DIY Garden Health

Zucchini boats

How to make zucchini boats using ingredients you already have!

Got zucchini? We’re making stuffed zucchini boats and if you have the zucchini, you really shouldn’t have to leave home for ingredients!  You can really use your leftovers to stuff them — hence cleaning out the fridge and bringing you closer to zero waste.  It’s a win-win!

So we will make the recipe according to what I had in the garden and in my fridge….

One ingredient that isn’t flexible is your zucchini… you’ll need large ones to use as your shell.

Trim the ends of the zucchini, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out your seeds and pulp.  Don’t toss it… you can use the pulp and seeds as one of the ingredients.  I save my seeds for planting and I share them on our Etsy site

Back to the ingredients… again use what you have.  I grabbed onions, bell peppers and more zucchini from the garden and chopped it all up before adding it to a skillet.  This is where you would add your zucchini seeds and pulp.  Cook the ingredients for about five minutes.

Next you’ll spoon everything into your zucchini boat.

I started with tomato sauce, then black rice, cooked veggies and topped it all off with vegan cheese.

Let it cook at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Garnish it with fresh veggies and you’re done… Looks and tastes so yummy and you can make it as healthy or decadent as you want.

Let us know if you make it and if so, what ingredients you use! 

RECIPE DETAILS

Ingredients (Flexible)

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
  • ½ cups shredded cheese
  • Other ideas – mushroom, rice, beans, spinach

Directions

  • Trim the ends off zucchini. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out seeds and pulp.  Save the pulp/seeds for the meal, or save the seeds for planting.
  • Add ingredients to a skillet…  I used onions, bell peppers, and sliced zucchini.  Cook for about five minutes
  • Spoon everything into your boat, I started with tomato or spaghetti sauce, then added some leftover black rice, then my stir-fried ingredients and topped off with vegan cheese. 
  • Place in a greased 13×9-in. baking dish and bake, uncovered, at 350° until zucchini is tender, about 30 minutes.
  • When finished, add fresh garnish.  I used onion and society garlic chives from the garden.  DELISH!

 

Garden Health Household

PEPPERMINT

How to use peppermint for health

 

Peppermint isn’t just a classic holiday flavor – there are so many benefits to peppermint that I was shocked to find out! Most of us see peppermint flavored snacks and treats everywhere – gum, candy canes, peppermint bark, peppermint mochas, and so many more mint items! But nothing beats fresh, authentic peppermint. Let’s break it down. 

 

Peppermint is in the mint family and is actually the result of a cross between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint is indigenous to the Middle East and Europe, but is now grown all over the world because of its popularity. It has even been used for thousands of years in homeopathic medicine as well as to garnish and flavor food. In fact, peppermint itself contains menthol and limonene, which are natural essential oils. (They are to thank for mint’s cooling and refreshing taste and scent!) Peppermint’s properties are what makes this little green, leafy perennial herb so powerful.

 

If you struggle with gas, bloating, indigestion, or frequent stomach aches, peppermint is for you! Studies conducted with animals have shown that peppermint extract can relax the muscles in the digestive system from contracting, which causes gastric pain and gas. Another study was done on humans with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) who saw symptom relief from taking peppermint oil capsules more so than patients who received a placebo. In both of these cases, enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules were given to the patients because they allow the oil to pass through the stomach so it can later be dissolved in the intestines, where it really gets to work! Try to stay away from non-enteric tablets of peppermint oil, because some people have experienced heartburn and nausea after taking them, likely because the tablets dissolved in the stomach before reaching the intestines. While very little research has been done on tea, scientists say that peppermint tea should have similar effects on the body.

 

But that’s not all!

 

Feeling sick? Well, peppermint can help with that too. Having clogged sinuses and a sore throat are no fun, especially this time of year. Peppermint actually has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help clear your sinuses and relieve inflammation due to infection. The menthol in warm peppermint tea will soothe your scratchy throat and ease coughing. So, drink some peppermint tea when you have a cold or flu for less throat irritation and clearer nasal passages. Plus, it’s caffeine free so you can get better rest!

