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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Before diving headlong into the world of blogging, I was lucky enough to enjoy a stint working in the fresh air as public programs manager at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Even though I'm no longer making the daily trek up to the 80-acre farm just north of New York City, it's still the first place I think of when anyone mentions wintertime growing.

    There's no season that's not busy at Stone Barns, a nonprofit organization on a mission to change the way America eats and farms. Even in the depths of winter there are greenhouses to maintain and hardy greens to harvest from hoop houses—to say nothing of snow to clear and fences to repair. Four season farm director, Jack Algiere, took a few minutes' break from the cold to share his top tips for wintertime growing. 

    Photographs from Stone Barns Center.

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    1. Think of winter in summer. 

    You may be wiping your brow and fawning over tomatoes while working in your summer garden, but focus part of your mind on the seasons to come. It’s important to think of your garden as a yearlong plan, not separate season plans. The easiest way to do this is to consider the succession of your crops. Are your tomatoes finished in October? That may be too late to plant some fall or winter crops. But it’s the perfect time to plant a cover crop like winter rye. (Stone Barns explains cover cropping here.) Your pea plants are through in July? This is when you can plant many of your winter storage crops. Have a bed opening up in September? Get your winter lettuces, mustards and spinach in then. 

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    2. Stock your soil.
    Just as you may stock your pantry with seasonal dry goods, think about stocking your soil crops to eat through the winter. In July and early August plant carrots, beets, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and celery root. Winter lettuces, mustards and hearty greens can be planted into September and October.

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    3. It’s all in the timing.
    The lack of light and radiance after the fall equinox (September 21) extends the maturation period of plants. All seed packs list “days to maturity” as an indication of when a crop will be ready to harvest. However, these estimations are based on spring light—when the days get longer. So if you plant a seed listed as 30 days to maturity after the equinox—when the days get shorter—you might see as much as a doubling in the days to readiness. Allow plenty of time for crops to mature to full size. 

    4. Be choosey.
    Not all kale is created equal. Even within plant varieties, there are some more suited for winter growing. Choose the heartiest plants. For example, Russian varieties of kale withstand the cold far better that Italian varieties. (See Laura's Gone Wild: How to Grow Vegetables in the Middle of Nowhere for more hardy varieties.)

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    5. Cover up.
    Hearty crops like spinach can be grown over the winter with the added protection of low tunnels you can make out of hardware-found conduit pipe and polyethylene film covers. (Not sure what a low tunnel is? Stone Barns Center explains, here.) If you’re growing kale, mache and carrots through the cold season, you will want to add a second layer of protection, building a higher tunnel over the low tunnel. 

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    6. Plant for your table.
    When planning, try to estimate your winter consumption. Think about how much per week you’d like to eat from your garden. How many pounds of beets or carrots? One squash or four? Look for varieties that will produce what you need and plant accordingly.

    7. Pick when perfect.
    It’s better to harvest crops at their peak and store them in that state, when they are beautiful and ripe, rather than risk rot or flowering in the soil. This may not happen all at once for one crop, you may find half your carrots are ready to go while the other half needs some more time. But you’ll want beets and carrots out before the first hard frost, and cauliflower and cabbage out in December.

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    8. Go to the “store.”
    After harvests of your storage crops, store them! All you need for storage is a cool, dark place. Basements work well, so do coolers. The hope is to discourage further growth and create a stable environment that’s not too hot or too cold. Ideal temperatures are between 55 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Crops like cauliflower, kohlrabi, celery root and cabbages do best in plastic bags inside refrigerators. Potatoes, beets and carrots can be kept in crates packed with soil or sand. 

    And more than anything else? Plant what you love.

    winter growing tips from stone barns center | gardenista

    Eager to see the farm in winter for yourself? Stone Barns Center is open to the public year-round: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

    Need to know how to store your winter harvest? See 5 Favorites: Modern Root Cellars and Roots in the Sand: Winter Vegetable Storage.

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    Wintertime at the farmers' market can be a daunting affair. Vegetables in the winter develop thicker skins—root vegetables, stocky greens, everything covered in a layer of dirt. Just as it takes time to persuade that surly farmer to soften, going local in the winter requires dedication, friendliness, and an open mind. Grab your peelers, square your shoulders, and soon these hard to embrace veggies will be bright spots of flavor, nutrition, and joy in your winter landscape. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    The unsung cousin to everyone's favorite orange vegetable, the carrot, parsnips feature prominently in many winter farmers' markets. While the hairy, thick peel may scare you off, parsnips' exterior belies a smooth, sweet, light flavor that gets sweeter if harvested after the first hard frost.

    No time to peel and slice and boil? Just peel the parsnip and then grate the flesh into your salads, on top of toast and avocado, or in any dish needing a shred of highly nutritious vegetable. Parsnips boast lots of folate, manganese, fiber, and vitamin C for just a few calories. And if you do have the time to make and taste a creamy, peppery, warming parsnip soup, you'll understand why the Romans considered this humble root an impressive aphrodisiac. 

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    Poor Collards. Ever since kale burst onto the scene, with its cutesy curls and hipster street cred, collards have been patiently waiting by the phone. Do yourself a favor and make the call—collards are a perfect winter green. They do well braised and steamed, sautéed or stewed. They can hold up to the hearty flavors of ham or bean, and actually taste better when cooked longer, a rarity in the greens world. It took a Southern roommate (of course! to show me the light on collards—she served them non-traditional style with mashed potatoes, malt vinegar and red onion, and I haven't looked back since. 

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    I'll never forget the first time I had a really good turnip. In a hungry daze while working on a farm, I plucked one out of the ground, brushed off the dirt and bit. To my surprise, the harukei turnip tasted sweet, juicy, and fresh, with just a hint of spice—not at all a Scarlett O'Hara moment.

    While the Japanese varieties can be eaten raw and taste sweet, traditional turnips (the white and purple ones) benefit from being steamed or sautéed, especially with lots of grass-fed butter, salt, and pepper. The trick to turnips is selection—find ones at your market with bright green leaves, touch to make sure they have firm, even skins, and aim for no bigger than golf-ball sizes. You'll never go hungry again.

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    When farmers and grocers first tried to sell Crosnes (or Chinese artichokes) in the States, they marketed them as "white bait." If you see a basketful of this strange little tuber, you can see where they got the imagery, but really? How about "crunchy delights" or "nutty pearls" or "better than a radish?" I can see where the marketers struggled, but do not let the name, or the look, of these babies fool you. The tiny, caterpillar-shaped tubers taste like a mix between a water chestnut and a Jerusalem artichoke. They can be pickled, boiled, steamed, fried, sautéed or eaten raw, and don't require much in the way of peeling or chopping. Try them in salads, steamed with a butter sauce as the French do, or cooked with asparagus, fish or lemon.  

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    I just don't see how you could not embrace these jewel-colored baby cauliflower heads. Cauliflower is another wintery vegetable that seems naturally suited to warm you through snow days, slushy streets, or even, heaven forfend, a certain polar vortex. The carb-y, starchy, meaty texture cries out for hearty soups, stews, braises or stir fries. For an extra-special cauliflower dish, try crumbling the heads into small florets, lightly toasting on a cookie sheet, and using the pleasantly textured result as the base for a salad, a fried egg, or thin strips of sautéed tempeh. Your body as well as your taste buds will thank you—cauliflower's been heralded as a cancer-fighting, detoxifying, and anti-inflammation miracle worker.

    embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista

    Brussels Sprouts

    The health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable sometimes seem to have been impressed upon us since birth, or since high school nutrition class at least.  Let's ignore the health benefits, then, and skip to the fun part—eating them. Brussels sprouts are oft overlooked because they are oft overcooked. When they are cooked for too long, Brussels sprouts emit an unpleasant, sulfurous odor and take on a chewy, bland texture. Not what you want. To shorten cooking time, peel off the very outer leaves and quarter or even cut into eighths. Try steaming for tender, bright results or experiment with julienning raw in a salad with dried fruit and soft cheese to balance the flavors. Brussels sprouts hold up well to tangy, tart flavors such as lemon, mustard, or vinegars. If you're a green juice or smoothie fanatic, you might want to try juicing or blending these little guys—tons of health benefits, no messy countertop strewn with sprout parts. 

      embracing hard to love winter vegetables | gardenista


    Celeriac is definitely the Quasimodo of the vegetable world. Thick, knobbly skin, covered in hairs and roots, dirt wedged in nook and crannies—this celery plant, grown for the root, does not evoke the imagery that food blogs are made of. But there's nothing like a rags to riches story, and to mix my Disney metaphors, celeriac definitely could be the pumpkin that becomes a carriage. Peel, slice and dice celeriac into a tasty, mild treat. Discard the skins, and you're left with a delicate, emerald-white flesh—crisp in salads, creamy in soups, classic in an easy French remoulade. The root lasts for months (!) in a crisper drawer, so you can test-drive your winter vegetable resolve slowly. What dreams may come.

