Steamy Kitchen Recipes | RSS Feed http://steamykitchen.com Steamy Kitchen Food Blog: fast recipes, simple recipes, with fresh ingredients to create delicious meals. Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:52:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 How to Grow Pea Shoots http://steamykitchen.com/39619-grow-pea-shoots.html http://steamykitchen.com/39619-grow-pea-shoots.html#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 17:18:05 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=39619 What you’ll learn: Step by step, how to grow pea shoots What you MUST do to prevent dangerous contamination Why coconut coir, seedlings pads do not work for pea shoots Recipe for simple pea shoots stir fry We love growing microgreens! They are not only highly nutritious, but also so simple to grow. No garden required. Just a sunny spot anywhere in ...

The post How to Grow Pea Shoots appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3902

What you’ll learn:

  • Step by step, how to grow pea shoots
  • What you MUST do to prevent dangerous contamination
  • Why coconut coir, seedlings pads do not work for pea shoots
  • Recipe for simple pea shoots stir fry

We love growing microgreens! They are not only highly nutritious, but also so simple to grow. No garden required. Just a sunny spot anywhere in your house. Of all the microgreens we grow, my favorite has to be pea shoots. I love the delicate, pea-flavored shoots to add to salads, sandwiches, tacos, as a topping for soups — basically anytime I want an extra boost of nutrients.

We also let the pea microgreens grow a little longer, a little taller, and harvest them as “pea shoots,” and stir-fry them Chinese style. Though you can eat the pea shoots raw, in salads, just like microgreens.

A big thank you to Mercola for sending us lots of seeds to play with!

How to grow pea shoots

Step 1: Soak the Pea Shoot Seeds

The first step is to start with good seeds. We use High Mowing Organic Pea Shoots exclusively. They are certified organic, non-GMO.

The seeds need to be soaked in clean, cool water for 8-24 hours. Allow enough water and have a big enough container for the peas to nearly double in size.

Before:

how to grow pea shoots-8203

2 cups pea shoots + 4 cups water for a 10×20 tray.

After:

Pea shoots nearly double in size.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-0074

Step 2: Spread 1-inch thick of organic potting soil into a large tray. We use re-usable 10″x20″ standard plastic seeding tray (called “1020 trays.”) You can use any type of large, shallow tray, even a baking sheet would work, as long as it will hold 1″ of potting soil.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-0075

Growing Medium for Pea Shoots

For our microgreens, we’ve tried:

  • Growing pads (too expensive, non-organic, non-compostable)
  • Micro-Mats (organic, but fall apart too easily when wet, expensive)
  • Coconut Coir (organic, very messy, slow to decompose, may contain high concentration of salt, which is not good for plants)

For pea shoots – the larger, faster growing plants that we grow beyond the “microgreen stage” – we prefer to use potting soil, which includes soil + vermiculite + other organic compost (such as worm castings, compost.) Pea shoots will require the nutrients in soil. They will not thrive in the growing pads or coir.

When growing shoots or microgreens, we always recommend organic, nutrient and microorganism-rich soil.

What you must avoid:

Any soil containing chicken or cow manure, which could lead to very dangerous contamination. Shoots and microgreens are extra-susceptible to contamination – because the parts we eat are so close to the soil and especially in a warm, humid, moist conditions.

The soil we use:

Sprout Doctor Soil Enhancement from Mercor which is:

  1. Sustainable Biochar – Provides inorganic carbon that builds soil and acts as a nearly permanent “sponge” to absorb nutrients and water and creates a friendly home for microorganisms.
  2. Organic Compost – Provides immediate soil food with organic carbon, building soil tilth and humus.
  3. Organic Worm Casings – Provides nutrients, enzymes, and improves soil structure.
  4. Organic Kelp Meal – Adds the slowly dissolving nutritional benefits of ocean plants and helps with nitrogen in the soil.

It’s natural and compostable: After harvesting the pea shoots, the soil added to our garden compost.

After spreading soil:

Drain the water from the seeds. Scatter the seeds evenly and in one layer, all over the tray.

Step 3: Water, Mist and Cover

Water the the sprouts and soil feels damp (not soaking wet.)

Use a second tray and spray the inside of the second tray with water. Place tray upside down on top of first tray to create darkness and humidity.

how to grow pea shoots-8271how to grow pea shoots-8269

Place tray in a warm (70F is ideal), dark place. Every day, spray the second tray and recover – to maintain the humidity. If you live in a colder environment, place try on top of refrigerator (you may want to cover everything with a dark cloth to keep sunlight out), for added heat. Avoid sunlight. We’ve also used a Seedling Heating Mat with great success when the temperature dips too low.

We currently have our pea shoots on a heating mat, as last night, it dipped to freezing here in Florida (rare, but it happens!)

After 2-3 days, the pea shoots will have germinated.

Uncover and move the tray into light, like a windowsill, or outside enclosed patio if the weather is nice and cool. While peas germinate best in warmer environment, peas grow after germination in cooler temperature, below 70F. Try to avoid placing the tray out in the open – as birds and unwanted critters will delight in the treat and possibly contaminate with excrement.

how to grow pea shoots-8268

Step 4: Continue Watering Using Thumb Test

For the next 7-10 days, you’ll water the pea shoots by using the thumb test.

Use your thumb to press against the top of the soil. If your thumb comes off clean and dry, water the peas. If your thumb comes off even slightly moist or with a little soil, you’re good until tomorrow.

Another test is to lift the tray. As you gain experience with growing microgreens and shoots in the container, you’ll be aware of how heavy/light the tray is. Light trays means it probably needs water.

If you are growing on a windowsill, or where there you have light coming in from just one side, you will want to rotate the trays so that the shoots will get sunlight more evenly.

Step 5: Harvest Pea Shoots

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3903

When do you harvest the shoots? Whenever you want to.

You can even harvest them after their first two true leaves appear as microgreens. What’s the difference between cotyledons vs. microgreens?

If you wait a few more days, the pea will begin growing taller and become what we call “pea shoots.” We like to harvest them when they reach between 6″ – 10″ above the soil.

If you peek at the root structure, you’ll see that the pea shoots have taken hold of the soil. If we would have used coconut coir or growing pads, the pea shoots would not thrive in those environments – and would require supplemental feeding. So, you might as well start them in soil to avoid the extra step of feeding.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3905

To harvest, we use a pair of kitchen shears, and give the pea shoots a “haircut.” We cut 1″-2″ above the seed. We don’t want to bring any of the soil in the harvest. We are very careful to only harvest the tops and not touch the soil or seeds. This reduces any further risk of contamination – like bacteria.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3909

You’ll get plenty! Our 10″x20″ tray yielded about 2 pounds of pea shoots.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3912

How to store pea shoots

Store harvested pea shoots in resealable bags in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. TIP: we do not wash the pea shoots until ready to cook. The extra water from washing will deteriorate the pea shoots faster. Keep the shoots dry. Just use a gallon-sized resealable bag. The pea shoots should stay fresh for over 2 weeks! If you find that there is moisture in the bag, take a single paper towel,

If you’re curious, this is what the root and seed looks like. Strong and healthy, and our flock of hens love picking through the cuttings. Will they grow shoots again? No, not if you’ve cut all of the leaves off of the stems. Perhaps, if you gave a shallow “haircut” to the pea shoots, and only cut off the tips, you might continue to grow pea shoots to harvest another batch. However, we have not tried this.

