Peaches are a Delight

Peaches are a Delight

Peaches and Herb - Peaches are a DelightThere are a few things that come to mind when we refer to peaches being a delight.

Such as ‘Peaches & Herb‘ who were an American vocalist duo, once comprising Herb Fame and Francine “Peaches” Hurd Barker. Peaches & Herb were a delight to listen too.

Peaches  Geldof - Peaches are a DelightThere is the beautiful and delightful ‘Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof-Cohen’ who was an English journalist, television presenter and model.

Peaches Scrubs - Peaches are a DelightHow about those cute and delightful ‘Peaches Scrubs‘ a brand name scrubs for nurses and medical assistants.

Then there’s those peaches that were voluntarily recalled nationwide (USA) by Wawona Packing Co. at its Cutler, California, warehouses between June 1 and July 12 of this year (2014), because they were believed to have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Local peaches at the Whole foods Market - Peaches are a DelightSeveral other soft skinned fruits as well were recalled, like nectarines, plums and pluots.

What a big setback for us all who love peaches, and especially National Peach Month (August 2014).

Because of that recall, there really have not been any good sales on peaches this year.

The cultivation of peaches began in China as early as 2000 B.C., and by 300 B.C. the Greeks and Persians were also cultivars.

In the first century A.D., Romans began cultivating peaches, and from Italy, the cultivation of peaches spread throughout Europe and to the Americas, where the early settlers planted them all along the eastern coast (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center).

There are two basic types of peaches, the ‘clingstone’ and ‘freestone’. The flesh of the ‘clingstone’ clings to the stone or pit of the fruit. The peach flesh of the ‘freestone’ separates easily from the pit or stone.

In the United States as of 2012, 26 states are cultivating peaches. In that year 965,420 tons of peaches were harvested. Of that harvest, 490,320 tons were sold as fresh produce, and 475,100 tons were processed, either canned (364,640 tons), flash frozen (90,210 tons) or dried (9,800 tons).

If you are able to budget some fresh peaches on your weekly shopping, here are some great recipes to use them in.

Basil Marinated Peaches

4 firm-ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and quartered

1 oz. opal basil leaves (about 2 cups loosely packed)

1 tsp. grated lime zest

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Place the peaches and basil in a medium bowl, and set it aside.

Combine the lime zest, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Then pour the hot syrup over the peaches and basil. Cover, and chill for 2 hours.

You can serve them with Vanilla Pound Cake, Crepes or with a dollop whipped cream.

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Warm Berries and Peaches with Mascarpone

Warm Berries and Peaches with Mascarpone

Image credit: finecooking.com

2 Tbs. granulated sugar

1 tsp. ground ginger

4 cups ripe mixed berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)

3 medium ripe nectarines, thinly sliced

1/4 cup mascarpone (or cream cheese)

In a large (12-inch) skillet, combine the sugar and ginger with 1/3 cup water and put the pan over medium-high heat.

When the water comes to a boil, add the berries and nectarines and cook, stirring frequently, until the nectarines have just started to soften and the juice released from the berries has thickened slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.

Let cool for a minute and then transfer to individual serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of mascarpone.

Peach Mango SalsaPeach Pecan Cake

There is also Peach and Mango Salsa and Peach and Pecan Cake.

Peaches also have vitamins-A and C, including the trace minerals iron and magnesium, making it a fruit that enriches your blood with oxygen and helps your muscles relax.

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Food as Medicine – How to Add Healing Power to Everyday Meals

Food as Medicine Have you ever heard the ancient saying, “Let your medicine be your food, and food be your medicine”? It’s a wise saying by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, from who originates the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors. Oddly, while modern doctors recognize Hippocrates’ contribution to medicine in the form of the Oath, the idea that our food can be our medicine is generally not included in the practice of modern medicine.

The good news is, foods are still “medicines,” and you can affect your health positively with the foods you eat. If you’d like to incorporate more healing herbs and foods into your diet, here are some tips that can help.

Herbs

The healing power of various herbs is becoming more and more recognized and accepted. Here are some of the more readily available herbs that you can add to your foods to boost their healing power.

ginger a Food as Medicine * Ginger is an effective anti-nausea remedy and has significant antibacterial properties. The fresh root, sliced or diced, can be added to stir-fries, and it can be candied and eaten out of hand.

* Oregano is a tasty herb when added to pizza, spaghetti, and so forth, is considered an antioxidant. Antioxidants help mop up “free radicals” in the body, which are by-products of the body’s metabolic processes. Free radicals are implicated in the development of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. So sprinkle this herb on regular dishes that are Italian or Greek in flavor.

rosemary a Food as Medicine * Rosemary is another antioxidant herb, and may help enhance memory and prevent cataracts. It may even help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Rosemary is very good when used in meat marinades and sprinkled on dishes like pizza, focaccia, or pasta.

