Worms and Flowers

Sweet Potato Slips

Posted in Garden, How To, Sweet Potato by Lzyjo on April 1, 2010

What the hay is a sweet potato slip? This question has been really bothering me and now I know they are rooted clippings from shoots that sprout from sweet potatoes. Silly me, Whenever I heard things like plant sweet potato slips, I assumed they were like seed potatoes, or something, even though I knew that Sweet Potatoes Ipomoae batatas are part of the morning glory family and grow underground from vines that spread along the surface. (Yams  also grown from vines, but are from a different family, Dioscoreaceae.)

Sweet potatoes come in a wide variety of colors from white and yellow and reds and purples. Dry and moist fleshed variates are both available.  In the Tropical Americas where sweet potatoes originated, dry fleshed white variates are preferred. Ethnic markets in the US  also offer the white-fleshed variates. The moist copper skin/orange flesh sweet potato is the most common one in the US and the one you will see in all the chain groceries.

Sweet potatoes have been ranked as one of the healthiest vegetables, they are full of vitamin and minerals and contain healthy complex carbs good for moderating the blood sugar because they are slow to digest and consequently very satisfying and filling.

One of the problems I had comprehending the definition of “sweet potato slips” is none of these articles ever said where you buy sweet potato slips. Do they come in Bags? Sets? Pieces? Now it makes sense. After Googling sweet potato plants I saw a bunch of pictures showing sweet potatoes leafing out in jars. All you need is a sweet potato root to make slips. The first challenge is getting your root to sprout. Sweet potatoes keep for a darned long time. How do I know this? Because I ate one yesterday purchased last fall and there’s still one hiding in the cupboard. Research shows that sweet potatoes sprout best a 95% humidity,

Photobucket

I picked a nice wide mouth jar that fit the sweet potato securely and filled it with enough water so it’s barely touching the root. You will notice that one end of the sweet potato is pointier than the other. This is where the roots will start from. The blunter end is where the leaves will emerge. Now I need to wait. Once enough spouts emerge I will cut them and make sure they have their own roots. Hopefully I will get several plants from this root.This would also be a fun project to do with the kiddos. Oh, one more thing sweet potatoes need a long growing season 90-100 days to mature.

Resources:

WorldCrops Sweet Potato tons of good info about sweet potatoes from a worldwide perspective included several recipes.

The Walden Effect: Homesteading Year4 Good how to series “clipping sweet potato slips” with super step-by-step photos of the process.

Compost Guy Growing Sweet Potato Slips. Good photos and info for making multiple cuttings.

and if you happened to have a couple of sweet potatoes hanging around here are a few great variations for baked sweet potato fries. Care2 Sweet Potato Fries Three Ways.

Advertisements

Growing Herbs and Spices

Posted in Herbs, How To by Lzyjo on July 13, 2009

One of the true delights of gardening is the access to fresh herbs. Herbs are wonderful fresh, but they are also great when dried. There is an amazing difference between herbs dried fresh and those dried before Pontius was a Pilot.

Photobucket

Italian Parsley 'Gigante' Seedling

Annuals are some of the easiest and fastest herbs to grow. They will produce spices (seed) the first year. Annual herbs  include anise, angelica, basil, borage, chamomile, chervil (french parsley,) coriander, cumin,  dill, epazote, fenugreek, nigella, aka, love in a mist, mustard and parsley root.

Cilantro can be used as an herb and later in the season harvested for the coriander seeds. Dill leaves can also be used fresh or dried, (in cumbers dishes,  Swedish meatballs, etc.), and then harvested for the dill seeds, an important pickling spice.

Photobucket

Basil 'Genovese'

Perennial herbs include catnip, chives, lemon balm, lavender hardy to Zone 5, hyssop, anise hyssop, sweet marjoram, mint, oregano hardy to Zone 5, a Dave’s Garden user reported Greek Oregano overwintering in Zone 3 with mulch. Sage hardy zone 5 possibly lower, rosemary no colder than zero, in Zone 6 it’s likely you will lose plants in the ground during bad winters even with mulch, thyme hardy to Zone 4 .

When grown from seed, perennial herbs usually flower the second year, although I grew a lavender and it waited until this year, the third year, to flower.

