by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri-Extension
In the spring, when many people were having a renewed interest in gardening, my husband and I found ourselves a little late to the party. While we have always had a vegetable garden, we got a late start, due to my recovery from rotator cuff surgery.
Our tardiness, combined with the effect of frenzied seed and starter-plant purchasing by the masses, resulted in limited availability of some of our favorite varieties of plants. This led us to try some things that we have never grown before…including spaghetti squash.
I’m not sure if it is really is this easy to grow or if the stars simply aligned, but if things continue as they are (in spite of squash bugs) we are looking at a bumper crop that should feed us well into the fall!
While most squash are native to Central America, spaghetti squash was first recorded in Manchuria, China in the late 1800’s. It was then introduced to Japan in the 1920’s by the Aichi Prefectural Agricultural Research Station and improved by the Sakata seed company around 1934. In the later 1930’s, this squash variety was brought to North America by the Burpee company under the name of ‘vegetable spaghetti’. While it found a place in victory gardens in the 1940’s, it would take another thirty-something years to really gain popularity.
Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash, which are known for their hard rind and long storage life. Unlike other winter squash that have a smooth, velvety texture when cooked, this variety gets it’s name from the stringy, spaghetti-like strands that result after cooking. It is high in vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants that protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Vitamin A is also beneficial to eye health and Vitamin C helps to prevent bruising and aid skin and gum tissue in healing.
Winter squash is also rich in potassium which aids in regulation of blood pressure. With this nutrient profile, it’s easy to see why this low calorie and high fiber vegetable is a popular pasta alternative among the calorie conscious.
When selecting spaghetti squash, look for firm yellow squash that are about the size of a football and heavy for their size. They will keep for up to 2 months, when held in a cool dark place. It can also be cooked and frozen, though it may give off liquid after thawing, so plan to drain before serving.
This squash can be cooked by boiling, microwaving or oven roasting. My preferred method is to cut in half and remove the seeds and roast on a foil lined baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
I know many people who prefer to microwave or bake spaghetti squash whole, but it is important to remember to pierce the squash several times, with a knife or ice pick, to allow steam to escape during cooking, or it could possibly explode, leaving you with a big mess to clean. After cooking, scrape the squash to release the spaghetti like strands and serve with your favorite marinara or with a simple roasted tomato and garlic blend like the recipe that follows.
by Denise Sullivan, MS, CWP, CNWE, Field Specialist, Nutrition and Health, University of Missouri Extension
Red, yellow or green…sweet, spicy or hot…fresh, roasted or pickled. There is so much variety among peppers and their preparation methods; it is no wonder that Peter Piper picked a peck!
While most people commonly think of peppers (genus Capsicum) as vegetables, they are actually fruits, and a member of the botanical family Solanaceae. Spices derived from peppers, such as chili powder and paprika are also in this family.
A common name for this botanical group is nightshades, which may not have the best reputation in some circles. Nightshades contain alkaloids, which is dangerous in high concentration as evidenced in other family members like belladonna and tobacco.
This negative association, unfortunately, often flows over to other nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, as well as peppers, all of which are abundant in many nutrients. Some sources may associate nightshades with an inflammatory response in the body; however; there is not a significant body of research supporting this theory. Food sensitivities are very individualistic and people with certain autoimmune disorders may find that nightshade vegetables exacerbate individual symptoms.
For most people there is no reason to avoid nightshades like peppers. They are a rich source of Vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium. Green peppers are considered under-ripe and will have a more bitter taste than a red pepper. There are also yellow, orange and purple varieties that have similar nutrient profiles, differing mostly within the phytonutrients they provide based on their color family. Because red bell peppers are also a decent source of iron, it is well absorbed because of the high Vitamin C value.
Another big difference among peppers is the heat factor, which comes from the phytonutrients known as capsaicinoids, which have shown benefits to heart health. The heat from capsaicinoids often results in people using less salt; therefore helping to lower blood pressure. Capsaicinoids may also improve cholesterol values and blood vessel function.
The heat of a pepper is measured using Scoville units: The scale ranges from zero (as in bell peppers) all the way to 3,000,000 (as in the spiciest chile in the world, the Pepper X).
The Scoville scale is a good base for knowing how hot your peppers are, but know that the heat can vary according to climate and vegetation. The relatively mild poblano (or ancho) pepper weighs in at about 1,500 (SHU), while the super-hot habañero packs a whopping 250,000 SHUs!
