- Author: Cheryl Carmichael
FRASS: noun. A term meaning debris or excrement left by the larval stage of insects especially caterpillars and wood boring insects. It can be visible to the naked eye depending on the size of the insect leaving its' debris.
Entomologists initially used this term to name the debris left by wood boring insects. It was identified by the combination of excrement and wood shavings that were not digested by the boring insect. It could be found on the exterior of the wood, on the ground or packed densely in the hole to block other prey insects. The definition broadened to include the wood dust not ingested by the insect but pushed out of the bored hole to give the insect room to move through the wood.
The meaning of the term broadened further to include the excrement of all munching insects. Seeing the dots of solid waste on the leaves of susceptible plants is the best clue that you have caterpillars devouring your herbaceous plant. Stop and look closely at the top and bottom of every leaf of the plant to find the offending caterpillar. They are often camouflaged and hard to find. Some of the villains in the garden who leave their frass calling card include tomato hornworms, cucumber beetle larva, and tobacco budworms (petunia and geranium destroyers).
Researchers have found the presence of frass is a useful sign to identify early damage/disease in plants from small to large. Certain insects damage plants in ways that increase their vulnerability to mortal diseases. The presence of frass allows growers and home gardeners to recognize early infestations of the offending insect and intervene in the most environmentally responsible manner possible. Entrepreneurs have even figured out how to harvest frass for fertilizer: big bucks, even, low nutrient profile (2-2-2). You would need a lot to make much difference in the garden.
**For fun access the Word of the Week article referenced above. There is a link to a video of caterpillars catapulting their frass a distance in order to fool predators about their location.
- Author: Julie Hyske, Master Gardener
The tree has been dismantled, the ornaments packed away, and the Christmas sweater you have worn too often lately is now hiding in the closet. It has been a season of too many cookies, candies, and holiday parties. Welcome to the new year, a time to ring out the old and a chance for a fresh start with resolutions that are all shiny and new. If your list of resolutions is looking a little tired, vague and uninspired, perhaps a family goal of either growing and harvesting your own vegetables or buying locally will be an investment in a healthy lifestyle change.
Talk of local food is everywhere. For food purists, “local” is the new “organic.” Local foods are produced as close to home as possible. “Locavore” is a term that was coined in 2005 to describe people who value local as their primary food criterion. The local food movement can start in your own backyard, school, community farm, or simply by purchasing from farmers' markets. Slow Food USA is a grass roots movement with a vision of eating food that is good for you, the planet, and those who grow it. It is everything that fast food is not. Local chapters offer educational activities in their communities to promote sustainability and biodiversity. A developing local chapter of Slow Food Lodi has a goal of educating residents of San Joaquin County to the virtues and pleasures of locally produced food and drink.
Where does one begin? One easy way to start buying local is to choose one product to focus on. Vegetables are often a good place to start. Produce offers a good lesson towards eating food grown seasonally and that translates to local. Eating seasonal foods allows us to eat them at their peak of taste and ripeness. Locally grown has the benefit of freshness, nutritional value, and often costs less. Local and home-grown produce does not have transit time and has not been cold stored. Eating local generates income for our local economy, thereby supporting family farms, utilizing community services, and employing local workers. Small, local farms are run by farmers who live on their land, working hard at becoming good stewards while reducing environmental impacts created by industrial farming practices. Another bonus of purchasing local is that it allows local farmers to try new crops for niche markets that would never make it to big supermarkets.
The concept of sustainability includes buying food grown locally but buying local food does not always guarantee sustainable food practices. Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormone, and antibiotic use can all be involved in the local production of foods. When you purchase local, ask what you are buying. A consideration may be that you purchase from farmers using sustainable methods. As master gardeners, we endorse the use of integrated pest management-- IPM practices-- which utilize pest identification, use of beneficials, biological and cultural controls, and finally, only utilize synthetic chemicals as a last resort. Consider these practices of fruit and vegetable gardening in your own home sustainable production. Unlike organic standards which are defined by legal standards, “local” can mean different things to different people. Local does not necessarily mean organic. While local is certainly a flexible term, it does support a more sustainable food system because true sustainability goes far beyond the methods used in food production to include every step that brings food from the farm to your plate. The question arises: if you send an organic food halfway around the world before it is eaten (think transportation, processing, and packaging) is it a sustainable practice or good for the planet?
