Grow Your Own Salad: It’s Easier Than You Think!

If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Kool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck. –Jeff Foxworthy

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. Even if you think you have an ordinary beige thumb and are destined to kill every plant that comes into your possession, there are some things even you can grow! If you would like to give gardening a try, this is a simple place to start. If you are already a seasoned gardener who invests a great deal of effort every spring and you are aching to get started, this will tie you over until the weather warms. I’m going to show you how to plant a salad box!

This grow box with the very large reservoir is what I like to use for tomatoes and peppers but since I’m between seasons, I’d like to do something with it. Recently this box had a harvest of hot and spicy Jalapeños but alas the plants became leggy and anemic looking as the weather changed and they were spent. Sometimes you can cut the stems, leave them there, and watch them regrow later (in mild climates you can do that); but I would rather start seeds in my windows and have fresh plants in the spring because they will likely be more fruitful. I was reading about crop rotation and there is a more thorough way to do it but for my purposes I’m going to have a short rotation to refresh my soil. If I simply replant peppers in this box over and over, any soil born disease or pests that have begun to take up residence will be encouraged to stay. If, however, I place in this box plants that are from a different plant family, these pests may become disinterested and find another place to go. In India, farmers plant a wide variety of crops close together and they don’t use pesticides. As a result, their plants are not pest free, but the pests don’t have opportunity to have a stronghold. This is what I want. I also get a little bored. So, this why I planted salad ingredients.

By the way, if you don’t have a grow box, don’t let that stop you. You could plant any of these items with a little soil and a container that says Kool Whip on the side! 😉 Just poke holes in the bottom of the container and you’re set; it’s really that easy! But seriously, the grow box does make gardening very easy (http://www.agardenpatch.com/)

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I planted five different things in rows within this grow box. One row of green onions, one row of garlic cloves, one row of Mesclun seeds, one row of Simpsons Elite lettuce seeds, and one row of Arugula seeds. I planted everything about a week and a half ago and here is what it looks like today.

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The Green Onions and Garlic Cloves from my kitchen scraps grew very fast! They are some of the easiest plants I’ve ever grown.

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The Arugula was faster at sprouting than the other two but I see I few tiny sprouts in there.

How to:

The Green Onions were originally bought at the store and we used almost all of the green leaves in our cooking leaving behind just some of the end with the roots. I poked them into the dirt in a row and I was done. I broke off a few cloves from a head of garlic and poked them into the soil in a row with the pointy ends facing up and I was done. For each set of seeds I sprinkled them in a row directly into the soil on the pot and lightly brushed them around that row in the dirt and I was done. The seeds don’t even need to be completely buried because they are so tiny. The furthest you would plant them into the soil would be ¼ of an inch so really no digging is required.

In this chilly but sometimes warm and sunny weather, lettuce grows easily. It’s not hot and it’s not freezing but we still get a little sun so the seeds will sprout quickly and the lettuce won’t get scorched. Just water when the soil looks dry. Usually in cooler weather, the soil stays moist longer so you won’t have to water as often. Another great thing about the lettuce is that you don’t have to wait for it to grow into a head in order to harvest it; baby leaves taste great! The Onions and Garlic should deter spider mites and aphids plus they grow easily and compatibly with the salad greens. The green leaves that sprout above the garlic cloves are also edible and have a mild garlicky taste the way chives have a mild oniony taste. Part of the fun with growing salad is that you can grow varieties that you don’t get at the store. I also find that I’m more likely to eat it when I grow it. It’s much fresher tasting when it comes from my balcony than it is from my fridge. If I forget to water the plant and it dies, it will still have lasted longer than the lettuce in my fridge. Finally, there is no guilt if the plant dies in a few weeks because you know it’s a short growing season and you were able to enjoy a harvest in no time at all. It’s a win, win, win scenario if you ask me!

My final tip? Watch for skinny stems and tiny flowers that may sprout from the plants (lettuce, onions, and garlic). If you want to extend the life of the plant, cut those stems off before the flowers dry. If you want to collect seeds to plant again someday, watch those cute flowers turn into seed heads and gather the seeds before they blow away!

Have you tried growing any salad greens? What have you learned? Do you have any great recipes you’d like to share or feedback on my salad box strategy? Please leave me comments and share your experiences or questions!

