Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Food PyramidS! Yes PyramidS!

This is not directly about gardening, though food and issues related to food are indirectly related. The non-profit Oldways Preservation Trust, has created a series of healthy food pyramids based on culturally traditional ways of eating (and also a vegetarian food pyramid). At last, food pyramids not influences by lobbyists for the food-industrial-complex (the beef lobby, the pork lobby, milk, sugar and soft drink lobbies!) To see these great pyramids (which I can't seem to reproduce here), go to:


To read New York Times Blog post on them, go to:


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Second Quiz: Plant Puzzle

So, fellow gardeners and plant lovers: what is this? This is mystery plant puzzle # 2. I will answer in a few days! Look for it!
Kudos to my non-gardening friend Anita who guessed this was a banana. Yes, my ornamental banana plant produced baby red bananas and I left them on the plant. They split open in what my art teacher Celeste called secondary pollination, that is, the fruit opens up to allow animals to scatter the seed. I let them alone and now you can see the seeds! I think? Cultivated bananas have no viable seeds, they are often seen as tiny black specks in the fruit. Inedible varieties do have seeds, and this includes ornamental bananas, the only kind you will find in northern gardens. Happy gardening!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The LUV Carrot

I know that may gardeners enjoy when they find buried surprises, like the entwined carrots pictured above (despite the fact that this shows I did not thin my carrots properly!) Anyway, the LUV carrot is as good a symbol as any for a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! And the LUV carrot will find it's way onto my table soon!
Happy gardening!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What pumpkin for your pie?

I have actually never made a pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin, and I make them more often than just at Thanksgiving (I love pumpkin pie). I have used pie pumpkins before, they are round, orange and smaller than Jack 'o Lantern type pies. I have grown these types of pumpkins, but in recent seasons I have despaired of growing pumpkins and winter squashes due to the dreaded squash vine borer. But the two types of squashes traditionally used in "pumpkin pie" are pretty resistant to the borer, as they have much firmer stems. Why? The vine borer is a moth that lays tiny eggs singly (many of them, but not in clusters) on your plants. The eggs hatch and the larvae (caterpillar) bores into the stem and grows fat feeding on your plant, eventually killing it. The two types of borer-resistant squashes are pictured above: the cooked one is a butternut (hard stem) type called the Dickinson Field Pumpkin (Curcubita moschata), and this is what is in those cans of packed pumpkin at the grocery. The other is also resistant to borers, and it is called the Green-Striped Cushaw (C. mixta), one of the oldest varieties of winter squash (perhaps grown by native Americans thousands of years ago). Both have dry flesh, the Dickinson deep orange, the Cushaw yellow, and are sweet and great for pie applications! I intend to find the seed and grow both next year. (Full disclosure: I bought both at a farm stand).

Oh, a third type that I buy, not grow, is a cheese wheel type pumpkin. These are very large (I estimate this cooked one pictured here at about 40 lbs) and, like all squash, are heavy feeders. They have dry, deep orange flesh (and lots of it), prefect for pie, bread, muffins and soup.

The easy way to get at that flesh is to bake the pumpkin whole or sliced in half at about 350 until tender when pierced with a fork (the 40 pounder took 3 hours, the others 45 minutes). Let it cool, scoop out the seeds and fibers, and scrape away the sweet flesh from the skin.

Happy eating! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy gardening!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Greens Sale Dec 3

The Great Greens Sale of Garden Evergreens for Holiday Decorating will be at Ginter Gardens in Richmond on Dec. 3. I am going to get cool and unusual cuttings of evergreens to sketch! The photo is what I made from cuttings from my yard and a recycled ribbon last year!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


10:30-11:45 a.m. Floral design demonstration with evergreens

Noon-2 p.m. SALE

Purchase unusual, fresh-cut evergreens from the Garden for holiday decorations; proceeds benefit Garden Education programs.

For info go to : http://www.lewisginter.org/events/event_detail.php?event_id=658
Happy gardening!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

First Quiz

Dear Reader(S?),
A puzzle: What is this plant? Answer coming soon!
Happy puzzling and gardening!
Hum, no takers? This is a persimmon! It is a small, bush persimmon that I saw at Ginter gardens in Richmond, VA. I was puzzled at first by it until I looked it up! It is probably a Princess persimmon, which is often used by bonsai "artists" as a base plant for their bonsai- it stays small when pot bound and will fruit even when forced to be dwarfed. This plant was about 3 and a half feet tall. Very lovely and a bright spot in the autumnal landscape.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

National Happiness Week!