I would strongly avoid eating the pea next to the root – not only has the nutritional value been sapped already, but it’s been in direct contact with the moist soil.

growing pea shoots sprouts microgreens-3911

We’ve made Chinese Stir Fried Pea Shoots – click here for the recipe. It’s a very simple, delicious way to enjoy pea shoots!

chinese stir fried pea sprouts recipe-3947

If you are interested in growing Pea Shoots, Mercola has an entire kit, including the Sprout Doctor Soil for sale here.

We are also giving away a “Grow Microgreens” Kit from Mercola to several lucky winners! Come enter the giveaway here.

The post How to Grow Pea Shoots appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/39619-grow-pea-shoots.html/feed 9
Home Grown Star Anise http://steamykitchen.com/37695-home-grown-star-anise.html http://steamykitchen.com/37695-home-grown-star-anise.html#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:17:23 +0000 http://steamykitchen.com/?p=37695 A lovely reader sent a package of his homegrown star anise spice. Have you ever used star anise before? Normally, when I buy them at the Asian market, they look like they’ve been picked through – none of the “stars” even resemble stars. Upon opening the bag, there is a dusty, musty smell. Not these. These are fresh and dried ...

The post Home Grown Star Anise appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
homegrown-star-anise-2

A lovely reader sent a package of his homegrown star anise spice. Have you ever used star anise before?

Normally, when I buy them at the Asian market, they look like they’ve been picked through – none of the “stars” even resemble stars. Upon opening the bag, there is a dusty, musty smell.

Not these.

star-anise-2644

These are fresh and dried star anise from Greg’s yard. Did you know star anise is actually an immature fruit that’s dried?

Greg says that the star anise tree (it’s a tree!), kept low and trimmed, make wonderful hedges. When you cut the hedges, it releases an amazing, spicy, warm fragrance. I think I’ll take the seeds and plant them in my front yard, what a wonderful way to welcome our friends (and the UPS guy) to house!

I’ve just learned this pod’s folklore, “Place Star anise under your pillow at night to keep bad dreams away and also to dream of someone far away,” says Growing Hermioine’s Garden.

star-anise-2654

The green fruit will dry to become the nutty-brown star anise spice that we use in Chinese cooking. Greg included instructions with his care package: Dry in a ventilated screen or it will mold. Also cover with the green pods with some kind of cloth or paper, because as the pods dry, they will SHOOT the seeds out!

How fun! I really want to see the shooting seeds. Maybe I’ll have to stage a camera in front of the drying pods and catch it shooting seeds!

star-anise-2661

I’ll have to report back on our progress in growing the seeds. In my research, I’ve found out that the “Illicium verum” is of the magnolia tree family. Here in the U.S., it grows nicely as a small to medium, spreading evergreen tree in zones 9 and 10 (it doesn’t do well in below freezing temperatures.)

Cooking with Star Anise

The Homestead Garden states that, “This spice has a savory-sweet flavor to it, often compared to licorice with a slight cinnamon and clove taste. It has a large quantity of a chemical called anethole, which makes star anise 13 times sweeter than sugar.”

The spice is quite strong, only 1 or 2 star anise is needed to flavor an entire pot of stew. Star anise is also a component of Chinese 5-Spice Powder.

Here’s something interesting from The Epicentre, “Star anise pairs brilliantly with tomatoes. It’s licorice-like flavor actually bears a close resemblance to that of fennel and basil, tomato’s classic companions. A single pod of star anise  adds a new level of flavour to a tomato-based sauce or stew with a warm, spicy undertone. The same goes for braised beef dishes – from stews to chili to oxtail soup, star anise can be the secret ingredient that elevates the dish to a whole new level.”

I’ve never tried star anise with tomatoes, but I think the next batch of tomato sauce will be an experiment with a star or two thrown in.

Here are a few recipes I’ve made using star anise!

Vietnamese Pho

vietnamese-pho-recipe-2

 

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs 

Chinese Tea Egg Recipe

Chinese Boiled Peanuts

chinese-boiled-peanuts-recipe-2095

Taiwanese Pork Noodles

taiwanese-pork-noodle-recipe-lo-ba-4

 

 

 

The post Home Grown Star Anise appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/37695-home-grown-star-anise.html/feed 23
Grow: Aquaponic Strawberry Runners http://steamykitchen.com/37227-grow-aquaponic-strawberry-runners.html http://steamykitchen.com/37227-grow-aquaponic-strawberry-runners.html#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:47:45 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=37227 This is just a quick fun little “how to” post on how we are propagating strawberry runners in our aquaponics garden. This method will also work well in a hydroponic system as well. Surprisingly simple, effective and inexpensive method makes quick work of expanding your strawberry patch or replacing older plants. we obviously need to expand the number of strawberry ...

The post Grow: Aquaponic Strawberry Runners appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
This is just a quick fun little “how to” post on how we are propagating strawberry runners in our aquaponics garden. This method will also work well in a hydroponic system as well. Surprisingly simple, effective and inexpensive method makes quick work of expanding your strawberry patch or replacing older plants. we obviously need to expand the number of strawberry plants we have because not one Strawberry made it in to the Steamy Kitchen this year. Seems our youngest was always snacking on them straight from the plant.

Traditionally runners are started by placing the new runner strawberry plants into a pot of soil and using some sort of clip to hold it in place till the plant can establish its roots. This would require us to remove the soil before inserting the new plant into our aquaponics garden. An extra step that I didn’t want to have to deal with. So the solution I came up with is using a simple little bag to act as my container and grow plug to act as my moist media for the roots to grow in.

What you will need

  • A “U” shaped piece of wire

2014-07-15 11.15.18

  • A 3×4 inch plastic bag. (I found these at Walmart in their craft section – 100 bags for $1)

2014-07-15 11.18.58

  • A grow plug – This one is from Agrotech but the smaller Root Riot plugs work well if not better in some regards

2014-07-15 11.17.07

  • And of course a Strawberry Runner

How To Start Your Runners Hydroponically or Aquaponically

The process is simple. First split the top of the grow plug to create a slot for the runner to sit down in.

2014-07-15 11.17.57

Then drop it in some water to soak.

2014-07-15 11.19.30

Next place the strawberry runner in the slot you made prior. Make sure the small pink and white root starts are pointed down towards the grow plug. If the runner has not developed any roots, then place the plant with the leaves growing up.

2014-07-15 11.21.34

Insert the wire U across the runner into the grow plug. This will keep the plant inside the grow plug and keep the grow plug together.