Because peppers are mostly water, they will wrinkle and dehydrate as they age, so select firm unwrinkled fruits that feel heavy for their size. Store unwashed bell peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Green bell peppers will stay fresh a little longer than yellow or red ones. If you have an abundant crop, peppers can also be frozen or pickled and you can find instructions on the Seasonal and Simple app or the website at https://seasonalandsimple.info/
One of my very favorite uses for peppers is stuffed peppers. There are as many versions of this recipe as there are people, but the recipe below has become one of my favorites. While most recipes use bell peppers, this one is also good with poblano peppers (sliced lengthwise and seeded) if you want it a little spicier!
MU Extension is a partnership of the University of Missouri campuses, Lincoln University, the people of Missouri through county extension councils, and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visit our website at: https://extension2.missouri.edu/
by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension- Jackson County
Like it or not, we are gradually saying goodbye to summer and moving into fall. The daylight hours are already getting noticeably shorter. Many people welcome fall in Missouri because it means cooler temperatures and a chance to do many gardening activities before winter arrives.
Here’s a list of fun and useful gardening activities for September:
Peonies- Never tried peonies? Do you admire their brilliant spring color and wonderful scent in other people’s yards? September is a good time to transplant them and introduce them to your garden. They come in a range of colors: white, pink, and red, and last for decades in a well-drained, sunny spot in your garden. Somewhat shallow planting is required since flowering is reduced or inhibited if the growing points of the crown are set more than 2 inches deep.
Peonies can often remain undisturbed in the garden for 20 or more years without a decline in flowering. Divide them only if growth is poor and plants fail to bloom after years of performing well.
Want more information on more ornamental perennials? Here’s a link to a MU Extension publication Flowering Perennials: Characteristics and Culture: https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6650
Planting cool season vegetables- Yes, you still have time to plant those quick maturing cool season crops that mature in 25- 55 days. Arugula, leaf lettuce, bibb lettuce, radishes, turnip, sugar snap peas, and mustard greens are some of the cool season crops you can plant now in sunny garden and harvest by mid to late October and sometimes on into November depending on the weather.
Choose a sunny area in your vegetable garden. Remove old crop residue. Cultivate the soil and plant seeds of cool season crops. Protect your crops from sudden cold snaps by using floating row cover. It is a spun polyester fabric that lets light and rain in, yet creates a microclimate next to the plants that can be 2 to 3 degrees warmer than temperatures outside the fabric. It is fairly inexpensive and lasts for a couple gardening seasons if stored after use.
Lawn care- September is the prime time to renovate your cool season grass lawn. The cooler temperatures benefit the cool season grass seed as it germinates and weed competition is not as challenging as it is in the spring. Cool season turf grasses include fescue and Kentucky blue grass. For more information on cool season turf grasses and how to manage them, check out the following publications:
Cool Season Grasses: Lawn Establishment and Renovation- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6700
Cool Season Grasses: Lawn Maintenance Calendar- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6705
Natural Lawn Care- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6749
Planting Trees- Planting trees in the fall gives them time to get established when the temperatures have moderated in September and October. Roots continue growing underground even when the above ground temperatures drop to near freezing.
“Right Tree in the Right Place” is a saying to remember before purchasing and planting trees. Do some research on tree species you are interested in and then study the conditions in your yard. Remember to keep in mind over head wires, underground wiring, and other utilities before digging.
Call Dig Rite (1 800 Dig Rite or 811) before digging to have utilities marked, especially if you are planting trees and shrubs in new areas near your home. Here’s a link to a publication on planting trees- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6850
Need more gardening information? Here are several options:
Plan to attend the free, online Horticulture Town Hall on Wednesday mornings. Register for our Horticulture Town Hall at https://ipm.missouri.edu/townHalls/
Enjoy all the MU Extension educational horticulture videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/MUIPM
And feel free to contact our MU Extension office at 816-482-5850 for more horticulture information.
by Roger Meissen, from interviews with Dr. David Trinklein, University of Missouri Extension
Don’t forget about fall gardening! Dr. Trinklein, Assistant Professor of Horticulture with MU Extension, reminds us that August and September offer a reprieve from the scorching heat of summer and an opportunity to put vegetables on the dinner table well into fall.
