The Holidays are Coming!

It’s the season for decorating with pumpkins, autumn leaves, pinecones, and more! Before you know it, Halloween will be here, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas! CherryGal.com is offering some beautiful holiday decoratives from Bethany Lowe, Olivia Riegel, Ragon House, April Cornell, Burton and Burton and soon … Fit of Pique! There are centerpieces, wreaths, ornaments, snow globes, frames and more! Hope you can take a moment to visit and buy!

And so much more!

As the leaves fall …

My thoughts turn to Autumn, my favorite season. I love the shortening days, the changing light; the cooling weather, putting my garden to bed for the winter and winding down at the Farmers Market offering the last of the heirloom tomatoes, herbs and bouquets. It is also fun to bring in some special peppers and flowers to overwinter inside. Sometimes I get surprises, as when I potted up my Red Rocoto pepper and found a small garden snake curled up inside its original pot.

It is now time to start planning for Spring, both what seeds to offer for the 2018 season and making the hard decisions about what seedlings to offer in the Spring, because the earlier I can start those the better and since space for growing is limited, these are difficult choices.

My attention turns also to my CherryGal.com store which is now filling with wonderful seasonal decoratives. There are snow and water globes of all kinds, wreaths, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas figurines and ornaments, holiday table linens and special gift wares.

However, this year, as the seasons turn, my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Harvey and Irma. So I am also praying and donating as I am sure you are doing as well. What else can one do?

And the rain still comes …

Slow Cooked Apple Butter

I have been watching the coverage of the Texas storm almost non-stop (I don’t sleep much) and then our own rains started. They were all day, though gentle without wind, it helped sustain the sympatico with those affected by Harvey. So, I thought of things that are great to cook during cool, wet weather, and I put a chicken in to slow roast and started a small batch of apple butter, made from really tart local apples, apple cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick, black strap molasses and stevia (I don’t like to use a lot of sugar).

The aromas emanating from my kitchen all day have been HEAVENLY! And I wish I could share them with all the Harvey refugees. But I will do what I can to help online. Hope you will too!

A gem of a corn!

Glass Gem Corn

This is my first year growing Glass Gem Corn — a triple use maize that is absolutely stunning! You can harvest fresh for use as a popcorn or parching/roasting corn or dry for popcorn or grinding up as meal corn.

A brilliant open-pollinated variety from Oklahoma, created by successive and stabilized crosses of several Native American (Osage and Pawnee) varieties. The result is appropriately named for its translucent rainbow of colors. Stalks grow 6′ to 8′ and produce an abundance of 7″ to 8″ ears. Corn is easily grown in blocks, especially in home gardens where they will get the attention they need to be successful. I grew mine in a spare 4 x 4 raised bed with a flexilble fence around it to keep out my chicks. It was amazingly vigorous and strong — never leaned or toppled despite some truly incredible storms this year. It required little except occasional watering and addition of organic fertilizer. I think growing it closely in blocks aids in the fertilization.

So give it a try next year in your home garden!

Glass Gem Corn July 2017

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For my Gourmet Artisan Gin Drinking Customers …

For anyone who does not imbibe, or for those who are struggling, please know that I do not want to encourage anyone to drink alcohol. But for those of my customers or followers who occasionally like a nice gin & tonic in the summertime (and you can put me in that column), this is for you.
Did you know that gin is just infused vodka? High end gins (and there are many) infuse their own special botanicals, spices and fruits before performing a final distillation. But the final distillation is only to remove the color and particulates. Before that is done it is “compound gin” as long as the primary infused ingredient is juniper berry. So you pay an exceptional price for this artistry or artisan flair.
But you can actually create your own compound gin by infusing these same selected botanicals at home. You will save money and create an incredibly delicious and fresh gin for mixing your cocktails.
Now, you can go and purchase or gather these infusion ingredients yourself — and it is fun to do — but CherryGal Heirloom Organics has done the research and put together a great little kit for infusing a 750ml bottle of neutral Vodka which you will purchase. It is a fallacy that inexpensive vodka is inferior vodka. There are very good and inexpensive neutral Vodkas available, including UV, Deep Eddy, Svedka, Luksusowa, Finlandia and Sobieski. Just be sure you choose a clear, neutral vodka, since flavored vodka is also on the shelves.
Another advantage to choosing a CherryGal Heirloom Organics Do It Yourself Artisan Gin Kit  — and an important one — is that the botanicals are all organic. When botanicals are infused in alcohol, the alcohol extracts everything from the botanicals — the flavor, the fragrance, the color and, unless it is organic, any pesticides or chemicals used in production. Yeck! Using my kit you will achieve a beautiful, clear gin with a golden botanical coloration.
So I hope you will give my new product a try. It is legal. It is fun. It is inexpensive (especially compared to Williams and Sonoma and others). And it takes about 5-10 minutes of your hands-on time and 36-48 hours waiting time. Available online at www.cherrygal.com or at the Warrenton Farmer’s Market each Saturday! Enjoy!

