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Recipe of the Week: Pico De Gallo

Pico De Gallo

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This is one of my favorite types of salsa. If there was ever a case to be made that life can be sustained on Chips and Salsa, this is the recipe. This is the perfect summer dish for any occassion and will always add a colorful festive addition to any table. Not only is the type of salsa full of vitamins and nutrients it will always steal the show as a centerpiece at the your company picnic or neighborhood potluck BBQ!!!

Very simple to prepare, you may use a food processor by using the “chop” function or as I like to say…take time and smell the chilies…and prepare all the ingredients by hand. Remember that this is not going to be like a liquid pincante sauce, no, this is a salsa fresca or chunky salsa that will require a fairly large bowl.

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS;

3 pounds Roma Tomatoes

1 Pound Beefsteak Tomatoes

3 Tomatillas

1.Red Onion

1 Yellow Onion

1 Habanera*

1 Yellow Wax Chili*

6 Jalapenos

6 fresh limes

1 Lemon

1 LG Clove of Garlic

1 oz fresh Oregano

¼  teaspoon finely chopped Ginger Root

Pinch of Cumin

Now remember if you are chopping by hand to follow this pattern…chilies first, onions, and last the tomatoes. Then was your hand before you touch ANYTHING!!!!! [I have found over the years that by following this pattern for the veggies that the oils from the chilies are dissipated greatly by the acid in the juices of tomatoes]. Crush the garlic, chop the Oregano, Cilantro and Ginger Root. Add all ingredients in large bowl. You’ll want to have a bowl about twice the size you will be serving in as you will need to “toss” everything to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Roll your limes on the cutting board or counter until they are soft and squeeze all the juice for both limes and one lemon  into the bowl. Allow this to sit in the refrigerator 8 hours. Prior to serving squeeze the juice for one more lime into bowl. The remaining limes cut into wedges for your quests to use when serving themselves….

If you really like to steel the show you can make your own tortilla chips by cutting corn tortillas into eight pieces and deep frying them just before serving time…Believe me when I say, there is nothing that compares to freshly cooked chips that are still warm with cold Pico De Gallo on them!!!

  • You can also use sweet peppers should you not care for the heat. Just substitute green, red and yellow peppers.

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Raised Planter Beds and Container Farming: Is it Right for You??

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Selecting an area for your planter is important
Selecting an area for your planter is important

 

 

I am constantly asked about weed control without herbicides. My answer, container farming or raised planter beds. Seems like a simple enough solution, for me at least. So how about farmers with large areas of land, how do they control weed growth? That does present a problem as all farmers want to be able to provide a product that is affordable to their customers and we all what labor does to the cost of a product. This subject will be a story for another time as I have a couple farmers that I will be interviewing in the upcoming weeks on this subject.

Today I want to discuss Raised Planter Beds and Container Farming. The later has become very popular in the urban areas and in fact I have included a very good article on tips about container farming from the web site, Urban Farming on Line. This is a fantastic source of information on urban gardening and farming for you city dwellers.

Bed lined with weed barrier.
Bed lined with weed barrier.

Since we needed a New Greek Oregano bed here at AOF I have included some photos of the construction and planting. The area that was chosen had a lot of tumble weeds and other native scrub plants that had to be cleared and to insure that we would get no new growth from any of the removed weeds seeds I placed a weed barrier down prior to layering in our growing medium of organic matters aged manures and an organic dirt compound. While I was layering in the growing medium I also placed several of the flower tops form our current Oregano plants that  have started their seeding process. While this bed will not be ready for harvesting this year we will have a nice weed free bed in the coming spring.

Most of us know Oregano as one of the herbs in Spaghetti sauces. However, I also use Oregano in salsas, marinades, egg dishes, if you enjoy the flavor of Oregano try using the whole leaves of fresh Oregano in a salad, and this will add a pop of unexpected flavor that explodes in your mouth making your salad the hit of your next pot luck BBQ this summer!

 

Layering with selected Growing Mediums
Layering with selected Growing Mediums

Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite leaves 1–4 cm long. Oregano will grow in a pH range between 6.0 (mildly acid) and 9.0 (strongly alkaline) with a preferred range between 6.0 and 8.0. The flowers are purple, 3–4 mm long, produced in erect spikes. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative O. majorana is known as sweet marjoram

Medicinal uses for Greek Oregano? As with most herbs primarily used  in the culinary field there are some possibilities of medicinal properties.

Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative for sore throat.[8]

Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids.[9][10] In test-tube studies, it also has shown antimicrobial activity against strains of the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.[9]

In 2005, the US Federal Trade Commission brought legal action against a firm that had claimed oil of oregano treated colds and flus, and that oil of oregano taken orally treated and relieved bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms,[11] saying the representations were false or were not substantiated at the time the representations were made, and that they were therefore a deceptive practice and false advertisements.[12] The final stipulation on the matter said no representation as to any health benefit could be made without “…competent and reliable scientific evidence…”.

Planted and watered...now we wait for harvest time.
Planted and watered…now we wait for harvest time.