Fall planting, sometime called succession planting, puts summer garden plots back into production. Successive sowings of appropriate crops can help you eat from the garden into fall and sometimes into the winter. Falling temperatures means a fall crop often ends up higher in quality than produce grown in the spring and summer.
Succession planting begins with selecting the right crop. Since there is limited time until the first fall frost, choose crops that mature quickly or crops that hold up against freezing temperatures without severe damage.
Seed envelopes often have important information on the back telling you “days to maturity”. You can use that information to help you decide which vegetables you can plant and still get a crop before a frost or freeze.
Bush beans, cucumbers, and summer squash often will bear fruit if planted before late August. These fast-growing plants will have a chance to produce before cold weather. With a little luck and a fall that is warm and long, these vegetables will reward the gardener with a good crop.
Some vegetables can withstand a light frost. Arugula, beets, Chinese cabbage, collards, lettuce (leaf and Bibb types), radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard are some cool-season crops that thrive in the fall.
Leftover seed potatoes can also be planted. They will produce fresh, small potatoes to eat in the fall. Gardeners should not plant recently harvested potatoes. Fall potatoes often do not store well.
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and turnips are also good potential fall crops. These hardy vegetables will withstand low temperatures and provide a bountiful harvest well into the fall or early winter. Plant transplants of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Kale and turnips can be planted by seed.
Sugar Snap or snow peas are additional possibilities for fall gardening because their pods can be eaten at any stage if an early frost cuts short the growing season. Again, use the days to maturity information to help you plan and plant.
Sanitation is the first step in disease and insect management in the garden. Removing the previous crop and cleaning up plant debris and weeds help lessen problems in the fall garden.
Next, lightly till or hand cultivate soil. Add a general-purpose fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 or 12-12-12 according to label recommendations. (These numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, in that order, contained in the fertilizer.)
Seeds sown in the fall should be planted slightly deeper than they would normally be planted in the spring. Water often to keep the seed bed moist. This helps with germination.
For crops grown from transplants such as cabbage, transplanting in afternoon or early evening reduces transplant shock.
Vegetables need 1-2 inches of water per week. If weather is dry, some watering will be required. Avoid watering plant leaves to reduce the chance of foliage diseases. Since rust and fungal diseases thrive on heat, they are less of a problem in the fall. Continue to monitor plants for disease and insect damage.
In October, row cover can add a few degrees of protection against frost. Floating row cover is a translucent, spun polyester material that traps the soil’s heat underneath it when it is spread over plants.
Since sunlight can pass through, it can be left in place for several days during a cold snap. This product is relatively inexpensive, can be found at many local gardening stores, and can be reused for several years.
With the right preparation, love and attention, a fall garden can feed the body and soul.
“Gardening is good for the ‘inner self’,” Dr. Trinklein said. “Working in the garden eases tension, restores our spirit and tends to make us feel good about ourselves.”
Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, MU Extension, email@example.com, 816-482-5850, if you have more fall gardening questions.
August gardening information- https://ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2020/7/August_Gardening_Tips/
by Michelle Warmund, University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences
July is the prime time for harvesting and enjoying blackberries. The fruit is ripe when the drupelets are uniformly black. However, sometimes individual or multiple drupelets on a blackberry are off-colored. White, tan, red, or brown drupelet discoloration can be caused by various factors during the growing season.
White drupelet disorder on blackberry often occurs during hot, dry summers. Although drupelets enlarge during the growing season, they fail to turn red (Figure 1). These white or tan drupelets can be interspersed individually among dark-colored ones or in groups. In the past, white drupelet disorder was attributed to stinkbug feeding. However, white drupelets are caused by ultraviolet radiation and high temperatures. In studies conducted on red raspberry, unpigmented or white drupelets developed when fruit was exposed to temperatures of 107°F or higher with four or more hours of ultraviolet radiation.
In another study, researchers found that the use of 30% shade cloth during the growing season reduced white drupelet disorder by 63%, but the total soluble solids (i.e., sugars) concentration of shaded fruit was 1% lower than non-shaded fruit, which slightly reduced blackberry sweetness. Some of the older blackberry cultivars, such as Kiowa and Apache, are more prone to developing this disorder than others, but several are susceptible. While white drupelets on blackberries may not be aesthetically pleasing, affected fruit are edible.