    Don't let vegetables languish in the fridge. See Cheat Sheet: How to Keep Vegetables Fresh Longer.

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    Soup for supper? It's my first first choice most days. But a hurried weeknight is not the time to try out a new soup recipe. Or any recipe, for that matter. You won't need to if you can remember three magic numbers: 4, 2, 1. 

    • 4 cups chopped vegetable 

    • 2 cups stock

    • 1 cup dairy

    That's it. Three ingredients. Works with any root vegetable. It only takes 30 minutes to make. And it's a lot of fun to experiment with ingredients. Here are a few variations I've made so far this month:

    For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below.

    Photographs by Michelle Slatalla except where noted.

    Garden-to-Table carrot scallion soup recipe l Gardenista

    Above: One night last week I got stuck in rush hour traffic, arrived home after dark, and learned that electric power had been shut off to my whole town for much of the day. Soothing solution? Soup for dinner. I made carrot soup, using 4 cups of chopped carrots from the crisper drawer, 2 cups of chicken stock I found in the freezer, and 1 cup of whole milk. I also had some scallions lying around, so I added them to the mix for flavor.

    carrot soup in beaker l Gardenista

    Above: Half an hour later: carrot-scallion soup.

    cauliflower soup DIY l Gardenista

    Above: The other night I was craving spicy, curried Indian food. Soup solution? I made cauliflower soup, flavored with toasted turmeric seeds from the pantry and parsley from my winter garden.

    DIY cauliflower soup recipe ; Gardenista

    Above: This is such a forgiving recipe. When I say "4 cups of chopped vegetable," that means a situation that looks like this.

    Garden-to-table cauliflower soup recipe l Gardenista


    Above: Curried cauliflower soup made with turkey stock from the freezer. I sprinkled chopped chives on top.

    Garden-to-table-tomato soup l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by John Merkl.

    Ever since I canned my garden tomatoes, I've been hoarding the precious jars for something special. Soup is special. I combined 4 cups of canned tomatoes (plus their juices) with chives from the depths of the refrigerator to create...

    Garden-to-Table tomato soup recipe l Gardenista

    Above: Cream of tomato and chive soup. Made with my own garden tomatoes, this tasted like the essence of pure tomato. Only slightly better (because of the cream). You can also use canned tomatoes.


    4-2-1 Vegetable Soup

    Serves 4


    • 4 cups of any raw root vegetable (or combination of vegetables, depending on what you have lying around), such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, celeriac, potato.
    • 2 cups of stock (chicken, beef, turkey, and vegetable stock all work equally well—I've tried them)
    • 1 cup of dairy, such as heavy cream, whole milk, yogurt, or sour cream
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Chopped fresh herbs to taste


    Chop four cups of vegetables and any herbs you feel like adding to the mix. Place in a medium saucepan on the stovetop, add stock, and simmer until vegetables are soft (about ten or 12 minutes).

    Puree the soup, either with the help of an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender. Routine to saucepan over low heat and stir in dairy (do not boil or the mixture will separate). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs or spices you like. Serve immediately.

    Note: If you have any leftovers (highly unlikely), this soup freezes well.


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    Anon, pruning season is upon us (as Shakespeare might have put it had he been an arborist rather than a playwright). With trees and shrubs dormant this month and next, winter is the best time to prune, shape, and cut out dead wood. Some branches are too big for loppers. Enter the generous folks at Garrett Wade, who are giving away a $200 selection of the the company's sharpest saws to a randomly selected reader.

    This is the third—and final—monthly Gardenista giveaway sponsored this winter by Garrett Wade, sellers since 1975 of high-quality tools. From the company's selection of 1,700 garden tools, outdoor equipment, and shop tools, Garrett Wade previously awarded a Gardener's Pruning Tools Collection and a Gardener's Digging Tools Collection to Gardenista readers. Says Garrett Wade vice president Craig Winer, "The last 38 years we've spent combing the world for really well made, interesting tools that will last a lifetime." 

    Garrett Wade will be giving away the $200 saw collection (accompanied here by tips from Garrett Wade product development expert Anthony Francis for using and caring for them) to a randomly selected reader. Here's how to enter:

    Subscribe to our Gardenista Newsletter and leave a comment below describing the winter pruning chores that lay ahead in your garden (if you've started already, congratulations on getting the jump on January). If you are already a Gardenista Newsletter subscriber, mention that in your comment below.

    The deadline is noon Pacific time Tuesday, January 21 and the winner will be announced on January 23. Be sure to check back to see if you've won.

    Photographs courtesy of Garrett Wade.

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: A $200 giveaway collection of Garrett Wade saws and supplies includes a folding Japanese pruning saw; an arborist's trim saw; a professional pruning saw in a leather scabbard (Center); box of oil wipes to clean and lubricate blades $9.95, and a a copy of the second edition of The Pruning Book is $21.95. 

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: From Japan, a large Folding Pruning Saw is easy to carry. In addition to a tooth-pattern, 10-inch-long blade, it also has a steel handle covered in rubber; the saw is $19.95.

    "As you cut through a branch, you don't want added friction—or rust, and all these saws have sharp, stainless steel blades," says Anthony Francis. 

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: An arborist's Short Pole Trim Saw is $46.30.

    "The long handle gives you much more reach before you have to go inside to get a ladder," says Francis.

    If you are cleaning up debris after a storm, make a clean cut at the stump of any torn or broken branches.

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: The arborist's pole trim saw has a 15-inch curved blade; the back of the blade sticks out from the handle and functions as a hook to pull down trimmed branches. 

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: A 14.5-inch Professional Pruning Saw and Scabbard is sheathed in heavy duty harness leather made in Ohio by a company that makes tack for the Amish; it is $96.30 from Garrett Wade.

    "It has a nice natural curvature, which makes cutting a curved branch easier," says Francis.

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: A box of 24 Ballistol Garden Oil Tool Wipes is $9.95. A versatile oil, it can clean and protect leather (except suede), metal, and wood. 

    When cleaning a blade, wipe downward against the blades so you don't snag, says Francis. 

    Gardenisnta Giveaway Garrett Wade saws and tools ; Gardenista

    Above: A revised and updated edition of The Pruning Book by Lee Reich is $21.95. It has hundreds of color photographs, detailed drawings, tips, and tricks for any home gardener facing a pruning challenge.

    Subscribe to our Gardenista Newsletter and read about our previous Gardenista Garrett Wade Giveaways.

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    For a winter arrangement inspired by artichokes, I decided to add poppies as a main floral ingredient.  Artichokes are known as an important winter vegetable in Mediterranean cultures, and poppies, a vibrant and colorful winter flower, are thought to be native to the eastern Mediterranean region. I like the idea of mixing these Mediterranean neighbors. And poppies, which actually are herbs that have been used medicinally for centuries, have the most incredible—and very subtle— scent. Once you smell them, I guarantee you won't be able to stop, and they might become a favorite.

    For step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Photographs by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: California poppies in white orange-y reds and yellows.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Artichokes that have not been cut off from their stems.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: A beautiful bit of foliage from a tree that grows all over California. (I'd love to know what it is, so please comment if you can ID it!)

    I chose a couple of different kinds of foliage for my base—a few stems of banksia, for its resemblance to rosemary, a bunch of geranium (another herb!), and branches of a foraged foliage that I see all over the California landscape (see Above).

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Banksia branches.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: All of my materials.

    Here's what you'll need to recreate the look:

    • 1 bunch of poppies
    • 2 artichokes on the stem
    • 3 branches of banksia
    • 1 bunch of geranium
    • Your choice of foraged (or bought) foliage
    • A wide-mouthed vase about 6 inches in diameter, floral tape, and clippers. 

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Tape grid.

