Avocado – Lemon Pesto

We tried this dish not long ago at one of those Mediterranean style salad bars. We also ordered it as an appetizer soon after.

Both times we weren’t as impressed as we hoped to be, so decided to try our hand at it instead.

Gardening Jones shares another easy to make Meatless Monday recipe.

presentation is everything

Homemade is always better, isn’t it?

Lemon Avocado Pesto

Following the basic guidelines for Pesto Sauce, crush the almonds in processor with the juice of half a lemon.

Add fresh avocado, Parmesan, and garlic powder.

If you like the flavor of lemon as much as I do, you can also add in the grated rind of the half lemon.
Use olive oil as needed to help blend the ingredients.

The taste of course was much fresher and more flavorful.

Here’s a vegetarian way to enjoy it. These are perfect for a Meatless Monday or during Lent. Also just nice on a hot summer day.

These are also referred to as live rolls.

Lemon Avocado Pesto TLC’s

Break the spine of the lettuce leaf first, then spread with some pesto.
Add shredded cheese and sliced tomatoes.
Roll the leaf up gently. I would suggest you turn the edges in like you would a wrap sandwich.

You can try your hand at different fillings, based on what is coming in from your garden or in season at the market.


February 8, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: From Seed to Serve, Recipes

Recommended Veggies for Container Gardening

Smaller varieties of veggies do better for container gardening. Look for seed packs or plants labeled with adjectives such as tiny, compact, dwarf, baby or small. Other names such as Thumbelina would indicate a smaller variety.

Gardening Jones shares some specific varieties of veggies that do well in containers.

Cherry type tomatoes, like this white variety, do well in containers.

Vegetable Container Size Suggested Varieties
Beans Snap Types 5 gal All Bush types esp. Mascotte
Beans Lima 5 gal
Beets 5 gal Early Wonder
Broccoli 5 gal (1 plant) Italian Green
Brussel Sprouts 5 gal (1 plant) Evesham
Cabbage 5 gal (1 plant) Discovery
Cabbage Chinese types 5 gal (1 plant) Michili
Carrot 5 gal (rectangular) Nelson Danvers Half Long
Cress 5 gal (rectangular) Watercress
Cucumber 5 gal (rectangular) Little leaf
Eggplant 3 gal. Calliope Hansel Gretel and Fairy Tale
Garlic (for greens) 10" deep Most varieties
Kale (Collards) 5 gal Winterbor
Lettuce 5 gal (rectangular) Most varieties
Okra 5 gal Millionaire and Cajun Delight
Onion 5 gal (rectangular) Yellow and White Sweet Spanish
Peppers Sweet varieties 2 gal (rectangular) Green-to-red Bells Mini Apple Islander Lipstick Apple Antohi Romanian and Carmen
Peppers Hot varieties 2 gal (rectangular) Peppino Early Jalapeno El Jeffe (also Ornamental Peppers)
Potatoes 30 gal All Types
Radish 5 gal (rectangular) Most varieties
Spinach 5 gal (rectangular) Most varieties
Squash 2 gal baby crookneck small zucchini Butterbush Butternut
Swiss Chard 5 gal Bright Lights Bionda Di Lyon Magenta Sunset Bright Yellow
Tomatoes 5 gal (1 plant) Valley Girl Orange Blossom look for tiny or small
Tomatoes Small types 5 gal Sweet Olive Smarty Gold Nugget & all patio types

February 6, 2016 · gj · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Container Gardening, How to Grow, Specific Plant Varieties, Specific Purpose Gardens

How to Grow Celtuce

how to grow celtuce

celtuce harvested young

Also known as Chinese lettuce, asparagus lettuce, stem lettuce and celery lettuce, celtuce is a veggie that is grown mainly for its stem. It looks like a cross between celery and lettuce, hence the name, but it actually is a variety of lettuce originating in China.

It is planted just like lettuce when the temps are still cool, about 1/4″ deep and 8″ apart. The leaves are harvested small as the plant grows.

Some people describe celtuce as tasting like rice, but we didn’t get that at all. We would say it is much more similar to lettuce. If the leaves get too large, they can become bitter.

