Homey Gardening


What's the Best Time of Day to Harvest Your Garden Vegetables?

Ricardo ElisiárioRegarding fruits and vegetables, there is always a more adequate hour of the day to harvest each of these fresh products.

Knowing when and how to pluck them can mean the difference between eating something that tastes a lot fresher and much more flavorful, or something which is warm and showing signs of stress and softness that throw it far from its ideal condition for being cooked.

But so what should be the best time of day (or night) to pick our garden vegetables, fruits and flowers?

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At Sunrise

Right after the sun rises and during the early morning, it’s likely that you’ll see the garden covered in dew — especially throughout the colder seasons — a natural layer of coolness that won’t take long to fade away as the day grows hotter. This means you must seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

What happens is that if you harvest something which was already under stress before the umbilical cord linking it to its source is severed, then the potential that said vegetable has to last long enough in your pantry or fridge will be very compromised.

The only types of garden products whose picking you’d rather postpone might be herbs and any other things that you intend to dry and keep stored for longer than immediate consumption. You may harvest these at midday or sometime during the afternoon, once their skin, roots or leaves are completely dry, lessening the chances of them rotting on your shelf.

At Sunset

Even after the sun has stopped beating down on the garden, the fruits and leafy greens you’re aiming to harvest will still be in possession of some heat, accumulated in their tissues.

During summer, you’ll experience that more time needs to pass before a plant’s temperature decreases to a cooler, edible state — that is if it decreases at all, because some evenings remain so warm until late into the night. So much that only at the earliest hours before sunrise do they reach their coldest state.

You can always force them to cool down by means of watering — something which is often done during the late afternoon — and that way you’re actively reducing the vegetables’ mushiness once you handle them in the kitchen, for you allowed the plant to drink up for a while and rehydrate its leaves, fruits or inflorescences, depending on which organ of the plant you intend to have for dinner.

Also keep in mind that putting freshly picked greens under the quick cold of the fridge or even freezer when you wish to invert their core condition and make them crunchier and fresher, faster than otherwise possible, might cause some adulteration of the flavor and texture of those products. This is something to be aware of, as it’ll help you decide on the best way to treat garden produce in order to preserve as much of their nutritious value and organoleptic characteristics as you possibly can.

General Rules for Better Conservation

Regardless of you harvesting your vegetables early in the morning, late in the evening or right in between these two moments in time, there are a few rules that are best followed if you wish to conserve these pickings longer than just a couple of days, at best.

Among those rules, I can readily mention that you should be careful handling these green products to assure they remain intact and also that they are free from plaguing insects, soil or weeds when it’s time to get them stored, or when their leafy necks are to go meet the chopping board.

About the rest, let’s see what other factors most impact the longevity of garden products, starting from the moment they’re plucked and brought inside our homes.

Low Temperature

The first thing to know is that many of the vegetables we know and use do not die the very second they’re picked from the mother plant, i.e., their internal metabolism continues to react and convert reagents into products, which is why they spoil when left on the counter for too long.

In the cold, this cellular respiration of harvested greens will reduce, thus slowing down the natural process of maturation, or decay, if the fruit or vegetable is non-climacteric and doesn’t continue to ripen and get tastier after being harvested (these are the ones that “die” quicker by starting senescence almost immediately after they’re picked).

Keeping in mind that just like certain highs of temperature in your kitchen will catalyse the rotting of any fresh products left out of the fridge, so can excessive cold alter their color and flavor. Examples of these are bananas and mangoes — in general, most tropical fruits — that will suffer from dark spots as well as textural and chemical alterations of the pulp, if subjected to lower temperatures. However, the majority of our common veggies can be kept cold and, that way, see their shelf life extended in many days or weeks.

Ventilated Atmosphere

One thing about maturation and the respiration of vegetables is that it is quite contagious. What I mean — and you probably already know the trick with bananas, that can be used to foster a quicker ripening of surrounding fruits on the same bowl — is that the ethylene released from each and every climacteric fruit and vegetable is highly inducive of an accelerated maturation of any other living green which is also climacteric and so has receptors for this gas.

