Recently I had the opportunity to interview the authors of Garden Eats.
What is Garden Eats?
Click on over to their website and find out. I am sure they will welcome you with open arms. Hopefully this interview might also play a part in answering that question.
From the Garden Eats “About” page:
Garden Eats recently poofed onto the blogging scene at the urging of our family, friends and my patients who want to learn more about how to make thoughts of gardening and organic eating turn into something they can really chomp down on! What started in Kath’s back yard has made its way to your plate and is now brought to you by six food and garden loving gals and guys, Kath, Chrissy (me), Shannon, Laura, Ali and Magnus.
Garden Eats is a place to learn about organic kitchen gardening made easy and tasty ways to design health through food! This is a place to toss the idea of dieting to grab hold of eating for total everyday wellness! Here, we like to call it, medicinal culinary therapy.
Seed To Salad: First off give us a little background about yourself and your website Garden Eats.
Garden Eats: Christine: Garden Eats began out of an inspiration from our family, friends and my patients. Kath and I had been collaborating about organic food growing and medicinal foods in our everyday lives for years, yet with the urging of these folks we brought Garden Eats alive to offer what we call organic kitchen gardening and medicinal culinary therapy. Both Kath and I come from a long line of green thumbs dating back to my great grandparents who were immersed in the agriculture business since coming to the states from Sicily “many moons ago.”
Our motto is: taking the science out of eating to put the taste in your food. We strive to create a blog that reflects this philosophy by blending my background in integrative medicine with Kath’s organic gardening expertise. To offer a truly sustainable, tangible way of living to our readers and clients that extends from the Garden Eats website to their backyards and eventually their kitchen tables is our highest endeavor.
Most of my readers are the backyard garden types. Not all, but most are on a small scale. What is your experience with gardening in this way and what tips would you offer for the first time backyard gardener.
Christine: Great question! My experience is personal-we started out this way long ago and remember well what it was like to enjoy the “fruits of our labor” the very first time. If Kath has taught me anything about gardening (she literally has taught me all that I know today), it’s the virtue of patience. The first-time backyard gardener wants to possess equal parts ambition, excitement, determination, flexibility and all parts patience. These qualities are a good ingredient list for the beginner because it allows them to focus on a small crop, learn throughout the growing season, reap and harvest gratification and build a foundation for “bigger things to come” in future growing seasons.
Although Kath will tell you more about which vegetables she suggests starting off with, if it’s your first year of gardening, then think economically. Make a list of what you spend the most on at the supermarket or farmer’s market and begin with those. Now make a list of what you eat the most. Add those to the list. This practice of choosing will give you a perspective that motivates you to grow all season long.
What are the most common mistakes beginners make?
Kath: When people first start off their new gardens, they are enthusiastic and want to try their “green thumb” at everything. They take on too much at once and then become overwhelmed with it all. My advice is to start small with four or five vegetables that are easy to grow.
When space is an issue, what would be your top 5 vegetables that the home gardener should grow? This could be based on high yields in small spaces, popularity or ease of growing.
Kath: Whether you grow your plants in the ground or in pots, loose leaf lettuces are the easiest vegetable to grow from seed, and starting lettuce from seed is the most economical way to grow. They have a shallow root system and your seedlings sprout in 7-10 days. We save room in our garden beds and grow most our lettuce in patio containers.
Tomatoes are America’s favorite & most popular vegetable to grow. They also thrive well in a large patio container. They love hot sun, plenty of water and a shot of organic fertilizer every three weeks. Peppers, another popular veggie, are easy to grow and maintain, and as long as they’re treated well like their neighboring tomato, they will yield a lot of fruit per plant. There are many varieties, but but the bell pepper is still the most popular.
Swiss chard, a hardy, nutritious deep green vegetable is easy to grow and acts as a perennial, coming back year after year. Each plant can be planted close together, saving space in a small area. Of all the vegetables, zuchinni is the easiset to grow. All it requires is hot sun and plenty of water. Two or three plants will provide an abundance for a family of four. It’s a favorite for a children’s garden because it seems to grow right before their eyes.
What kind of terrains have you worked in and which do you find the most challenging?
Kath: A vegetable garden is really possible anywhere. A common challenge we face is working and amending the soil in different locations. In our area, a hard clay soil requires a complete “do-over” the first year. A recipe of compost leaves and organic matter is all you need to grow healthy vegetables. A few miles south and we find perfectly loose soil which just needs a bag or two of aged manure. Happy soil, happy plants.
Seems that you have a passion for healthy eating. What are some of the best ways people can improve their diet, and what if they do not love the taste of veggies?