    First, create a grid with floral tape over your vase; leave 1-inch spaces, and tape around the entire edge of the vase as well, to keep your tape grid from lifting after you put water in the vase.  This will help with the structure of your arrangement.  Some people like to work with flower frogs to help keep the structure in their arrangements—they work well, too.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Banksia and artichoke base.

    Next, create a base with the banksia branches.  Measure the stems against the side of the vase before cutting, to get the right length. Put the stems in at a diagonal, and let them rest on the edge of the vase. Make sure the stems reach the bottom of the vase so the arrangement gets as much water as possible and lasts longer. Add the artichoke stems on one side of the arrangement, as if they are growing there.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Unknown California foliage.

    Next, add the other foliages, turning the vase as you go, so you cover the entire arrangement. 

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: Foliage base of banskia, geranium, and artichoke.

    I added a couple stems of succulents on the right side because they helped give the arrangement a nice shape. You can add them or not, or choose another special ingredient with a nice shape. 

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

     Above: Poppies added in a cluster on mostly one side of the arrangement.

    The final step is to add the poppies. It is very important that you burn the poppy stems after each cut.  Poppies let out a sap that is poisonous to themselves, and the stems must be burned for 30 seconds (with a lighter or stove top) or dipped in a cup of boiling water for 30 seconds.  At the flower market, poppies usually come with some open buds and others still in their green bud layers. I used some open buds and some closed, but if you want all of the buds to open, you have to peel off the green bud layer—it will reveal a scrunched poppy that will bloom over the next few days. 

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: By the time I'd finished making the arrangement, the artichoke was entirely surrounded by foliage.
    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Above: The final arrangement.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    For more of Sophia's arrangements, see DIY: A Wild and Foraged Christmas Bouquet and DIY: Office Flowers With a Scent Even Coworkers Will Love.

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    I love artichokes but haven't a clue how to turn the seemingly inviolable bud into a food; I conducted an unscientific poll among friends and realized I was not alone. So I scoured my cookbooks, studied the dictums of artichoke experts, and settled on four basic ways to cook a choke. 

    Fun fact: Nearly all of the country's artichoke supply comes from California; 99.99 percent, in fact, according to the California Artichoke Advisory Board. Though the peak season is springtime (the "Artichoke Capital of the World," Castroville, CA, holds its annual Artichoke Festival in May), artichokes are grown yearround throughout Northern and Southern California. I left the market last week with an armful of organic chokes from Ocean Mist Farms, a family-owned outfit that just happens to be the country's single largest producer of artichokes.

    N.B. If you know your way around an artichoke (or a kitchen, for that matter), leave us your tips in the comments below. 

    Photography by Meredith Swinehart.

    Artichokes on Marble, Ready to Be Cooked, Gardenista

    Prepping artichokes for cooking

    I'm not the first to express wonder at whoever discovered that the artichoke is edible. I know it's edible, and getting at the food part still confounds me.



    Artichokes Ready to Be Scrubbed and Washed, Gardenista

    Step 1: Scrub and rinse

    Gently scrub artichokes under cold water to remove the bitter protective film artichokes produce as they grow.

    Artichokes Being Trimmed with Serrated Knife, Gardenista

    Step 2: Trim tops

    Cut off the top inch of the bud using a sharp serrated knife. (Hold the artichoke very firmly with one hand; a tight bunch of leaves will be far easier to cut.)

    Artichokes with Long and Short Stems, Gardenista

    Step 3: Trim stems only as needed

    The stem is an extension of the heart, so there's no need to cut it off. Trim the bottommost scar, or cut as short as necessary so the artichoke will fit into your cooking vessel. (Some say that the longer a stem extends, the stringier it becomes; consider peeling the outermost layer of a long stem.)

    Artichokes with Sharp Tips Cut Off, Gardenista

    Optional: Trim tips

    Cutting off the pointed artichoke tips with kitchen shears produces a professional-looking choke. Personally, I found this step tedious and have no intention of doing it again. However, sometimes the tips are actually very sharp; in those cases trimming the tips would be a great idea.

    Artichoke with Top Trimmed, Ready to Be Rubbed with Lemon, Gardenista

    Optional: Rub cut ends with lemon juice

    This step features in nearly every recipe for artichokes I read, but several chefs I admire noted that it isn't really necessary. The lemon juice will prevent browning where the artichoke was cut, so consider doing this if you want your artichokes to look their best.

    Cut Artichokes, One Rubbed with Lemon and One Without, Gardenista

    Lemon juice does help

    I conducted yet another unscientific study: I trimmed two artichokes and left them sitting out for 30 minutes. I rubbed lemon juice onto the artichoke on the left, and did nothing to the one on the right.

    Stainless Steel Steamer Basket, Gardenista

    Method 1: Steamed artichokes

    Use a steamer basket if you have one and fill a pot with water just up to the bottom of the basket. If you don't have a steamer basket, just fill an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pot. 

    Artichokes in Steamer Basket, Gardenista

    Place artichokes buds down in steamer basket

    Steam the artichokes with a lid on for from 30 to 40 minutes, until the stalk no longer resists a knife. A word to any fellow kitchen idiots: Even with the lid on, the steam will escape. If all the steam escapes, your range will char your pan. I knew this, but I did it anyway in the making of this post. You've been warned.

    Boiling Artichokes, Gardenista

    Method 2: Boiled artichokes

    Make sure artichokes are completely covered in water, and boil for from 30 to 40 minutes. (Try placing a smaller lid inside the pot to keep the artichokes underwater.) Remove the chokes when the stalk no longer resists a knife.

    Preparing Artichokes to be Baked, Gardenista

    Method 3: Baked artichokes

    Drizzle olive oil inside the leaves of the choke, stuff with some minced garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Wrap each artichoke in aluminum foil, twice, so that oil and water don't leak out. Bake the artichokes at 400 degrees for from 60 to 90 minutes, until you can easily pierce the stalk with a knife.

    Ingredients to Prep Artichokes for Slow Cooker, Gardenista

    Method 4: Slow-cooked artichokes

    Ocean Mist recommends drizzling olive oil and lemon juice between the leaves of the artichokes, and stuffing in some minced garlic. Add about 2 inches of liquid (they recommend white wine and water) to a slow cooker to keep the artichokes moist. Cook on high for from 3-three to 4 hours or on low for from 7 to 8 hours, stems down.

    Steamed and Boiled Artichokes, Gardenista

    Results: Steamed and boiled artichokes

    The steamed and boiled artichokes were similar in cooking time and appearance, but the steamed chokes had a lot more flavor; served hot or cold, the steamed artichokes were my favorite preparation. Personally, I won't be boiling artichokes again. It was irritating to make them stay underwater, and I didn't like how their flavor was sapped. 

    Baked Artichokes in Blue Heath Ceramics Bowl, Gardenista

    Results: Baked artichokes

    These turned out as you might expect; with a darker, richer (baked) flavor. These would make a good foil to heavier sauces, and friends tell me that baked artichokes are ideal stuffed. 

    Slow Cooked Artichoke, Gardenista

    Results: Slow-cooked artichokes

    My slow cooker seems incapable of destroying food the way I've coerced all other cooking tools into doing. These artichokes were perfectly soft, so that more of each leaf was edible than other preparations allowed.

    Expand your winter vegetable repertoire further with the recipe for Mollie Katzen's Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion

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    When it comes down to it, the choice of the best kitchen knife is as personal as the palm of the hand that holds it. Yes, a good chef's knife needs to meet some minimum requirements: a high-quality steel or ceramic blade, superior craftsmanship holding the parts together with a tight fit, a durable handle, and well-balanced design. The knife is an extension of your hand, so how it feels, fits, and maneuvers is going to be different for every cook (hold before you buy!).  We asked our editors to share their go-to kitchen knife; the one knife that they can't live without. Here are the results:

    Global Chef's Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Alexa's pick is the Global GF-33 Heavyweight Chef's Knife (her mom, a former chef, swears by her set of Global knives) because she likes its stainless steel blade, and for her knives to have a little weight to them, like good piano keys. Michelle agrees. She bought this knife as a gift for her husband years ago, and it has become her favorite: "It has a nice heavy handle and the blade holds an edge well." It has a unique single-piece all-metal design and an 8.25-inch-long blade; $148 at Amazon.