So now that you have made an informed resolution to eat local, buy local and be local, where do you start? To learn even more and make thoughtful choices, you can visit websites such as: Food Print and Slow Food USA. Commit to growing your own very local backyard produce utilizing our local master gardener website for questions/answers and a calendar of events for educational classes. Create your own family and friends “eat local challenge.” There is strength in numbers! Purchase produce from local farms and wineries. Visit local food establishments that endorse the local food movement by both promoting local purchasing and growing of their own fresh seasonal ingredients. These last few months I sought out in my own small community Wine and Roses, Pietros, the Fruit Bowl, and Michael David Café and can attest to the pleasures and culinary delights of eating fresh locally. Finally, make local eating into a family adventure. What does your neighborhood have to offer in support of buying, growing, and eating local foods? It is the knowing part of the story about your food that makes it such a powerful part of the enjoyment of a meal.
Choosing to eat local can definitely make you feel more rooted (no pun intended). So somewhere into this new year when you may begin to waver, perhaps forgetting your purpose, and go the fast route of drive-thru or the trip to the local mega-supermarket, remember the old adage: you are what you eat!
- Author: Deanna Wade, Master Gardener
Now that we are harvesting and bedding down our gardens for the winter, our thoughts may naturally turn to sharing or “gifting” some of our bounty. Distinctive and personalized gifts can come straight from our garden, but if you are like me, you may be at a loss in creating those gifts. In preparation for this article, I stumbled upon a used book titled, glorious gifts from the garden, inspirational projects from the potting shed, written by a British author, Stephanie Donaldson. The first two projects are taken from her book, specifically her herb garden chapter.
I am planning this first gift for my friend who is reluctant to try herb gardening or cooking with fresh herbs. I'm hoping this will inspire her to try both. Following are instructions for a “bouquet garni” planted in a small moss-lined crate. Herbs for bouquet garni are typically parsley, thyme, and bay leaves tied into a posy with string to flavor stews, soups, and sauces. Rosemary is sometimes added as well.
Materials and Equipment:
Wooden crate, approximately 10x8x6 in.
16 in. sisal rope
Permanent marker pen
Liquid seaweed plant food
Small bay tree
2 parsley plants
1. To make the handles, drill 2 holes in each end of the wooden crate. Thread an 8 in. pieces of sisal rope through the holes and knot on the inside to secure.
2. Use the permanent marker to write on the front and back of the crate – “Bouquet Garni.”
3. To give the crate a weathered appearance, mix 1 part seaweed plant food with 1 part water and paint the exterior.
4. Line the crate with moss, the bottom as well as sides.
5. Plant the herbs with 3 parts compost and 1-part coarse sand. Press the plants in firmly and cover with more moss. Water thoroughly.
Bouquet Garni Posy
Materials and Equipment:
Selection of freshly picked herbs
Trug or basket (optional)
1. Gather some parsley, thyme, and bay leaves, leaving 4 in. or more of the stems.
2. Condition the herbs, standing them in deep water for 3 hours or more.
3. Spread the herbs out, in groups, on a work surface.
4. Assemble the posy, holding it loosely in one hand, while adding and adjusting the herbs with the other hand.
5. When satisfied with the arrangement, tie the posy firmly with string.
6. Trim the ends of the stems and tie the ribbon over the string.
This posy may be given in a basket, trug, or simply tied with a ribbon for a hostess gift. If you would like to dry the posy, wrap it in craft paper rolled into a cone-shape. Tie the cone with string towards the bottom and hang upside down to dry.
This last gift idea may not be directly from your garden, but it would be appreciated by any of your Master Gardener friends!
Sore Muscle Soak
½ cup baking soda
¼ cup Epsom salts
¼ cup coarse sea salt
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Combine the baking soda, Epsom salt, and sea salt in a plastic bag and seal tightly. Shake the bag vigorously, add the essential oil, and shake again. Package in cellophane gift bags, muslin bags or decorative jars with a lid.
Yield = about 1 cup.
Add 1/3 cup of these soothing bath salts to a tub of hot water.
1. glorious gifts from the garden, inspirational projects from the potting shed. Stephanie Donaldson. Lorenz Books, New York, NY. 2002
2. The Bountiful Kitchen. Barry Bluestein and Kevin Morrisey. Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, NY. 1997
Tree rings reveal age, Earth's atmosphere reflects the state of its own health, and waterways move to the tune of a changing ability to support life. The ground upon which humanity stands also discloses itself in a myriad of ways: the quiet seasonal joy of flowers blooming and food growing, the terror and beauty of a volcanic eruption, the fragility of life on the battlefields of Gettysburg and the heartbreaking remnants left behind, discovered in the soil. The ground tells us much about human history, feeds and delights us in the present and informs the viability of our future.
So, what is the result when we pave vast areas of soil, destroying its life, only to cover the remaining with development for a burgeoning population? Or, we continue to add harmful inputs to the soil until it becomes a medium used only to support an immense and unhealthy monoculture?
And what are the consequences to wildlife as habitat declines, migration paths disappear, extinction looms, and humans draw ever further away from the joy of the natural?
Scientists have spent decades in the study and amelioration of air and water quality. Education of the public and enforcement of laws continue. But what of the nearly forgotten resource of Earth's ground? Is the discussion beginning too late to achieve protection and restoration of this crucial resource?
Author Paul Bogard in The Ground Beneath Us (Little, Brown and Company, 2017) has drawn upon resources in various areas of the world to assist in his quest to wonder, investigate, question and observe the ground or, as he puts it, “what we see when we look down, the planet as we experience it in our day-to-day lives.” (p.4)
I like to believe that the author has designed this book as a symphony, offering up five pieces all related to the wonders and the despair of ground. The titles of three of these pieces are each three words long, linked by the conjunction ‘and'. The linked words describe types of ground that appear to be opposite; but Bogard wants to impress that the boundaries between the two types are often blurred.
The ‘movements' in each piece are the actual places the author visits to find answers. There are very harsh realities found in many of these destinations. Let us begin:
The Ground Beneath Us
From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are
The reader accompanies the author to Manhattan, to the top of One World Trade Center where portions of the physical layout of the island are visible. Bogard's plan is to return to street level, then walk through neighborhoods to find what remains of uncovered ground. Read on in his prose to learn that the sheer physical weight of all which covers Manhattan's ground can be calculated in tonnage. There is a world in covered ground that is no longer available to sustain life.
II. Paved and Hallowed in five movements
Manhattan, Mexico City, London, Northern VA, Gettysburg
By some estimations, mid-21st century will bring an additional three billion humans to feed, with decreasing availability of uncovered land. Read on for an examination of humans' relationship to nature and the consequences of residing too far from the microbiota in living ground. Learn about the term fragmentation when used in an ecological sense. And note the mention of Stockton, CA in the section (p.75) describing the perils of worldwide car-centered growth.
III. Farmed and Wild again, in five movements
Bishopstone, Soil, Ames, Grass, The Sandhills
Soil sustains humanity physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maintaining the health of the living ground left in the face of population growth is paramount. Read on to learn that ground has become a Wall Street investment, creating a plantation farming redux. A longer-term approach will be key: crop diversification and rotation, fewer harmful inputs to soil, a return to regenerative farming practices, protection and restoration of grasslands, wetlands, and the ground along bird migration paths. Learn more about the sandhill crane and predictions for its longevity. Diversity is what makes the world---if it is lost, the world fragments.
IV. Hell and Sacred finale
Appalachia, Treblinka, Alaska, The Sierra Nevada, Home
Here is the point in the book where a different understanding of hell is put forth. Not as a place but, more usefully, a situation of degradation and despair: changes to earth's geology caused by fracking, thawing of permafrost which will eventually expose more carbon than has been released since industrial revolution times, estrangement from the ground, from others, from our own selves. Author Bogard gently lays out to the reader that if we want a world where we know the connections that keep us alive, those connections between ourselves and others and between ourselves and nature, then there are choices to be made now, with wisdom and courage.
Resources, gratitude, additional reading, recognition, quotations, statistics, stories, and results of fascinating studies abound in the pages between pgs.265 and 297
Reviewer's note: I found this to be a fascinating, emotionally difficult book to read but as the author quoted, and I am paraphrasing, “if you don't know what is happening, you cannot fix it.”
- Author: Julie Hyske, Master Gardener
Recipes From the Garden: A TasteWinter soups can warm up the chilliest of nights. Think of these as bowls of comfort; guaranteed to keep your family filled up and cozy. The one pot lasagna soup has all the richness of lasagna with layers of cheesy noodles in a marinara sauce infused with Italian herbs and browned beef. Smother with Parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella and you've got lasagna in a bowl. Chicken Taco Soup will be your new taco Tuesday this winter. It can be ready in 40 minutes, while you put together a salad. The Tuscan Bean Soup checks all the marks being both healthy and filling. Creamy chicken mushroom soup is cozy, comforting and velvety. And, I'm feeling like the mushroons are way too exotic to even be considered a vegetable! Finally, the bean soup with ham is a hearty contender for any winter weeknight. It's another simple preparation using dried beans, ham and chopped vegetables. The ham hock or a ham bone added during simmering adds a nice smoky flavor and if you add some hot-baked cornbread, you'll hear no complaints. Now you've got a start to your winter soup challenge and a delicious way of stretching that grocery bill dollar!
One Pot Lasagna Soup
1 pound lean ground beef or half Italian sausage/ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes
24 oz. jar traditional Italian spaghetti sauce
8-10 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp each dried parsley, dried oregano, salt
½ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
12 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into approximately 1–2-inch pieces
½ cup heavy cream
Cheese Garnish; any or all
shredded mozzarella cheese
freshly-finely grated Parmesan cheese
Heat large Dutch oven/large soup pot over medium high heat. Add beef or beef/sausage combination and onion and cook, stirring occasionally until beef is browned. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess fat. Add jar of spaghetti sauce, 6 cups chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, sugar, spices, bay leaf and lasagna noodles. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until lasagna noodles are tender, stirring occasionally (approximately 20-30 minutes). Discard bay leaf and stir in heavy cream and 2-4 cups chicken broth to reach desired consistency. Garnish individual servings with desired amount of cheeses.
Chicken Taco Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
2 10 oz cans Ro-tel tomatoes and diced chilies with juices
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp each garlic powder, ground cumin and paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
12 oz can of corn, drained
14 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
8 oz block of cream cheese softened
3 cups cooked rotisserie chicken shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings as you desire: shredded Tex-Mex cheese blend, avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips
Take the cream cheese out of the fridge at least an hour ahead of time to let it soften up or microwave it for 20-30 seconds until it's soft. Add the oil and onion to a soup pot and sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add all the remaining soup ingredients to the pot except for the cream cheese, chicken, and salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down the heat so it's simmering gently (uncovered) for 5 minutes. While the soup cooks, prep your toppings. Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and add it to the soup. Let it melt in and stir in until fully incorporated. Stir in the chicken and cook for another 5-7 minutes or so, until it's warmed through. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve with desired toppings.
Tuscan Bean Soup
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 quart either vegetable or chicken broth
3 cans (14 oz) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
3 cups chopped kale; ribs removed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a 6 quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, and squash. Sauté for 4 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, and rosemary. Cook 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, beans, and tomatoes. Bring the contents to a boil, turning the heat down to low and add the chopped kale. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender or standard blender to partially puree the soup, leaving some chunks of beans/vegetables for texture. Add the salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve topped with Parmesan or Dubliner cheese and a side of crusty bread.
Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup
2 ½ cups cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
½ cup half and half, or more, as needed
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 sprig rosemary
Melt butter in the stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf and chicken, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in half and half until heated through, about 1-2 minutes, season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more half and half as needed until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and rosemary, if desired.
Ham and Bean Hearty Soup
6 cups water
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb dry great northern beans, sorted and rinsed
1 lb bag of assorted dry beans, sorted and rinsed
1 tsp salt
1½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped onion
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp mustard powder
2 bay leaves
3 ham hocks
3 cups chopped ham
1tsp ground white pepper or to taste
Place water, broth, and beans in a large pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in salt and remove the pot from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, mustard, and bay leaves to the pot with beans; stir well. Add ham hock and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Remove ham hock and discard. Stir in chopped ham and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with ground white pepper to taste.