 

HOW TO GROW IT

Now that you know the benefits of peppermint, you need to know how to grow it! Peppermint is an adaptable plant, but will grow best in a cool, moist climate. It is best suited with partial or full sunlight, but if it is above 85 degrees where your peppermint is growing, you will need to make sure to shade it for up to 2-3 hours. Peppermint also needs a lot of water to keep itself and the soil moist. Keep in mind, peppermint does have a tendency to spread and take over, which is great for me because I like to dry the leaves so I have it all year long for tea.  But if you want a little more control, it may be best to plant in a small pot or contained area. 

To grow peppermint from the seed, lightly press the seeds into moist soil (spaced 18-24 inches apart if growing multiple bundles). Typically, the seedlings will emerge within 7-20 days. Happy planting!

 

Let us know if you use peppermint & stay healthy!

 

Don’t forget, we have an entire page of natural remedies to treat all sort of ailments.

 

Garden Health

BLACK EYED PEAS

How to Grow Black-Eyed Cowpeas

Black-Eyed Cowpeas, also known as a “Southern Field Pea” or “Crowder Pea are one of my favorite legumes to grow because you get sooooo many and there are multiple ways to eat them.

One way is to let the beans dry and cook them… your traditional black-eyed peas.   For this method it’ll take anywhere between 80 – 100 days til harvesting time… and you have options; You can let the pods stay on the plant until they are brown and dry, or you can pull the plants and hang them to dry.  Either way, I usually leave a few plants in the garden beds to dry so that I have an abundance of seeds for planting and sharing.

If you choose to dry them for cooking that traditional black-eyed peas dish, you will simply remove the beans from the pods (shell them), and you’re ready!  I don’t do anything special with cleaning… but I do soak all of my beans for at least 6 hours before cooking them.

 You can also pick the pods while they are green, like a snap pea,  as soon as they are well-filled out with seeds, about 70 days after planting.  For this method, I chop the pods and add onions, bell peppers and whatever else I have in the garden.  So you can really get creative.

The pods are 6″ to 8″ long  and can have up to 15 peas on each one.  That’s a lot of beans! And the vines are resistant to wilt and nematodes. They are cream or tannish-colored with a small black spot. They love heat and are a great source of fiber and protein.

So how do you plant them?

I plant my seeds directly into my garden beds with lots of compost.  But many experts suggest you first soak the seeds for up to 12 hours.  The idea is that since the seeds like a lot of moisture in order to germinate, this will speed up the process because they will already be soft and moist. Then plant them directly in the soil, after your last chance of frost (ideally above 70 degrees.  You don’t need to plant them deep, about an inch into the soil.  They are heavy yielders, so give them some space.  I plant the seeds about three inches apart and I space the rows about two feet apart.   Also it’s best to give them some support, like trellises.  It helps keep the plants off the ground, which gives them more circulation and it should minimize disease.  It also makes it easier to harvest.

As for when you will see your babies popping out of the soil… My experience has been within a week, but other gardeners say 7-14 days.  So be patient.

20+ seeds for $5

All of our seeds are GMO-FREE, open-pollinated and untreated.

Garden Health

Shishito Peppers

Shishito Peppers – Why all the hype?

Some of my favorite things in the GreenDesert garden are shishito peppers!  I tasted them years ago in a restaurant and I was hooked! They were blistered, had a sweet and smoky flavor and were snack sized, making it too easy to eatJ I had to have more!  The problem was I couldn’t find them in most restaurants or even grocery stores.  So of course I had to grow them… for so many reasons.

But before I share how easy they are to grow, let’s talk about what all the hype is about.