The Importance of Being Earnest(ly Organic): Cucumber Edition

I am embarking on a new Farmer’s Market initiative … organic produce! I will be bringing small lots of organic cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to market beginning this weekend. Although I cannot compete with the larger market growers, I hope to provide some education to market customers on the importance of organics in produce.

For example, take the cucumber — that wondrous fruit grown 10,000 years ago in India and often overlooked in the vegetable aisle. It is remarkably healthy for you, providing so many benefits for digestion, skin and major bodily functions. But the Environmental Working Group, a respected public interest organization, ranked conventional cucumbers second for cancer risk and 9th most contaminated food. The USDA has identified 86 pesticide residues on commercially grown cucumbers:

  • 10 Known or Probable Carcinogens
  • 32 Suspected Hormone Disrupters
  • 17 Neurotoxins
  • 10 Developmental or Reproductive Toxins
  • 24 Honeybee Toxins

The only way to mitigate against the poisons both in the wax coating used to preserve moisture and the vegetable itself is to peel. However, doing so removes the most nutritious part of cucumbers! So much easier and healthier to just buy or grow organic!

My favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers are simply slicing and dressing with dill, a little sugar, and a little vinegar or slicing them into spears and eating with a good sour cream dip. And don’t forget, after a day in the sunny garden, that cucumber is great for restoring your skin to dewy freshness!

I’ll be doing a series of short posts as I add organic veggies to my Farmers Market offerings. For now, you can get some delicious ORGANIC slicing cucumbers from me this Saturday at the Warrenton NC Farmer’s Market, 8 am – Noon. See you there!

Enter … Papilio polyxenes

Weeding my herb bed this morning, I turned a corner to weed my beautiful bulb fennel plants and the lacy fronds of the one closest to me were gone! Only a stalk remained covered with a dozen or so beautiful yellow and black striped caterpillars. I knew immediately that I was looking at a “flock” of Eastern Black Swallowtails-to be. The other two plants were also in the process of being decimated by these beauties. But I don’t begrudge any butterfly its dinner, since they grace my garden once they complete their metamorphosis. Their scientific name derives from the Latin “Papilio” for butterfly and “polyxenes” after the Greek mythological character Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

I am reminded of a book I used to read to my young son called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. It described the process in terms a 4 year could understand with charming illustrations. Basically, my very fat caterpillars will stuff themselves with my wonderful herbs until they are ready to begin the magical process of spinning their cocoons and metamorphosing into their new form and take flight. I hope it is soon … while I still have some herbs left! Once they do begin their transition, it will be about 10-14 days before emergence from their chrysalis. Can’t wait!

Courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson

Get Ready ‘Cause Here They Come!

We know the dangers of these pests, for ourselves and our pets. Deet-containing Mosquito Products are known to be effective and the most-often used. But there are increasing alarms being raised about DEET. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” And I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, it’s made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and which now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonics for your garden.

That is why I have researched and created CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray with the active ingredient of Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you. It is safe for you, your family and your pets. I will have 4 Fl Oz Spray Bottles of my special formula available at the Warren County Farmer’s Market each Saturday from 8 am to Noon, at the BBT parking lot, corner of Macon & Bragg Sts in Warrenton, NC.

Of course, I will also have All Natural and Organic LuckyLike Dog Treats (Bacon Cheddar Barley Bones and Crunchy Peanut Butter Biscuits), and CherryGal Organic Heirloom Seedlings and Plants. (This week I have a few Fraises des Bois Alpine Strawberry perennial plants, herb and vegetable seedlings and decorative plants.)  I hope to see you there!

Best,

Deborah Phillips

What’s Bugging You! (In the Garden)

The sky is just starting to lighten, enough for me to see my way into the garden. The coolest part of the day in a week of 90’s with little chance of rain. Of course, dawn (and dusk) are also the times when mosquitoes and other garden bugs you don’t want to see are out doing their daily dance. Bees and other pollinators won’t be up for a little while, so it is the best time to get your watering done and any organically-approved spraying you are going to do.

I like to water my garden by hand. As I hold my hose low to the ground to soak the dry earth around each plant I can keep my eyes on leaves, stalks and flowers to see what might be attacking my plants. You will not get this important information by turning on a sprinkler. Then, when my watering is done. I can come back with my organic-approved insecticidal soap spray and get those areas that need such attention. Of course, if I see any Japanese beetles or Stink Bugs, I just get those by hand, squishing them with appropriate scorn.

But mosquitoes have always been the one thing I hate about gardening. They are annoying and now we understand just how dangerous they are. They don’t bother my precious vegetables, herbs and flowers, but they can spread Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, various types of Encephalitis, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus and now, Zika. And of course, for your pets, mosquitoes spread Heart Worm.

I have chickens who eat mosquitoes. I also do all the usual things to keep skeeter populations down: Keeping my grass mowed very short, eliminating standing water including turning over all unused flower pots, cleaning my bird bath every couple of days, and sprinkling some all-natural repellant granules in the grass (really helps), but I have neighbors who are not necessarily doing those prophylactics, so inevitably, if unprotected, I will get a few bites.

DEET, though effective, is not without negative health implications. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, its made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and who now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonicotinoids for your garden.

So I have been using a very good natural formula I worked up for keeping mosquitoes at bay and will be offering it for sale at the Warren County Farmer’s Market. It is made with ALL ORGANIC ingredients and I believe it confuses the skeeters’ detection system long enough to protect me out in the garden for a couple of hours at a stretch before reapplying. The active ingredient is Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you.

I will be offering 4 oz spray bottles of CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray for a modest price. I hope you will give it a try — for yourself, your family and your pets!

Happy Gardening,

Deborah / CherryGal

 

Enter Fraises des Bois …

I love strawberries! All kinds. But the strawberry that really grabs me is the delicate heirloom alpine variety known as Fraises des Bois. The elongated conical pointed fruits grow on mostly runnerless crowns, making this an ideal plant for containers or window boxes. I have grown mine organically for 10 years in two window boxes outside my kitchen door opening to my garden, and they have weathered unbelievably capricious summers and cruel winters without blushing. Each Spring they begin their unending offering of red, intensely flavored sweet, piquant fruits — it takes only a few to brighten a morning bowl of cereal. The fruiting lasts until the first freeze. The crowns are evergreen and regenerate themselves each Spring as if by magic. I give them an occasional shot of Espoma Organic Grow fertilizer, and remove any tired leaves but that is all I do and they repay me with such treasure!

If you have a medicinal herb or ayurvedic garden, you should add Fraises des Bois for their remarkable and little known health benefits. Not typically associated in the modern mind with medicinal use, Alpine Strawberry was historically part of the pharmacopeia and used in many different ways: the root for diarrhea; the stalks for wounds; the leaves as astringents. Today, teas made from the leaves are wonderful for digestion (and diarrhea) and to stimulate the appetite, and recent study indicates a high element of ellagic acid, a known cancer preventative. The crushed fruit is very soothing to the skin and has antibacterial properties, AND can be applied to teeth (with baking soda) or skin to “bleach white.” The berries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and recent studies show them to be high in antioxidants, making them one to add to your cancer protection diet.

I have harvested and sold the seed for this wonderful fruit for many years, but this year decided to offer a few plants at Farmer’s Market. So this Saturday you can pick up one of these rare heirlooms and start your own back porch strawberry patch! It is easy to do with just one or two plants. Hurry before they are all gone!