Photobucket

Culinary Sage started this spring

Perennials grown as annuals include fennel and marjoram. Fennel is usually harvested for the bulb the first year before flowering, which occurs during the second year. Marjoram is technically a perennial, but is usually grown as an annual because it is unlikely to survive harsh winters with temperatures lower than zero, possibly hardy to zone 6.

Caraway and Parsley, are two of the few herbs which are biennials.

There are two different savories, Winter Savory and Summer Savory, both have a similar spicy flavor, but Summer Savory, the preferred drying savory, is an annual, while Winter Savory is a perennial hardy to Zone 5.

Photobucket

SLOOOOOW growing Rosemary 'Romero'

Marjoram and other semi-hardy perennials, like rosemary, can always be overwinter in pots. If you have a sunny location that’s great, if not store the plants is a basement or storage room and withhold water. Rosemary is one of the trickier herbs to grow from seed, they are sometime slow to germinate and slow growing after germination. For busher plants pinch seedlings once they have approximately 6 sets of leaves.

Photobucket

Greek Oregano started this spring

When herbs are dried the water evaporates, shrinking the leaves and concentrating the flavor. When substituting dry herbs for fresh it is best to use only 1/3 or 1/4 of the amount suggested and vice-versa.

One of my favorite all-purpose seasonings is Herbes de Provence. Although the name suggests a venerable origin in the pantries of the Francais it is a much more recent invention. French spice-giant Ducros, now owned by McCormick, was the first manufacturer to market Herbes de Provence in the 1970s. According to Wikipedia, Provencal cuisine traditionally used the same herbs, but cooks would have used each herb separately and with discretion.

Ducros recommends Herbes de Provence for soups, stews, casseroles, anything roasted, and even pasta sauce.

Here is a basic guideline for Herbes de Provence.

Primary Herbs

  • Thyme
  • Savory, preferably Summer Savory
  • Marjarom
  • Rosemary

Secondary Herbs

  • 1 or 2 crushed Bay Leaves
  • Lavender flowers
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon
  • Sage
  • Chervil

Optional Herbs

  • Mint
  • Fennel seeds
  • Basil

Three Ways to Grow Avocados from Seed

Posted in Avocado by Lzyjo on June 22, 2009

Back in the day, hippies from here to Northern California sprouted their avocado pits and kept the trees in their apartments. If every hippie and their best friend grew them, how hard could it be? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

A few years ago I tried sprouting some, I put a couple pits in dirt and a few more suspended by toothpicks in jars of water. Nothing happened. I blamed it on some sort of treatment the avocados had been through. Now I know better. I think I made two mistakes, no, three. The first mistake was thinking that the radical sprouted from the side of the fruit, like squash seeds, so I planted them on their sides. Wrong. For the best results, the pointed-end should be placed at the top. Some are more subtly shaped than others. The bottom is usually flatter and there is most often a circular marking in a slightly lighter color.

Photobucket

The First Sprout

The second mistake was allowing the soil to dry out.

The seeds of avocados, like many tropical trees and fruits are recalcitrant, which means they cannot dry out, or they won’t germinate. Seeds like this cannot be kept outside of the fruit. Sellers who offer recalcitrant seeds often sell them in moist peat, or even pre-germinated.

The third mistake was not waiting long enough. I would say the average germination time has been six weeks.

Photobucket

Two and Four Week Old Seedlings

Planting is soil and suspending in a jars have worked equally well for me.  There are advantages and disadvantages to the jar method. An advantage would be the cracking open and emergence of the root is very visible, but the disadvantage is that the jar requires numerous cleanings and water changes during the six weeks. Another disadvantage is the transfer from jar to pot. When I removing a pit from the jar it slipped out of my hand, flew across the room, and landed on the floor, snapping off part of the radical. It was okay and grew normally nevertheless.

Photobucket

The third way to sprout avocado seeds is in the worm bin, the bin provides an excellent balance of conditions favorable for germination. I tossed a couple in my worm bin approximately two weeks later they are beginning to crack. Remember which area of the bin they are in and be careful finding the pits because the roots are very delicate.

Avocados take an average of ten years to reach fruiting size and they will only do so in tropical climates. Avocados fruit best when cross-pollinated with a different cultivar. Because of the dichogamous flowers self-pollination is rare. Darwin was the first to hypothesize that dichogamy was a mechanism to prevent inbreeding. Even though they won’t fruit, for most of us, they are still lovely ornamentals.