Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ode To The Sugar Pea

Dear Folks,

In a prior post I noted I was going to discuss the Sugar Pea at length.

Whichever variety of Sugar, Snow or Snap Pea you have an opportunity to grow, do so.

Let me tell you the joys of growing this vegetable in the garden, particularly in the desert garden.  Unlike the English (Garden) Pea this cultivar is useable at many stages.

Pretty much the whole above-ground plant is edible, from the delicate 6 inch growing tips (stir-fry), to the flowers, to the pods, young and older, to the shelled peas and, while I have not done so, the dried and then cooked mature peas. (Pictured to the right is a group of about 3 plants - photo taken March 22nd).

And THEN after the plant starts to die back, you harvest the completely dried peas, save for re-sowing the next season and leave the root in the ground to feed nitrogen back into the soil to help with the next crop (tomatoes anyone?).

These plants will flourish from October through late March (or even well into April if we do not gallop into 100s too soon).  Each plant may produce for 3-4 months as long as you keep the pods picked young (3-4 inches).  Successive sowing (every 2-4 weeks) will keep a small row productive for 5-6 months - how cool is that?

Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon is commonly known as the snow pea.
Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon ser. cv. is known as the sugar or snap pea
– Wikipedia

The nutrient density of this veggie is just about perfect.  Low calorie, high protein and fiber.  (Note: the protein is incomplete, but easily remedied by eating with other foods such as grains, meat or dairy.)

1 cup of chopped pods has 41 calories, 2.74 gms of protein and 2.5 of fiber and vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium and Vitamins A and C.

1 cup of matured peas (shucked from still green pods) has approx 117 calories, 7.86 protein and 7.4 fiber, but higher sugars than English (Garden) peas.

Source:   Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.

In my garden the first flush of pods usually does not make it in the house.  I/we eat right off the vine. Then I settle down and try to harvest, for use in salads, soups or stews.  I like throwing some chopped pods into a soup or stew in the last minute or two of cooking.  When I make chicken pot pie, I use chopped sugar pea pods instead of English Peas.

Last year was challenging for me and the garden.  After planting successive seeds, I did some traveling then had to deal with health issues for myself and a relative, on and off from early February until October. The result was I missed most of the young pod harvest time.  When I could get into the garden I found many plump green pods.  Still wonderfully edible raw (remove the string :-), but the more I looked the more I found pods with huge peas.  So I thought, well why not just shuck them.  The result was the glorious green peas you see in the bowl.  I found them still sweet eaten raw out of hand, added to salads and soups and stews (again at the last minute or two).  I also froze them for later use.  (I lay fruits and small veggies like this on a tray to freeze individually then put in a zip-lock or jar so I can take out whatever portion I want.)

At the end of the growth when the vines are completely dead, I clip at soil level - some I pull completely, but usually the roots still stay in the soil.  Leaving the vines to dry completely before removing ensures the nitrogen fixing nodes have fed back into the soil.

Even without planning I always find many dried peas in pods to save for sowing the next season.

Harvesting seed for resowing also keeps the region-specific adaptation principle alive and well.  This bit of science says that 2nd, 3rd and later generations of the specific plant are more adapted and more productive to the region (think you garden) than purchasing new seed each year from a commercial supplier.

Growing sugar peas is not only rewarding it is easy.

Choose a full sun spot.  Plan what you are going to use for a trellis set up (trellis, bamboo poles tipee style, string, or cord - whatever works for you).

Sow the first seeds as early as you can in the fall (Sep 1st is okay).  Plant every 6 inches in a row running east to west or along a south facing wall.  Sow 1 inch deep.  If you have bird or critter problems, place a layer of mulch lightly (like straw or twigs) over the sown spot to hide the seed area.  The vines will grow up through this cover without a problem.  Plan on sowing more seeds every 2-4 weeks through the first week in February.  Figure on 2-4 plants for every person in your household.

If you have great success with the vines, consider sacrificing some future peas by harvesting growing tips (up to 6 inches long) and/or flowers for stir frys and salads.  The vines will put out more vine - you are not killing it off.

Once the plants get going good you should be able to harvest about a cup of young pods every week for every 4-5 plants.

So what are you waiting for?  Get your peas growing and experience the delights and many uses of this incredible plant.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

I will be participating at the Author's Day at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on December 6th.  Come on out and visit with myself and other authors on a range of topics.

If you can't make it - I sure hope you can!! -- my books are available in print and e-book at various sites on the internet


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook



Friday, November 21, 2014

Are You Growing, Can You Grow - Your Own Food?

