The Brilliance of Broccoli

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable that can be grown year-round in most parts of our county. It’s undeniably a vegetable that deserves more praise.

Broccoli originated in the Mediterranean, developed from a wild cabbage that was selectively planted for years by the Etruscans in the Tuscany region. The name arose from “broccolo”, the Italian word meaning “the flowering crest of a cabbage”. This veggie was a staple food for the Roman Empire and was brought to England during the mid-18th century. Broccoli wasn’t brought to the United States until the 1920s with the flow of Italian immigrants. Today, China produces the most broccoli in the world, with India producing the second most, and California is responsible for 90% of the United States’ production of broccoli.

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, along with brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. This family of vegetables is known for containing cancer preventing compounds and supporting destruction of defective cells. This powerhouse vegetable offers beta-carotene, calcium, choline, copper, fiber, folate, iron, lutein zeaxanthin, magnesium, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium. thiamine, tryptophan, vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E and K, and zinc. It also contains many anti-inflammatory antioxidants, flavonoids, and omega 3 fatty acids. Glucosinolates are the compounds in broccoli that are responsible for the bitter taste.


Outstanding Olives

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Before the holidays we had an olive brining workshop, reminding us that olive season is ending soon. These little fruits have a lot to offer so be sure to harvest them while you can!

Olives and the Olea europea tree have significance in many cultures and religions. Mythology teaches that the goddess Athena gifted an olive tree to the Greeks, planting the first olive tree on the Acropolis. The oil is often used as holy oil for anointing and blessing bishops, kings, winning athletes, the dead, and for other ceremonial purposes.

Olives are considered a drupe or stone fruit and are one of the most largely produced fruits in the world. The olive tree – originating in Asia Minor, spreading to Mediterranean regions, and then even farther with Roman expansion – is one of the oldest cultivated trees, thrives in rocky soil and lives for hundreds of years. The difference in color of the olive is based on the level of ripeness when harvested – green olives are less ripe, whereas black olives have reached peak ripeness – as well as how long they are cured or soaked in brine. California produces 95% of the United States’ olives, growing mainly the Manzanillo and Sevillano varieties. Globally, Spain is the largest producer, followed by Italy, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. Of the olives grown in the Mediterranean, 90% are used for olive oil.


Persimmons - Food of the Gods

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re seeing more and more persimmons this time of year. While often an undervalued and misunderstood fruit in the U.S., these beauties offer ample health benefits.

The botanical name of persimmons, diospyros kaki, translates to “food of the gods”. As the name would suggest, they have a sweet flavor that is often compared to honey. While persimmons originated in China, they are the national fruit of Japan. In 1856, seeds from these fruits were sent from Japan to the U.S. where they are now grown throughout states in the south and southwest.

Persimmons are known to have over two thousand cultivars, but the Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons are the most popular varieties. Hachiya are heart-shaped and are high in tannins, giving them a more bitter, astringent taste. You would want to let this variety fully ripen, becoming soft and pulpy before you eat it. Once ripened, these persimmons have a creamy texture and are fantastic baked or used in baked goods. The Fuyu variety on the other hand is not astringent and is commonly eaten before peak ripeness. This tomato-like persimmon is usually peeled and eaten raw. The shape, size and color of persimmons varies widely. A persimmon’s weight could vary from a couple ounces to a pound or more. The beautiful color of this fruit could range from a yellow to orange to red.


Rah-Rah Rutabagas!

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re hyping up rutabagas today – a vegetable that is often undervalued.

Rutabagas, also known as swedes, are a hybrid of a turnip and wild cabbage. Rutabagas originated in the 17th century as a hybrid of a wild cabbage and turnip. It’s place of origin is thought to be Bohemia, Russia and Scandinavia. In the 19th century, rutabagas were found to be widespread in England, while also appearing in Canada. Today they are still a common staple food for many Northern European countries.

Fields of swedes are commonly used as food for livestock, but both the root and leaves are edible for humans as well. Rutabaga flesh can be a variety of colors, usually yellow or orange, and the skin tends to be green or purple, with an earthy and sweet flavor.


A Pharaoh's Pomegranates

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! The abundance of pomegranates is being shared far and wide!

Pomegranates originated in Iran and Northern India and later spread throughout the whole Mediterranean region, including Asia, Africa and Europe. In 1600 BC pomegranates from Syria were brought to Egypt, where they became a highly valued fruit, especially meant for pharaohs, and were often put in tombs and paintings or embroidered on robes of priests and other important people.

Traditionally, pomegranate juice was used in Egypt to treat intestinal worms. The blossom and peel were often used to create a natural dye and even used to dye leather.

Pomegranates became a popular symbol in many cultures and religions and was often a noteworthy detail in Greek myths. The fruit often symbolized fertility and strength, and eternal life was suggested by the leaves remaining green year-round. Buddhism emphasizes three blessed fruits, with the pomegranate being one of them.


Joyously Nutritious Jerusalem Artichokes

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re seeing some of the beautiful yellow flowers blooming in the gardens, suggesting what bounty hides beneath the earth’s surface – Jerusalem artichoke tubers!