* Turmeric is commonly found in Indian curries. It has a yellowish color and earthy flavor, and is said to help reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Turmeric can be added to soups and stews, curries, stir-fries, and other dishes.

Foods

The food you eat – not just the herbs you put on it – can help heal, too. Here are some suggestions.

garlic a Food as Medicine * Garlic is a powerful food for the prevention of colds and flu, and it has anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. You can make garlic sauce for pasta, or add it to soups.  Onion a Food as Medicine Garlic a simple food can be the base ingredient for main dish meals you prepare.
* Onions are like garlic in their healthful properties. They are perhaps even more versatile; they can be made into a dish on their own or added to other foods.

Berries food as medicine* Berries are known for their antioxidant power. Add berries to salads or eat them out of hand. You can also freeze them and blend them into smoothies.

 

 

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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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Planning a Productive and Practical Potager

Woman and her child harvesting carrots from her potager garden

 

This is the sixth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first five posts please link here to read.

Now for – Planning a Productive and Practical Potager – with Judith Sorg.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

  Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden


Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden

 

The traditional potager or kitchen garden, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden, such as the ornamental and flowering plants and lawn areas. Most vegetable gardens are a smaller version of old family farm plots, but the kitchen garden is different, as it has its own history as well as design.

 

The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potatger.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season. Items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use are ideal for your regular vegetable garden.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. If your proposed potager has a small overall footprint, don’t get discouraged. Instead – look up!

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your potager has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

beautiful potager garden

Beautiful potager garden

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

Next we will talk about the difference between kitchen gardening and a regular vegetable garden.

For Judith’s next discussion link here: What is Kitchen Gardening?

 

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How to Use Herbs in Cooking

How to Use Herbs in Cooking

An important part of cooking is also to know the flavors of herbs and spices and how to use them. Seasonings are the key to making a great meal.

If you are not familiar with different herbs, experiment. Get to know the flavors and how herbs work to flavor your food.  Also be aware herbs are not just for flavoring foods, but also have nutritional value as well as medicinal traits.

The following are the most popular used herbs.

Basil: This herb has a very aromatic odor and some can even be sweet. It can be fresh or dried. The herb goes well with lamb, fish, roast, stews, ground beef, vegetables, dressing and omelets. Basil should always be added after cooking your recipe dish, as heat chances the color and texture of basil.

Basil is also best used as whole leaves or torn. Do not use kitchen shears to cut basil as this will brown it. Smaller leaves at the top of the bunch are the sweetest.

Chives: This herb is part of the onion family. Though it can be sweet, and does have a mild flavor. They can be used dried or fresh. They go well with salads, fish, soups and potatoes.

Cilantro: It has a lively aromatic flavor. It looks similar to flat-leaf parsley, though it is not parsley. This herb originated from the Middle East and goes well with Asian, Mexican, and Indian dishes. It is also used in salsas and chutneys.

Cilantro is best used fresh. If you do grow this herb in your garden, note that the leaves become bitter after the plant flowers. The dried seeds of cilantro are the spice called coriander, which is popular in use with making Chai Tea.

Dill: This herb is very aromatic. The herb has grassy and feathery like leaves. It is used in pickle brine, as well as fresh in tuna salad, omelets, vegetables, seafood dishes, yogurt dressings that use cucumbers, and herbed vinegars.

Marjoram: Though not a popular herb, it is used either dried or fresh. It is used to add flavor to fish, poultry, omelets, lamb, stew, and stuffing.

Oregano: A very strong herb with a strong aromatic odor. Be careful when using this herb, as it is strong, adding to much will over power other flavors you will use in your recipe preparations. Oregano is unforgiving. If you have added more than the recipe calls for, there really is now way to fix it.

It can be use fresh or dried. It is added to recipes using fish, eggs, pizza, omelets, chili, stew, gravies, poultry and vegetables.

Rosemary: This herb has a pungent aroma like smell or pine flavor. It goes great with Mediterranean dishes, lamb, poultry, fish, and breads. Fresh sprigs or finely chopped leaves can be added to long-cooking stews.

It is noteworthy, that when grilling, sturdier stems of the plant make good skewers for broiling or BBQ dishes. Adding flavor to the meats and vegetables placed on the skewers.

Paprika: This spice works well when marinating steaks, in use with vegetables, soups or as a garnish for potatoes, salads and deviled eggs. The Paprika we are familiar with using is Hungarian and is sweet. There is also Smoked Paprika that is used in Mexican dishes. Most of the paprika we buy today is grown and processed in California.

