Weeds that Benefit the World

Hi All,

 

Our garden here at Albright is home to a special plant that many consider a weed and oftentimes remove. Milkweed! Milkweed is home to the monarch butterfly as they are quite picky with where they will lay eggs. During their larval stage as a monarch caterpillar, plants in the milkweed family are the only plants that they will feast upon after consuming their own eggshell. Fun fact, milkweed has a poisonous toxin in it that is stored inside of the caterpillar’s body upon consumption which gives monarch butterflies a foul taste, warding away predators. Also, monarchs are known for their incredible migration pattern; they leave from North America in large groups in early fall to mate, lay eggs, and die in Mexico. That generation then migrates north and repeats the process that the generation before them had done in the spring. Unfortunately, with people removing milkweed because it is a “weed”, monarchs have less area to lay their eggs.

If any of you have a yard or garden plot, plant some milkweed seeds in the fall, they’ll experience winter, and then they’ll come up in the spring. You can also go to your local plant nursery to find milkweed. For more information on how to care for your own milkweed to help out the monarch population, check out this site http://www.ourhabitatgarden.org/creatures/milkweed-growing.html. Hopefully we can harvest some milkweed seeds soon! Here’s a helpful video on how to collect your own milkweed seeds https://youtu.be/gooT4cMyaTg.

 

Happy Gardening,

Renee

 

Recipe of the Week

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chives

From: http://www.food.com/recipe/sour-cream-and-chive-potato-bake-405943

Ingredients:

  • 3 large potatoes, washed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 ¼ cups pouring cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  2. Boil potatoes till tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain, cut in half, place in baking dish cut side up.
  4. Whisk together sour cream, cream, cheeses, chives, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over potatoes.
  6. Cook 20 – 30 minutes until top is golden.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources Used:

Additional Facts on Milkweed:

http://dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/teacher/milkweedmonitoring/milkweedfacts.pdf

 

 

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Appreciating Nature in the Garden

Hi everyone! My name is Vince and I’m also a 2016 intern at Albright’s community garden. I just began my time working in the garden this year and am already quite surprised at the amount of growth that has taken place. The garden is a lively and wonderful place to spend time. The community garden is also very productive and healthy. As I look around at the variety of plants, I constantly find myself being closer to nature.

Cultivating food is one of the oldest activities people have done throughout history. It is a necessity of course, but there seems to be more to it than that. Crops depend on a number of factors to be able to grow and eventually produce edible food. These factors include healthy soil, adequate moisture, and of course a proper amount of sunshine. I’m amazed when I recognize all the connected processes involved when growing crops. Being a passionate environmentalist and majoring in environmental studies, I feel that working in the garden helps me to stay active with my views on our environment and my own well-being.

Working in the garden is also peaceful. Being that it is an age-old activity, I feel that gardening is a simple way to better connect with nature. Being outside on a sunny and warm day while getting a little dirty is not something to complain about. One can forget about life frustrations and feel in the present moment.

 

-Vince

 

Recipe of the week:

Refreshing Cucumber Salad

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 half small red onion, thinly sliced

1 large tomato, halved and sliced

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

In a medium bowl, toss together the cucumbers, red onion and tomato. Gently stir in the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper until coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Importance of Permaculture

Hello All,

 

My name is Renee Gares and I am a garden intern for the 2016 summer season here at Albright College. I will be a junior this upcoming fall semester as I continue studying biology and Spanish. Coming in to this gardening internship as a novice, I have already begun to learn the value of permaculture.

Healthy, organic, and straight from the source are qualities that I appreciate in my food. As a child, my mother would go to the local farmer’s stand on the road and buy various fruits and vegetables; yet, I did not know at that time the benefits and value of locally grown, organic foods. I would like to take the time for my first blog to discuss the negative impact of processed foods.

During class one day, my professor mentioned her friend’s child who was diagnosed with ADHD. She later claimed that her friend changed the child’s eating habits tremendously which resulted in significant behavioral changes. I researched this further and found out that dyes in foods may be correlated to this phenomenon. The University of Southampton found that food additives and colorings led to an increase in “…ADHD-type behaviour, including impulsive behaviour and loss of concentration….” There is also a website located at the bottom of this blog where parents discuss their child’s symptoms and how they have changed in behavior due to diet! Also, according to nationofchange.org, just about 80% of American processed foods contain ingredients that are banned in other countries.