Tamales, it’s been too long!

Cooking and gardening involve so many disciplines: math, chemistry, reading, history.

David Chang

As promised, I’m going to show you my homemade tamales made with garden fresh green salsa. I can’t take credit for this recipe; my source is “Simply Mexican” by Lourdes Castro. Let’s get started.

You will need:

A package of corn husks

1 pound of chicken

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 onion

Salt to taste

Salsa verde (Green Tomatillo Salsa) 1 ½ – 2 cups

2 ½ cups masa harina

2 cups of chicken broth, maybe a little bit more as needed

¾ cup solid vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons of salt

A big pot

A mixer

Water

Aluminum Foil

I froze a portion of the salsa I made last time and I made sure the portion was the amount I wanted to use for this recipe (so none would be wasted). I pulled the salsa out to thaw and then began poaching the chicken and hydrating the corn husks.

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I poach the chicken the same way I start a chicken soup. You place the chicken in the pot and just barely cover it with cold water which will make the broth more flavorful. The same principle is followed when adding vegetables. I also placed quartered onions, oregano, and garlic cloves in the water and made sure all the ingredients were just covered with enough water (1/2-1 inch of water above ingredients). If you are using the stove top, you’ll bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 35-45 minutes. If you have plenty of time, you could simmer it for several hours but never bring it to boiling for a more flavorful broth. I personally used a pressure cooker which allows me to skip those technicalities (pressure cooking does wonders) so alternatively I set the pressure on for 20 minutes then let it slow release. After the chicken is cooked through, let it cool in its broth to retain moisture. Then you can shred it with two forks, a kitchen aid stand mixer, or your hands. Reserve the leftover broth for your tamale dough.

Stir the shredded chicken and salsa together making sure you have just enough to coat the chicken (set aside extra chicken if you need to). Set this mixture aside and make your tamale dough by first mixing together the masa and chicken broth; then beat the vegetable shortening separately until it is fluffy. Add a little bit of the masa mixture to the shortening a little at a time until all is incorporated then just add a couple more table spoons of broth and beat for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle baking powder and salt over the dough and mix in.

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Now here comes the fun part (tedious part, the part that reminds me why I only do this at Christmas). You’re going to assemble the tamales. Are you ready?

Set up an assembly line as such:

  1. A bowl of hydrated corn husks
  2. A bowl of tamale dough
  3. A bowl of chicken mixture
  4. Several torn corn husk threads for tying
  5. A bowl or plate for assembled tamales

First take a corn husk and hold it with the narrower pointy end up. Spread tamale dough all over the bottom half of the husk leaving a one inch border on the left and right sides. Put some chicken filling lengthwise down the center of the dough. Pick up the sides of the corn husk and carefully press the edges of dough together. Fold the remaining flaps over to one side, fold the empty top section of the cornhusk on top of that, and tie a thin strip of extra corn husk around the tamale. Once you have assembled all of the tamales, you can create a steamer with the foil, water, and pot. Just make a big ball with the foil, place it in the center of the pot, and add ½ inch of water to the pot. Stand the tamales around the foil ball with the pointy ends up. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 40 minutes.

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Your finished tamales should then be ready to enjoy with rice, beans, and perhaps some extra salsa and another favorite Mexican side dish. Mmmmmm, Muy Bueno!

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Bible Scholars Needed… help from home!

This post was written by a friend of mine and I love what is being done through this organization. Please read this:

Language of the Heart

Today an unprecedented strategy is underway to provide open-licensed resources in dozens of languages for Bible translators worldwide. Open licensing allows anyone, anywhere, unrestricted access and use of these tools to advance Bible translation in their language.

We are working with existing copyright owners in an effort to release existing resources in a way that serves the global Church more effectively. But in the meantime our team is pressing forward to create new resources that will be available to the global Church immediately. Bible Scholars Needed

We are recruiting Christians with seminary training in Hebrew or Greek, Old or New Testament, theology, or hermeneutics to expand our team and speed these resources to Bible translators. We have a particularly immediate need for Old Testament scholars.

This is not an exclusive offer. We are looking for dozens of people willing to collaborate in this effort as part of a decentralized team. Location is not…

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