    Kyocera Ceramic Chef's Knife, Gardenista

    Above: "One Christmas, my sister-in-law from Taiwan brought me a Kyocera ceramic knife, and I have been a convert ever since," says London editor Christine. "I especially like its light weight and manageability." The Kyocera Revolution Ceramic Chef's Knife has a 6-inch ceramic blade and a resin handle; $59.95 at Williams-Sonoma.

    wusthof classic hollow-ground santoku knife | gardenista  

    Above: Erin's knife of choice is the Wusthof Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku Knife. "A true creature of habit, I reach for this knife every time I make dinner. At just 5 inches long, I can manage it more easily than I can our 7-inch chef's knife," says Erin. The high-carbon-steel blade has shallow oval-shaped depressions that keep foods from adhering to it; $89.95 from William-Sonoma.

    Berti Chef's Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Justine is coveting the Coltellerie Berti Chef's Knife. Handmade in Tuscany, the knife features a finely balanced stainless steel blade and lucite handle; $296 at Quitokeeto.

    Robert Murphy Chef's Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Francesca is hooked on R. Murphy knives (thanks to the Wellfleet Oyster Knife). She recently acquired the American-made R. Murphy 8-Inch Chef's Knife. "I love the wood handle and handmade feel," she says. The blade is handmade, of carbon steel with a curved edge perfect for the rocking motion used for mincing and fine chopping; $90 through R. Murphy.

    Opinel Number 8 Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Kendra keeps an Opinel No. 8 Knife by the back door. Not your ordinary chef's knife, it's supposed to be for gardening. But, as Kendra says, "It's brilliant for paring fruit, so it only finds its way outdoors if we are eating in the garden. I love it because it's always sharp while my kitchen knives are permanently blunt." It's $14.95 through Opinel. Image by Jim Powell.

    Schmidt Brothers Chefs Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Margot has her eyes on the Schmidt Bros. Cutlery Carbon 6 Chef's Knife with a high-carbon German steel blade attached to an unpolished steel handle with a contrasting black scorched finish (heated to 2,750 degrees). The handle is shaped with a space to put your forefinger to easily guide the knife; $49.95 at Crate & Barrel. 

    Pallares Solsona Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Next on Sarah's list is the Pallares Solsona Kitchen Knife, a beautifully designed multi-purpose kitchen knife made from carbon steel, sold by Heidi Swanson's Quitokeeto and recommended by Lisa Minucci of Heritage Artifacts— two people who know their way around a kitchen. Hand-fashioned in Spain from carbon steel with a boxwood handle, it's $49.

    Best Made Masanobu Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Isabella has the Masanobu VG-10 Petty Knife on her wish list. Made in Japan, the knife features a very thin blade crafted of strong hard-wearing Japanese steel and a traditional octagonal wood handle; $195 at Best Made.

    Wusthof Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: The Wusthof Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife is my go-to kitchen knife. I like the weighty blade and uses it for tasks big and small. Made with a high carbon forged stainless steel blade, it's $129.95 at Amazon.

    Nakiri Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Designed for cutting vegetables, Nakiri knives are versatile tools in the kitchen. Julie is hoping to add this Nakiri Knife ($279.50 NZD through Everyday Goods) to her arsenal. The similar Shun Classic Hollow Ground Nakiri Knife is available for $139.95 at Williams-Sonoma.  

    Mercer Cutlery Chef's Knife, Gardenista  

    Above: Looking for a practical and budget-friendly quality knife? Consider the highly rated Mercer Cutlery Renaissance 8-Inch Chef's Knife; $51.90 at Amazon.

    Take good care of your knives with Expert Advice from the Town Cutler.

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    We're deep in the heart of winter, but there are still delightful things to eat straight from the garden. Here, we've rounded up some winter food favorites from the Gardenista Photo Gallery, a collection of nearly 4,000 images sorted by color, style, season, and more. Browse our gallery of Winter Edibles, and find further inspiration below:

    Cabbage and Kale in Leila's Shop, Gardenista

    Above: We love the look of Leila's Shop in London—not to mention her beautiful produce. See for yourself in Shopper's Diary: Leila's Way with Fruit and Vegetables, then browse all 40 Shop Interiors in our gallery.

    Oranges with Cinnamon and Sugar, Gardenista

    Above: Though it's part of Christmas breakfast tradition in Erin Boyle's and Olivia Rae James' families, this orange preparation is new to me: broiled and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. (I'll try it for dessert.) Learn more in DIY: A Menu for Christmas Morning, and welcome some color in January via our Orange gallery.

    Rapini, Edible Winter Green, Gardenista

    Above: Rapini leaves make a smart winter-greens salad, as do mizuna and erbette. Learn about these varieties and more in Sow Now For Winter Salad, then browse our images of individual Plants & Seeds.

    Celeriac Bulbs for Winter Gratin, Gardenista

    Above: Maybe raw celeriac bulbs don't whet the appetite, but take a look at the gratin that Erin transforms them into: Baking Bulbs: Celeriac Gratin with Thyme and Gruyere. Or browse bulbs of the flowery kind in our gallery of 137 images of Bulbs & Tubers.

    Cauliflower Soup with Curry Oil, Gardenista

    Above: This cauliflower soup with homemade curry oil is an ideal winter recipe: It doesn't call for any out-of-season produce and is a welcome antidote to too many Christmas cookies. Find the recipe among our obsessions in The Week in Review: 10 Days of Christmas and a Poinsettia at Gunpoint. The soup would also be a fitting starter to a more formal evening meal, which has me thinking about our gallery of Tablescapes.

    Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds, Gardenista

    Above: Take a look at Erin's recipe for kale salad—a delightful primer if you don't know what to do with kale—in Fall Favorite: Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds. Then see what looks good to you in our gallery of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    For more fun in the gallery, visit our collections of British Style Gardens, Houseplants, and Pink in the Garden.

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    The city that I live in promises to have everything, and yet, each winter there is a certain dearth of palatable tomatoes. Perhaps I am not the first to notice that the tomatoes in the supermarket—beautiful, orange-ish red and polished to a gloss—taste all wrong, somehow mealy and watery at the same time. But as a person who can bite into a good tomato and eat it like an apple (with or without a splash of balsamic vinegar), I have higher expectations. In a century when a man can fall in love with a disembodied voice—yes, I just saw Her—we should be able to find a winter tomato that actually tastes of tomato. So the other day I set off on a quest to find the world's best-tasting tomato. In January.

    Oh, reader. It turned out to be harder than I thought. And I had to taste some less than delicious tomatoes along the way. But in the end? Worth every bite:

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista

    I have become suspicious about supermarket produce. Perhaps you can see why. It’s all so beautifully laid out, so polished and perfect looking, that it gives the impression it will taste good. This is not always the case (see Above)  and it makes me feel like a victim of false advertising. Plus, importing this produce from halfway around the world leaves a carbon footprint the size of Texas. Many  mass-produced, tasteless tomatoes grown in distant, warmer climates such as Florida were picked by laborers who live like slaves (see: Tomatoland, an excellent exposé of the industry). So I turned my back on New York City grocers' pretty pretenders in favor of their ugly (but perhaps more honest) cousins: the canned and the jarred.

    These are the tomatoes who have given up their pride. Tomato growing is a $2 billion a year industry in the US, and about 89 percent of the harvest meets this same fate. Before being preserved, canned or jarred tomatoes typically get peeled and sometimes soaked in brine. The look? Naked and salty. Like fingers after an hour in the bath.

    But preserved produce comes from a rich tradition. Earlier generations of tomato lovers were happy to have it, certainly. It's a new idea, and one that is basically confined to the instant gratification cultures of Europe and the US, that we should be able to eat any kind of produce year-round with no regard to its seasonality. If our parents and grandparents wanted to eat out-of-season fruits or vegetables when they were living in their little houses on the prairie, they had to plan far enough in advance to jar or can it themselves.

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista

    Above: In the US, tomatoes are the fourth most popular raw vegetable (trailing potatoes, lettuce, and onions). But would you eat these? Thought not.

    Tomatoes, in their natural state, are not genetically outfitted to be bicoastal or to cross continents. It seems like an anachronism for produce to “go bad” these days, with all the genetic changes we have made to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. Basically, scientists have altered the genetics of tomatoes that travel—the jetsetters of the tomato world—so they will survive the trip and look fresh on the other end. But these modifications sacrifice nutrition as well as taste.

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista  

    Above: March Dry Roasted Tomatoes, $12 a jar.

    My scientific method: I decided it would be most fair to conduct a taste test of several brands of canned and jarred tomatoes, including both fancy and expensive brands and more modest supermarket varieties. Of course, I started with the most expensive. 

