Big Beef' tomatoes she grows herself in summer. Susie mixes together diced tomatoes, chopped basil, garlic, a bit of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and ground black peppercorns.  Then she toasts baguette slices and spreads them with soft feta cheese... before spooning this tomato mixture on top and serving this yummy dish.

Some folks just liked their produce plain and simple. Right off the vine. At the peak of their perfection, taste and nutritional value. And who can blame them for that?

But one of my favorite responses came from Alicia. She wrote, "It's nigh near impossible to pick ONE favorite fruit or vegetable, as most of them are so delicious and guess I must say onions, as they are so versatile, and so essential to so many dishes, adding so much flavor, variety and nutrition."

Alicia slices onions, separates the rings and sautes them. In fact, she puts this member of the Allium family in almost anything "but dessert."

Well, I must admit I agree with Alicia. Onions are the first thing I pull from my pantry when I begin almost any dinner. Yet, it's such a food staple, it's easy to take the old onion for granted. Experiment with different types of onions, like leeks too. Lovely leeks are one of my secret ingredients for vegetable soups. But don't tell anyone...

Thanks again everyone for participating!  Keep eating those fresh foods, regardless of the season.

Learn more about Grocery Gardening.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Bit of Valentine Folklore

"Oft have I heard both youths and virgins say
Birds choose their mates, and couple too, today."
Robert Herrick, 1648

As another Valentine's Day approaches, how much do you know about this day of love?

Personally, I didn't know much until I pulled out my old folklore books. So, if you've ever wondered how the year's most romantic day got started, then grab a cup of tea and keep reading. Here are some facts you might not have known about Valentine's Day.

Birds Not Saints: First off, history tells us those two obscure Saint Valentines from the fourth century -- who may have actually been the same person -- didn't have much to do with bringing the love connotations to Valentine's Day. For the romantic aspects, you need to look to the birds.

As far back as the fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer and other celebrated English and French writers believed that birds chose their mates on the feast of their patron Saint Valentine.

By Feb. 14, birds do start to reappear and repair their nests in some climates. So, the promise of spring renewal and fertility can be felt in the air around this time.  Plus, we've all heard the expression "the birds and the bees," although I don't see any mention of bees in this particular story.

Picking Valentines: In earlier times, Valentines were sometimes selected the night before. A group of young women and men would meet and write slips of paper with names on them. The slip you picked was your Valentine the next day ... and no cheating allowed.

On Valentine's Eve, it was also the custom to write names of prospective lovers on slips of paper. These were rolled into clay balls and dropped into a bowl of water. The first to rise to the top was your future Valentine.

"It is customary, alike for married as for unmarried people,
that the first person one meets in the morning ...
becomes one's Valentine."
Dutch visitor to London in 1663

There's also the centuries-old tradition that the first person of the opposite sex you see on Valentine's Day must become your Valentine. Not surprisingly, some would go blindfolded to the house of their desired sweetheart, so they didn't see the wrong person. Be sure to keep your eyes closed until the right one comes along too.

Valentine's Cards: The habit of sending romantic cards on Valentine's Day in the British Isles seems to have started in the mid-eighteenth century. The oldest known Valentine is in the Hull Museum and dates to 1750, writes historian Ronald Hutton.

In this post, the vintage Valentine's Day cards all came from RiptheSkull on Flickr. As I've mentioned before, she has a wonderful selection of old images. Go check them out if you haven't already, and tell her I sent you.

Don't forget, Valentine's Day is the last day to enter the contest for a free autographed copy of Grocery Gardening. Look for the winner to be announced soon! Thanks to all who participated...I became hungry just reading your responses.

Want to learn more about Valentine's Day? Drop by Nest in Style podcast for part two of our report on the "Gardening World and Social Media." In this episode, we talk with Steve Aitken, editor of Fine Gardening Magazine; plus, Joe Lamp'l and Theresa Loe of the upcoming PBS show Growing a Greener World.

Select Sources Used in Post:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Win Free Copy of Grocery Gardening!

Drumroll, please... Just in time for spring garden planning, Grocery Gardening is now on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, Home Depot and Lowe's. It's packed with tips for planting, preparing and preserving 25 of your favorite fruit, vegetables and herbs.

Eat local. Grocery Gardening guides you from planting the first seeds to preparing delicious meals to preserving produce for winter months. For those items you can't grow yourself, the book explains how to buy quality produce, while supporting your local farmers and communities. Nutritional facts are scattered throughout.

A community effort. You may remember the story about  how Grocery Gardening happened.  The four authors (above) met on Twitter, and used social media to reach thousands of readers before the book was finished. Readers contributed family recipes, personal photos and garden stories, while others provided real-time feedback from around the globe to the authors during the project.

Win a free copy. Enter to win an autographed copy of Grocery Gardening. Simply leave a comment for Seasonal Wisdom by Feb. 14 and tell us:
  • Your favorite fruit, vegetable or herb, and...
  • Your favorite way to eat it
That's it. Your responses can be a few words, if you'd like, but longer responses and delicious recipes are always welcome. The best comments will be featured in future posts and tweets.

The winner will be randomly selected on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.

It seems only fair to select the winner on this day as we're talking about the love of produce, after all.  We can't wait to hear your thoughts, and thanks to everyone who has contributed to this book so far.

Want more? Hear Jean Ann Van Krevelen of Cool Springs Press explain how social media was a driving force behind the creation of Grocery Gardening.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February Begins

Welcome February! Spring is coming, and I can't help craving flowers like the lovely ones photographed above by Isabel Gomes.

Did You Know? February gets its name from the Latin Februarius, which is derived from februa or "means of cleansing." This was probably due to the many purification rituals that occured this month in earlier times. Personally, I find February a great month for shedding winter weight, cleaning out wintery dust in my home, and celebrating the longer days by reviewing seed catalogs and preparing for spring.

Here's how Nicholas Breton described this month in 1626, using rather interesting spellings:

"It is now February and ... the Valleyes now are painted white
and the brookes are full of water...the trees a little begin to bud
and the sap begins to rise vp out of the root.
There is hope of a better time not farre off..."

Other Fun Facts about February:

The shortest month of the year often has the worst weather. An old proverb explains, "As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens."

Despite the frigid temperatures, many cultures from the Japanese to the Ancient Celts, celebrated the return of spring around this time because of the longer days and increased animal activity. Read more on this subject; and listen to the Nest in Style podcast.

This blog started in February a year ago, making it a particularly significant month for Seasonal Wisdom.

Look for more gardening tips, strange seasonal folklore and fun interviews with local foods and horticultural experts throughout the year. And thanks for your support and comments so far! Please keep them coming...