Tuesday, November 27, 2018

November 27, 2018 Kim’s Weekly Garden Blog

Snow on ligularia seed heads

Well winter hit us a glancing blow Sunday night.  Here in my area of Michigan we got about 7 inches of heavy wet snow.  The ground is snow covered still although some has melted because the ground was still fairly warm.  I rushed around early Sunday to get the deer netting up around the evergreens and it was in the 40’s then.  I moved the remaining lawn chairs inside the barn and thought I was well prepared.  But ugh- getting to the barn the next morning was not fun.
I am not a winter lover. I can understand how some think it’s pretty, but with my mobility issues I really hate snow. But I don’t like hot weather either, so I am not moving to Arizona or Florida. We have a chance of freezing rain Thursday night and that’s even worse.  I’m hoping this weekend some warmer weather will melt the stuff.
I have beautiful Thanksgiving cacti blooming inside now.  The Dipladenia I brought inside is blooming, it lost some leaves but seems to be recovering nicely.  It’s in a south window but also under a grow light. The streptocarpus are also blooming, as in the fuchsia.  The hibiscus still has a few blooms, but it will slow its bloom now as the days get shorter.
The geraniums on the porch are still blooming as is the Chinese foxglove.  I also have New Zealand impatiens and some wax begonias in bloom out there although the canna has quit blooming.
I packed my dahlia bulbs in wood shavings this weekend.  They have been sitting in a couple 5-gallon buckets in net bags since I dug them.  They still looked moist and plump, so I just filled in around the bags with lightly moistened pine shavings.  This is the way I have stored these bulbs for many years and it works very well.  They stay on the unheated porch in the buckets until spring.
I got a seed catalog today, but it had lost it’s cover with my address on it.  How did the mail lady know exactly whose house that catalog was sent to?  LOL.
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  It’s only 28 days to Christmas so there’s still time to drop hints about what gardening gifts you’d like for Christmas.
"From the gardener's point of view, November can be the worst month to be faced: Nature is winding things down, the air is cold, skies are gray, but usually the final mark of punctuation to the year as yet to arrive - the snow; snow that covers all in the garden and marks a mind-set for the end of a year's activity.  There is little to do outside except to wait for longer days in the new year and the joys of coming holidays."
-   Peter Loewer

Using Norfolk pines and rosemary as Christmas trees
This time of year, you’ll often see Norfolk pines and rosemary sheared into a triangle or Christmas tree shape for sale.  The idea is that people can use them for a table tree and then keep them as a houseplant.  Norfolk pines do make good houseplants but rosemary not so much.
As soon as you bring these plants home examine the pot to see if it can drain. The pots are often wrapped in decorative foil that prevents drainage.  If you want to leave the foil on the pot poke a few holes in the bottom and set it on a saucer of some sort to collect drain water.  The plants must be able to drain well after watering or they will die.
The Norfolk pine is a tender perennial.  Home conditions suit them pretty well.  They need bright light and moderate watering.  Most Norfolk pines that are sold for use as table Christmas trees are about 2-3 feet high but in good growing conditions they can get much, much taller than that.
The Norfolk pine has very flexible branches and only light decorations can be used on them.  Tiny lights can be used for a few hours a day.  Their use as a table tree should be restricted to a week or so in an area without good light.  They should not be near heat sources, over a working fireplace, over heat vents, near a heater. After Christmas move them to a bright location.  For more information on Norfolk pines as a houseplant you can read this article.
Norfolk pine
Sheared rosemary makes a much more finicky houseplant.  It does not like most indoor conditions.  It’s a semi-hardy perennial that can be left in the garden in zone 6 (some varieties) and up.  It likes cool, somewhat dry winters.  Indoors, in warm conditions, the tendency is for rosemary to drop it’s leaves and soon become a dead pile of sticks.
Just like Norfolk pines you can use small decorations and tiny lights on the rosemary plant for a week or so as a table tree.  Keep it away from any heat source.  After Christmas if you want the plant to survive until you can move it outside, move it to a cool place, temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees.  Keeping the plant in normal home temperatures usually causes problems within a few weeks.
Rosemary needs bright light, like a southern window, or supplemental lighting.  Cool greenhouses, unheated porches or sunrooms are good places for them.  Water the plants sparingly, let them dry a little between watering but don’t let them get too dry.  If you have the right conditions the rosemary may actually bloom for you in late spring.
After the danger of hard frost has passed in the spring move your rosemary outside to a sunny spot.  If you are in zone 6 and higher plant it directly in the ground.  In planting zones 5 and lower you’ll want to leave it in the pot, so it can be moved to a protected spot next winter.
Rosemary is a culinary herb but be cautious using these plants that are sold as table trees for cooking.  They have often been sprayed or treated with systemic pesticides before sale.  After a year or so, if you keep the plant alive and don’t use pesticides on it yourself, it can be used in cooking.
Here’s more about growing rosemary
Growing Rosemary
Rosemary’s beautiful flowers, fragrant foliage and wonderful taste, makes it deserve a place in every garden.  It won’t take much to make you remember the delicious taste of rosemary on fresh baked bread, but rosemary is said to improve your memory in other ways as well.

