Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

A friend sent me a link to this article,  “How does your garden grow? Former Iowa resident presents a different way to plant veggies.”

.  We currently have enough space for raised garden beds, but have lived where a creative solution like this would have been useful.  Growing your own food is something every prepper should be doing.  If all you have is a balcony or patio, put some plants in containers.  We have grown some beautiful tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, peppers, and several other things successfully in containers.  Or grow your salad greens on the wall!

Chard (L), Italian Dandelion (R), Collards (Top)

This week I picked a lot of greens–Swiss Chard, Collards, Turnip Greens, and Italian Dandelion.  All of these greens will be in our winter garden in addition to kale, beets (greens), green lance (broccoli-type green), spinach, mustard.  We have also planted several salad greens in the winter garden including romaine, chin chiang cabbage, mizuna, and vitamin green.

Italian Dandelion greens can be used either in salads or cooked. They are slightly bitter.  They grow tall and are prolific.  Seeds can be purchased from Territorial Seed Company.

Italian Dandelions

Neither my husband nor I were brought up eating cooked greens.  In attempting to grow more of our own food including the winter garden, we have found that greens are easy to grow and produce for a long period of time.  They are also nutritious and help keep blood sugar under control.  Greens are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes.  Greens can be preserved by canning and dehydrating.  Our preference is to dry them.

Here are some tips about preparation.

  • Wash greens repeatedly.  I usually wash ours 3 to 4 times, until the water is clean.  I then dry them in a salad spinner, and store them in large Zip Lock bags.  We rinse out the bags and reuse them repeatedly for greens.

Turnip Greens

  • Remove the heavy stems from Swiss Chard and similar greens.  Cut the stems in 1″ pieces and cook separately from the leaves.  When the stems become tender, add the leaves and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes until leaves are wilted.  The stems are good to eat, but will be tough if you don’t cook them longer than the leaves.
  • To make enough greens for a meal, we use our largest, deep skillet and overfill it .  Use a small amount of water and cover with a lid.  The greens cook down significantly.
  • Cooked greens are good with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar at their simplest.
  • They are also good mixed with a small amount of Italian dressing, a bit of olive oil or bacon drippings.
  • We almost always use fresh or dried greens in vegetable or bean soups, and even chili. They add to the nutritional value, add some volume and color, but don’t really change the flavor. We have broken up dried sweet potato leaves in small pieces and added them to chili.  They were almost undetectable.  Dehydrated greens can also be ground into powder and added as an ingredient to sauces, pasta dough, casseroles, etc.

    Spicy Vegetable Beef Soup

In a situation in which food is hard to get, greens could be an important part of a survival diet.  As we demonstrated last winter, they can be grown year round and provide important vitamins that historically were missing in many diets resulting in malnutrition.

Soon I will go to visit my parents who own a large orchard.  They live several hours away, so I don’t get there as often as I would like. They are picking apples now and making cider.  Of course, I will load up my truck!  This spring I planted 3 apple trees my father had grafted and gave to me, but they won’t be producing for a couple of years.

Apple Varieties

Right now the Gold and Red Delicious are just getting ripe.  I like Gold Delicious for eating and cooking, but won’t touch a Red Ddelicious.  One of my favorites, Honeycrisp, are already gone for the season.  Jonagold are a good substitute.  It will be a couple of months before my favorite apple, Pink Lady, is ripe.  I guess I will have to make another trip.

Pink Lady along with Granny Smith and Arkansas Black are the best keepers. Pink Lady has the advantage of also being one of the best eating apples there is.  They are very crisp and full of tart/sweet flavor.  They were also the be best tasting dried apples that I dehydrated last year.

Arkansas Black are an extremely hard apple–I mean REALLY hard.  We experimented with them and kept them in the refrigerator for several months.

Mutsu’s are a good, big apple.  They didn’t work very well for drying because they are too big to use in my peeler/slicer. I also didn’t like McIntosh for drying.  They were too soft and got mushed in the peeler/slicer.  They turned browner than the Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples, even using lemon juice on them.

Jonathan apples are a good, versatile apple.  They are not large, but are good for eating or cooking.  They tend toward tart, but not as tart as Granny Smith, another good cooking apple.  Jonathan is the apple my mother has always used to make her really good apple sauce.  They are my favorite for fried apples and pies.  They hold their shape beautifully without breaking up and are tart enough to provide some great flavor.  Jonathan apples are the ones we always used to make caramel apples when I was a kid.  They are a perfect size for that–small enough that you don’t have a bunch of apple left after eating off all the nuts and caramel.

For those of you who prefer sweet apples, I recommend Gala, Fuji, and Gold and Red Delicious.

Here is a chart I created that  describes most of the variety of apples that my parents grow.

