Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mache Corn Salad

What is Mache Corn Salad?... Also known as Lamb's Lettuce,Lamb's Tongue, and field salad, and hey..it even has a fairytale character's name too..yeah..this stuff is even known as... Rapunzel!?
So...just what is this stuff, and how is it used and grown?
For starters... Mache Corn Salad had its beginnings in Europe, where it was originally foraged for by European peasants during the time of King Louis XIV. It was then introduced to the world...so the saying goes... by the king's gardener.Something tells me this gardener knew a good thing when he/she saw it.
This plant now grows wild, basically as a "common weed"... in parts of Europe, Asia, and even Africa.

So...what is so special about something that is known as a "common weed" in some parts of the world?

Well, you'll find it quite interesting that this "common weed" contains quite a few vitamins and nutrients that your body would thank you for.
It contains up to three times more vitamin C than lettuce does, it also contains vitamins B6 and B9, as well as omega- 3 fatty acids. Pretty good if I dare say for a mere "weed".

So, what other redeeming qualities does this mere "weed" offer to the gardener?...
Well, it actually is said to be one of the mildest and tenderest tasting salad greens with an ever so slight "nutty" taste.
It pairs well with most any salad green, adding a nice contrast to salads.It can even be eaten like spinach if you cook the leaves quickly.
It also combines nicely with fruits for a light summer salad,or you can simply eat it as a salad all by its little lonesome.
O.k...so I've convinced you that this is a pretty cool little salad green packed with vitamins, good taste,and with a pretty neat history...now... just what does it look like , and how to grow it?
Mache Corn Salad grows in a rosette shape cluster close to the ground...the plants have spoon shaped leaves that can grow up to 6 inches long, but the plant itself stays at a size of about 1 foot across.

When the plant does go to flower, it first sends up a stalk from the center of the plant that reaches about 1 foot tall, it then produces tiny blue flowers.
How to grow it:
Mache Corn Salad is a cool weather green, and does best when started in the early spring, or started before the first frost in fall.
This little plant actually can tolerate frost and freezing temperatures, but you will want to mulch with straw.

Sow the seeds directly into the garden(seeds can be found at: www.myvictorygarden.etsy.com). Planting seed no deeper than 1/4 inch.Seeds begin to emerge in about 10 to 20 days.
Full sun or part shade. Well drained soil. Do not let the soil dry out.
When the plants have developed a set of 4 leaves, plant them 4 inches apart, and space the rows at 1 ft. apart.

You can begin harvesting leaves from your Mache Corn Salad when the leaves are 1-2 inches long, or you can wait until the plant reaches maturity at 60 days, and harvest the entire plant for use in your salad.
Remember if growing this heirloom variety of greens to always set aside at least one plant as your "seed saving" specimen. Do not harvest from your "seed saving" plant, merely let it grow until it reaches maturity and starts to send up the flower stalk. Once the flower stalk starts to dry a little bit you can cut the flower stalk off with a pair of scissors and collect the seeds for next years harvest.
Happy Gardening!
~The Victory Gardener~

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A wee bit busy here...

Have been super busy here getting our home ready to sell..and we should be able to get the sign up for sale hopefully by the first of next week....yay!

I have been dreaming, and planning out my new yard/gardens..at least in my head a bit...but...

I have found some lovely antique poppy seeds,seeds for a plant called "Pride of Madeira", a really pretty red pasque flower seeds, and a few others.

It will be so fun to plan out a new yard/flower gardens...and to plan out vegetable gardens as well. I have been saving heirloom flower and vegetable seeds for a little while now, and have a pretty good collection of things...fun, fun, fun!

I have missed out this year on any real type of gardening ...with the exception of a 4 ft by 8 ft raised bed filled with green bean plants, and a 4 ft by 8 ft bed filled with strawberry plants...that unfortunately the chickens have been having a ball eating all the baby green strawberries from.

The green beans though are close to being able to harvest..for some reason the chickens have ignored those.

I do plan on taking up a few of the strawberry plants though... and transferring them to the new house/yard, as they are the everbearing strawberries, and when I was looking at a hardware store's plant selection recently...I saw the strawberry plants priced at about $4.50-$4.99 each! So..I will be taking a few of those with us to get a strawberry bed established at the new home.
When I purchase "new to me" flowers/plants...or even flower/vegetable seed varieties that are a new variety for me...I always try to do a bit of online research into how to grow the new plant.

I encourage you to do the same when looking into adding a new plant/vegetable variety to your yard...this way you know if what you are wanting to purchase/add to your garden will work for your area, or if it will be easy to maintain, and the special soil/light/water needs for that particular plant.