Christine: Healthy eating is so much easier than a lot of folks may think- especially when it’s growing in your own backyard! And, who doesn’t love the taste of veggies? If you’re reading now thinking, “me” then remember, herbs are your friends. The addition of herbs to vegetables is one of the best ways to get the taste and texture to a place that’s beyond palatable and actually downright tasty! Coriander is one of my favorite herbs-it has a salty taste and pairs well with any vegetable. Steaming a myriad of vegetables in garlic, olive oil, balsamic, marjoram and oregano is also one of my favorite cooking techniques- meshes all of the flavors and generally brings the vegetables to a texture most people can enjoy. If you’re a meat eater, try infusing olive oil tossed greens into your meats (stuff them) or serve the meat course over the top of the greens.
It’s okay to not love every veggie out there. If you don’t like the veggies you’ve tried, try new ones! This is where the farmer’s markets really come in handy. Try three new veggies every time you go. There could be a ton out there you haven’t had an opportunity to try yet.
What about the kids? I have a 3 year old that just fights eating anything that is not a meat or starch. Any tips on getting children to try and enjoy more vegetables?
Christine: Expose them: I get this question a lot in private practice. I love to get kids involved in the garden, at the farmer’s market and in the kitchen. Even at three years they aren’t too young for this exposure. Not only does it promote family bonding time, it models healthy habits to your kids. At home, leave fruits and vegetables on the counter (most don’t need refrigeration anyway) to offer a constant visual stimuli. While you’re preparing meals for the family, involve the kids any way you can- even if your tot is simply sitting with you watching you cook. I also love the eco-friendly wooden kitchen toys for kids where they can “cut” vegetables and fruits (that are velcroed together) alongside you in the kitchen. Know all those great books with numbers, letters and animals? Tons of children’s books exist that feature food, fruits and veggies as well.
Hide It! While you’re waiting for the visual exposure to take affect, I suggest using a little tactic I refer to as “the hiding of the green.” Almost all vegetables can be pureed and used to fortify foods. Don’t think this will work? One of my patient’s sons was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder where he needed every last drop of nutrition we could get into the little guy. We blended every last vegetable and fruit you can think of to make what I call Superfood Veggie Paste. Add a dash of agave to your paste and you can literally “hide” it in any food-on sandwiches, in soups, in peanut butter, add to sauces, etc. Eventually the visual and taste stimuli will match up!
What do you find are the best organic fertilizers for the home garden?
Kath: Organic fertilizers provide the best nutrients and minerals for a healthy garden because they are naturally occurring. Compost is the most widely used organic fertilizer and can be made right in your own home. Vegetable and fruit scraps are mixed with newspaper, leaves, grass clippings or worms to produce a rich dark soil. If you’re unable to have a compost pile in your home, the next best option would be fish or seaweed emulsions. They come in a liquid form and are mixed with water and it’s as though your plants are on a vitamin regimen.
What is the best way to keep bugs off an organic vegetable garden?
Kath: Healthy soil creates healthy plants. Diseased or weak plants attract unwanted pests so immediately remove them from the garden. Pesky insects enjoy a damp environment, so water early in the day. Your plants will be nourished and the “bad” bugs will find somewhere else to go. Prevention is the best option for unwanted pests, but if you notice any critters on your plants, handpicking them off is your best option. You might not be able to see some of these microscopic bugs, but you will notice tiny holes in the leaves of your plants. Look on the underside of the leaves and you’ll likely find them. Most garden stores carry organic pest control that you spray on your plants, but they also sell ladybugs and praying mantis which love to eat the “bad” bugs. One container of ladybugs sprinkled throughout your garden will do the job.
Finally, what are the services that your website can offer someone that is new to gardening and someone that has been doing it for years?
Christine: Socially conscious, interdependent communities thrive when they can enjoy the fruits of their labor, literally. Kitchen gardening and living local is part our blood-line, but can easily be learned, enjoyed and come to benefit an entire community. The services we offer reflect these philosophies, bringing inspiration to both new and seasoned gardeners alike. We L O V E helping families plan small kitchen gardens in their backyards as well as larger scale projects that involve food growing at schools, restaurants and community- based businesses. If you’re new to organic gardening or need some tips for eating healthy, our complementary service that offers both a gardening and medicinal food therapy consultation would be a great foot to start the season off with! For those who’ve been growing for years, but might need a new twist on things, we offer specialized menus that are personally designed according to what your home-garden grows. Experienced gardeners also enjoy working with us on edible design- here we develop new and fun architectural influences to grow up, down, alongside, above… growing beyond your standard flat, raised bed approach. A new service we’re excited to feature is our baby food garden. We’ll teach your family how to grow all of the essentials for baby’s nutrition in one or two tidy gardens! The website is a great hub to learn about what goes on in all of these facets to help shape what services might be right for you and your family.