Baby Carrots – Myth and Facts

“Is it safe to eat baby carrots that have a white film on the outside?” This was a question from an AnswerLine caller who had read on social media that the white film was a chlorine residue from processing that could cause cancer.  This is an internet myth that has been making the rounds for years.

True facts.  The white film on baby carrots is safe.  It is little more than white blush which is a thin layer of dehydrated carrot.  The film develops when the baby carrots are exposed to air and the outside becomes dry.  Baby carrots do not have a protective skin to prevent them from drying.  Most baby carrots are cut and shaped from larger deformed carrots really making them baby ‘cut’ carrots.  According to a researcher at McGill University ”moisture loss from the carrot surface roughens the outer membranes causing light to scatter which in turn results in a whitish appearance.”

While it is true that carrots may be rinsed in a dilute solution of chlorine to rid bacteria, this has nothing to do with white blush.  Instead of representing a cancer health hazard, carrot processing with chlorinated water is a health-protective step recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The amount of chlorine used in processing is many levels below the allowable limit for drinking water.1  Prior to packaging, the little carrots go through a plain tap water rinse.

If white blush is undesirable for fresh carrot eating, they are still great for cooking.  Besides showing white blush, baby carrots may also get rubbery if packages are not sealed. Rubbery carrots are safe to eat and may be used for cooking should they not make great snacks.  Finally, baby carrots that go beyond rubbery to soft and slimy should be tossed.

Here’s some great baby-carrot storage facts from StillTasty.com

  • How long do baby carrots last? The precise answer to that question depends to a large extent on storage conditions – keep baby carrots refrigerated.
  • To maximize the shelf life of baby carrots, refrigerate in covered container or re-sealable plastic bag or wrap tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
  • How long do baby carrots last in the fridge? Properly stored, baby carrots will last for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Can you freeze baby carrots? Yes, to freeze: (1) Blanch (plunge into boiling water) baby carrots for two minutes and chill quickly in ice cold water; (2) Drain off excess moisture, package in airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze immediately.
  • Frozen baby carrots will soften when thawed and are best used in cooked dishes.
  • How long do baby carrots last in the freezer? Properly stored, they will maintain best quality for about 12 to 18 months, but will remain safe beyond that time.
  • The freezer time shown is for best quality only – carrots that have been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.
  • How to tell if baby carrots are bad or spoiled? The best way is to smell and look at the baby carrots: discard any carrots that have an off smell or appearance; if mold appears, discard the baby carrots.

So put the internet myth to rest and enjoy your baby carrots!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Cherries, Nature’s Hidden Treasure

February is National Cherry Month.  Cherries are a summer fruit so why are they celebrated in February? Here’s some fun facts about cherries and why we celebrate them in the month of February.

George Washington’s February birthday is an annual reminder of the tale of our first President admitting to his father that he chopped down a cherry tree on the family farm.  The folklore tale has forever linked Washington and cherries to February.

Cherry trees come to life in February in Washington DC signaling the coming of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April (March 20-April 14, 2019).  Thousands of trees and millions of cherry blossoms provide a spectacular sight.  The annual celebration started in 1912 when the people of Japan sent 3,000 cherry trees to the people of the United States to celebrate friendship between the two nations.

An additional link to February is National Heart Month and Valentine’s Day.  Because a single cherry looks a bit like a little heart, significant of both, it seems only appropriate that the cherry be celebrated, too.

Cherries bloom for a maximum of two weeks with peak bloom only lasting a couple of day. It takes about 250 cherries to make a cherry pie. The average cherry tree grows about 7000 cherries each year which is enough to make about 28 pies. It takes 30-40 bees to pollinate one tree.  70% of all the tart cherries produced in the US are grown in the northwest region of lower Michigan known as the Cherry Capitol of the World.  Cherries are not a native American fruit; they were brought to this country with the first settlers in the early 17 century.  Cherry pits can be used in pellet stoves to heat homes.