With ventilation, the passage of air will not only blow the ethylene away and slow down the process of maturation but also allow for the veggies to dry out, preventing unnecessary rots or mere softening of the edible tissues out of built-up moisture over at your pantry or fridge drawers.

Produce Isolation

Now, if we sum the two factors just explained — heat and ethylene concentration — it comes as an immediate thought that whatever we keep, both inside the fridge or out on the fruit bowl (though especially the latter), should be separated and isolated well enough so that the gases produced are not exchanged between the different fruits and vegetables. This way, neither will any bugs, bacteria or already present molds spread out to the rest of your produce.

In being methodical about the organisation of these groceries, you can better control how they’re responding to the passage of time and the environment you’re storing them in.

Being conscious and capable of managing this post-harvest phase can be as important as knowing how to boost up that yield rate when you’re out back growing them. At each stage, you can gain and also lose, so it’s important to take charge of the right techniques for picking, processing and storing everything that your yard gifts you.

It’s okay that whatever the earth gives, you may reverently take away, but at least strive to do it the right way at the right time.

Vintage Liquor Bottle Lights

Tasting some good liquor is one way to unwind on the couch after a long, tiresome day. But what to do with the empty bottles lying on the counter?

Don’t throw them! Instead, “wine-not” turn them into a versatile homey lantern that’ll brighten up anyone’s boring living room? Suits every season and almost every decor style, so let’s learn how to create these amazing bottles of light.

bottles

Supplies

• Empty glass bottles
• Thick twine
• Glue gun and glue sticks (or any adhesive except gum)
• Fairy Lights
• Decorative items

Directions

  1. Take off by making sure that your bottle has been well washed and is completely dry before you begin. Remove every sticky label using hot water and dish soap. Check for any metal or plastic shards and remove these too.
  2. Apply glue on the bottle rim and when the glue starts to hold but isn’t yet dry, start wrapping. Add a dot of glue for every few wraps. Remember to keep it tight, and push it up as you go down.

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  1. Continue wrapping and wrapping! When you reach the other end of your bottle’s neck, apply a thin line of glue all the way around, as this will ensure that the string doesn’t slide.

Now, to decorate the rest of its body:

  1. You can do several permutations and combinations. We have made little roses by coiling the rope which will be stuck on the bottle. Decorate with random embellishments, if available.
  2. Once the bottle is dry and the rope is completely attached to it, add the lights in.

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  1. Find the perfect place for your little bottle and let it glow.

These little things are easy both on the hands and your pockets. They also make for great little housewarming gifts, especially for upcycle enthusiasts. Give them a try!

Farmhouse Vegetarian Pizza Recipe

Farmhouse Pizza

 Yields 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

Pizza Dough:

• 1 envelope (.25 ounces) of active dry yeast
• 1 cup of lukewarm water
• 3 cups of all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt
• 2 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate

Topping:

• Pizza sauce
• Processed cheese and mozzarella cheese
• Bell pepper
• Onion
• Mushrooms
• Sweet Corn
• Tomato
• Oregano
• Olive Oil

Directions

To make the pizza dough:

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until it gets creamy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sodium bicarbonate. Stir in the yeast mixture. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Lightly oil another large bowl, place the dough inside it and turn to coat with oil all around. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume.

Wait for about 45 minutes while the dough levitates. Then you can start creating your pizza, as described below.

To make the topping and bake:

  1. Take a rolled base and spread pizza sauce all over it.
  2. Add the desired veggies. Try to put the veggies before anything else, otherwise they’ll crowd the pizza top and defy the heat inside the oven.
  3. Add a layer of processed cheese.
  4. Follow up by adding mozzarella.
  5. Top with a few slices of veggies for a fresher look.
  6. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil, as adding it helps to brown of cheese.
  7. Put the pizza in the oven at 250 C or 480 F for about 12 minutes (or till the cheese is cooked).
  8. Garnish with herbs.

Serve immediately! It’s too tasty to wait any longer.

7 Houseplants Built to Thrive in Near Darkness

Ricardo ElisiárioAt times we are reluctant to bring home new plants because the ones we already have seem to be doing just fine and we’re afraid that the only free spots there are indoors aren’t bright enough to foster the healthy growth of most species.