2014-07-15 11.22.08

Fill your small bag with a little bit of water and then insert the grow plug in the top. These larger ones fit snuggly in the bag. The root riot ones are smaller and slip in easily.

2014-07-15 11.23.03

Then place your start on the surface of your grow media.

2014-07-15 11.16.12

Or you can let the start hang over the edge. Just ensure the starts have plenty of light and the edge does not cut the runner cord. If you are using the smaller Root Riot plugs, you may need to tie a piece of string vertically around the center of the bag to hold all of it together, or use a rubber band horizontally to hold the bag on the grow plug.

2014-07-15 11.23.24

After just three days, the roots are already visible growing through the grow plug. Amazing.

Strawberry Roots

When you are ready to transplant these runners you will cut the runner cord from the mother plant, remove the plastic bag and insert into your system. I am planning on leaving this runner pictured above for a few more days till the roots are well established. Keep in mind if you are starting multiple runners on the same runner line from the mother plant, then you will need to wait to cut the runner cord till the last one on the line is ready to transplant. Also keep an eye on the grow plugs. If they start to dry out, re-wet them with a little bit more water. I am finding the ones tucked under the leaves of the mother plant are not requiring additional water, but the ones out in the hot Florida sun are requiring additional water.

Hope this helps.

The post Grow: Aquaponic Strawberry Runners appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/37227-grow-aquaponic-strawberry-runners.html/feed 2
Grow: Harvest Grow Bags Review http://steamykitchen.com/37162-grow-harvest-grow-bags.html http://steamykitchen.com/37162-grow-harvest-grow-bags.html#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:10:37 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=37162 I will be upfront about this, Architec Housewares reached out to us with information about their Homegrown Gourmet product line. I was immediately interested as one of their first lines read “It’s the first of its kind to offer home growers all the tools they need to grow, serve and preserve their own homegrown produce.” Right down my alley. We ...

The post Grow: Harvest Grow Bags Review appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
I will be upfront about this, Architec Housewares reached out to us with information about their Homegrown Gourmet product line. I was immediately interested as one of their first lines read “It’s the first of its kind to offer home growers all the tools they need to grow, serve and preserve their own homegrown produce.” Right down my alley. We are all about trying things to help people grow some of their own food. They were kind enough to send us some of their products to try out.
2014-07-14 12.42.56
I planted the Harvest Grow Bag and wanted to share my experience. Unfortunately it has been extremely hot the past few weeks here in Florida. Not the best time to start new plants. The aquaponic plants are struggling despite having a cooler root zone in the water. I figured we would try it any way and see what happens.

The Harvest Grow Bag is a bag made of a thick heavy breathable material with drainage holes. I used the larger Root Vegetable bad with a 24 inch diameter and 15 inch height. For me, it’s large size and depth makes it fall into the raised bed category of gardening with the advantage of folding it up and storing it somewhere when not in use during the off season. I placed the bag in the greenhouse where it will get lots of sun but will be protected from the onslaught of rain we get during the late afternoon thunderstorms that roll through our neck of the woods during the summer. I placed the bag over an area where the poured concrete was cut for the aquaponics pipes. The holes in the bag will allow for the excess water to flow out of the bag, over the rocks and into the soil below.
2014-07-15 12.03.49

Filling this bag requres approximately 3.5 cubic feet of potting mix. That is nearly two large bags of potting soil. It’s flexible sides makes it a fun challenge to pour the heavy bags of potting soil into the Harvest Bag without spilling some on the ground. Perhaps an easier choice might be to use a scoop to place the initial soil into the bag. Push your initial soil around the perimeter of the bag. This will help hold the sides up as well as keep the bag in place when adding more soil. Also with nearly two bags of potting mix your Harvest Bag will become very heavy. It’s flexible sides and weight will make it difficult to move with out the help of a friend. The material seemed strong enough to hold while I tried lifting and shifting the bag. I am also curious to see what happens to the material as it ages in the sun.
2014-07-15 12.07.56

After adding my second half bag (I didn’t have two full bags on hand) of soil to the bag, I leveled the surface. At this point the bag seemed very sturdy and held it’s shape well. If I had added 3 more inches of soil and filled it to about an inch from the top, I am pretty confident the bag will hold it’s own as far as containers go.
2014-07-15 12.11.34

I had a few tomato starts left over from the aquaponics so I planted them in here. We are going to add a few small herbs on the sides to help round out this bag. I am excited to see how the plants will grow.

photo 1My mom has laid down the challenge with her tomato plants growing in a pot on her porch up North. This picture was take a few weeks ago and she tells me the plant has reached over 5 feet tall and she has harvested her first “crown” tomatoes. She credits Steamy Kitchen for inspiring her to grow something she likes to eat. Needless to say, I’m very proud of my mom. Those are some great looking tomatoes.

But watch out mom, I am using a secret weapon. It’s called Nature’s Soil Boost. The kind people of Architec Housewares sent along a jar of this to use with our Harvest Bag. It contains natural bacteria to help boost the soils ability to natural feed the plants. I am familiar with the use of bacteria in the aquaponics, but I have never seen some as a soil additive. In this case we used some to help water the plants in. I also added some rock dust to the potting mix for added trace minerals to really boost my chances.
2014-07-15 12.16.01

 

So far I like the Harvest Bag. It’s a really nice container idea and offers great flexibility. Moving it can be challenging, so best to make sure it’s where you want it before filling and planting. We will need to see how it performs in the sun as far as breaking down goes, but it seems thick enough to get a least a few seasons of growth out of it.

As for the challenge with my mom…. I’ll just have to keep you posted.

If you get a chance check out Homegrown Gourmet’s Project Restore. It’s a great concept where part of the proceeds from your purchase go into providing supplies and tools to community establishments to grow healthy food for those in need. Check out the video below.

We are also hosting a giveaway for your very own Harvest Grow Bag here.

And please check out Homegrown Gourmet’s other products here.

The post Grow: Harvest Grow Bags Review appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/37162-grow-harvest-grow-bags.html/feed 1
Grow: Aquaponincs, what to do when disaster strikes http://steamykitchen.com/37041-grow-aquaponincs-what-to-do-when-disaster-strikes.html http://steamykitchen.com/37041-grow-aquaponincs-what-to-do-when-disaster-strikes.html#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:42:23 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=37041 Now I will admit I am a lazy gardener. If there is an easier, simpler way of growing my own food then I will try it. The ease of an Aquaponics garden is one of the things that appealed to me. Once an aquaponic garden is set and running, for the most part it is really simple gardening. Very little ...

The post Grow: Aquaponincs, what to do when disaster strikes appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
Now I will admit I am a lazy gardener. If there is an easier, simpler way of growing my own food then I will try it. The ease of an Aquaponics garden is one of the things that appealed to me. Once an aquaponic garden is set and running, for the most part it is really simple gardening. Very little to no weeding and all my harvesting and planting is done on a high table eliminating the back breaking bending over all the time. Most days my gardening chores are just feeding my fish and watering my microgreens. And I am still looking for a way to automate the watering of my microgreens so I can scratch one more chore off my list.

