Saturday, April 08, 2006

Plentiful Parsnips

1,437 Words, Copyright 2006, Harvest McCampbell
Published by the Hoopa People Paper, March 28, 2006
Posted here with permission

Plentiful Parsnips

Fresh homegrown parsnips only vaguely resemble those strange woody roots found at the grocery store. Just pulled parsnips are sweet, fragrant, and have a delicious taste all their own. They can be used raw or cooked in just about any recipe that calls for carrots, sweet potatoes, or turnips. Raw they can be cut into matchsticks or grated for use in salads, aspics, or veggie trays. They can also be grated and mixed with potatoes for hash browns with a twist. I especially like them cut into chunks and cooked with a roast chicken or duck. (Just be sure to keep an inch or so of water in the bottom of roasting pan so they don’t burn.) But don’t stop there. Parsnips can be steamed, stir-fried, added to soup, boiled, mashed, or puréed. Puréed parsnips make a great soup base for both cold and warm soups. Add milk, broth, or stock to correct consistency and flavor. Dress your parsnip soup up with fresh veggies and herbs from the garden and you are ready to serve up a gourmet treat!

The current issue of Organic Gardening Magazine (February / March 2006) declares that “Root vegetables are all the rage.” Fashionable restaurants and famous chefs are whipping up trendy rooty creations and so can you. Parsnips are like tomatoes, fresh is definitely best. Anyone who grows tomatoes knows that store bought just doesn’t compare. Parsnips are almost as easy to grow as tomatoes. They must be started from seed in their permanent location, as they do not like transplanting. Fortunately, parsnip seeds can be found at nearly all seed counters and in most catalogs. I like the variety called “Hollow Crown,” but there are other types, including miniatures for those who like “baby” veggies. (If you miss the free offer below, and can’t find seeds locally, miniature and other parsnip seeds are available from Thompson & Morgan, 800-274-7333, )

You will need a raised bed or a deep container to accommodate and protect your parsnip roots. Gophers will definitely raid any parsnips they can reach. Mature parsnips can be 18” long and 4 inches across at the crown. Size is definitely a consideration when choosing your container. I grow mine in 12” deep raised beds, (3’x6’) and they accommodate themselves by bending when they reach the hardware cloth at the bottom. (The current issue of Organic Gardening Magazine also has great article on raised beds. However you design your beds, you will need hardware cloth at the bottom if you have problems with gophers.)

For the best quality roots you need a fairly loose planting mix, rich with organic matter. Compost, leaf mold, forest duff, potting soil, or planting mix can satisfy your need for organic matter. The addition of sand or vermiculite will help keep your mix loose and well drained. Mix in a goodly dose of garden soil and a small amount of wood ashes for minerals, and you are ready to fill your bed or containers. Fill the containers or beds without packing the soil down. If you use large pots, you can tip and rock the container to eliminate large air pockets. If you are filling a raised bed simply stir by hand breaking up clumps and filling in the larger spaces.

Before planting your parsnips you will want to water your containers or beds thoroughly and let them settle. You may need to top them off with more soil mix several times. Use care to ensure the soil settles and is still deep enough to accommodate your parsnips. Now you are ready to choose some short term crops to grow along with your parsnips. Here in the mountain and coastal zones of Northern California parsnips can take 6 – 9 months from seeding to pulling. If you live above the snow line, it may take even longer. Parsnips can take a hard freeze. In the coldest regions they will simply go dormant over the winter months and spring back to life with warm weather.

Radishes, lettuce, green onions, and various oriental greens can all successfully be inter-grown with parsnips. You can even include a few broccoli plants in your parsnip beds. The other vegetables will be dinner before the parsnips are big enough to need the whole bed to them selves. Broccoli is best set in the beds as pre-started plants. The broccoli will need a bit of a head start on the other plants to produce a good crop before the parsnips crowd it out. The lettuce, radishes, and other greens can be broadcast over the bed with the parsnip seeds. Parsnips should be sown so that you have a seed approximately every two inches or so. The other things can be sown thickly so you can use the thinings in salads in just a few weeks.

Don’t forget to cover your beds and containers with an old sheet, screen, or netting to keep the birds from feasting on your seeds. Also check the beds mornings and evenings for slugs. Slugs can make short work of seedlings – so don’t turn your back for too long. (My latest trick is to carry a knife and slice any and all slugs in half as soon as I see them. It is a great way to get out one’s aggressions. Just don’t surprise me in the garden.)

If you are new to gardening check out “The Farmer’s Wife Guide to Growing a Great Garden & Eating From it, Too!” This handy reference written by Barbara Doyen includes drawings of seedlings for parsnips, onions, lettuce, radishes, and other vegetables. Comparing your seedlings with the drawings on the back of your seed packets, or those in “The Farmer’s Wife Guide” will go a long way to help you pull the weeds and save the seedlings. First hand advice is always best, though. If you have an Auntie who gardens maybe she will give you a hand. Local climate and soil can effect the way seedlings look. If you are not sure let the plants grow out a bit and get some help with identification.

Parsnips suffer from few pests once they are past the seedling stage. I have read that they can be harassed by carrot maggots, but I have never had this problem. Crop rotation and inter-growing with onions is recommended when carrot maggots are present. As long as the plants have good drainage, great soil, at least part sun, and protection from birds and slugs when young, parsnips are a relatively carefree crop. They do need adequate watering, but once they are established they can miss a few days irrigation from time to time.

I sow parsnips three times a year. The first sowing is in early spring, the next in mid summer, and the last in mid fall. The seeds germinate erratically over a long period. You will find new seedlings from a few days to a few months from planting. Generally you may need to begin thinning parsnips from your beds about three to five months from planting. At this point the young parsnips will be about the size of slender carrots. They should be thinned to stand at least 4 inches apart. At six months from planting you can begin pulling the largest parsnips in the bed.