With permaculture, we’re cultivating crops that we plant ourselves without the use of pesticides. It’s a nice feeling biting into a fresh piece of lettuce or whichever fresh produce, knowing that it is safe to eat without unknown or hidden health risks. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity and if the techniques that I learn are not used in my future career endeavors, I will definitely use what I’ve learned for a personal home garden.

For those of you that happen to have a garden of your own, take a look at your leek if you have any! There have been a few insects within our leek which is a recent and pressing concern for the PA area. Check out these links for further details on allium leafminer:

http://ento.psu.edu/extension/vegetables/pest-alert-allium-leafminer

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-agriculture-new-invasive-pest-20160427-story.html

Happy Gardening,

><Renee

{Recipe of the Week: Swiss Chard with Parmesan Cheese}

Credit to Allrecipes.com

Watch the Video Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_DnQhZNOG4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ small red onion (diced)
  • Swiss chard
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Instructions:

  1. Juice 1 tbsp. lemon juice; put in small bowl (Or purchase cooking lemon juice already squeezed)
  2. Grate 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese; put in small bowl
  3. Mince 1 tbsp. garlic; put in small bowl
  4. Dice ½ small red onion; put in small bowl
  5. Chop off stems of Swiss chard, then chop stems into small pieces
  6. Coarsely chop leaves of Swiss chard
  7. Pour 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over MEDIUM-HIGH heat
  8. Add 2 tbsp. butter in skillet
  9. When butter melts, add garlic and onion for 30 seconds
  10. Add in the stems of the Swiss chard
  11. Add ½ cup dry white wine
  12. Simmer for about 5 minutes until stems soften
  13. Stir in chopped Swiss chard leaves until wilted
  14. Stir in lemon juice
  15. Stir in parmesan cheese
  16. Salt to taste (optional)
  17. You’re finished! Sprinkle additional parmesan cheese and/or lemon juice if desired

 

Website Links

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Hugelkultur

Hello all,

My name is Gina Whitfield, I am the garden manager for the Albright Community Garden 2016! I’m approaching my junior year at Albright College, majoring in environmental science. My interests in entomology and botany have encouraged me to intern for the garden this year.

During this year’s annual spring Permablitz, the kickoff to the garden itself, the community came together to help construct a hugelkultur hill (what we now simply call “the mound”).

Hugelkultur is German for hill culture, this technique being used in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years. Consisting of a base layer of logs and twigs, followed by a layer of leaf matter, and finally topped off with compost, the hugel mound ensures constant moisture and nutrients for plants to grow. The rich organic matter within a hugelkultur is continuous, as it takes over fifteen years to break down! The gradual matter breakdown inside the mound means the soil will aerate (long-term no till) and the resulting heat extends a plant’s growing season. Since our hugel mound is still young, we make sure to water it every other day. However, once the mound has resided for a year, the logs within will act as a sponge for plants’ roots to tap into and the mound will only need to be watered if there is a drought.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a low-maintenance, high-quality garden with too many benefits!

I’ve added two pictures below, before and after, of the mound.

Having previously experienced tomato blight in a typical plot, the garden team thought it would be interesting to see how well tomatoes freely grow atop the hugel mound; I will be sure to publish the end result!

Let us know what you think and/or if you have any questions about Hugelkultur and stay tuned for the weekly garden blog!

>< Gina

Recipe for the Week: Steamed Radishes
– Chop radishes
– Steam radishes until easily pierced with a fork
(Optional: add your choice of seasonings/herbs with a light touch of butter)
[Steaming radishes will lift their bitter taste allowing them to be an excellent side for any meal!]

hugel

Image (1)

 

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A Guide to Permaculture

Coming into my internship, I knew very little about Permaculture. The extent of my knowledge consisted of no-till gardening/farming and better environmental relationships. Although I learned a lot more during my time this summer from first hand experience, there were times where we were all standing there scratching our heads, wondering what our next course of action should be. That’s when Toby Hemenway’s “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” played a very big role in the knowledge I drew from my internship.