It is now so very, very easy to find so much information on how to grow things properly via the internet....and not to mention so much fun to learn about something new in the plant/garden world.
I have posted a few photos here of some of the plants that I will hopefully be growing in my soon to be new yard.I found seeds for all of these varieties online at very reasonable prices.
Aren't these just lovely?
(shown are: red cloak pasque flower (red/burgundy flower with silver-grey foliage),heirloom pink chenille plant (the plant with the chain of pink puff balls on it),Pride of Madeira (the pretty blue flowered plant/shrub),Mexican Cigar plant(the flowers that look like red cigars),Coral Reef Poppy (the pretty pink poppy flowers),Italian White Sunflowers,Golden Tears Bleeding heart vine(the heart shaped yellow flowers), Lucky Gold Shamrock(the pretty yellow flowers with clover leaf shaped foliage)
In the next few days I hope to have the time to post about a few vegetable varieties that you may wish to add to your Victory Garden this year...so stay tuned. More to come in the next few days.

Thanks for stopping by!
~The Victory Gardener~

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Party on The Lawn

(Article by : Tina Wilson for "Small Town Living" April/May 2009)

It is that time of year again...A celebration of renewal!... when the birds build their nests, when the snow has faded from the ground, when the flowers start bursting forth with color, and when gardens are planned and seeds are planted.
The perfect time to host a garden party on the lawn with friends or family!
We've gathered some tips and ideas to help you to begin a lovely tradition of an annual garden party celebration in your own back yard.
First you'll need to decide just when you'd like to host this type of event..and you'll need a few invitations to send out.
You can hand craft lovely cards from scrapbooking paper, and other pretty specialty papers.
Plan to have the event 4 to 6 weeks after the invitations are sent.
Why?... because the fun activity I will be mentioning for your guests to be involved in takes about 4 weeks to develop.
When sending out your invitations try to limit the guest list to no more than 12 when first starting out, you don't want to get boggled down with preparations and miss out on the actual festivities yourself.Once you become a "pro" at hosting a garden party you can expand on your list of guests a bit..but for now..start out small.
In with your invitation let your guests know that they will need to bring 13 tiny seedling starts of only one type of plant variety to the garden party with them.(this number includes you the host in with the festivities/plant swap)
These can be started in pretty paper cups or other small containers.Tell your guests to clearly write on the container the name of the plant,or to include a tag of some kind with the name on it.
Remind them to start the seedlings as soon as they receive their invitations.This gives everyone about 1 month to have healthy plants to share with each other.
You can choose whether the plant swap will be all vegetables, all flowers, or an "anything goes" type of plant swap. You can also specify "heirloom varieties only". The choice is yours.
Set up a seperate table specifically for the plants.Have the first guest to arrive assist you with making sure that each plant variety is set on the table .
At the end of the garden party each guest will choose one plant from each variety brought, winding up with quite a variety to add to their gardens.
Have fun with the gathering table decorations.
Set out a few vases of fresh cut flowers.If you have a few pretty bird figurines or pretty Spring time animal figurines incorporate those in amongst the vases of flowers.Or purchase a few pots of pretty flowers at your local nursery, and using a pretty fabric create a cover for the pot base and tie with a ribbon bow.
Use your nice china and silverware.Make your guests feel very special.
You can set a pretty pair of garden gloves tied with jute and pretty name tags attached. Set them by each place setting for fun, or small gift bags filled with candies ,or herbal teas, or writing items such as note pads that they can keep a small garden journal in.You can even gift each guest with a small personalized notebook that you have decorated for them that say's "------------'s Garden Journal"
Keep your guests engaged in conversation.You can do this by having a few cards with fun garden related questions prepared before the party. Set a few of them at each place setting. Questions such as: "What was the weirdest thing you have ever seen while digging in your garden?
"What is your least favorite plant, and why?", "What is your most favorite gardening memory?", "If you could be named after a plant what would you be called?"...you get the idea now. Have fun with it.
You can also borrow a book from your library on tea parties,or other party themed books for even more ideas.
Have easy to prepare foods available.
You'll want items that are quick,but delicious. The host certainly doesn't want to be in the kitchen with food preparations while everyone else has fun.
Below is an easy menu we have gathered for you.

