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Archive | Bloomin’ Summer

Fresh market

BLOOM-zucchini-plant

By Vicky Babcock

Got zucchini? Who doesn’t? This prolific and tasty summer fruit is a gardener’s friend—and their worst nightmare. First time growers will brag about their zucchini crop, only to find that they can’t even give it away! Zucchini—botanically the immature fruit of the zucchini flower—is best cooked fresh, retaining its peel. Because of its high water content, it does not lend itself well to freezing or canning—thus creating a problem for consumers with an overabundance of the crop. Indeed, popular folklore warns against leaving your car windows open during zucchini season, lest you come back to find it filled with the troublesome squash. It even has its own national holiday—August 8 is “sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch day”—an opportunity to share your largess with less fortunate individuals.

Frankly we think the green (and also yellow) squash has gotten a bad rap. We’d like to do what we can to sweeten its reputation. Zucchini is a great source of potassium, providing about 14 percent of your daily requirements in one medium fruit. Fresh fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C providing 58% RDA. Zucchini contains no fat or cholesterol, almost no sodium and one medium fruit contains about 33 calories. Sliced and eaten fresh, zucchini is a dieter’s dream! And the overabundance? Zucchini bread can be cooked and frozen for later use. Or try our recipe for zucchini relish, a flavorful alternative to traditional pickles. Bon appetite!

Zucchini relish

10 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini

3 cups chopped onion

5 tablespoons canning salt

2 red bell peppers, chopped

2 green bell peppers, chopped

3 cups white sugar

3 cups white vinegar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dry mustard

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed

½ to1 teaspoon ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Place the zucchini and onion in a large, plastic bowl, and sprinkle with canning salt. Mix. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the zucchini, and rinse well with cool water. Squeeze out excess water. Place the red and green bell pepper, sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch into a large pot. Add the dry mustard, turmeric, celery seed and pepper. Stir to combine; add the drained zucchini. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids. Pack hot relish into sterilized jars, making sure there are no air pockets. Fill jars to ¼ inch from the top. Screw on lids.

Cool. Check seal once cool. Refrigerate any unsealed cans and use within 3 to 6 weeks. Great with brats or hot dogs!

Brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Tomatoes—around the world and back

BLOOM-Tomatoes

Tomatoes may have made a circuitous route to North America from its native habitat in Mexico and South America. It is believed to have been first cultivated by the Aztecs, who used this as a side dish to their unsavory eating practices. The Spaniards brought the fruit to Europe where it enjoyed mixed reviews. Classified in the same category as the deadly nightshade, many people believed the tomato to be uneatable.

While the tomato is used most specifically as a vegetable, it is botanically classified a fruit.  The French called the bright orange red fruit  “pommes d’amour,”– apples of love, possibly a corruption of  “pomi dei mori”, (apple of the Moors) brought back by Spanish Moors to Morocco.

It was in Paris, France that Thomas Jefferson first tasted the fruit and sent home seeds: however, an earlier reference to tomatoes in South Carolina (William Salmon, herbalist) suggests that they were introduced from the Caribbean in the early 1700’s.  While earliest fruit was likely small and yellow, tomatoes now come in hundreds of varieties and are enjoyed throughout the world.

Tomatoes have a treasure trove of nutritional benefits; they are excellent sources of vitamins C, A and K as well as good sources of potassium, manganese, vitamins B6, B3 and B1, copper, magnesium, vitamin E, phosphorus and iron.  They also contain lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient widely recognized for its antioxidant properties.  They are heart healthy, having been linked to reduction of fats in our bloodstreams.  If you haven’t already done so, consider adding tomatoes to your diet.  It’s the right choice for a healthy lifestyle.

 

Fresh Tomato Salsa

 

Garlic salt—to taste

Three Tomatoes—chopped

Three Green onions—chopped, green parts included

1 Yellow Pepper

One Jalapeño pepper

½ cup chopped Cilantro (optional)

Salt—to taste

Pepper –to taste

Onion Salt—to taste

1-2 T. Corn

1-2 T Black beans

 

Seed and chop chilies using a fork to hold them.  Try to avoid touching these, use soap and water to thoroughly wash up after finishing  and be sure to keep hands away from your face and eyes for several hours afterwards.  Reserve some seeds to add if salsa is not hot enough for your tastes.

