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Purslane Flowers!

Some say Purs lenothers say Purs lane . Both are legit depending on where you are looking it up!

A weed?! No longer! Purslane has a major pedigree! It has 300-400 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per cup – highest of any plant, 10 to 20 times the melatonin – highest of any other plant, is highest plant in vitamin E, six times more vitamin E than spinach, and seven times more beta carotene than carrots! Purslane can produce seeds in only 40 days, up to 240,000 per plant, which may germinate after 5 to 40 years! The stems, leaves, flowers, seedpods and seeds are all edible. It’s a little powerhouse super plant, a worthy crop!

Purslane, (Portulaca oleracea) is an annual originally from India but long grown as a vegetable in China, England, and even in Australia by the Aborigines. It thrives in full sun, poor soil and drought.

Common ground cover Purslane. Easily identifiable if you are foraging.

Varieties! Purslane comes in a few forms and varieties, all edible! 1) It can be the wild ground hugger cover you never notice, in sprawling circular mats up to 3-1/3 ft across, with red stems. It is easily identified if you are foraging, has distinctive succulent foliage. If you are an inexperienced forager, there is a look-alike plant called “Hairy-Stemmed Spurge (Euphorbia vermiculata)”. Don’t be confused. Purslane is NOT HAIRY. 2) It can be a more upright ground cover used seriously as an understory living mulch! It keeps the soil cooler and more moist, shades out weed seed germination, plus you can eat it. 3) Then there is the upright large leafed Garden Purslane Portulaca oleracea gardeners grow. It is 1′ to 18″ tall, much easier on your back to harvest, your harvest is clean, it branches and grows quickly and abundantly!

Pinch off tops to get it to bush more. Once started, let it self sow. Johnny’s Seeds has Goldberg Golden Portulaca sativa and a microgreen seed, Red Gruner, with fine little pink stems! Red Gruner has Avg. 977,400 seeds/lb.! How did they figure that out?!

Companions! It’s not so much what plants can repel Purslane pests or diseases or be beneficial or bring pollinators to Purslane. It’s more what Purslane does for them!  The low growing types make good living ground cover, as does white Dutch clover. Clover feeds your soil, but Purslane feeds you!

Garden Purslane grows well among taller plants like eggplant or peppers. If you are having a hot summer that can be a good choice. Keeps the soil cooler and more moist. Some peppers prefer a little shade. If you are having a cool summer or live in a cool area or it’s a tad shady, ground cover keeps soil cool and is not preferred. Leave the soil bare to heat up.

Although pollinators will visit the flowers, Purslane plants are self fertile so almost all flowers will produce seeds. No need to plant pollinator attractor plants for Purslane.
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Growing Purslane in a container is a smart idea!

Planting is easy! Seeds are as tiny as poppy seeds! Just sprinkle them where you think you want them. They may get stuck to your fingers, fall to the ground and come up there too, LOL! Keep them moist until all the seeds have sprouted. They will grow! Water very gently – sprinkle, so they don’t wash away, get buried too deeply, or puddle and clump! If that does happen, just thin them and eat the micro plants in your fresh salad. After they are up about an inch, you can water them almost as vigorously as you do your other plants.

They grow just fine in containers! Choose a pretty container to make a terrific gift! Preferably plant in a container that will not easily dry out. And, particularly,  if you are on a balcony, keep it out of the drying wind pattern.

Upright Purslane is lovely among your plants, grows quickly, is easy to harvest and so nutritious!Plant in full sun, rich soil and keep them moist if you want fat super plants! Yes it will grow unwatered sidewalk crack size, but that’s a small crop. You can take seeds from those small plants and grow it big. Chamomile is the same way. When you get it into garden rich moist soil, boom! You got a food supply! Water regularly. Moisture-stressed leaves are not as palatable as those from well-watered plants.

Planting temps. Purslane is frost susceptible. Seeds prefer warm temps to germinate, it’s a summer ‘weed.’ Above 70 during the day and 50 at night, preferably warmer. But mine were up in a long cool 2019 May in Santa Barbara Ca. If you have enough seeds and space, lay them in two or three different times. They will come up when they are ready. 

Space them about 4 to 6 inches apart, cover with 1/4″ of soil. They will be pretty big at their peak healthy mature summer size! I might put mine 8 to 10″ apart, but mainly I let them come up from last year’s self seeding that happens. If there are too many in one place I eat a few! And, of course, you can always deliberately over plant just because you want those micro greens!

WEEDING! If you aren’t happy with having Purslane, remember those 240,000 seeds one plant can produce! Remove the plant entirely. That means roots and all. Since it is a succulent type, even segments will happily produce another plant! NEVER let it flower! If it is seeding, don’t put it in your compost. Remember, those seeds can germinate in 5 to 40 years!!!

If you are happily growing Purslane, keep your crop area weed free and remove little Purslanes if there are too many or some are too close to each other. It can get pretty thick very quickly when they are untended. Purslane is a good Mexican food, so, thank goodness, I can give away my extra to the families at our community garden! Otherwise you may need to educate your friends and neighbors to get them to try it.

Pests & Diseases Purslane has few pests, although in some parts of the country, California is one place, Purslane sawflySchizocerella pilicornis, and a Leafminer weevil, Hypurus bertrandiperris, will damage or kill your plants. UC IPM says these pests were ‘accidentally’ introduced to kill Purslane, a weed from a farmer’s point of view. They say the pests are working well. I have definitely seen Leafminer damage on my plants.

If your plants get succulent fungi diseases, like Black Stem, lay back on the water, water in the morning, water at ground level – no overhead watering, keep any mulch away from the stem, thin your plants so they and the soil dry from more airflow. Purslane is quite drought tolerant, so you can get away with laying back on water. I haven’t observed this disease at Pilgrim Terrace/Rancheria Santa Barbara CA Community Gardens.