Mint Apple Juleps
2 cups fresh chopped mint leaves
8 cups apple juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
Tie mint in a cheesecloth and put into a large saucepan.
Add the 8 cups of apple juice and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and discard the cheesecloth.
Stir in the fresh squeezed lime juice.
Serve over crushed ice.Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
(8 servings/recipe can easily be doubled to accommodate the number of guests)
Fruit Tea (Makes 2 quarts)
3 cups boiling water
4 regular sized tea bags (Luzianne tea is great for this!)
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups cold water1 cup orange juice (pulp free)
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pour the boiling water over the tea bags,cover and let steep for 5 minutes.Remove tea bags.Stir in the sugar until dissolved.Stir in remaining ingredients.Serve over ice.
Layered BLT Delight Salad

1 container sour cream(8 oz.)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1tsp.dried basil
1/2 tsp.salt
1/2 tsp.pepper
1/2 tsp.garlic powder
1 large head of iceberg lettuce ,chopped (about 4 cups)
1 package bacon, cooked and crumbled (32 ounce package)
6 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly
3 cups of croutons
Combine the first 7 ingredients and set aside.
In a 13 by 9 baking dish layer the lettuce, bacon and then top with the tomato slices.Spread the mayo mixture over the tomatoes, all the way to the edges of the dish.Cover and chill for 2 hours.Sprinkle evenly with the croutons and serve immediately.(makes 8 servings)
Cucumber Sandwiches-
Fresh cucumber sliced THIN
Cut fresh white bread into rounds with a cookie cutter about the size of your cucumber.
Spread a VERY thin coating of butter, and then a thin spread of mayonnaise Sprinkle the cucumber with FRESH ground black pepper ONLY - NO salt. Put the lid on! Viola!...nice cool and refreshing spring time sandwiches.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwiches
Fresh strawberries sliced thin. Fresh bread - NO crusts. (White or wheat is good) Cut the bread into fourths. Spread each piece with butter, then cream cheese. Place a slice of strawberry on each piece and then top with another square.
NOTE: To store sandwiches before your gathering:Put them in a plastic container, cover with a piece of waxed paper, then dampen a paper towel and put on top of the waxed paper. Put the lid on and release any air (like tupperware) and refrigerate.
Cream Wafers
You will need:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 sticks butter at room temp (do not substitute)
sugar for coating cut outs
cookie cutter of your choice (the fluted ones like shown work BEAUTIFULLY)
flour for dusting your work area
Set your oven to 375
For Filling:
1 stick softened butter
4-5 cups confectioners sugar
flavoring of choice (I use 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a 1/2 tsp coconut & lemon)
Coloring if you like
I use parchment lined cookie sheets.
Cut the butter into the 2 cups of flour with a pastry cutter or fork until it is mealy…like cornmeal. Add cream all at once and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll 1/3 the dough out adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the surface (I use a silicone mat). DO NOT over work your dough or your cookies will be tough. Cut what you can from this rolling and set the scraps to the side to use ONE more time. After the second rolling, discard the dough - too “used” to use. Place your cut outs into a plate of sugar to coat.Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each one with a fork (3-4 times).Bake about 10-11 minutes until set…not browned. Remove to a wire rack till cooled.Mix your filling ingredients with a mixer until light. Spread one cookie and top with another. Makes a YUMMY sandwich cookie!
***Sandwich recipes and Cream Wafer Cookie recipe courtesy of Susan Dahlem at http://www.notquitejunecleaver.com/
~The Victory Gardener~

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April/May 2009 Small Town Living Magazine/Now Online!

You'll find the new April/May 2009 "Small Town Living" magazine online now at:

Please share with friends and family! Enjoy!


How to Host a "Garden" Party

Growing Heirloom Lettuce:The World of Lettuce contain more than just Iceberg

Orchard Mason Bees:Give them a home and they'll Pollinate your Garden

Drip Irrigation

Our Urban Farm

The American Artisans Guide:Sources for Handmade Goods

***This is our special Spring Garden issue and contains many garden related article, tips and advice.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Let us Talk about Lettuce.....

(Article by: Tina Wilson for "Small Town Living" April/May 2009)
Heirlooms abound in the seed world,
from heirloom flowers such as celosia, to zinnias, and all sorts of varieties in between.
Such also can be said for vegetables,there are many, many varieties that fit into the heirloom category.

What exactly is an heirloom anyway, and why is important to know and learn about these varieties and to grow them in your own yard?

Heirlooms are open pollinated varieties of seed, they will grow true to type.
In other words, this means that a seed taken from the plant will produce a plant that looks identical to the parent plant from which the seed came from.

