Classic Macaroni Salad Recipe – The Salad Everyone Loves

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One of the most requested recipes to make for any family function or picnic is classic macaroni salad. It is a go-to recipe that is served at nearly all picnics, potlucks or group events. I had never been a big

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The Grapes of Youth: 11+ Age-Defying Reasons to Love This Plant

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I grew up picking muscadines, a local wild grape, in the woods around my home. The table grapes from the store were nice, but nothing beats a ripe muscadine. My wife disagrees, but as I tell her, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love muscadines and those who are wrong.” She’s cute when she’s angry.

Anyway, let’s talk about grapes. Or rather, let’s talk about the plant as a whole. The grapevine has much more to offer besides fruit, and you might be surprised by some of its age-defying benefits.

Identification

Grape leaves come in a variety of shapes, which isn’t very sporting of them, if you ask me. They can be rounded, heart-shaped, lobed, hairy, smooth, toothed, etc. Determining the exact species can be maddening. Thankfully, grapes as a whole are easy to identify.

Grapes 1

Grapes 2Grapes grow on woody, clinging vines with tendrils, and they form clusters of berries. Well, I say they form clusters of berries. But anyone who has gone out to hunt wild grapes knows the frustration of coming across bare vine after bare vine. The sad truth is that less than half of the vines are female, and even those will only produce fruit sporadically.

The trick here in the Ozark Mountains is to just walk uphill of a non-fruiting vine. The seed that grew it probably rolled down from the momma plant just uphill. You can often find several generations of plants that have colonized a hillside, and chances are that several of them have decided to fruit that year. But let’s get back to plant identification.

The leaves are alternate and highly variable, as mentioned above. When you find a leaf growing on one side of the stem, you’ll often find it opposite a tendril. The tendrils can be single or forked.

Grapes 3

If you find a woody vine without tendrils, it’s not a grape. It could be the dangerous look-alike, moonseed. Another way to tell is that grapes have multiple, ovoid seeds (not counting seedless grapes), while moonseed has a single, crescent moon–shaped seed.

Grapevines are fairly adaptable, in terms of environment. Given their choice, they’ll take full sunlight, a generous amount of water, and soil with good drainage. They can be found in thickets, fencerows, woods, and forest edges. They grow in all of the contiguous United States and in the eastern half of Canada. Cultivated and wild grapes can also be found in many locations worldwide, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Edible Uses

We all know how to eat grapes. Make them into juice, jelly, wine, or raisins, or just eat them whole. Cultivated grapes are usually sweeter than their wild counterparts. Some wild grapes, however, such as my native muscadines, are especially sweet and tasty.

Grape leaves can also be eaten in a variety of ways. Raw is an option, though I find this method to be the least palatable. The young leaves are fine on a sandwich or in a salad. They could also be boiled for 10-15 minutes and served with butter. I like to add them in with a taco salad. Older leaves will need more boiling, and you will hit a point where they’re just too tough to be worth the trouble. But it’s up to you exactly when that point is.

Dolmas

The most well-known edible use of grape leaves is probably in dolmas. Dolmas are stuffed vegetable, rice, and/or meat dishes that use grape leaves as wraps. Just parboil the leaves for a minute or two. Then dip them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Now you can place a spoonful of whatever filling you like onto each leaf and wrap them up like burritos. You can eat them as they are, or place them in the oven for additional baking. Bigger leaves are a lot easier to work with here.

Grapes 4

Leaf Chips

Another tasty option is leaf chips. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place your grape leaves in a bowl and lightly coat them with olive oil. Next, spread them out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, or the seasoning of your choice. Place them in the oven and let them cook for about 10 minutes. Give it a try.

Grapes 5

The seeds can be pressed for their oil, which is edible and also used in herbal skin applications. Infused grape-seed oil is considered fairly ideal for already oily or blemished skin. It is absorbed quickly and leaves no oily residue.

The sap is edible as well. It could just be a lifesaver if you’re ever lost in the woods and in need of a clean water source.

Medicinal Uses

Resveratrol

Now we get to the really exciting part. In terms of medical properties, grapevines are a veritable fountain of youth. In particular, the chemical resveratrol can help to prevent almost all age-related chronic diseases, and may render many chronic diseases—such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, and osteo-arthritis—reversible.1)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.2)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

In one study, middle-aged male mice were fed a high-calorie diet, and were then given resveratrol. While the resveratrol did not keep them from gaining weight or help them lose weight, it did protect them from the negative effects associated with the weight gain. And not only were they protected from weight- and age-associated health problems, but also their health and mobility steadily improved until their test results were within the same range as the control group of normally fed mice.3)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Resveratrol seems to be able to mimic the effects of a calorie-restrictive diet, tricking our bodies into aging more slowly.4) Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. The science on this isn’t completely settled, though it is a very encouraging idea.

Cancer

Resveratrol also has some rather promising anti-cancer properties, particularly as a preventative. It has been shown to interfere with the three major stages of tumor formation—initiation, promotion, and progression.5)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.6)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. In particular, resveratrol has been associated with a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer.7)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Oligomeric Procyanidins

While resveratrol gets most of the glory, grapes produce a number of health-supporting compounds, such as oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs). OPCs are highly antioxidant—many times more powerful than vitamins C and E.8)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.

These compounds are commercially extracted from seeds. However, they are 10-100 times more abundant in the leaves. And why buy a supplement when you can pick a leaf?

By the way, OPCs are especially antiviral toward dengue.9)Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging Resistant & Epidemic Viral Infections. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2013. So just tuck that little tidbit away in the event that you spend some time in a tropical region.

Circulatory System

The Vitis genus also seems to have a special affinity for the circulatory system. Many of its effects may be linked, directly or indirectly, to this affinity. It helps to regulate blood sugar levels, prevent blood clots, prevent and repair varicose veins, treat hemorrhoids, and protect against atherosclerosis.10)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.11)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.12)Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The Worlds Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014.

It also supports and protects the microvascular systems of the body, such as the delicate blood vessels in the eyes and fragile capillaries throughout the body. This circulation enhancement is used to treat macular degeneration and eye strain, and may help to prevent cataracts.13) Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.14)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.15)Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The Worlds Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014. Increased circulation to the brain may explain the neuroprotective benefits, such as its potential to help improve and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.16)Ma, Teng, Meng-Shan Tan, Jin-Tai Yu, and Lan Tan. Advances in Pediatrics. 2014. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4261550/.17)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.

Connective Tissue

Grapes and grape leaves strengthen, stabilize, and repair connective tissue throughout the body and have been used to help strengthen the intestinal walls to prevent or stabilize diverticular disease.18)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.19)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007. They also help to prevent bruising, particularly in the elderly.20)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. This may be related to the plant’s circulatory effects, connective tissue effects, or a combination of both.

Antimicrobial

Compounds within the grape plant also have selective antimicrobial properties—a dampening effect on pathogenic bacteria—while having only a minimal effect on healthy gut flora.21)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. They also have some antiviral properties, especially toward dengue, as mentioned above.22)Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging Resistant & Epidemic Viral Infections. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2013.

Other Properties

The leaves are astringent, anti-inflammatory, and help with asthma and allergies by reducing histamine production.23)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.24)Chevallier, Andrews. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. DK, 2000.25)Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The Worlds Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014. Leaf tea has traditionally been used for diarrhea, stomachache, thrush, hepatitis, and uterine bleeding.26)Chevallier, Andrews. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. DK, 2000.27)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Leaves have also been used as a poultice for rheumatism, headaches, fevers, and blisters on the feet.28)Chevallier, Andrews. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. DK, 2000.29)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Selecting Grapes

Medicinal properties tend to be stronger in grape varieties with darker fruit, though exceptions exist and growing conditions can also have an effect. Resveratrol production, for example, is greater in grapes that have had to endure a fungal attack.30)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Grapes that have been treated heavily with pesticides, such as most store-bought grapes, have fewer medicinal benefits.31)Magee, J.B. “J.B. Magee.” HortScience. April 01, 2002. Accessed May 23, 2018. http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/37/2/358.short.