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean coastal areas and it likes a warm, dry, sunny growing spot. Some varieties are hardy to zone 6, most are hardy to zone 7. Wet winters are more of a problem than the cold.  Many gardeners however manage to keep potted rosemary plants for many years by bringing pots to a protected spot for the winter.  A few lucky souls keep rosemary alive in zone 5 winters by planting it in a dry protected area and mulching or covering it in the winter.
In its native growing region rosemary makes large shrubby plants that can be six feet high or more. In pots or northern gardens, rosemary will not get as large, although it can make an impressive plant if grown well. Rosemary has narrow, gray-green needle-like leaves that remain green and on the plant all year.  The leaves release a strong, pleasant scent when brushed or crushed. There are varieties of rosemary that grow upright and varieties that sprawl or form low groundcovers, even varieties for hanging baskets. 
Rosemary can have blue, white or pink flowers.  The flowers are small and rather oddly shaped and appear at the ends of stems. Plants wintered inside in a cool place will generally bloom as the days start to lengthen. In zone 7 and higher rosemary planted in the ground blooms in late spring or early summer. Sometimes rosemary will bloom outside in the fall after a long growing season.

Rosemary in flower
Growing rosemary
Rosemary is generally purchased as a plant.  Seeds of rosemary do not germinate well, and it does not come true from seed.  Rosemary starts easily from cuttings.

Rosemary likes sandy, well-drained soil. If you plant rosemary outside directly in the ground and have heavy clay it might be best to plant your rosemary in a raised bed. Zone 6 and below gardeners should plant rosemary in containers so they can bring it inside for the winter.
The worst thing you can do to rosemary is over water it, soil in containers needs to drain well. In the landscape, place rosemary with other plants that don’t require frequent watering. A little balanced garden fertilizer in spring, as new growth begins, is all the feeding rosemary requires.

In zones 5 and below bring in rosemary plants before the temperatures go below freezing regularly. The plants can withstand frost very well even light freezes won’t hurt them.  Indoors rosemary plants should be in the brightest light possible, preferably a south window.  A cool room that stays just above freezing with high light would be ideal.  Don’t fertilize plants and allow the pot to dry before watering.  A place with good air circulation is best; some people use a small fan on their rosemary plants to help them avoid fungal diseases in the winter.
Re-pot with new potting soil and lightly fertilize before placing the rosemary back out in the spring.  In the spring wait until frost has passed before placing the plants back outside because they are not hardened off.

Rosemary responds nicely to pruning and shaping and is often turned into topiary.  It is sometimes shaped like a small Christmas tree and sold as a seasonal decoration. In the garden upright rosemary is often trimmed into hedges or topiary figures. Trailing varieties are excellent as ground covers, on banks and walls and in hanging baskets.

Some varieties

‘Arp’ and ‘Hills Hardy’ are hardy to zone 6 with protection. ‘Gorizia’ and ‘Tuscan Blue’ are upright varieties with large leaves and light blue flowers that are favored for cooking. ‘Nancy Howard’ is a large variety with almost white flowers. ‘Pink Marjorca’ is a large plant that blooms prolifically in pale pink. ‘Pinkie’ is a dwarf plant with pink flowers. ‘Blue Boy’ is a dwarf plant with blue flowers. ‘Collingwood Ingram’ is a trailing variety of rosemary with deep blue-purple flowers. ‘Golden Rain’ is a trailing variety lightly variegated with gold. “Blue Rain’ is a very good trailing variety for pots and baskets, with light blue flowers that bloom for a long period.

Using rosemary in cooking

As a cooking herb rosemary has some unique properties. It is a very strong flavoring and should be used with a light hand until you are used to the flavor. Cooking does not diminish the flavor. Most cooks prefer to use fresh rosemary in recipes.  Dried rosemary has a slightly different flavor and is very strong. The leaves do not soften much as they cook so they should be chopped finely or whole sprigs can be used that are removed before serving.
Rosemary aids digestion and is often used to season fatty meats. It is used with lamb and fish and in potato dishes. Rosemary also is a good seasoning for bread, lightly oil the top of bread dough, sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary and bake.  Rosemary is used with oranges in some recipes and used to flavor lemonade. Sprigs of rosemary can be thrown on the grill and the smoke will season grilled meats.
Other uses

Rosemary has long been used as a rinse for hair and in other cosmetic preparations. Ancient Greek scholars wore wreaths of rosemary to help them remember their lessons. The scent of rosemary is said to enhance memory.  Sprigs of rosemary are given out at weddings and funerals to signify remembrance. Rosemary was burned in early hospitals and sick rooms to cleanse the air.

Modern research is studying the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of rosemary and has found that rosemary is an excellent food preservative.