We have also read the stem tastes like a cross between summer squash and an artichoke. It has a very mild flavor, that is for sure, which is why it lends itself so well to any dish that combines multiple flavors.

how to grow celtuce

celtuce in the garden

There is a lot of variance on the internet about when to harvest the celtuce, possibly because there are 3 varieties of celtuce on the market. Suggested diameters range from 1/2 inch to 3 inches, and heights from 5-6 inches to 12-15 inches.

Keep in mind that the larger the stem when you harvest, the longer you will need to blanch it to use in a stir fry for example, and the more likely it will be bitter. We found the smaller sections of the stem to be less woody. We prefer to harvest smaller, at about 1 inch diameter, however tall it is at that point.

One advantage over lettuce is that celtuce doesn’t bolt as fast. If you are in a hot climate this may be what you need. Celtuce can be eaten raw or cooked, in salads and stir fry, and it is a fun veggie to experiment with.

Botanical name: Lactuca sativa var. asparagina, augustana, or angustata
Height: Our experience is 12-15 inches.
Growth habit: Part shade to full sun
Uses: Culinary, mostly for the stem; aids digestion.

February 4, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: How to Grow

How to Make Vegetable Stock For Free

Gardening Jones shares how she makes vegetable stock using scraps and leftovers.

Homemade Minestrone Soup on the right, with veggies from the garden.

You can save clean produce scraps in the freezer until you get enough for a batch of vegetable stock, rather than composting them or throwing them out.

The skins of onions and tomatoes, and celery trimmings, are the most obvious. We also save all peelings from veggies and the trimmings from things like garlic and leeks. Carrot tops and peels are particularly good.

If you want to save scraps from some of the more potent veggies like any of the cole crops, you may want to keep them separate. Use that stock in dishes you would add cabbage to like stir fry, or in soups such as cream of cauliflower.

Either way, everything needs just to be clean and not bruised or over-ripe. Simply toss into a freezer bag and hold frozen until you’re ready.

If you really want to be frugal and you have the room, you can also freeze the water used when you blanch veggies. Waste not.

Otherwise just take everything out of the bag and simmer in water until it has the flavor you like. Your can add salt if you want. The longer it simmers, the more concentrated it will be come.

Strain and let cool. It will have some sediment, for lack of a better word, which we feel adds to the flavor of the soup or other dish it will become.

You can remove the sediment if you want by straining through a juice strainer or cheesecloth, and save this as a more concentrated version.

Pack into freezer containers, label and freeze.

If you grow your own produce organically, you now have a completely natural veggie broth for free.

Use the way you would any broth, not only for soups and stews but also to add a little flavor to casseroles and even for steaming veggies in.

And the flavor? Like the difference between a homegrown and a store bought tomato.

More recipes

February 1, 2016 · gj · One Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: From Seed to Serve, Recipes

Edible of the Month – Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash

This month, Gardening Jones features the Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash.

Originally called Green Striped Bell Squash in 1947, the seeds were acquired by Burpee, who changed the name.

Some people suggest this is the same squash Thomas Jefferson referred to as Potato Pumpkin.

The flesh is pale, sweet and dry. Many gardeners say the flavor isn’t that great compared to other winter squashes. Others say the sweet potato like flavor makes it perfect for pie. What does make this squash stand out is that it can be held 6 months or more, often into the following spring. We like that.

We found the Tennessee Sweet Potato to not be as prolific as the spaghetti squash, at least in our Zone 5/6 area. We did notice though that when the weather cooled off it became more productive. This variety does much better in the South, where it can be grown in their cooler weather. Couldn’t resist giving it a go though. Another bonus is that it is resistant to powdery mildew.

Because it is Cucurbita mixta it won’t cross pollinate with the majority of other squash types.
This puts it in the Forever Food category as you can easily save the seeds for the following year.


Botanical name: Cucurbita mixta
Common name: Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash
Habitat: 12-15′ h annual, full sun
Seed: Direct seed in hills or containers
Spacing: 12-15″ apart in hills.
Days to maturity:80-90

January 30, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Less Common Edibles, Month by Month

Easy Winter Squash and Plum Chutney

A Meatless Monday entry using your last season's squash.