As a hidden treasure of nature, cherries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Tart or sour cherries and sweet cherries are rich in anthocyanins and quercitin, antioxidants which play a role in reducing total body inflammation, contribute to heart health, and help fight free radicals.  Being a good source of vitamins A and C, they help to strengthen the body’s defenses and improve overall health.  Studies have also shown that tart cherry juice may soothe sore muscles, speed recovery after working out, and help with sleep. A cup of cherries pack three grams of fiber and 87 calories (tart cherries).

Most people think of sweet desserts like cherry pie when they think of using cherries in recipes, but cherries can be used in savory dishes, too.  While fresh cherries are not plentiful in February, cherries are readily available dried, canned, frozen, freeze-dried and as juice; all can be used in a variety of ways.

Here are some ideas, beyond sweets, of ways to include cherries in our diet:
-Add frozen cherries to a smoothie for breakfast
-Add tart cherry juice to a smoothie for a post-workout recovery drink
-Add dried or fresh cherries to oatmeal, yogurt, or salads
-Eat a handful of dried cherries for a snack or add them to a snack mix
-Use fresh or frozen cherries and/or cherry juice in sauces.

One of my favorite recipes for using the frozen tart cherries and juice from our trees is Tart Cherry Pork:

1 pound boneless pork chops
Olive oil
¾ cup cherry juice (may also use pomegranate or cranberry juice)
1/3  cup tart cherries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water
Brown the chops in oil in a skillet, 4 minutes on each side.  Remove chops and keep warm.  Add juice, cherries, and balsamic vinegar to skillet.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes.  Combine corn starch and water and stir into juice.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.  Add pork back to the skillet and simmer in sauce for 2 minutes.  Serve pork with sauce.

Now by knowing a little trivia about cherries and adding cherries to our life, there’s no reason “life can’t be a bowl full of cherries,” right?

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Hand Dryers vs Paper Towels

We recently had someone reach out to us asking about the sanitation of hand dryers vs paper towels for drying  hands. I noticed as I recently did some traveling that many airports, restaurants and rest areas are going to air hand dryers rather than paper towels. I’m sure it is beneficial to them as a means to keep their restrooms more tidy.  According to the CDC, drying your hands is very beneficial as germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands. But is it more beneficial to us to use a hand dryer or paper towels?

According to an article in the Harvard Health blog from Harvard Medical School, bacteria in a bathroom can form a fecal cloud due to lidless toilets being flushed. That fecal cloud contains many microbes. Fortunately the majority of those microbes do not cause disease in healthy people. For those people in a hospital or with a weakened immune system though this could be a big problem.

As I was beginning to look for pictures to go along with this article the first place I decided to check was our local clinic. I found only paper towel dispensers there. As I did more research I found that is because paper towels are already routine in health care settings.

As was stated in the CDC article, the best way to dry hands remains unclear because few studies about hand drying exist and the results are unclear. There are many factors involved and of course it depends on who is paying for the study. Many are sponsored by either the paper towel industry or the air blower industry with results of course favoring their products. Some studies focused on the effectiveness of the hand drying, some on the cost, some on the carbon footprint, and some on the degree of which bacteria and viruses are deposited on the hands during the drying process.

The Harvard Health study recommended using paper towels as they found them to be the most hygienic way to dry your hands. Another study agreed suggesting paper towels can dry hands efficiently, remove bacteria effectively and cause less contamination of the restroom environment. That same study found that with air dryers people were more likely to incompletely dry their hands or not dry them at all.

The bottom line is to wash your hands effectively and dry them completely with whatever method is available. Don’t let your hands drip dry and don’t dry them on your clothes.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Tips for Treating Dry Skin

Winter always brings out the worst in my skin–dry skin that itches, flakes, cracks, and even bleeds at times.  It’s nothing new as I’ve dealt with it all my life.  As with all things, one learns to live with it and find ways to relieve the problem as best as possible.  To some extent, winter and dry skin go hand in hand for nearly everyone.