    Possibly the classiest tomatoes I have ever tasted are the dry farmed tomatoes from March (mea culpa: I had them shipped from California). One of the pitfalls of canned and jarred tomatoes is that they can taste salty or briny, which distracts the palate from that signature tomato taste—or can be used to cover up the fact that the tomatoes used were not high quality. That is not the case with March Dry Roasted Tomatoes. The tomatoes were clearly selected with care. Their texture is supple and soft; the tomatoes burst in your mouth with savory pop of flavor. I want to guzzle them like the strange, tart candy they are. Unfortunately, at $12 a jar, I feel I should probably refrain. These are tomatoes to be saved for a real occasion, when winter really feels like too much.

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista  

    The next candidate: an organic option, whole peeled tomatoes from Bionaturae. Unlike the March tomatoes which had been jarred in the most aesthetically pleasing manner possible, the Bionaturae tomatoes are really no-frills. Green and white bits float around in the juice. Looking at those lumpy, peeled forms reminded me, somewhere in my mind, of hairless cats: cute but definitely missing something.

    With Bionaturae, there is no brine and no added sodium. This is probably healthy. But the result is less flavorful than the saltier ones. No-frills, I think, is not necessarily the answer here. At $5 per can, these were significantly less than the jarred March jars, but still not cheap.  

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista  

    Above: Ubiquitous San Marzano tomatoes.

    On to the obvious contenders: You can find San Marzano tomatoes without a hitch at your local grocery store. The packaging reminds me of home, where we used to make our own pasta sauce out of whole, peeled tomatoes from jars and cans. (Plus, you can use these particular San Marzano tomatoes to make modern art. The stacks of them in my kitchen look very Warhol). These tomatoes are saltier than the Bionaturae tomatoes, but not so salty that they taste fake. The juice that they are soaking in isn’t so much brine as what I’d call “tomato water.” The San Marzano tomatoes earned extra points because they proved perfect for a simple pasta sauce I made, à la maison.

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista  

    And in the other corner: At the store Sclafani canned tomatoes called out to me because of their colorful packaging and great price at just over $3 a can. Plus, the name Sclafani makes me want to say it with an Italian accent and that I’m-speaking-Italian hand gesture if you know what I mean. (Hm, I’ve been to Italy once and no one did that.) But back to the tomatoes. The thing is, these peeled, canned tomatoes taste just like peeled, canned tomatoes. There is no spirit of trying to pretend to taste like a fresh tomato. Which I respect. These are saltier and more sugary, and they live in a bath of slightly richer broth—that I could’ve used in the sauce. So I did the only thing I could and made an oven-baked pizza. 

    in search of a tomato in winter | gardenista

    And the winner is?

    There is nothing like a farm-fresh summer heirloom tomato. For me to tell you otherwise would be irresponsible. But if I had to try to replicate the taste on a budget, what I found is that there are varieties out there that come, okay, kind of close-ish. Good enough for government work. (As my parents used to say…who worked for the government.) Making a pasta sauce or a pizza is a tomato to-MAH-toe kind of endeavor: the fruits themselves don’t matter nearly as much as the spices you choose and the amount of vino you drink. That said, in a situation where If I decide to serve plainer tomatoes or inherit a $1 million bequest that comes with the stipulation that I use it to pimp out my pantry, I'll be stocking up on March tomatoes.

    My next project, after summer arrives, will be to jar my own tomatoes. I suggest you do same.

    What is your winter tomato story? Any great jarred or canned tomatoes I’ve missed? Advice for me as I embark on jarring my own? 

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    To the untrained eye, the people working the soil in the New Roots community garden on the campus of Laney College in Oakland, CA may look quite ordinary. But if you inquire further, you will learn that gardening is actually a gateway into a new life.  

    The one eighth of an acre vegetable patch is a project of the International Rescue Committee, an organization that works in 40 countries around the world to assist people forced to flee their homelands. Thousands of refugees arrive in California each year, many of them in the Oakland area. If they are very lucky they may end up under the guidance of Zack Reidman, the program coordinator at the New Roots Garden.

    Photographs by J. P. Dobrin.

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    Above: Formerly a resident of the East Coast, Reidman has been working in urban horticulture in Oakland for several years. He was drawn to the plight of refugees because he says they often come from farming areas but have to settle in cities where they have little or no access to land on which to grow things.  

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    Above: The 15 gardeners, from such distant and troubled places as Burma and Bhutan, work together to grow the ingredients used to make favorite dishes from home.  Many have agrarian backgrounds and tend to be skilled gardeners but they are unfamiliar with the northern California climate. Reidman teaches them the rudiments, and in the process they also learn English and create a community of like-minded people.

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    Above: Fridays are harvest days.  Anyone who works in the garden on Friday gets a share of whatever is picked. Often there is a picnic with dishes made from last week's bounty.  

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    Above: Excess produce is sold to a CSA or at a farmers' market. The entrepreneurial side of farming is something Reidman would like to develop so the gardeners can contribute earnings as well as healthy food to their households.

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    Above: The garden began last April and is now in winter mode, which in Oakland means cool weather crops including lettuce, brassicaceae—such as cauliflower and broccoli—and the New Roots garden's most prolific crop, mustard greens.

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

     Above: Everything is grown from seed, and decisions about what to grow are made by the gardeners themselves, although sometimes it proves impossible to get seeds for plants that are unknown here in the US.

    New Roots edible garden l Gardenista

    For Zack Reidman, the joy of working at New Roots is seeing both the crops and the gardeners thrive.  As he says, it is the very basic joys of life that are being cultivated—the celebration of and sharing of food as well as a community spirit that nurtures the newcomers and helps to ease their way into life in America.  

    For further reading on gardening in Oakland, CA check out A Simple Garden In Oakland.

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    It was my husband's idea to buy the $75 jar of honey. My philosophy on such extravagances is always to say yes (it distracts him from how much I spend on shoes).

    My husband saw the honey while we were wandering the aisles at the recent Remodelista Market in San Francisco, where 101 Cookbooks blogger Heidi Swanson had set up a table to sell her Quitokeeto collection of kitchen tools, cookbooks and—enormous jars of the most beautiful, marbled honey in the world.

    The sunlight caught the honey, which had fractal streaks of whiteness clinging to the jar. My husband stopped, and a look came over his face last seen on Winnie the Pooh. He started to behave disturbingly like the little bear, kind of shuffling his feet and rubbing his hands together. When Swanson offered him a sniff, I had to wrench it from his hands for fear he'd get his head stuck inside the jar.

    "It smells like flowers and lemon and the sea," he reported.

    We paid cash.

    Photographs by Michelle Slatalla except where noted.

    Quitokeeto $75 jar of honey Heidi Swanson ; Gardenista

    Above: A 2.2-pound jar of Classe Ouvrière Miel Brut du Printemps is $75 from Quitokeeto.

    What's so special about this honey?  "It is a rare, raw, seasonal honey produced strictly in the springtime by bee colonies kept by the Trigaux and Potvin families near the Canadian Gaspe coastline," says Swanson.

    But really, it's the way it looks and the way it tastes. You might think that a jar of honey this big would last a long time. Of course "long" is a relative term when you live with a kindly bear. We've had the Classe Ouvrière Miel Brut du Printemps for a month now, and have made a substantial dent.

    Quitokeeto honey in Heidi Swanson's kitchen ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Heidi Swanson.

    Here's what lured him: the jars of honey in an irresistible row.

    honey quitokeeto Heidi Swanson; Gardenista

    Above: We eat the honey on oatmeal and on toast and in salad dressing and in steaming hot mugs of black Ceylon tea. The honey is solid and waxy, and we have to dig it out of the jar with spoons. This heightens it.

    What will we do when the honey runs out? 

    It turns out Honey Bear-ism runs in my husband's family. My brother-in-law Seth scored a jerry can of African honey brought from Mali by a friend. It's altogether different honey, made by bees that feast on shea trees. It's brown and runny and tastes like grainy molasses. So we'll get by.

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    The average American family throws away 20 pounds of food a month.  And by "average," I mean me. This is the equivalent of stumbling upon a buried pirate's chest full of jewels and gold doubloons—and then leaving it there to rot. 