Mix in remaining ingredients.  Adjust to taste by adding extra tomato if too hot or a few seeds if not hot enough. Seeds from the Jalapeño are extremely hot—use sparingly.

Serve with Tortilla chips.

 

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More beauty, less beast in your lawn and garden

BLOOM-More-beauty-less-beast

(BPT) – A tale as old as time, true as it can be … insects, weeds and poor fertilization are the beasts that take away from the beauty of plants and flowers in our lawns, gardens and even homes. To maintain a home and landscape your neighbors envy, interiors and exteriors should remain pest-free, and plants should be fed with the proper nutrients to stay healthy all-season-long.

Given the many things to consider when it comes to sustaining a lush landscape, homeowners are seeking new ways to simplify their lawn and garden maintenance techniques.

Trusted brands Amdro and Pennington have developed five quick tips that take the guesswork out of warm weather chores and make any home flourish with “more beauty, less beasts.”

1. Decoding soil DNA: The best gauge for fertilization requirements of your landscape is through a soil test. These tests are used to evaluate the condition and levels of nutrients in the soil, especially pH, which determines how well plants are able to draw the nutrients they need from the soil. Home soil test kits are available at most lawn and garden retailers or homeowners can contact their local Department of Agriculture for more information.

2. Fertilizer frequency factors: During periods of drought, it is important not to over-fertilize as this can result in unhealthy or burnt-looking plants. The frequency of fertilization depends on climate, plant type and the fertilizer. A pre-measured, ready-to-use fertilizer, such as the Pennington Smart Feed Sprayer System, ensures efficient feeding, proper nutrition and vigorous plant growth. The benefit: better results with bigger blooms and produce, when compared to unfed plants. The system also saves time, minimizes water usage and removes guesswork.

3. Select the right plants: One of the best defenses against problem insects is a strong, well-maintained plant. When designing your landscape, select plants that are less prone to insect problems. For example, native plants tend to be more pest-resistant, if planted where the sun and soil are right for them.

4. Go on the offensive: While weeds grow year-round, pest activity in many ways correlates with temperature. In general, as temperatures increase, so does insect feeding and insect populations in and around the home. Combat insects and weeds with a simple, versatile tool, such as the Amdro PowerFlex Pest & Weed System. With no mixing, measuring or cleaning required, this all-in-one system allows homeowners to reclaim their properties, both indoors and outdoors.

5. Protect beneficial species: Within every landscape and garden are pest predators that are beneficial to the health of plants – either by feeding on problem pests or by helping with soil aeration and drainage. Examples include earthworms, spiders, ladybugs and praying mantises. Attract beneficial insects to your landscape with plants that provide nectar, pollen and other food sources.

For more information and additional helpful hints, visit www.penningtonusa.com or www.amdro.com.

 

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Create an outdoor sanctuary in your backyard

BLOOM-Outdoor-sanctuary1
(BPT) – Coming home from a long work day to a place of peace, quiet, relaxation and even harmony is a dream for many homeowners. And by creating an outdoor sanctuary in the backyard, this private place of solace will become the first destination for all members of the family when they need a break.
Backyard sanctuaries incorporate peace of mind with a spa-like atmosphere. Some do this with plant features, others with water. Here are some tips to build an outdoor sanctuary in your own backyard.
1. Create a walkway – A beautiful walkway around your backyard, through different scenic zones, can help you to clear your mind of troubled thoughts. This walkway can be a paved path, or composed of stepping stones or gravel and woodchips. Consider planting different gardens close to the walkway, inviting walkers to immerse themselves within the blooms and scents wafting from the flowers.
BLOOM-Outdoor-sanctuary22. Incorporate a seating area – This space doesn’t have to be large, but give it a sense of ambiance with an arbor made of cedar to allow plants to grow taller, or a pergola to provide shade and that wonderful natural aroma that cedar gives off. Natural materials like Western Red Cedar weather naturally, and are rot-resistant, giving homeowners a durable and long-lasting material to enjoy for years to come.
“Using Western Red Cedar for backyard sanctuary seating areas gives homeowners a variety of design options to work around,” says Mark Clement, a building expert and co-host of “My Fix It Up Life” which airs nationally on iTunes, Blog Talk Radio and myfixituplife.com. “This wood is sustainable, environmentally friendly, easy to work with, ages beautifully, and, when incorporated into an arbor or pergola design, makes a stunning visual element to the space.”
In this seating space, place a bench, outdoor patio furniture or even comfortable lawn chairs to encourage family members to stop for a rest and settle their thoughts for the day. If the family is into yoga or meditation, consider keeping mats in a nearby storage container for quick and easy access.
3. Design for both night and day – Sometimes a sanctuary space is most needed when the moon is shining brightly. Plan for this with a lighting design in the backyard. Provide illumination to pathways, the deck area, and in garden clusters to give a new sense of beauty to the plants. When designing your lighting scheme, be careful to avoid creating any scary shadows. If you notice this occurring, adjust the lighting to come from a different direction, or try using a different light. Also consider what form of light you would like. Would you prefer low watt electric lights, or candlelight, which would require a person to spend time preparing?
Once your backyard sanctuary is built, your family will have a place handy where they can escape for some peace of mind.

