Posts Tagged ‘food’

Turn Your Zucchini or Summer Squash Into “Pasta”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Zucchini Spaghetti 2

Julienne slicer



Standard vegetable peeler



Large holed grater or microplane



Wide vegetable peeler



Serve uncooked as a salad….



… lightly sauteed and seasoned…



…or topped with your favorite pasta sauce.



Use your imagination!


Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico EMG Sharing Your Garden Bounty with Neighbors in Need

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

What has 180,000 hands and is changing the world? The Extension Master Gardeners of the USA! That’s how we at think of you—thousands of hands working in the soil, sharing valuable knowledge with growers in every corner of America, and changing the world one garden at a time! is a national program, connecting gardeners with local food pantries so that excess garden bounty can be shared with those in need. Gardeners everywhere can use our site to find a pantry for those times when they just have too many greens or cucumbers (or any other extra veggies, fruits, herbs, or nuts).

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

We have nearly 7,000 food pantries registered on our site from every state. These are pantries that may not have the time or budget required to maintain a website or advertise their services online. For many pantries, their free profile on our site is the only web presence they have, and the only way that gardeners can find them when they have food to share.

We’ve got some exciting news! We’re celebrating our 5th birthday with a complete overhaul of our website. We will be adding new and exciting features to make it easier for gardeners and pantries to work together to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America. We hope you’ll bookmark our page ( so you can see the new site when it’s up and let us know what you think.

If you’re growing food at home, helping in a community garden, or working with Plant-A-Row, we want our site to be another one of your gardening tools. Whenever someone asks us for gardening help, we send them your way and we hope that when you encounter someone whose gardening experiments yield too many tomatoes, you will send them our way so they can help feed a hungry family.


Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on  Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Like us on Facebook and share our page with your gardening friends to help us spread the word. If you are already growing and sharing with a food pantry, share this blog with the pantry coordinator to encourage them to register on our site so that other gardeners can find them and donate their excess produce as well.

Thank you for teaching and leading by example. Thank you for keeping the knowledge of our national agricultural traditions alive in your communities. Thank you for changing the world.
Emily Fulmer is the Grower Outreach Coordinator at She is a back (and front!) yard vegetable gardener and she has recently added a small flock of Buff Orpington hens to her tiny urban farm. You can reach her at

Master Gardeners and Food Day 2013!

Sunday, September 29th, 2013


Logo Food Day

Food Day Oct. 24, 2013

Food Day is a year-round nationwide celebration of and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food culminating in a day of action on October 24 every year. Created by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and driven by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders and citizens, Food Day aims to bring us closer to a food system with “real food” that is produced with care for the environment, animals, and the women and men who grow, harvest, and serve it. Food Day 2012, the 2nd annual celebration, featured more than 3,200 events in all 50 states!

This year, Food wants to reach 4,500 events! And Master Gardeners will be a huge help in reaching our goal. Let’s Get Cooking with Kids is the theme of this year’s Food Day in an effort to teach our children about nutrition and decrease childhood obesity. Gardening with kids is an important part of teaching kids where our food comes from and that fresh, unprocessed foods are the best for us. Not only that, but instilling a love of gardening will get kids away from the TV and computer and outdoors getting activity!

Food Day isn’t just for kids either! Getting adults involved with Food Day and educating them about our food system is just as important. Here are some ways the Master Gardeners can get involved in Food Day this year:


Get Involved

  • ·         Start a school garden
  • ·         Teach a kids class on growing, harvesting, and identifying fruits and vegetables

    Food Day 2013

    Photo credit: Mihline Zahoran

  • ·         Take kids on a garden or farm tour
  • ·         Have a fresh veggie taste test
  • ·         Apple and/or pumpkin picking

You can do similar things for adults, along with:

  • ·         Hosting a gleaning day
  • ·         Teaching a class on composting
  • ·         Teaching a class on winter gardening

Register Your Event

Any classes or events that you already have planned that involve food for the month of October can be a Food Day event! Just register your event on the Food Day website:


Food Day 2013

Photo credit: © 2012 Philip Greenberg

Molly Geppert is a Food Day fellow at Center for Science in the Public Interest. She has had a love of gardening from a young age, when she would grow pumpkins and sunflowers on the side of her home in Colorado. Two of her family members are Master Gardeners in Maryland and Florida. 

