08/6/13

How to Grow Your Own Garden Indoors

Indoor Gardening

How to Grow Your Own Garden Indoors
Marcela De Vivo, Guest Blogger for hautemealz.com

Those living in apartment buildings, townhomes or suburban areas where grassy space and good ground is hard to come by, have few options when it comes to planting their own food.

The only real solution is to move your garden indoors.

If you have the extra space, an indoor garden can be an incredibly fun and successful endeavor, and will save you the work of having to till up an area of land or go outside to take care of it.

In order for an indoor garden to be successful, you need to spend a little bit of money and make sure you have the right equipment and items on hand (as well as a little bit of extra space in your home).

Having a garden inside your home still requires the same amount of work and attention that an outdoor garden would take, therefore, make sure that you are prepared to commit a reasonable amount of time and resources before you start the process.

Once you’re ready, here’s how to get things started.

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1. Pick a Location

No matter how big of a home you might own, space always seems to be at a premium. Typically, a basement or porch would be the best place for an indoor garden, but just make do with what you have and choose the area of your home that is best suited for the job.

You might consider picking a spot where you can open a window to allow fresh air in or an area that gets a healthy amount of sunlight from a window.

Sunlight will be more necessary if you don’t plan to buy indoor lightning for your garden, but just take that into account ahead of time.

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2. Things to Buy

Once you have a location established, you’re going to need to invest in your indoor garden project. How much you need to buy will ultimately depend upon what you already have at your disposal and what you can find around the house.

Regardless of how you obtain them, make sure you have the following items on hand for when you’re ready to start your garden:

  • Light — As mentioned earlier, light may or may not be necessary, depending on where you have your garden located. If you’re going to keep the garden where it won’t get much sunlight, you’ll need to invest in a few heat lamps or some plant growth lighting.
  • Potting Soil — Potting soil is effective for growing seedlings and not tremendously expensive. If you’ve already got dirt, you can still use it, but a mixture of regular dirt and potting soil is still advisable.
  • Seeds — This is one of the more obvious items on our checklist. Be discretionary about what seeds you buy based on how much space you have. Anything that grows really tall or spreads out (like corn or cantaloupe) probably isn’t going to work well indoors, so stick to the basic veggies and flowers.
  • Containers — You’ll need two different size containers; a small one for seedlings and larger containers for transplanting once the seedlings mature. You will likely already find these around your home, so just make sure you have both sizes available before you start.
  • Support Beams or Shelving — You’ll want to have your plants raised so you can easily tend to them, which is one of the biggest advantages when gardening indoors. How advanced this system is might depend on your lighting situation, but just make sure you can keep everything raised and adequately supported.

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3. Transplanting to Larger Containers

Once your seedlings start to mature, you’ll need to get them into deeper containers with more soil so that they can grow and begin to bear fruit.

The depth of those containers will depend on what kind of plants you’re growing and what they require in terms of space. Plants will usually have space requirements that include depth for rooting and space between other plants.

Putting in the Work

Once you have everything in place, it’s just a matter of consistent watering, nurturing and caring for your plants. Growing a garden inside can be tough, but if you’re willing to put the work in, you can see a lot of success and bag a lot of fresh vegetables.

Since a garden can be such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, it’s worth a try at least once, even if you don’t have much of a green thumb.

Either way, don’t let the limited space of urban living be a deterrent!

-Marcela

MarcellaMarcela De Vivo is a freelance writer whose writing covers a wide range of topics, including everything from tech and manufacturing to fitness and beauty. In addition to sharing her tips on how to improve home gardens, she also writes content for ProcessSensors.

07/31/13

Best of the best: picking out your produce

banner-programs-farmersmarketIt’s summer, and our Farmer’s markets are bursting at the seams with ripe, beautiful, delicious veggies!

12654364-largeOne thing I’m constantly reminding our subscribers of is this: when shopping for fresh produce, keep in mind your end goal…you’re wanting to prepare a delicious, nutritious dish…not shoot a magazine ad.

In other words, the best produce isn’t always the sexiest.

Imperfections can be attractive, hinting at surprising sweetness and depth of character. Unfortunately, most supermarkets today sell produce bred as much to withstand shipping, as for flavor, and while it might be pretty…it may not be particularly flavorful.

Use Your Senses

woman-smelling-fruit-400x400The best tasting produce is often irregularly shaped and blemished (because the more ripe the plant, the easier it is to bruise).

The freshest produce should feel solid and sturdy with taut skin. Leaf veggies should feel crisp and firm.

A lot of veggies and fruits can be sniffed for ripeness, and should smell strongly of what they are, without being cloying or overripe.

How to shop for vegetables

Okay, so here are some tips on how to pick good produce while shopping for a few of my favorite veggies…

Artichokes: Compact, plump, heavy, with thick, green, tightly closed leaves. Avoid if leaves are dry, spreading, or hard-tipped.

Asparagus: Straight stalks with closed, compact tips and full green color, except for white ends. Avoid if shriveled or have spreading tips. Thicker stalks should be peeled before cooking.

Avocados: Shiny green or mottled purplish-black (depending upon variety); yield to gentle pressure. Ripen in a paper bag at room temperature.

Beans: Firm, crisp, bright color.

Broccoli: Dark green, firmly clustered buds on firm, but not thick, stalks.

Cabbage: Firm, heavy, with brightly colored (green or red) outer leaves and no black blemishes.