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Fresh Market

BLOOM-blueberry-sorbetBy Vicky Babcock

In early America, Native Americans traded “star berries” to colonists who believed them to be some form of bilberry, a fruit found in the United Kingdom. While similar and likely related, blueberries are native to North America. Blueberries, with the highest anti-oxidant content of all fresh fruits, are an excellent nutritional choice in your diet. Heart healthy, vision aid, memory aid, cancer preventative (consumption of blueberries has been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer and ovarian cancer), anti-depressant, and anti-aging agent—blueberries may very well be that fountain of youth so sought by Ponce de Leon! Blueberries can aid in the prevention of cell-damage, lower cholesterol and reduce body fat, reduce digestive inflammation and prevent infection.
It was said during World War II that RAF pilots consumed bilberry jam to improve their night vision. While this has since been proved to be false—a story created by the Brits to confuse their enemies when radar was first used—it was plausible because consumption of bilberries, as well as our native blueberries, can prevent or delay age related ocular problems such as macular degeneration, cataracts, myopia  and dryness and infections, especially those pertaining to the retina.
While claims of improved night vision have been made, we could find nothing to support this. Even so, blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse that should not be ignored.  Eat these tasty treats fresh or straight out of the freezer, add them to cereals or pancakes, or try any number of recipes found on the net. Remember, the darker the berry, the more antioxidant and other nutritional value.

Blueberry Sorbet

Ingredients:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole lemon verbena leaves or lemon balm (optional)
1 pound frozen blueberries
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon-flavored rum (optional)
Preparation:
Process sugar and lemon verbena in food processor or blender for about 30 seconds.   Add blueberries and process an additional minute.  Add lemon juice and rum:  process until smooth.  Serve immediately or freeze in a covered freezer container.
Yield: 4 servings. 

Per Serving: 209 calories; 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 2 percent calories from fat); 50 g carbohydrates; 0 mg cholesterol; 7 mg sodium; 0.9 g protein; 2.9 g fiber.
Brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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Three tips to grow a bold, beautiful backyard

BLOOM-Three-tips-bold-beautiful-backyard(NewsUSA) – Summer is here, and it’s time to start heralding warmer temperatures by beautifying the backyard. So, don the appropriate layers, grab some tools and turn your backyard into something ideal for entertaining.

Families love to spend time outdoors, especially if they have a pool, patio or deck, so take the time to administer some TLC to the lawn, pool, patio and garden. The following tips will help you get the most out of your backyard:

1. Grow some privacy. Depending on the size of your backyard, consider installing a fence, arbor, pergola, row of bushes, trees or hanging vines to shelter your property from the neighbors. This helps make gatherings more private and gives your lawn a “secret garden” feel. Plus, a fence, trellis or arbor can offer a wind-break and much-needed shade, both of which can be key for pools. Flowering vines like trumpet vines, clematis or morning glory attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

2. Get cozy outdoors. If you have unused deck space, create a family-friendly area perfect for entertaining outdoors: cook-outs, lounging, games or parties. All you need is some inexpensive patio furniture—clusters with chairs and a sofa—and small tables for surface space. To make it really cozy, add some brightly colored throw pillows and potted plants.

