The Cause of Bitterness in Lettuce

There are a lot of different kinds of lettuce and it is doubtless that people love to eat lettuce for everything from green salads to toppings on burgers. However, sometimes the lettuce has a bitter taste, even if it is home-grown. There are several reasons that this can happen. Origin of lettuce Though it isn’t clearly proven, the lettuce we use today mostly likely was derived from wild lettuce This is a plant that is edible and yet the flavor tends to be bitter, greatly owing to the milky sap or latex that it contains. The greater the amount of this fluid, the more bitter it often tastes. Through the years, head lettuce and the commonly sold types of leaf lettuce were bred and don’t have as much of the bitter latex. This is especially notable in head lettuce, which is often considered to be a bland lettuce. It is safe to say that for this very reason a lot of people like head lettuce for green salads. One of the reasons for the bitterness, though, is simply that some plants might revert in part to their original ancestors. They can simply produce more latex, along with the bitter substances it contains. Domestic lettuces aren’t immune to reverting back to the originators. Water Lettuce is a cool weather crop that loves plenty of water, in well-draining soil. All lettuce plants probably contain the bitter latex with head lettuce having among the lowest amounts, but with increased water, these substances can Continue Reading →

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Growing Luffa or Vegetable Sponge

A plant that isn’t often grown in US gardens, but which probably should be, is the luffa. The plant name is sometimes spelled ‘loofah’ and it is commonly called the vegetable sponge. Luffa is actually a curcurbit, which means that it is in the same family as cucumbers, squashes, gourds and pumpkins. There are several species of luffa and Luffa is actually the genus name. This is the plant commonly called patola in the Philippines, sabot in India and estropajo in Spanish speaking countries. The plant has been used and eaten for hundreds of years. When the fully ripe fruit are allowed to dry on the vine or by hanging them up in a hot, dry, shady place, the skin becomes brittle and falls away. This leaves the fibrous interior, which can be used as a dish sponge, after the seeds are shaken out. The leaves look distinctly like those of cucumbers. If the fruit is harvested when it is still green and four or five inches long, it can be used in the same way that cucumbers or squashes can be used. It is especially good in stir fry or in soups and stews. The plant is grown in the same way that squashes and cucumbers are grown. To start it from seed, soak the seeds in water for two days, then put them in small pots that are filled with a quality growing medium, about an inch deep. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Germination usually happens Continue Reading →

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Using Window Planter Boxes to Grow Swiss Chard

  As I stare out at the falling snow, I’m already planning on how and when I will be planting Swiss chard in window planter boxes. Swiss chard is a wonderful and easy to grow leaf vegetable. Many people describe it as being like a mild spinach. Indeed, it can be used in nearly every way that spinach can be. It grows well in the garden and it is one of the vegetables that tends to grow very well in a window box. Soil Chard grows best in soil that drains well and with plenty of organic material mixed in. This, and the shallow root structure, make it ideal for window boxes since the soil can be easily blended and controlled without back-breaking labor. Simply mix finished compost into regular screened garden soil or all-purpose potting mix. If no compost is available, grass clippings and used coffee grounds make an acceptable substitute, if they are mixed in well. Done in this way, no fertilizing is necessary usually. The soil should reach within a half-inch or so from the top of the window box so the growing medium will be far enough from the top that it can be adequately watered. Temperature Swiss chard is a cool weather crop that should be planted from seed if at all possible, since it doesn’t like being transplanted. The seeds germinate, normally within two weeks, if the soil temperature is 55 to 65 degrees, F. The plant will withstand temperatures down to freezing, but Continue Reading →

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Stevia for Summer and Winter

There is little doubt that most people consume too much sugar, especially in industrialized nations. Table sugar is most often made from either sugar cane or sugar beets, however either way, by the time all of the refining is done, what is left has almost no nutritional value. It does have a lot of calories, but it is also in a form that is hard to digest. This isn’t good for people watching their weight, trying to lose weight, diabetics or pre-diabetics. This is also why stevia is important. There are other alternatives to sugar, such as sodium saccharin and apartame, but these are man-made chemicals. Saccharin also isn’t good for people who have heart difficulties or high blood pressure because of the sodium content. Apartame was originally developed as an ant poison, which means that it isn’t exactly the safest product to consume. Stevia is a plant, though, and it has no calories at all. The extract that is sold in stores is 100-600 times sweeter than sugar. Because of this, the extract is almost always blended with either dextrose or erythritol, when it is sold in stores. Otherwise, it could be overwhelmingly sweet. The pure extract can be purchased, though, such as online. Another way to do it is to is to grow your own stevia, grinding and using the leaves as a sweetener. It isn’t necessary to extract the sweetness and the fiber of the leaves cut the sweetness just a little, while adding bulk to the Continue Reading →

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What Hay Bale Gardening is About

Have you ever heard of hay bale gardening? This is a great way to grow fruits and vegetables when you have soil that is of poor or depleated condition. Hay bale or straw bale gardening is an interesting and productive way to garden. It has benefits that more traditional gardening styles and methods lack and yet it can result in less effort than those other types of gardening. It is a good idea to get an overview of what bale gardening is about, prior to planting the garden, even when planting time is many months away. Many gardeners who try it love this gardening method so much that it becomes their preferred way to garden. What hay bale gardening is Using bales of hay or straw for planting or growing vegetables and other plants is easy to understand, though there can be variations. Bales of hay, such as standard 135 pound bales, are laid on their sides so that the twine or wire strands that holds the hay together are roughly parallel to the ground. Note that it isn’t absolutely necessary to have the twine parallel to the ground. These bales become the foundation in which to grow the garden plants. Benefits Bale gardening usually takes less initial effort since the plants are grown directly in the bale. The method is also easier from the standpoint of weeding and maintenance, since a gardener can sit on a stool, chair or bench to do most of the work. Both hay and Continue Reading →

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