It always impresses me the way foods can be combined.

I guess it is because I grew up with a somewhat plain diet. Other than putting pineapple on ham and serving cranberry sauce with turkey, fruit was pretty much for dessert not dinner.

Chutneys became more of a regular thing for us when we started cooking with Indian spices. Nowadays we are likely to incorporate them with a lot of veggies.

Plum Chutney
Amounts are approximate, adjust to taste.
4 plums
1/2 large apple
1/2 small onion
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
A few dashes of cinnamon
Grated fresh ginger

Chop the fruit and onions, add to a hot greased skillet.
Cook until tender, adding the vinegar and lemon juice along the way. Add the ginger and cinnamon and let simmer a bit.



Chose your favorite variety, we used a Cushaw squash. It has a mild taste that lends itself well to almost any dish.

Poke a few holes or slices in it and place in a pan. Bake in a moderate 350F oven until done. How long depends on the squash you use. Ours was about 1.5 hours.

When cool, slice open. Remove the stringy seeds, and scoop out the pulp to top with the Chutney.

Make a well in the squash and place the chutney inside. This makes a delightful presentation.

As an entree, we served it with homemade light rye bread.

Note: A wee bit of heat would be nice for those that like it.

January 26, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: From Seed to Serve, Recipes

32 Seed Companies

Gardening Jones shares links to more than 30 seed companies she has purchased from.

I posted this picture in a Facebook gardening group I co-admin recently.

The reason I did is that I am trying to not buy any seeds for this planting season; more as an exercise in self-restraint than anything else. And every time I look at my seed stash, I realize I don’t need to. I want to, but don’t need to.

On the post I asked fellow members to guess how many seed companies I have seeds from.

Not packs, just companies.

32 is a wee bit overdoing it, even for me.

So here they are, with links to their websites if they have one, for you to enjoy. Because I like every one of them, and perhaps some will be new to you.

And someday, you may just find yourself in my position.

Outside Pride
Seeds For Thee
Mike the Gardener*
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Park Seed
Issac’s Seed Samples
Old’s Seeds
Botanical Interests*
Ferry-Morse Find them at Home Depot, on Amazon.com and more.
Seeds Now!*
West Coast Seeds
Horizon Herbs
Renee’s Garden
Martha Stewart – Not available direct to the public. Find them at big box stores.
Seed Savers Exchange
Seeds of Change
Bentley Seeds
Bountiful Gardens
Reimer Seeds
Livingston Seed
Baker Creek
American Seed
Bohan Seeds -Website currently down, this is their Facebook page.
Victory Seeds
Pan American Seed
Terra Organics LLC – I don’t think they sell their seed direct to the public.
Bejo Seeds
Jung Seeds
Hudson Valley Seed Library

*I like these sites so much, I became an affiliate.

January 24, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Addiction, All About Seeds

Book Review – Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning

Gardening Jones shares a new favorite book she found that features very old food preservation methods.

There’s much to be said about the tried and true methods of food preservation that have been handed down for generations.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this book published back in 1999, but I’m sure glad I did. In it are over 250 easy to follow recipes and techniques from the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante for preserving your harvest using older methods rather than modern ones.

Eliot Coleman refers to them as the “natural ‘poetic’ methods”.

Techniques include:

Preserving in-ground or in a root cellar
Lactic Fermentation
Preserving in oil
Preserving in vinegar
Preserving with salt
Preserving with sugar
Sweet & Sour preserves
Preserving in alcohol

I am really getting into lactic fermentation, as this produces such healthy bacteria for your gut. I just feel better if I get a daily dose of food preserved this way, plus the flavor is so much better.

The section on preserving in vinegar was something I hadn’t thought of. Even though we have flavored vinegar, our emphasis was on the vinegar not the fruit or herb. The simple suggestion in this book of chopping basil and putting it in red cider vinegar to use on salad throughout the year is something I will be doing this summer for sure.

