Cid Stanford: Volunteer of the Week...

We like to celebrate our volunteers, as they are the very core of what makes our project successful. As a small thank you, each VOW will be able to pick out 3 packets of seeds (Renee’s Dinner Garden or Seed Savers Exchange) from Matty K’s Hardware – our local hardware store- on the house! This week we would like to recognize Cid Stanford! Cid has been eagerly volunteering at the Fearless Food Kitchen from helping with the open house earlier in the summer to cleaning and scrubbing the kitchen to get it ready for inspection. You’ll see her helping out with the classes as well when the kitchen opens! Cid, stop in to Matty K’s for some well-deserved seed packets for being so...

Basil at Summer’s End...

With the cold weather in Chicagoland and parts of the midwest this weekend, it’s a good time to harvest, protect, or bring cold-sensitive plants like basil indoors. Basil’s tender leaves turn brown when exposed to low temperatures, which usually happens below 50 degrees. To harvest basil, check out The Garden Minute. Basil is best stored with the stems in a glass or vase of water (like a bouquet of flowers) at room temperature until you are ready to use it. Although some basil is sold at the grocery store in the refrigerated section, it is usually packaged in thick plastic, and sometimes the basil is treated to prevent browning that comes with cold exposure. If your basil is already in a plant pot, just bring it inside and put it in a sunny window. If it’s in your garden plot and you want to transplant it into a pot, you can dig it up – carefully – keeping the root ball intact, with as much soil on it as possible. Place this in a pot that has a drainage hole at the bottom, using more potting soil to fill it up. Water thoroughly! This will help keep the leaves from wilting, as the plant experiences a little ‘shock’ from being removed from the ground. Take a moment to do a little basil maintenance and cut off any flowers, remove dead or dying leaves, and add a little liquid fertilizer. To cover basil in your outdoor garden, protect with a floating row cover like this. Basil’s fresh flavor can be preserved in many ways, such as in oil-filled ice cube trays or pesto. Here’s our favorite pesto recipe from our book, Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland. To keep basil leaves bright green, you can try...

Tomato Time!

Summer’s sweet, long-awaited treasure, tomatoes are by far the most popular crop among American gardeners. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, each one more unique than the next, with some heirloom varieties spanning almost every color of the rainbow. Certain varieties are adapted for a variety of uses, including slicing, canning, and salads. The large, meaty fruits of beefsteak tomatoes are especially popular for slicing. Italian or paste tomatoes are favorites for cooking, canning, and juicing. Sweet bite-size tomatoes in a range of colors are very popular for salads or as snacks. One thing they all have in common: when grown out of love from your own home garden, they are guaranteed to taste better than any you can get at the grocery store. How do you know when they are ready to harvest?  Tomatoes are ready to pick when they are plump, slightly firm (not hard), and have turned the desired color for the variety. They can easily be twisted off the vine if they are ripe, so if they don’t come off with a gentle twist, leave them on for a few more days. Try the smell test too; ripe tomatoes smell sweet and earthy (like tomatoes!) when you smell them at the stem base. In the fall, as soon as there is danger of frost, you will need to harvest all of the green, un-ripened tomatoes and bring them inside. Green ones will eventually ripen if kept in a warm place out of direct sunlight. To slowly ripen green tomatoes, and thereby extend your harvest, wrap them in newspaper and place in a dark, cool area (65-70 degrees F), checking frequently to make sure they don’t rot. How do you store them? There is one major rule of tomato storage:...

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