But when it goes wrong, it can go horribly wrong. See all these happy koi fish? Frolicking and swimming all around their tank. They will even splash you when you throw some food into their tank. We keep the cast net on top of the tank to keep them from jumping out!

2014-05-16 08.51.11

Then overnight, that picture of joy and happiness can turn into a disturbing nightmare like the one pictured below.

2014-07-05 10.20.15

When I went to feed the fish Saturday morning, now referred to as Black Saturday, I found 12 of our largest koi floating on the top of the water. The rest of the fish were swimming near the bottom of the now mirky brownish greenish water.

2014-07-06 11.50.09

 

So What do you do?

If you’re like me, then the first thing you do is feel this rush of panic wash over you. Holy Koi Batman! Are the rest of the fish going to die? What happened? Why is the water not clear any more? Is the water too hot? Is it too cold? Did some alien from outer space poison my fish in some whacky science test? What is going to happen to the plants? Of course all those questions flood my mind in a nano second without a chance of being answered leaving me flooded with a feeling of overwhelm.

Take a deep breath. The feeling of overwhelm passes and the empty voids its passing left are slowly filled with a sense of loss and sadness. But somewhere deep down inside me a spark is lit. It quickly becomes a smoldering flame growing larger and larger within me. A desire to save the other fish, correct the problem and figure out what really happened. Better get cracking and go total CSI on this thing. We got twelve dead fish, mirky water and a whole lot of questions that if left unanswered may cause a future distrust between humans and those pesky fish experimenting aliens or at least upset the near Zen like balance that exist in our house.

For me the first step is STOP; don’t disturb the scene. Don’t feed the fish. Leave everything the way it is while you start investigating what happened. I look at and listen to the system. Is everything flowing the way it normally does. If it doesn’t look right or sound right add that to your list of things to check.

From there I turn my attention to removing and inspecting the deceased fish. I look each one over looking for any clues. I look at their gills to see their condition. Are they pink, bright red or even show signs of scarring or bleeding. I look for missing scales and parasite signs. I note the information and remove the fish from the system. I will then check the fish tank and filters for any other deceased fish. If left in the system, dead and decaying fish will cause serious problems.

I next reach for my API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Water chemistry holds a huge number of clues to what is going on in your system. Fortunately for me I had done my weekly testing of the water quality just a few days before.
2014-07-06 11.50.52

 

I run the four basic test which are pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. My weekly test results prior to Black Saturday were pH of 7.2 (which is higher than we like but very close to neutral and to be honest I was getting ready start the slow adjusting process of bringing it back to the 6.6 – 6.8 range), Ammonia was very near 0.0 ppm, Nitrite was 0.0 ppm and Nitrates were running around 60 – 80  ppm. The results on Black Saturday showed some major swings had happened. The pH had dropped nearly a full point down to 6.2, the ammonia had climbed to over 0.50 ppm, the nitrites were showing slightly above 0.25 ppm and the nitrates had dropped to 20 ppm. This is bad. Any pH swing of more than 0.2 is considered dangerous to most fish. We are usually very careful when adjusting system pH. The ammonia level rising is always a concern. Along with rising nitrite levels, rising ammonia levels are an indication that something has happened with the bacteria and they are no longer capable of handling the ammonia produced by the fish. The diminishing nitrate levels show the plants are consuming more nitrates then the bacteria is producing. But if you look at the chart below with our water at 28’C the ammonia level is still below the danger threshold.

ammonia toxicity

 

Another clue was found when I looked into the bio-bead filter. The beads looked cleaner, whiter than they normally do. The bio film where the bacteria normally lives appeared to be stripped away. While the filter system is self cleaning, this looked like when your kids come up to you a half hour before bed time and say “I brushed my teeth, put my clothes in the hamper and am going to bed early, and you don’t need to tuck me in” you know something is up clean.

What I can best put together is something caused a large swing in the pH and damaged some of the bacteria in the system. The dead bacteria was cleaned off the bio-beads in the filter and added a mirky-ness to the water. The large pH swing caused damage to the larger fish’s gills and they died. What caused this large pH swing is still a mystery. The only thing I have done to the system other than normal feeding was removing of several spent tomato, bean and pepper plants making room for the next generation of beans. This maybe stirred something up? Perhaps, but unlikely. All the plants came from the flood and drain grow beds which are constantly flooding and draining mixing water. The cause of the pH swing is an unsolved mystery.

In the mean time, we incorporated a couple of 10% water changes and went to the pet store to get bio-filter starter bacteria. It adds bacteria to system to help replace some of the lost bacteria. Normally the bacteria will replenish itself if there is a demand for it, but in this case I wanted to give it a helping hand.

Two days later here are the results of our water testing. The pH had returned to our goal of 6.6 – 6.8, ammonia and nitrites dropped back to near 0.0 ppm and the nitrates climbed above 40 ppm.

2014-07-06 12.03.12

 

I am happy to report the rest of the fish are back to trying to splash me when I feed them.

The post Grow: Aquaponincs, what to do when disaster strikes appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/37041-grow-aquaponincs-what-to-do-when-disaster-strikes.html/feed 6
Aquaponics Sweet Potatoes Update http://steamykitchen.com/35977-aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-update.html http://steamykitchen.com/35977-aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-update.html#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 18:15:34 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=35977 Harvest Time! We have been diligently watering our potatoes in a barrel daily, and patiently waiting till it was time to harvest. From what I gather you are supposed to wait till the leaves turn yellow and then harvest. Seems our plants want to keep on growing. They have overflown the barrel and are maintaining a vibrant green color. Unfortunately ...

The post Aquaponics Sweet Potatoes Update appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
Harvest Time!

We have been diligently watering our potatoes in a barrel daily, and patiently waiting till it was time to harvest. From what I gather you are supposed to wait till the leaves turn yellow and then harvest. Seems our plants want to keep on growing. They have overflown the barrel and are maintaining a vibrant green color. Unfortunately they are not capable of dropping roots into the concrete to develop more sweet potatoes. So I made the decision to harvest them.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1776

Upon closer inspection I noticed the center of the barrel did have some yellowing leaves while the ends of the runners were growing like mad. Wanting to have more sweet potatoes in the fall, we decided to replant right after harvesting this batch. I traced a few of the runners back to where they first had roots in the soil and gently pulled the plant form the vermiculite and perlite mixture. What a surprise, lots of little tiny potatoes on these plants already! Awesome!

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1782

To be honest, I felt a great relief upon seeing these little guys on just the runners. Even though I watered these guys nearly everyday, I never once poked around to see if there were any orange gems hiding beneath the surface. We put aside four our five runner plants shown above. When you pull the runner out, cut it below the first set of roots.