Culinary uses of rosemary are generally safe, although some people may have allergic reactions to the herb. Medicinal uses of rosemary and the handling of rosemary essential oil should be avoided by pregnant women. Rosemary essential oil is absorbed through the skin and can be toxic. It should never be consumed or applied full strength to the skin. There are reports that strong scents such as rosemary essential oil can bring on seizures and may contribute to auto-immune diseases.

I’ll soon be growing marijuana as a houseplant!
I am going to be growing marijuana as a houseplant soon.  Michigan has voted to make recreational pot legal and on December 6, 2018 we will be able to grow up to 12 plants for personal use.  Sometime next month I will try to get at least a few plants.  I know the demand will probably be greater than the supply at first.  I hope the medical growers have been savvy and started a lot of cuttings.

Twelve plants are quite generous compared to other states.  This does allow one to have plants in different growth stages, so you can keep a harvest going.  Since commercial growing for recreational use needs to be licensed and that’s going to be a year or so in the making, starting my plants now will allow me to have legal pot sooner.
My use for marijuana is going to be for medical issues I have.  I hope to obtain a high CBD, low THC strain to grow.  Pot has been specialized to a high degree, and different strains do different things to the body.  A low THC strain doesn’t make you high, it’s just calming and relieves aches and pains. When I was in college weed was vastly different and my goal then was a giggly, fun high.  You sometimes had to smoke a lot to get that, since pot wasn’t as strong then. Now I want “peace and love,”, in a neat small dose.
Yes, I could have gotten a medical use card.  But the process is expensive and complicated.  And you still had to worry that some cop would throw you in jail if you had it on you.  So, I decided to wait until it was legalized for recreational use and yippee, it was.
Marijuana does make a nice-looking houseplant.  Long, long ago I would occasionally start seeds and keep a plant for a short time.  Now most people start pot plants from a cutting, called a clone. Marijuana has separate male and female plants.  You want female plants for medical or recreational use.  If you start seeds half of them will be male, at least, unless you buy expensive feminized seeds.  You won’t know until they are quite large what sex they are.  Feminized seeds cost around $50 for 3-4 seeds.  Growers make feminized seeds by spraying female parent plants with colloidal silver or a silver thiosulphate solution.
Marijuana can be quite complicated to grow, but as I told my son who is going to set up an elaborate grow area for his personal plants, it doesn’t have to be.  I probably won’t be plopping them in a sunny window- the law says they have to be out of public view.  And since a nice plant can be worth several hundred dollars, I want them out of the view of casual visitors to my home also.  No since encouraging a robbery.

Cannabis sativa
So, I am going to grow my personal plants under grow lights in an out of the way spot.  I am not using high intensity halide lamps, those are expensive and dangerous.  Instead I am just going to use LED grow lights.  I may use some reflective material around and under them to increase the light intensity.  I read that LED string lights at the sides of pot plants as well as lights overhead makes them grow faster and bushier.
Controlling the day length is important for good pot plant production and I already have some simple light timers. Marijuana has to be kept on 12 hour or longer days for vegetative growth for around 3 months.  When the plants are around 16-18 inches high you decrease the day length below 12 hours to trigger buds.  It takes another 2 months or so for the buds to reach harvest size.  After a plant buds it will flower, make seed if you have a male flower around, and then die. 
(If you aren’t looking for a harvest then keep pot plants under more than 12 hours of light, eventually they do die, usually in a year or so.  Some people claim to have kept them as houseplants for several years.)
I am going to use a good soil-less potting medium for my personal plants.  Many people use hydroponic growing methods.  I still have to research the best fertilizing program.
I am not going to start with 12 plants.  For one thing I hear starter plants will be selling for around $20-$30 each.   I figure 3-4 will be fine.  Even if I don’t get optimal production that should be plenty of pot for me and my husband.  I will keep readers informed as I start my pot growing experience.  If any of you are going to start growing or have growing experience in a less than intense growing set up, I’d love to hear from you.