Such is sometimes not the case with hybrid varieties of seed. In a world where we are more and more frequently hearing the term "genetically modified"; it is even more crucial that the old timey varieties;varieties of plants,and seeds that have withstood the tests of time; be preserved, saved carefully, and passed along for future generations to enjoy and cherish.

Heirloom seed are also seed that can be dated back from 50 to 100 years or more, seed that has been passed down from generation to generation, seed with a history...with a story.

Seed that is not hybridized, or genetically modified. In other words...seed that is very important to preserve and not allow it to become extinct.

When shopping at your local grocery store or produce stand, no doubt you have seen lettuces being offered, but typically we only see about 3 to 4 varieties in the market place.

We'll often see romaine, iceberg,and perhaps a little mesclun, but clearly we are limited on the varieties we are offered.

Such need not be the case if you do a little research and find out just what else is out there.

We here at "Small Town Living" have done a little research for you to save you a bit of time, and because our own inquiring minds wanted to know as well.

So, we did a little looking at heirloom varieties because we feel as mentioned above, that these varieties are more than just a novelty, it is imperative that our generation help to preserve them, and also we just knew that there had to be more than just the few varieties of lettuces we have seen offered at local stores and produce stands.
Our taste buds and gardens want more variety!

Below we have listed some of the varieties we learned about along the way, and where you can purchase heirloom seeds for them.

We have also included some tips on how to grow lettuces in your own garden. Enjoy!..and may your salads now be filled with more than enough variety and taste.

You'll also have a little bit of a history lesson to talk about across the dinner table too, as you learn a little about each variety and how to grow them in your own gardens.

May you too learn to love heirloom vegetables, and the joy in preserving our gardening heritage...seed by seed.
Amish Deer Tongue:
This is a rugged, heavy producer with a unique triangular leaf shape which resembles a deer's tongue. The plants are a pretty bright green color, and are great for a cut and come again harvesting technique. They are a loose leaf type of lettuce. Only taking around 45 to 55 days from seed sowing until harvest. Leaves have a nice pleasant and sharp flavor.It is also good for baby greens... meaning harvesting when the leaves are smaller than the full harvest date size.This variety is slow to bolt.

As the name indicates it is a favorite in the Amish community.
Amish deer tongue lettuce dates back to the 1740's.This is a variety of lettuce that has found itself on the "Slow Food US's Ark of Taste", a catalogued list of 200 varieties of vegetables that are in danger of extinction.
Bronze Arrowhead Lettuce:

This variety was first known as "Bronze Beauty". It was introduced by a company known as Germania Seed and Plant Company. In 1947 it was awarded an honor that suited its name perfectly...the "bronze medal" in the "All American Selections".It was also known as the finest,most colorful, and most delicious variety to grow in the garden.

This variety has pretty dark green oak leaf shaped leaves that are edged in a reddish maroon color.Looseleaf varieety that is slow to bolt.Goes from seed to harvest in just 40 to 50 days.
Cracoviensis Lettuce:

This French heirloom variety dates back to before 1885, when it was referenced by the Vilmorin Seed Company of France, whom back in the mid 1800's was known as "the most important seed company in the world", and was also noted for their scientific study on seeds and plants that were "pure line"
This variety has tender,sweet leaves that are a bright green color tipped with purple.It is also sometimes referred to as "Red Celtuce" for the tender and light pink stems that the plant produces when it does bolt.

It is sometimes quick to bolt, but the bolted stems can be used, and the leaves do not turn bitter,and remain tender throughout.A looseleaf variety. From seed to harvest is 65 days.
Forellenschuss Lettuce:

Growing from 8 to 12 inches tall this Austrian heirloom's name translates to "trout with a speckled back".
The beautiful green leaves are speckled all over with reddish - maroon coloring.

It is a good choice for using as baby greens or as full size heads.It is a Romaine vvariety that is ready to harvest in just 55 days.Holds up well in cold weather and also heat.
Grandpa Admire's Lettuce:

Named for George Admire, a Civil War Veteran born in 1822.
The seed was preserved by Mr. Admire's granddaughter whom at age 90 in 1977, gave the seed to the Whealy family of Missouri.
The Whealy family founded "Seed Saver's Exchange" in 1975,a non profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations.
This variety of lettuce is a Butterhead variety.
A bronze tinged variety which forms a large loose head, and has a mild fine flavor.A slow bolting variety, it stays tender longer than most varieties and is heat tolerant.60 days from seed to harvest.
Green Oakleaf Lettuce:

