Jill S. McIntyre

Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating your self.

Category: Garden Goddess

7 Easy Grow Veggies for Kids

It’s that time of year when winter gradually turns to spring, and the seed catalog find their way  to your mailbox. Now is the time to also involve your children in planning this year’s garden. Start your summer garden by choosing the seeds you will be planting.  My daughter enjoys looking through the colorful pages of the seed catalogs–oohing and ahh-ing over beautiful green peas and rainbow colored flowers.  Gardening with your children is so much fun! Kids learn not only where their food comes from but also care taking and patience. Plus, research shows that children are more likely to try a new vegetable if they have grown it themselves. Teaching your child a lifelong skill of growing her own food is a very valuable lesson indeed. Having grown vegetables and flowers with my oldest daughter as she grew has instilled a love of growing her own food, and now as a young adult she has her own container garden. My youngest daughter is also well on her way to becoming a master gardener as well at the ripe old age of 4.  One of the things I found that  parents can do to foster a love of gardening is to chose vegetables that are easy to grow and do not require anything beyond watering and weeding.

Here is a list of 7 easy to grow vegetables for your family’s garden:

Radishes
Crisp and a little spicy, radishes are a very hardy, cool season vegetable. Radishes need a lot of sun so be sure to plant them where they will not be shaded. Many varieties will germinate within 3-7 days and can be harvested in about 3 to 4 weeks after planting making them very easy to grow. Be sure to pick them when they are ready as the texture of the radish deteriorates after maturity if not. Bonus: The leaves/greens are edible too!

Spinach
Popeye was definitely on to this super food. Spinach is also a very hardy, cool season crop. Spinach needs about 6 weeks of cool spring weather from germination to harvest. Full of essential vitamins and minerals, spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. Encourage your child to try easy to grow spinach right out of the garden.

 Cherry Tomatoes
There is nothing in the world like a garden tomato! Although technically a fruit, cherry tomatoes are sweet and juicy and easy for small fingers to pick. Many people opt for tomato starts rather than planting tomatoes by seed. Children will learn transplanting from one container to the next or the garden. Provide full sun and lots of water and your plant will yield a bounty of tasty little tomatoes in late summer.

 Carrots
Eh, what’s up doc! Carrots are a must have for gardening with children. Not only do carrot varieties come in orange but also white, yellow, red, and purple! Carrots although easy to grow take up to 70-80 days to mature. This is where teaching your child gardening patience comes into play. Try planting carrot tape to ensure proper spacing and no need for thinning.

 Peas
Yes please, pass the peas! Peas have been documented as one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world! Coming in many varieties from snow peas to sugar snap peas, your child will enjoy planting this tasty treat. Soil temperature is the deciding factor on how quickly your peas will reach maturity. Raised beds warm faster than the ground so peas planted in a raised bed will make this easy to grow vegetable germinate faster. Teach your child about seed saving by saving a few shelled peas: air dry the peas and save them in a sealed envelope in a cool dark place until next summer.

Zucchini
The almighty zucchini! A very prolific producer of summer squash, this easy to grow, warm season vegetable is also technically a fruit. Most zucchini varieties take about 60 days to maturity. To help stave off over abundance of zucchini fruits, harvest a few flowers from each plant. The edible flower of the zucchini plant is a fun delicacy to share with your child. Do not let zucchini get overly large or the texture becomes pithy inside the squash. Zucchini fruits can grow up to an inch a day so chose one with your child to measure each day until it is ready to harvest.

Pumpkins

Have the most sincere pumpkin patch on the block, and plant easy to grow sugar pumpkins with your child! Sugar pumpkins reach maturity after about 110 days when they are orange and 6-8 inches in diameter. Roasted pumpkins can be used in everything from pies to soup. Seeds can also be roasted and enjoyed as a healthy snack.

Delightful Dandelion 4– The Root

Give it a try!

As I discussed in my earlier posts, the whole dandelion is edible, nutritious and medicinal so I will keep this short and sweet. Roots can be harvested in the fall for the best potency . Then they are dried and can be made into loose-leaf tea. Many people use Dandelion Root Tea for a coffee substitute as it has a slightly bitter chicory like flavor. In traditional herbal medicine, the root tea is also used for appetite stimulation, aides in digestion, detoxifies the liver, and can also have laxative effects. Other medicinal uses include eczema treatment, joint care, and muscle aches. Please consult your health care provider before using medicinal herbs.