So how do you harvest potatoes in a barrel? Easy, just dump it out. The perlite vermiculite mixture is actually light in weight making moving it a possibility. We spread a tarp on the ground so we could capture and reuse the growing media and then tipped the barrel over on the tarp.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1785

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1786

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1787

Hmmm, I expected it to dump out and spill all over the tarp, not land as a solid plug. The root mass on the bottom was impressive. When I pulled it back like a rug, it easily detached from the mass and crumbled into a large ball of twisted twine. The vermiculite and perlite falling gently on to the tarp. The rest of the growing media mass crumbles easily with your fingers and quickly becomes a treasure hunt. If the kids were doing this, I am sure it would have been a game of who can find the biggest or the smallest or the most potatoes. The ease of running your fingers through the growing media like a pitchfork makes this activity definitely kid friendly.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1790

Some were smaller.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1791

Some were larger.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1792

Some were funny shapes. Not going to tell you what Jaden thought this looked like. This blogs is still family friendly.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1793

We continued to search for potatoes and started separating the bio mass from the growing media. The bio mass went to the compost pile while some of the growing media went to restarting the next batch of potato plants and the rest is in storage ready to be added when the time comes.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1796

We were left with a large pile of yummy sweet potatoes! Yippie!

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1797

 Aquaponics Update

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1778

Summer heat tolerant lettuce is in full swing. We are getting anywhere from 40 to 60 heads a week of fresh lettuce transforming our diet at the same time. Any left over lettuce is finding it’s way to our Taekwondo friends and family.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1783

As our system matures, we are experience a few issues. First a foremost is tall plants like corn need something solid to grab hold of with their roots. The looser clay pebbles we use to grow in are easy on the hands when it comes to planting, but are terrible for offering support to all plants. One gentle breeze was all it took to knock the corn stalks down and spread clay pebbles all over the ground. We ended up using twine to tie the plants up.

Since we transitioned over to Aquaponics 2.0 we have been planting like crazy and things are taking off growth wise. The tomato plants you see above are actually about 8 feet tall and are producing some amazing tomatoes. Pepper plants are doing well during our summer heat levels. The challenge is our nitrate levels are falling rapidly. Or in simpler terms, our fish are not eating enough to support the amount of growth the plants are demonstrating. We have increased the amount of food we are feeding our fish to the maximum levels. We also reduced our lettuce production and trim back many of the plants in the grow beds. Nutrient levels are starting to rise slowly and the plants are showing signs of renewed vigor.

Aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-1784

Our corn suffered during these lower levels as indicated by the first ear above. We’ll continue to march forward.

The post Aquaponics Sweet Potatoes Update appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/35977-aquaponics-sweet-potatoes-update.html/feed 9
Grow: Foolproof Hydroponic Gardening in a Tub http://steamykitchen.com/33957-grow-how-to-make-tub-hydroponics-garden.html http://steamykitchen.com/33957-grow-how-to-make-tub-hydroponics-garden.html#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:44:58 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=33957 If you think hydroponic gardening is difficult or expensive – you’re wrong! A simple tub (or even a milk jug) and a handful of easy-to-find (and cheap) products and you can hack yourself a hydroponics garden. I wanted to title this post “The Easiest Hydroponics Ever” or “Set It and Forget It Method” or “No Excuses Growing Method”. But Tub ...

The post Grow: Foolproof Hydroponic Gardening in a Tub appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
tub-hydroponics-1-57b

If you think hydroponic gardening is difficult or expensive – you’re wrong! A simple tub (or even a milk jug) and a handful of easy-to-find (and cheap) products and you can hack yourself a hydroponics garden.

I wanted to title this post “The Easiest Hydroponics Ever” or “Set It and Forget It Method” or “No Excuses Growing Method”. But Tub Hydroponics seems to be the most accurate name for it.

Basically we are going to show you how to turn this collection of things:

tub-hydroponics-1-57

into these fabulous looking leafy vegetables.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk5

Anyone who knows me well, understands I really enjoy Aquaponics. I love how everything works together forming a complete cycle. I feed the fish, the fish provide nutrients for the bacteria which convert it into food for the plants which in turn provide me with food. When functioning correctly it is truly a beautiful thing. Aquaponics is a very big and complex subject. So big that I didn’t want our first real grow something post diving into the depths of Aquaponics. I had to find something simpler.

Well, if we remove the fish and bacteria from the system we are left with Hydroponics. I provide nutrients in a circulating water system which feeds the plants and the plants feed me. Normally when growing things hydroponically we need to have big discussion around reservoirs, water pumps, air pumps and nutrient solution. And, oh yeah, lighting, salt build up, pH adjustments, constant monitoring, nutrient solution additions and replacements and so on and so on. It’s a discussion that quickly boggles the mind, causing it to shutdown and go huddle in the corner like a stressed out parakeet. Same thing happens when I talk to my kids about cleaning their room, but I digress.

Still too complex. There’s got to be a way to make it easier, simpler. Think man think! How about removing the pumps and just make it plants, water and nutrients. Time for some Google research! Bingo! Found a link to “Three Non-Circulating Hydroponic Methods for Growing Lettuce” by B.A. Kratky from the University of Hawaii.

The basic premise is very simple. Fill a container full of nutrient rich water and cover with a lid. Place a lettuce seedling in a special pot called a net pot and place it in a hole in the lid such that the bottom of the pot is touching the water. The seedling gets water from the container, likes what it tastes and sends out more roots to get more of that nutrient rich water. The plant continues to grow, sends out more roots and consumes more water. A moist air gap is created between the surface of the water and the bottom of the net cup. In this gap the plant sends out smaller horizontal roots to absorb oxygen. Kratky refers to these roots as “oxygen roots”. If you were to fill the air gap with water it would drown the plant.

So what does all that mean to us? It means simple, easy, set it and forget it lettuce in a tub. Or what I like to call Tub Hydroponics.

Let’s get started.

First gather your materials:

  • 1 – 7 gallon tube with lid
  • 4 – 2 inch net pots
  • Rapid Rooter grow plugs
  • Some lettuce seeds
  • Hydroponic fertilizer
  • A small plastic tray
  • A 2 inch hole saw
  • And some water

A note about tubs: Not all tubs are created equally. See this tub I bought from a local home improvement store.
tub-hydroponics-2-11

It has a nice locking lid with blue handles. Perfect size, not to pricey. All looked good till I got home and looked at the locking handles a little closer. I realized they drilled holes through the side of the tub to secure the handles. When I compared the net cup to where the holes were, it became apparent when filled with water up to the holes, the bottom of the net cup would not be in water.

tub-hydroponics-3-12

I therefore recommend simple restaurant bus tubs with lids. They are perfect for this application. I bought mine from the Food Service Warehouse for a little over $9 for tub and lid. Also tubs that are too deep will not be able to maintain their shape when adding larger amounts of water. Look for the ones that are approximately 7 inches tall. Avoid clear tubs as they will allow too much light into the reservoir which will lead to algae growth. Algae Growth = Bad News.

So let’s get on with it!