Dear Folks,

My favorite subject - can you grow some or most of your own food?  If not - why not?  It is a simple question with far reaching consequences and benefits.  Through out most of recorded history, people working together created food access systems, whether through shared labor, barter or 3rd party (wholesale to retail sales).

In a modern effort to make ourselves so-called independent, we isolated our talents and knowledge into fractional skills - we can make money doing a job, but we have to PAY someone to grow our food.

This disconnect becomes frighteningly apparent when someone loses a job or becomes unable to work and feed themselves or their families.

This fascinating article from the New York Times - brings this issue of food and poverty into clearer perspective.

Recent discussions by some politicians about reducing or eliminating 'safety nets' like food stamps begs the question - where do the hungry obtain food - and further - WHAT IF you lost your job - can you grow your own food, can you work with others to grow your own food, do you know where to get food without money?

If you believe your only skill and talent is how to make money, then you have set yourself and your family up for unfortunate consequences if life throws you a curve, badly.

Learn how to grow some or more of your own food, read, take a class, attend lectures, join a local gardening club.

"The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem."

"Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.

Don’t Ask How to Feed the 9 Billion

By Mark Bittman

At dinner with a friend the other night, I mentioned that I was giving a talk this week debunking the idea that we need to grow more food on a large scale so we can “feed the nine billion” — the anticipated global population by 2050.

She looked at me, horrified, and said, “But how are you going to produce enough food to feed the hungry?”
I suggested she try this exercise: “Put yourself in the poorest place you can think of. Imagine yourself in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Now. Are you hungry? Are you going to go hungry? Are you going to have a problem finding food?”

The answer, obviously, is “no.” Because she — and almost all of you reading this — would be standing in that country with some $20 bills and a wallet filled with credit cards. And you would go buy yourself something to eat.

The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem.

And poverty and the resulting hunger aren’t matters of bad luck; they are often a result of people buying the property of traditional farmers and displacing them, appropriating their water, energy and mineral resources, and even producing cash crops for export while reducing the people growing the food to menial and hungry laborers on their own land.

Poverty isn’t the only problem, of course. There is also the virtually unregulated food system that is geared toward making money rather than feeding people. (Look no further than the ethanol mandate or high fructose corn syrup for evidence.)

If poverty creates hunger, it teams up with the food system to create another form of malnourishment: obesity (and what’s called “hidden hunger,” a lack of micronutrients). If you define “hunger” as malnutrition, and you accept that overweight and obesity are forms of malnutrition as well, than almost half the world is malnourished.

The solution to malnourishment isn’t to produce more food. The solution is to eliminate poverty.
Look at the most agriculturally productive country in the world: the United States. Is there hunger here? Yes, quite a bit. We have the highest percentage of hungry people of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than that of Britain.

Is there a lack of food? You laugh at that question. It is, as the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler likes to call it, “a food carnival.” It’s just that there’s a steep ticket price.

A majority of the world is fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, some of whom are themselves among the hungry. The rest of the hungry are underpaid or unemployed workers. But boosting yields does nothing for them.

So we should not be asking, “How will we feed the world?,” but “How can we help end poverty?” Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.

And how do we help those who have malnutrition from excess eating? We can help them, and help preserve the earth’s health, if we recognize that the industrial model of food production is neither inevitable nor desirable.

That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield.

The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science. The best method of farming for those in highly productive agricultural societies would be farming made more intelligent and less rapacious. That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield. The goal should be food that is green, fair, healthy and affordable.

It’s not news that the poor need money and justice. If there’s a bright side here, it’s that it might be easier to make the changes required to fix the problems created by industrial agriculture than those created by inequality.

There’s plenty of food. Too much of it is going to feed animals, too much of it is being converted to fuel and too much of it is being wasted.

We don’t have to increase yield to address any of those issues; we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor.

Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.” 

. . .
Desert Gardening Tip - here is a beginner tip or one to add to your garden know-how.

Plant Sugar Peas - RIGHT NOW!

I'm going to do a separate post on sugar peas and what is so wonderful about them next.  But in the meantime.  Find a sunny spot - I mean SUNNY, not partial shade and sometimes sun.  The spot should be at least 2 foot by 2 foot.  Erect something to serve as a trellis on the North or West side of the area.

Plant 2 seeds for each person in your household, 6 inches apart.  In 3- 4 weeks plant 2 more seeds for each person, arranged between the now growing plants.  Once the plants start producing (in about 5-6 weeks) pick the pods each day when they measure 3-4 inches.  Keep them picked and the plants keep producing.