“Gaia’s Garden” has three separate sections to its vast array of information. The first section introduces Permaculture and its play in helping make your garden a part of its environment’s ecosystem. The first chapter will walk you through the different designs your garden can take on and how it will be beneficial to the environment around itself. By keeping the design of your garden in mind, this allows for the scale of biodiversity to be large or small. There are no need for pesticides and fences if you can plant different bushes and small trees that will attract the right species and defer the wrong ones. There is also a wondering chapter on the benefits of certain designs over others. For example, if you design your plot in the shape of a starfish, this will create far more edge and possibility for more diversity in the plant world.

In section two of the book, Hemenway discusses the different parts of a permaculture garden. He dives deeply into the types of soil that make some plants flourish while other plants may diminish under such circumstances. On top of that, he covers what you could add to your soil if it is nitrogen or carbon depleted depending on the growing year. Another topic of interest in this section is the types of biodiversity in your garden including plants, animals, and water supplies. He teaches readers about how to plant certain vegetables or flowers to attract bees or birds, which will in turn lighten your workload. Not all bugs are bad according to Hemenway, since they keep away other bugs and pollenate your plants. He also mentions that sculpting your garden to catch rainwater will be beneficial to you in the long run, especially during dry periods of the season.

In the final section of Hemenway’s book, he covers topics such as involving the community in permaculture by showing them your new found knowledge, growing something more like a “food forest” rather than just a small scale garden, and even permaculture accessibility in the city! Through spreading the knowledge of permaculture throughout your community, it spreads environmental friendliness. Within the community, the idea of guilding your gardens can become more frequent, which involved expanding your garden to mimic more of a natural ecosystem rather than a man-made garden. By expanding the idea of Guilding, people can begin to connect their garden to make a larger scale of community. This larger scale can be known as a food forest. This idea does not just have to be confined to just suburban areas of the country. Although one would not be able to create a food forest in a city due to limited space, someone can find a way to create a garden on top of a rooftop with the help of Hemenway’s knowledge.

Toby Hemenway displays a thorough knowledge of Permaculture, ecosystems, and how to relate those two things to each other. Throughout my experience, I found this book very helpful in the face of driving off unwanted pests and animals in a very humane and environmentally friendly way. I also gained in-depth knowledge on how to design our plots better to increase edge, biodiversity to increase pollination, and to allow for less or better water flow. Yet, I do believe “Gaia’s Garden” is by no means a beginners guide to permaculture. One cannot simply pick up this book expecting to understand everything Hemenway is talking about. Although he tried his hardest to explain Permaculture to the best of his ability to someone who may not have a clue about it, he still displays a very extensive definition to Permaculture and its different parts. My suggestion is that if you have no prior knowledge to Permaculture or sustainable agriculture, try to read up on it before tackling this book. Once you have a decent understanding, this book will tell you all the in’s and out’s of sustainable agriculture and how to properly execute it.

After the duration my internship, I can proudly say I have enough knowledge of Permaculture and its techniques to teach others. Although I learned a lot from my mentors, Ellen Underwood and Dr. Brian Jennings, there is always more to learn. I suggest if you have any doubts of your approach to sustainable agriculture, “Gaia’s Garden” will have an answer to your questions. There is always new knowledge out there and you should never stop trying to learn new topics or improve your knowledge of already well-known topics. Happy gardening , my fellow community members, and I hope you have a wonderful off season.

 

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A Look Around the Garden

Hope all is well fellow garden community! As summer begins to wrap up, I look around the garden and I spot a few new vegetables that haven’t appeared in the past. Although our classic tomatoes are producing beautifully, I have to share with you some of the amazing produce that will “hit the market” soon (and by the market I mean our small college stand).

I know that we have some very loyal customers on our hands but what we realized is that a lot of people don’t really know what to do with crops like Swiss Chard, Kohlrabi, or even Leeks. As much as we enjoy growing them and would love to teach everyone about the perks of these supposed “foreign” vegetables, there is never enough time or proper advertisement. So, my fellow interns and I thought that it would be good idea to grow more vegetables that people will cook and eat in their everyday lives while still growing the wonderful vegetables we’ve had since the beginning. I’m here to tell you all about our new additions and its benefits to your health so (hopefully) you all get excited!