Sweet Potatoes: Naturally Sweet, Naturally Nutritious

Sunday, November 25th, 2012


Sweet Potato Harvest

Sweet Potato Harvest (Photo credit Purdue University Extension)

When I moved to North Carolina about 5 years ago from Connecticut, I was looking forward to growing some of the regional favorites here – things I couldn’t grow in my zone 5 Connecticut garden. I grew okra and peanuts (a big hit with the grand kids) and sweet potatoes but the sweet potatoes were the favorite. We baked them, mashed them, made chips and casseroles out of them. As a gardener I loved them because the bugs didn’t bother them and they grew well with almost no supplemental water. Now that’s a great plant!

Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts

Native Americans must have recognized how easy sweet potatoes were to grow and how nutritious they were because they were growing sweet potatoes in North Carolina long before Europeans got here. Sweet potatoes are not only naturally sweet but an excellent healthy choice because they’re a rich source of vitamins A, C and E, cholesterol free, fat free, high in fiber, and rich in minerals. (They’re even more nutritious if cooked with the skin on.) Recipes for sweet potatoes abound, so try some new ones during the holidays – no marshmallows required!


Is a sweet potato a potato? Or is it a yam? 

Sweet Potato Varieties

Sweet Potatoes come in many varieties (Photo credit North Carolina State University - Sweet Potato)

Neither! Even though it’s called a potato, the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is not a real potato. It’s only distantly related to the real potato (Solanum tuberosum). There are over 50 genera and more than 1000 species of the sweet potato family, which includes morning glories. The blossom of the sweet potato looks very much like a morning glory. Sweet potatoes are also often confused with yams but yams are in the Dioscoreaceae family which is native to Africa and Asia.

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a warm-season crop that should be planted well after the last chance of frost in the spring – about May where I live. Unlike potatoes which are cut up into “eyes” and planted, sweet potatoes are grown from sprouts called “slips.” You let the sweet potato sprout, then cut it into pieces according to the sprouts and plant them. Sweet potatoes grow best in a well-drained, loamy to sandy soil. In heavy clay soil they may be smaller and misshapen. Unlike some vegetables that get woody when they get too large, sweet potatoes are still delicious. At the NC State fair last year, I talked to a grower who was displaying a 20 lb. sweet potato. Out of curiosity, I asked him what you do with a 20 to 30 pound sweet potato. He said he  just sliced it up and baked it in the oven – an easy way to enjoy sweet potatoes.

Tightly furled sweet potato flower - close relative to the morning glory.

Tightly furled sweet potato flower - close relative to the morning glory. (Photo credit Connie Schultz)

North Carolina’s State Vegetable

North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States. In 2009, North Carolina harvested almost one million pounds of potatoes. I had just assumed that this proclivity was the reason it became North Carolina’s state vegetable but I discovered it was only a recent addition, gaining that title in 1995. There was a delightful story behind how it became the state vegetable. A 4th grade teacher in Wilson, NC, Mrs. Celia Batchelor, had her civics students start a letter writing campaign to Representative Gene Arnold from Wilson County, asking to make the sweet potato the state vegetable. The letter writing project took 2 years but in 1995 the General Assembly passed a bill naming the sweet potato the official state vegetable. What a wonderful civics lesson for those students!

Hoping your Thanksgiving was both sweet and nutritious!

By Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension)

What’s in Your Pumpkin Pie?

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Photo credit: Foy Spicer

Which vegetable is in this can of pumpkin puree?  Is it the one on the left or right?

Turns out Libby’s uses a variety called ‘Dickinson’ in their pumpkin puree.  ‘Dickinson’ field squash does belong to the pumpkin family.  It is a cucurbit.  A variety of Cucurbita moschata to be exact. And it is the one on the left.

Yes, the one that looks more like a butternut than the expected pie pumpkin at right.  Not what you’d expect at least on the outside.  On the inside ‘Dickinson’ has orange color and it has excellent flavor and sweetness.