Resveratrol is usually associated with the skin of grapes, where it tends to be the most concentrated. However, resveratrol can also be found in significant quantities in the leaves, though this, too, depends on variety and growing conditions.

Method and Dosage

While the fruit gets the most glory, grape leaves contain the same medicinal compounds in varying proportions. Use whichever you prefer or whichever is available.

The leaves can be eaten directly or used in infusions or tinctures. Grapes are most famously used in wine, though juice can be used fairly interchangeably. The juice may even have longer-lasting antioxidant protection.32)Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014.

Due to the variability between grape varieties and species, recommending a standard dosage is problematic. This is one place where standardized supplements have an advantage over wildcrafting. My best advice would be to listen to your body. Try a bit every day and see how you feel in a couple of weeks. Up the amount as needed.

Also, resveratrol metabolizes quickly, so more frequent doses may be advisable. And, no, I’m not giving you permission to drink all the wine you want. A little wine is fine, but remember the non-alcoholic sources, as well.

Lastly, for maximum medicinal effect, consume grape products separately from fatty meals. Fats significantly reduce the bioavailability of resveratrol.33)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Caution

When combined with blood-thinning medications, grapes may increase the bleeding risks.34)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

I hope you’ll be motivated to ditch the pesticide-laden, store-bought grapes and grow some of your own.

Are you already growing grapes, or do you have any wild vines nearby? Let me know in the comments!

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

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References   [ + ]

1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 18, 21, 30, 33. Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.
2, 11, 19, 23, 34. Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.
4. Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.
6. Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.
8, 14, 17. Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.
9, 22. Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging Resistant & Epidemic Viral Infections. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2013.
12, 15, 25. Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The Worlds Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014.
13. Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.
16. Ma, Teng, Meng-Shan Tan, Jin-Tai Yu, and Lan Tan. Advances in Pediatrics. 2014. Accessed May 23, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4261550/.
20, 27, 29. Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
24, 26, 28. Chevallier, Andrews. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. DK, 2000.
31. Magee, J.B. “J.B. Magee.” HortScience. April 01, 2002. Accessed May 23, 2018. http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/37/2/358.short.
32. Johnson, Rebecca L., Steven Foster, and Andrew Weil. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2014.

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The BEST Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad – So Refreshing!

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This classic Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad is a refreshing summertime salad that is served at most picnics and gatherings. It has the perfect balance of tang mixed with a little bit of sweetness that will have you eating this all

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From Dinner to Detox: 15+ Ways to Get Healthy With Cleavers

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This article on cleavers is one in a series on growing a weed garden, and how to identify and use the plants commonly found there. Check out the rest of the series here.

Plants are great, right? But you don’t always have time to go out and harvest them. Life gets busy. That’s why, today, I am bringing you a plant that is so easy to harvest, it picks itself.

Cleavers 1

Cleavers (Galium aparine), also known as goosegrass, clivers, clingers, and a whole host of other names, is an annual weed, growing about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) tall. It has square stems, with 6 to 8 small, lance-shaped leaves arranged in a whorl1)Whorl: A leaf arrangement of three or more leaves around a single point. at the nodes.2) Node: A point along a plant’s stem at which one or more leaves or branches can form. Certain plants can also grow roots at nodes.

Cleavers 2

Cleavers produce tiny white flowers with four petals each. These turn into tiny, round, green, dry, bristly, 2-lobed fruit.

The entire plant is covered in tiny, curved prickles. They don’t hurt to touch, though they do feel very rough when you run your hand over them. Some stories name cleavers as the inspiration for Velcro. The tactile sensations are very similar.

Cleavers 3

Most of the common names for cleavers come from its prickly nature . . . except goosegrass. That’s just from watching the birds eat it.

You’ll find this plant growing in rich, moist soil; in thickets, the woods, or waste spaces; and probably in your yard if you don’t mow often, like me. It likes to form clusters, if given half a chance, and will recline on whatever vegetation is around it.

Cleavers 4

This little guy didn’t come up in my weed garden, but he’s reaching over to drop his seeds into it for next year’s crop. That’s so neighborly.

Cleavers’ combination of weak stems and clinginess make it a marvelous self-harvesting plant. You walk by and brush up against it. Then it grabs hold of your pant leg and hitches a ride to drop its seeds off somewhere down the line. It’s not a bad reproductive strategy, given that you can find cleavers all over North America, Europe, and many of the other temperate regions of the world, including Australia. Cleavers can be found in Greenland, in all of the southern provinces of Canada, and in every U.S. state except Hawaii. (Chin up, Hawaii. You have pineapples.)

Cleavers has such a wide growing range that telling you their growing season becomes tricky. April to September would not be an unreasonable generalization. But like anything else, it depends. Down south, you’ll get them popping up and fruiting a lot sooner. Here in my Arkansas yard, they’re definitely through with the flowering stage and have set their seeds. Give it another month and most of them will be gone with the heat. In cooler climates, you might have them all through the summer.

Edible Uses for Cleavers

Cleavers can be used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. It’s supposed to taste just like coffee. They’re in the same family, so I guess that makes sense. Slow roast the seeds in your oven or on the stovetop until dark brown. They’re small, so watch that they don’t burn. Then, send them through your coffee grinder and prepare the grounds as you would regular coffee.

I’m not a fan, but I’m not a big coffee drinker to begin with. Give it a try, and then come back here to tell me what you think.

Other foragers will tell you how great the young shoots are when you cook them. Boil them for 10 to 15 minutes, then add them to omelets. Boil, then chill and add to salads. Enjoy the young tips raw, or boil and serve them with butter, etc.

I’m going to be honest with you: I’m not in with the majority here. I just don’t care for cleavers, raw or cooked. But I’ll tell you what I do enjoy. The juice! If you don’t have a juicer, just fill up your blender. Add a little water to help it get started, and then strain out the pulp when you’re done. Jelly straining bags work great. Or just use a clean sock. I won’t tell.

The juice doesn’t store well, so you’ll want to drink it right away. The taste is mild, green, and refreshing. Add a splash of lemon and apple juice to taste, and now you really have something special. The flavors mingle together and really complement one another. It’s a perfect drink for cooling down and reinvigorating yourself after a hard day of yard work.

Eat only the young shoots or growing tips. Ideally, you’d gather them before they flower. Older plants accumulate silica and are just too tough to eat. They’re still okay for juice and cleavers coffee, though.

Medicinal Properties of Cleavers

Cleavers are a general nutritive herb, and can be used safely for prolonged periods of time to support growth, renewal, and overall health.3)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.4)Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstars Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2009. The aerial5)Aerial: The aboveground parts of a plant. parts are used medicinally.

One of the more common uses of this herb is as a gentle diuretic. It helps to flush out and sooth irritations of the urinary tract and kidneys.6)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.7)Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstars Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2009. Cleavers tea is often recommended for dissolving kidney stones and for other urinary issues.8)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.9)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.

Cleavers are cooling herbs, useful for bringing down fevers and for helping skin conditions related to heat and dryness.10)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.11)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.12)Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2009. They are also strongly anti-inflammatory, which likely contributes to these successful uses.13)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

They are often taken for diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhea.14)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016. Again, tea is a popular choice. Because this herb is gentle and safe, I would drink several glasses a day.

