I have a little trick I would like to share with you today for dehydrating greens, such as dandelion, kale, spinach and escarole.
Some of you may have watched the video on YouTube I titled, Garbage Soup. That is where I toss all kinds of old veggies or cuttings into a bag in the freezer until I have a gallon bag full. Then I put them in a pot with several gallons of water, and simmer them to create a delicious vegetable broth. It is a simple habit to build that helps reduce your family waste and gives you a kitchen staple you have created yourself. No more buying stock or broth from the store for recipes. I have another example to share with you today of the old-fashioned adage, waste not, want not!
Pretty much every grocery trip, we buy a bag or two of spinach to eat sauteed, in omelets, soups or as salads. Sometimes we also buy kale or turnip greens. We grow our own escarole and dandelion greens, too. We always have the best of intentions when we grab those greens – we intend to eat them right away. But often we end up with more than we will eat in a week, and greens can go south very quickly.
What do I do with them when they are starting to look a little weary?
One of two things…
a) I simply wash them & shake them dry. If you have a salad spinner, you can use that because they get the leaves very nicely dry. Next, I lay the leaves in a thin layer on the drying racks. You want to have good air circulation, so don’t lay them on thick. You may chop them lightly to reduce drying time if you would like.
Set the dehydrator for the proper temperature (125 F if not humid, 130-135F if humid), and let the greens dry completely. This will likely take several hours. I like don’t like to set this up in the evenings because I do check on them multiple times to see if any greens have stuck together. This is better for me as a morning task.
When checking, you want to make sure to pull apart any thick areas of leaves so that there is no hidden moisture. Moisture could trigger your greens to mold in storage. Then, simply allow them to dry completely.
b) If I am short on time and can’t prep them for dehydrating right away, I often just grab the bag, close it tightly, and toss it into the freezer for a few days until I CAN dehydrate them. Taking greens, like spinach, from the freezer is sometimes a little easier for me to fit them into my day for drying. I can break the frozen greens into smaller pieces and sprinkle them on the mesh drying trays, rather than the racks. Again, making certain that the greens are laid out in a thin layer. I set the dehydrator a bit higher at the beginning for frozen greens. I start out at 135F degrees because they are already humid coming out of the freezer – they will seem to have a bit more moisture than fresh greens. After a couple of hours, I reduce the temperature to 125F degrees, and allow to dehydrate until completely dried.
A lot of people do not know what to do with this dried spinach once it is done. It is so easy to use in soups, sprinkled on salads, in casseroles, made into powder to be added to smoothies, tossed into muffin or sweet bread mixes – it works best in blueberry or zucchini muffins and breads. The possibilities are endless!
Please note that your dried spinach is recommended to be stored 6 months or less based on optimum conditions. But if you keep a rotation of jars in your pantry, always adding the newest to the back of the shelf, you will have a constant supply of greens hidden in your food supply! Just think of the hidden nutrition you could be adding to your meals!
Can you also dehydrate spinach in your oven? Yes – if your temperature goes as low as 150F degrees you can! Above this temp your spinach will likely cook, rather than dry. But if you haven’t been able to pick up a dehydrator for yourself as yet, this might be a great option for you to try!
I hope this sparks you to start storing dried greens for YOUR family as well!
Blessings and Shalom!
A few years ago, I discovered a great way to help discourage vine borers on my squash plants and cucumbers. Then, CHIPMUNKS happened. A couple years in a row they have decimated my bean seedlings as well as many other plants I would put into the ground. Looking for a way to discourage or prevent their attacks, I decided to try my trusted solution for vine borers to see if it would work against other creatures. This year on just about anything going into the vegetable garden I was going to use - squash socks. I mentioned them in our video and blog on how to use TP tubes for seed starting! I have also discussed them before in other videos, blogs and social media posts.
Up here at our elevation, we are just getting deep into full blown garden season – both flower garden AND veggie garden have ended the spring plantings, and I will be starting second crops of several items this coming week. We still have a few veggies and fruits needing to be direct seed, as well.
It is tough sometimes because we are usually quite a bit behind the rest of you – every spring I see YOUR gardens already producing lots of yummy veggies while we are just getting things into the ground. We live above 2500 feet in the Appalachians and things work differently up here - we have to wait a week or so after everyone else is already done putting in their plants and seeds before we even start. Most people use Mother’s Day as their marker, but up here we often frost the week after Mother’s day. Some years we can start planting around the 20th of May, finishing up getting everything into the ground by June 1st or so. Other years we may still be planting the 3rd week of June. This also affects when we will get invaders we want to do away with.
Just like every other year, I had to fight my impatience this year to put things in the ground right away. But FINALLY! It was time a couple weeks ago and I started putting in squash plants, cucumbers, loofah, and direct seeding green beans. Then I planted tomato and pepper seedlings right after that.