How do you like them pumpkins?

by Foy Spicer
Purdue Master Gardener
Wabash County, Indiana


Fun Vegetable Food Facts for Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19th, 2012

As the Holiday season is upon us our gardens take backstage to family, friends and food.  As garden junkies looking at where our food comes from, it is always in the back of our minds.  As a fun conversation piece over the Thanksgiving table we wanted to see where our Thanksgiving meal comes from …

Time to enjoy produce from our gardens

Thanksgiving - A time to enjoy produce from our gardens (Photo: Collierville Victory Garden produce, Carl Wayne Hardeman MG Shelby County, Tennessee)

Sweet Potatoes:

  •  George Washington grew sweet potatoes at Mount Vernon
  • Native of South America – and domesticated more than 5,000 years ago
  • Sweet potatoes are roots – unlike regular potatoes which are tubers (underground stems)
  • Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are not true yams, or members of Dioscorea spp
  • North Carolina’s State vegetable is the sweet potato
  • SP can be substituted in recipes that call for apple, squash, and white potatoes
Children harvest sweet potatoes at Collierville Victory Garden

Children harvest sweet potatoes at Collierville Victory Garden (Photo: Carl Wayne Hardeman, MG Shelby County, Tennessee)

Sweet potato source and reference links:


  • The top pumpkin production states are Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.
  • Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
  • Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins are fruit.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.

Rouge vif D'Etampes pumpkin nestled in thyme in garden (Photo from: Debbie Courson Smith, MG Boise, Idaho)

Pumpkin source and reference links:


  • Potatoes were the first vegetable grown in space
  • Potatoes are the best-selling side dish in American restaurants
  • Potatoes have one of the first commodity groups to develop and use an FDA-approved nutrition label
  • French Fries were introduced to the U.S. when Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House during his Presidency of 1801-1809.
  • Potatoes were originally cultivated in South America, probably in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. More than 400 years ago, the Inca Indians in those countries grew potatoes in their mountain valleys. They made a light floury mixture that they used to bake a potato-type bread.
The Royal Potato

The potato is a rather 'royal' vegetable (Photo from: Debbie Courson Smith, MG Boise, Idaho)

Potato source and reference links:

 Green Beans:

  • An estimated 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving
  • Green beans have been cultivated in Mexico for over 7,000 years

Green beans (Source: Flickr, Tony.Bailey)

Green bean source and reference links:

Thanksgiving Facts:

  • Thanksgiving was not declared a National Holiday by Congress until 1941
  • The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe Native Americans in 1621 and lasted for 3 days.
  • At the original Thanksgiving, there was no milk, cheese, bread, butter, mashed potatoes, corn or pumpkin pie.
  • President Thomas Jefferson did not like the idea of a national Thanksgiving Day.
  • The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth, Massachusetts where the Plymouth Pilgrims were building on the land.
  • The famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in the 1920’s.

Thanksgiving Facts Source:

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

We hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

For more information, search the web for ‘state extension food safety’ to find your nearest university food safety websites, or consult some of the following resources for more information on Thanksgiving food safety tips:

Terri James, Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

The Giving Garden, Part 2: Planning, Managing, and Sustaining the Giving Garden of Over 15 Years

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last blog on the history of the Giving Garden, many volunteers and partners work to plan, prepare, manage and sustain the Giving Garden of over 15 years.

Work begins each spring as early as weather allows and ends when harvest has been completed. The garden is prepared for winter, usually early November. Our committee of Master Gardener Coordinators meets three times during the winter to plan for the next season. Past season activities, planting and harvest are reviewed and adjustments are made where necessary.

Coming up with practical planting plans

One of the hardest things we have to do is to control our enthusiasm so we don’t plant more than we are able to manage! Here are the nuts and bolts of how we put together our planting plan:

  • We currently plant 1.8 acres of the approximately 5 acre area.
  • We also have sixteen 25′ x 30′ plots for private or personal gardens that are offered to community residents. Employees of the companies whose land we use have priority.
  • We use a computer generated planting guide, developed by one of our coordinators, that dictates where everything is to be planted and how much (see fig 1).
  • Taking plant families into consideration, the planting guide insures proper crop rotation.  Using our plan, crops cycle every three years. Some areas are allowed to go fallow and cover crops are planted to help recondition the soil and add nutrients. The planting guide also allows us to better estimate the number of seeds and bedding plants that we will have to order. All seeds and plants that we need are donated by local merchants.