3. Simplify pool maintenance. Family pools tend to make the best summer parties, but all investments include maintenance. Adding a pool cover can reduce pool heating costs by 50 to 70 percent. Or if your pool has problems with cloudy water or chlorine levels, BioGuard’s new Pool Tonic removes phosphate and many other unwanted contaminants for beautiful water that is easy to maintain and enjoy. For complimentary water testing, bring a sample of your pool water to any BioGuard dealer, and receive the right prescription for your pool. Visit www.bioguard.com to find your nearest dealer.

 

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Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

Lavender – part two

…with immediacy and intensity, smell activates the memory, allowing our minds to travel freely in time.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume, 1984.

Lavender, the base for most dream pillows, can chase away nightmares and ease stress. It is one of the herbs used in four thieves vinegar, which is believed to have been used in the 1800s to ward off the plague. No wonder this magnificent herb is considered to be good luck!

Lavender likes a sunny spot in well-drained soil. It won’t tolerate wet feet. It is fairly disease resistant and pest resistant—an excellent choice in the garden since the deer will not touch it. If purchasing lavender for culinary purposes, be sure to get organic or culinary lavender. While both the leaves and the buds are fragrant and edible, most of the oils are concentrated in the buds.

Try lavender in the bath, the dryer, your pillow or your dresser drawer. Or try the following recipe—we think you’ll agree it’s a keeper.

*BLOOM-Fresh market lavender lemonbars2

Lavender Lemon Bars

Ingredients: Topping:

¾ cup butter 1 ¾ cups sugar

½ cup confectioners sugar 1/3 cup flour

2 cups flour ½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup ground almonds 4 eggs

1-2 teaspoons Lavender flowers, crushed

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind

confectioners’ sugar

 

In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and ½ cup powdered sugar. Add the 2 cups flour, almonds, lavender and lemon peel, and beat until crumbly. Pat into an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking dish. Bake in pre-heated oven 350◦ for 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Meanwhile, in another small mixing bowl. Combine sugar for topping, flour, baking soda, eggs and lemon juice; beat until frothy.  Pour over HOT crust.  Bake at 350◦ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack—dust with powdered sugar.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Fresh Market

BLOOM-Fresh-market-lavenderBy Vicky Babcock

 

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green, when you are king, dilly dilly, I shall be queen.

You may think we are deviating from our theme of fresh edible foods. Not so. Lavender, most widely known for its use in aromatherapy products, is an edible herb—both its leaves and buds can be used in that capacity. Once a favorite choice for the chefs of kings, lavender somehow fell from the list of common cooking herbs.

Common it is not. Lavender’s unique flavor lends itself well to dishes with chicken or fish, but it is also used to enhance the flavor of cookies and lemonades. If you are trying out lavender for the first time, a light hand is best as its flavor can be overpowering.

Lavender originated in the Mediterranean, where it remains a wild herb as well as a cultivated plant. Referred to as Spikenard in the Bible, lavender is believed to be the oil used to anoint the feet of Jesus. From the root word “lave” (to wash), lavender has been used for that purpose since the written word. It is a natural astringent, mild bug repellant, aid to relaxation and headache reliever.

Check out next week’s Post for more on this versatile plant and try a sample of our recipe at Market. Have a happy holiday!

 

Lavender Shortbread

1 ½ cups sifted flour

¾ cup confectioners sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ lb. butter, softened to room temp.

2 tbsp. Fresh lavender buds or 1 tbsp.

dried culinary lavender, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325º f.

Mix all ingredients together. Knead until consistency becomes doughy.  Press firmly into shortbread mold (or pie plate) making sure to fill in all the space in the shortbread mold. Bake 1 hour. (Shortbread should be pale in color—not brown)  Unmold while still warm. Great warm or room temp.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon  Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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Maximize and extend the beauty of roses with proper care

BLOOM-Roses-Floribundaby Melinda Myers

 

Although June is national rose month, gardeners can keep their roses healthy and blooming all summer long. Through proper care and a few simple strategies both existing and new roses can continue to look their best throughout the summer months—maximizing their beauty and enjoyment for all.

Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to apply the water directly to the soil where it is needed. You’ll lose less water to evaporation and reduce the risk of disease by avoiding overhead irrigation.

Mulch the soil surface with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.

Keep your plants blooming and looking their best in spite of the heat, humidity and pests of summer. Immunize your plants against common environmental stresses such as heat and drought, while building their defenses against insects and diseases natural defenses with an organic plant strengthener, such as JAZ™ Rose Spray (gardeners.com). Researchers discovered when some plants are stressed they produce hundreds of molecules that help them better tolerate environmental stresses as well as insect and disease attacks. When applied to plants in the form of a plant strengthener, the treated plants improve their own defenses, much like immunizations do for us.  Gardeners will notice less damage from stress, better recovery, reduced yellow leaves, and healthier plants overall.