NC Preppers Apple Varieties
Sweet Eating Apples Sweet/Tart Eating Apples Cooking Apples
Gala                             (early Aug.) One of the sweetest eating apples.  Good for people who don’t like any tartness.  A favorite for children. Ginger Gold                (late July)

Crisp, green and may have a blush on the skin.  Slightly tart, but good to eat.  May also be used for cooking like Early Gold.

Early Gold                   (early July)

Tart, crisp, green color. Good for applesauce and apple butter.  If used for fried apples or pie, cook about ½ as long as you do later apples like Granny Smith so they hold shape.


Golden Delicious        (early Sept.)

One of the most popular eating apples but also good for cooking, particularly for people who don’t want to use added sugar.  Holds its shape when cooked.


Honey Crisp                (mid August)

A newer variety that is quickly becoming a favorite.  Exceptionally crisp, juicy, and sweet with a tasty bite of tartness. May be used for baking.

20 ounce Pippin         (late August)

Our largest apples!  Tart, green and great for cooking or drying.

Red Delicious                         (early Sept.)

A beautiful dark red apple that has crisp flesh.  Sweet taste with fairly thick skin. Stores and keeps very well.

Ozark Gold                 (mid August)

Another early variety similar to the Ginger Gold that is good to eat and use for cooking.

Jonathan                           (late August)

One of our favorite cooking apples and also good to eat!  Fairly tart, it holds its shape very well making it great for pies, canning, drying, and fried apples.


Mutsu                                     (mid Sept.)

A large, yellowish-green fruit that is juicy, crisp, and spicy-sweet.  It is a cross between the Golden Delicious and the Japanese Indo. Great for eating or cooking.

Jonagold                     (early Sept.)

A cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious.  Ranks high in taste tests with a juicy, crisp texture that is sweet with a nice balance of tartness.  Like its parents, holds it shape well when cooked.

McIntosh                    (late August)

A favorite since it was discovered in 1811.  Macs are sweet and juicy with a pleasant tanginess. The tender white flesh is good for cooking into pies or sauce. Some customers love them for making apple cake.


Fuji                              (early Oct.)

Popular for its sweet flavor and crispy texture.  A good choice for people who like Galas.

King Lusk                    (late Sept.)

Similar to the Honey Crisp and Jonagold.  It is crisp, juicy, and has a sweet/tart flavor.


Rome Beauty             (late Sept.)

A large, tender sweet apple great for baking.

  Braeburn                          (early Oct.)

A crisp, juicy apple with a sweet/tart flavor.


Winesap                     (early Oct.)

A slightly tart, hard apple traditionally a favorite for cooking.

  Arkansas Black           (mid Oct.)

Our hardest apple.  It is a very dark red, almost black in color.

Granny Smith             (early Oct.)

A tart, green, hard apple.  Holds its shape well when cooked making it a favorite for drying, pies, and canning.


  Pink Lady                    (late Oct.)

Quickly becoming a favorite.  One of the last to ripen, it is juicy, crisp and flavorful.  It keeps extremely well.



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Our pepper plants have produced a lot of chili peppers this year, and they just keep coming!  Having spent many years in the southwest, we love chili peppers and jalapenos.  At first  my husband just sliced them as they were harvested and put them in a jar of Bragg’s vinegar with a tablespoon of salt.  We would eat them as they came in.  Well, that was before our secondary refrigerator got full of chili peppers.  We canned some, but aren’t fond of the softer texture that comes from cooking them.  Canning is also considerable trouble and is only worthwhile if you have a lot of peppers at one time.  We have already made all the chili powder we can use.

We stumbled upon a perfect solution.  As the peppers are harvested, sometimes only a few at a time, I slice them (seeds and all) and dehydrate them.  As with most of our dehydrated food, I store them in canning jars with a desiccant and vacuum seal them.  Often we will have a partial jar dried that we add to until it is full.

We have experimented with the dehydrated peppers and found that when covered with undiluted vinegar and a tablespoon of salt per pint, they rehydrate well and taste as good as fresh ones.  By dehydrating them and storing them until needed, my refrigerator is free for other things, and I don’t have to can them.  Dehydrated peppers also take up less storage space. We are eating a lot of peppers and add them as a condiment to many dishes–eggs, salads, on top of meat, chili, potatoes, etc.

Harvesting greens in the snow

One good way for preppers to insure they have enough food for a year or more is to plant a winter garden.  It will reduce your reliance on your stored food resulting in your preps lasting longer when TSHTF.  Your diet will be higher in vitamins throughout the winter when fresh food may be hard to get.

We also discovered that in addition to having food to eat in the winter, many things thrived into the spring and summer.  Using the bed covers, we were able to plant seedlings of warm weather crops like tomatoes a month or more earlier than normal.

Last winter was our first winter garden, and it far exceeded our expectations.  We picked fresh salad and cooking greens weekly, enough to last all week.  There was a period of about 3 or 4 weeks around New Years when things were growing slow and we didn’t harvest much. We started with five 8′ X 4′ covered beds.  We ended up covering 4 or 5 more.