Interspersed red drupelets on ripe blackberry fruit can develop before or after harvest. Excessive rainfall before harvest has been associated with red drupelets that are soft and never turn black. In 2020, red drupelets were observed on the floricane crop Prime-Ark 45 blackberries grown in the field and in high tunnels in North Carolina. Also, a tiny eriophyid mite (Acalitus essigi) is known to cause "redberry" fruit on blackberry.
Late-maturing blackberry cultivars are particularly prone to redberry mite infestations. These mites feed on the fruit core and at the base of berry drupelets. However, these mites are not common in the eastern United States.
Reversion is the most common cause of red drupelets on blackberry fruit after harvest. With this disorder, some of the black drupelets at harvest change to a red color (Figure 2). Reversion occurs on blackberries that are damaged by bruising or fruit compression during harvest or shipping.
Also, blackberries that have a core temperature above 73°F at harvest tend to have a higher incidence of red drupelet than cooler fruit, especially during the early part of the season. Thus, a step-cooling process to lower fruit temperature is used to reduce the incidence of this disorder.
Anthracnose is a fungal disease that produces brown, shrunken drupelets on infected blackberries (Figure 3). Infection occurs in the spring during warm, wet conditions. Pruning to enhance air circulation among plants and removal of old fruiting canes in the dormant season reduces the amount of overwintering inoculum in the planting. Also, weed control improves air flow through the planting during the growing season and helps reduce disease infection.
An application of liquid lime sulfur (Sulforix) can also be applied to dormant blackberry buds just before they begin to produce new growth will control anthracnose. Blackberries infected with this disease are off-flavored and are unfit for sale.
Contact your Jackson County University of Missouri Extension office if you have more questions about berry crops or other gardening topics- 816-482-5850.
by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist,MU Extension-Jackson County
As I visited with friends about vegetables, it seems that beets are another sorely misunderstood vegetable. Growing up at my house, I remember having them one of two ways: cold as pickled beets (that I still enjoy) or hot in a thickened vinegar laden sauce that my mom called Harvard Beets, of which I was not a fan. A quick google search will confirm that Harvard Beets are essentially hot pickled beets, a concept that is difficult for my brain to process. Thanks, but I’ll take my pickles cold.
There is a lot to eat when it comes to beets, as the root, stem and leaf all can be prepared in a variety of ways. The tops, known as beet greens, can be prepared like any other green by sautéing, or if young and tender enough, as a salad green. The stems of the beet plant can also be diced and added to the sautéed greens; much like preparing Swiss chard.
The beet is the bulbous taproot of the plant. The size of the beet is dependent upon the space available to develop, as is the case with most root vegetables. Beets will have the best flavor and be less fibrous if they are smaller than 3 inches in diameter. To make use of both the greens and the beet, they are best separated and stored separately.
The greens should be ‘soaked and swished’ to remove dirt, drained, wrapped in paper towels and stored in a perforated plastic bag. The beet should be stored in a perforated plastic bag and washed prior to cooking and peeling the skins after cooking.
Beets are an excellent source of folate, manganese, iron and riboflavin, while the greens are rich in vitamin A, C, K, calcium and potassium. This nutrient profile makes beets beneficial in maintaining healthy blood circulation and pressure, bone strength, and neural tube development in developing babies. Beets also show promise in reducing inflammation.
Beets range in color from deep purple to ruby red to golden to white. There is even a red and white striped variety, nick named the candy cane beet. Sugar beets are the most common type white beet.
People often avoid beets due to their tendency to stain utensils (and clothing), but the deep color is actually desirable use a natural food dye. Purple and red beets also have a stronger flavor, so golden beets would be a milder flavor choice.
Preparation methods can also have an influence on flavor. Boiling is the easiest and most common method of preparation, but also results in the strongest flavor. Roasting tends to mellow the flavor and bring out more of the natural sweetness, as is common with root vegetables.
While Julia Child is quoted as saying she is a ‘beet freak who cooks them in a pressure cooker’, roasting is my preferred method for cooking beets (if I’m not pickling them). The recipe below is my copycat version of one of my favorite restaurant salads that combines roasted beets, oranges and avocados with arugula for a colorful springtime salad. I hope you enjoy it too!
by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
May has been cool so far. We should not have any temperatures lower than 50 at night according to the latest weather forecast for our region.
So that means it is time to plant tomatoes, our favorite warm season crop! Tomatoes are a versatile and nutritious vegetable and an important ingredient in so many of the dishes we like to prepare. Tomatoes are originally from South America. They were first domesticated and cultivated as a crop in Mexico and Central America so they prefer warm climates. They grow well in our hot summers and produce until late fall.