LED grow lights- light recipes to grow plants better
Using supplemental lighting has allowed people to grow plants in places where there isn’t good sunlight.  It’s been done for a long time, 50 years ago most people used tube type fluorescent bulbs.  The bulbs were refined into what is known as grow light bulbs by adjusting the amount of red and blue light the bulbs produced.  Some people still use this type of bulb or the compact “curly” fluorescent grow light bulbs. These types of grow lights do a pretty good job of growing plants, especially for a few houseplants or starting veggie seeds.  The disadvantages of fluorescent bulbs is that they have chemicals in them that are environmentally hazardous. 
Thirty years ago, or so, the high intensity metal and sodium halide lights were developed.  Indoor growers of all types that needed to grow a lot of plants quickly turned to these lights. They produce a very intense white or yellow light.  However, they are expensive, both to buy and operate.  They produce a lot of heat and pose a significant fire risk.  Most have to be professionally installed.  They need to warm up for about 15 minutes to come to full light mode.  They do produce a light that people prefer.
LED lights (light emitting diodes) came on the scene in 1963 but they were only used as indicator lights in electronics and car dash displays.  The lights were red and tiny.  It took many years before experimentation produced blue LED lights and more years to learn how to coat blue lights with a layer of phosphor to make white light.  We now have LED lights that emit far red, green, yellow and ultra violet light also.
Even though LED bulbs were very, very energy efficient and last a long time they were expensive to produce and weren’t frequently used, in homes or for grow lights for a long time. Incentives to save energy made LED lights more desirable and extensive research and development of LED lights that could replace regular light bulbs, emit different types of light and stood up to heavy use were produced. 
Over the past few years the cost of LED lights has went down considerably.  This sparked an interest in plant growers who wanted energy efficient lighting for growing plants indoors.  And since we learned to manipulate the color of light emitted from LED bulbs in all sorts of ways this led to some interesting research by plant scientists.
A quick note here about light and plants.  Sunlight is a mixture of various wavelengths of energy, each of which is a different “color” of light.  When you pass light through a prism or see a rainbow you are seeing white light being broken into various wave lengths and colors. Plants growing in the sunlight get all these wavelengths of light and use them in various ways.
When people began growing plants under artificial lights, they discovered that different colors of light caused different reactions in plants. Light color affects plant hormones and adjusting what light color plants receive can do remarkable things.  Using LEDS makes manipulating light color fairly easy.
Michigan State University has a large Controlled Environment Lighting Laboratory (CELL) for horticultural experimentation that is one of the best in the world.  Research from this lab and from the Netherlands and a few other places has transformed what we can do to manipulate plant growth – and to give plants optimal growing conditions where no natural light is available.
You may have, like me, bought an LED grow light that produces an eerie purple light.  These are produced by alternating red and blue diodes in the light. I don’t like the light color, but plants do seem to grow pretty well. I also use some LED bulbs labeled “daylight” and plants seem to grow pretty well under them too. This white light is more pleasing to humans.  But more advanced lights are on the market now.
Purple glow of LED grow light
We now know more about light than blue light promotes vegetative growth and red light promotes flowering. We know that plants need other light colors to do their best.  We have learned that each species of plant has a light “recipe” that will optimize their growth.  This usually involves a range of light colors, blue, red, white, far red, ultra violet, yellow and green. With LED lights each tiny diode can be made a different color and then a mixture of colored diodes can give plants the percentages of light colors that suit them best.
Light color can influence the color of plant leaves and even how fruits and vegetables taste.  This is because plant hormones respond to light and some of those hormones are responsible for sugar levels and production of other chemicals that affect flavor. The right light recipe gives us tomatoes that taste like they were grown outside and basil that’s sweet and spicy.  Growers can manipulate light to get plants to produce flowers when they want them to.  They can manipulate the height and “bushiness” of plants. (Controlling day length and temperature also goes into the production mix.)
Growers can grow plants under one light recipe for a while, such as 35% blue, 35% red, 15 % yellow and 15% green and then switch to another recipe for another phase of production.  We can now grow crops in an enclosed environment and give them the precise lighting they need for optimal production, sometimes better production than if they were outside in the sun.
Since LED lights emit little heat, they can be quite close to plants and they don’t heat up an enclosed space. Having lights close to plants wastes less light than other forms of lights further from the plant.  Research has found that some plants, like tomatoes and marijuana grow really well with LED lights running vertically between plants as well as overhead.  Also LED lights can be used in stacked systems, where shelves hold many tiers of plants, optimizing floor space.
Since LED lights use a lot less electricity than other lights, some growers are using solar power to run them, which really saves money, and is great for the environment. New storage batteries make night and cloudy weather power possible.
There are companies that can now take a shipping container, fit it with shelving and a watering system, add lights that optimize the growth of the plant species you want to grow and then send that container to your location.  A chef wanting to produce greens and herbs for a restaurant could put one in the parking lot. 
With these enhanced LED lighting systems areas with little natural light in winter can produce good crops.  Crops can be produced indoors; stacked systems can produce 5-10 times as much of a crop as a crop grown outside or in a hoop house in the same space. Strawberries (and other crops), can be produced all year.  Enclosed growing means that fewer pesticides are needed and less water.  Crops are protected from weather damage.
There really isn’t a reason now that crops like lettuce need to be grown in places like California and shipped a thousand miles to the east coast, even in the winter.  A warehouse or two could supply all the lettuce needed for even large cities with LED lighting.  This would be environmentally friendlier than bringing lettuce across the country.  And enclosed systems are less likely to be contaminated with E.coli and other disease organisms. Fewer workers are needed to care for and harvest crops.
Using LED lights and enclosed growing systems is how a lot of crops will be grown in the future.  Many gardeners want to grow things like greens and tomatoes but don’t have outdoor space to grow them.  Others want to grow marihuana and the law may only allow them to grow it inside. If you are considering indoor growing, consider using LED lights.
More reading

"The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
-   John Updike, A Child's Calendar  

Quick Holiday Rum cake
This recipe uses a cake mix to save time.  Don’t worry about getting drunk because the alcohol in the cake burns off during cooking.  There’s not very much rum in the glaze so that shouldn’t affect you either, but it leaves a distinct taste.  You can substitute rum flavoring if you are worried about it.
This is an excellent cake for a holiday buffet or office party.  You can decorate it with maraschino cherries and green gum drops.