When left in the ground for more than 9 months (and sometimes sooner) parsnips will shoot up a tall flower stalk. This 4 – 6 foot stalk bears yellow fragrant umbels that resemble dill on steroids. Parsnip flowers definitely get the attention of garden visitors. In fact parsnips are worth planting just for their ornamental value. Besides being ornamental, the flowers attract beneficial insects that feed on aphids and other pests. Consider allowing your parsnip flowers to set seed. If you do you will have plenty of seed for your next parsnip crop, plenty to share, and enough to plant a decoy crop to help keep those pesky gophers out of your garden.

Parsnips have it all: delicate fern like foliage when young, delicious nutritious roots, fragrant ornamental flowers which attract beneficial insects, they are easy to grow, and hardy enough to be grown all year. If you would like to try parsnips in your garden please use the coupon below for a limited time offer of free parsnip seeds!

For more information and recipes see current issue of Organic Gardening Magazine (February / March 2006) or “The Farmer’s Wife Guide to Growing a Great Garden & Eating From it, Too!” By Barbara Doyen, published by M. Evans and Company, New York. Both of these items should be available by request at your local bookstore or library.

1,437 Words, Copyright 2006, Harvest McCampbell
Published by the Hoopa People Paper, March 28, 2006
Posted here with permission

Friday, April 07, 2006

Germinating Tobacco Seeds

Germinating Tobacco seeds

Dear Readers,

I had a question on one of the gardening groups I belong to,
and thought I would post the answer here too . . .

Tobacco seeds need to be kept evenly moist, and between 70 – 80 degrees to germinate. The seedlings also need to be warm until they are at least 3 inches tall. Then you can slowly harden them off to adapt to the outside weather. It takes quite a while for them to get 3 inches tall - they are pretty slow growing. But worth it. I have a plant that has been in the ground about 3 years now, it is about 6 feet tall. And it was in bloom its entire second year - straight through winter and a dusting of snow. It is looking a little worse for wear at the moment - but as soon as the weather warms up I think it will take off. Folks tend to think it is a four o'clock - on steroids. But the flowers stay open all day . . .

Setting up some kind of bottom heat is good idea, for germinating the seedlings and tending the young plants. But if you don't have bottom heat - be creative, if the top of your fridge or water heater is warm, that might work - a warm window during the day might be good, perhaps if you have pilot lights in your stove or oven you might be able to find a warm nighttime spot. Investing in a soil thermometer and a terrarium thermometer really helps in fine tuning the placement and setting for plants that need warm soil.

I use a food warming tray I found at the second hand store, at night and full spectrum lights during the day. I have a friend who has rigged a shelf over a lamp. I know people who use heating pads, and have hear of folks rigging up old fashioned Christmas lights to provide bottom heat.

You just have to experiment. And I really recommend the thermometers, especially if at first you don't succeed.

Good Luck!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Did you miss me?

Dear Readers,

I don’t really mean to neglect you. But I now know I have and that at least one person noticed.
Last night the phone rang, and it was someone complaining that I hadn’t posted to my blog in a while! Dang . . . I guess I better get busy . . .

I had been distracted for a while by the conversation in on of the on-line gardening groups I belong to:
Things are kind of quite at the moment – but we were having a rather heated discussion on sluggo and slugs. Interesting stuff . . . check out the archives and add your two cents if you care . . .

Next I had to get all the final pieces of paper in order for my trip south. When you are disabled and can’t just hop in your car, life starts to get very complicated. I have to get all kinds of pieces of paper together documenting my disability and documenting the medical necessity of each part of my trip. Two the air-port, on the plain, to the clinic, the actual appointment, the hotel, and all the back home again parts too. These papers have to be worded and dated just so – and each one goes a different place. Then you have to check on approvals and then you have to deal with scheduling. Actually getting everyone to schedule so that each piece fits together is a minor miracle. But life goes on.

Next came that three day trip to SF and three medical appointments. I was very pleased with my ophthalmology appointments. This new doc is going to get me fixed up with some glasses, which I didn’t need before the car accident. Since the car accident my eye sight has sucked. But the two previous specialists I saw about that all said that my eyes were fine – it was my brain – and nothing can be done about it.

This new doc was just mad. He wanted to know why no one had prescribed me glasses. So, I should have glasses in the next couple of months – I just have to get another trip arranged down south for that . . . And he has worked with folks with visual problems caused by brain injuries before, and he wants to see me every 6 months . . . So I am pleased. I will be able to see again . . . knock on wood.

The neurologist was another story entirely. It was his position that I have dementia, and not a brain injury. Even though they required me to bring all my medical records, he wouldn’t look at the ones from my doc. Or anyone else for that matter. It is well documented by other professionals that I have a brain injury, but no – really – it is dementia . . . LOL He went on to say that I have no neurological problems – but he tried to prescribe medication for the neurological problems I am not having. He also tried to prescribe medication for the chronic migraines I used to have. He insisted that I was still having migraines – as if he knows what is going in my head. Further this guy would practically yell at me when I didn’t give the answer he wanted. “Eight” he would yell, “No, six at the most,” I replied. We would do that over and over. And I observed that what he wrote in his notes was not consistent with my answers or the results of his testing. All I got to say is, this guy had issues. And I will never see him again.

This week I have been busy running errands on the bus, and trying to get reorganized since the trip. I think things are going to quite down a bit . . . so I hope to catch up in the garden . . .

I have two articles that have been published recently, and I will try to get them posted here, over the next few days . . .

Hope all is well where ever you are . . .

Happy gardening!