Earlier this year my husband created a winter garden website with many pictures and specific lists, equipment, and instructions.  If you are interested in extending your growing season, now is the time to get your winter garden ready.

My husband and I were guests on Donna Miller’s radio podcast on “Preparedness Radio Network” to discuss our winter garden.


Tomato and Bread Salad

We like this recipe–in addition to tasting wonderful, it uses up a lot of tomatoes coming out of the garden and our homemade bread that may be getting stale.  This dish is also versatile and can be adapted to a variety of ingredients and herbs.  As a basic recipe, I use “Grilled Bread and Tomato Salad” found on

We really like the grilled bread.  The original recipe calls for day-old Italian bread.  I use thick slices of the 100% whole wheat bread that I bake from freshly-ground wheat from our storage. The original recipe also includes instructions to seed and grill the tomatoes.  I choose not to do that.  I prefer fresh, uncooked tomatoes instead of cooked.  There is plenty of bread to absorb the tomato juice, and I agree with Cook’s Illustrated magazine, September and October 2011, p. 16:

Keep the taste in tomatoes

If excess moisture isn’t an issue, ignore any instructions to remove the seeds and “jelly” from tomatoes.  The guts are where the flavor is; in fact, they contain three times the amount of flavor-enhancing glutamic acid as the flesh.

Grilled Bread

Instead of spreading the bread with melted butter and garlic prior to grilling, you may prefer olive oil and garlic.  I also use 5 or 6 cloves of garlic instead of the recommended 2 and include garlic in the vinaigrette.  Yes, we love garlic and grow it in the garden.

The basil and tarragon are good in the salad, but you may use Italian parsley, chives, or any other fresh herb that you have available.  I use more onion than the 1/4 cup in the original recipe, but you may use scallions or shallots if you want a milder flavor.  I sometimes add cut up fresh mozzarella or goat cheese just before serving.

This is the version of Bread and Tomato Salad that I typically make.


1/2 cup (one stick) butter

5-6 cloves garlic, minced (for garlic butter to put on bread)

5-6 slices crusty home-baked  bread

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced (add to vinaigrette)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 -7 ripe tomatoes, diced in large pieces (may include equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes, halved)

1/2 to 1 cup onions, diced

1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)

Fresh ground black pepper

1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella cheese,  or crumbled feta, or goat cheese (optional)

Tomatoes, Onions, and Herbs

  1. Preheat grill to hot with lid closed and oil grill racks.
  2. Melt butter with garlic in microwave until hot.  Brush mixture on both sides of the sliced bread.
  3. Place bread on the hot grill, close lid, and grill until well-marked.  Turn over and grill other side.  Depending on the moisture content of bread and heat, this will take 1 to 2 minutes per side.  Watch closely.
  4. Cut bread into 3/4″ cubes
  5. Use wire whip to stir vinegar and garlic while drizzle in the olive oil to help emulsify it.
  6. In a large bowl mix together tomatoes, onions, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add bread cubes and cheese and fold in.
  8. Serve at room temperature.

We store lentils and looked for a recipe to use them other than just lentil soup.  An article in Cooks Illustrated magazine inspired me in addition to an Emeril Lagasse recipe from the Food Network.  I still have a lot of produce from the garden, so this was a great recipe for us.  A week after I made it the first time, I made it again to take as my contribution to a potluck dinner with several friends.  It was a big hit and the hostess requested to keep the leftovers.

As typical for my recipes, much of what I include are estimates, not exact measurements.  I also freely substitute based on what I have on hand.  It is important that you use green or brown lentils.  Yellow or red lentils become very mushy and aren’t good for this recipe.  Use French lentils, if you have them.

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  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth (water may be substituted for part or all of the broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves minced garlic ( or mashed cloves)
  • 1-2 jalapeno or green chili peppers, finely diced (I leave the seeds in because we like the heat.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped (I have also added fresh basil and thyme)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped (I have used green stuffed olives)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • French Vinaigrette, recipe follows
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese

After rinsing lentils, place in a bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and 4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees).  Soak for 1 hour.  Drain well.

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, bay leaves, thyme, carrot, celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Cover with chicken stock (or water) by 1-inch, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until just tender yet still firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Cook until vegetables are soft. (You can also leave the vegetables out and add to the lentils after cooking if you prefer them raw and crisp.)  Drain and discard the bay leaves and thyme. Place the lentil mixture in a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the olives, chili peppers, and mint to the lentils and vegetables with some of the vinaigrette. Top with tomatoes and feta cheese and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Serve with crusty bread.


1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar (I have also used rice vinegar.)

1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion

2-3 teaspoonsDijon mustard (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2/3 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (vegetable oil may be substituted.)

Whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Use at once or cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.