1 pkg. spice cake mix
1 pkg. instant butterscotch pudding
½ cup melted butter
1 cup water
4 eggs
2 tablespoons rum
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons rum
Mix all of the cake ingredients together with an electric mixer.  Beat for several minutes.
Pour batter into a bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the middle comes out clean.  Try not to overbake.
Remove cake from the pan to a plate.
Mix together the glaze ingredients.  It should be thin enough to drizzle on the cake.  If it needs thinning use a teaspoon of milk at a time until the right consistency is made.
Let the cake cool 10 minutes then drizzle cake with the glaze. Some will soak into the cake.
The flavor will intensify if the cake is covered tightly and allowed to sit for a day or two.
Even when November's sun is low and Winter flaps his fleecy wings, Thy gold among his silvery snow a solace in the sadness brings.
James Rigg

Kim Willis
All parts of this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.

And So On….

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Newsletter/blog information
I write this because I love to share with other gardeners some of the things I come across in my research each week. It keeps me engaged with people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If you are on my mailing list and at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you know anyone who would like to receive a notification by email when a new blog is published have them send their email address to me.  KimWillis151@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November 20, 2018 Kim’s Weekly Garden Blog
"Over the river and through the woods
Trot fast my dapple gray.
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound
On this Thanksgiving Day, Hey!
Over the river and through the woods
Now Grandmother's face I spy.
Hurrah for the fun,
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie."
-   English folksong, It's Raining, It's Pouring 
Hi Gardeners
It snowed a couple inches here last night and at midday it’s still below freezing with a wicked wind chill.  But the sun is shining for a change, so I won’t complain too much.
Of course, there is nothing in bloom outside.  I have a Thanksgiving cactus in nice bloom inside as well as many other things.  I am thankful I can have flowers and greenery all year round.
This week’s blog is full of shorter articles because a lot of people won’t have time to read during the holidays.  It’s a hodgepodge of this and that and a lot of food-based things because that’s what this holiday is about.
Feasts commemorating things like a good harvest that bring together many types of people are important. When people of various cultures mingle, new foods and methods of producing food are exchanged.  This is a significant help to both cultures.  Even today the mingling of cultures opens our minds and mouths to new ways of thinking and eating.
That first Thanksgiving meal brought together two cultures, one that had been on the land for a long time and one newly arrived.  While both parties would go on to commit many wrongs against each other at that time the original occupants were willing to help and feed the immigrants.  At that first meal partners across the globe and through time contributed to the meal.
As we sit down to a bountiful feast or even a meager meal this Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for the migration and immigration of species, both plants, animals and humans. We should be thankful for the opportunity to try new foods and learn new things from people that come from far places.  Change, assimilation, sharing information, tolerance and empathy serve to advance civilization.  Be thankful that so many cultures and civilizations contributed to your meal and the country we live in.