Here’s some tips that I’ve learned over the years from dermatologists, friends, and by trial and error:

  1. Minimize moisture loss while showering or bathing.  Limit shower or bath time to 5 to 10 minutes using warm, not hot, water.  Avoid lathering and harsh soaps or cleansers choosing instead a cleanser or soap that is gentle and fragrance-free.  Blot the skin dry with a soft towel and slather on a good moisturizer immediately after drying.  Also, keeping the bathroom or shower door closed until the moisturizer is applied is helpful.
  2. Apply moisturizer immediately after washing. Ointments, creams, and lotions (moisturizers) work by trapping existing moisture in your skin. To trap this much-needed moisture, you need to apply a moisturizer within a few minutes of showering or washing your hands or face.  Applying moisture after every hand washing is tough, but keeping a bottle of moisturizer beside every sink helps make it happen.  Also, it helps to carry a non-greasy hand cream with you; I even keep one in the car.
  3. Use an ointment or cream rather than a lotion. Ointments and creams are more effective and less irritating than lotions. Look for creams or ointments that contain oil such as olive oil or jojoba oil. Shea butter also works well. Other ingredients that help to soothe dry skin include lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, and petroleum.
  4. Wear lip balm. Choose a lip balm that feels good and does not irritate your lips.  I keep lip balm everywhere–in my nightstand, bathroom, office desk, purse, back pack, and other rooms in my house.  Lip balm is also great on cuticles, scabs, dry skin patches, and around the nose when bothered by a cold. Lip balm made with beeswax provides additional benefits of antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that are essential in fighting chapped skin and bacterial infections that tend to affect us most in the dry, winter months. It forms a protective wall by sealing in moisture in our skin without smothering and clogging up the pores.
  5. Carefully select skin care products. Not all skin care products are created equal.  Choose products that are free of alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA); all of these ingredients dry the skin of it’s natural oils.
  6. Wear gloves.  Gloves are a must before performing household tasks, going outside, or exposing hands to chemicals, greases or other drying substances. Hands are often the first to scream “dry skin.”
  7. Use non-irritating laundry detergent.   Use laundry detergents labeled ‘hypoallergenic’ to avoid further irritation to dry or raw skin.  These detergents are also fragrance free.
  8. Wear cotton or silk undergarments.  Avoid wool and other fibers that irritate skin.
  9. Avoid fireplaces or other dry-heat sources. Open flame heat sources tend to dry skin.  If a space heater is needed, use a radiant-type heater rather than a convection heater.
  10. Add moisture to the air. Using a humidifier in the home is a great help;  not only is it good for the skin but also helps with nose bleeds and other issues caused by dry air.

If these tips do not bring relief, seek the help of a dermatologist who can prescribe an ointment or cream that may be more beneficial or check for a skin condition that is beyond simple dry skin.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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First Aid Kits

It is time to put the summer things in storage and one of these things is the first aid kit that I store in our camper. We do not use it often but it is important to have it stocked with useful items. It is easy to find on-line lists of supplies to make up a kit and if you need several kits, it may be less expensive. I just use a plastic storage box for the kits we keep in the camper, concession stand, and out in our farm shop. We do not always consider that we may need to include other items in the kit. Emergency phone numbers like your doctor’s number or the emergency room number at the local hospital are a good idea to include. You may want to add the poison control number if you have small children. A copy of your insurance card or at least the phone number may be useful.

It is important to look through the kit and replace items used over the summer or any medications or creams that have expired. Looking through the kit when I put it away in the fall ensures that our kit is fully stocked when we need it next summer.

 

25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

1 adhesive cloth tape

A small tube of antibiotic ointment

A package of antiseptic wipes

A small bottle of ibuprofen

An instant cold compress

2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)

A small tube of hydrocortisone ointment

Sterile gauze

Tweezers

Flashlight

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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September is National Honey Month

‘Tis the month to celebrate all things HONEY!  The National Honey Board declared September as National Honey Month in 1989 to promote the beekeeping industry and honey as a natural and beneficial sweetener.  Honey is a great sweetener for many reasons.  However, it is important to note that honey is more than a sweetener and has a long history so let the celebrations begin!

