Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Favourite Christmas Dinner Veggie Traditions

                                                                 
At this time of year there is nothing better then bringing out the family traditions that give you that warm taste of comfort and Christmas feeling. It can be ones passed down from years of multiple generations or ones that you may have just started with your own immediate family.  Either way, these are special times and there is nothing better then to share it with friends and family.

Many gardeners grow vegetables for fresh eating as well as storing. With loads of social gatherings of family and friends, this is the perfect time to bring out those veggies again and make some of your favorites or to try something new.  Besides that's what you worked so hard and grew those veggies for right from the beginning.
                                                           
                                                            
To make things a little more interesting this week, I decided to ask some co-workers what types of traditional veggie side dishes they enjoy at Christmas time. By sharing these traditions it gets everyone excited about the season and may even give others ideas of what may become something they could try as well.  I loved being able to talk with everyone about this as it brought smiles and a bit of that Christmas nostalgia to each others minds.  This time of year is so special as we look forward to mostly just having that peaceful rest time together and to put all the busy days behind for a few days, hopefully!

I gotta say...it was quite interesting when touring around the office to gather these ideas because as with every idea, everyone has a story.  This is another reason why I felt that it would be great to share!

There was much conversation generated around Vesey's when staff were asked this question..."When you sit down for your Christmas dinner, what type of vegetable, whether its a casserole or a certain way it is done up, would complete your Christmas dinner that you just have to have?" Some shared unique traditions such as roasting veggies to make a Shepherd's Pie with, and this staff member indicated that instead of using white potato he uses sweet potato as the topping. Other interesting side dishes mentioned were creamed cabbage and beet salad, "the way mom use to make them." Some side dishes are so special to carry on as traditions especially when enjoyed in memory of loved ones.  I can definitely relate to those unique traditions as my husband's family have always enjoyed the Green Bean Casserole with cream of mushroom soup and french onions to crisp on top.  This was one of his dad's favorite side dishes that he just had to have, especially on Christmas day. This tradition still continues to be enjoyed by family in his memory.  These are all things that bring us that warm comfort of home and how important it is to be with friends and family.
                                                      

I did find many had said, "Oh you can't mess with serving the veggies the old traditional way, just mash them and add a bit (or lots) of butter.  When cooking all different types of vegetables and so much variety why not keep it simple if that's your preference. You don't even need any recipes! It's all in what makes this complete for you.

Along with cooking your veggies no particular way there is a method in how they are served as I mentioned. Whether carrots are cut into "coins", Julienne with parsnip, glazed with either just butter or brown sugar, mashed with turnip, butter and brown sugar, combination of mashed carrot with turnip and parsnip nothing added, they are simply delicious! Is this making you hungry yet?

Another favorite Christmas veggie mentioned was the turnip aka Rutabaga.  It's interesting how many prefer them prepared as well.  It was specifically said to be sure to just cut up turnip in "cubes" and not mash them, another staff mentioned, "Oh no, you have to have them mashed with brown sugar and butter, YUM!"  The conversations were so entertaining, and very interesting to hear everyone's slightly different preferences even though the vegetables mentioned were the same. Turnip is also great mashed with other vegetables such as parsnip, carrot and even winter squash.
                                                    

Of course you can only imagine that most enjoy the mashed potatoes and it is a definite must to have gravy! This seemed to be THE favorite of all as there was great emphasis on the importance of pairing it with the Christmas dinner.  Some staff have even indicated that they try their potatoes mashed with different flavors such as parsnip or garlic. To make the potatoes light and creamy it was also suggested to add cream cheese, I have even heard of some adding sour cream when mashing them. This sounds so yummy and I'm sure you are getting some interesting ideas to try. 
                                                      

A few other veggies that were suggested were corn, grilled zucchini and grilled asparagus simply because they were interested in having these veggies since they haven't had them since the days of BBQing. We are always open to adding new traditions with each year as our families grow and look forward to ideas from our next generation.  One of my newest favorite Christmas side dishes has become sweet potato casserole.  So easy to prepare as well as a new and interesting way to add flavor to these delicious veggies that are so easy to grow.
                                                   

You may also have an abundance of delicious preserves stored in your cold room that make an excellent addition to any meal. This was also a preferred choice from a staff member. Many people think of meals that will pair well with their preserves because they enjoy them so much. Be it mustard pickles, pickled beets or chow, they are all simply delicious and really add to any dinner especially at Christmas.  Is your plate full yet? Another mention of a delicious side was creamy coleslaw and the ever famous cranberry sauce. I found it funny when some even mentioned if they could say their favorite thing was, is the dressing.  Although it's not a vegetable side dish, it does have a specific spice called summer savory we like to grow.  If this is one of your favorite additions, I can understand why because it is simply delicious and most Christmas Turkey dinners aren't complete without it. After the dinner it may be another one of your favorite traditions to have one of these...
                                                          