What foods in the typical Thanksgiving menu were actually part of the first Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving menus vary a bit in different parts of the country and in different households. But how close is your menu to the first Thanksgiving? We have written accounts of the first “harvest celebration” meal that occurred between Europeans and the First People. It was a collaborate effort combining foods of both cultures.  Many of the foods we associate with Thanksgiving probably weren’t at the first celebration.
Food historians tell us that turkey probably wasn’t on that first menu.  Yes, there were turkeys in the Eastern woodlands at that time.  But just as they are hard to hunt today, they were probably equally hard to hunt then and not as common as other “fowls” in the area – such as ducks and geese and passenger pigeons. 
The fowl described on the menu by early writers was most likely waterfowl of some sort and since passenger pigeons were so abundant and so easy to kill, they were probably part of the meal.  And we do know that the Wampanoag residents of the area brought 5 deer to the feast so “fowl” was probably only a small part of that first Thanksgiving meal in 1621.  Fish and shellfish were also part of the feast. 
Some Eastern woodland First People cultivated corn and they showed the early settlers how to plant and harvest it.  Corn was at the first Thanksgiving, probably in the form of a coarse meal made into cakes or as parched corn.  If you are enjoying corn, either as cornbread stuffing or sweet corn on Thanksgiving you are closer to enjoying a native food than many other items on the menu.
The settlers raised some wheat that first year and some wheat breads may have been at the feast.  It’s possible they may have had some sugar left in their stores to combine with flour.  They had brought some chickens and may have had eggs to make things like cakes.  They also had goats, so they may have had some goats milk or cheese at the feast.
Green beans and beans such as navy, lima and kidney beans come to us from Central and South America.  The tribes of the northeast had obtained beans from trading by the time of the first Thanksgiving and they may have been part of the feast. But I am sure there wasn’t any green bean casseroles served at the first Thanksgiving.
Sweet potatoes or yams would not have been around to be served. Pumpkins or squash originated in Mexico and what is the southwestern part of the United States.  They were spread by trade to northern America and the First People the early settlers knew would have had them. At the first Thanksgiving these would not have been sweetened with sugar, unless a Native American offered the cooks some maple sugar or they had sugar to spare from their stores. (Honey wasn’t a product found in North America until Europeans brought honeybees here.)  Pumpkins and squash were usually roasted and made into soups.
Onions were probably grown for that first harvest by Europeans and used abundantly. Turnips or rutabaga may have been grown by Europeans and present at the feast. Some native greens, or greens grown by Europeans may have been included in the first Thanksgiving but in earlier times greens weren’t often served at feasts that were primarily for men. 
Cranberries are a true North American native food you can be thankful for.  They would not have been sweetened with sugar and its unknown if they were present at the first Thanksgiving meal.  Nuts like black walnuts, chestnuts, and hickories, which are eastern North American natives, may have been eaten in various dishes.  Blueberries are also native and may have been eaten at the meal, they would probably have been dried from earlier harvests.
If you wanted to replicate a true North American Thanksgiving meal it should include venison, pigeon, wild goose, fish and clams.  There can be some squash and pumpkin but not in pies.  Some cornbread or parched corn can be included, sweet corn or green corn as they would have called it, would probably not have been served so late in the season. You might include some whole wheat bread.  Onions, turnips, rutabagas and beans could be served.  Dessert should consist of nuts and berries, maybe some goat cheese.  Happy eating.

First Thanksgiving by Brownscombe
The difference between sweet potatoes and yams
At Thanksgiving some people say they are eating yams and others say they are eating sweet potatoes. The two terms should not be interchangeable as they do refer to different plants.  But in America people often call deep orange colored sweet potatoes yams.  Chances are very good that the “yams” you think you are eating at Thanksgiving are actually sweet potatoes.
True yams are the fleshy tubers of plants from the Dioscorea genus, and native to Africa and Asia. They are related to lilies and grasses.  They aren’t seen too often in US supermarkets.  They are starchier, less sweet and drier in texture than sweet potatoes although some think they taste similar. They have a rougher dark skin and don’t have as much beta carotene and other nutrients as sweet potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are in the morning glory family.  They are native to Central and South America and widely grown and available in the US. We eat the swollen roots of these plants.  Sweet potatoes come in a wide range of flesh colors from creamy white to red orange but generally have a thin golden tan skin.  The orange varieties have the most beta carotene.  Sweet potatoes have less calories than yams. Sweet potatoes are not related to the white “irish” potato either. 
Sweet Potato

For some reason early in US settlement people began to refer to orange fleshed sweet potatoes as Yams, probably because they looked similar in shape to yams, which some cultures were familiar with. The term yam also distinguished a type of sweet potato, one that was softer, sweeter and darker colored in the flesh than other varieties.  The US government now requires that sweet potato packaging be labeled as sweet potato, even if the label also mentions the word “Yam”.
By the way, the many varieties of ornamental sweet potatoes also produce those swollen edible roots the way commercial crop varieties do.  However, the roots are not nearly as large, sweet, or numerous as those of crop types and you probably won’t want to raid the flower pots for dinner.

"The last seed
falls from the sunflower-
empty pond.
The long awaited
rattle of rain on rooftops-
Thanksgiving Day."
-  Michael P. Garofalo, Cuttings  