Below is Figure 1, a picture of the computer generated planting plan. A larger version can be downloaded as a PDF here> 2011 Humphrey – Kendall Master Gardener_GivingGarden_Kalamazoo.


Planting Plan for the Humphrey-Kendall Vegetable Garden

Planting Plan for the Humphrey-Kendall Vegetable Garden

How the work gets done

Planting the Giving Garden

Planting the Giving Garden (Photo: JC Schneider)

As soon as the ground can be worked, a local farmer plows and disks the garden for us and spreads the fertilizer. After work begins, we have five three-hour work sessions scheduled each week. We get an average of 10 volunteers per shift, some work as many as three shifts, others lesser amounts. Two coordinators are assigned to each shift to assign duties, instruct where necessary and oversee volunteer activities. All volunteers sign in so we can monitor the number of volunteers and how much time they give to the project. The work includes cultivating, planting, mulching, weeding, and harvesting vegetables, as well as maintaining the garden equipment and keeping the area mowed and well groomed.

Following each shift, one of the coordinators prepares a “Garden Log” that is emailed to all coordinators. The log documents the volunteers present at that shift, what was accomplished, and what needs to be done by the next shift. A notes section is used for general information. The log allows the coordinators for the following shift to prepare ahead of time for what needs to be done and servers as “diary” that documents activity for the year which helps us plan for the next season. The logs also serve as historical documentation for the project.

Controlling the Weeds – Mulch

We mulch our entire garden to help control weeds. We have a win-win agreement with the city to provide our mulch. They deliver around 250 cubic yards of compressed leaves each fall. We get the leaves for mulch, and the city saves time and gasoline by not having to drive to their landfill which is much further away than our garden.

Delivery leaves for mulch

Delivering leaves for mulch. Mulch is used to control the weeds (Photo: JC Schneider)

On site Storage

We have two sheds on site to store equipment. One shed belonged to Humphrey Products. In 2010 we constructed a 10’x16’ wood-framed shed for additional storage. Garden equipment includes a small 25-year-old tractor, walk-behind rototillers, and hand tools that have been donated over the years. This equipment has allowed us to enlarge the area cultivated, increase productivity, and improve the quality of the harvest. Mechanical equipment has contributed to increased output and decreased sweat equity, always welcome enhancements.

Giving Garden Shed

Giving Garden Shed (Photo: JC Schneider)

Harvest at the Giving Garden

When harvest begins, vegetables are picked, washed and or wiped, placed in boxes and weighed. The Food Bank picks up the harvest in refrigerated trucks for delivery to their warehouse. The frequency of pickups is coordinated with the Food Bank based on the amount of vegetables ready for harvest.

On Saturday, the harvest (up to 100 lbs) is picked up by the Ministries for Community, for local use. Our harvest has ranged from 15 to over 22 thousand pounds since 2006. Variation is caused mostly by weather conditions and pests. 2010 was our best year, producing 22,502 lbs. That included 9,879 lbs of tomatoes, 2,500 lbs of cucumbers and 1,700 lbs of winter squash. This past year our total was 17,312.

Cleaning and Boxing Vegetables

Cleaning and Boxing Vegetables (Photo: JC Schneider)

Following is a list of the vegetables we grow at the Giving Garden:

  • Snap Beans (Green & Yellow)
  • Pole Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Egg Plant
  • Cucumber (Slicers & Pickle varieties)
  • Peppers (Sweet and Hot)
  • Tomatoes (Slicers & Roma’s)
  • Pumpkins (Pie and Jack-O-Lantern)
  • Squash (Summer & Winter varieties)
  • Cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Turnips
  • Potatoes (Red & White Skin)
  • Tomatillos
  • Muskmelon
  • Watermelon

-Blog post article submitted by JC Schneider
Kalamazoo Michigan Extension Master Gardener