Spring Garden Salad

Spring Garden Salad

Last week we were invited to a potluck celebration. We put together a salad with 25 ingredients that were local and organic. Most of them were growing in our community garden. The rest came from our local farmer’s market. The salad included:

Lettuce – 4 different varieties
Kale – 3 varieties
Swiss Chard
Collard Greens
Mustard Greens
Bok Choy
Beet Greens
Sweet Potato – Grated
Green Onion
English Peas
Snow Peas
Mexican Sage

It was so much fun to do a walkabout of the garden and collect all the edibles that were ready for picking. We tossed it lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The salad got rave reviews.

What is growing in your garden that you would add to this salad?

Experience Nature through your Food Ebook

Introducing a new ebook we think you’re REALLY going to like!

Ebook cover sm.
This delightfully engaging ebook invites connection with nature and inspires transformation and adventures of the heart.

I co-authored and published this ebook with Angelyn Whitmeyer of IdentifyThatPlant. It’s been a very exciting project to work on, and besides the end result of a beautiful, inspiring book, we have also created New Earthlings Press.

With a beautiful ebook format,  we offer 42 guided experiences to help you become more aware and to take inspired personal action to re-forge your connection between nature and food.

Joyfully, we are donating 10% of the sales proceeds of this ebook to A Promise of Health, to support their pioneering homeopathic healthcare model, delivering sustainable and effective care to Mexico’s medically underserved indigenous people.

Will you help us make this a wildly successful venture?

Please visit New Earthlings Press for reviews and more info about the book and the press, and to purchase your copy of the ebook. Do you know someone who loves nature (and/or food) and might be interested in this ebook? Please share this blogpost with them, and also post on Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest and any other social media sites you participate in. Also, we welcome your ideas regarding who might enjoy and benefit from the book.

Thank you for your participation in this creative project!

Claire Mandeville



Grated Summer Salad

Grated Summer Salad

An abundance of vegetables growing in our summer garden inspired this salad. I prepared it with all raw ingredients. Here’s what I did.

In a food processor (you could, of course, use a hand grater) grate:

2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 cucumber
2 beets (or 1 large)
1/4 cup onion (or more to taste)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well.

1/3 cup olive oil
Juice from one smallish lemon
1/4 cup of fruit juice – I used apricot/mango
Dash or 2 of sea salt and pepper

Top with fresh sprouts and parsley. (I almost sprinkled sunflower seeds, too – so any seeds might be worth a try). Here’s an easy, easy way to grow your own sprouts.

I’m already thinking of many variations on a theme. Any fresh vegetables are candidates. If I had snow peas or sugar snaps (we already ate all we grew), they would surely be included. Others high on my list to try:

finely chopped kale
green beans
sweet red peppers

Consider using your creation as the filler for a wrap or rollup.  Try using tender fresh collard leaves (cut in half) as the rollup. If you haven’t ever tasted raw collard, you are in for a pleasant surprise.  They are mild and sweet-tasting.

I encourage you to play with this and come up with whatever inspires you. Post your experiments and ideas for others to enjoy, too.

Growing Sprouts Easily

Sprouting Seeds - #6 Ready to Eat

Sprouting seeds is really nothing to shy away from. Once you have the few supplies that you need to sprout seeds easily and effectively, the few minutes a day it takes to grow sprouts is well worth the effort for the nourishment and eating pleasure they can provide.

Here’s what you need:

1. Sprouting seeds of your choice – some of our favorite are mung, or a mix of alfalfa, radish and broccoli seeds. It is easier to sprouts seeds of a similar size, so that they are all ready at the same time, and you don’t risk some of them rotting. However, once you have some experience, you will find that it is possible to successfully sprout seeds of varying sizes. Of course, you can always have more than one jarful growing at the same time, with smaller seeds in one, and larger seeds in another.  You can combine them when you are preparing your food to eat.

2. A wide-mouthed jar with a sprouting screen top – I use a quart jar, and a plastic screw-on sprouting screen lid. I got the lid at a local natural foods store. You can also order them online.

2. A cloth to cover the jar for the first day or two.


Sprouting Seeds - #1 Soaking

1. Soak seeds for 3-4 hours (smaller seeds) or 6-8 hours (larger seeds) in 4 parts water to 1 part seed. Use warm (not hot) clean unchlorinated water.

Generally you will find that 3 Tablespoons of seed is a good amount to grow in a quart jar.

Sprouting Seeds - #2 Rinse and Drain

2. Rinse and drain the seeds several times initially. I take the lid off to fill the jar with room temperature water, then put the lid back on and gently swirl water around in the jar. Make sure that seeds are not all clumped together on the side of the jar as you are draining them.  They should be spread out fairly evenly. Sprouts should be rinsed and drained 2-3 times each day.

Sprouting Seeds - #3 Cover While Inverted

3. Leave the jar inverted with air flowing into it.  I use a shallow ceramic bowl, and lean the inverted jar on the wall, with an inch or two of space between the screened jar lid and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the jar to keep out light until the seed sprouts are well developed (2-3 days).

Sprouting Seeds - #4 Uncover and Continue top Rinse and Drain

4. Once the sprouts are developing, and you have removed the cover, continue to rinse 2-3 times for the next 24-48 hours.  The sprouting time will vary depending on the room temperature and seed mixture.


Sprouting Seeds - #5 Ready to Clean

5. When the sprouts are well-developed, gently move them to a large bowl of cool water, separate the clumps, let the hulls float to the surface, and skim those off. Doing this will make the sprouts even tastier, and keep them from fermenting or rotting for a longer time.