While not trouble-free, following some basic tomato tips will help you have a good chance at success:
Plant in full sun. Tomatoes need 8-10 hours of sun to produce a good harvest.
Choose well-drained soil.
Mulch around the plants by mid-June. Mulching with compost, dry grass clippings, or straw keeps the soil moist and soil temperatures moderated during summer heat.
Mulch keeps the soil from splashing onto the plant leaves, which helps prevent fungal diseases.
Apply a maintenance fertilizer when soil is prepared and before planting tomato transplants. Work it into the soil to the depth of about 6 inches. A fertilizer with less nitrogen is best for tomatoes.
Plant tomato transplants deeper than they were growing in the pots or plastic trays.
Plant tomatoes at least 2 to 3 feet apart. Good air circulation between plants helps prevent diseases.
If we do not get at least 1 inch of rain per week, supplemental irrigation is needed. Water tomatoes deeply, about once a week, around the root zone of the plant. Less frequent and deep watering is better than shallow frequent watering.
Indeterminate tomatoes will keep growing and producing tomatoes until they are killed by a fall freeze.
Determinate tomatoes grow about 3-5 feet tall and stop growing after producing a crop.
Studies show that tomatoes grown on stakes, in cages, or on trellises produce more high-quality tomatoes than tomatoes left to trail on the ground.
Give one or two side dressings of fertilizer at one-month intervals after you notice green tomatoes, about 1/3 of mature size, on the plants.
Watch for tomato hornworms and other insect pests that can damage the plants and fruit. Gardeners have a wide range of methods for insect pest control, from hand picking of pests, strong sprays of water, organic pesticides, to synthetic pesticides. Be sure to read and follow label directions for any pesticides you use.
Here is a link to a MU Extension guide sheet on growing tomatoes which will give you more information for tomato crop success-https://extension2.missouri.edu/catalog/product/view/id/4591/
Mid-May to early June is also a great time to plant other warm season crops such as sweet peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, and sweet potatoes. Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension, 816-482-5850 or 816-252-5051, firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions about tomatoes or other vegetable crops. Join MU Extension Field Horticulture Specialists for free Home Horticulture Town Halls on Wednesdays, 11:00am to 12noon, via Zoom- https://extension2.missouri.edu/events/home-horticulture-town-hall. Hear the latest information on a wide range of gardening topics and get answers to many gardening questions. Have a good time gardening!
Image courtesy University of MO Extension
by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension—Jackson County
It has been a wild spring so far with temperatures all over the place, from freezing to hot. Snow, rain, wind, we have experienced it all. Despite these extremes, I hope you are able to get outside and start gardening during the stay at home precautions and enjoy the spring activities in your yard and garden.
Contact University of Missouri Extension in Jackson County, if you have any questions about plants, insects, or any garden related activities. We are glad to help! Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, email@example.com, University of Missouri Extension- Jackson County, 816-252-5051.
Apples, crabapples and hawthorns susceptible to rust disease should have protective fungicidal sprays applied beginning when these trees bloom.
Pinch azaleas and rhododendron blossoms as they fade. Double flowered azaleas need no pinching.
If spring rains have been sparse, begin irrigating, especially plants growing in full sun.
Fertilize azaleas after bloom. Use a formulation which has an acid reaction.
Canker worms (inch worms) rarely cause permanent damage to ornamentals. Use Bt if control is deemed necessary.
Don't remove spring bulb foliage prematurely or next year's flower production will decline.
Continue monitoring pines, especially Scotch and mugo, for sawfly activity on new shoots.
Begin planting gladiolus bulbs as the ground warms. Continue at 2-week intervals.
Plant hardy water lilies in tubs or garden pools.
Scale crawlers are active now. Infested pines and euonymus should be treated at this time.
Plant summer bulbs such as caladiums, dahlias, cannas and elephant ears.
Begin planting warm-season annuals.
Begin fertilizing annuals. Continue at regular intervals.
Trees with a history of borer problems should receive their first spray now. Repeat twice at 3-week intervals.
Pinch back mums to promote bushy growth.
Keep bluegrass cut at 1.5 to 2.5 inch height. Mow tall fescue at 2 to 4 inch height.