You can get three kinds of harvests!

First are the leaves at 6-8 weeks, then continuously as they grow. Second are the green seed pods that are used in place of capers. Third are the super easy to harvest edible seeds!

Master Gardener Stephanie Wrightson of Sonoma County says ‘Harvest purslane when it is young—before it goes to seed and when the leaves and stems are tender. Always remove flowers; cutting back mature plants allows regrowth. If you are harvesting common purslane from your ornamental garden, make sure that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides—always thoroughly wash your harvest. Purslane is crisper [and more tart] when harvested in the morning, but sweeter when harvested in the afternoon [when the malic acid content is lower].’

When you want more Purslane, cut your plant almost to the ground leaving two leaves at the base for re-growth.

Storage! Get cool ASAP! Purslane wilts, and warm temperatures after harvest bring out the mucilaginous factor. Store purslane in the crisper drawer, coldest area, of your refrigerator, and use within a week.

Purslane Seed Pods and Seeds

SeedSavinggathering Purslane seeds is a piece of cake and fun! They are contained in adorable little green seed pods. When the seed pods are dry, hold a bag or bowl under the seed pod, pop the tiny pod top off, and let the seeds spill into your container – bag or bowl. The seeds are tiny! Likely a few will make a leap for it and you will have tiny plants come up there next year! Store your seeds in a cool dry place. Date and label with their name.

Here is what the seedlings look like so you won’t pull them up thinking they are a weed! These are with baby Chard at  She says when they are mature, ‘in the mornings their small yellow flowers open for pollination and make a beautiful, edible garnish for salads and patés.’

Purslane Seedlings with baby Chard at Chef Emily's!

Chef Emily also makes a tasty salad dressing! Toss some purslane in a blender with some clean fresh herbs, a clove of garlic a few glugs of olive oil and some lemon zest and juice, give it a whirl and have a delicious bright green salad dressing!

International tasty Purslane Power!  Purslane contains one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids — five to six times the concentration in spinach. Chickens grazing on purslane produce high omega-3 eggs. In Mexico, called Verdolaga, it is eaten in omelets, as a side dish, rolled in tortillas, used in salsa or dropped by handfuls into soups and stews. Aboriginals made seed cakes. Or it was pounded into flour to make damper. Wiki says: ‘Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. It consists of a wheat flour based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire or in a camp oven. Damper is an iconic Australian dish.’ Commenter Nihal said ‘Back in Turkey there is two types, wild and cultivated. Cultivated ones are sold in bunches in farmers market throughout the summer. But the wild ones are much more delicious. We usually cook it with tomato and add a little bit rice or bulgur wheat.’ In Greece the leaves are fried in olive oil, then mixed with feta cheese, tomato, onion garlic and oregano. The seeds are also edible. North Carolina market gardener Patryk Battle throws basil and purslane (upper stems and all) into a blender or food processor, adds a small amount of olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and enough hot water to get a good consistency. Because it’s so juicy, purslane helps create a low-fat pesto without too much oil. Personally, I eat it while gardening or simply sprinkle fresh raw leaves into my salads. You could add tender sprigs to your sandwich or lightly steam the stems, seeds and leaves or use in stir-fry dishes, curried dishes. Make Verdolaga smoothies and popsicles! The green seed pods are sometimes pickled and used as fake capers!

Here are some additional creative recipes to get you thinking and whet your appetite! From Edible Wild FoodChicken Weed WrapFried or Baked PurslaneNorth African Style PurslaneNutricized PurslanePurslane Egg CupsPurslane Smoothie and PopsiclesSummer SaladSweet Pickled Purslane Stems

There you have it, Purslane culinary tips from several continents!

Word to the wise ~ Purslane is mucilaginous, like okra, giving it a somewhat slimy texture when cooked. Cook it less time. Eaten fresh in salads, it has no such effect. Frances Robinson at Mother Earth News says it more palatably: Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups and stews.

4 Cautions:  Individuals with a history of kidney stones should use purslane with caution as it may increase kidney filtration, urine production, and possibly cause a stone to move.  Purslane injection induces powerful contractions of the uterus, but oral purslane is said to weaken uterine contractions. Avoid use during pregnancy. A purslane only diet for your chickies and livestock can be toxic due to the high oxalic acid content. In fact, for us humans, no eating very large quantities daily for the same reason. Some people do report allergic reactions. Keep you first encounter to a small taste just in case, especially if the Purslane is uncooked, garden fresh potent!

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds recommends eating Purslane fresh in a salad with thin shaved beets and carrots drizzled with a light, lemon or balsamic dressing. And those look like Calendula petals to me! What a beautiful salad!

Purslane Salad Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Recipe

Here’s a final little comparison to remind you of the Omega-3 Linolenic Acid content! (Grams* per 100-gram serving or approximately a half cup.)

Purslane: 0.4
Lettuce, buttercrunch: 0.03
Spinach: 0.09

Mother Earth News sums it up perfectly! Purslane may be a common plant, but it is uncommonly good for you.

Purslane is one remarkable plant! Grow it!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Cucurbit Hand Pollination with Brush

In optimal conditions insects, mainly bees, pollinate our veggies. Wind works for some plants. Other times due to weather or stresses, humans help!

Wind-pollinated veggies

such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, at exactly the right frequency! More pollen is released and pollination is more efficient. It’s called BUZZ POLLINATION! About 11 AM, when the male flower anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages they are in or the main stems of your plants a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. A Jan 2019 UK study says pollination by wild bees yields larger strawberries than pollination by honey bees! This led them to say it’s worth it to make habitat for them!