Shishito pepperes are a Japanese heirloom pepper variety.  I can’t write enough about how addicting they are, and extremely easy to make.  But if you eat enough of them, you’re bound to run across a hot one.  The rule of thumb is one in every ten of the peppers will be spicy… except if you eat them with me; For some reason I seem to get all of the hot ones while my family enjoy the rest, and I am still addicted to the peppers!  It’s not like you can look at them to tell which are spicy.  And although some people say the spice isn’t really hot, that has not been my experience, so be prepared.  The hot peppers that I experienced have been really hot, hot enough to make my nose run and my eyes burn.  Granted, I am not a huge fan of spicy… so perhaps my extreme spice is mild to others.  But again, in general, they are not hot. It’s like a sweet, smoky bell pepper.

 

HOW TO EAT THEM

And you can eat them so many ways.  I add them diced and raw to my salads, eggs, even sandwiches.  But they can be one of your simplest, healthy snacks to make.  You really don’t need much prep because you can eat the entire pepper — seeds, stems and all.  I like to coat them in avocado or olive oil, throw them in a pan, and let them brown and blister.  Sprinkle with a little salt and you’re done.  I often add a little lemon and/or some red wine vinegar to spice it up.  Or even stir-fry it with other veggies from the garden, like onions, garlic and bell peppers.

Obviously it was the flavor that first got my attention; it helps that the heirloom peppers have lots of health benefits including being high in vitamins A and C, fiber, potassium and folic acid.  They’re also loaded with antioxidants, among other benefits!

 

HOW TO GROW SHISHITO PEPPERS

  • First you want to choose a place in your garden that gets full sun for about 6 – 8 hours per day. You can grow shishito peppers directly in soil, pots or raised beds.
  • I’ve been successful planting our shishito peppers directly into my garden beds. But most experts suggest you start the seeds indoor 6 to 8 weeks before you transplant them to the garden.  Keep in mind, the seeds will germinate faster in warm soil so you can use a heat mat, put them on top of your fridge or whatever method you use to keep the soil warm.
  • Once the seeds have sprouted, which can take as little as a few days, you’ll want to move them to a sunny spot… but not yet outdoors. So you can use a windowsill that gets some sun, use grow lights, or again, whatever creative methods you choose.
  • Keep the soil moist, but not soaked.
  • Next, about a week before transplanting, you’re going to want to harden your plants, to get them ready for their new outdoor home. To harden them, just set them outside for a few hours per day.  Basically it gives the plants stress-free transition.
  • After about a week of hardening, your plants are ready for their big move! Remember, choose a spot that gets 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day.
  • As for harvesting, it varies. Usually they are harvested while they’re still green.  But you can leave them on the plant until they turn red too.  Either way, don’t ignore the abundance of peppers!  The more you pick, the more the plant will keep producing.  If you neglect her and the plant gets overloaded with peppers, that tells the plant to stop producing.

NEED SEEDS? We sell shishito pepper seeds, along with other medicinal sees on our Etsy site

Don’t forget, whatever ailment you have, I’m sure there are several natural remedies that can help!  We have an entire section of natural remedies on our page.

 

Garden

Should schools have gardens?

I had a fantastic start to my day – planting a school garden with the staff and students at Cheatham Elementary School in Laveen, AZ. It made me wonder why school gardens are not in every neighborhood!  We planted so many herbs and vegetables including lettuce, spinach, carrots, bok choi, swiss chard, kale, cilantro, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, even brussel sprouts.

It was so stimulating!  This was real life science, math, history, recess, even health.  Lots of the kids committed to trying new veggies we planted that they had not heard of and learned about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.  They also learned how to garden without chemicals, we made our own trellis for our beans, it was priceless watching the kids talk to the plants.  One of the 2nd graders told the plants he loved them and would miss them over the weekend… it was definitely lots of awwwwwww moments.  And it was a great way to take a break from the computer to bond with Mother Nature.

In my opinion, or maybe it’s just my hope, that school gardens lead to home gardens which lead to more people making our environment a priority.  I think it will build stronger doctors and engineers because when we are connected to nature, we design with our environment in mind.  What do you think?

Back to the start of my day – one of the things that made it so pleasant was that the kids really wanted to learn… and they ranged from second grade to sixth grade.  They paid attention, they asked questions, they were respectful, they helped and taught each other; you could feel the joy, the positive energy throughout the garden. 