Honey dates back centuries.  In 2012, archaeologists discovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest honey in a ceramic jar in Georgia (Eastern European country) which is estimated by scientists to be about 5,500 years old.  However, honey was used long before this and may have a life of millions of years.  Beekeeping apiculture dates to at least 700 BC.  Documentation has been found showing that ancient Egyptians sacrificed honey to their river gods, Roman’s slathered honey on wounds, Alexander the Great was embalmed with honey, and honey was used as a form of currency in Europe.  There are also numerous ancient references to mead, or honey wine, which is the world’s oldest known fermented beverage.

Honey when used to sweeten food has many health benefits.  Besides being loaded with minerals, vitamins and important enzymes, honey is a natural, healthy energy booster. It is an immune system builder and has both antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-tumor properties. Honey has a healthy glycemic index which means that can be absorbed into the bloodstream gradually resulting in better digestion.  For more detailed information on the nutritional value of honey over table sugar, see Benefits of Honey by Michigan State University.

Bee pollen is another important substance found in honey. Bee pollen may provide some relief for those who suffer with seasonal allergies since it contains trace amounts of pollen. Daily trace amounts of pollen may help reduce the symptoms of pollen-related allergies by inoculating the individual.  When used as an inoculant, it is very important that the honey be purchased locally since that is where the allergens are located.

While some of the health benefits of honey have been discussed, the many uses of honey is extensive.  For more honey uses, take a look at some suggestions for honey outside of the kitchen by Sioux Honey™.

According to National Honey Board trivia, a single worker honeybee produces approximately 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. That means around 22,700 bees are needed to fill a single jar of honey!   So celebrate the benefits of honey, the bees that make it, and those who work in the honey and bee industry!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Prebiotics and Probiotics

It seems some topics circulate around periodically. I recently heard a dietician talking about prebiotics and probitoics on TV. They rise to the forefront in nutrition news every few years it seems. I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do a little research into prebiotics and probiotics and their relationship to one another.

They are both considered nutrition boosters and are both found naturally in food. They are both also found in supplement form. Whenever possible I recommend getting your nutrition from food rather than supplements though as they are more readily digested and absorbed that way.

Probiotics are probably most familiar to us. They are active, living cultures considered “friendly bacteria”. They are found naturally in your gut and they help reintroduce or change bacteria in your intestine. They help maintain healthful bacteria in the intestines and improve immune health. The best known source is probably live-cultured yogurt. Other sources include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, green pickles and tempeh.

Prebiotics are not living bacteria.  They are nondigestible and are usually fibers found in raw food. They promote the growth of friendly bacteria in probiotics and help protect the intestines from unfriendly bacteria. Prebiotics selectively feed good gut bacteria. Sources of prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, onion, wheat bran, artichokes, bananas, aged cheese and soybeans.

Prebiotics and probiotics are generally recognized as safe and few people experience side effects. If you have a compromised immune system however, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before adding them into your diet. Studies suggest adding these into your diet helps support a strong immune system however there is potential danger in promoting overgrowth of good and bad bacteria in patients with weak immune systems.  If you do decide to add them into your diet, try to include a combination of both prebiotics and probiotics in the same meal. They work together to help improve your gut health. A yogurt parfait with a banana in would be an example of combining probiotics and prebiotics.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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National Dairy Month

June is National Dairy Month and to recognize that at our house we are planning to make homemade ice cream! National Dairy Month started out as National Milk Month back in 1937. It was initially created as a way to promote drinking milk and a way to distribute extra milk during the warm months of the Summer. It was changed to National Dairy Month in 1939.

Dairy foods – milk, cheese, yogurt – have many nutritional and health benefits. They contain 9 essential nutrients. There are 8 grams of protein in just one serving of milk.  They help improve bone health especially in children and adolescents and according to the National Dairy Council are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults.