Delightful Dandelions: Part 3–The Flowers

Delightful Dandelion 2

 

Flowers–even allergy sufferers can appreciate a beautiful bloom!  Not only do flowers add color and life to our yard and homes, but many varieties of flowers are edible.  Delightful Dandelions  are no exception.  In Delightful Dandelions: Part 3,  you will learn the ins and outs of  harvesting/foraging the dandelion flower for recipes .

 

Harvesting and foraging

After doing extensive research, I found that  the “right” time to harvest your Delightful Dandelions will vary depending upon the recipe:  Dandelion Fritters  require full blooms while Dandelion Capers only use the bud.   To harvest the bloom or bud, just scout out the appropriate stage of flowering and pluck flower or bud from stem.  To easily access just the petals, other recipes call for the flowers to be picked and dried. For this use, pick your Delightful Dandelions in the morning while they are still closed.  Twist the petals away from the stem.  I like to use my colander to gather the flowers in so I can immediately wash them back in the kitchen.  And always remember to pick dandelions you know for certain haven’t been sprayed with herbicide.

Delightful Dandelion 3

  (FYI: other flowers look very similar to dandelions.  Check out this chart to see the difference)

After you have washed and drained your foraged harvest of dandelions, lay them out to drain on a clean dish towel or paper towels. The drying process takes 2-3 days depending on how well you have drained the washed flowers.   I let my flowers dry about one week before using them .

Delighful Dandelion 13

After they are dry, the green “brack” part of the flower can be removed and composted.

When the Delightful Dandelions are dry and the bracks removed, store the petals in a jar or zip lock.

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Now they are ready to use! Try them in Dandelion Muffins!

Dandelion Muffins

Delighful Dandelion Muffins 4

2 cup unbleached Wheat Montana flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup dried dandelion petals

1/4 cup  sunflower oil

4 Tbs Cooks honey

1 local egg

1 1/2 cup (minus 2 Tbs)  Kalispell Kremery whole milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix.  Add the dandelion petals. Mix.  In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine milk, honey, and oil.  Beat in the egg.  Add liquid ingredients to dry.   Do not over stir! The batter should be a little lumpy.  Pour into muffin tins that have been greased or in muffin papers in muffin tin ( I love the re-usable silicone ones!) .  Place in the oven.  Check for readiness after 15 minutes by poking in a toothpick –if it comes out clean, the muffins are done.  (The regular muffins took about 30 mins and the mini ones took about 20 minutes. But remember: ALL ovens vary.)   Cool on racks and enjoy!

(Makes 12 dozen regular muffins + 12 mini muffins)

Next time in our Delightful Dandelion series–the root.

Delightful Dandelions: Part 1

dandelion poem

 

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved dandelions!  I would pick large bouquets, make flower chains, make wishes as I blew the seeds into the air, and admire the tenacity of the dandelion that grows through sidewalk cracks .   I never understood why people had to kill their whole lawn to get rid of these delightful flowers.   In recent years, I have seen a resurgence in appreciation of dandelions by fellow foragers with headlines such as: The Many Health Benefits of Dandelion, 16 Ways to Eat Dandelion, and Save the Dandelions. Save the Bees.  to name a few.  

dandelion meme 1

dandelion meme 2

dandelion meme 3

Dandelions are everywhere these days!  This series will give you all the facts you need to know about Dandelions as well as showcase how to forage and prepare those front yard dandelions into everything from bread to sauteed greens as well as wine and tea..so stay tuned!

Dandelion Facts

Taraxacum officinale from the family Asteraceae, otherwise known as the Dandelion (French for lion’ tooth)  are native to Eurasia and North America. This common “weed” is entirely edible from flower to leaf to root.  Dandelions have  small flowers formed together into a composite “flower head” ; and a  single flower in a head is called a floret. Like  Many Taraxacum species, the dandelion  produce seeds asexually by a process called apomixis  ( the seeds are produced without pollination). Dandelion offspring, then , are genetically identical to their parent, i.e. clones.

In the Garden

Dandelions grow in Zones 3-10, and do well in partial shade to full sun. This perennial will grow in most soils that are moist and fertile with a pH of 6-7.0.  Some dandelions can reach up to 12 inches in height but average around 6 to 8 inches tall.   If you choose to grow your own rather than forage, choose seeds from a large leaf variety from a specialized seed catalog. Sow the seeds directly in the early spring.  In order to harvest roots, add plenty of compost or manure to your garden each spring to help loosen the soil.  Planted dandelions will flower in late spring and are usually free of pests and diseases.  When you plant dandelions, you may need to do some thinning as they will have the tendency to take over your garden.   The seed heads and individual seeds can be saved easily in an envelope.

Outsidepride Dandelion – 5000 Seeds

To be continued….. 

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