Carrots: Firm, straight, with bright orange color, preferably with fresh green leaves attached. Avoid if limp or cracked.

Cauliflower: Firm heads with tightly packed creamy white clusters and fresh-looking green leaves. Avoid those with black spots.

Cucumbers: Medium to small, with bright green color. Avoid any with soft ends, or wax coatings.

Garlic: Firm heads with tight, compact cloves. Papery skin should be soft, not brittle.

Leeks: Firm, white base with fresh-looking green leaves.

Mushrooms: Firm, plump with tightly closed caps and fresh-looking stems. Select carefully, avoiding mold.

Onions: Clean, dry, firm with papery husks, and no sprouts or soft spots.

Peas: Firm, bright or light green, with well-filled pods. Avoid swollen, wrinkled, or immature dark green pods.

Peppers: Firm, shiny, with bright color, green, red, orange, or yellow. Avoid soft spots, or darkened stem ends.

Potatoes: Firm, smooth skinned, well shaped, with no sprouts.

Spinach: Bright green, fresh, tender leaves with no yellowing or wilted ends.

Squash: (zucchini, yellow, straight neck, patty pan) Smooth, bright skin, bright color, green or yellow, heavy and firm.

Sweet potatoes: Firm, uniform shape with even color. Avoid very large ones (it’s a sign of age).

Tomatoes: Firm, plump with unbroken skin; color and size depends on variety.

Turnips: Firm, unblemished, heavy for their size with fresh-looking tops.

Turnips: Firm, unblemished, heavy for their size with fresh-looking tops.

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Cooking Veggies

Now that you’ve picked out some great veggies…what do you do with them?

We (should) be getting the majority of our daily vitamin content from vegetables, so we need to be sure that how we cook them does not drain away all the vitamins and benefits of eating them in the first place.

Cooking vegetables can be tricky. Over cooking can make vegetables bland and soggy.

Personally, I think that veggies seldom benefit from being boiled. Boiling leeches out vitamin content, and is the main culprit in turning vegetables to a lifeless, tasteless glop.

So, how do we proceed?

SCeB8Depending on the veggies, I prefer steaming, roasting, or sauteing.

All three of these cooking methods leave vegetables full of life. They will be crisp and colorful. It will also not deplete the vegetables of their vitamin content.

By rule of thumb, vegetables will only need a few minutes of heat…ie: take them off BEFORE they look done. If you wait until the looked cooked through, they’re gonna be soft and soggy when you serve them.

So, get out there and pick up some fresh, beautiful (or even not so beautiful) veggies at your local farmer’s or produce market, and enjoy them at their seasonal best!

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

03/23/13

The Saboteur: Sneaking In Vegetables To Your Daily Kiddie Food

Today’s guest post is in response to this week’s hautemealz.com article,Winning the Food War with our Kids“.

More great info…

-Chef Perry

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Admit it: making kids eat vegetables is one of the hardest parts of dinner time.

From Caesar salad to all-veggie stews and dishes, the dinner table will become a riot zone once kids started to drop their forks and refrain from eating those healthy veggies. However, forcing greens in their mouths is never the solution.

Sneaking considerable amounts of veggies in your daily meals is the general solution, but it takes skill, experimentation, and patience to pull this off. Here are some tips:

1. Start small

To slowly desensitize their palate for fast food, start by sneaking inconspicuous amounts of veggies in your favorite dishes.

For instance, instead of going all meat with your flame-grilled burgers, why not start mixing in some very finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery into the patty mixture, then increase the amount little by little?

Also, you can side your steaks with buttered veggies in small portions. However, the real trick in making them eat small amount of veggies is not guarding them while eating. You can leave the meal on the table, sit in front of the computer, and play online bingo at FoxyBingo while pretending you aren’t observing them.

You’ll be surprised how they will outgrow their distaste for veggies little by little.

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2. Use them as alternatives

If your kids became accustomed to Big Mac and large orders of French fries, now is the right time to offer them some alternatives.

You can serve patties with veggie extenders or go full vegan by cooking meat-free burgers. Instead of French fries, you can season potato wedges and coat them, then bake them for oil-free wedges.

3. Use them in cooking

Training your kids to cook is the best way to expose them in the wonderful world of “Veggielandia”.

Asking them to wash or peel veggies can make them get to like them. Teaching your kids a thing or two in the kitchen early on won’t just give them life skills but the love for vegetables, as well.

04/24/12

To Market! To Market!

My good friend, hautemealer, and foodie extraordinaire, Di Anderson, is small market/local market guru (some might say it’s an obsession, but not me – I want  her to keep writing for us…) Just yesterday she was taunting me with fresh, locally grown asparagus from her neighborhood produce stand…and, yes, I’m going to have to go get some!

So, here’s an article that Di was kind enough to put together especially for hautemealz.com, on making the most of your local Saturday Markets…

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03/1/12

Great Produce Deals for March

Here at hautemealz.com, one of the things we like to do is to keep an eye on “seasonal deals”, and give you a heads up on what grocery items you’re going to find the best deals on, month to month.

Here are some fresh fruits and veggies that should be a better-than-average deal for March. We’ll be using a lot of these in your upcoming hautemealz.com menus, but if we hit a veggie that isn’t on your favorites list, these are some great alternatives to keep an eye out for, too!

BTW – I did some shopping last night, at one of those not-the-best-deals-in-town grocery stores, and I’m telling you…there were some amazingly good prices on these fruits and veggies in the produce department, even that awesome organic stuff!

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