Step 1 – Prepare Your Tubs

Take your 2 inch hole saw and cut four evenly spaced holes in your lid.

tub-hydroponics-4-00

I used the ribs on the lid as a guide.
tub-hydroponics-05

Take a utility knife to remove the little bits of plastic left by the hole saw.
tub-hydroponics-6-2

Set you lid and tub aside for now. Also sneak that hole saw back before someone notices it’s missing and you didn’t ask permission to use it.

Step 2 – Plant Your Seeds

tub-hydroponics-7-14

Take four moist Rapid Rooter plugs and place them in your four net cups. If the Rapid Rooter plugs are not moist you can soak them in some water for a minute or two.
tub-hydroponics-8-15

Take a fifth plug (I used an old dry one) and break it into four pieces. Slide one piece in each cup to hold the full plug steady.
tub-hydroponics-9-15-2

Place two leafy greens seeds in each of the full rapid rooter plug holes. If the hole is not open, you can open it with a tip of a pencil.
tub-hydroponics-10-17

Place your four net cups in a shallow tray and fill the tray with a quarter inch of water.
tub-hydroponics-11-18

Cover your tray with a thick dish cloth and put it in a dark place till the seeds sprout.

After two to three days, move your seedlings into the light and refill water to the quarter inch mark.
tub-hydroponics-12-21

On the seventh or eighth day remove one of the seedlings by pinching or cutting it off so each net pot has a single plant in it.
tub-hydroponics-22

By the end of 2 weeks your baby plants should look like this.
tub-hydroponics-23

Step 3 – Fill Your Tub

Take an empty net cup and place it in one of the holes in your lid. Put your lid on the tub and fill the tub with water till a quarter of an inch of water is visible in the bottom of the cup.
tub-hydroponics-27

If you are using a tub other than a 7 gallon tub, you will need to determine how much water you have in the container. A 7 gallon tube will be hold approximately 5 gallons of water when filled to the appropriate level. To determine the water volume take the lid off and measure the approximate width, height and depth of the water.
tub-hydroponics-30

*** Warning Math Ahead ***

Multiply all three measurements together.

Ours was 18″ long, 14″ wide and 5″ deep.
18 x 14 x 5 = 1260 cubic inches

Convert to cubic feet by dividing by 1728.
1260 cubic inches / 1728 = 0.729 cubic feet

One cubic foot holds 7.48 gallons of water, so multiply by 7.48.
0.729 cubic feet x 7.48 = 5.4 gallons

Step 4 – Add Nutrients to Water

Next you will need to add the Nutrients to the water. I am using a mixture of a Tomato Master Blend, Calcium Nitrate, and Magnesium Sulfate (aka Epson Salt) in the following ratios:

  • 2 grams of Master Blend per gallon of water
  • 2 grams of Calcium Nitrate per gallon of water
  • 1 gram of Magnesium Sulfate per gallon of water

You can check out MHPgardener’s video explaining the ratios. He has had great success using this mixture.
tub-hydroponics-31

Pour nutrients into the tub and mix with your hand. It will take some time to dissolve. It is ok if a little settles on the bottom.
tub-hydroponics-35

Step 5 – Check pH of Water

Use a pH testing kit to check the pH of your water and nutrient solution. The ideal range will be between 6.4 and 6.7. If you use rain water, typically adding the nutrients will result in a pH in the ideal range. If the pH of the water is high, you can add a few drops of lemon juice, mix and retest again. Or you can use a hydroponic pH lowering solution. The good news is, once you test your water and determine what is needed to adjust it to the ideal range, you will not need to retest in the future. Just add the same amounts of pH adjusters.
tub-hydroponics-36

Step 6 – Insert Seedlings

Place the lid back on the tub and drop the seedling filled net cups into the holes we made in Step 1.
tub-hydroponics-38

Step 7 – Wait

Place your tube where there is a good deal of light. I recommend natural sunlight, but they can be grown under full spectrum fluorescent tube lights (6500K). And then wait. Leave it alone. Don’t touch it. Don’t add any water. Just let them grow.

This is the first day in the sun for these guys.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk1

By the beginning of the second week you should see some substantial growth.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk2

Beginning of week three. Going strong!
tub-hydroponics-39-wk3

Beginning of week four. Almost ready to harvest.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk4

Beginning of week five and these Bok Choy and Tat Choy are ready for harvest.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk5

Here are the roots at 5 weeks. Notice how low the nutrient solution is. Look at the healthy, strong root system. The health of the plant can be determined by the size of the root system.
tub-hydroponics-39-wk5-roots

If you are growing in an area that has light only from one side, you may rotate your tub every few days to encourage even growth. I haven’t had to do this yet.

Step 8 – Harvest and Eat!

Enjoy the fruits of your hands-off tub hydroponics.

Milk Jug Hydroponics

You can even do this in a recycled milk jug! I would stick with a lettuce variety on this method. Things like Bok Choy and Tat Choy are big water consumers.

Gallon Jug Kratky

 

The changes I made here was the elimination of the net cup. Instead I stuck a toothpick through the very top of the Rapid Rooter plug to hold it in the open top of the gallon jug. I filled the jug to an inch below the top and added enough nutrients for one gallon of water. Capped the jug and shook the jug to mix. Removed the cap and insert the plug in the open lid. Make sure the plug reaches the water level initially. You only need about a quarter of an inch in the water. The let it sit for four to five weeks.

 

Tub Hydroponics Shopping List

Bus Tub

This is the same bus tub I used except it is in white. I think the lighter color would be better for hot sunny climates were over heating can become an issue. Black tubs may work better in cooler climates and indoors where heat absorption would be desireable. The walls on this tub are thick and don’t bulge when filled with water.

Tub Lid

The lid for the tub. You could mix and match color’s if you wish. I just choose to keep them all the same color. This lid for the bus tub is solid. It’s designed to stack other bus tubs full of stuff on top. Definitely will hold up the plants without sagging.

Net Cups

These are 2 inch net cups. They should have ample space to allow the roots to grow down through the netting of the cup. I avoid ones with solid bottoms. Also ensure the net cups have a small lip on the top. I ran across a few that did not have a lip and would slip through the hole cut by the hole saw. You can also source these from a local hydroponics store if there is one in your area.

Rapid Rooters

These plugs make seeding simple and easy, but by no means are they required. You may start your seeds any way you wish. Just make sure you have some sort of media that will allow capillary action to water the plants. Rock wool cubes will work well too, but require an extra step of dipping in a low pH solution for 10 seconds or so. If you start your seeds in soil, you will need to wash the soil off the plant’s roots and transfer to a different media for capillary action.

Seeds

I have linked to some Red Cross Butterhead Lettuce, but you may use any leafy green seed in this system. Adriana and Red Cross are two of our favorites. I suggest some trying all sorts of varieties. Keep in mind what the weather will be like 4-6 weeks from planting your seeds. Some varieties are more heat tolerant while others thrive in cooler temperatures.

