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April 2009

The Home Garden, April 28, 2009

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 Waldmanns Dark Green Lettuce                  Chandler Strawberry                      Purple Passion Asparagus

    We now have fresh tender-crisp lettuce for salads and sandwiches, thanks to the covers used to protect the plants from wind and cold.  Cabbage grown under cover is coming along well but will not be ready for harvest for several weeks. The strawberries planted last October are beginning to ripen: one of my favorite spring treats.   I recently applied compost and mulch to the asparagus bed I planted last spring.  It is doing quite well, however, I will only harvest a small amount this year and leave the rest to strengthen the plants for future harvest. 

DSC_0524    DSC_0526   DSC_0530         Tomato Planting                                          Corn Transplants                           Potatoes Emerging

   Last week I planted the First Prize tomato plants that were growing in 5 gallon pots.  They already have some nice blooms and small tomatoes on them.  Breeder's Choice corn transplants were also planted in a portion of the area where rye had grown over the winter.  The potatoes that were planted and covered with leaves are beginning to grow nicely.  Tenderette green bean seed also found a home in a garden row this week after being soaked in water overnight.   I have tilled most of the garden beds and trimmed the garden paths with a string trimmer.  Pumpkin, cucumber, watermelon, and canteloupe plants are ready to be planted in the garden with pepper, eggplant, squash and more corn plants not far behind. 


Baking Great Homemade Bread in Your Kitchen!

Honey Oat Bread     Savor the aroma of fresh whole grain bread baking in your own  kitchen - fresh homemade bread, made with organic flour, using time - tested methods that develop great texture and delicious flavor with no hydrogenated oils or food additives. 
     Yes, you can make great homemade bread.  The process is fairly long but only takes a small amount of your time as most of the process involves waiting for the dough to rise and develop its flavor and texture. 

     Though there are a number of ways to make good bread, I prefer the Italian biga method.  A preferment called biga is made about 9:00 pm and allowed to slowly ferment overnight at a cool temperature before it is incorporated into the main dough the following morning.  The biga will add flavor and better texture to the bread.   It takes about 10 minutes to make the biga, about 30 minutes to make the main dough and about 10 minutes to shape the dough for baking.  The main dough may rise 2 -4 hours before you shape it and 2 -3 hours after shaping depending on temperature.  A slow cool rise, 60 - 65 degrees, creates a bread with better flavor and texture.  In the summer when our homes tend to be warmer than this a small ice pack in a cooler can create a cool place for bread to rise.

     Even though bread dough can be made totally by hand I enjoy using my KitchenAid Mixer with the doughhook attachment to make dough.  I simply place the ingredients in the bowl, turn it on slow speed and mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

     Lets say you want to make bread on Saturday.  Friday evening at about 9:00 you make the biga, cover it and place it in a cool place to rise overnight.  Before breakfast Saturday morning you make the main dough, cover it and put it in a cool place to rise.  While it is rising you can do household chores, run some errands or go to a ballgame.  After 2 - 4 hours shape the dough and you have another 2 - 3 hours to do other things before you bake the bread.  In my convection oven (an oven that has a fan in it to evenly distribute the heat) I can bake as many as 6 loaves at one time.  Bread should keep 4 - 5 days in a cool room and also freezes very well.

 Shaped Bread Dough   

    Shaping the dough:  The photo on the left illustrates dough that is being shaped for loaves.  The dough is divided, rounded and then shaped into loaves.  After the dough is rounded you may need to wait a few minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax in order to work with it again.  I use about 1 1/2 lbs of dough for a loaf.  Below see how to flatten the rounded dough, roll it, pinch the top together and push in the ends to form a loaf.  Then it is placed in a loaf pan that has been brushed with vegetable or olive oil.

Flatten Dough Roll Dough Pinch Top of Dough Together Press ends of Dough in          

     In order to create a great loaf of bread, you must start with great ingredients.  Choose organic bread flour and organic whole grains for your health and quality bread.  Be aware that humidity and flour quality can cause the amount of flour and water needed in a recipe to vary.  In time you will get a feel for the proper proportions. The following recipe is one of my favorites and was our best seller at farmers markets.   Why not give yourself and your family a chance to experience the joy and satisfaction of delicious, nutritious homemade bread!

Honey Oat Bread Recipe

The day before you plan to bake bread place 1/2 cup organic oat groats (whole oats) and 1 cup of water in a pan, cover with lid and cook until the water is absorbed.  Refrigerate after cooking.  About 9:00 in the evening mix together 3/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon yeast and 2 cups organic unbleached bread flour.  Cover and let sit in a cool place overnight.

