Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

The new year has begun, and we are excited about the upcoming gardening season. Believe it or not, we are going to be starting some of our seeds next week. Indoors under the lights, we will be starting celery, scallions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, dill and snapdragons. We have chosen some new cultivars to try for 2012. They are: cabbage Salad Delight (red) and Early Round Dutch (standard) and cauliflower Summer Harvest. These will join broccoli Di Ciccio (produces many side shoots after the main head is cut), dill Dukat (high essential oil content for leaf use), parsley Dark Green Italian, and generic varieties of leeks, celery and scallions. The latter come from Mayo Seed, a local company that has been selling garden seeds for decades.

It will soon be time to start a few crops directly in the ground. Spinach and corn salad come to mind. We have fall sown corn salad (Vit cultivar) ready to harvest in the coldframe. Corn salad is one of our favorite cool season greens. It is delicious on its own or combined with other greens. It goes especially well with a few nutmeats for garnish, as the flavor is somewhat nut-like. Corn salad, also known as lamb's lettuce and mache, comes in two forms, one for spring sowing and the other for fall sowing. The spring variety we will be growing is Salad Zing. Both selections came from Burpee seed racks at our local garden centers.

Our weekly visit to Three Rivers Market turned up a few local veggies, the best of which was a tray of huge oyster mushrooms from Sevier County. Shiitakes were also available from the same source, but we have trouble resisting the flavor of oyster mushrooms. Lettuce, bak choy, and cauliflower were on offer from Loudon County, and some nice little butternut squash from Macon County, TN. There was also plenty of Cruze Farm milk, Tennessee Cage Free eggs, and Benton's (Madison County) bacon.

Winter is a great time to sample the growing selection of local and regional cheeses now available. Three Rivers Market has a wide selection, including: Sweetwater Valley Farm (Madison County, TN), Sequatchie Cove Farm (Sequatchie County, TN), Blackberry Farm (Blount County, TN), Locust Grove Farm (Knox County, TN), Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese (Barren County, KY), Meadow Creek Dairy (Galax, VA) and Boone Creek Creamery (Lexington, KY). Many of the cheeses offered compare favorably with the European artisan cheeses upon which they are modeled. Hopefully, we will have even more selections available in the future.

Here's a shot of one of our favorite lettuces, Buttercrunch. It is hard to beat for quality, and in cool weather is among the most productive varieties we grow. We are out of seed at present, but plan to order more. Speaking of seeds, we have begun receiving catalogs. The first is among our favorites, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Mineral, VA. They are a great source for cold-tolerant greens, heirloom tomatoes, and many other seeds. Most of their offerings are organically grown, too. We also like the information dense catalog listings with complete growing instructions.

We'll have more gardening and homesteading news, information and tips as the season progresses. Please ask your friends to follow the blog. Thanks!

PS--We will soon be announcing an exciting new homestead project for 2012! Stay tuned.

John and Jerry

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