If you have seen my posts on social media, you have heard me rant about our plants being nipped off just after sprouting – mostly by those ridiculous chipmunks. So, because of the chipmunks, and even some slugs, we needed protection on just about everything this year. I prefer to deter as much as possible without using chemicals or DE. Diatomaceous earth can be a great help, but it can affect and kill some GOOD bugs as well as bad. I am very careful with using it. These squash socks are a great solution to protecting many plants without using any treatments at all, plus they also help with chipmunks and larger slugs.
Throughout the year, in a grocery bag hanging in the pantry, I place all the mesh veggie bags we can save. Veggie bags just like these. Come springtime, depending on length of that mesh bag, I cut it into sections using scissors – each produce bag yields 3 or 4 sections.
Here’s what I do: for the squash plants, I usually cut a nice section of bag long enough to protect the section of vine at the base, nearest the ground. Beyond this first section, as the vine creeps along the soil, you can cover sections of the vine with soil to help protect other sections from the vine borers – the vine may also set additional roots along the way, drawing up more water and nutrients to feed the squash growing along it.
With our Cushaw and zucchini plants, I took the seedlings from their TP tube pots, placed that soil plug into the mesh sleeve I created, slid that sleeve into the hole I had dug, then covered the roots with soil – leaving the “squash sock” about an inch below the surface.
For the first planting of green beans, however, I dug the hole directly in the garden, set the bottom edge of the bag a bit below the surface, placed seeds in that hole, then covered seeds with soil. As the beans grow, they will grow up through the bag and it will help to protect them. Why not just wait until they sprout to put the socks on the seedlings sprouting from the ground? Because last year, the chipmunks and possibly some squirrels dug up all our bean seeds as I planted them. THIS will make them more difficult to dig up. As plants grow inside the sock, chipmunks won’t be able to lop them off and eat them, either. This will also deter rabbits that sometimes sneak in.
The good news is that it is working tremendously – the green beans are already almost a foot tall! They are doing so much better this year, and it appears they ALL came up. As usual, the squash plants are doing well, too – the Cushaw seem to be doing the best and are well protected!
One big warning I need to pass along – after growing season, pull up your squash socks. Especially if you are going to machine till in the fall or next spring, PLEASE!!! They cannot be reused because they are too brittle the next year anyway. If left lying around they also can become a hazard for wildlife wandering into the garden for leftovers like seeds or greenery left behind after harvest. I just toss them into a grocery bag and into the trash. Also don’t leave them in the ground thinking they will break down – they really won’t. Although they are made of a plastic that ought to deteriorate after a certain time, I have never seen this happen. Plus, when you go to till your veggie beds, those socks will tie themselves around your tiller tines and make a HUGE mess. Yes, I speak from experience! In fact, my little tiller recently dug up a white mesh bag from the very first year I used them to protect squash plants! It tied itself around the tiller and made a dreadful mess – and was also evidence of how long it might take for them to break down!
I have been using these bags for 4 growing seasons now and love them for protecting plants and now seeds, too. I do have to say, in all the time using them, I have not had a single plant die or be infected by vine borers at the base of the plant. Not one! I HAVE had a couple of butternut plants get attacked down the line where I didn’t remember to cover the vines with soil.
Now you have a simple, easy, free, recycling idea to help protect your garden AND increase your production for your family.
I hope this idea helps.
Blessings and shalom!
Today let’s take a few minutes to talk about toilet paper tubes. Yes, you heard me right!
At the advice of a friend last year, I started saving TP tubes for seed starting. I had never heard of this before, so I definitely had not done it before. I have used egg cartons and a lot of other containers, but this was new to me.
I decided to keep a simple grocery bag hanging in the bathroom cupboard. When the roll was empty, I just dropped the old tube in that bag and in springtime, VIOLA! A bunch of free seed pots to use.
I wasn’t sure how they were going to work, so I didn’t want to start ALL my seeds in them, just in case. I only used them for some of our cucurbit seeds – butternut, pie pumpkin, and cushaw. However, I have to admit – now I wish I HAD used them for everything!!!
I wasn’t sure I was going to like them, yet as time went on and things began to grow, I discovered I LOVE them! I am now planning to start saving them for even more plantings. We are going to need a 2nd planting of green beans, cucumbers, and maybe even zucchini in a few weeks. I also want to start growing little “patches” of herbs like chamomile, dill, oregano, sage, and basil, as well as a crop of autumn peas. I am hoping we can save enough tubes by fall for some other cool crops, too.
Before I go into any how-to portions, let me go over a few of the pros and cons I found with the TP tubes. Then I will explain how I used the tubes, kept track of them and what was planted in each.
TP Tube Pros:
~ Easy to fill with soil – I placed a bunch in a larger container, and just shoveled soil into them. Then I moved the filled tubes into their more permanent seed tray.
~ DEEPER soil than egg cartons provide, even if only using half tubes. This helped the roots grow deeper and are more hardy than seedlings in any past year.
~ they are easily kept together in categories or seed types by using old veggie tubs to hold them.
~ Helped the soil maintain a good level of moisture to aid sprouting.
~ When planting into the garden soil, tubes peel away easily if you want to plant without.
~ When planting with the tube, it held together well enough to be planted with the plants; then deteriorated easily into the soil. Takes about a month total to be gone in our soil.
~ Soft enough for roots to poke through if they need to.
~ A couple of the tubes fell apart in my hand as I was trying to plant in the garden.
Not enough to discourage me, though.
~ When I set outside the clear tubs holding which held tubes, the tubes DID pick up and hold a bit TOO much water during a big rainstorm. Caused me concern about seed and root rot. However, the next days were hot and sunny, so rot never happened.
Those are the only things I did not like! They are a big win for us for gardening going forward.
Several videos I watched showed that you can use paper towel tubes, too. I was not comfortable with these, though, and didn’t feel they would work for us – the brand we use is manufactured with a heavy glue holding the last paper towel to the tube. I don’t know what is in that glue and don’t want to take any chance it contains anything bad for the worms, garden or us. Especially worms – It took several years and great blessings to get a good, healthy community of worms in our gardens.
Online and in other’s videos you will see a lot of ideas on how to organize your tubes. I like to use things we have laying around or that will just end up in the trash – you know recycle or upcycle everything we can! I save large plastic tubs from bulk greens we buy for salads as well as from other fruits and veggies. Often, I simply use these tubs by adding soil and planting directly into them.
For this project, though, I took the TP tubes, cut four slits from the bottom, up about 3/4 of an inch. Then folded the bottoms closed to hold the soil. (See photos) If you would like to tuck the fourth flap under a corner of the first flap, it does then to stay flatter when you fill it with soil. Also, creasing the tube to the top along that same line as you cut the slits will help shape the tube into a little square – these fit nicely in the tubs. Finish by organizing them in the tubs and, if different types of seeds, remember to label the sections of pots with sticks or on the outer surface of the veggie tub. We own an Epson Labeler which has come in very handy this year in the garden! It prints the perfect size labels to attach to skinny sticks for marking the pots.
I do not glue or tape the bottoms. I don’t want to mess with the glue, for one, and tape in the garden would just be a mess and more trash in our soil. Having them simply folded somewhat loose makes the bottoms easily opened to expose the roots as I plant them into the soil. I also liked the loose bottoms on tubes that would be directly planted into the soil. The roots could break through more easily and set deeply into the garden soil.
Another quick thing I did to ensure I didn’t get anything mixed up if the tubes shifted in our plastic tubs was to place a piece of paper, cut to size, in between each section. In one plastic tub, I had six of each squash variety. So each section of six was labeled on the front with our labeller, then I separated each section of six by a simple notecard. Cardboard cut to size would also work.
The cushaw were the first seedlings read to go into the garden. I simply took the container with me into the garden, pulled each tube from the tub, peeled the tube off then, planted the seedlings. For the Cushaw, since they are a LARGE squash, I wanted to ensure that they set good strong root systems with nothing hindering their growth. With this my first year using TP Tubes, I wasn’t sure how easily the tubes would deteriorate. A day or so later, I planted butternut and others that were also started in toilet paper tubes, only these I left the tubes on. And NOW I know! The tubes deteriorate fairly quickly in our garden soil and were almost gone after about 2 weeks in our soil!
For those I wanted to try without, I broke away the TP tubes very easily by unwinding the tube like one of those grocery store biscuit cans! The roots were thick and strong inside, which held the soil in a sort of plug. I stuck the plug inside a “squash sock,” then planted that into the ground, and VIOLA! The cushaw are growing on their own now! I can’t wait to see their first blossoms come in a few weeks’ time.
Already thinking of cushaw and butternut in soups, breads, pies, and even autumnal DÉCOR!
BTW, when you save a lot of TP tubes, it may seem like a daunting task to fold all those bottoms, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be. Start early in the winter getting them ready for spring plantings. Pick a day or evening when you are just sitting watching TV or listening to podcasts. Grab your bag of tubes, a pair of scissors and an extra bag or bucket to toss the folded pots into. Then fold while you enjoy your latest programming!
Most people I know remember to save the little 4 or 6 pack planters that hold the annuals or perennials added to gardens in spring. We wash and reuse those which aren’t broken. Over the years, though, many of these have ended up in the trash, leaving me with several trays with no little 4 or 6 packs. NEXT planting, I plan to re-use several seed starter trays and fill them with TP tube starts rather than 4 or 6 packs. I am hoping this will provide another way to minimize cost and maximize production from our garden.
And that’s it in a nutshell! Or rather in a toilet paper tube! If you are looking for a way to cut some corners or costs, I would say that saving the TP tubes is an idea that can easily be incorporated into your gardening plan.
Blessings and Shalom!
from Judith Garton
Judith has over 30 years experience in food storage, herbs, essential oils, and prepping. She was a captain in the USAF-AUX, FEMA trained, Community Emergency Response Team member and NRA marksmanship award recipient. She shares her experiences with her readers offering tips and recipes.
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