    Last night I committed a crime in the kitchen: I scraped the dinner plates into the sink and hit the "on" switch on the disposal.  Past mistakes (I used to collect scraps in a mixing bowl on the countertop, where they attracted flies, looked ugly, and developed a rather distinctive scent by the time I transferred them to the compost bin in the backyard) have made me reluctant.  But really? That's no excuse when there are so many stylish and odorless options. Here are ten countertop compost pails (which one should I buy)?

    What do you do with your table scraps? Do you compost? Tell me about your technique in the comments section below:

    galvanized compost bucket from gardeners supply

    Above: Photograph via Gardener's Supply.

    The things to look for in a countertop compost bucket are: a wide mouth (to make it easy to throw in scraps of all sizes); an tight-fitting lid (to trap odors inside), and a handle for easy transport to the backyard compost bin. 

    west elm countertop compost bucket  

    Above: A Stainless Steel Composter with a 1-gallon capacity is $39.95 from West Elm.

    compost pail williams sonoma

    Above: A 1-gallon Brushed Stainless Steel Composter has a charcoal filter in the lid to absorb odors; it's $39.95 from Williams-Sonoma.

      galvanized bucket with lid for countertop compost

    Above: Spotted, via Little Red Farmhouse, a simple galvanized pail as compost bucket. A similar Galvanized Charcoal or Ash Can With Lid is 13 inches high; it's $24.99 from

      stainless steel compost bin from target

    Above: A Natural Home Stainless Steel Compost Bin with filter has a 1.3-gallon capacity and is $29.99 from Target.

      metal compost bucket galvanized gardeners

    Above: A 7-inch-high, 1-gallon Brushed Stainless Steel Compost Pail is dishwasher safe; it's $29.95 from Gardener's Supply.

    sage green compost bucket with metal lid

    Above: A Deluxe Sage Green Compost Bucket has a stainless steel lid and is $27.17 from Fruugo.

    achla white compost bucket

    Above: A White Ceramic Compost Bin holds one gallon and is dishwasher safe. It has a vented lid and a charcoal filter and is $28 from Buy Green.

    white compost bucket from achla

    Above: A 12-inch-high Kitchen Compost Pail by Achla has a white enamel powder coat finish; $72.99 from Vintage Tub.

    white ceramic compost pail from nature mill

    Above: At 10.5 inches high, a Ceramic Countertop Compost Pail has a 1-gallon capacity and is $49.99 from Nature Mill.

    enameled compost bin from marquis & dawe

    Above: An enamel Kitchen Compost Bin in Cream is £13.95, available seasonally from Marquis & Dawe.

    For a built-in compost bin, see 5 Quick Fixes: In-Counter Compost Solutions

    N.B. This is an update of a post originally published May 9, 2013.

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    Dried fruits are hailed by many as a quick and healthy bite for this "on-the-go" world. But hidden sugars and high prices are less than ideal. So we tried our hand at making healthy dried fruits at home, to see just how easy it is to make our own low cost, low sugar snack.

    For step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Photography by Justine Hand.

    dried fruit at home, fruit, Gardenista

    Above: On my counter, a veritable cornucopia of fresh fruit waits to be dried.

    So...what is the skinny on the nutritional value of dried fruit?

    Dried fruits retain much of their essential vitamins and antioxidants, but when you heat fruit, it loses some vitamins (like C and A), as well as minerals such as calcium and potassium. According to the women's health website Life Script, a fresh, raw apricot has 90.6 milligrams of potassium. That same apricot, after being dried, only has 40.7 milligrams of potassium.

    For those watching their weight, it is important to note that dried fruit also maintains its original sugars, and therefore, calories. For example, half of a dried apricot has the same calories as half a fresh apricot. But because dried fruit is less filling (and smaller in volume), you tend to eat more. Again according to Life Script, 1/2 cup of fresh apricots has 74 calories, while 1/2 cup of dried fruits has 313! In some fruits such as blueberries, drying can double or triple the sugar, so be careful of calorie content.

    But that's never stopped anyone from eating it. Dried fruit has been enjoyed by humans for many millennia, with the earliest mention from a Mesopotamia dating from 1700 BC. Throughout ancient times and beyond, from China to Rome, dried fruit continued to be prized for its longevity, portability, and tastiness. 

    In ancient times, dried fruit was pretty DIY. Today, there are whole supermarket aisles devoted to dried fruit, where it is promoted as a healthy snack. But too often store brands are loaded with extra sugar or cost a premium.

    Fortunately, it is still quite simple to make your own dried fruit at home, and not terribly labor intensive. Last fall I tried the oldest method of dehydrating fruit—drying apples in the sun. This week I put more modern methods to the test and delved deeper into the nutritional merits of dried fruit.

    dried fruit at home, washing fruit, Gardenista

    Above: Before you slice, make sure your fruit is thoroughly washed and dried.

    Almost any fruit can be dried. (But as I found out, some are easier than others.) The most important thing is to choose the best quality fruit you can. The fresher it is when you dry it, the more nutritious and tastier it will be when dried.

    Which fruit worked best? 

    Apples and pears! They dried the fastest and with the most consistent results. I will say though that if you are only going to dry these two, the sun-drying method works just fine. We're still enjoying the apples I dried in the window last fall.

    Pineapples were also delicious, but took a long time to dry. I made the mistake of slicing my apricots in half, like commercial brands. This was too thick and it took more than hours for these to dry. Blueberries took a long time, but these are among the most expensive in stores, so it was worth the wait. At this point, I would not recommend bananas to an amateur. Both in the oven and the dehydrator, they just came out like little brown lumps, even after the lemon bath. Too bad. Anyone have any tips here?

    Also, in the future, I would dry one type of fruit at a time. Constantly checking the oven and dehydrator slowed the drying process.

    dried fruit at home, slicing fruit, Gardenista

    Above: If you so desire, peel the fruit before you slice it. Also remove pits, seeds, or stems. Then cut it into 1/4-inch thick slices.

    dried fruit at home, Solvi slices, gardenista

    Above: Drying fruit is an excellent activity for kids. Here my daughter Solvi slices bananas using a safe Plastic Knife, available at Montessori N'Such; $4.50. 

    dried fruit at home, citrus prep, Gardenista

    Above: Fruits such as apples, pears, apricots, and bananas can oxidize into an unattractive brown. Pre-treatment with citrus or ascorbic acid helps these fruits maintain their fresh color, prolongs shelf life, and aids in the retention of essential vitamins, like C. (I thought it made them taste better too.)

    To pre-treat with lemon juice, mix a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part lemon juice. After slicing, immediately submerge the fruit and let soak for from five to ten minutes. Then remove and let dry. 

    Ascorbic acid can be found at your local grocery store. To use this method, follow the directions of the package.

    dried fruit at home, loading tray, Gardenista

    Above: After the fruit is sliced and pre-treated, arrange it in the dehydrator tray. Make sure the pieces do not overlap, as this can impeded the drying process. Since fruits dry at different rates depending on the thickness and water content, it is advisable to group like fruit together. 

    dried fruit at home, drying temp, Gardenista

    Above: In order to retain as much of the heat-sensitive vitamins A and C as possible, fruits are dried at a low temperature, from 130 to 140 degrees. This takes a minimum of four hours depending on many things: humidity of the air, amount and type of fruit, and thickness of the cut. Check your fruit periodically and pick out any pieces that are dry.

    There are many hydrators available that range from small to industrial size. For my project, I chose a countertop Gardenmaster from Nesco; $130. With four trays, it holds a good amount of fruit.

    dried fruit at home, oven method, Gardenista

    Above: In addition to the dehydrator, I also tried oven drying. This method is ideal for those who want to dabble in dried fruits or try it before investing in a dehydrator.

    To dry fruits in the oven, many sites recommend simply arranging them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I did not find this very effective, so later I placed larger chunks on a rack above the cookie sheet to speed up the drying time.

    As in the dehydrator, the oven temperature should be quite low, about 140 degrees, in order to maintain vitamin levels. Make sure you prop open the door to let out the steam.

    dried fruit at home, storage, Gardenista

    Above: Strawberries dried in the dehydrator. After fruit is dry, immediately place it in an airtight container, and store in a dark, dry place until you are ready to enjoy it.

    dried fruit at home, snack, Gardenista

    Above: I'm going to use my dried fruit as a healthy school snack. (See above to see just how healthy it is.)

    dried fruit at home, results, Gardenista

    Above: Results from the dehydrator (L to R): my pineapple, apples, blueberries, pears, and apricots were actually tastier than many store-bought samples I've tried.