The homemade ice cream we will be making for National Dairy Month has plenty of milk and cream in it but also has eggs. As I was growing up we had a favorite homemade ice cream recipe that used  raw eggs. We did not think anything about eating those raw eggs at the time but over the years we have learned much more about the possibility of bacteria, especially salmonella, getting into the eggs through the hen’s ovaries. Eating raw eggs that are not pasteurized is not recommended in any dish i.e. ice cream, cookie dough, Caesar dressing, eggnog and smoothies. So we will be purchasing and using pasteurized eggs in our homemade ice cream. You will find pasteurized eggs in the refrigerated section of the  grocery store right next to the regular eggs. You can buy them in the shell just like regular eggs. Pasteurized eggs are heated to a precise temperature that heats them but does not cook them for an exact amount of time to kill any bacteria present. Due to that heating process you may notice the whites are a little cloudy but otherwise they look exactly like other raw eggs and are used in the same way. It is not necessary to use them in baked products or if you are scrambling an egg but you certainly may if you wish. Because pasteurized eggs are usually a little more expensive than regular eggs, most people only use them when they are preparing something that calls for eating raw eggs.

If your diet allows dairy products I hope you will make and enjoy some of your favorite dairy recipes this year during National Dairy month!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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‘Shrooming in the Woods or Supermarket – It’s a Good Thing!

Common morel fungus growing in the forest

As spring creeps in this year, mushroom enthusiasts are just itching to get out into the woods and search for the highly prized, morel mushroom.  This elusive mushroom is prized for its tastiness and can only be wild-crafted as no one has figured out how to grow and farm them as of yet.

Besides being prized for their taste, morels are loaded with all kinds of nutrients.  Because they tend to grow in rich soils they come packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin D, folate, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, calcium selenium, thiamin, vitamin E and vitamin B6.  However, their nutrient value varies with the soil where the moral grows.  Morals are also loaded with antioxidants, help to balance blood sugar, and provide protein and fiber.  Morals can be used in any way that farmed mushrooms would be used.

While the wild moral mushroom is high prized, its’ farmed mushroom cousins—white, shitake, cremini, oyster, maitake–are equally as nutritious and offer delicious and unique flavors, too.  They are also readily available at the supermarket.   Even though there are more than 2000 varieties of edible mushrooms in the world, most people cook with only one or two.  Here is a quick summary of those most commonly found on produce shelves:

White Button Shitake Cremini/Portobello Oyster Maitake
 
Most common mushroom.
Mild flavor, very versatile.
Protein-rich.
Deep woodsy flavor especially if dried and
re-hydrated.
Calcium rich.
Baby bella = Cremini; larger, mature form = Portobello.
Makes dark sauces and great for grilling.
Delicate, mild flavor.
Stays firm when cooked; excellent for stir-fry.
Iron and antioxidant rich.
Also known as hen-of-the-woods.
Earthy flavor.
Excellent for stir-frys.
Antioxidant rich.

The enemy of any mushroom is moisture in its packaging.  Fresh morels will keep about a week in the refrigerator provided they were harvested in good condition.  Place them in paper bags and store them in the refrigerator with plenty of air circulating around them.  Drying is an excellent storage option, too.  A paper bag is also a good way to store purchased mushrooms; this allows them to breathe.  Moisture build up inside the packaging is the fastest way for mushrooms to break down.

Mushrooms need to be cleaned before use. The best way to clean most fresh mushrooms is to wipe them with a clean, barely damp cloth or paper towel. Washing mushrooms is usually not necessary. If you must rinse them, do it lightly and dry them immediately, gently with paper towels. Never soak fresh mushrooms in water, which will cause them to become soggy. Morels need to be cleaned differently.  Begin by cutting a thin slice off the bottom of each stem.  You may also cut the mushrooms in half from stem to tip. Rinse them in cool water to remove dirt and insects. If heavy dirt, bugs and worms are present, it may be necessary to soak them in lightly salted water for a short time to bring out debris. Rinse the morels well and pat dry.

Cleaned mushrooms can be wrapped loosely in damp paper towels or a damp clean cotton cloth, placed in a container, and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days; the mushrooms may darken if stored this way.

Mushroom nutrition can be enhanced by placing them in the sun for 30 minutes prior to use.  Since most mushrooms are grown in the dark, they need sunlight to bring up their vitamin D content.  Exposure to sunlight significantly improves vitamin D.  If the mushrooms are chopped prior to exposure, vitamin D is maximized.  Some packaged mushrooms are marketed as vitamin D enhanced.