Bread baking day mix the final dough as follows:                                                             

Place 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons yeast, 1/8 cup vegetable or olive oil, 1/8 cup honey, 1 1/4 cup finely ground organic rolled oats, 1/2 cup ground flax seed, and 4 cups organic unbleached flour in mixing bowl and mix until it comes together to form a ball of dough.  Let rest 20 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the water.

Add 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, biga, and cooked oat groats.  Mix, knead and form in a ball.  Place in bowl brushed with vegetable or olive oil, cover and set in a cool place to rise.  It should rise 2 - 4 hours or until doubled in size.  Shape the dough into 3 loaves and place in loaf pans brushed with vegetable or olive oil.  Let rise until about 1 1/2 times the original size.  If the dough rises too much the top of the loaf will sink as it bakes in the oven.  When properly risen dough enters a hot oven you should get a nice oven rise.

Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Spray the top of the loaves with water, place loaves in the oven and change the oven temperature to 360 degrees.  Bake 40 minutes or until done.

Uwharrie Farm Planting Schedule: Late April - May

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The average last frost date for central North Carolina is April 15.  This schedule for late April - May is for use after the danger of frost has past.

Tomato seed can again be planted in flats to grow your own plants to extend the tomato harvest.

Green bean, lima bean, butterbean, cucumber, okra, squash, zucchini, watermelon, corn and canteloupe seed can now be planted directly in the garden.

Tomato, pepper, watermelon, canteloupe, corn, pumpkin and okra plants can now be planted in the garden.

Today's Food for Thought: 4-10-09

John 15 (New International Version)
 9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

The Home Garden, April 9, 2009

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     The photo on the left shows an efficient way to plant potatoes in a raised bed.  I placed compost on the soil, put the potatoes in place, then covered the potatoes with leaves that I collected last fall.  In the center photo tomato, canteloupe, watermelon, corn, squash, cucumber and pepper seedlings are content growing under florescent lights until the outside weather warms sufficiently.  The tomato plants in the photo on the right that were planted earlier this year have been transplanted into five gallon pots to get a head start on the tomato season.

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Last week, as you can see in the photo on the left, I cut about half of the rye (planted last fall as a winter cover crop) in this garden area with a weedeater.  In the photo on the right this area has been tilled and the rest of the rye cut.  This is the garden area designated for corn this year.  When the danger of frost is past I will plant corn about three different times at approximately 3 week intervals in order to lengthen the corn harvest season.

DSC_0512   DSC_0513   DSC_0455         Lettuce and cabbage plants that were protected during the snow by covers like the one seen on the right are growing well.

DSC_0514  DSC_0516  DSC_0509           Strawberries are blooming, the blackberry plants I planted in early March are putting on new growth, butterflies are fluttering from flower to flower - all signs that gardening season will soon be in full swing.  

Sweet Potato Bread Recipe

Sweet Potato Plants         Sweet Potato Plants planted on black plastic      

     Sweet Potatoes, yum!   They are great baked or used as an ingredient in breads, muffins, cakes, casseroles or waffles.  Not only do they taste great, they are also high in vitamins A and C, and a good source of fiber.  I like to plant my sweet potato plants the first part of June and harvest in October.  In the photos above sweet potato plants rest in their shipping box before being planted in a garden bed covered with black plastic.  The 3rd photo shows that the sweet potatoes harvested last fall have kept very well over the winter (they need a temperature between 55 and 60 degrees for storage - do not put them in refrigerator).  What more could we want?  They keep well without time-consuming processing,  taste great, are nutritious and can be used in many different ways!  The following recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth while providing much nutrition.  A combination usually lacking in sweets that you purchase.

Sweet Potato Bread

Sweet Potato Bread

                                               2 1/2 cups sugar                            2 teaspoons baking soda
                                               4 eggs                                              3 teaspoons cinnamon
                                               1 cup canola oil                               1 teaspoon salt
                                               2/3 cup water                                   2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
                                               2 cups whole wheat flour              1/2 cup raisins
                                               2 cups unbleached flour                1 cup pecans      

Cook, cool and smash sweet potatoes.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat the inside of three, 4 x 8 loaf pans with canola oil, then flour.  Cream sugar and eggs, blend in oil;  add water and all dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add sweet potatoes and mix well.  Stir in raisins and nuts.  Pour into the three loaf pans and bake for 1 hour or until done.   These loaves freeze well.

Today's Food for Thought: 4-1-09




    People are fleeing here and there
    Looking for happiness everywhere.
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could see
    That happiness is given to you and me;
     But not when we look here and there
     And try to find it just anywhere.
     You see in seeking it, it can't be found,
     But when we give it to others
     With us it abounds!
                                      Judy McPherson