There is another recipe for storing blueberries where you just mash them and put them into a glass canning jar, coat the lid with honey, close it up and keep in a root cellar for up to a year.

It may seem odd not to process the jars, but then I remember growing up how my parents would make jam, cover it with melted paraffin, and store on the shelf.

Now the Dep’t. of Agriculture no longer recommends this method, so it’s up to you to decide. Personally, I would put more faith in gardening and preserving methods that have been used for 100’s of years than a gov’t. agency, but that’s just me.

After all, the gov’t. says Roundup is safe to use.

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate, and would receive a small donation to help with the blog if anyone purchases this book from the link. I did buy my own copy, and am not writing about it for any other reason than because I found it interesting.

January 23, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Food Preservation

Growing a Butterfly Garden

Gardening Jones shares the info you need to attract more butterflies to your garden.

When planning a garden to attract butterflies, the first thing you need to know is which butterflies are common to your area.

Even more important, what do their caterpillars like to eat?

Butterfly caterpillars or “cats” can be found nibbling on the leaves of Asters, Anise, Carrots, Dill, Fennel, Milkweed, Parsley, Parsnips, Snapdragons, Sunflowers, and Violets.

In my Northeast Pennsylvania garden, these are the butterflies I would expect to see: Brush-footed, Swallowtails, Gossamer winged, Metalmarks, Whites and Sulfurs and Skippers.

To attract these butterflies:

Plant Flower Color Bloom Height Sunlight Note
Aster Blue White Pink Purple Late summer to fall Dwarf: 12-18” Regular: 18-24” Dwarf: Partial Shade Regular: Full Sun Deer resistant
Bee Balm Pink or purple Summer to Fall 36-48” Full Sun and Partial Shade Edible
Black-eyed Susan Yellow Mid-summer to Fall 18-30” Full Sun and Partial Shade Deer resistant
Butterfly bush Dark purple Mid-late summer 6-10’ Full Sun Deer resistant Shrub
Butterfly weed Orange and yellow Late Spring-Midsummer 18-24” Full Sun and Partial Shade
Coreopsis Yellow Pink Red Summer-fall 10-24” Full Sun and Partial Shade Some varieties are Deer Resistant
Lilac purple Early Spring Most 4-8’ up to 30’ Full Sun Shrub
Marjoram both Wild and Sweet Pink- purple Midsummer to Fall Wild 18-40” Sweet 4-6” Full Sun Can be invasive Edible
Marigolds Yellow and Orange Midsummer to Fall Most var. 8-12” Full sun Attract Japanese beetles Repels rabbits
Phlox Pink Purple and White Early summer to Fall 24-40” Partial Shade Deer resistant
Purple Coneflower Purple Mid-late summer 2-4’ Full Sun to Partial Shade Deer resistant
Sage Violet-blue Mid-summer to Fall 2-4’ Partial Shade Deer resistant Edible
Zinnia Multiple colors Mid-summer to Fall To 40” Full sun Good in pots and for cutting.

Of course you can add some edibles as well. Planting carrots, fennel and dill will help your Butterfly Garden thrive.

Learn which butterflies are found in your area here.

January 22, 2016 · gj · 2 Comments
Posted in: Kids & Gardening, Specific Purpose Gardens

Curried Cauliflower with Greens

Gardening Jones share a tasty way to get your protein without needing meat.



1 small onion, chopped

1/2 head Cauliflower, broken into florets

Green Chili Paste

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup Lemon Juice

1/2 Red Sweet Pepper, chopped

1 handful each Swiss Chard, Kale and Baby Spinach

Saute the onion in olive oil, then add the cauliflower florets and some green chili paste. How much depends on how much you like it.
Add the water and lemon juice. Let this simmer until the cauliflower starts to just be cooked.

Add the red pepper and greens. Mix it all together, and let simmer until the greens are cooked.

If you like it hot you can add some hot red curry paste.

For added protein, top it off with some Quinoa.

Info on growing grains in your garden. Our season wasn’t a good one for Quinoa in 2015, but we ain’t giving up!

How to Grow Cauliflower

January 18, 2016 · gj · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: From Seed to Serve, Recipes