The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!


Video Produced by Joshua Cassidy

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

And, did you know Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers     Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers

can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the flower and fruit just fall off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Misshapen Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. Rain washes pollen away. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from making pollen or setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Pollinator Habitat is crucial! Most important of all is to plant flowers for every season possible in your area, near or right beside your plants, make those bee homes for wild bees! From Cornell: Native bees are two to three times more effective than honeybees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

May your Veggie Basket be overflowing!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

 

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Tomatoes Harvest Basket
Love your Mother! Plant more bee food! Eat less meat. Grow organic!

Keep harvesting, it keeps your plants producing! Canning, freezing, fermenting, storing, drying are on the agenda! Check up on your winter squashes to see if they are ready to harvest and store. It’s SeedSaving time!

Though crazy busy with harvests, gardeners have fall planting on their minds. Among HOT August days, there are ones that have a hint of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows in different places now. As summer plants finish, nursery bed areas are becoming available. The soil is being prepared for first fall plantings now through mid August, especially from seed! Often these special nurseries are made in semi shaded areas, seedlings to be transplanted as they get bigger and permanent spaces become available.

Plant your seeds far enough apart to get your trowel in to pick up your little plants to move them one by one to their new homes. Some are planted under finishing plants to take the finishing plant’s place, like peas under beans. Pop in some baby kale or cabbage between the tomatoes and peppers. Safe in a greenhouse is wonderful too!

Already, get your seed packs for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, turnips. See Super Fall Veggies for help on choosing the very best varieties and Fall companion planting! Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler, and you will have a much earlier crop. Be sure to leave space to plant additional rounds to keep steady table supply.

If you have Bagrada Bugs, wait until cooler October, when the bugs are gone, to plant Brassicas. That includes arugula, mustards, radish. See more about Bagrada Bugs management.

If you don’t have time to fuss with seeds, will be away at the critical time, keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is a favorite big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now! At that time you can plant both seeds and transplants for two rounds at once, the seeds coming in six weeks after the transplants!

Summer plants you can still plant for early fall harvests, are beans and early maturing tomatoes and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though.

Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, winter radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table.

ONIONS For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring. Onions have stupendous flavor and come in white, yellow, red!

Give your late favorite summer/fall heavy producers you are keeping a good feed. Eggplants have a large fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse! They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time! Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keeps blooming and fruiting optimum. Peppers specially like a foliar feed of non-fat powdered milk (Calcium) and Epsom Salts (Magnesium & Sulfur). They also can use more Potassium. This time of year kelp meal is good source and releases quickly. If you have predators about, don’t get the kind mixed with fish emulsion.

Keep your watering steady, out to the dripline, to avoid slowing or stopping production or having misshapen fruits – that’s curled beans, odd shaped peppers, catfaced strawberries. Keep your soil moist. In hot late summer weather water short rooted high production plants like beans, cucumbers, lettuces and strawberries more frequently. Keep them well mulched, especially the cucumbers. Keep them off the ground to protect them from suffering wilts fungi. I put down straw a good 3″ deep.

In our hot foothills and further south, watch your melons, big squashes and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when their stem is brown and dry, or they ‘slip’ off the vine. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better! Let your winter squash harden. When you can’t push your fingernail in it, it’s ready.

In the cool of summer evenings design your fall garden! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available, but have a plan too. Tall plants, trellises, to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. Peas need a string or wire trellis for their tiny tendrils. They aren’t like beans that twine anything. Few winter plants need support, but big brocs, tall kales sometimes need staking. If they ‘lay down,’ if you have the room and want more plants, they will grow baby plants along their stems! Otherwise, put your plants back up and stake them securely. Build your new raised beds. Install gopher barriers!

Think soil, soil, soil! When an area is done, clear away insect hiding places. Remove and throw away any mulches from under where diseased plants were. If your soil is high for the area, plants there were diseased, and you have plentiful compost, maybe remove the couple top inches of soil and generously lay on some of that tasty new compost! Dig it into the top 4 to 6 inches. Amend your soils per the plant that will be grown in the area per your design. Strawberries need acidic compost IN the soil.

Keep turning your fall compost pile, start one if you haven’t! This warmer weather will help the pile decompose faster, and your plants will be blessed when you give the compost to them! If you aren’t hot composting, remember, thin layers and smaller bits decompose faster. The ratio is 1 wet/green to 2 dry/brown. Throw in whatever kitchen trim, torn tea bags, coffee filters/grounds, crushed eggshells – anything worms can eat will decompose faster.

I’m talking faster because starting now is a little late, so this is what you do to ‘catch up!’ Sprinkle with a handful or two of living moist soil to inoculate your pile, and add handfuls of decomposer herbs like comfrey, yarrow, chamomile. Turn it as often as you can to aerate and keep things humming. Vigorously shovel chop into smaller pieces as you go. Once a day if possible, but do what you can. I do mine anywhere from three days to every two weeks as I have time. Compost improves your soil’s water holding capacity and adds and stabilizes N, Nitrogen! Yes!

SeedSaving! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Seeds are your second harvest! Each year keep your best! Scatter some about if they would grow successfully now! Or just scatter them about and when it’s the right time, even next spring, they will come up. Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings. Remember, these seeds are adapted and localized to you! If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank! While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out!

Happy Late Summer Gardening, My Friends!


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

See the entire August GBC Newsletter! SeedSaving for the finest Nutrition, Growing Thick Walled Peppers! Ojai Valley of the Moon Community Garden and info about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA!

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Veggies growing in homemade compost!

Veggies growing in homemade compost! Photo by Rod Zimmer

Compost is the single most best thing you can do for your soil! It feeds your plants, adds water holding capacity, and much more! 

Anytime we have a season change, compost becomes more important. In summer most of us are thinking how can I do it all?! Harvesting takes more time than waiting for the plants to produce. There’s more watering to do in summer. Yet, fall is soon upon us and though making compost takes a wee bit more time, it is so needed to give our plants a good start! In winter, making compost is essential for spring planting!

Here are some possibilities!

There are 3 basic kinds of compost, cold and hot and composting in place.

Of the cold kind….

The kind that finishes the quickest is the kitchen veggie waste that gets chopped vigorously with the shovel every few days, turned and turned again. Small bits decompose faster. The pile is kept moist. The dry brown material in the pile isn’t usually  straw. Straw is hard to chop and takes a long time to decompose. It’s more like leaves, some already chopped, partially decomposed mulch type stuff. The right leaves have nutrient value. See more. With only a couple of turns, this whole process might take two weeks, usually less – even in cooler weather! It’s quick. For quick results it’s also best to put your compost in full sun. Shaded compost usually ends up untened. It’s in an out-of-the-way place, processes so slowly a lot of gardeners forget they ever made the pile. Neglected, the pile literally dies.

In a community garden or a small garden area you might not have space for such a pile. But if it’s a priority you probably will make the space! If you do, and if you want to keep it a bit contained, instead, make a shallow pit and put your ‘pile’ in there. Toss a thin layer of healthy soil over it and turn that in to inoculate your compost with soil organisms. They will speed the decomposition process. A thin layer of soil also keeps flies away and you have no smell. Cover it with a light layer of straw or plastic to keep it from being unsightly to visitors while it is in process. A wire cover over straw lets rain in, so I use a couple plastic bags left from manure. I put a light weight board over my cover and a concrete stepping stone on the board to keep it from blowing away. If it rains, the cover keeps your processing compost from getting too wet. If it’s dry weather, covering keeps it moist. It will decompose better rather than off gas the Nitrogen, dry and die. The cover is instantaneous to remove, then you can have at that pile with gusto! With that kind of pile, you have a fairly steady supply of compost. Most of the time some of it is ready to put here and there.

I am very grateful to three neighbors who give me their green kitchen waste. Since I also grow worms, I ask them to give me only what they imagine a worm could eat. Worms!

Compost Sifting‘Every day I fill the wheelbarrow with rich screened compost. It really smells quite delicious; nutty with a spicy note.’ Sifting your compost is a piece of cake! Grab your wheelbarrow or bucket, get a piece of hardware cloth/hogwire or a nursery plant flat with a smaller weave to it, like in the image, and sift away! You can build a lovely framed sifter or buy great rolling devices. Choose the size opening you want. Or, don’t sift at all. I like a little texture to my compost. 

Have your compost pile handy, nearby, warm in the sun for speedy decomposition! Keep it moist, cover it when it needs it – in hot/dry or rainy weather, turn it! Compost that gets turned regularly often gets raided before it’s completely finished. You can still make out some of what the stuff is that’s there. That works just fine because it finishes quickly, in the ground, at home with all the lovely soil organisms.

If there comes a time when you compost has been sadly neglected, spread the stuff out as a mulch and start over, or let it go and just buy what you need. No shame in that.

Hot Compost is PDF, pretty darn fast!

It can heat up to amazing temps, so hot it makes ash and you cannot put your hands in it without getting burned. You can see it steaming on a winter morning! The point is to kill diseases, pests, weed seeds. Well that almost gets done, because, you see, the heat is in the middle of the pile. So they say turn it so the hot part goes to the outside and the cool part to the inside. That, my friends, is easier said than done. But, at least some of it happens.

Two interesting points here. My cold compost pile gets that hot! Yep, it does. A well-built pile with thin layers will cook quite happily no matter your intention. It’s nature. The other thing is I don’t put diseased plants or seeding weeds in my pile, so I don’t need it to get hot. Sure, some pest eggs probably make it. However, what happens most is veggie seeds sprout when I put the compost in to amend my soil! I swear, I can’t see those seeds when it is compost. It all looks dark and yummy. But lots of times I’m glad that happens! The plants get a terrific start and I get surprises! This year I enjoyed two elegant celery plants that came up about a foot and a half from each other and everyone complimented how beautiful they were, robust, with gorgeous long dark green stalks!

Whether you do hot or cold compost is your choice. I’ve tried it both ways. Sincerely. Got a long thermometer, built cubic yard piles and turned them. Now I have cold compost and turn it. No way around that turning if you want results sooner than later. It doesn’t matter what size I build it. I’ve seen 1 cubic foot piles heat up just fine! If it gets hot, it’s hot. If it doesn’t that’s fine with me. Taking care of it, turning, keeping it moist, making thin layers gets the job done. The layers are more a measuring device – 1 dry to 2 wet. Once they are in, mix up the material so the straw is moistened and the wet just doesn’t make a mass. My friend who chops and turns his with vigor gets much faster results, and I may take that up too.

Composting in place

No dig composting in place is an age old technique more recently called Lasagna Gardening. It takes some prep time, that is often done with a group of friends, but once that is done, you’re home free! There’s no turning, no carrying finished compost about because it is already where you want it! Materials may take longer to decompose. It is a cold pile, but if your pile is directly on the earth, soil organisms happily munching makes things happen quickly. It takes a lot of materials to start depending on the size you want your garden to be. You can start with a small area, add more later.

The beauty is it can be done on top of a lawn to form a raised bed, with or without a box border. If you have lawn where you want to plant, peel back the lawn or not, lay down cardboard or newspaper to kill off the lawn, prevent it growing back, up into your bed. If you choose cardboard, water a LOT to soak that cardboard. Layer to your heart’s content until you run out of materials. You can make beds 18″ high to start. They will settle a lot. That 18″ can easily become 9″ in two or three days in warm weather! You can plant instantly! Just pull back a planting hole, add some ready or nursery-bought compost and any other amendments right for your plant, and plant! Your amazing ‘lasagna’ will decompose and make beautiful soil without you doing a thing more! Add more materials as you acquire them to any spots you want to build up or if you want more compost or a bigger or another bed!

If you are doing composting in place while gardening, you just put on the layers, between the plants or down a row, with the materials you have on hand until you run out. The smaller the chop, the pieces, the faster the decomp. Keep them moist so they will decompose faster.

Trench it and forget it! Trenching has always been the simplest technique of all! It’s a super simple way of putting chopped veggie kitchen wastes to work. Dig, pull back a 6″ trench, no deeper. Soil organisms live at the top. Put your kitchen waste in the trench, grab the shovel and vigorously chop the waste into fine pieces. If you don’t feel like chopping it, don’t! Put in the stuff, cover with some of the soil you pulled back. Turn that a couple times to mix in soil organisms to speed the decomp process, cover with the remaining soil and forget it. Period. Done. A week later you can dig in that area and find no trace of it. Soil organisms are intelligent and born hungry.

I combine trenching and a pit. If I have a spot needing compost, I trench it there. If there are no spots needing it right now, I put it in the pit and hold it until a spot needs it or a plant needs sidedressing (feeding mid season). In that case, in summer I also at a bit of manure or if it’s SoCal winter time, a little fish emulsion for easy and quick uptake.

NOTE! Compost you make isn’t the same as manure, nor nursery bought bagged compost. When you trench, you can add those at the same time if you wish. Manure is good ole down home stinky poopy stuff high in Nitrogen. You can also plant cover crops, living mulch, green manure for Nitrogen. You plant different areas to restore your soil, or in SoCal winter to make good soil for spring planting. Your soil also needs water holding capacity from bulk – what is called forest materials in nursery compost bags. Bagged nursery compost is fluffy. Air space. Your soil needs that too. Kitchen waste compost doesn’t have that. I buy bags of nursery compost – bulk and chicken manure – Nitrogen, as well and add them, sometimes to an area, definitely to my planting holes. Plants uptake a lot of their nutrition from tiny lateral feeder roots that often grow beyond the dripline of your plant, so if you can, do a whole area. Add special amendments to your planting hole. Make that planting hole a bit larger than you have been doing? Sometimes it depends on your budget how much materials you have available. Planting cover crops is cheaper, but it takes longer…

If you have massive amounts of stuff to compost, the fastest way of all, record time, is to use maggots! Cities use them and sell the compost! See all about it!

Hugelkultur Sepp Holzer Diagram Cross Section

Hugelkultur is a long term choice. Hugelkultur, hill mound, is the quintessential sustainable variation of ‘composting’ in place. It can be above and/or below ground and takes a lot more energy to start but what a payoff! Get some big logs, branches. If you are doing it above ground, lay two logs closely side by side, put a lot of bigger to smaller branches between them, then go for it! Woods that work best are alders, apple, aspen, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, poplar, willow (make sure it is dead or it will sprout). Add leaves, grass clippings, straw, cardboard, petroleum-free newspaper, manure, compost or whatever other biomass you have available. Add some red wiggler casting worms if you have them. As possible add your materials in thin 1/2 to 1″ layers, dry, wet, dry, wet until the area is filled. Lay a third log on top of them and if you have sod you peeled up, lay it on top of the whole pile upside down and do it again! Top the turf with grass clippings, seaweed, compost, aged manure, straw, green leaves, mulch, etc. Top that with soil and plant your veggies! If you did it right, you end up with a steep sided tall pyramid pile and veggies planted at easy picking heights. See a LOT more and example variations at permaculture, practical solutions for self-reliance.

Raised bed Hugelkultur Lasagna Combo Buckman StyleIf you are starting a raised Hugelkultur bed, dig down about a foot or more, lay in the big logs, big branches around them, smaller branches on top, layer as above to the height you want, allowing for settling. The difference is that this is a flat top raised bed. You can also dig deeper and make the top of the bed flush with your soil! Also, you can do terracing with a Hugelkultur substructure.

Container gardeners you can do your own mini Hugelkultur version as well. A 1/2 beer barrel, a five gallon can, kid’s swimming pool, whatever you have, can be repurposed! Just be sure there are drainage holes. Double purpose your container by making it a self-watering system as well!

Hugelkultur is an excellent long term sustainable choice!

~ The heat from decomposition gives your plants a terrific early start or extends your growing season. You do need to be careful of freezes if you live in a cold area.
~ The right hardwood logs will give your plants steady nutrition for 20 or more years!
~ If you do the above ground version, you have more planting space because it is tall and vertical!
~ Nearby fruit trees are also fed.
~ The logs and branches soak up water and hold it, so less water to none is needed after the first year.

More clever tips!

  1. At intervals, near the center of your compost pile, place handfuls of old compost or fresh rich soil, as an infusion, an inoculant of soil making organisms.
  2. In dry SoCal, I cover my compost pile to keep it from drying out, and I never need to water it.
  3. When cold composting and composting in place, add red wriggler worms to chomp up materials. They add worm castings that help your plants’ immune systems and uptake of nutrients. If you will be turning the compost, kindly use a pitchfork so there will be the least damage to your worms.
  4. Be smart, add herbs! Penny Woodward says: ‘Regular handfuls of chamomile, dandelion and yarrow leaves and flowers will all speed up decomposition of the compost with YARROW being the most effective. Yarrow also adds copper, nitrates, phosphates and potash while chamomile adds calcium and ‘sweetens’ the mixture. Dandelions contribute copper, iron and potash. Nettles are problem weeds but they actually improve the quality of the soil they are growing in and when added to the compost they contribute iron and nitrogen. Tansy adds potassium, which is very important for plant growth while Valerian increases the phosphorus content so essential for good flowers and fruits [but is invasive!]. The most nutritious compost plant is COMFREY and it grows most of the year in SoCal coastal climate. The leaves are rich in potassium, nitrogen, calcium and phosphates. I keep a clump growing next to the compost. It grows like crazy, and I layer on a handful of leaves whenever I throw in kitchen scraps.
Stemilt's World Famous compost!

Fine finished Stemilt World’s Famous Compost!

Mix it up! Do any version or combo of compost versions that work for you or as you have the materials available to do what you want! Do more than one method at the same time! Super soil is the Number 1 thing you can do for your garden and compost makes the difference! When your compost smells great and you could just about eat it, you know you made it right!

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All that said, there are tons of composting devices available. Some work more or less, some work for one person but not another, for various reasons. Google for pros and cons of each one before you purchase. See if you think you will tend it as it needs to be tended, if it suits your needs, your location. Will you need additional tools. Imagine doing the process it requires. Would that really work for you. Worst is you buy and it fails. You can resell it, give it to someone who would be dedicated to the process it needs, donate it to a charity sale, or an organization that needs one. It’s ok.

All that said, if building your own compost isn’t your choice, support your local nursery and get the best from them! Otherwise, have a good dirty time of it!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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4th July US Flag Woman Garden Seeds Independence

Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.  –  Henry David Thoreau

Important Habitat!

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Let a carrot or two, a celery, and some cilantro bloom out! The blooms will be food for and bring beneficial insect pollinators. Birds will have seeds for food and scour your plants for juicy cabbage worms, whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles and grubs fresh for their hatchlings! Chickadees even eat ants!

Planting!

Some planting is always doable in July, and very last rounds of summer favorites! Transplant basil, celery, chard, cucumbers, dill, kale, leeks, summer lettuce, green onions, white potatoes, summer savory, New Zealand spinach. In our hot foothills and further south, go for more melons, okra, pumpkins, summer & winter squash. Corn is an exception – late plantings often develop smut. I’ve seen tomato transplants and bean seeds started in August produce plentiful crops into October!

Fall transplants need babying! Transplant late afternoon or evening so plants have the whole night to begin to recover before they’re hit with a full day of sun and heat. Water well and provide shade from intense mid-day sun. Prop up and secure some of those plastic plant flats that have the finer pattern to filter the light. Keep your transplants moist for at least a month or until they’re well established. Mulch to save water unless you have Bagrada Bugs.

At the end of the month, sow carrots (they do best from seed), celery and, if no Bagrada Bugs, Brassicas. If you have the Bugs, wait until it cools in October. Brassicas are arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), cauliflower, and kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, pac choi, radish, rutabaga, turnip. Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time.

Harvest and Storage Tips!

Pluck those tasty veggies when they mature.

String Beans Harvest just about daily. If they bulge with seeds and start to dry, your plant thinks it’s done and stops producing. Pick, pick, pick!
Corn When the silks turn brown and you push your fingernail in a kernel and it squirts milky juice, it’s ready! It holds its sweetness only 2 to 5 days! Harvest early in the day, make time to your fridge or the barbie because the sugars turn to starch very quickly!
Cucumbers – no storing on the vine. Your plant thinks it’s done. Cut, clip or carefully twist off while carefully holding the vine.
Melons Harvest sooner by placing ripening melons on upside down aluminum pie pans or cans to keep them off the damp soil. The reflected heat and light will help them ripen evenly and sooner than when they are shaded by foliage.
Okra! If your summer has been hot enough you got some! It must be harvested before it gets tough. Letting it get bigger simply doesn’t pay. So look carefully for mature fruits and take ’em! I grow the burgundy and ruby types, slice them fresh over my salads. Pretty little stars. 
Peppers
– depends on the pepper. Let them stay on the plant if you planted ones for pretty colors. Cut or clip them off so not to damage your plant. Quick-freeze ones you won’t be using right away! Slice, dice, and freeze in baggies in the amounts you anticipate using in a stir fry or stew.
Potatoes are ready for digging when the plant flowers. Wet up the soil and dig about for the biggest ones, leaving the others to get sizable for another later harvest.
Tomatoes when they are the color you chose. Bend cherry toms back so you get the cap and stem. This keeps them from splitting open. O’ course, if they split, you absolutely must eat them on the spot so they don’t spoil! No problem freezing toms whole! Just remove the stem core. You can blanch them and remove the skins first, or not…your choice.
Zucchini  Harvest in self defense! They get BIG, FAST! Some of you came from big families and like baking them and would never think of harvesting them until they are huge, lotsa bang for your buck! Others have a family of 1, can’t possibly eat all that zuke, so harvest them quite small, fresh salad slicing size. The ridged types make pretty little star shaped slices!

Strawberries are a little different. Quickly as possible, store fresh picked berries in a container lined with a paper towel in the coldest part of your fridge. They will last about a week, but it’s more fun to eat them sooner!

If you don’t need or want any strawberry runner babies, pinch off the runners so your plant’s energy goes to fruiting. If you want to start a new November bed, let the runners grow now to the size you want, put pots nearby, anchor the runner in place, let them root in the pot, container. When they are doing well on their own, clip the connection to the Mother plant. The babies nearest the Mother are the strongest. Clip off the ones further away. Start your new bed with them or give them away.

Your SECOND HARVEST is SEEDS! As July goes on or in August, when you or your plant are ready, let your very best plants produce but don’t harvest the fruits. Beans get lumpy with seeds and will dry completely. Let them dry on the vine for full nutrition from the mother plant. Let a cucumber yellow and dry. Let the corn cob dry and the kernels get hard. Cukes, peppers, melons, okra and squash are easy. Just remove the seeds and let them dry. Uh, do label the drying trays! Tomatoes are a tiny bit of a process but not hard at all. See more!

Save enough seeds for your own planting, for several rounds of planting across the next season, for replanting when there are losses, and some to give away or share at a seed swap. Keep the race going.

Keep up with Sidedressing and Watering

Compost and worm castings are important for more than as soil builders. Compost has super water holding capacity, and as some of us get tired toward the end of summer, and it is hotter, our soil needs compost more than ever, especially if you want to extend production time.

Worm castings help our plants uptake soil nutrients and boost your plant’s immune system. When your plant is taxed producing fruit in great summer conditions, it also is peaking out for the season and fighting pests and diseases are harder for it. And, sometimes a plant is just done. No amount of coaxing will have effect. It worked hard. Thank it and take it to the compost altar.

Manures are great for all but beans, beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, and tomatoes, or there’ll be more foliage than fruit!
Give your peppers and solanaceaes, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, Epsom Salt/Magnesium treatments.
Every couple of weeks your strawberries would love a light fish emulsion/kelp drench.

Don’t be fooled by Temporary High Temps! Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, stop flowering and fruiting when temps rise above 85 to 90 degrees F (depending on humidity) for an extended time. Humidity causes pollen to stick and not fall to pollinate. Dry heat causes the pollen to fall and not stick! When weather cools, you will have blooms again and be back in production. Rattlesnake beans, on the other hand, keep right on producing at 100 degree temps! So choose heat tolerant veggie varieties, like Heatmaster and Solar Fire tomatoes, from locales with hot weather. They are out there!

Wise Watering  Keep up with even watering so fruits have their right shapes. Though June has the longest days of summer, July through September can be the hottest in SoCal. Be aware if you are overwatering. Plants vary in their needs and as temps vary. You can save 20 to 30% and have healthier plants!

Water being critical due to the drought, needs to be thoughtfully managed, just like for our lawns and landscapes. To mimic the Santa Barbara Stage 3 Drought Regs, see if you can apply these ideas to your garden. For example, build berms to keep water exactly where it does the most good. Berms need to go to the dripline of your plant so tiny feeder roots can fully supply your plant with water and nutrients as it needs.

  • Routinely check your irrigation system if you have one.
  • Hoses must be equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle when in use. We can do that by using water wands with easy-to-use thumb valve shutoffs.
  • Irrigation with potable water is prohibited between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. for automatic systems. If manually operated, such irrigation is prohibited between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Irrigation with potable water that causes runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or parking structures is prohibited.
  • Any excessive, unnecessary or unwarranted use of water is prohibited.
  • All leaks must be repaired as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Irrigation during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall is prohibited.

If you garden at home, please look into water capture and gray water systems, super attractive bioswale catchments. In Santa Barbara County there are rebates available! Do it now to be ready for winter rain. Also there are FREE landscape workshops! And we have FREE water system checkups. Call (805) 564-5460 to schedule today! Just in June 23 in LA, Elmer Ave retrofit!

Fall Soil Preparation & Planting

Make compost with your finishing summer plants that are pest and disease free. Recycle that green gold! Make mini layers with that and veggie kitchen scraps that you and your friends save for you alternated with dry brown layers of straw or dried leaves. 1/2″ layers are the very best, 1″ layers are fine too. It goes one part wet/green to two parts dry/brown. The thinner the layers the faster your pile decomposes.

Soil Prep As your summer plants finish, spaces become available for fall planting prep. Amend your soil with what is needed for what you will plant there. Unless there are Bagrada Bugs, mulch the soil to protect what you have created, keep it moist. Remove mulch if Bagrada Bugs appear. They lay eggs in the soil and mulched soil is lovely safe habitat for them. Unless you have seen them in action, I can’t impress on you how quickly prolific they are.

Container and raised bed gardeners remove spent soil. Toss it out or use it as mulch somewhere else. Replace it and add tasty amendments – compost, manures, worm castings – for late summer and lusty fall plantings. The water warmer raised beds need washes nutrients away. How many times have you seen sunken dried up raised beds with only straggly plants remaining? If you decide to have a raised bed, you need to make the commitment. They are isolated from the natural daily goings on in ground level soil, so you have to help them. Ground level soils need amending, sometimes replacing, but much less than raised beds and containers.

Starting a Nursery Patch  It’s time to get seeds if you don’t already have them! While there is little space for big winter plants, small nursery patches can be planted. Leave enough room between seedlings so you can get your trowel in to lift them out to transplant later when space becomes available! If seeds and nurseries aren’t your thing, wait until your local nursery starts having the transplants that make you happy! August they might start trickling in. Labor Day weekend is a favorite planting time for some gardeners. October is just fine too!

Clean up funky pest habitat that the little buggers can overwinter in or while it is still hot they will multiply in.

July is a month to keep all your balls in the air! Planting, harvesting, caretaking, preparations! The payoff will be delicious harvests, and the promise of winter crops starting early in the season. Remember to leave space for second and third rounds for steady table supply. Plant quickly maturing veggies like lettuces and beets to have production in those waiting spaces until you are ready to plant those later rounds.

Think on when you want those October pumpkins and what you want on your table for ThanksGiving, maybe sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie! And at Christmas time, maybe a sauce over some of those delicious frozen beans or some fresh butterhead lettuce salad topped with cranberries. Plan for it!

May your table be bountiful and your Spirit radiant with exceptional health!

See the entire July GBC Newsletter! How to make super compost, Zucchini Fritters, and info about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa CA!


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. We are very coastal, during late spring/summer in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward! 

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Container Vegetable Living Gift - Lettuces Edible Flowers

What more wonderful than a living gift?!

Plant a planter box, a cut and come again lettuce bowl
Give her a growing tower, garden gear
Give her seedlings and seeds
Plant edible flowers for her that she will love
Offer her some of your time weeding, turning in amendments
Maybe she could use some of your homemade organic compost or worm castings
Pony up for the Community Garden fee!
Or the garden book she has been wanting….
That trip to the amazing garden she’s been wanting to see
Gift Certificate to a seed catalog company of her choice!

Special gift! Fresh organic salad in a Mason jar for busy Moms! Yum!

Super delicious nutritious Mason Jar meals!

A fresh gathered Bouquet Garni tied with a hearts ribbon
Bundles of fresh herbs she can hang and dry in her kitchen
Herbed oils and vinegars in pretty bottles
How about some easy-to-make cucumber night cream?!

Maybe ‘she’ is a Dad Mom! There are a lot of guy Moms out there, busy single dads who love to garden!

(Moms, do give big hints or leave your bucket list lying about!)

A Happy & Green Mother’s Day to all you loving people!

Mother's Day Garden Gifts

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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Longer shelf life for your Berries!  Blackberry Raspberry Blueberry Strawberry!

It started with 2 lbs of strawberries and a simple Google search ‘strawberries vinegar’ because I had recently read somewhere that giving them a vinegar/water bath would keep the fuzzy gray mold away and they would last longer. And, in fact that was the first type of response that came up, with great tips on how to do it. But the 7th search result came up with some completely different facts based on research, some quite surprising.

Water is still the king of clean! Research shows just plain old water can remove 98% of bacteria! Berries in general should never be wetted or soaked in water. It is detrimental to their health and will shorten their shelf-life. Wash them only just before use.

Vinegar and shelf lifeYes and no. How your produce was treated immediately after harvest until the time you get it, supermarket, farmers’ market, your own garden, makes a huge difference. A nice vinegar bath can’t help produce that has already been mishandled after harvesting.

Cooling your produce correctly is important. Tomatoes need the water to be the SAME TEMP as they are! If they are washed with cold water, they suck it in, including any microorganisms hanging about. Dry them. After they are dry, place them in a cool area, about 55 degrees. Same goes for summer squash, bell peppers and eggplant. The fridge is too cold!

FYI per Dr. Floyd Woods and Dr. Joe Kemble: ‘Most fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.) and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, watermelons, etc.) of tropical and subtropical origin may be damaged by cool temperatures and develop a condition called chilling injury. Chilling injury results from prolonged exposure to low but not freezing temperatures. Symptoms of chilling injury include dark circular pits on the surface, shriveling, internal darkening, loss of the ability to ripen and the development of off-flavor and poor texture. Proper storage will help achieve a maximum post-harvest life.’

When they were picked is a factor that can’t be denied. If the end is nigh, just eat ’em! Share if you have to. Or, individually freeze, pop into a freezer bag. If it is berries, make fruit ice cream or smoothies at your convenience.

Vinegar or another similar treatment will extend your fruits and vegetables’ shelf life, only if they were handled correctly after harvest.

Vinegar and cleaning your fruits & veggies. The researched best ratio is 1:3, for example, 1 cup vinegar to 3 cups water. Gotta do what works or why waste your time and money? Not knowing what critters might be inhabiting your produce, commercial cleaners are geared for whatever might be there, any worst case scenario. Just wash your produce first so the power of the agent isn’t in any way reduced.

Now, for those berries! Here’s where there are 180 degree differences. The researchers say: ‘In the case of strawberries, blueberries and other berries, generally any wetting or direct contact with water is detrimental and will shorten their shelf-life. You should never place any of these into your sink to soak them. Before you store them, be sure that they are clean but do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are natives of temperate climate and can be stored in your refrigerator. In fact, they should be stored as close to 32°F as possible to maintain their shelf-life. When stored properly, strawberries have a shelf-life of a week, blueberries can last up to two weeks, and blackberries and raspberries will last two to four days.’ OK.

Vinegar enthusiasts, however, report that after their vinegar bath, very soft berries last about a week, strawberries up to two weeks! If you want to try it, here’s what to do!

  • Wash gently with water their same temp
  • Make your bath mix 1:3 Vinegar to Water
  • Put your berries in, gently swish around
  • Drain, rinse, dry
    – Delicate berries like blackberries or raspberries lay on towel/paper towel, gently dry
    – Strawberries, blueberries – put in a paper towel lined salad spinner and gently spin dry
  • Store in paper towel lined container like the ones they come in from the store; leave the lid ajar if it is an airtight type container.

When you are buying those ‘spensive berry gems, keep the ‘cold chain.’ Chuck at Driscoll’s [great berries!] says buy only from refrigerated displays, keep ’em cold, and get ’em right into the coldest part of your fridge! Vinegar won’t help compromised berries; eat ’em in a day or two. It’s nature. Also he says shop at stores that sell a lot of produce, because you’re probably getting fruit closer to harvest, which means a longer shelf life for you.

So my strawberries are now languishing on the bottom shelf of the fridge with a paper towel under them in their package, unwashed. Depending on how that turns out, I may try that vinegar bath after all…. Enjoy every luscious bite!

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