Our holiday season is fast approaching and may have even started long ago for most. My hope for you all is to be able to make time to just sit, relax and enjoy the peacefulness of the season with family and friends.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from the staff of Vesey's Seeds. Thank you for your continued support as we look forward in hearing from you in 2016
                                                             












Thursday, December 17, 2015

Easy Christmas Houseplant Tips



As you go about your Christmas shopping errands, you may get “bit” by a bit of nostalgia. Stores are loaded with the infamous Christmas Advent Calendars, yes you know the ones I mean, the ones with the little chocolate behind a secret door. You may also be reminded by the books of lifesavers and Quality Street Chocolates, all of which are considered our yummy favorites!

                                           
                                                                           





Christmas time reminders are everywhere! As we go about our shopping, much to our delight we find stores loaded with gorgeous Christmas houseplants too.




One that I’m sure you know and may even have as a center piece in your own home. Pictured left is a beautiful white Poinsetta that my dad picked up for my mom a few weeks ago. This definitely earned him some "brownie points" as it is a gorgeous plant and a very thoughtful gift!
There are many other beautiful Christmas plants that you can choose from as well that make a stunning display this time of year and will even last beyond the holidays with the proper care and its so easy.

But…how do you keep these plants looking just like they did at the store when you bought them?  I will share the tips that have worked for myself as well as my family over the years. In one of my blogs I had mentioned one of my grandmothers that had come to Vesey's for a visit as well as how she succeeds with saving her geraniums . I do have another picture to share with you that I just took the other day while visiting her. There standing in front of her patio door was a beautiful Poinsetta full of bloom and enjoying the sunlight of her very own apartment.  She indicated that this was a plant that she kept from last year.  I tell you, it looked just as if it was a fresh one that was just purchased at a flower shop.  You can have this kind of success too and as I mentioned, its very easy to do.


                                                    

The best general care and advice I can offer applies for pretty much all holiday indoor houseplants with a few added tips that are best for each individual one if there are different cultural requirements. Flowering houseplants will generally thrive in a room temperature of 15 degrees.  Some plants such as Christmas Cactus and Poinsetta tend to like it a few degrees warmer but the key component in plant health is to keep it consistent. Placing these heat loving beauties in a warm sunny location such as your kitchen table or counter where there may be lots of light would be ideal. One of the main reasons why we purchase these plants is so that we can display them for everyone to enjoy.  If you do place them near a window or on a ledge, keep in mind, especially at night time, there could be a draft and a temporary location may be necessary during this time.

We always love to keep our homes cozy, especially during the holidays. Lit fireplaces or blown in heat from fans or rads will give you that extra warmth but also may make the plants too warm if placed nearby. When placing plants in these locations keep in mind that temperatures may either get to warm or soil could potentially dry out faster.  The first sign that the plant may struggle in these locations is wilting leaves.  Before watering check the soil for moisture as wilting leaves can sometimes be the sign of over watering as well. I have always found that I had best results setting the plants into a saucer of water.  This will enable the plant to soak up moisture at the root which is where it is most important for continued plant growth and health. Leaving the plant in standing water for too long is not advised and any excessive amount of water that didn't soak up is recommended to drain off. Overhead watering is fine as well, however be mindful that you don’t give it too much and try to avoid getting too much water on the leaves.  If foliage is wet too often it can make it easier for diseases to set in. Flowering plants will also benefit from some food and by doing this, it will encourage an even better display of blooms.  A regular fertilizing regime consists of a water soluble all purpose houseplant solution to be applied every 10 days.  This can continue right up until it is done blooming.


It is also recommended that when you receive these plants to remove the foil that surrounds the pot. I know that this makes the pot look more decorative but it actually keeps the moisture in too much. It also will lessen air circulation for the roots eventually resulting in root rot. You can choose to set the plant in another container but be sure it has holes for proper drainage and adequate air circulation. Many of these plants such as Christmas Cactus and Poinsettas can stay active and bloom for a month or more. This picture below was taken at my mom and dad's place and is putting on a stunning show with its brilliant colour. It's a Christmas Cactus.