For those that do not care for fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms may be an option.  Dried or powdered mushrooms pack the same nutritional punch as fresh mushrooms.  Mushroom powder can be included in sauces, homemade bread, casseroles, soups, etc., to add nutrition.  There are now a number of mushroom powder “enhanced” products and foods on supermarket shelves.

So whether it is the wild moral mushroom or farmed, store bought mushrooms, mushrooms are an excellent food for both flavor and nutrition.  Take good care of them to maximize both the flavor and nutrition.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Edible Landscaping – Landscaping with Taste

Creative landscape made with assorted organic vegetables.

The modern trend is to no longer banish the vegetable garden to the far corner of the back yard.  Rather, homeowners are now putting vegetables and fruit trees or bushes on display as part of an elegant, edible, landscape design.  So while this is a modern trend, an edible landscape is really an ancient practice dating back to medieval monks and ancient Persians growing a rich array of vegetables, flowers, fruits, and herbs for edible, medicinal, and ornamental virtues.  It was also a long practice of English gardens which was reinstated in 2009 by Queen Elizabeth when she had an organic edible landscape installed within the Buckingham Palace Garden which includes heirloom species of beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and other edibles.

While an edible landscape doesn’t need to be as elaborate as the Queen’s, an edible landscape does use attractive, food-producing plants in a well-designed garden plan around the home and/or living area in the same way that ornamental plants are used.  It may also incorporate ornamental plants. As a result, the edible landscape offers fresh, affordable food, a variety of foliage and colors, and sustenance for bees, butterflies, and birds.  As this trend grows, there are a growing number of professional landscape companies getting into the business of helping homeowners plan their landscape to include edibles, courses for certification as agriscaping educators and professionals, and any number of books and online articles providing information.  Interestingly enough, some subdivision developers now offer buyers a choice of either traditional landscaping or agriscaping for their new home.

Design is what separates edible landscaping from traditional vegetable gardening.  Whether ornamental or edible, design should be pleasing to the eye and draw one into the garden to experience it.  Instead of rows of vegetables which lead one away like a highway, the same space can be made very attractive (and edible) by incorporating basic landscaping principles  starting with a center of interest and then curving other plants around it—the same way one would plan an ornamental garden.  Add a few flowers, a trellis for beans/peas or cucumbers, an arbor for grapes, a bench, a bird bath, a fruit or nut tree, garden ornaments and voila!  It’s an ornamental edible landscape!

Planning an edible landscape incorporates the same design values of traditional landscapes. Carol Venolia writing for Mother Earth Living, says start small, choose plants appropriate for your climate zone, and offers the following design tips:

  • Create primary and secondary focal points.
  • Use plantings and hardscaping (such as paths and patios) to define spaces for various uses and experiences.
  • Work consciously with color, texture and seasons of blooming and fruiting when choosing your garden’s palette.
  • Pay attention to how you lead the eye from one part of the garden to another.
  • Except for featured specimen plants, create groupings of plants to avoid a busy, random appearance.
  • Explore the aesthetic potential of plants: Grow vines on arbors; create edible landscape walls with vines and shrubs; espalier fruit trees; use containers as accents; grow decorative borders of edibles.
  • Make plants do double duty by shading your house in summer and admitting sunshine in winter, reducing your home’s energy use.

For inspiration, one need not look far.  Following recent trends, many public gardens have incorporated edible gardens into their landscapes.  One of the best can be found at the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

So whether to save money, provide better-quality food for the family, know what you eat, reduce carbon footprint, involve family, or simply to try something different, edible landscaping is a trend that provides environmental benefits and returns a bit of sanity and security to chaotic times.  However you do it, Happy Gardening!

A few resources for further reading or to help get you started:

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg et al.

Edible Landscaping: Now You Can Have Your Gorgeous Garden and Eat it Too by Rosalind Creasy

Edible Landscapes (The Seed) by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension et al.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

The Incredible Edible Landscape by Carrie Wolfe, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Landscaping with Fruit: Strawberry ground covers, blueberry hedges, grape arbors, and 39 other luscious fruits to make your yard an edible paradise by Lee Reich

Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables by Fred Hagy

 

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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