Mow zoysia lawns at 1.5 inch height. Remove no more than one-half inch at each mowing.
Apply post-emergence broadleaf weed controls now if needed.
Zoysia lawns may be fertilized now. Apply no more than 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Watch for sod webworms emerging now.
Place cutworm collars around young transplants. Collars are easily made from cardboard strips.
Growing lettuce under screening materials will slow bolting and extend harvests into hot weather.
Slugs will hide during the daytime beneath a board placed over damp ground. Check each morning and destroy any slugs that have gathered on the underside of the board.
Plant dill to use when making pickles.
Keep asparagus harvested for continued spear production. Control asparagus beetles as needed.
Begin planting sweet corn as soon as white oak leaves are as big as squirrel ears.
Isolate sweet, super sweet and popcorn varieties of corn to prevent crossing.
Thin plantings of carrots and beets to avoid overcrowding.
Control caterpillars on broccoli and cabbage plants by handpicking or use biological sprays such as B.t.
Set out tomato plants as soils warm.
Place a stake by seeds of squash and cucumbers when planting in hills to locate the root zone watering site after the vines have run.
Remove rhubarb seed stalks as they appear.
Watch for striped and spotted cucumber beetles now. Both may spread wilt and mosaic diseases to squash and cucumber plants.
Set out peppers and eggplants after soils have warmed. Plant sweet potatoes now and into early June.
Make new sowings of warm-season vegetables after harvesting early crops.
Mulch blueberries with pine needles or sawdust.
Don't spray any fruits while in bloom. Refer to local MU Extension publications for fruit spray schedule. Fruit Tree Spray Schedule for the Homeowner- https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6010
Birds eat many insect pests. Attract them to your garden by providing good nesting habitats.
Herbs planted in average soils need no extra fertilizer. Too much may reduce flavor and pungency at harvest.
Take houseplants outdoors when nights will remain above 50 degrees. Most prefer only direct morning sun.
Watch for fireflies on warm nights. Both adults and larvae are important predators. Collecting may reduce this benefit.
Gardening Calendar supplied by the staff of the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening located at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. (www.GardeningHelp.org)
by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist,
MU Extension-Jackson County
What image comes to mind when you hear the word ‘spinach’? Is it the bright green leafy salad so popular on springtime menus or a dark green stringy mass that appeared on your school lunch tray or dinner plate at grandma’s house?
Unfortunately, the latter was my only exposure to spinach as a child, so you can imagine my skepticism, as a young adult, when encouraged to try the spinach salad (with fruit in it no less) at a ladies luncheon held at a quaint tearoom. Ahh…I still had so much to learn!
There are three basic types of spinach, Savoy, semi-Savoy and flat leaf. Savoy, also called curly leaf spinach, has large, very dark crinkly leaves and is better suited for cooking. Semi-savoy is very similar, but the leaves tend to smaller and still somewhat crisp and crinkly.
Flat leaf, which is the most popular in the United States, has smooth, tender, spade shaped leaves with a slightly sweet flavor. This is the most popular variety for raw uses like salads and smoothies. Baby spinach is flat leaf spinach picked in the early stages of growth.
As a quick maturing, cool season leafy green, spinach is often one of the first garden gems to harvest in early spring. A member of the Amaranthaceae family, this leafy annual is a ‘cousin’ to beets, chard, and quinoa. Spinach ranks as one of the most nutrient-dense of all foods.
At just 7 calories per uncooked cup, it is an excellent source of folate, and vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-6. Spinach is also a good source of iron, magnesium, riboflavin and potassium. This vast array of nutrients provide many benefits including reducing risk of heart disease and cancer and promoting eye health, wound healing, healthy blood pressure and protection from neural tube defects in a developing fetus.
It is worth mentioning that the iron found in spinach is non-heme iron, which needs a high vitamin C helper such as citrus foods or strawberries. (Now that first spinach salad makes sense!)
As healthful as spinach is, there are potential adverse effects, especially when consumed in large amounts. Because of the high vitamin K, it can interfere with blood thinning medication and clotting ability. In addition, the high levels of oxalic acid and calcium salts can interfere with mineral absorption and contribute to kidney stones in people who are at risk for developing them.
As an adult, I may still politely pass when it comes to a plain vegetable side dish, especially if it resembles what I experienced in my early days. However, I have learned to enjoy spinach in a variety of ways…in a salad, in pasta dishes, in omelets and even a breakfast smoothie, like the recipe below. One thing I have learned is that I prefer blueberries or a berry blend, so that the darker purple colors can ‘win’ over the green of the spinach!
Berries and Greens Smoothie
½ cup 100% cranberry juice
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup fresh spinach, packed
½ ripe banana (try freezing first)
½ cup frozen berry blend (blueberry, blackberry, strawberry)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
Nutrition information (based on 6 servings): Calories: 223, Total Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 128mg, Carbohydrates: 41g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 9g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Adapted from information from the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening located at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri.(www.GardeningHelp.org). Additional information provided by Cathy Bylinowski.
There is so much do in the garden in April. It can be overwhelming. Prioritizing projects in your yard or garden that are most important to you is one way to organize spring tasks. Do not forget to enjoy the sheer beauty of the green beginning of spring.
COVID 19 changed our lives this year, but gardening can help provide healthy exercise, stress relief, and nutritious food. Observe preventative measures to protect yourself, your family, and friends from COVID 19. Here is a helpful link to more information- https://extension2.missouri.edu/covid-19-resources-public
Contact Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org, University of Missouri- Jackson County for more information on vegetable gardening, landscaping, native plants, and other horticulture topics. Enjoy spring!
When buying bedding plants, choose sturdy transplants that have not begun to flower. When crabapples are in bloom, it is time to plant hardy annuals such as violas outdoors.
Winter mulches should be removed from roses. Complete pruning promptly. Remove only dead wood from climbers at this time. Cultivate lightly, working in some compost or other organic matter.
Fertilize established roses once new growth is 2 inches long. Use a balanced formulation. Begin spraying to control black spot disease. Examine shrubs for winter injury. Prune all dead and weakened wood.
Groundcovers can be mowed to remove winter burn and tidy plants up. Raise mowers to their highest settings. Fertilize and water to encourage rapid regrowth.
Shrubs and trees best planted or transplanted in spring, rather than fall, include butterfly bush, dogwood, rose of Sharon, black gum (Nyssa), red bud, magnolia, tulip poplar, birch, ginkgo, hawthorn and most oaks.
Break off rims from peat pots when transplanting seedlings; otherwise, they can act as a wick to draw moisture away from the roots.
Evergreen and deciduous hedges may be sheared. Prune the top narrower than the base so sunlight will reach the lower limbs.
Easter lilies past blooming can be planted outdoors. Set the bulbs 2 to 3 inches deeper than they grew in the pot. Mulch well if frost occurs.
Enjoy, but do not disturb the many wildflowers blooming in woodlands throughout Missouri. Look for flowering dogwoods and redbuds in bloom. Oaks, hickories, and maples bloom.
Mow cool season grasses at recommended heights. For complete details, refer to University Extension Guide #6705, Cool Season Grasses. Top-dress low spots and finish over seeding thin or bare patches.
Finish transplanting broccoli, cabbage, and other cole crops into the garden. High phosphorous fertilizers help get transplants off to a quick start.
Plants started indoors should be hardened off outdoors in a protected place or cold frame before being transplanted into the garden.
Finish sowing seeds of all cool-season vegetables not yet planted. Make succession sowings of these crops for a steady supply.
Asparagus and rhubarb harvests begin. Remove flower stalks from rhubarb plants, if they develop.
Keep your hoe sharp. Do not allow weeds to get an early start in your garden! Thin crowded seedlings from early plantings of cool season crops such as beets, carrots, lettuce, and radish.
A rain gauge on a post near the vegetable garden keeps track of precipitation so you know when to water. Most crops need about 1 inch of rain per week between April and September.
If you want blemish-free fruits applications of insecticides and fungicides will be needed. Consult University Extension Guide Sheet #G6010, Home Fruit Spray Schedule for more information Plant bare-root or potted fruit trees as soon as the soil can be worked.
Protect bees and other pollinating insects. Do not spray insecticides on fruit trees that are blooming.
Orange, jelly-like galls on cedar trees spread rust diseases to apples, crabapples and hawthorns. Begin sprays for fire-blight susceptible apples and pears using an agricultural streptomycin. Spider mites and codling moths become active on apples.
Miscellaneous Natural Events
Honeybees are swarming. If you see a swarm in an inconvenient place, notify a local beekeeper organization to find a new home for these beneficial insects.
Hummingbirds return from their winter home in Central America.