More in the next post.

. . . 

I have a book - a  beginners guide to when to plant in the desert garden.

Coming up at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on December 6th, I with a whole bunch of authors will be there for an Author's Day, where you can visit with the author's and purchase books.

If that won't work for you, you can find my books in print and some versions of e-book on the internet.

Don't put off starting or adding to your edible garden - you CAN control where some or much of your food comes from and it is not a store which can't or won't take good intentions, instead of money!

-- Catherine
The Herb Lady

 . . .

My Books:


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monsanto Suggests Pre-Harvest application of Roundup!!

Dear Folks,

This came as a total surprise to me and I am horrified.  In an article which appeared in the last couple of days, I/we learned that conventional farmers (non-organic or non-natural farmers) are encouraged, and are, using roundup as a pre-harvest treatment to make it easier on the machines and to increase, in the case of wheat, crop yields.!!!!

Get that - these crops (which includes wheat, barley, beans, and I saw a reference to potatoes) are all sprayed right before they are harvested - for YOUR food!!!  Or, the feed of livestock.

Monsanto Suggests RoundUp Herbicide Treatment For Many Crops Right Before Harvest, Not Just RoundUp Ready GMOs

“Preharvest is the best time for controlling Canada thistle, quackgrass, perennial sowthistle, dandelion, toadflax, and milkweed. A preharvest weed control application is an excellent management strategy to not only control perennial weeds, but to facilitate harvest management and get a head start on next year’s crop.” -- From Monsanto literature --

As usual all the "suspects" say it is perfectly safe and not to worry.

They also always add that it is perfectly safe under "present and expected conditions of use.”

Levels of roundup where found in a study of human breast milk.  herbicide-found-in-monsantos-roundup-discovered-in-breast-milk

The wording was "high" and higher than expected - HIGHER!!!!!!

The use of the throwaway terms used in regards to consequences like "expected conditions", or "reasonable consumption" (that latter used with high fructose corn syrup) mean as long as it not overused - your residue won't harm you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So we are always left with the question of just how to avoid over-ingestion of these chemicals.

We wind up on the same answer - organic and naturally grown.

If you have not switched to flours, grains, beans and food which is naturally or organically grown yet  -- or growing your own - isn't it time?

Please share this post.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free - Seed - Share!!! This Friday, October 31, 2014 - Mesa Farmers Market - Plus Boyce Thompson Arboretum Events

Dear Folks,

Come on out to the Mesa Farmers Market this Friday to shop from local vendors AND pick up some FREE seed to get your garden growing.

I am hosting this event along with the Market, and I try to do this 3 times a year to time for best seeding in for the season.

If you have any non-gmo seed (preferably food - but can be ornamental) you are welcomed to bring some, however it is not necessary to contribute seed to pick up some seed.

I will have small envelopes for you to choose some (most people do not need a whole package) seed of any kind available.


Mesa Community Farmers Market
Center Street south of University on the east side of the street
(the market runs year-round every Friday morning)
9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Hope to see you there.

. . .

Last Sunday's Herb Festival at the Boyce Thompson Aboretum was great - the weather could not have been better.  The atmosphere of the setting across from the Wing Memorial Herb Garden was enhanced by the lovely music of The Levno Duo from Chandler (Celinda and John Levno, on flute and guitar).  The lovely creativity of Susan Corl showcased her many gift ideas, the Arizona Herb Association was there to answer questions and with a huge assortment of seed packages for sale, and I provided a couple of dips focusing on some of my favorite herbs for flavor -- basil, Syrian Oregano (Za'atar) and Lemon Verbena, fresh from my garden. (see my prior blog post for the recipes).

Below is contact information for the participants in the Herb Festival

Arizona Herb Association

Susan Corl - textile artists extradinare

Read up on Susan's work at the BTA blog post here

Celinda and John Levno are available for events including weddings

. . .

Mark Your Calendars! -- December 6th - an Author's Day at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  Along with other author's I will be talking about and selling my books.  Watch the BTA Event page for updates on times and details.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Herb Festival Recipes at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Dear Folks,

I hope you are able to get out and actually sample these dips today! :-)

Boyce Thompson Aboretum

Herb Festival

October 26, 2014
* end-of-the-plant-sale special event from 11am - 3pm
"Herb is the word" for our Fall Plant Sale; we'll have an expanded variety of herbs throughout the sale - plus a new date for our annual Herb Festival, which moves to late October this year to take advantage of optimal herb planting time. Sunday the 26th brings a chance to meet volunteers from the Arizona Herb Association, tour BTA's Wing Memorial Herb Garden, and enjoy herbal cuisine prepared by Catherine "The Herb Lady" Crowley.
Yogurt Pesto Dip
Fresh basil is the star of this dip.  Who does not love basil?