One of cleavers’ most impressive functions is as a liver protector. Most other liver herbs will support normal liver function or cleanse the liver, but cleavers has the ability to protect the liver from harm and to actually help the liver heal.15)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004. Herbs that do this are relatively few and far between, so it’s nice to make a mental note when you find one. (Milk thistle would be another example.)

Another equally impressive function of cleavers is as a lymph mover. It helps keep everything moving, clear swollen lymph glands, strengthen the immune system, and generally improve a wide range of lymphatic issues.16)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.17)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.18)Deane. “Goosegrass, Cleavers, Bedstraw.” Eat The Weeds and Other Things, Too. December 17, 2017. Accessed May 13, 2018. http://www.eattheweeds.com/galium-aparine-goosegrass-on-the-loose-2/.19)Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2012.20)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. It’s an excellent tonic for the whole lymphatic system.21)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

In this respect, cleavers is much like pokeweed. But if you read my blog on that topic, you’ll remember that, while pokeweed is a powerful medicine, it doesn’t go out of its way to be user friendly. In fact, it’s quite dangerous. Cleavers offers a much safer alternative for this function, without sacrificing potency.

Read More: “Pokeweed: The Weed, the Myth, the Legend”

Cleavers’ detoxifying properties also give it a place in holistic cancer strategies.22)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.23)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. This is especially true of the juice.24)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.

Older plants are a source of silica. Silica is a compound that aids the body in innumerable ways, many of which we may not yet understand.25)Martin, K. R. “The Chemistry of Silica and Its Potential Health Benefits.” Advances in Pediatrics. Accessed May 14, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17435951/.

In Alternatives to Dentists, Doug Simons talks about the importance of silica for tooth health. His plant of choice, however, is a specific species of horsetail (Equisetum hyemale). If you’d like to learn more about Doug’s tried-and-true method of healing teeth and keeping them healthy, click here.

Amounts and Methods

Common methods of application are tea, powder, tincture, and juice. Fresh juice is generally considered to be the most potent, though you could also make an argument for the tincture. The juice can be frozen in ice cube trays, as mentioned above, and saved for later in the year. (Incidentally, this happens to be a nice dosing size.)

Younger plants are more potent for most medicinal applications. Once they start to flower or form their fruit, their energy goes into reproduction, and they become less potent.

However, if you’re looking for silica, everything is backwards. Older plants have more silica than younger ones, so don’t harvest those tender young shoots. Wait until they’re too tough to eat. A lot of that toughness is the silica.

The preferred methods are backwards, too. Fresh juice is okay, but if you strain out the pulp, you’re losing a lot of the silica-rich body of the plant. Dried plant powder is best because it retains the full silica content. It can be made into tea, or stirred into liquid and swallowed whole.

The following amounts and frequencies are fairly general. Consult an herbalist if you’d like to tailor a protocol to suit your particular needs.

Tincture of Fresh Plant

1:2 ration in 25% alcohol. Use 1–2 dropperfuls, up to 4x daily.

Fresh Plant Juice

Drink 1–2 Tbsp. (or the equivalent of one ice cube), as needed.

Infusion

Use 2–3 tsp. of dried herb. Pour boiling water over it and steep for 10–15 minutes. Drink 3 times per day, or as needed.

Powder (For Silica)

Stir 1–2 tsp. of powder into water. Drink it, powder and all, once or twice a day.

Cleavers has no reported drug interactions.26)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. However, as a diuretic it could theoretically amplify the effects of diuretic drugs. Also, cases of contact dermatitis from touching the sap have occasionally been reported.27)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

What are your experiences with using cleavers as food and/or medicine? Do you have any tips beyond what I included in this article? Leave me a note in the comments below!

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

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References   [ + ]

1. Whorl: A leaf arrangement of three or more leaves around a single point.
2. Node: A point along a plant’s stem at which one or more leaves or branches can form. Certain plants can also grow roots at nodes.
3, 11, 13, 20, 21, 23, 26. Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.
4, 7. Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstars Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2009.
5. Aerial: The aboveground parts of a plant.
6, 10, 22, 27. Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
8, 14, 16, 24. Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.
9, 15, 17. Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.
12. Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2009.
18. Deane. “Goosegrass, Cleavers, Bedstraw.” Eat The Weeds and Other Things, Too. December 17, 2017. Accessed May 13, 2018. http://www.eattheweeds.com/galium-aparine-goosegrass-on-the-loose-2/.
19. Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2012.
25. Martin, K. R. “The Chemistry of Silica and Its Potential Health Benefits.” Advances in Pediatrics. Accessed May 14, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17435951/.

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Chard en Garde Manger: The Delicious 3-Season Green for Food Security

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This article on growing chard is part of our Green of the Month series. To read the rest of the articles in the series, click here.

In case you don’t speak French (or visit lots of fancy restaurants), that title is my attempt at a little food funny. The term garde manger means “the keeper of the pantry.” The modern garde manger usually does other cool stuff, too, like make garnishes for plate-up, prepare cold dishes, and even ice-carve.

Originally, though, that title was literally applied to the person who guarded the food supply from rats and robbers, and ensured there was plenty of food to last through lean times. Food security was something the wealthy took very seriously. Having a dedicated garde manger looking out for your food stores was a sign of status and meant you were an important person.

As home-food growers, particularly those of us concerned about the precariousness of our modern food supply, we also have to be garde mangers of our own pantries and gardens. Growing chard can help.

The Goods on Chard

Here are some important reasons why anyone concerned with good health and a year-round food supply should add chard to their garden lineup.

1. Long Production Period

Chard is one of those awesome vegetables that makes you a garde manger in the traditional sense—as in, it offers a continuous supply of nutritious food you can rely on even in periods of drought, light frosts, extended heat, and more.

It’s definitely a 3-season vegetable. In many cases, it can even make it through winter with just a little weather protection. Once established, it can be harvested often and over long periods of time.

2. Adds Soil Tilth Without Tilling

Long-standing chard can grow a deep taproot. This makes it a wonderful scavenger of minerals and nitrogen. It can even do well in somewhat depleted soils.

If the root is left in the ground to rot after the top growth dies, it acts similar to tillage radishes, making food for bacteria and creating air spaces to break up soil compaction.

3. Nutrition Powerhouse

A cup of raw chard has 7 calories and contains 374% of your daily dose of vitamin K, 44% of vitamin A, 18% of vitamin C, and 7% magnesium. It’s almost 93% water, which makes it extremely hydrating if you are worried about health risks from chronic dehydration.1)http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2399/2

A cup of cooked chard has 35 calories and contains these amounts of your daily vitamins: 636% of vitamin K, 60% of vitamin A, 42% of vitamin C, 36% of magnesium, 32% of copper, 25% of manganese, 22% of iron, 22% of vitamin E, 20% of potassium, and 13% of your daily fiber.2)http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16

Chard is loaded with phytonutrients. Red- and yellow-ribbed chards may also contain harder-to-come-by phytonutrients like betalains, betaxanthins, or indicaxanthins.

4. Ridiculously Easy to Grow

In my own experiments with growing chard, I find it grows better if I don’t fuss over it. I plant my seeds, mulch around where the root will come up, and maintain moist surface soil until the plant is 2 inches tall. After that, I water weekly in dry periods and keep weeds down until the chard really takes off.

It does need prepared garden soil. However, I specifically skip adding compost when planting chard to encourage it to grow deeper roots rather than letting it glean nutrients from the top few inches of soil.

Some of my chard roots have been over 2 feet deep. They are technically edible, but not as tasty as beet roots.

5. Versatile for Use in Cooking

I have heard a lot of gardeners and CSA members complain about having too much chard and not knowing how to cook it. I used to have that problem until I challenged myself to prepare a multi-course meal with chard as the main ingredient.

This month, rather than give you a recipe for chard, I am going to share that menu. I hope these ideas will inspire you to find creative ways to use your abundance of garden-grown chard.

Le Menu

Amuse-Bouche (i.e., tastebud tantalizer): Essence of Chard

Sauté chard with garlic and butter. Add some cream, salt, and pepper, and puree the mix in your food processor. Run your liquid through a fine sieve to make it smooth. Served chilled in small ramekins, like soup shooters, with a bit of crumbly bacon on top.

First Course: Chard Leaf Wraps

This is a play on cabbage wraps. Steam the chard leaves and wrap them around the filling from your favorite cabbage wrap recipe in lieu of cabbage.

Second Course: Chard en Garde

Make a paste, the consistency of peanut butter, using blue cheese, minced walnuts, a little cream for texture, salt, and pepper. Spread your paste down the stem of the chard leaves and roll them lengthwise into long tubes. Tie them with some chives to hold them together. Set them on the plate like two swords “en garde.”

Third Course: Chard Terrine

This is basically a fancy name for chard lasagna. Sub in chard for pasta and use your standard lasagna recipe for the filling. Bake as usual.

Fourth Course: Sausage With Chard Slaw

To make the slaw, ribbon the chard and mix with raw, shredded carrots. Warm your favorite vinegar-based coleslaw dressing and pour over the vegetable mix to make a hot slaw that pairs perfectly with your favorite grilled sausages.

Fifth Course: Chard Salad

This is simply chard chopped into salad-sized bits with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. It is meant as a digestive break before the last course. Go heavy on the mustard to give this course bite. Also, use baby chard leaves if you have them, as they are more tender.

Sixth Course: Chard Cakes

This course is about like making zucchini bread. Sure, it has chard, but the flavors are mostly masked by large doses of sugar, flour, and eggs.

Sauté chard in butter, puree it with some milk, and use it as your liquid in your favorite cake batter recipe. Use cream cheese icing for added sweetness.

This is just a peak at how to use chard in recipes. Also try chard paneer, spanakopita with chard instead of spinach, chard-and-artichoke dip, Tuscan bean and chard soup, wilted chard salad with bacon dressing, chard omelets, and more.

A Few Cautions About Chard

Too Much K Vitamin for Some

Similar to some of the other leafy greens we’ve covered in this Green of the Month series, chard has lots of vitamin K, which can be a problem for people on blood thinners or who are pregnant. Similar to using beets and beet greens, there is also some controversy about whether chard is okay for juicing.

It’s in the Beet Family

Chard is in the beet family, along with spinach. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you are using crop rotation for pest control or nutrient management.

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control”

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention”

Growing Chard

Now that your mouth is watering at the thought of fresh chard from your own garden, you need to get out there and plant it.

Soil Preparation

Chard grows best in prepared garden soil. It doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen for good production, but it does need consistent moisture. Keeping mulch or well-aged compost around the base of the plant will help retain moisture throughout the growing season.

Seed Starting

Chard is best started by direct planting in garden beds. Soaking the seeds for a few hours before planting will expedite germination.

Like beets, a single seed is actually a cluster of seeds. Planting seeds about 6 inches apart in a lattice pattern works best for beds that are 3-5 feet wide. Otherwise, if you have rows less than two feet wide, just plant them about every 4-6 inches apart down the center of the row. If you use mounded or raised beds, it’s better to avoid planting chard at the edges for better moisture control (edges dry out faster). Plant no deeper than 1/4 inch for speedy germination.

Lattice Planting - Chard - TGN

When your seedlings emerge, there will usually be a few new plants clustered together. Use scissors to cut the extra seedlings back to the ground. You can use the trimmed leaves in salads. Do not pull the extra seedlings, as this may disturb the roots of the plants you want to grow.

For continuous production of baby chard for salads, start new plants every few weeks. As the plants mature and their root mass expands, the leaves begin to grow much faster. This makes it harder to harvest baby greens from mature plants at exactly the right time. Younger plants are better for growing baby greens and older plants are better to use as cooked spinach substitutes.

Young Plant Care

While plants are young, make sure to keep the top few inches of soil moist by watering as necessary. Once plants are about 5 inches tall, the root is usually sufficiently deep that you can cut back to once-a-week watering if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

Mature Plant Care and Harvesting

To maintain good production, you need to encourage additional growth by regularly harvesting larger leaves. Also, older leaves are more prone to insect damage and fungal issues. Timely harvesting keeps chard plants healthier for longer.

To harvest, cut the outer leaves close to the base of the plant. I try to cut my stems so that about 1 inch remains above the soil. For long-standing chard, if plants begin to slow their production, cut all of the stems down to about 2 inches from the ground. Allow the plant to regrow several leaf stalks and then start harvesting again.

Varieties of Chard

Usually when people think of chard, dark green leaves and deep red stalks come to mind. Home gardeners may also think of a mix of colors including dark red, pink, and yellow stalks. These are most likely rhubarb, Five Color Silverbeet, Bright Lights, or Rainbow Chard varieties.

These very colorful varieties are often the highest in some of those hard-to-get phytonutrients mentioned earlier. They are awesome in salads and cooked (older leaves). However, the less colorful kinds of chard are also highly nutritious and are often more prolific for using as a summer spinach substitute. 

My two favorite chard varieties for using as a cooked spinach substitute are Erbette Chard and Perpetual Spinach. These are not great for salads, but they get huge fast and allow for lots and lots of cuttings. They hold up extremely well in heat and humidity and taste delicious sauteed or steamed.

Also, here’s a list from Cornell University with more varieties to check out: Cornell Chard Variety List

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Chard is an awesome choice for edible landscaping. The challenge with using it this way is being able to have your chard and eat it to. To keep a beautiful stand of chard while harvesting it too, go ahead and leave two plants in one hole rather than thinning back to one when the seedlings come up.

Harvest from one plant for a while, then allow it to rest and harvest from the other for a while. Alternate about every 2 weeks when plants are mature.

This works because those established, deep roots are faster at growing new leaves than young plants. However, you may have to manage the nutrition in the soil a bit better since you have multiple plants competing for the same resources. Also, root rot can be an issue in wet soils, so hardwood mulch tends to work better for this method.

Tell Us What You Think!

What’s your experience with chard—cooking it or growing it? Do you have a favorite variety or any tricks you’ve learned to keep chard in constant production? Use the comments section below to share your ideas!

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References   [ + ]

1. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2399/2
2. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16

The post Chard en Garde Manger: The Delicious 3-Season Green for Food Security appeared first on The Grow Network.

In Praise of Growing Parsley (With Recipe)

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I love parsley. But I have to confess, it’s not something I have grown a lot of in previous years. I normally just keep two plants in my greenhouse to cut on throughout the year for cooking and garnish.

Back when I suggested the idea of a “Green of the Month” blog series to Merin Porter, our fabulous director of editorial content, she was totally on board. However, she cautioned me that TGN readers were pretty discerning on the subject of healthy greens and were looking for something more than just posts on how to grow lettuce at home. In particular, she pointed me to a post on healthy salad greens wherein one of our readers raised the subject of lots of lesser known greens.

You can check out the full article here.

Read More: “Spice Things Up With These Healthy Salad Greens” 

I want to zero in on part of a comment from Paul. He writes:

“No mention that parsley is likely one of the best greens in the world (with more phytonutrients than any plant).”

As an avid herb gardener, I have always thought of parsley as an herb, meant to be used sparingly. When I read Paul’s comment and started to think about the flavors that make salads and sautéed greens tasty, I realized Paul had a point.

The Goods on Growing Parsley

There’s a lot to love about parsley.

Ridiculously Nutritious

Paul’s right on the health front. There’s compelling evidence that parsley might be a super green—even in small quantities. Like many flavorful greens, parsley is a powerhouse of vitamins A, C, and K. In just 8 calories’ worth—or half a cup—you can get 554% of your daily allotment of vitamin K, over half your vitamin C, and 15% of your vitamin A. You also make a dent in your required amounts of folate, calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium.

Where parsley really rocks, though, is in the phytonutrients. Now, I am not a medical doctor, scientist, or nutritionist. But what I understand about phytonutrients is that science is just barely scratching the surface of knowing why these are so important. What we’re learning, however, is that even small quantities can make a big difference in human health.

Parsley in particular has a wide range of flavonoid antioxidants, including uteolin, apigenin, lycopene, beta carotene, and alpha carotene. It also has volatile oil compounds like myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. 1)https://draxe.com/parsley-benefits

Parsley’s particular mix of phytonutrients are believed to have anti-aging, cancer-preventative, antifungal, antibacterial, gastrointestinal, and bad breath-fighting benefits. It is often used as a digestive aid and as a diuretic to help promote urinary tract health.

Delicious

Like mustard and arugula, two greens I’ve also covered in this series, parsley has a strong flavor profile. I wouldn’t call it “peppery,” but more like “savory meets lemony and minty in a balanced way.” It has tang, yet when mixed with other greens, its flavor is not overwhelming.

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

Read More: “Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)”

Even though it took reading Paul’s comment to make me think of parsley as a green, I’ve been a huge fan of its flavor for a long time. My favorite way to eat parsley is chopped to bits, drowned in garlic, butter, and salt, and poured over potatoes, pasta, or escargot (when I can find them at the store). Its pungency stands up well to the creamy, spicy, sharp flavors of that particular combo quite well.

I am also learning to appreciate its subtlety in a salad. Finely chopped, it blends right in with other softer-textured greens. It adds a lemony, crisp freshness that makes even simple salads stand out. Of course, it is also awesome in tabouleh.

Garden Versatility

Some greens don’t age well. Once they hit maturity, you have to harvest them or they turn bitter and lose their texture. Parsley, however, is most often left in the ground as a long-standing herb. As a biennial (meaning it flowers and goes to seed in its second year of life), it can even overwinter in warm climates (or greenhouses).

You can grow parsley as a green in beds like you would lettuces. Alternately, you can use it in your edible landscape or herb garden. Parsley doesn’t mind partial shade, particularly in hot weather. It also grows well in containers—even indoors in a sunny windowsill.

Habitat for Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars

As I said, I’ve been growing parsley in my greenhouse. In spring and summer, I open up my greenhouse doors and windows. So, sometimes I get wildlife visitors.

Two years ago, I came in one morning to find all the leaves of my parsley plant missing. I thought maybe a rabbit had visited until I noticed beautiful caterpillars crawling all over my plant. I counted 20—which explained why so many leaves were missing. I did a little Internet research and discovered they were Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly larvae.

Since those caterpillars had pretty much eaten all the leaves already, I cut off the stems with the caterpillars in place and took them over to a stand of Queen Anne’s Lace I had growing.

I thought my parsley was done for. How could it recover from such devastation?  But o my surprise, a few days later it had new growth. That plant came back with vigor and grew strong until the following spring.

The moral of the story? In addition to be being tasty and a nutritional powerhouse, parsley makes a perfect habitat for swallowtail butterflies. Plant a few extra as encouragement for those beautiful pollinators.

Read More: “Attracting Pollinators to the Garden Year After Year”

Parsley Recipe

Don’t let all that parsley go to the butterflies, though! Save some to use for this super-simple sauce that goes great on fish, pasta, or potatoes. Parsley sauce is often considered an old-fashioned sauce. Personally, I think it deserves a revival!

Simple Parsley Sauce

  • 3 Tablespoons butter or lard
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (or other thickening agent)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to your taste

Parsley sauce is a kind of gravy. You start by making a roux. To do this, melt your butter or lard in a sauce pan. Toss in your parsley and garlic and sauté them together for a few seconds. Then, over low heat, add the flour and stir the mixture quickly to make a smooth paste.

Once you have your paste, add your milk little by little. As you stir, your milk will start to thicken. As it thickens, add more milk until it is all stirred in. Remove your sauce from the heat. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

If you don’t use flour, substitute whatever thickening agent you prefer. Corn starch or arrowroot powder also work, although they do change the flavor profile a bit.

Personally, I love this sauce served over trout or gnocchi. You can also add a splash of lemon juice and some capers to the sauce to lighten it up.

A Few Cautions About Parsley

Now there are also a couple of things to be aware of before you make parsley part of your garden and your diet.

It’s in the Carrot Family

Parsley—like carrots, parsnips, fennel, celery, dill, coriander, and caraway—belongs to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family. If you are planning to include parsley in your garden rotation, you will want to avoid planting it after its relatives.

It’s also susceptible to some of the same pests as carrots, such as the carrot root fly. If you already have issues with these, you may need to take extra precautions by growing lots of parsley for regular greens.

Health Concerns

Just like with other leafy greens high in vitamin K, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing—especially for people on blood thinners or who may be pregnant. Although it’s rare, some people may have skin reactions when handling parsley.

Growing Parsley

My previous Green of the Month posts are about really-easy-to-grow mustard, arugula, and kale. Those three plants can be started directly in the garden and are almost hard not to grow. Parsley takes a bit more work to get started. However, once established, it’s a low-maintenance plant and can be harvested for a year in some climates.

Soil Preparation

Parsley can tolerate soil pH ranges from about 5.5 to 6.7. Unlike carrots, which are light feeders, parsley is considered a heavy feeder.  It will need more fertilization than other plants in the carrot family to make a lot of top growth. Fresh applications of compost or worm castings prior to planting can help. It also needs consistent moisture in the soil and good drainage.

Growing parsley in loamy soil that is loaded with organic matter will get you the best results. For this reason, many people often grow parsley in pots filled with fresh potting soil. Mulching with straw or wood chips will trap moisture and reduce the necessity of frequent watering.

Seed Starting

Similar to carrots, parsley seeds can take three weeks to start. They germinate in soil temperatures between 50–80°F, with 70° F being the sweet spot. You can start them in seed mix or good potting soil. Sprinkle seeds on top of the soil and water regularly.

Parsley growth is very slow initially. For indoor starts, expect it to take 8–10 weeks in ideal temperatures with sufficient light for plants to reach their transplanting size of 3 inches tall. Plants started outdoors can take even longer and often need to be watered more than once a day during dry periods.

Parsley is one of the few plants I always start in containers or in the greenhouse. In my rural area, country produce stores sell flats of parsley so cheap that it often makes more sense to support my local economy and buy plants than to start my own.

Transplanting Parsley

Transplant your parsley when plants are about 3 inches tall. There is a defined juncture between the root system and the above-ground green stems in parsley plants. This is often referred to as the crown. Make sure your crown does not sink below soil level.

Mulch around your transplant to help maintain moisture. However, do not cover the crown with mulch. Covering the crown can encourage fungal diseases. Water daily until the plant is well-established.

Mature Plant Care

Established parsley plants need regular watering for best production.  Applications of compost tea once every two weeks encourage leafy production.

Read More: “Compost Tea: An Easy Way to Stretch Your Compost”

Plants need about a square foot of space if you plan to harvest regularly. If using mainly for decorative purposes and light harvesting, give plants a few extra inches to accommodate their mature size.

Swallowtail butterfly larva are the most likely “pest” and those can be transferred to other host plants like Queen Anne’s Lace or overgrown dill plants as needed.

Aphids and carrot root flies can also be an issue if your parsley is stressed either by too much or too little water. Generally, though, with mulch and watering as necessary, those pests prefer other plants (like your carrots).

Parsley can also be susceptible to fungal diseases. Maintaining consistent moisture in the soil is the best prevention for this.

Harvesting Parsley

To harvest, cut the largest leaves at the base of the stem. Parsley can be long-lasting in the refrigerator. However, leaves lose nutritional value after harvesting. For best results, harvest as needed and use fresh.

Varieties of Parsley

There are two main varieties of parsley—curly and flat leaf. Curly parsley is more decorative and often provides more leaf mass for chopping. Flat leaf, also called Italian parsley, is usually more tasty (in my opinion).

Seed companies have different strains of parsley, such as varieties grown for larger and more decorative leaves, stronger or milder flavor, or better heat resistance.

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Try growing parsley root. Most of the parsley grown in the U.S. is flat or curly leaf parsley. In other parts of the world, parsley is also grown specifically for its root. Root parsley is often called Hamburg parsley or turnip parsley in seed catalogs.

The tops are similar in flavor to regular parsley, though they tend to be tougher. The roots look and taste a bit like parsnips (though with a less cinnamon-like flavor punch) and are more delicately aromatic.

Parsley roots can be eaten raw or cooked. They don’t store as well as carrots or parsnips. Plan to use them for fresh eating.

As with parsnips, the roots take around 120 days to form, so they do take up a lot of bed time if you are growing in small spaces. However, if you want to impress friends and family with your culinary prowess, parsley root will do it. The taste is mild enough to convince bland eaters, and the idea of eating parsley root is interesting enough to wow even the gourmands.

Do you have high praise for parsley?  How about any great cooking or salad tips?  We’d love to hear your parsley parsings in the comments below.

 

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References   [ + ]

1. https://draxe.com/parsley-benefits

The post In Praise of Growing Parsley (With Recipe) appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Top 10 Foods to NOT Store!

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Based on my own personal experiences and mistakes, I do not recommend storing these foods in large quantities, long-term. Let me know what you think of my list and what other foods you would add. Foods to not store, long-term 1.  Any canned vegetable or fruit that you do not like This may seem obvious, […]

12 Uses for Rose Petals—From the Kitchen to the Boudoir (With Recipes)

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The fabled rosequeen of the plant kingdom. Did you know that there are over 100 species of roses?

While the wild roses, Rosa rugosa, are considered the queen of the roses for medicinal purposes, all roses lend their soothing and nurturing support in many ways. You need not go out into the wild to look for roses as you probably already grow some yourself, or at least know someone who does since roses are commonly grown as ornamental plants.

Although roses are fairly easy to grow, often requiring nothing more than periodic pruning, the spectacular sight and heavenly scent of the flowers do not last long and soon give way to the red colored fruits known as rose hips. Collecting rose petals, however, is easy to do so long as one is wary of the thorns.

Read more: 7 Types of Marigolds – Which One is Right for You?

How to Dry Fresh Rose Petals

How to dry fresh rose petals

Rose petals are edible and can be collected at any time for this purpose. However, rose petals that are to be used in recipes or to be dried require a bit of planning. The perfect time to collect rose petals is mid-morning, on a dry day when the dew has evaporated and there’s been no rain for at least the past two days. Bring your fingers over an opened rose flower and tug gently on all the petals at once.

Roses that are ready to release their petals will fall easily into your hands while the center of the flower will remain intact to produce the rose hip soon thereafter. Petals that resist when you tug on them are not ready to be collected, and if you persist you may accidentally pull off the whole flower. While gathering your rose petals, collect them in a paper bag. This will help to absorb any moisture that may be on petals. A wooden basket will work. Only use a plastic bag as a last resort.

To dry the rose petals, simply spread newspaper on a flat surface, distribute the petals across the paper and let them air dry. They should be ready in a few days. You can also let them air dry in a dehydrator, or turn it on and use the lowest setting (95°F).

Read more: Edible Redbud Flowers – The Delicious and Nutritious Harbinger of Spring

12 Creative Uses for Rose Petals

12 Uses for Rose Petals

Now that you know how to collect rose petals, and you know that they are both edible and medicinal, read on to discover some of the ways you may want to experience the beneficial effects of rose petals for yourself or for your family.

1. Let Them Eat Rose Petals on Toast

Place a layer of your favorite nut butter, cheese topping, or spread on toast. Place a fresh petal on top of the spread and continue to cover with petals. Now, eat on up!

White petals make a nice contrast against the brown of a nut butter while dark, damask-colored roses lend their perfume to the air before taking a bite.

Feel free to use a combination of colors or to try this idea with crackers and serve as interesting hors-d’oeuvres. Different colors have different tastes, so have fun experimenting!

2. Add Fragrance to Your Next Salad

Red, light pink, dark pink, white, yellow, orange, mauve, or blue—fresh rose petals make a stunning contrast against the greens in a salad. Not only do they tempt the eyes, but the nose, too. Rose petals contain anthocyanins, so feel free to indulge in these antioxidant-rich delicacies.

3. Help a Boo-Boo or a Sore Throat

Rose petals are antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic, so the next time you get a small cut while out in the garden, apply a fresh petal or two and hold in place as a protective covering. To help relieve a sore throat, infuse fresh rose petals in honey.

Simple Rose-Petal Honey Recipe

Add fresh rose petals to a mason jar and lightly pack them in. Pour honey over the petals almost to the top, and stir with a non-metallic object (a bamboo skewer works nicely) to ensure petals are coated. Add more honey to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let them sit for 6 weeks in the cupboard.

Strain out rose petals using a sieve, pushing down on the rose petals to extract all of the honey with the back of a spoon or, make this task easier by using a nut milk bag. Store your rose-petal honey in a cool, dry place.

Add a teaspoon or two to some warm tea to nix a sore throat “in the bud” (at the first sign of a sore throat).

4. Move Blood, or Stop Diarrhea

Rose tea makes an excellent emmenagogue to help move blood and quell cramps during menstruation. Rose tea can also help to curb diarrhea since roses are astringent (wild rose being especially so).

Rose Tea Recipe

Fill a mason jar to the top with slightly packed dried petals. Pour boiling water over the roses, to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on; let sit 4 hours to overnight. Strain out petals using a sieve, squeezing out the excess tea from the flowers. (You can also use a nut milk bag: Place nut milk bag in a bowl, pour tea into the bag, close the bag and squeeze out the liquid.)

To help relieve menstrual cramps or diarrhea, drink 2–3 cups per day.

5. Soothe and Nourish Your Skin

Roses are considered to be cooling and hydrating, and they offer their soothing energy to help with both irritated and dehydrated skin when made into a floral water. While you can buy rose floral water, you might want to try your hand at this homemade version.

Rose Floral Water Recipe

You’ll need:

A large pot
A heat-proof bowl about the same size as the pot (although you can make a smaller bowl work)
A brick or another heat-proof bowl to hold up the first bowl
Plenty of ice
Approximately 4–6 cups of fresh rose petals
Some spring water
A turkey baster
Clean spritz bottle (optional)
A funnel (optional, but if you’re using the spritz bottle, this makes pouring the Rose Floral Water into it a lot easier)

Place the brick in the bottom of the pot and place the bowl on top of the brick. If you don’t have a brick, use an inverted bowl and place the first bowl on top of the inverted bowl. Next, place fresh rose petals in the pot all around the bowl. The rose petals should come up halfway to the bowl—use about 4–6 cups of fresh petals. Add spring water to cover the roses. Place the lid on the pot and turn on the heat to medium-high. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat to medium. Invert the lid of the pot and add ice to the lid.

It works like this: The rose petals in the water are simmering in the pot. The rose water rises to the top of the pot (vaporization), where it meets the cold lid. Condensation forms on the lid and then it drops back into the bowl. The liquid collected in the bowl is now floral water!

Since the ice will melt, use the turkey baster to suck up the excess water. Continue to add fresh ice for the next 20–30 minutes. You can check after 15 minutes to make sure there is still water in the pot. Let everything cool, and then pour the floral water into a clean spritz bottle (using a funnel makes this task a lot easier).

To use as a gentle toner for the face, help soothe irritated skin (including acne and sunburn), or help rehydrate skin, simply spritz on face after a shower, after being out in the garden/sun for too long, or as needed.

6. Ease Your Pain

Since roses are well-known for their emollient and healing properties, they nourish all kinds of skin types, including skin with rosacea and eczema. Roses are also great for soothing pain and easing taut nerves when made into a simple massage oil.

Rose-Petal Oil Recipe

Fill a mason jar with slightly packed fresh rose petals. Pour olive or sweet almond oil over the petals. Mix to coat the petals with the oil—a bamboo skewer makes a good stirring stick. After mixing, add more oil to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on, let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard, then strain out the rose oil (yes, a nut milk bag or sieve will work). Store your oil in a dark amber bottle.

Variations: To extend the shelf life of your oil, you can add 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil. To make your facial oil more nourishing, you can use walnut or macadamia oil (highly nourishing for dry, sensitive, or mature skin). You can also add in several drops of rose hip seed oil (purchase in health food stores), if desired.

7. Open the Love Center

Roses have long been associated with love, and they are known to help open the heart chakra. They have also been known to help mend a broken heart. Try this sweet and simple recipe for a little emotional healing.

Rose Glycerite Recipe

Fill a mason jar to the top with slightly packed fresh rose petals. Pour food-grade glycerin over the rose petals, stirring to ensure they are coated (a bamboo skewer works well for this). Add more glycerin to the top. Put on the lid and screw cap and store in the cupboard for 6 weeks. Use a nut-milk bag or sieve to strain out the liquid, pressing or squeezing on the petals to extract all of the liquid. Store the rose glycerite in a dark amber bottle that has a cap affixed with a dropper.

You can carry this bottle around with you. Whenever you need a little emotional rebalancing, take 2030 drops in a glass of water. Glycerin is 60% as sweet as sugar, so consider this a sweet “medicine” indeed!

8. Uplift Your Spirits

Roses are known for helping to decrease stress, tension, and depression, and to lighten the mood. So why not indulge in a 0 calorie pick-me-up with some Rose Petal Jello?

Rose Petal Jello Recipe

To 2 cups of rose tea (see #4 above), add a teaspoon of stevia, or more, according to your taste. Put the tea in a glass or ceramic pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add in 1 package of gelatin, stirring to dissolve about 2 minutes; then put in the fridge to set.

Note: Different roses yield different-tasting jello. How strong or weak you make the tea also affects the taste. For example, try using 1/2 oz. rose petals in 1 liter of water if you think it’s too strong, or add in 1 1/2 oz. petals to 1 liter of water for a stronger taste.

Variations: To sweeten the jello more, try adding in a tablespoon of rose glycerite (see #7 above), plus stevia to taste. Since gelatin is great for the skin, you can add in 2 packages of gelatin instead of one.

9. Add Fragrance to Your Unmentionables

Rose petals are commonly used in potpourri, so why not make your own? It’s cheap and easy. While you can add dried rose petals to mini organza bags (purchase in stores or online), for a dirt-cheap DIY solution, simply add dried petals to a paper envelope, seal it and slip it in your drawer.

You could also make your own bag with some leftover fabric scraps. Use shears to cut a square or circle in a piece of fabric. Add a few rose petals to the center, gather the edges together, then secure with a rubber band. Finally, add a ribbon to hide the rubber band.

If you’d like a stronger scent, add a few drops of rose essential oil. If you’d like the scent to last longer, add 1 tablespoon orris root powder to every 2 cups of rose petals.

10. Entice You, Entice Me

It’s no secret that roses are an aphrodisiac. Indeed, rose petal tea helps to tonify both the male and female reproductive systems. In men, it helps to speed up sperm motility, thereby helping with fertility. In women, the bioflavonoids in roses help with the production of estrogen. And the phytosterols in roses help both sexes to balance their hormones. Although you can get some of this love action by sipping on a cuppa rose tea (see #4 to learn how to make rose tea), try using rose tea instead of water the next time you cook rice, quinoa, millet, or your other favorite grains.

11. A Romantic Dinner for Two

Roses have long been associated with love ,and they are also aromatic. Try adding some romance to the dinner table with this simple recipe: Use equal parts rose tea (see #4 above) and apple cider vinegar with the “mother.” Store in a spray bottle. To use: Spritz on salads to lend some romance. You can also pair this with oil to make a romantic rosy salad dressing.

12. Relax in Luxury

What else can I say, roses are simply luxurious! Restorative and relaxing, rose petals are known to calm the mind. So the next time you want some “me time,” unwind by adding rose petals to your bath. Simply add a small handful of dried rose petals to the center of a face cloth, tie with elastic bands, secure the cloth over the faucet and run the water. Or you can add the facecloth directly to the bath water. Add in some Epsom salts or sea salts and let the fragrance of the roses envelop you in serenity.

Do You Have More to Add to this List?

These are only a few simple suggestions about ways that you can creatively use rose petals at home to enhance your meals, your health, and your relationships. If you have other uses for rose petals that I’ve overlooked here, go ahead and add a comment below to share your ideas with our Community!

However you use them, be sure to give carte blanche to a wholesome dose of love and perfume about the air. Enjoy!

(This post was originally published on August 5, 2015.)


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The post 12 Uses for Rose Petals—From the Kitchen to the Boudoir (With Recipes) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Growing Salad Year-Round: The Right Way To Do It

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Growing Salad Year-Round: The Right Way To Do It

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Spring and summer bring a bounty of wonderful fresh vegetables to enjoy and for many, salad greens become a staple. But in the fall and winter, you might feel like you’re missing out if you can no longer enjoy fresh greens from your garden.

For the most part, salad greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustard, arugula and certain herbs are cool weather crops, best planted when temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When soil temperatures fall below 50 degrees or rise above 80 degrees, germination can be hit or miss. The good news is that with a little bit of planning, it is possible to enjoy fresh salad greens year-round.

Choosing Your Varieties

One of the great things about lettuce is how many varieties are available to today’s gardens. Different shapes, colors and textures – a green salad need never be boring! But if you’re wishing to have fresh greens year-round, you need to make your selections based on more than just appearance.

Plan on getting at least eight to 10 types of seeds. For outdoor gardening, get your start in early spring by planting varieties that do well in cool soil and less daylight. These include types such as Arctic King and Black Seeded Simpson. A variety of arugula called Astro also does well.

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As the weather begins to warm, you’ll want to switch over to more heat-tolerant greens. Consider lettuce varieties such as Red Butterworth and Larissa or spinach varieties such as Tyee or Emu.

For greens that you intend to grow indoors, choose varieties that are suited to an indoor environment such as Tom Thumb lettuce, Catalina spinach and Mesclun mix.

Seed Starting – Indoors or Out

If you expect to have fresh salad greens throughout the year, then you’ve got to have a steady supply of healthy young transplants. This means you’re going to be planting one or two pinches of seeds each week.

Choose soil or potting mix that has a good amount of organic matter. If planting outside, first use a fork or trowel to mix in some compost with the top few inches of soil.

During ideal soil temperatures, greens are easy to grow by directly sowing outdoors. When it is either too hot or too cold to plant outside, you can plant indoors using grow lights.

Planting With Grow Lights

For cultivating salad greens indoors, it is best to have a set of two to four fluorescent bulbs with a combination of warm and cool white light bulbs. The newer T-5 bulbs are also a good energy saving option. Be sure to replace bulbs once they start to turn black at the tips.

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Greens tend to not too picky about the type of container that they are grown in, so you can use whatever is available, including pots, plastic trays and recycled containers from the grocery store as long as they have decent drainage.

Seeds should be sown between ½ to 1 inch apart and not very deep (some types of lettuce seeds actually need to be exposed to a bit of light in order to germinate). Once the seeds are sown, mist them with water. Cover containers with plastic wrap until the seeds have started to germinate.

Planting in Outdoor Microclimates

If you are not a fan of growing indoors but would rather extend your outdoor season, this can be done by creating outdoor microclimates in order to keep your soil close to the ideal temperature range of 60-70 degrees.

Using hoops and a row cover, you can create tents in your garden that will protect your greens and allow them to grow outside for much of the year. When the temperatures drop to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit during winter and late spring, it is best to use a garden quilt and as the temperature starts to warm, an all-purpose garden fabric will do the trick.

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You also can use the same principle to keep your lettuce and spinach thriving in warmer temperatures. When the mercury reaches 80 degrees or higher, use the same hoops but with shade netting in order to lower the temperature of the soil.

Another option for outdoor winter growing is to make use of cold frames.

Harvesting

Most types of greens will regrow if they are harvested correctly. Use a clean pair of scissors or knife and cut the leaves, leaving about half an inch.

Having tasty and fresh salad greens every month of the year does not have to be “mission impossible.” With some planning, you can grow lettuce, spinach and other greens outdoors for most of the year, and indoors for the few months in which outdoor growing becomes too difficult. During the dead of winter, outdoor plants are likely to stop growing – or grow very slowly; however, if protected property, most of the hardy plants will overwinter and be ready to harvest again come March.

What advice would you add on growing lettuce year-round, including indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

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The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

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For many people, the annual war on dandelions has begun. We spray them, dig them up, toss them, burn them and everything else we can think of to get rid of them.

What we should be doing is eating them. The leaves and crowns are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin K, and healthy doses of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium.

The roots, when dried, make a medicinal tea. The entire plant has medicinal value, including:

  • Tof-CFr — a glucose polymer found to act against cancer cells in laboratory mice.
  • Pectin — anti-diarrheal and blood and gastrointestinal detoxifying herb. Can also lower cholesterol.
  • Apigeninand luteolin flavonoids – these have diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxidant and liver-protecting properties; plus, they strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They also have anti-bacterial and anti-hypoglycemic properties.
  • Linoleicand linolenic acid fatty acids — to regulate blood pressure, lower chronic inflammation and prevent blood-platelet aggregation.
  • Choline — to improve memory.
  • Taraxasterol – for liver and gall bladder health.

What and When to Harvest

If you’re planning on eating the leaves or the crowns, you’ll want to pick them before the plant buds or flowers. Once it begins to flower, the leaves and crowns become bitter. You can compensate for this by soaking them in a couple of changes of cold water, or sauté them with garlic or other aromatics. The crowns are that area between the root top to about a half inch of the leaf stems at the base.

The flowers are usually harvested as the plant matures, but you’ll only want the petals. These are usually pulled from the flower and dried and then used as a garnish for soups or salads. The stems and flower base have a milky sap and are not eaten. The flower petals are sometimes used to flavor dandelion wine.

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The roots are usually harvested during the second year of maturity due to the fact that they’re larger. Wash and peel them with a potato peeler and then chop them into chunks to dry. You can use a dehydrator or dry them or place them in the sun from a sunny window. Some people have finely chopped and dried the roots, and they use it as a chicory or coffee substitute, although it has no caffeine.

Here are some of the basic dandelion recipes that have proven to be popular over the years starting with my favorite, dandelion crowns.

1. Dandelion crowns

The Secret To Eating Dandelions Without That Bitter Taste

Image source: Pixabay.com

Using a trowel, cut the root and pull the whole plant. Trim off the leaves about half an inch above the root, and trim the root from the base. Rinse the crowns well to remove dirt and grit and then boil for five minutes. When done boiling, shock them in a bowl of ice-water and then put them on a paper towel to drain. You can serve them topped with melted butter and some salt and pepper, or sauté them in butter or oil with one, diced garlic clove and eat them as a side dish. I’ve also tossed the chilled crowns into a mixed salad.

2. Dandelion salad

Dandelion greens and crowns are usually tossed with other salad ingredients to take the edge off any slightly bitter leaves. I’ll usually use a base of dandelion leaves and crowns and add some sliced onions, tomatoes, other leafy greens like spinach, kale and lettuces, and then top with a basic vinaigrette of a half cup of oil, a quarter cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of water plus salt and pepper to taste. As a finishing touch you can garnish the top of the salad with dandelion petals.

3. Dandelion greens, with bacon

As summer progresses, dandelions reach maturity and many of the leaves will have a bitter edge. When that happens I bring on the bacon. This is a classic southern approach to greens. I start by frying a half pound of bacon until crisp. I drain the bacon and reserve the rendered bacon fat in the pan. I then add one diced onion and three chopped garlic cloves and sauté them all for about two minutes. I then add six cups of dandelion greens and toss them for about three or four minutes until wilted. I plate the greens and garnish with the bacon chopped into bits and sprinkle with dried dandelion petals and serve. It’s great with chicken or pork.

Keep Eating Those Dandelions

In most parts of North America, dandelions are plentiful for five or more months. Wild dandelions are best, or a yard-grown dandelion if the yard hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. They can easily become a part of everyday meals and best of all, they’re free.

What advice would you add for eating dandelions? Share your recipes and advice in the section below:

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Leftover Turkey Recipes That Don’t Suck

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The big meal is over. The sink is full of dishes. The stove has cooled down and the guests have gone home. Now it’s time to ask yourself the big question: where can I find some great leftover turkey recipes?!?

Help has arrived! Here are some great ideas for ways to use leftover turkey that go beyond a simple sandwich.

SONY DSCSandwiches and Sandwich Fillers

Turkey sandwiches are a classic leftover meal for a reason – they are fast, tasty, and (can be) yummy. That “can be” is the problem. Who hasn’t gotten sick of turkey sandwiches in the week after Thanksgiving? These give you more options for your lunch box.

Curried Turkey Salad

12 Creative Turkey Sandwiches

Turkey Wraps with Curry-Chutney Mayonnaise and Peanuts

And more…15 Best-Ever Leftover Turkey Sandwiches

Dinner (Pizza and more!)

stumboHere are some fun twists on classic meals, like turkey and dumplings instead of chicken and dumplings and turkey tetrazzini. Instead of delivery pizza, make your own barbeque turkey or turkey Alfredo pizza. It is so much healthier than delivery, and cheaper!

Meat and Potato Casserole

Turkey and Dumplings

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Stuffing Casserole

Barbeque Turkey Pizza

Turkey Alfredo Pizza

Slow Cooker Cranberry Turkey Breast

Turkey and Mushroom Risotto

Carolina Style Leftover Turkey Stumbo (a stew that is so delicious that it wants to be a Gumbo)

Preserving it for (much) Later

Sometimes, we just have too much to eat before it goes bad. That’s when it’s time to make some jerky and can some turkey to enjoy weeks or months later.

Turkey Jerky

Canning Turkey

What favorites of yours did we miss? Add them in the comments so the rest of us can try them the next time we have a turkey at our own homes.

Turkey Recipes FB size