Keeping a live Christmas tree alive
If you are intending to buy a live tree for Christmas to plant outside after the holiday here are some ways to keep it alive until you plant it. Make sure you select an evergreen that is hardy for your planting zone, or nothing will help keep it alive.
Choose smaller trees for best results and don’t bring them inside until a few days before Christmas.  Trees do better waiting outside than being held indoors until the holidays.  Keep them watered while they wait.  Trees in pots or with burlap balls should be kept out of direct sunlight if the temperature is above 45 degrees. You can hold trees in the shade of a building, on a porch or under larger evergreens.  You don’t want a really dark spot like a shed without a window.
For the short wait until the holidays most areas won’t get too cold to damage the trees sitting in pots or burlap balls.  If your temperatures will be below 20 degrees F you may want to protect the roots by setting the pots or burlap balls in the holes described below or covering the pots or balls with a thick mulch layer.  The top parts of evergreens hardy in your area should not need protection. 
Preparation for planting after the holiday
You’ll want to dig the hole outside for the tree before the ground freezes. Do this soon after you purchase the tree.  If the ground appears to be frozen already, look for a spot by the house or under a deep layer of leaves or some other spot where you can find softer soil.  The tree can be left in a pot or burlap ball and be put in these spots even if you don’t want to plant it there permanently.  Just remember you need to dig it up early in spring, remove the pot or burlap and re-plant it where you want it to grow.
Make a hole big enough for the root system of the tree you bought and save all the soil you removed in buckets or on a tarp. If you can, store the removed soil in a shed or garage so it won’t get wet and freeze solid.  Fill the hole with straw or leaves and/or cover it with something like plywood. Hopefully you won’t have to shovel snow away to plant the tree.
If you cannot dig a hole where the tree is to be planted and you can’t dig one in another spot, you can place the tree in its pot or burlap ball in a sheltered spot such as against a building or fence.  Cover the pot or root ball with a deep layer of mulch or place bales of straw around them.  If you have a cool (below 50 degrees), but brightly lit room or greenhouse and you remember to water it during the holding time you can keep the tree there.
Care while the tree is inside
When the trees are inside for the holiday keep them in the coolest place possible and away from direct sunlight, fireplaces and heating vents.  Decorate lightly and if you must use lights, use tiny, cool burning lights sparingly.  Trees will survive better if they are not kept inside more than 7-10 days.
Keep the root ball or pot moist while they are inside but these trees should not be in something that prevents drainage.  You do not want the roots to get too wet. Put a tray under the pot that can be emptied if it collects water. Do not use fertilizer or preservatives meant for cut trees on live trees.  Take the tree outside to plant or to its holding spot immediately after Christmas. 
Planting outside
Uncover your hole and remove any straw or leaves. Remove the pot, any burlap or strings and wire before planting (if you are planting the tree in its permanent spot).  Look for the top horizontal root.  You may need to gently remove soil from the root system to find it.  Settle the tree in the hole so that horizontal root will be just barely covered at the surface level.  Fill with the soil you removed, research says you should not add peat or topsoil. 
If you are leaving the tree in a pot or burlap until spring, put it in the hole and cover the pot or ball with some soil and a deep layer of straw or leaves. You must remove it in early spring and remove the pot or burlap.
Water deeply with warm water when planting and as long as the soil remains unfrozen, water weekly.  This is recommended for both trees in their final planting space and those being held until spring.  In a windy location new evergreens planted in their permanent location may need to be staked until they establish new roots.
"Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An' I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers."
-  Edgar A. Guest, Thanksgiving

Holiday Centerpiece with a potato
Here’s a clever way to make a centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table.  A large potato can be the base for a centerpiece or even a swag or wreath.  It will help keep fresh greens from wilting if the stems are stuck in a fresh potato, as they will take moisture from the potato.  And a potato will anchor dried plant material if you don’t have florist foam blocks.
To use a potato to make a centerpiece you need to slice off a thin section of the potato on one side so that it sits flat.  It works best if you let this cut area dry for a day or so before finishing the centerpiece.  You may want to add a piece of felt or cardboard to the cut side after it has dried a bit.
Cut evergreens or woody plants like Sweet Annie and lavender in a V shape so that the ends have sharp points and insert them into the potato.  For some pieces you may need to make a starter hole with an ice or nut pick.  Usually the potato itself will not show much in the finished decoration but if the thought of a bit of skin peeking through bothers you paint the potato or cover it in cloth or colored foil.
To make a swag or wreath with a potato first drill a hole in one end or the center, depending on your desired finished product, to insert a hanger if you are going to hang the item.  Use a small paring knife or a screw driver and slowly carve a small hole through the spud.  Insert a ribbon or soft rope for a hanging loop, not wire as it will cut through the potato.  You then add the dried plant material or evergreens.

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).  And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.  Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.  Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.”
-   William Bradford, 1621 
These are the turkeys- Peas and Carrots- that will
be pardoned by the President this year
Help- the turkey is still frozen! 