 

So you have the fact that weed control is much easier with container and using a Raised bed, other advantages are the fact that you have 100% control over your growing mediums placed in the beds. You don’t have to be concerned at what may already be in the soil, or what the previous tenants of the property may have done or may have dumped in the back yard etc. Remember that if you have placed a weed barrier, this will prevent not only weeds from coming up but will add a layer of protection between the roots of your plants. Keeping in mind that as you water the water will leach whatever may be in your soil down away from whatever you are growing. In addition you have a controlled area and will be able to control the amount of soil amenities needed, a cost saving measure that everyone can appreciate. What is so nice about most produce can be grown in containers and raised beds on porches; balcony’s or as a way to adorn your sidewalks with an aesthetic looks of horticulture expertise.

 

Here at AOF we use Raised Planter Beds primarily for perennial plants, Thyme, Oregano, Sage etc. and we use the containers like the whiskey barrels or redwood boxes for annuals like basil’s, cilantro, squashes, and hot peppers. This allows us flexibility in continuing to keep our growing mediums tailored to the crop in the container. This practice also allows to easily rotate crops from one growing area to another without a lot of effort. It is important to rotate your crops so you do not end up with a depleted soil after a few years. Many times I’m asked about why crops have all of a sudden started to fail in a certain area and the first question I ask is, “How long have you been growing that crop there”…time and time again the solution is to add a few amenities and rotate the crops.

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Spaghetti Squash

7 Tips for Container Gardening

Make the most of your small space with these container-gardening tips.

By R.J. Ruppenthal

1. Use a big container.

Don’t be tempted by small, cute containers. Small containers are mostly for ornamental purposes; plants need plenty of deep root space to grow properly. If the container is too small, plants will be stunted, unproductive and unhealthy. I look for containers that are at least 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep. Larger plants, such as tomatoessquash, sunflowers and root vegetables, need containers with a much larger soil capacity, preferably at least 5 gallons. (Think of a 5-gallon paint bucket.) You can get away with smaller containers for lettuce and other salad greens, provided the plants are harvested at an earlier stage.

2. Provide good drainage for your container plants.

Plants need oxygen for respiration in their root systems. Many containers, even those sold at good nurseries and home centers, do not have holes in the bottom, so they slowly fill up with water. Nearly all plants will suffocate or die of root rot if the containers fill up with water. If using wooden boxes, plastic pots or metal drums, drill some drainage holes in the base. To prevent soil loss, cover the holes with a piece of landscape fabric or screen mesh before filling the container with soil. A layer of gravel is not needed because it can cause more serious drainage problems if it clogs up with soil.

3. Keep your plants well-watered.

Some kinds of planters, particularly those made of terra cotta, wood or cloth, can let a lot of air in the sides. This airflow dries out the soil more quickly, requiring more frequent watering. Also keep an eye on any plants that are placed on patios, walkways or other surfaces, because these can heat up quickly on sunny days. If you have space at the top of a container, add a layer of mulch, such as compost, shredded paper, straw or coconut fiber. This will seal in some moisture and prevent rapid evaporation, extending the time between needed waterings. Alternatively, consider using a self-watering container, which includes a water reservoir at the bottom; these are available in most garden centers and from many online retailers if you choose not to make one yourself.

4. Choose a light, airy soil mix.

Find a potting mix that contains plenty of organic matter, such as bark fines, peat, coconut coir or compost. One of these should be the first ingredient listed in the mix. The potting mix does not need to contain any soil, even though that word may be used. Organic material will absorb more water than your native ground soil and will provide plant roots with the structure and aeration they need. Potting mixes that contain perlite, vermiculite or pumice also ensure proper aeration. If you wish to make your own mix or amend your native soil, these amendments are available in small bags at nurseries.

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Chilies of the Mayan Love variety

Unlike their ground-based counterparts, plants in containers depend on you for 100 percent of their nutritional needs. Use a balanced organic fertilizer that contains both macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash) and micronutrients (including calcium, magnesium, sulfur and trace minerals). If you are growing small trees or bushes in containers, look for a specialty fertilizer appropriate for that type of plant (e.g. citrus). Scratch the fertilizer into the top few inches of the soil around the plants, avoiding direct contact with the roots or stems.

6. Refresh your soil every year.

Each spring before planting, remove the top few inches of soil from the container, add some new soil mix, and fertilize again. This will keep the soil renewed and fertile. Permanent container plants, such as small trees and bushes, need to be removed every few years and root pruned to prevent them from strangling themselves. If possible, do this while the plant is dormant. Use a sharp utility knife to cut off a few inches of root material from each side of the plant. Then add some new potting mix, return the plant to the container, and water it well. Regular root pruning will prevent plants from becoming root bound.

7. Get some wheels.

Containers full of wet soil can be very heavy, yet you may need to move your plants to overwinter them or take advantage of shifting sunlight patterns during the year. Planter stands with wheels are available at many nurseries, and they will prevent you from breaking your back when moving time comes.

About the Author: R.J. Ruppenthal is author of the book Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting(Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008). He is a licensed attorney and professor at Evergreen Valley College in northern California

http://www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/random-acts-of-gardening/7-container-gardening-tips.aspx

 

I hope this helps with any decissions you may be considering in regards to your gardening.

Should you wish to any further information contact us today to make an appointment for our Planter Bed Services

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One of our many Basil Planters

Until Nest Time…

Happy Gardening…

Photography: Aaron Aveiro

Planter Construction by: A. Aveiro

Courtsey Aladay LLC

Organics to You At a Price You'll Love

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