Jerusalem artichokes – also known as sunchokes, sunroots and earth apples – belong to the sunflower family and originated in Central and North America, a staple crop for Native American Tribes. These plants were brought to Europe in the 1600s and become widely cultivated in France. Despite being known as a “poor man’s vegetable” during World War II due to its prevalent availability, sunchokes are still quite popular in Europe. The plant grows tall green stalks that can reach up to 10 feet and have yellow flowers resembling small sunflowers. The edible roots of this plant – ranging from gray to brown, purple and pink flesh tones - offer a sweet, nutty potato substitute.

These root veggies are usually in season throughout October and November. After harvesting your tubers, be sure to replant a few for next year’s crop. Otherwise, tubers for planting in early spring should be stored in a cool place without the risk of frost until ready for planting. Planting the tubers as early is possible in the spring is key, otherwise you risk a yield of smaller sized tubers.


Can't Live Without These Cantaloupes

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We’re at the end of the season for cantaloupe, but we couldn’t miss the chance to highlight this nutrient rich fruit. Cantaloupe is known by many names – muskmelon, sweet melon, rockmelon, and more. It is said to have originated in parts of Africa, India and Iran, but has since become widely cultivated throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States – California being the largest producer of cantaloupe in the nation, growing at least half of the nation’s total yield. China produces around 25 billion pounds of melons per year - about half of the world’s total production of melons!

In the 1400-1500s, cantaloupe seeds from Armenia were planted in Italy. The small Italian town of Cantalupo became the namesake for this fruit. These melons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, squashes, and other melons like honeydew and watermelon. Plants within this family can cross-pollinate quite easily, which has resulted in a lot of different melon hybrids.

Cantaloupes are notably high in vitamins A and beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, C and K, along with the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.


Powerful Purslane

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Some of the community gardens are experiencing an abundance of purslane, a powerhouse plant that is commonly dismissed as a weed. Buckets full of harvested purslane have us excited to learn more about its benefits and find some creative recipes.

The purslane plant – also known as pigweed or verdolaga - has been highly revered in many aboriginal cultures as well as traditional Chinese medicine. With its origin being the Mediterranean region, it has been a common leafy vegetable for much of Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Every part of this incredible plant is edible – the stems, leaves, flowers and seeds – making it an easy addition to your cooking. Purslane has a salty, somewhat sour taste to it, appealing to our lesser activated taste buds.

Purslane is a fast-growing succulent and does well in drier soils and climates, thriving in harsh growing conditions and growing happily in this region throughout the spring and summer and well into fall. Wild purslane tends to grow into a dense mat and has small leaves, whereas varieties that have been cultivated have larger leaves and might grow more upright. A certain variety even grows up to 18 inches tall. With wild purslane being abundant here, you might not need to grow your own. However, if growing a cultivated variety it’s best to start the plants indoors and wait until the last frost before transplanting them outside. If you’re wanting to try purslane but don’t want to risk it taking over your garden, it can grow quite happily in a container or even as microgreens!


Outrageously Healthy Okra

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! We took a break for a while to make space for promotion of our Garden Tour event that happened on Saturday. Touring around 4 of the Ukiah community gardens served as a great reminder of the diverse array of produce being grown locally.

Okra is in season right now but not always the most popular. Its unique mucilage substance makes it less desirable for some. Okra has become widely cultivated around the world and has adopted the name “lady fingers”. It is thought that Okra came from Ethiopia, spread through Egypt then the rest of North Africa and the Middle East. In the 1700s, the Caribbean and United States were introduced to okra by way of the slave trade. In the U.S. okra is most popular in the south and is a key ingredient in many Cajun, Creole and other southern dishes. The wide use of okra in these southern diets is thanks to slaves teaching Creoles to use okra in gumbo and other soups as a thickener.

Okra is part of the mallow family along with cotton and hollyhock. As a tropical plant, okra does best in warm climates with little frost. Okra can be a large plant, growing to 6 feet tall, requiring adequate space when planting. Ideal spacing for okra plants is 18 inches apart, with row spacing around 5 to 6 feet. It’s important to note that if your soil is very nitrogen rich, the okra pods won’t grow as large, whereas the leaves will. You should harvest your okra pods when they’re 4 inches or less, before they get too tough. Being easily affected by cold, okra does not store too well in the fridge and should be stored unwashed and then used within a couple days of being stored.


Beautiful Bell Peppers

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Peppers are poppin’ lately! These beauties can add a much needed burst of color to any meal, producing varieties of red, orange, yellow, green, purple and white fruits.

Bell peppers originated in the Caribbean, North, Central and South America and have since been cultivated throughout many countries. The top producers of bell peppers across the globe are China, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and Spain.

Peppers offer significant amounts of fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A, B1, B6, C, E and K. Bell peppers are the best source of vitamin C in the vegetable category and come in second for vitamin C content overall. Vitamin C of course helps support a strong immune system, as well as helps fight oxidative stress, cancer and more. Bell peppers are great sources of beta-carotene as well. In fact “one cup of freshly sliced bell pepper contains about 1,500 micrograms of beta-carotene, the equivalent of approximately 1/3rd small carrot” (The World’s Healthiest Foods). These vitamins, along with all the antioxidant phytochemicals, are vital for skin and respiratory health as well.



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