Sprouting Seeds - #6 Ready to Eat

6. Refrigerate the well-drained sprouts in a plastic bag or glass or plastic container. Sprouts are best fresh and used within 2-3 days.



Sprouts have been eaten for thousands of years, and provide a wide variety of nutrients with very few calories.  You may be interested in this science of sprout nutrition resource page for more information.

There are other methods for sprouting, utilizing various sprouters that are on the market. I have used many different kinds over the years, and have returned to this method both for its simplicity and minimal space requirement. However, if this does not meet your needs, just do a websearch for sprouters and you are sure to find something that will work well for you.

Planterbox Kale – From Seed To Seed

I’ve lost track of just when we planted the kale in the planter boxes on our back porch. For sure, it’s been over a year ago. The kale thrived through the winter here in the southeast. We amended the soil with organic fertilizers and enjoyed the tender leafy greens several times a week.

Several months ago, the plants began to flower. By then, the plant stalks had reached over 5 ft. tall. The plants were still producing tender green leaves which we continued to harvest.


Slowly….magically… the flowers gave way to seed pods. At this point, we were delightfully thinking about the seeds we could collect, dry and save to grow more kale this fall! We are now watching as the pods swell, and will wait for them to dry out and turn brown before we remove them from the stalk to save.


In the meantime we have kale, along with lots of other greens, growing in hay bales in the garden. This is our 1st year experimenting with growing in bales. The yield has been very high,and the bales that are inside stacked pavers are holding up quite well.

For more info on planting in hay or straw bales, here are a few websites:

No Dig Vegetable Garden

Garden Guides

Growing Herbs on the Windowsill

A year ago now, I was gifted with a small (3”) pot of garlic chives. I placed it on the kitchen windowsill, where it is still happily thriving. I water it daily, and cut the chives once a week to add to salads or stirfry. On the coldest, darkest winter days, it is a delight to watch a plant grow in our kitchen and enjoy its flavor and nourishment.

For more info on growing garlic chives, both indoors and out, here is a helpful Mother Earth News article.

Many herbs grow well indoors.  Here’s are article on the 10 Best Herbs for Indoors, and a link to Smart Techniques for Growing Herbs Indoors.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Photo credit: Angelyn Whitmeyer/www.IdentifyThatPlant.com

The time is approaching to harvest Jerusalem artichokes.  We have lots of these “sunchokes” growing in our gardens. Early in the spring they emerged as a lush carpet of green, rising up tall with small sun-flowers at their crown.

By late summer (early September) here in the Carolinas, the plants are falling over, and beginning to die back.  Once there is a hard frost, the sunchokes are ready to harvest and eat.

In an article titled “Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It,  Megan Saynisch explores the unique culture of this distinctive tuber, which is a member of the sunflower family.

Nutritionally, Jerusalem artichokes are high in iron, potassium, and thiamine.  The principle storage carbohydrate immediately after harvest is inulin, which is converted in the digestive tract to fructose rather than glucose. OliveandHerb.com has a recipe for Easy Roasted Sunchoke Fries. One of my favorite ways to eat these sweet sunchokes is simply to steam them, and toss them with a bit of olive oil, garlic and sea salt. Or you can dip them in horseradish sauce, or a lemon-butter sauce.

What are your favorite ways to eat Jerusalem artichokes?

Gratitude in Hard Times

Dahlia BulbsThis post, was written by Erin Barnett, Director of Local Harvest, for their November 15, 2011 Newsletter.

From the Local Harvest website:

“The best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. Want to support this great web site? Shop in our catalog for things you can’t find locally!”

Here’s the article – enjoy!

Last weekend my husband and I finished putting our garden to bed for the winter. There wasn’t much left to do before the snow comes, but we raked leaves over the perennials and rolled up the chicken-wire fences to store in the garage until spring. By Saturday afternoon the last remaining task was to dig up the dahlia tubers. A hard frost last week had turned the dahlia foliage limp and black, quite unappealing.

As with many of our vegetables, this wasn’t a good year for dahlias. I got only a handful of blooms off of a dozen beautiful looking plants. I assumed that if the plants could not flower, the tubers under the soil were likely in poor shape; digging them up for next year seemed not worth the trouble. But eventually I got over my ambivalence, cut back the dead foliage, and sunk my spade into the soil. I was surprised to find a huge clump of healthy tubers, twice as big as any from last year. I am no botanist, but all I can conclude is that somehow the conditions were not good for flowering, and that in that less than auspicious environment the plants decided to conserve their energy and store it up for next year.

Those dahlias got me thinking. For some people 2011 was an abundant year, but for many more it has been one marked by hardship and uncertainty. Every month we hear of farms closing because they can no longer afford to farm. Millions of people carry other burdens from the recession, and the collective stress is just plain painful. How easy it is to feel overwhelmed by all that we and our neighbors need, by all that did not flower this year. Yet here we are, approaching Thanksgiving, a time when many of us feel called to count our blessings and give thanks. What the dahlias made me consider is that when things are most difficult, when our best efforts have yielded little, it is possible that something good yet grows in silence, biding its time beneath the surface.

This is the essence of hope. It seems to me that in hard times a sense of hope is itself a blessing that deserves to be counted.

A few months ago someone sent me a quotation from a Native American prayer which says, “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” So may we express our gratitude around our Thanksgiving tables, for those blessings already manifest, and for the capacity to sustain the hope that what is needed is on its way.

With gratitude and hope,

Erin Barnett