In the 1880's this heirloom variety was referred to as" Baltimore Oakleaf" and "Philadelphia Oakleaf".Forming rosettes up to 24 inches in size, this looseleaf variety is resistant to hot weather, and retains its taste, never getting bitter.Adds a lovely look and texture to salad mixes.Toss it with some of the lettuce varieties mentioned above for a gorgeous salad.50 days from seed to harvest.
Lolla Rossa Lettuce:
An Italian heirloom, this looseleaf variety adds plenty of beauty to your salad plate,and is wonderful as a baby salad green variety.
With lovely magenta colored frilled edge leaves and light green bases.
Mild flavored and an absolutely lovely addition to the garden.It develops small 5 inch to 8 inch half globe heads. It is also a good cut and come again variety.55 days from seed to harvest.
Mervielle de Quartre Saisons Lettuce:

A lovely French heirloom bibb -type variety of lettuce that dates back to before 1885.Also known as "Marvel of Four Seasons. This is another variety mentioned in the papers of the "Vilmorin Seed Company" of France in 1885.Pretty reddish colored leaves have a crispy,excellent flavor.A Butterhead variety that is ready to harvest in 60 days from seed sowing.
Marveille De 4 Seasons  Lettuce on Foodista
Sanguine Ameliore Lettuce:

Introduced in 1906 by C.C. Morse and company, this French variety was then known as the "Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce". The leaves of this Butterhead variety have a deep reddish brown mottling on pretty dark green to chartreuse colored leaves.The plants reach 7 to 9 inches in diameter.Tender and mild flavor.60 days from seed to harvest.
Tennis Ball Lettuce:

This tiny headed black seeded variety (seeds are black) develops light green tight rosettes that measure about 7 inches in diameter.Introduced to gardeners back in the 1850's. Fun to grow in containers due to its petite size.A Butterhead variety that is ready to harvest in 60 days.
Growing tips for lettuce:
A cool season crop, lettuces are best grown in the early spring or fall.
When sowing the seed in the garden just barely cover with soil, no more than 1/8th of an inch, as the seed needs plenty of sunlight to germinate, and needs temperatures of at least 70 degrees to do so.
Lettuces do not actually require a fertilizer, but if you decide to grow one of the "cut and come again" varieties which grow for a longer season, you will want to give the plants a little bit of manure or compost to help keep the nitrogen levels in the soil in balance during the growing season.
Because lettuces have a shallow root system it is easy for them to dry out quickly in warm weather, make sure that your plants receive frequent watering.
Slugs will become a problem if the ground is left too damp or mulched.
There is no need to mulch around lettuce plants.
To keep a steady harvest of lettuce going, make sure to plant new seed every week to ten days.
Thin your plants to allow a spacing of 8 to 12 inches between seedlings.
Not only can lettuces be direct sown into the garden, but they also work well as container crops.
Fun, but little known facts about Lettuce:
In the 1920's "Iceberg" lettuce was known as "Crisphead" Lettuce.It earned the name "Iceberg" based upon the way it was transported commercially in California, by covering the heads with mounds of ice.

It is said that the Emperor Caesar Augustus erected a monument to lettuce because he believed it cured his illness.

Lettuce is the second most popular vegetable in the United States, corn being the first.

Lettuce is actually a member of the sunflower family.

About 25 percent of all commercially grown "Iceberg" lettuce is made into "fresh cut" salad mix.

The average American eats about 30 pounds of lettuce a year.
Sources for Heirloom Lettuce Seed:

Seed Savers Exchangehttp://www.seedsavers.org/

Baker Creek Heirloom Seedshttp://www.rareseeds.com/


Saving Your Own Lettuce Seed:

1.)Choose 2 lettuce plants as your "seed saving" plants.
2.) Place a marker near them, or tie a piece of yarn around the plants, anything to let you know that these plants are "set aside" to allow them to "bolt"(go to seed)
3.) Do not harvest from these plants, simply allow them to grow.
4.) Soon they will set up a central stalk from the center of the plant, and will begin to produce flowers.
5.)Once the flowers begin to set seed, the seed heads will look similar to dandelion flower seed heads.
6.)At this time you can begin to harvest the seed heads.
7.)Simply cut the stalks off of the plant.
8.)You'll need to have a brown paper bag with you.
Hang the seed head upside down inside of the paper bag.
9.)Use a rubber band or twisty tie to close the bag, then gently shake to release the seed.
Once you have shaken the seed loose, open the bag and allow the seed to air dry for a few days. 10.)Once they have dried out place them into a small jar or ziplock baggy and store in a cool, dry place.
You'll have next year's lettuce seed at the ready.
~The Victory Gardener~