I think it obvious that my post for National Happiness Week will have to do with gardening. After all, I call myself an obsessed gardener. But gardening is part of a larger viewpoint of what makes me a happy person (sometimes I think I am the happiest person I know...perhaps not, but I think so). The viewpoint that gives me satisfaction and happiness is to live my values as much as I can, and the latter part of that sentence is almost as important as the former.
I value the aesthetics of gardening- the scent of tomato leaves on my fingers, the feel of my hands in the dirt, the sight of a spray of passionflowers on a trellis, the experience of observing a humming bird flit from flower to flower and hover as if by magic, the fragrance of a bearded iris, the crisp snap of salad greens in my mouth, the sweet and acid flavor of a raspberry, the joy of chomping a whole fig, and the pleasure of digging a hole and planting a plant in it.
I value the act of producing food for my family to enjoy. Placing that food on the table, describing what ingredients came from the garden, from our work, our hands, and the work of the plants. I value canning and preserving that food and sharing gifts of jam with friends. I value digging into the freezer in December and bringing out my peaches to bake into a pie, as winter transforms to summer for a moment.
The latter part of the sentence I started with "as much as I can" acknowledges the attempt, the striving, the trying to live my values, but also acknowledges my imperfections, that sometimes I cannot live my values fully. Sometimes I use my clothes dryer instead of hanging laundry; I am a vegetarian who sometimes wears leather; I forget to bring my reusable bags to the grocery; I cannot grow all our food.
Overall, I value the act of creating, of making. I recently spoke to a woman who dyes and spins her own fibers into yarn and thread, then knits the final yarn into beautiful garments. She said that people often ask her why she goes to such trouble, she could just buy a sweater. But she understands and values the act of creation, the intellectual challenge of making her own dyes, developing the skill to create consistent and beautiful yarn, and transforming that into a lovely and unique garment. She gets it...and I think get it too.
Happy gardening! Happy living your values! Happy Happiness Week!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

National Happiness Week!

This is National Happiness Week (the second week of November)! See Betsy Franz's post on the topic at:
Look for my blog tomorrow on my reflections on happiness. And gardening (!) among other things.
Now, go get you some happy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Harvest Recipe: Vegetarian (or not) Stuffed Pepper

I am going to be posting some recipes to help you use up that wonderful harvest of veggies you picked before the hard freeze. Today, it is vegetarian (or not) stuffed peppers. I grew a variety of bell peppers in pots this year and they did pretty well. My husband loves stuffed peppers, which are usually stuffed with browned meat or sausage and rice, with a tomato sauce topping. Here is how to make a good vegetarian version, though you can add the meat if you like.

4 red, yellow or green bell peppers, tops sliced off, stem removed (reserve tops) and remove seeds and membrane.
1.5 cups cooked rice- I used a mix of brown and wild rice, though white or leftover rice will do.
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery diced (optional)
5 or 6 button mushrooms chopped
1/2 t.each thyme, marjoram and celery seed (you can vary the spices- use Italian seasoning or curry power, chili powder-to taste instead- be creative!)
1/2 t garlic powder
grating of black pepper to taste
1.4 cup ch0pped, toasted walnuts
1/4 cup dried apples chopped (you can use another dried fruit, raisins, apricots, but we dehydrate lots of apples from our tree for winter eating, so we use that)
2 cups taco sauce, salsa or tomato sauce (you can use less if you prefer it drier)(I use taco sauce because I like it and I make and can my own).

Saute the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt until caramelized, remove from the pan and do the same with the mushrooms and celery (putting then all in the pan at once steams them versus caramelizes them). When browned, add herbs and spices and cook a few more minutes. Mix these vegetables with rice, walnuts and apples. Stuff as much as you can in the 4 bell peppers and replace the reserved tops on them. Place the peppers in an 9 by 9 or so baking dish, adding any extra rice stuffing to the bottom of the pan. Pour the taco or other tomato-based sauce over them. Cover with lightly with foil and place in a 375 degree over for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 10 more minutes until bubbly.
There are many variations: add sauteed shredded carrots, sauteed leek, shredded parsnip, gree peas, corn to the rice stuffing. Top with cheese in the last 10 minutes to melt.
Happy eating!