Hydroponic Fertilizer

This is similar to the Master Blend Tomato Mix I use. It has the same N-P-K ratio and the same mixing instructions. This formula also contains a fair number of trace minerals for plant growth. With the addition of the Calcium Nitrate and Magnesium Sulfate growth resulting from this mix is incredible.

pH Adjusting Kit

Simple but easy Hydroponics pH adjusting kit. It includes a testing solution as well as pH raising and lowering solutions. Getting the pH into the 6.4 – 6.7 range really helps the plant growth. You can also purchase a water testing kit from a pet store to check your pH. Remember though, we are looking for the ideal range after the addition of your plant nutrients.

The post Grow: Foolproof Hydroponic Gardening in a Tub appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/33957-grow-how-to-make-tub-hydroponics-garden.html/feed 24
Grow: Hydroponics and Aquaponics Update http://steamykitchen.com/33774-grow-hydroponics-aquaponics-update.html http://steamykitchen.com/33774-grow-hydroponics-aquaponics-update.html#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 14:40:49 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=33774 Hello everyone! I’ve been “sustainable gardening” for over a year now — with the aquaponics, hydroponics and microgreens. Some of our experiments are GREAT…. and some….well….let me just show you: Things That Worked Hydroponic Sweet Potatoes (in a barrel) From our Potatoes in A Barrel Experiment – the sweet potatoes are growing like crazy! I have added more media into the container 3 ...

The post Grow: Hydroponics and Aquaponics Update appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
Hello everyone! I’ve been “sustainable gardening” for over a year now — with the aquaponics, hydroponics and microgreens. Some of our experiments are GREAT…. and some….well….let me just show you:

mixed results of hydroponic carrots in a barrel.

Things That Worked

Hydroponic Sweet Potatoes (in a barrel)

From our Potatoes in A Barrel Experiment – the sweet potatoes are growing like crazy! I have added more media into the container 3 times and they are showing no signs of slowing down. I have resisted digging down in the media looking for sweet potatoes for fear of introducing mold or air that may lead to rot. I continue to water these daily and am waiting patiently for the leaves to start yellowing before I dump the barrel in search of sweet potato gold!

Sweet Potatoes

(Sweet Potatoes)

 

Hydroponic Carrots

Our carrots took off as well. After a slow start (see Needs Improvement section below), these suckers took root and reached for the stars. Some of the greens reached three feet tall, with little carrot tops poking above the media.

carrots in a barrel

(Carrots in a Barrel)

With some of the greens starting to yellow we decided to harvest the carrots yesterday. A bountiful bouquet of multi-colored beauties!

hydroponic-carrots-1467

The carrots were grown in a mixture of vermiculite and perlite.

What is Vermiculite and Perlite? Perlite is a white light weight puffy volcanic glass material that doesn’t absorb water and promotes drainage. Vermiculite is a darker light weight silicate clay material that promotes water retention and attracts nutrients to help promote plant growth. Most potting mixes contain one or both of these materials. In our case we omitted the soil and used just the vermiculite and perlite mixture to grow in.

 

What Needs Improvement:

Hydroponic Butterball Potatoes

Our butterball potatoes didn’t fair so well. Neither the soil based or the hydroponic media based potatoes made it past the first few weeks. Most never started producing leaves or showed indications of growth. The few that did start leaves quickly died back. When I carefully pulled back the growing media, most of the potatoes were mushy gooey balls. The ones in the soil faired no better. Which makes me question the viability of the potatoes we used for the starts.

Hydroponic Carrots

The carrots were quick to sprout and form their first leaves, but growth slowed to a snails pace. Same with the sweet potato starts we received. They took hold and then kind of maintained their size with no new growth evident. At that time I was in the midst of preparing to switch over to Aquaponics 2.0. I had lowered my feed rate to the fish and therefore there was not as much nutrients in the system for the plants. I decided to augment the aquaponics water with an organic hydroponic solution. I would use the water from our fish tank and add to it the hydroponics solution diluted to half the recommend ratio. This sparked the growth of both the carrots and sweet potatoes.

 

Things We’ll Try Next Time:

hydroponic-carrots-1461

(A carrot in a carrot in a carrot)

Can you tell how many carrots grew in one?

Carrots need their space! With a slow start and the excitement of new growth, I never thinned our crop. We had some mutant carrots with other carrots growing through them. Multiple large carrots were surrounded by dwarf carrots. Next time when the starts reach 2 inches tall, I will thin the crop down to give each carrot 2-3 inches in between. Evidently carrots have a personal space zone.

Some of the carrots were huge and started to split. We even found one carrot (see above photo) – where a carrot grew within a carrot which grew within another carrot!

Need to harvest a little sooner. Hopefully the increased space between carrots will allow for easier observation of the top of the actual carrot to better judge when to harvest.

I haven’t given up on potatoes yet. I think the next approach will entail taking the starting potatoes and making sure they get a good start before introducing them into the barrels. Some time spent in a paper bag in a dark room ( I heard they like that) or perhaps starting them in water like an elementary school experiment for fifth graders. Hmmm, maybe something the kids could do? Hey Andrew and Nathan, wanna try a cool “Science Project”….

While I like the Potatoes in a Barrel concept, I am thinking of incorporating a wicking bed into the aquaponics set up. Now the water used in the wicking bed will not be returned to the system, but it does conserve water usage in general as it is not absorbed into the ground. At the same time the wicking bed provides plants access to the naturally nutrient rich aquaponic water. If you are interested check out this article on wicking beds.

I have completed the change over to Aquaponics 2.0 (more on that in a later post), and the nutrient levels are rising in the water, I will attempt to start the next batch of carrots using only the aquaponic water.

As with everything in this venture of growing our own food, it is a fun process of tinkering, learning, experimentation and growing from both our successes and our failures learning experiences. Our goal is still the same, grow some of our own food and encourage others to do the same.

 

Video Tour of our Hydroponics and Aquaponics Garden

 

The post Grow: Hydroponics and Aquaponics Update appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/33774-grow-hydroponics-aquaponics-update.html/feed 9
Grow: Difference Between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens http://steamykitchen.com/32446-grow-microgreens-sprouts-and-baby-greens.html http://steamykitchen.com/32446-grow-microgreens-sprouts-and-baby-greens.html#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:36:17 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=32446 We have been getting a good number of inquiries about microgreens. Seems we have tapped into some curiosity with our original introduction to our microgreens operations. A common question that we get asked frequently is “What is the difference between microgreens, sprouts and baby greens?” That’s a fantastic question! If we were to boil the difference down, the short answer ...

The post Grow: Difference Between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
We have been getting a good number of inquiries about microgreens. Seems we have tapped into some curiosity with our original introduction to our microgreens operations. A common question that we get asked frequently is “What is the difference between microgreens, sprouts and baby greens?”

That’s a fantastic question! If we were to boil the difference down, the short answer would be time. Sprouts, microgreens and baby greens are all stages of a mature plants growing cycle.

Let’s walk you through the growing cycle of a plant. In this case, a plant grown from seed and not a cutting or clone.

The first stage obviously is a seed. If you haven’t seen one, here’s a picture of one.