Maybe you forgot to thaw the turkey and it’s the night before you want to serve it.  Or maybe you didn’t plan on cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast and it’s suddenly sprung on you.  Either way you have a frozen, rock hard turkey that needs to be cooked soon - what can you do?
First realize that you cannot get a frozen turkey to the table much quicker than 8 hours even if it’s small.  (And if you are running out to buy the turkey you may want to choose the smallest one or buy two small ones if you are feeding lots of people.  You could also purchase just the breasts, which are smaller and defrost faster. Serve snacks all day or make it a late dinner until you can get the bird defrosted and cooked.
Turkeys do not defrost well in most microwaves.  Check your manual to see how many pounds of food can safely be thawed in your model.  But most home microwaves aren’t large enough for even the smallest turkeys.  Even if the microwave you own could defrost it, this way of thawing turkey often results in a dry, tough finished product.
There are two good ways to deal with the frozen turkey problem.  The first is cold water thawing.  Leave the turkey in its original wrapper or if that packaging isn’t a waterproof plastic wrapper, you’ll need to get it into a sealed, waterproof wrapper.  Some stores sell large zip close bags.  If you can’t find one a sturdy plastic trash bag can be used, one without any scent added.  If you use a trash bag keep the top out of the water and the turkey should be in a paper wrapper or something else inside the bag.  Tightly twist the top of a garbage bag and secure it.
Place the bagged turkey in a pan of cool water.  Do not use hot water.  Either let water trickle in the pan as it sits in a sink and overflow down the drain or dump the pan and add more cool water every 30 minutes.  This method will take at least an hour for every 3 pounds of bird.
The second method is to actually cook the bird from a frozen state.  First remove any wrappings.  Do not stuff this turkey- cook the stuffing separately.  Place the bird in a roasting pan with a cup or two of chicken broth or water and set your oven at 325 degrees.  Cover the turkey and place it in the oven.  It will take about 5 hours for a 10-pound turkey to cook from a frozen state and roughly 10 hours for a 20-pound turkey.  The times will vary, depending on how frozen the turkey was and other factors.  You may want to go the cool water way of defrosting for an hour or two then start cooking the half-frozen turkey in this way.
About half way through the expected cooking time you must check the bird and remove any giblet packages or the neck if they were tucked inside.  Be careful as they may be hot.  At this time if the turkey feels pretty defrosted you can set the oven temperature to 375 and shorten the remaining cooking time a bit.  You can begin basting the turkey with pan fluid or melted butter about half way through the cooking time.  Basting will add to the cooking time however and it’s not really needed.
About an hour before you expect the turkey to be done, remove any covering to let it brown.  It’s important to check these cooked from frozen birds with a meat thermometer, even if it had a pop-up timer.  The long cooking time may have made the pop-up timer inaccurate.  The temperature of the turkey should be 165 degrees internally. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and at the thickest part of the inner thigh to test it for doneness.  
If you can start the night before your frozen turkey will still make it to dinner at a reasonable time.  And if you got up early maybe you can get Thanksgiving turkey on the table by evening.  If it’s just a few hours until dinner, you’ll probably want to get some sliced deli turkey and add hot gravy.

Deep Fried Green Beans Instead of a Casserole
Most of the Thanksgiving meal should be traditional but here’s a new way to serve green beans instead of that green bean casserole with the mushroom soup and crispy onion rings everyone else serves. I don’t normally like green beans, even disguised in soup, nor does my husband but we both liked these. 
These deep-fried green beans are low calorie (compared to the casserole), high in vitamins and low carb.  You probably won’t have fresh green beans in your garden now, but most large groceries do.
Start with about a half pound of clean, dry fresh green beans with the ends removed.  Beat an egg white in a large bowl, add the beans and toss them until they are coated. 
Next add a three tablespoons of powdered parmesan cheese, a tablespoon of flour,1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and seasoned salt (or to taste).  Toss the beans in the mixture until they are well coated, and seasonings distributed.
Heat some healthy oil like peanut oil (not soybean, corn or canola, these aren’t good for you!) or some lard to about 350 degrees in a deep pan or fryer.  Add the beans in small batches and stir a bit to separate them. Don’t crowd them in the pan.  Fry until the outside is golden and crispy, (about like potato fries) remove and drain on paper towels.  Eat while warm- yummy.

"Over the river and through the wood
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.
Over the river and through the wood
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!"
-   Linda Maria Child, Over the River

Whitehouse Thanksgiving Kale Salad

This was a recipe released in 2012 that Whitehouse chef Cris Comerford was going to serve for Thanksgiving at the Whitehouse that year.  The vegetables were from the vegetable garden at the Whitehouse.  I checked, and the vegetable garden is still there, although the current first lady leaves the garden to staff to care for and harvest.

  • 2 bunches young kale, washed and dried, cut into thin slices
  • 1 bulb fennel (fronds, stems and outer layer removed) cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, white and light-green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved or cut into slivers
  • 4 ounces spiced Marcona almonds, about 1 Cup

Marcona almonds can be purchased in some stores or you can make them.  Combine 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika in a bowl.  In another bowl beat an egg white add about a  cup of almonds and toss to coat.  Then toss the almonds in the bowl of spices to coat them.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 until lightly browned.  Cool before use in the salad.

Dressing for salad

·         1 Cup olive oil
·         1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
·         Juice of 2 medium lemons, about 6 Tablespoons
·         1 medium green onion, minced
·         Salt
·         Freshly ground black pepper

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice and onion together and gradually whisk in the oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Put the kale in a bowl and pour the dressing over the greens about 10 minutes before you will be serving the salad and toss well to coat.  Just before serving add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss.  This recipe is enough for 6-8 servings.

T   hanks for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H  for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A  for autumn's frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N  for neighbors, and November, nice things, new things to remember.
K  for kitchen, kettles' croon, kith and kin expected soon.
S  for sizzles, sights, and sounds, and something special that about.
    That spells THANKS for joy in living and a jolly good Thanksgiving.                  
-   Aileen Fisher, All in a Word

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving
Kim Willis
All parts of this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.

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