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Plan for next year's holidays
In this season of
gift-giving, you'll find the stores are stocked with food baskets,
herbal gifts and other products from the garden. If you're like most
gardeners, you'll think, "I could have made that!" And you know your
friends and family would much rather have homegrown, homemade gifts than
something mass-produced in a factory far away. So make a resolution to
plan for next year's gift giving. Now is the time to survey the stores
for product ideas that you can incorporate into your 2010 growing plans.
Pick one or two specific products, and decide what you will need for
ingredients and containers. Remember that presentation is important with
food gifts, so keep your eyes open for attractive bottles, baskets, or
other containers. With a little planning, and perhaps a little extra
planting, you can have everything you need to create memorable, personal
gifts. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about gifts to grow
A winter vegetable basket. Set aside onions, garlic,
carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash as you harvest them, and assemble
mixtures into brand-new baskets. Tuck in a few of your favorite recipes
braids. Grow more than enough garlic for your markets and be sure to
cure the bulbs sufficiently to provide the best shelf life. Softneck
varieties are easiest to braid. Weave in some bunches of fresh herbs,
and tie on a raffia bow.
Herbal vinegars are pretty as well as useful. Here's a detailed instruction sheet on making herb vinegars. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/Assets/products/102641618427761.pdf.
pepper jellies require time at the stove, but their jewel-like colors
make them perfect gifts. Attach a tag suggesting an easy appetizer of
cream cheese smothered with hot pepper jelly, served with thin slices of
bread or crackers.
Herb mixes. Dry culinary herbs thoroughly,
then crush them with a rolling pin between sheets of wax paper. Mixtures
of herbs can be used in all kinds of products. You can put them in
small cellophane or plastic bags (check in the candy-making section of
hobby stores for supplies) and staple them closed with a tag suggesting
the herbs as a rub for chicken or fish, a dip mix, or to sprinkle over
roasting vegetables. Add them to dried beans for a soup mix. Or mix up
the dry ingredients for biscuits, attach a recipe for herb biscuits, and
decorate the package with a biscuit cutter.
Herb salts and
sugars. Wash fresh herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary, and basil, and
dry completely on a towel. Put a 1-inch layer of kosher salt or sea salt
in an airtight container, then make several layers of salts and herbs.
The salt will absorb the flavors of the herbs, and can be packaged into
small, decorative jars for gift-giving. Sugar can be used the same way,
though you might want to use herbs such as lavender, mint, and lemon
balm, and attach a scone or sugar cookie recipe.Winter study
your outside work winds down, you may want to spend some time learning
about a new growing practice, investigating a new crop, or just catching
up on what's new in the world of market gardening. We invite you to
visit Johnny's website and explore the videos, articles, and technical
sheets that are waiting for you. Go to www.johnnyseeds.com and follow
the links to the video library for short videos of the tools and
techniques we use at the JSS research farm. For technical information
sheets, go to a catalog detail and click on the "More Product
Information" tab for a list of related resources. Food safety issues are heating up
growers may soon be affected by federal food safety legislation and
regulation. Some wholesale buyers are already requiring food safety
certification for vendors. These are issues that could change the way
you farm and market your produce. Growing for Market, the magazine for
market farmers, is following food safety issues closely and publishing
regular updates on its website. You can read about it at Growing for Market
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage December 2009