Miss Scarlett's Homegrown Produce, Texas-made Gifts & More

  (San Antonio, Texas)
from fine foods to country crafts we are TEXAS-MADE
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Ever wonder, "what do I do with turnips?"

I have been meaning to post this for a while, and even though winter is nearly over, you should still see some turnips here and there at your local farmer's markets.  Now, me personally, I had never had much experience eating or preparing meals with root crops such as beets and turnips.  I think I always pictured them as something my grandmother would eat (meaning probably not something I would be fond of).  Well, like many things in life, its better to not "knock it till you try it".  I have talked to lots of people about how they prepare their turnips, most people boiling them, or cubing them and putting it in with the greens.  Surprisingly not many people I have spoke to have tried them the way I like them prepared, Roasted.  Talk about yummy!  When cooked this way the turnip has a texture and flavor similar to that of a potato, with a little something more.  And, what a wonderful low calorie, and low carb alternative to potatoes (although turnips are slightly higher in sodium).  You can roast them in the oven or on top of the stove in a large pan (Sort of more of a stir-fry).  I use olive oil and add as many other veggies as I can.  In the picture below I added onions, carrots and celery. 


 


Then all you do it turn up the heat (approx. 350° for the oven and med. heat for stovetop) if cooking stove top, stir every now and then to keep anything from burning.  In about 10 minutes everything should start looking golden and yummy (see picture below).  This makes a great side dish. Try it out, if you are leery about turnips, I promise preparing them this way will change your mind!


 

 
 

Whats the deal with seeds?

With all the "buzz" words flying around when it comes to seeds, it is hard to know which seeds you should buy when panning your garden.  One thing that is for sure is people seem genuinely concerned about using non-gmo seed.  I hear it all the time at markets, " do you use GMO seed?", and you see it now all the time on products you buy from the store, "non-GMO".  I wonder how many people out there actually know what GMO's are.  I know I myself, a grower, was not fully aware of what that meant, even a few years into growing.  First, let's start with the basics: GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  It can apply to micro-organisms, plants or animals, and basically means that the genes have been altered ( think of the double helix DNA strand).  This is done by methods that go beyond my understanding, but what is happening is, genes from animals or microorganisms are being combined with that of the plant to cause it to possess a new, seemingly desirable trait (bacterias used as natural pesticides is one example), and while the intent is good in many cases, there is little knowledge of what the possible consequences of ingesting these modified foods are.  Some believe there is a link to GMO's and many acquired food illnesses and allergies that seem to be more and more common these days.  There are many others causes for concern with Genetically modified seed, and I will leave it to you to research and decide what you think for yourself.  However, what if you want to avoid these seeds?  What about things like Pluots (a fusion of plum and apricot) or seedless watermelon?  Are these things genetically modified to acquire these new 'desirable' traits. 

The answer is, NO.  These seeds are Hybrid seeds.  They are made from cross pollinating two parent plants in order to gain desirable traits such as resistance to insects.  While this may be considered "safer", one drawback from hybrid seeds, is that you will not be able to save seed from the plant and get the desired trait from the seed.  They have to be "re-bred" every year.  One good example I can think of is the Aggie Bluebonnet- a hybrid bluebonnet that is a maroon/burgundy color.  The first year you will have maroon flowers, but the following year, plants that come back will have flowers that are blue.  This is fine if you want to purchase brand new seed every year.

The last type of seed I am going to talk about is heirloom seeds.  These are seeds that may have been saved, and passed down from generation to generation because of a particullar desireable trait.  Some heirloom seeds can be traced back hundreds of years.  All Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, which means the seed can be collected, saved and re-planted, and the exact same variety will re grow from the seed. Many people are making a move to use more open-pollinated varieties, and if you know how to save seed, it can really be a good investment.  One company I know of, Texas Ready, sells open-pollinated, heirloom seed banks, which can be used or saved in the event of an emergency, and their goal is to have no return customers- they want their customers to learn how, and be able to collect and save their own seed.  I purchased one of their kits,it is a great value, and has many staple food varieties such as corn & beans, as well as about 3-4 varieties of each type of vegetable. Click the Image below to learn more!  One thing I love about this company is that they send you seed according to your location being either North or South, only sending you varieties that will do well in your region.  This is more than Lowe's or Home Depot will do for you.

Texas Ready Liberty Seed Banks 

 

Hopefully you now have a somewhat better understanding of the different types of seed available, and you can use this information to make a more informed decision when purchasing seed.  If you are worried about GMO seeds, one interesting thing I found out is that in general they are not really readily available to the average consumer.  Even for large, commercial growers the GMO's are typically limited to corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton( for oil), canola (oil), squash and papaya, sugar beets and alfalfa.  Unfortunately it is more likely to be in your food staples than in your local farmer's garden.