However, there are some exceptions that show how not all plants are needy of shiny locations. Here’s a list of the seven best indoor plants you could find if your need is to fill in the darkest corners of your room.

Silver Vine (Scindapsus pictus)

The first thing you need to know about silver vines in regard to full shade is that they’ll mostly lose their variegation, being left with leaves that look a bit less peculiar. Just be sure to keep this plant moist during summertime by regularly spraying its creeping body that can grow as tall as you allow it, may there only be a moss pole for it to grip the roots on.

People will be right in saying this one is a little harder to tend to than the next plants on this list, but still, its place here is rightly earned because the beauty and vigor of this vine are notorious. Choose to put it on a well-illuminated area, free from direct sun, but again, even if you have to leave it to itself on the shadiest of corners, that will make the spotting fade away but its gracious looks are granted to still prevail.

Nerve Plant (Fittonia spp.)

The leaves of this plant are quite exquisite too, mostly because of their color, texture and also shape, with unusual bends and rounded out aspect. It demands to be placed in half-shade, remembering that you must always avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or its foliage will not wait to droop.

Other than that, it’s one of the easiest good-looking plants you can grow in any room. Give it the usual warmth that most indoor plants require and be positive that the pot is sitting somewhere humid enough, although the soil needs not to be soggy at all between waterings.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema spp.)

The speary foliage of these specimens tends to be dark-green as if they’re telling us that their hunger for light is also quite shallow. Shade feeds them perfectly and to grow these evergreens can be challenging but nothing that isn’t manageable so long as you follow the rules. Almost like the tropical plants, it requires warmth and moisture that has to be inputted by us because homes usually lack on either one or the two factors.

There are many species of this kind and their differences come down to the size of the plant and its leaves, with the variegation also being of many different sorts and hues of green, glaucous and silver.

Mind-Your-Own-Business (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Being this one a groundcover sort of species, growing it should be equally non-demanding. It’s an ornamental often seen coming in tiny vases with a very turfy soil also filled with vermiculite, exactly because it cannot stand lack of water around its webby root system.

Being low maintenance, the only other aspect you need to keep in check is the temperature, never allowing it to rise much above 77 degrees F/25 C, or there will be some slowing to the growth and urgency of its minuscule leaves.

In terms of light requirements, this plant is rather flexible though it prefers a lot of indirect sunlight and shuns the direct exposure to any rays.

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens)

This plant is not only famous for its heart-shaped leaves but also the roots that like to fly off and feel around as if they’re looking forward to rooting on the walls of your dwelling. What the plants of this family ask for is a regular dose of heat and moisture accompanied by full shade — an environment similar to that of the tropical forest, from where they’re native.

Overall, it’s a tough breed that bears some negligence without showing major signs of illness, but try to at least maintain the minimum temperatures above 50 F/10 C for better luck. Regarding the lighting, always remember to shelter them from direct sun, for it will embrace the inkier spots and thrive there.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria spp.)

Sansevierias are the strongest plants you’ll come across, literally and metaphorically. With such thick blades, it endures drought and dampness during the warmest periods, as well as sunbaths or full shade. Because it resists so well to the latter, that’s why this list counts it in, meaning that yes, you can afford to put this little friend in places where you probably wouldn’t dare lay most species.

This houseplant was simply born to live on. If it doesn’t, then it’s because you really suck at gardening and should read a few more books on the subject.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra spp.)

Belonging to the elite panel that includes some of those plants widely appreciated by the royalty during Victorian times, it’s very innocent looking with long and elegant, rich green leaves.

Since it’s slow-growing in nature, it’ll accept its age without a problem and the foliage will maintain a good appearance throughout the seasons. However, there should be some care about the chance of waterlogging and hard exposition to direct sunlight which can ruin the plant’s waxy glow, turning it yellowish.

Also, when transplanting is done too often without allowing the plant to rest, root, feed and grow strong as it should (a tip that applies to pretty much every plant there is, indoors or out), there might be trouble. So, keep these clues in mind and your eyes wide open, because if once there were but monsters hiding in the dingiest rooms of your house, now who knows what you’ll find out has sunk its roots in there...

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