    The Results:

    Drying fruit at home was definitely worth it, especially when you consider the cost savings. But it does take a significant amount of time, so make sure you plan your drying when someone will be home all day.

    In the end, I have to say that the Nesco dehydrator produced more predictable results than the oven. It dried the fruit faster and more evenly, and the fruit retained more of its original color. The dehydrator also allows you to dry more fruit at once, especially if you add more trays.

    N.B. Erin recently had better luck with her oven drying. Check out her DIY on Dried Fruit Garland

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    It's winter, so we feel like hibernating. (Yes, that's a synonym for "snacking"—so what?)  It's January, so we don't feel like giving up our doomed eat-healthier-in-2014 New Year's resolutions just yet. Enter Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars. 

    We spotted this recipe via He Needs Food, where blogger John Bek makes a pan of Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars nearly every week, just to have around. For afternoon snacks. Sign us up.

    For ingredients, and step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Subscribe to our newsletter to get a new Garden-to-Table Recipe every week.

    Photographs courtesy of He Needs Food.

    Recipe Quinoa Fruit Nut Bars via He Needs Food ; Gardenista

    Above: This is a soft and crumbly bar, not a crunchy one. Thank God.

    Recipe Quinoa Fruit Nut Bars via He Needs Food ; Gardenista

    Above: For breakfast, you can crumble a bar into yogurt.

    Recipe Quinoa Fruit Nut Bars via He Needs Food ; Gardenista

    Above: The recipe calls for three cups of dried fruit—you can substitute your favorite varieties if you want.

    Quinoa Fruit and Nut Bars

    Adapted from He Needs Food

    Makes 12


    • 1 cup quinoa flakes
    • 1 cup almonds, whole
    • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
    • 1 slightly heaped cup of dried apple 
    • 1 slightly heaped cup dried cranberries
    • 1 slightly heaped cup dried apricots 
    • ½ cup fruit juice
    • ¼ cup mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds (plus a little extra to garnish)


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking tray place the quinoa, almonds, and coconut. Mix together using your hands and spread evenly over the tray. Bake for from 6 to 7 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool.

    In a processor add the toasted quinoa mix, the dried fruits and seeds—and blitz until finely chopped. While the motor is still running, pour in the juice and keep it running until it starts to come together.

    Line an 8-by-10-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Tumble in the mixture and press down evenly and firmly. Sprinkle on top some extra sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and press those down as well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before slicing. Simple.

    What I do is slice up the completed slab of mixture after it has refrigerated overnight, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. That way the bars are ready to take to work for snacks or to put in the kids' lunch boxes (rather than those manufactured muesli bars that are loaded with preservatives and excessive sugar).

    Subscribe to our newsletter to get a new Garden-to-Table Recipe every week.

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    Vegetable growers in the UK love their allotments: ornamental kitchen gardens are for other people. With every plot a hymn to recycled chicken wire and corrugated iron, the wartime Dig for Victory spirit is alive and well. Peter Montague, who tends a double plot in Northamptonshire, shows us around:

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

    UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: View of Peter's sheds from the sizable muck heap. It's full of unglamourous things like nets and ancient forks, and he doesn't worry about locking up or even closing the doors: there are none. Leaving anything valuable at an allotment is strongly discouraged, even with security. There is surprisingly little food theft: it is more likely to be shared.

    This is how British allotments work: "When you go down there at the weekend, the chances of seeing everyone at work are practically nil," says Mary, Peter's wife. "They're too busy standing around chatting to each other."

    Cavolo Nero, UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Netted Cavolo Nero, grown from seed in Peter's greenhouse. "Eat Cavolo Nero within three hours of picking," advises Peter. "Otherwise it's foul." This applies to all kale, cabbage and sprouts.

    A retired scientist, Peter explains that brassicas are only a molecule away from mustard gas. Bruising and ageing encourage these types of vegetables to emit an odor, an indelible school memory for many Brits. Grow and harvest them yourself: Cavolo Nero of Tuscany from Seeds of Italy £1.99 per seed packet. For US readers, Grow Italian supplies Kale Cavolo Nero seeds for $3.15 per packet.

    UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: A curiously long Brussels sprouts "cage," running more than half the length of a neighboring plot, with its contents netted against pigeons.

    The enthusiasm for sprouts displayed here must bear out Peter's advice that they taste completely different when they are absolutely fresh and cooked properly.

    Beetroot, UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Just-dug beetroot.

    This could become soup so easily if taken indoors, scrubbed, boiled for a couple of hours, skinned, and blended. Keeping the cooking water, add a teaspooon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a dollop of sour cream at the end. Adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's How to Eat (available in hardcover for $22.84 from Amazon).

    Calendula in winter. UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Calendula growing around the deer fence. "Pot marigold blooms every day of the year," Peter reminds us. The summery petals jolly up a winter salad.

    Peter's plot is so prolific that he made up vegetable boxes for his daughters at Christmas and probably could every week. This year each box had: A stalk of Brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, celeriac, carrots, beetroot, onion (stored), garlic and shallots (ditto), and herbs: parsley, bay, thyme.

    Plus: homemade redcurrant jelly, crab apple jelly, apple chutney.

    UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: The allotment backs on to open Northamptonshire country.

    These allotments are very picturesque compared with their urban relations and much cheaper, coming in at about £20 ($30) per year in rent. They lack amenities: there is no water supply. Contraptions for conserving water are complicated, and the accepted vernacular is always the shabbier side of chic. It's deeply uncool to have an expensive-looking shed or even a new one.

    Spinach beet, UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: In season, spinach beet or "perpetual spinach," self-seeded. A very hardy relation of spinach and a little rougher: discard the tough center before cooking. Peter's main source of seeds is The Organic Gardening Catalogue.

    Celeriac, UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Celeriac, pre-trim.

    The roots are nigh impossible to clean and are best removed, with the leaves. Dirt is a good preservative, so prepare just before cooking (try roughly chopped and roasted with other roots in olive oil). The leaves are useful for adding to stock in lieu of celery.

    Intrigued by celeriac (but a little scared)? Our easy (and delicious) recipe for Celeriac Gratin With Thyme and Gruyere will clear things up.

    UK allotment, Northamptonshire. Gardenista

    Above: Peter's village is dominated by a large parish church and it manages to loom over the allotments as well.

    "Little and often," is Peter's advice on getting the plot to work for you, with an emphasis on "often." Less experienced allotmenteers are often unprepared for the work involved in taking on a plot, even when they have been on a waiting list. Older people are in the majority, happy to share their knowledge, while privately marveling that anyone would sign up to tend a 250-square-meter plot (about 2,690 square feet) without knowing how to wield a hoe.

    Love the look of Cavolo Nero? Other hardy Italian vegetables for your consideration: Sow Now For Winter Salad.

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    When we think of the garden's bounty, January is the last month that comes to mind. In this hemisphere anyway, everything is brown and gray and matted in a way that encourages us to turn back to our cups of tea and pretend we haven't seen the mess outside.

    But this week, we decided to embrace the best of wintertime gardens. And we agree, Brussels sprouts have never tasted so good.

    Here, a collection of inspiration that we gathered this week from the wintertime garden:

    week in review | gardenista

    Oranges as art. 

    Cheerful musings on the garden in January.

    revive your cold frame with herbs | gardenista

    It's not too late to revive your abandoned cold frame.

    Northwest gardeners: here's your to do list.

    Bundle up: Protect your pots.

    an artichoke and poppy bouquet by sophia moreno-bunge | gardenista

    Too pretty to eat. 

    Glad to be in good company with these other garden-y Facebook pages.

    mollie katzen, week in review | gardenista

    A very special garden visit with the original Queen of Kale.

    7 tips for starting your own seeds.

    week in review | gardenista

    Spotted on Pinterest, a snowy greenhouse. Photograph by Jenna Park of Sweet Fine Day.

    For dinner: Skillet Lasagna.

    Aprons for everyone.

    In need of some winter pruning tools? Enter our Giveaway with Garrett Wade.

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    Today we're visiting a few edible gardens designed by Seattle Urban Farm Company, a member of the Remodelista + Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory, who also have some winter gardening secrets to share (to ensure success come spring): 

    Photography by Hilary Dahl

    Mizuna Starts and Spinach in Snow, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above L: Mizuna growing in a cold frame in December. R: Cold-hardy spinach in Seattle snow.