A large part of that addicting energy was due to the teachers who volunteered to help.  They were just as excited as the kids!  They were patient, fun and had no problem getting dirty.

None of this would have happened without the help of Arizona Worm Farm, who donated all of the compost for the garden beds.

Arcadia Colors Garden – not only did they donate seeds and plants, but they also gave us some great DIY ideas, including the trellis we made for our beans.

None of these volunteers and businesses hesitated because they were all passionate about growing and protecting their communities.  What a breath of fresh air!

The plan is to build gardens in schools all over the Valley.

There are lots of ways to help support GreenDesert.org so we can do more invigorating projects like this one:

For more information on how you can donate to the cause, go to https://greendesert.org/.

Garden

IT’S A MIRACLE WEED

You could have a miracle weed right under your feet. Purslane truly is a weed, but with its added benefits, you’ll be hooked to add this to your next recipe.

Purslane is a green, leafy vegetable that grows in many of our yards.  You can eat it raw or cooked.

“It’s a miracle plant,” said Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health in Washington, who discovered while working at the National Institutes of Health that the plant had the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of any other green plant.

Purslane contains about 93 percent water, filled with red stems and small, green leaves.

The benefits are endless…

  • Omega 3’s
  • Vitamins A, B, C, E
  • Beta Carotene
  • Calcium, Iron, Potassium

A little history… Purslane grows in many parts of the world, in very different settings. “Common purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is a highly variable, weedy plant in the purslane family (Portulacaceae) with a wide distribution. Although it is likely native to North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent, it had reached North America by pre-Columbian times and was in Europe by the late 16th century” (University of Wisconsin-Madison.)

Fun fact… Purslane has 16 calories, and you can incorporate it into your next meal.

Simple Meals:

  • Purslane Salad
  • Purslane Chimichurri
  • Steamed Purslane

And my favorite… Purslane Pasta.

The recipe is below. There’s also a video showing you step-by-step. I like to use black rice noodles for the taste and superfood benefits!.

 PURSLANE PASTA WITH BLACK RICE NOODLES

This is one of the simplest recipes I own… and one of my favorites.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/8 cup garlic
  • ¼ cup onions
  • ¼ cup tomatoes
  • ¼ cup corn
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup purslane
  • Feta Cheese (optional)

How to Make It:

Add oil to the skillet. I like avocado oil, but use your favorite.  Add your garlic and stir for about a minute.  Add your onions, and again let it cook for about a minute.  Add your tomatoes and stir for about 30 seconds before adding your corn.  Let everything cook for about a minute.  Sprinkle salt and pepper, and then stir in your purslane.  In about a minute, you’re done!  Plate it, sprinkle feta cheese and dinner is served!

 

 
Garden

Ollas

Never over or under water again

Do you feel like no matter what you try… your plants keep dying? In many cases, the problem is water. So how do you know if you’re under or over watering your garden?

My solution – ollas.  They take the guesswork out of when and how much to water your plants.

Olla gardening is an ancient method of drip irrigation.

Ollas are unglazed clay pots designed to keep your plants hydrated, to conserve water, and basically keep your garden growing successfully. They give your plants the freedom they need to survive because the plants take exactly how much they need.

So how do they work? Basically terra cotta is porous…so once you fill the ollas with water, the water slowly seeps out of the walls of the pot, directly irrigating the roots around the pots.

The ollas have saved us time, money and they help leave less of a carbon footprint on our environment..

According to the United Nations, water is the “primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change” and water scarcity alone affects nearly half the global population.

That’s a huge concern… so every little bit counts.

We bought our ollas online, but I’ve also seen them at nurseries.

You can also daisy chain your ollas together to save you even more time.  We have a rainwater system hooked up to our ollas – I know we only get about 9 inches of annual rain in Phoenix… but again every little bit counts.  The rainwater we catch can waters our garden in the winter with no problems.