Sunflower Seed

Sunflower Seed

Nothing fancy, just a seed. An amazing seed though. It contains all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals the plant needs to begin its life protected in a heavy outer coating to keep it safe from the environment until conditions are just right for this little guy to breakout and graduate to the sprout stage.

Sprouts really are the dawn of a new day for the plant. It’s the spark of life when the germ of seed goes from the dormant stage to a live growing plant. It’s an exciting time. The plant starts using all the nutrients stored in the seed to begin developing it’s stem, roots and first leaves. Enzymes activate within the seed. Basically the seed explodes with life

Sprouted Sunflower Seed

A Sprouted Sunflower Seed

Most of the time you do not see this stage as most seeds are below the surface of soil when they sprout. Many people sprout seeds at home for consumption citing they are rich in essential nutrients, and excellent source of enzymes, high in protein, easy to digest, and good for weight loss as they are high in fiber and low in calories. But sprouts contain a dark side. No not like Darth “Luke, I am your Father” Vader dark side, but rather a potential for unwanted germs cultivating on your seeds during the sprouting process. Most sprouted seeds for consumption are done in a warm high humidity environment that creates a happy breading ground for bacteria that may be on or in the seed.

If we don’t eat it and the conditions are right, the sprouted seed will continue to grow. The young plant will start to develop it’s root structure and grow it’s first set of leaves called Cotyledons. These cotyledons were actually formed during embryogenesis (think seed forming time) along with the primordial root and are carefully packaged away by the momma plant into the package we call a seed. If you want to check it out, next time you have a peanut, split it in half. If you look closely at what I call the heart of the peanut, you will see the little cotyledons and baby root.

Cotyledons of Peanuts

Cotyledons of Peanuts

These cotyledons function similarly to leaves in that they help convert light energy into energy the plant can use (aka photosynthesis) but differ in shape and structure from the first true leaves of the plant. Another difference is that cotyledons are formed when the seed is formed and the first true leaves form after germination.

Sunflower Cotyledons

Sunflower Cotyledons with first True Leaves emerging

Sometime between the growth of the cotyledons and the first true leaves we have what we call microgreens. I say sometime because “microgreens” is actually some marketer’s word and not some botanist term. Fancy that, some term or phrase coined by someone to make something more appealing. I guess microgreens certainly is more appealing than “infant plants”. That just doesn’t sit well on the palate.

So for our purposes plants are in the microgreen phase from the time they have developed their cotyledons up to and including their first set of true leaves.

Red Russian Kale Microgreens

Red Russian Kale Microgreens – Notice the True Leaves are different shape than the Cotyledons

Baby greens like microgreens, isn’t a phase in a plant’s development. It too is a marketer’s creation. Therefore there is no formal definition of the term “baby greens”. But we’ll define baby greens as leafy vegetables that are harvested before they are fully grown. More specifically, baby greens are plants that have developed at least their first set of true leaves or more, but are short of a mature plant.

Baby Green Lettuce

Baby Green Lettuce

That’s it for the differences. Hope that clears things up.

For a little light reading on the densely packed nutritional value of microgreens, check out this article over on WebMD.

 

The post Grow: Difference Between Microgreens, Sprouts and Baby Greens appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/32446-grow-microgreens-sprouts-and-baby-greens.html/feed 9
Mystery Killer Caught on Camera http://steamykitchen.com/32181-mystery-killer-caught-on-camera.html http://steamykitchen.com/32181-mystery-killer-caught-on-camera.html#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 15:54:43 +0000 http://www.steamykitchen.com/?p=32181 Our 5-acre homestead is situated perfect for isolation. To our left is a another 5-acre field that’s empty – and beyond that our neighbors have 10 beautiful acres. Behind us is a 40 acre preserve – sort of like a rat’s nest of thick prickly pokey Florida bush, palm trees, oak trees with overgrown moss that hang from tall branches ...

The post Mystery Killer Caught on Camera appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
Our 5-acre homestead is situated perfect for isolation. To our left is a another 5-acre field that’s empty – and beyond that our neighbors have 10 beautiful acres. Behind us is a 40 acre preserve – sort of like a rat’s nest of thick prickly pokey Florida bush, palm trees, oak trees with overgrown moss that hang from tall branches all the way to the ground. We call that the “Freaky Forest” – you can’t navigate through unless there’s a made path.

To the right, there’s a dirt road that dead ends in the Freaky Forest.

This makes gardening in my holey bathrobe less embarrassing.

But it also makes keeping our animals safe much harder. In addition to the occassional grazing deer, we have opossum, raccoons, skunks, eagles, hawks, gators as co-habitators of our land. This winter has been particularly bad. We’ve lost all of our ducks (even the babies) except for one — and most of our chicken. It’s devastating to wake up in the morning and finding feathers scattered.

I’m torn. I believe that animals on our homestead deserve the best life possible – which means

1) being free to roam, forage, peck, hunt, explore and do whatever animals like to do

2) kept safe from predators

The chickens go into their Palace Coop at night and Scott had built a separate coop for the ducks.

It’s a tough balance. The predators are sneaky and smart. They dig under the fence, jump over the fence, tear wire and stalk nonstop. Basically, they do what they are supposed to do to survive themselves. As ugly and nasty as these guys are, I get it. balance. nature. survival. But there’s only so much fencing and protective measures we can do before it starts looking like Ft. Knox here. I don’t like electric fences (dogs/kids).

In addition to losing our ducks and chickens, the predators were also getting into our poultry feed bins (even secured with bungee cords) and my compost bin. Every morning, we’d find the lid of the compost bin upturned and scraps scattered everywhere. It began happening so regularly that Scott began calling it the “Lunch Box.”

Last week, we finally set up an infrared motion-activated camera to see if we could catch glimpse of the mystery killer.

Hmmm….what is that??

damn-raccoon-0003

Nothing for the next couple of nights. Then a little action, but the killer managed to steer clear of the camera.

damn-raccoon-0005  damn-raccoon-0007

We kept the camera going on during the day.

Nothing.

damn-raccoon-0008

WAIT!! What’s that?????

damn-raccoon-0011

Oh. That’s husband setting up a trap. We put crispy bacon inside the trap (following specific instructions from the trap manufacturer — “CRISPY” bacon, not soggy bacon. Apparently, predators are very picky about their bacon.

damn-raccoon-0012

Bye Scott!

damn-raccoon-0013

Next day – NOTHING. Drats! Foiled again by the mystery killer!

The Lunch Box was still open, chicken feed bin upturned.

Why wasn’t the killer tempted by the CRISPY BACON??? Why go after boring plain chicken feed and rotting compost and not the bacon?

Well, we finally found out why:

damn-raccoon-0016-2 damn-raccoon-0016-2b damn-raccoon-0016-3 damn-raccoon-0016-3b

 

 

 

The post Mystery Killer Caught on Camera appeared first on Steamy Kitchen Recipes.

]]>
http://steamykitchen.com/32181-mystery-killer-caught-on-camera.html/feed 31