Corn. Ah! One of the additions I’m most excited for. Don’t you just love some sweet corn on a hot summer’s day? Goes perfectly with your barbecue choices! Now, corn is high in fiber (about 3 grams per ear) and everyone needs around 25-35 grams per day to live a healthy lifestyle. Corn also contains high levels of antioxidants, which are very important vitamins that you need every day!

corn-stalk1

Potatoes. I don’t know about you but when I think of potatoes, I think of nice creamy mashed potatoes. Potatoes are the perfect side dish to complete most meals while also adding quality substance to the table. Potatoes are also high in fiber, containing 4.7 grams of fiber, they also contain about 4.5 grams of protein. On top of all of that, potatoes contain vital vitamins that contribute to the prevention of disease. You can’t beat this super vegetable!

potato-plant-2014

Watermelon. A slice of juicy watermelon anyone? Maybe even some delicious watermelon salad for desert after a long hard day. Even though watermelon is about 92% water, it is packed with vitamins like Vitamin A. Watermelon even has significant amounts of amino acids and potassium in each slice you eat. Amino acids help you build a nice, healthy body and if mixed with exercise, you could get a lean body out of the mix as well!

images-4

Now, these are only some of our vegetables that are doing exceptionally well and we wanted to share with you guys before they actually make their debut to our stand. There are other new vegetables that will be a surprise for all of our loyal customers and I hope you all are as excited as we are. We’ve been taking very good care of all the vegetables, regulars or new comers, so they could be grown to the best of their ability. Thank you so much for reading and I can’t wait to continue the stand into the upcoming school year. Happy gardening!

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Behind the Scenes Part 2: Baking Recipes

Hi garden community! As promised, here are the rest of our super yummy recipes. I hope you can’t get enough of them.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla

1 ¼ cups All-Purpose Gluten Free Rice Flour Blend

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups shredded zucchini

Servings: 12

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bottom only of 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, beat sugar and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add oil and vanilla; beat until smooth. In medium bowl, mix flour blend, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into egg mixture on low speed until blended. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour batter into pan. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack; cool completely, about 2 hours.

Gluten-Free-Zucchini-Bread

Kale Chips

1 Bunch of Kale, rinsed and patted dry

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt (preferably coarse)

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the kale leaves away from the stems and rip the leaves into bite-size pieces. Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and toss to coat the leaves. Arrange kale on a large baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the kale leaves are crisp and golden brown around the edges. Lastly, depending on your oven, the kale may cook faster so check on it every 2-3 minutes after the 5 minute mark.

kale-chips1

Zucchini Boats

2 medium zucchini

½ lb ground beef

1 small onion

½ cup diced tomatoes

½ cup chopped bell peppers

4 leaves and stalks of swiss chard chopped

1 small eggplant diced

1 cup of provolone cheese

Butter

Servings: 6-8 (depending on how big your slices are)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the ends of the zucchini, cut each in half lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp. In a skillet cook beef, onion, and peppers over medium head until the meat is no longer pink, then drain. In another skillet cook eggplant until soft, then add swiss chard and cook until the leaves have wilted. Add the eggplant and swiss chard, ½ cup of cheese, tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the meat mixture and combine. Place the zucchini shells on a greased baking dish and place a few pads of butter in each half. Then spoon the meat/vegetable mixture into the shells and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the halves. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

zucchini-boats

Baked Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squashes

Butter

Brown sugar

Sugar

Cinnamon

Servings: 4

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squashes in half and place them face down on a baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until squashes are slightly tender. Take them out of the onion and flip over. Add a few pads of butter and a few pinches of brown and regular sugar to taste. Sprinkle cinnamon over the squashes and place them back in the oven (face up) for another 30 minutes

classic_baked_acorn_squash

Lastly! Our featured recipe of the day!

Parmesan Zucchini 

2 medium zucchinis

Olive Oil

Sea Salt

About 1/2-1 cup of Parmesan Cheese

Servings: Roughly 8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Clean zucchinis well, slicing off both ends before cutting each of them until you have wedges (4 per zucchini) and if those are too big, cut those wedges in half. Coat the bottom of your medium size baking tray with 2 teaspoons of olive oil before brushing olive oil onto each slice of zucchini. Next, sprinkle sea salt and parmesan cheese on to taste then put into the oven for about 20 minutes uncovered. If the zucchini is a little stiff when you take it out, put it in for another 2-4 minutes. Let cool then enjoy!

picfKGEAV

*Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread found on bettycrocker.com, Kale Chips recipe by Emily Phillips, Zucchini Boats recipe by Ellen Underwood, Baked Acorn Squash recipe by Ellen Underwood, and Parmesan Zucchini recipe by Emily Phillips.

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