    In addition to private clients, Seattle Urban Farm Company helps schools and nonprofits establish  edible gardens;  the firm's founders teach community garden workshops. 

    Rhazes Lettuce Covered in Frost, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above: Rhazes lettuce transplants covered in frost on a chilly November morning.

    Seattle Urban Farm Company's blog has tips for Easy Seed Sprouting and Winter Gardening: Spring Planning and Soil Care

    Strawberry Plant in Winter, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above: Clean out strawberry beds in winter. "If you do not renovate the bed, the plants will form a thick mass, choking themselves out and eventually they will stop producing." See the firm's Spring Strawberry Care for instructions.

    Red and Purple Potatoes, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above: And if you fail to thoroughly dig through your potato patch in fall to pull up any tubers you missed during harvest, "there WILL be at least one forgotten potato sprouting in your garden this spring."

    Claytonia Winter Greens and Kale, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above L: The Farm Co. calls claytonia "one of the hardiest winter greens." R: A huge kale plant that overwintered in a client's garden.

    Sowing Seeds in Winter, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above: Seeding onions, chives, and leeks on a sunny day in late January.

    Planting Sugar Snap Peas, Seattle Urban Farm Co, Gardenista

    Above: In February, the Farm Co. reminds gardeners to to start seeding sugar snap pea transplants.

    For more edible gardens, see Ask the Expert: How to Create a Beautiful Edible Garden, Gone Wild: How to Grow Vegetables in the Middle of Nowhere, and Moveable Feast: A Pop-Up Farm in Brooklyn.  

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  • 01/19/14--03:00: From Farm to...Brooklyn
  • Much of the food on the menu at Parish Hall in Brooklyn comes from a two-acre farm in the northeastern Catskills.

    At Goatfell Farm, permaculture methods are employed: fertilizers, mulch, and soil amendments come from compostable food scraps from Brooklyn, manure from farm animals, and cover crops in the fields. As for the flock of ducks? According to owner George Weld, they help manage pests, produce fertilizer and eggs, and provide "some amusement."

    Photographs by George Weld.

    Above: Actually, the ducks provide a lot of amusement.

    Above: The greenhouse, where crops are grown yearround.

    Above: Employees at Parish Hall restaurant volunteer on the farm (preparing beds for planting, harvesting, packing, and weeding).

    Above: Tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse.

    Above: Hardneck garlic curing in the greenhouse.

    Above: Softneck garlic.

    Above: Spring onions.

    Above: Ducklings' names change at the whim of whomever happens to be herding them.

    Above: In addition to produce for the menu, Goatfell Farm provides Parish Hall with jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles, and relishes.

    Above: Butternut squash, curing in the barn.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published August 14, 2012.

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    The calm and peaceful feeling of seclusion from noise and neighbors envelops all visitors to LA jeweler Kathleen Whitaker’s sprawling and lush garden in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Echo Park, her urban Los Angeles neighborhood. This leads us to believe that she has it all—the energy and stimulus of urban life coupled with the convenience of instant respite on her doorstep. “The piece of land was a huge selling point for us,” she says. “Living in Southern California is all about bringing the outdoors in—whether it’s the lush surroundings or the beautiful LA light.” 

    Photographs by Nancy Neil

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Blue Gate | Gardenista

    Above: From her living room, Whitaker has a view of her garden and can see her guests coming up the walk from the gate, which has been painted Benjamin Moore Olympus Green

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: With a view of the entrance gate in the distance, Whitaker takes advantage of the various microclimates within her garden and creates a shaded seating area under the cover of oak, pepper, and toyon trees. "The canopy of the oak tree lets in a bit of dappled light, making this area comfortable for every hour of the day, including evening cocktails," she says. 

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker and her cinematographer husband set out the small patio area with existing flagstone pavers and filled it in with pea gravel. A small potted ficus tree introduces another layer and scale of planting.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: The outdoor furniture set is a mix of Ikea chairs (discontinued) and a rattan love seat found on Craigslist, both sprayed with a custom color of saffron yellow, which Whitaker had mixed in her local paint store. She recovered the cushions that came with the love seat in a navy and white poplin cotton. "We picked up the coffee table at a local antiques store," Whitaker says. "It is super weathered and a perfect counter balance to the buttoned-up, traditional New England-style rattan seating."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Shrubs | Gardenista

    Above: The hillside of the property faces north and receives indirect light, which is easy on the plants—a mix of ground cover, succulents, jade, and a large toyon. Before the sod was laid, the couple installed an in-ground sprinkler. "Yes, grass is hard to keep alive in LA," Whitaker says. "This is a small patch, which we water conservatively at night."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Wood Deck with Wood Benches | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker places drought-tolerant succulents on the sun deck behind the house, which is unshaded.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Stepped Planting Wall | Gardenista

    Above: The existing stepped terrace is planted with a mix of coleus, heuchera, xanadu philodendron, asparagus fern, star jasmine, and variegated vinca.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Stepped Planting Wall | Gardenista

    Above: "With the stepped terrace, we started over and ripped out the existing overgrown mash-up of many plants," Whitaker says."Our new plantings bloom beautifully in this climate and will continue to fill in."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Rope Hammock | Gardenista

    Above: A Cotton Hammock from LL Bean made from natural fibers fits seamlessly into the Southern California landscape; $109.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Indoor Plant | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker brings her garden inside with a cutting from her split leaf philodendron, which has been put into a vase by ceramicist Bari Ziperstein

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Potted Plants on Porch | Gardenista

    Above: Potted plants on the front porch straddle the interior and exterior worlds effortlessly. After struggling in the ground, a Norfolk pine is much happier in its basket weave terra cotta planter from local nursery Echo Garden. A rubber plant sits in a ceramic planter by local artist and designer Kelly Lamb, whose house we also visited in House Call: High on a Hill in Los Angeles.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Front Porch | Gardenista

    Above: As inviting as the garden is, Whitaker's welcoming porch tempts you to tour her house in A Minimal Jewelry Designer Goes Maximal

    Kathleen Whitaker, Echo Park Garden, Sketch | Remodelista

    Above: Whitaker's sketches out the points of interest in her garden.

    Yearning for the tropics but limited to your less than agreeable winter weather? Erin solved the problem by visiting her local Botanical Garden. Or visit another garden in Southern California, LA Confidential: A Private Courtyard Garden Goes Luxe on a Budget

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  • 01/20/14--06:30: DIY: Sunny Citrus Votives
  • Peeling a clementine, or any of the small breeds of bright orange tropical citrus, can inspire a certain kind of competitive edge. Can you get the peel off in one solid piece, or have you accumulated a pile of pithy crumbs?

    Sit down to eat clementines in a group, and you just might find yourself pitting your own handiwork against other people's peeling prowess.

    This DIY increases the stakes: manage a perfect peel, and you can get a new candle as a reward for all of your hard work. But there's a secret: the perfect peel isn't so very hard to achieve. And if you mess up? Pop a section of sweet citrus into your mouth and forget your worries. (Wish you had your own citrus tree to pluck? See How to Keep an Indoor Citrus Tree Happy.)

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: I recently made a collection of mandarin votives. Eat one, make one was more or less the process here, but read on for the full how-to. (Interested in a purely edible DIY? See DIY: Moroccan Preserved Lemons.)

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Start with a fresh piece of citrus. Mandarins, satsumas, and clementines all work equally well.

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Start to peel the fruit by puncturing a hole in the bottom of the fruit (on the opposite side from where the stem is, or was, attached).

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Forget the naysayers and make small tears in the rind, until you've cleared away just the top third. I like the rustic look of the jagged edge here, but you can also use a knife if you're so moved.

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Next, gently slip your fingers around the edge of the fruit, freeing it from the rind. It's easier than you think.

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: The key is to leave the bit of white pith that sticks up from the opposite side of the stem. This will be your wick.

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Next, fill the empty rind with a bit of oil. Most anything will do: I tried both olive and canola oil. The olive oil burned with a more pleasant smell, but I'm a little protective of my extra virgin, so I used less expensive canola for the rest. (For a little citrus-y aromatherapy, see DIY: A Potent Potpourri With Grapefruit, Rosemary, and Vanilla.)

    how to make sunny citrus votives | gardenista

    Above: Make sure the "wick" is thoroughly soaked—and light. It might take a few match strikes for success, but once lit, these guys will burn for hours.

    Is it icy where you are? Cheer up with Ice Lanterns. See also our collection of posts on Candles.

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