                                                      

A few other plants that come to mind when I think of this time of year is the Cyclamen and Kalanchoe.  These plants are found over a wide range of different stores and make a nice addition to your home really at any time of the year.  These plants both have similar type of leaves, blooms and care requirements, and can sometimes be a challenge to keep a bloom.  

                                                           

                                                          

These plants can also be prone to a fungal disease known as Botrytis. The best care I can offer for these types of plants that has worked for me are to choose a brightly lit location that is away from direct sunlight and heat sources.  You can completely remove spent flowers with the stem  intact right from the base of the plant on a Cyclamen, and on the Kalanchoe you can simply just snip the bloom off the main stem when it is spent. By picking off old blooms it will encourage it to set new blooms as well as continue to flower longer. After these plants have finished their flowering and have started into dormancy you can continue to water and fertilize until all leaves turn yellow.  Reduce watering when the plant becomes dormant during the summer months and you can even set them outside in a part sun location.  I found my Cyclamen did quite well with this. Kalanchoe will continue to hold its leaves and will stay green but may stop flowering for a period of time.  As new growth appears on both of these, you can re-pot as well as freshen up the potting soil and start a regular watering/fertilizing regime.

Along with these beautiful potted plants there is also the ever popular Amaryllis that I had mentioned in a previous blog.  I have a few of these on my list to give as Christmas gifts.  You can purchase these ahead of time and have as a beautiful Christmas bloom through-out the holiday season as well.  I know that my other grandmother who is 96, that I am also blessed to spend time with, loves the results of these bulbs and can grow them so easy right in her own home.

                                                     


Along with the Amaryllis bulb, there are other types of bulbs that you can force as well, one in particular is called paperwhite narcissus which is a type of daffodil that is meant for forcing indoors.  These bulbs also make a beautiful display and are so easy to grow. Most stores offer these as potted plants already started if you choose to enjoy them that way also. Care for any of these types of bulbs can be found on our website under our online growing guide.  You may also want to check out some of our Holiday Gifts 2015 or some handy tools for your garden buddy to give now or any time of the year!

Until the next time...stay cozy, keep those shopping lists checked off but most importantly...take time to put your feet up and smell the flowers!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Benefits of Attending Trade Shows


                                                                    


It’s trade show time!  What is a trade show you might ask?  If you have never heard of or experienced a trade show before, I encourage you to consider attending one of these fun and informative shows for the first time. There are many well planned events where gardeners can get together, learn some new and valuable skills, drink coffee, eat, drink coffee, sample different flavours, drink coffee, and have fun!  And... if you still feel like having another coffee…go for it! No better time to attend these shows then while your garden is resting.
                                                                    
Trade shows begin in full swing around this time of the year, because like all other gardeners, as we approach winter, we are in a lull where digging in the soil for any extent of time is almost non-existent. Although you never know what you may find that will grow in winter months at one of these trade shows!

Just last week, I attended the ACORN (Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network) trade show event here in Charlottetown, PEI.  It’s a fun, informative 3 day show that always has a great line-up of speakers from many different “fields”. Next year this event is held in Moncton, New Brunswick from November 23-25th and Vesey’s booth will be there!

                                                             


Trade shows break up the manotomy of the winter blues and help you look forward to what’s to come in only a matter of a few months.
We meet our friends new and old, and please don’t take that literally!  We can also network with other businesses with regards to seeing products and services firsthand and explore competative pricing. Some of the gardening products are demonstrated so you can see the actual job and the quality of the equipment. Get excited as you take your mind into garden planning mode. By doing necessary garden planning at this time it gives you the ability to organize and budget for another hopefully successful season, I am sure. 

When touring through the trade show, you may also come across companies that you never even knew existed and be pleasantly surprised with what they have to offer.  Always something that can be learned.

                                                                


As I mentioned, along with the trade show booths, you can attend informative presentations through-out the day.  It’s so beneficial to attend these talks especially if you are interested in carrying-out a gardening project the presenter is instructing. If you have further questions after the conference, you will have the opportunity of talking with the professionals at their booth.


The part that I always enjoy the most about these shows whether I attend as a delegate or as a representative for Vesey’s Seeds, is networking and meeting new gardeners. Of course its always great to re-connect with friends that you have made from years ago.


If you would like to attend one or more of these trade shows I have included a few links of upcoming events that I'm sure you will find so valuable as well as fun.  You can watch for the Vesey's booth in Wolfville, Nova Scotia at the Scotia Horticultural Congress next month.

Oh and Ps...remember the amaryllis bulbs I had talked about in a recent blog, take a look at this as you get in the Christmas spirit!