Proper fertilization will help keep roses healthy and producing lots of flowers. A soil test is the best way to determine how much and what type of fertilizer is best for roses growing in your landscape.

Check your plants throughout the season for signs of insects and disease. Early detection makes control easier. Remove insects or infested plant parts when discovered. Look for the most eco-friendly control options when intervention is needed.

Enjoy your efforts and improve your roses appearance by harvesting a few rosebuds for indoor enjoyment. Prune flowering stems back to the first 5-leaflet leaf. You can prune back farther on established plants, but be sure to always leave at least two 5-leaflet leaves behind on the plant’s stem.

Those gardening in cold climates should stop deadheading roses toward the end of the season. Allow the plants to develop rose hips. This helps the plants prepare for the cold weather ahead and increases hardiness. Plus, these red to orange fruits provide winter food for birds as well as attractive winter interest in the garden.

And if you don’t have roses, make this the summer you add one or more of these beauties to your landscape.

 

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening.  She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.

 

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Summer garden glory without the weeding and watering

Radically Reduce Garden Maintenance

(BPT) – Summer can be tough on gardens. In what should be their glory days, many gardens suffer from neglect. Long weekends and summer vacations leave yards untended, while summer heat is an excuse for putting off chores. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to have both a glorious well-maintained garden and time for fun in the sun by taking some smart gardening steps now.

Here’s a quick list of pro-active steps from the experts at preen.com to transform a yard or garden from needy-and-greedy to lean-and-green by reducing watering and weeding needs all season.

* Choose better places for better plants – Many plant experts insist that 90 percent of garden problems would disappear if gardeners put the right plants in the right places. But, sometimes it’s the planting place itself that needs adjustment. For example, a hot, dry, exposed setting is brutal on most plant selections. Why not completely rethink a spot like this? To alter the heat-and-light dynamic, introduce a small shade tree to serve as the anchor of a new easy-care landscape bed. Add a supporting cast of drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials. With better places for better plants, long-term maintenance can be a breeze.

* Whack weeding – Weeding consumes more time in the garden than anything else, except watering, according to a National Gardening Association survey. Covering garden beds with a 3-inch layer of mulch will greatly reduce the need to weed and water, while making everything look tidy too. Mulch retains soil moisture and denies weed seeds the light they need to sprout. Top off mulch with a sprinkling of a pre-emergent such as Preen to stop weed seeds from growing in mulch and garden soil for up to three or four months. For a one-step solution that creates a six-month weed-fighting barrier, try Preen Mulch Plus, a natural shredded-wood mulch with added pre-emergent weed preventers already mixed in.

* Beef up the border patrol – Sharply-defined edges around garden beds add visual appeal to any property. They also make maintenance easier by creating a firm demarcation between beds and lawns to keep out invasive perennial weeds, including nasty creepers that can’t be prevented by other means. Dig a shallow 8-inch wide trench surrounding garden beds, then cover it with 3 inches of mulch; or install a barrier-style perimeter edging of metal, stone, rubber or wood.

* Banish fainting spells – When it comes to water-retentive container plantings, think fewer and bigger. Don’t dot decks, doorways and patios with fussy little pots. Small containers look insignificant and dry out fast, subjecting parched plants to repeated bouts of stress from fainting spells. Larger containers allow for more dramatic plant groupings and plenty of healthy root room, plus retain important soil moisture.

* Try tick-tock watering – Gardens need less water than many think, thriving on as little as 1 inch of water per week whether it’s delivered by rain, drip irrigation, sprinklers or a hand-held hose. To save time watering all season and prepare a garden to get through extended dry spells, add programmable water timers to water spigots and hose systems. Even inexpensive timers can deliver water to suit particular plant and climate needs. Early morning watering is best. Midday sun can burn wet leaves. Evening watering can lead to plant ailments and mildew.

Don’t spend the summer constantly weeding, watering and struggling to keep up with garden chores. Put your garden on a path to self-sufficiency. Then focus on fun in the sun, whether you’re on vacation or in your own backyard.

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