Sunday, February 21, 2016

Frugal Winter Vegetables

Right now, in the middle of winter when it's cold and snowy for most of us, favorite fresh vegetables are at a premium. Lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and the like can only be grown in fields for a few months; the rest of the time they are brought in from other countries or grown in hothouses. Either way, the price is far higher than it is in the summer when such produce is abundant.

But you like fresh vegetables? So do I and I admit to buying lettuce and an occasional tomato or pepper, but I don't eat nearly as many in the winter as in the summer.

To fill in the gaps, winter time provides vegetables that keep well, like carrots and cabbage. Take advantage of that and serve them often. Carrot sticks and cole slaw are great substitutes for pricey salads.

Other vegetables that are cheap in the winter:

  • Potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Kale
  • Brussels Sprouts

Some of these are cheap because they can be grown in cool conditions in southern winter areas but the root crops are usually not "fresh" but keep well in good conditions.

People used to use cellars of various kinds (aka "root" cellars) to keep roots and tubers that matured in late summer or autumn. It's still done now, except that the root cellar tends to be quite a bit larger and is above ground. Temperatures and humidity are controlled with modern technology to provide the best environment for keeping them.

Don't forget about the fruits! Citrus fruit and apples are cheapest now and are of great quality. As the year progresses, quality declines and prices rise, so pay attention and quit eating them when that happens.

Eating seasonally can make a real difference in your food bill.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Least Expensive, Most Nutritious and You Can Grow it- Now!

You might have heard of "superfoods," meaning everything from kale to seaweed, but in the dead of winter, you can grow your own superfood for not very much money at all.

I'm talking about sprouts. You can sprout seeds from beans and peas, brassicas like broccoli and radishes, almost any grain or seed that we eat, like wheat, barley or sunflower seeds (which are usually grown in moist soil instead of water).

The method is simple and absolutely nothing to be afraid of. The idea is to give the seeds enough water to wake them up and start them growing without drowning them or creating an environment where mold or mildew will grow. That's not too hard to do on your kitchen counter top.

There are systems and methods all over the place, but you don't need any of it. You only need to know for sure that the seed you want to sprout won't poison you! Avoid anything from the nightshade family, like tomato, potato and eggplant, huckleberries and so forth. When in doubt, look it up. There's plenty of information on the internet.

The basic method is to clean your seeds and put them in a jar with a lid with holes in it, or simply put a piece of fine netting or coarsely woven material over it and secure with a rubber band. Anyway, put the clean seeds in the jar and cover with water. Let it set overnight or a few hours, then drain (leaving the lid on so you won't lose any seed), pour fresh water over the seeds and drain again. Let the damp seeds set 12 to 24 hours and do it again.

Some seeds will be sprouted to edible size in 24 hours, but most take two to three days. As soon as the sprouts are big enough, rinse one last time and put them in the refrigerator to keep them from growing more. They will keep a few days to a week.

Now... where to get the seed? Do NOT use seed sold for planting, as much of it has been treated with fungicide or pesticide. You can use seed from last year's garden or bought from the grocery store or health store.

A caution: A few seeds expand to a lot of sprouts. A quarter cup of sunflower seeds, for instance, can make a couple of cups of sprouts. Don't sprout more than you can eat in a day or two, because you can always make more.

Look up the way to sprout the seeds you want to try and go for it. You don't need a garden or even a sunny windowsill to grow some of the most nutritious and tasty vegetables ever.