 

 
 

Hive loss over winter

This year has not been lucky for me as far as beekeeping.  However, as a new beekeeper, I can say the year has brought about several new "learning experiences" for me.  I got to try my hand at extraction twice this year, the first time being quite a bit more unorganized and messy than the second.  Unfortunately both of these extractions were the result of two hives lost.  The first was lost as a result of being queen less for too long, which caused the worker bees to begin laying eggs. This is called a drone laying colony, and once this happens, it is a difficult task to reverse it.  This happened in October, and being so close to winter I decided it would be to difficult to try and salvage it.  Besides, I still had two more hives, one of which needed to be split in the spring anyway.  The second loss was totally unexpected, in fact, the hive was thriving and doing well upon my last inspection- I even spotted the queen- not always an easy task.  I'm still not sure what happened, but there was very little to no larvae left in the hive, and some of the honey had begun to be robbed.  Perhaps it was mites, or ccd.  Maybe they needed more room and absconded.  I did read about a lab where you can send a sample of your dead bees and they will tell you how they died.  I think that would be worth the money it cost to have them sent.  One of the most important lessons I learned this season, is that when you feel like there may be a problem with your hive- TAKE ACTION! Whether it is opening the hive regardless of the conditions outside ( the first hive I lost because I wasn't doing regular inspections due to the scorching late summer heat, the second I wasn't opening the hive because it was winter and I didn't want to break up the bee cluster or expose them to the winter chill), or going on the computer and researching whatever you think is strange, to gain more insight to the possible problem.  Not doing so can set you back on your apiary goals as well as being very costly.  Hard lessons to learn, but at least my bees left me a little liquid gold to sell to recover my losses and replace the lost hives next spring...

 

I suppose the next thing I should consider is which type of bees to get.  My first colony of BeeWeaver bees, were bred in Texas and are a buckfast hybrid.  They quickly turned very aggressive and I swore that I would never buy bees from Texas again.  The following year I purchased Russians and Italians from Kelley Bees.  These bees were much more gentle, but they are also the two colonies that died, leaving only my Texas 'killer bees', as I call them.  Maybe there is something to be said about aggressive bees being better survivors.  Also, the BeeWeaver bees are said to be mite- resistant.  Maybe I will try again with BeeWeaver bees, and suffer the wrath.  I have also heard from another local beekeeper that Carnolians are a pleasure to work with.  I think I will try a split this spring and use a Carnolian queen.  Hopefully, that works out ok.  In the meantime, off to order a new package of bees before they are sold out


 
 

Overveiw of 2013 Preps

Since we have a Facebook page and a website, I suppose the next thing to do is to begin a blog.  Well, here it is folks, our first blog entry.  I just wanted to write this to give you a little preview of things you may read upon this blog.  We are approaching spring 2013 and we have a lot of things planned which also means lots of end of winter preparations. Some of the things on my to do list :

  • install drip irrigation in our peach orchard
  • install drip irrigation at the house (more of an urban setting- this should be fun since I will get to use an array of tubing sizes, emitters and emitter hoses)
  • till the area intended for new tomato rows, adding more space to grow, with the intent of 'rotating crops' which can be difficult for us trying to grow as much as we do in such a small amount of space
  • Make a run up to Fredericksburg to pick up tomato cages, and IBC containers intended for our new aquaponics adventure this summer (so excited)
  • purchase bulk seeds, for planting and beginning this spring we will be selling seeds at the store
  • Begin a potted herb garden outside the front of the store for our new in-store feature- cut your own herbs! For sale by the ounce, cutting only what you need, reducing waste and ensuring the freshest possible herbs
  • order pollen traps and honey supers for the Italian beehive, and get ready to split my large, Texas beehive (lookout for bee pollen for sale, and hopefully some delicious raw honey toward the end of summer)
I'm sure there is much more that I'm not thinking of, but I do realize now, that instead of being on this computer, I should be getting prepared.  And now you know a little bit about our plans for the spring/summer of 2012.  Check back folks for updates on the progress of the to do list, and more insight to each topic.  I hope to cover my experience with drip irrigation, aquaponics (including how we will build our setup), herb growing, making concrete planters, and beekeeping topics (this year I will be installing nucs, splitting hives, and hopefully harvesting honey). Thanks for reading, and giving me a chance to write down my goals for this summer.  Now it is time to get to work.
 
 
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