4    cups plain yogurt
1/2    cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2    teaspoon salt
1/2    cup walnut pieces
1 cup light packed basil shredded or 2-3 tablespoon dried basil (more if you like)
1    clove crushed garlic (1/4 teaspoon of dried)

Combine all - best if chilled for several hours or overnight before serving.

Cauliflower - Tofu Dip

I am on a cauliflower recipe collecting binge and wanted to make something with tofu and cauliflower.  When I think of tofu I think "cheese" and cauliflower goes very well with cheese.  I also wanted to use some lemon and a robust herb so I choose Syrian Oregano (Za'atar) and lemon verbena.

1 head of cauliflower
1 package of extra firm tofu
Leaves from five 5" sprigs of Syrian Oregano (about 3 tablespoon loose pack)
3/4 cup of loose pack lemon verbena leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt

Drain and press* tofu to remove extra liquid.  Cut into chunks.
Break cauliflower into florets, tosses with a bit of avocado (or olive) oil and roast at 450 for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden (don’t let burn) - cool completely.

Using a food processor, grind cauliflower with herbs and zest.  Transfer to a bowl.
Grind tofu with lemon juice and salt.
Combine all
Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste.

*Slice package top plastic but do not remove. Drain liquid then place a food can (about 14 oz) on top to press the tofu extracting as much liquid as possible - about 10-15 minutes.

Serve either of these dips with veggie sticks, pretzels, chips or crackers.  Either dip can also be a sandwich spread.

I found a new-to-me cracker "CrunchMaster" gluten-free 5 seed version, which I will be using at the festival.

Hope you enjoy both dips.

. . .

You can find more recipes like these in my cookbook “101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady”

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook



Monday, October 20, 2014

Herb Festival - October 26th - 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Dear Folks,

I'm back after helping a relative with health issues (doing much better).

The annual Herb Festival at the BTA has now been moved from Spring to Fall - a better planting time for many herbs here in the desert southwest.

Now scheduled for the ending day of the Fall Plant Sale - you can pick up some plants and sample some of my herb-focused dips, and check out the music and other vendors.

Arboretum Herb Festival and Live Music
October 26

 "Herb is the word" during the final week of October's annual Fall Plant Sale fundraiser and Lynnea and Preston are special-ordering a variety of herbs to add to the dozens that they have grown themselves. Our annual Herb Festival has moved to the Fall and strategically scheduled for late October to take advantage of optimal herb planting time. Bring a picnic and join us Sunday for music and the chance to meet members of the Arizona Herb Association and browse items at their booth. Enjoy live music by The Levno Duo from Chandler (Celinda and John Levno, on flute and guitar) and sample savory tastings of herb-infused dips from Catherine 'The Herb Lady' Crowley, all in the environs of our Wing Memorial Herb Garden.

Here is a short list of some the herbs that we'll have for sale.

yerba mansa
rosemary (assorted)
lavender (Spanish)
lavender (English)
mexican terragon
bible hyssop
marjoram (pot)
garden rue
giant cat mint
little leaf cat mint
scented geraniums
society garlic
garlic chives
several different mints

After you return home with all your great plant purchases - check out my November Planting Tips link.!topic/edible-landscaping-in-the-desert-gl-gs-ge/xQe43L7N0SM

 Make it a great month in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Be Food Informed: America's Test Kitchen

Dear Folks,

I do not regularly tout a particular website/show etc.  There has to be a good reason.

Well America's Test Kitchen, part of Cook's Country is one you should look into.

I think one of the great things about this show / website is they give great information on why recipes work and how to make them work better.  They explain simple science behind the best way to cook/prepare something.  Plus the recipes are plain good.

I used to catch Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show for all of those reasons - then they discontinued it :(

Well get your food-information-fix by signing up for their newsletter and Christopher Kimball's podcasts.

Here is this week's newsletter

Link to the podcasts' page

Some tips from ATK are just great.

How to cook the perfect sunnyside/basted eggs.

I provided a link to the egg recipe in this blog post.

Grill your meat frozen instead of thawed - the frozen meat tip is in the podcast link of this blog.

Have a Best Day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady