This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Organic Choice for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
I was in my local farm/garden shop last week and a terracotta strawberry pot caught my eye. The shop also had beautiful strawberry plants meant for growing in containers so I bought a bunch, then came home and planted them right away.
Strawberries are perennials and while I've grown them in a raised bed in my garden before, I encountered some problems. The first year's harvest was great, but subsequent years were less so. (I am sure this is because I didn't manage the "runners" correctly). Also, my strawberry bed seems to always become filled with weeds that are difficult to deal with without pulling out the strawberries, too. So I thought I'd try something new this year.
Planting strawberries in containers is really easy. It's a great option if you don't want to deal with the work and potential problems that may occur when you plant a strawberry "patch"; it also makes a lot of sense if you want to grow some of your own food but you don't have a lot of space. Look for strawberry planters made from terracotta or plastic at garden shops or online and buy strawberries that are meant to be planted in containers (look for a variety that is drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and which is a light runner producer). Then you can keep your strawberry pot in just about any sunny spot…mine is on a table on my deck.
Strawberries have shallow root systems and you don't want the potting soil to dry out too much, but you definitely don't want to overwater them either (this can lead to rotting). Keep an eye on your strawberry pot especially once it starts to get hot: the strawberries will need more water during the phases that they are producing fruit. Strawberries benefit from mulching to conserve moisture and I will be adding mulch to my strawberry planter for sure.
The variety of strawberries that I planted are called Tristar. These are what is known as "everbearing" strawberries: they produce fruit sporadically from spring through the fall. (By contrast, June bearing varieties only produce berries in June). I planted one plant per hole and 4 plants at the very top. I used Organic Choice potting soil.
As I mentioned above, strawberries are perennials. That said, I don't think strawberries in a container will make it through the winter where I live…I imagine I'll probably have to plant strawberries again next spring. But that's ok: I think I only spent about $12 on the plants in this container.
In the past, I've heard you must pinch off the runners in order to increase the productivity of the plants, but Tristar strawberries aren't supposed to produce many runners: a good thing for container strawberries. I've also always heard you should be removing the strawberry blossoms the first year you plant them to make the plants more vigorous but my research tells me this isn't really necessary for container strawberries, especially if I am probably going to be planting new ones next year.
I am very excited about my strawberries and will be sure to let you know how they taste and what I do with them!
Learn more about gardening and landscaping from Miracle-Gro Learn And Grow.
Kate Payne is someone whose work I really admire and her second book just came out. It’s called The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen: A Hit-the-Ground Running Approach to Stocking Up and Cooking Delicious, Nutritious, and Affordable Meals: I absolutely adore it.
The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen is not a typical cookbook. In Kate’s words, it’s more of a “friend, someone sitting with you helping to bust your fears in the kitchen”. From the introduction, I learned that though she always loved the idea of cooking, for much of her life Kate did not feel good about the reality of preparing food for herself and others. Kate was not someone who naturally loved to cook…it stressed her out.
A few years ago, Kate decided to work through her discomfort and take charge of the “sustenance cooking” in her household due to reasons related to food quality, nutrition, and economics. She set out to “master” wholesome, delicious, budget-friendly everyday cooking and along the way, this book was born. I think anyone who is struggling to feel themselves nourishing food on a daily basis will get a ton out of The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen. (But I got a ton out of it and I already consider myself a pretty confident/competent cook.)
As I mentioned above, this isn’t the kind of cookbook you may be accustomed to. There are some recipes, yes, but mostly it is filled with extremely helpful tips and advice, as well as info on techniques for making pretty much anything from scratch. Reading through, I was particularly impressed with how Kate tackles tough issues such as how to eat “real” food when you are on a really tight budget; she also discusses the problem of food waste quite a bit, and I was pleased to see this.
The way Kate writes is incredibly down to earth and funny (ex. Chapter 5 is called “Kitchen Kick-Ass”) and the book is really so inspiring: you can read the whole thing- or just snippets of it- and I am willing to bet money that when you put the book down, you’ll be excited to go create something in your kitchen.
To honor what I love about this book, I chose to make some Garlic Parmesan Popcorn. This isn’t a recipe that’s in the book, but it’s very much inspired by Kate’s words on page 161. Popcorn is so easy to make, and so delicious when it’s homemade, and yet so many of us don’t spend the time to do it…we make microwave popcorn instead.
There are some potential health concerns with microwave popcorn (which Kate does mention in the book), but that’s only part of why I prefer homemade popcorn to the microwave variety. I prefer it mostly because I can flavor it how I like! Some melted real butter and sea salt is always wonderful, but it’s so fun to get creative with popcorn. There are lots of different ways you can season it- from truffle salt to curry (both mentioned by Kate in the book) to other spices, to sweet popcorn…raid your pantry and have fun with it! I certainly had fun coming up with this Garlic Parmesan Popcorn which I’ve never made before (and I’ll definitely be making it again…it’s delicious).
Once a month, I feature a chapter from my book and partner with the folks from MightyNest on a related giveaway. This month, I’m focusing on the health benefits of cultured foods. Read on to learn more about how nutritious these can be, and you’ll have the opportunity to enter a giveaway for beautiful jars in which to make your own delicious versions.
Naturally cultured foods and drinks are teeming with vitamins, live enzymes, and natural probiotics (bacteria that are helpful for reducing the amount of harmful organisms in the intestines). These were prevalent in the diets of our ancestors, yet they’re not frequently consumed by most people today. Cultured (aka lacto-fermented) foods are good for everyone, but they are particularly useful if your digestion is poor or your immune system is weak (75% of your immune system’s cells reside in your digestive tract!). Cultured foods foster a healthy digestive environment, and contribute to optimal wellness overall.
How lacto-fermentation works: Bacteria known as lactobacilli convert sugars and starches into lactic acid. The presence of lots of lactic acid results in a food that’s exceptionally nutritious and much less prone to spoilage. Before there was refrigeration and before foods were canned to extend their shelf life, they were naturally preserved in small batches using the lacto-fermentation method. Examples of lacto-fermented foods and drinks include yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, and vegetable preparations such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented pickles.
I try to include at least one serving of something that’s been lacto-fermented in my diet every day, but I eat more when I have any sort of digestive issue going on or on the rare occasion that I have to take antibiotics. You can purchase high quality versions of cultured foods at natural food stores, but I think knowing how to make your own is a good skill to have (plus you’ll save money). In the photos for this post, you see lacto-fermented asparagus, carrots, and cucumbers. I’ve included the recipe for the cucumbers below, along with some of my favorite fermentation resources.
Lacto-fermented vegetables are a good place to start if you want to begin making your own cultured foods. These are particularly beneficial for you because they contain many nutrients as well as fiber: you can add them to all sorts of dishes as condiments. I’ve been making my own cultured vegetables for years: once you get the hang of the process, you’ll see how easy it is (you don’t need much more than veggies, salt, and a little time), and you’re sure to become hooked. Then you can look forward to always having some cultured veggies on hand to enhance your meals…and your health!
(Text adapted with permission from my book One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Lifeby Winnie Abramson. Copyright 2013 by Chronicle Books.)
I was a pretty early adopter of the green smoothie, but I burned out on them a while back. I was really excited about trying the Citrusy Green Smoothie on page 20 of the new book Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More, though. It looked different from any green smoothie I’ve had before…
I’ve now made this smoothie a few times and I really love it: the fresh orange juice and the pineapple combine with the greens to make a very delicious drink. The other thing I like about this smoothie is that it has some coconut oil in it. If you are going to drink green smoothies, I always advise adding some fat because fat helps your body to assimilate the calcium in the greens. Coconut oil is a good source of healthy fat, and makes a tasty addition here.
Though I haven’t yet had a chance to make more of the recipes from Brassicas, I am very much looking forward to doing so.
Author Laura B. Russell does a really nice job of focusing on both the nutritional benefits of these veggies and the cooking methods that allow them to shine. There are chapters on Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage, Broccoli, Leafy Brassicas, Asian Brassicas, and Root Brassicas and Kohlrabi; the photographs by Sang An are really beautiful.
Also of note: the book addresses the potential downside of consuming too many brassicas raw (there is a concern that doing so can interfere with thyroid function). The upshot (which I discuss in my book, as well): don’t eat loads of uncooked brassicas. This means it’s best not to go overboard with the green smoothies, especially if you have a thyroid problem (honestly: I don’t think it’s a good plan to go overboard with any food, no matter how healthy it’s supposed to be!). There’s nothing to worry about as far as cooked brassicas go, though. So eat those cooked greens, etc. to your heart’s delight.
We adopted a puppy last week! We named her Ozzie and she’s a Labrador mix. We adopted her through a rescue organization called Save A Lab and we couldn’t be happier about the decision.
As you can see, she’s SO cute. She’s also super affectionate and really smart. I am looking forward to taking her to obedience classes :)
So far, she’s doing pretty great with our (4!) cats, and things are going really well with my almost 10-year old lab, too. (She hasn’t met the chickens face to face yet, though…just through a fence.) We are having a blast with her and I’ll share more pictures soon.
Since it’s Friday, I have some great links I want to tell you about…I hope you have time to check them out over the weekend!