Thyme: This delightful herb can be used fresh, though it is popular used dried. The leaves are dried than crushed, and can be sprinkled on fish or poultry before broiling or baking.

Here’s a tip using thyme as a meat smoking agent if you’re grilling fish or poultry: Place a few sprigs directly onto coals shortly before meat is finished grilling.

Rules to Using Herbs

The basic rule to using herbs is ¼ teaspoon for every 4 servings. Also, if you are using whole dried herbs, crush them before using to release their flavor. The rule of thumb is to use 3 times more fresh herbs if substituting for dried.

When preparing your dish, dried herbs should be added at the beginning and fresh herbs should be added just before serving the dish.

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ABC of Soup Making

Collage of Prepared soups

The art of composing good soup is to proportion the different ingredients so that the flavor of one will not predominate over another. The ingredients that will compose the soup should form an agreeable finished product. That is delectable to the sight and delicious to the palate.

To accomplish this, care must be taken that the fresh vegetables and herbs are well cleaned, and that the base of the soup, be it water, chicken, beef or vegetable broth is proportioned to the quantity of meat and other ingredients. Generally a quart of water is used to a pound of meat and a quart to on pound of vegetables.

Making a good flavorful soup is done by gently stewing or simmering. For a more nutritious soup, using a slow cooker is the best. There is no risk of losing vital minerals and vitamins as the slow cooker is cooking at a constant temperature. Also if the soup is being prepared in a pressure cooker, there is no loss of moisture and no need to add any extra broth or water.

Soups will general take from three to six hours to cook. They are also much flavorful when prepared the day before. After cooking the soup and allowing it to sit for 24 hours brings out the flavor the dried herbs being used in the preparation of the soup.

Another benefit to letting it sit is easier removal of any fat from the soup. When the soup is cold, the fat is much easier to remove, as fat solidifies as it cools. If you are using fresh herbs and wish to eat the soup the same day, you can use one of these two options:

Refrigerate the soup until the fat hardens. If you place waxed paper on top first, it will peel away the hardened fat. No time to refrigerate? Try dropping a lettuce leaf in the soup. Let it collect fat, and then remove it.

When the soup appears to be too thin or too weak, arrow-root, corn starch, flour and butter, can be used to thicken it and give body to the soup. You should have no problem with thin soup if you are using barley or rice as this will thicken the soup some as well.

Various herbs, fresh or dried and vegetables are used for the purpose of making broth for the soup.

The most common vegetables used are parsnips, carrots, turnips, and beetroots including garlic, shallots and onions.

Onions, garlic and shallots should be browned or minced some with butter or olive oil to release the flavors more readily into the soup broth. It is noteworthy to say, that the older and drier the onions, garlic or shallots are, the stronger the flavor they will have.

Leeks and celery are also used in soups. These also should be browned or minced to bring out their flavors. Celery-seed can be used, but should be pounded o release its flavor as well. Though fresh celery and celery seed is equally strong in giving good flavor, celery seed does not impart the delicate sweetness of the fresh vegetable and if when used as a substitute for the fresh vegetable its flavor should be corrected by the addition of a bit of sugar.

Herbs for cooking

The addition of dried herbs such as cress-seed, parsley, thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme, knotted marjoram, sage, mint, winter savory, and basil can be used. Dried herbs should be added at the beginning of the preparation of the soup.

Fresh herbs can be used, but should be added at the finish of the soup cooking. Dried basil is ok to use, but fresh basil is seldom used as its flavor is quickly lost with heat. Fresh, chopped basil can be used by adding it just before serving it. Fresh parsley and cilantro are added at the finish of the soup cooking.

Other ways to season soups is with bay-leaves, tarragon, chervil, burnet, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, black and white pepper, essence of anchovy, lemon-peel, and juice, orange peel and Seville orange-juice. The orange though imparts a finer flavor than the lemon, and the acid is much milder.

Other food ingredients that can be used and combined in various proportions are wine, mushrooms, and tomato sauce.

Keep in mind that soups, which are intended to constitute the principal part of a meal, certainly ought not to be flavored like sauces.

There are many ingredients that can be manipulated into an almost endless variety of excellent soups.

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Check out our soup recipes:

Coconut and Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Chorizo and Bean Soup

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The Collage of prepared soups include:

Lentil Soup     Asian Noodle Soup       Vegetable Soup

Tomato Soup       Minestrone Soup  Broccoli Soup   Pumpkin Soup

Header Image credit: robynmac / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit Herbs: viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo

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