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Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

New England gardeners should be pleased to know that their tomatoes will surely be making their summer debut within the next few weeks.  Particularly if you have invested in varieties such as “Beefsteak”, “Early Girl”, “Fireworks” or “Jet Star”, your crops will surely be bursting with an abundance of brightly colored red fruit.  Although we’ll have to wait a bit longer for further seasonal types such as “Ponderosa Pink”, “Hillbilly” and my favorite, “Mortgage Lifter” to ripen to perfection, we’ll still have plenty to pick from to get Boston’s veggie lovers started.


So now that we have tomatoes, what should we do with them?  Cook them of course!

Tomatoes are not only a delicious vegetable but they have several beneficial health attributes as well.  For one thing, they contain large amounts of Vitamin A and C, not to mention a good helping of folic acid.  They have also been know to preserve brain and nerve tissue plus provide the body with aiding functionality of low blood pressure rates, conversion of glucose into energy and also act as an antioxidant to fight against diseases such as diabetes, depression and cancer.  All in all, it’s a good thing to always have in our diet and lucky for us, there’s a ton of ways to include tomatoes in our meal schedule.  Here are three dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner where we can enjoy the taste and health benefits!


Toast and Tomato is a tradition in my family where it is most enjoyed during the lazy mornings of summer and there is no question that this fare tastes the best if they’ve come from your own garden.  All you have to do is toast two pieces of wheat bread and lightly spread a low fat butter or substitute across the surface.  Choose your variety of tomatoes and thinly slice the fruit making sure the pieces aren’t too bulky because if they are, you’ll have a doozy of a time eating it!


The BLT is a widely overlooked sandwich and is sometimes ignored for its overwhelming simplicity but as we all know, sometimes less is more.  All it takes to cook this mouth-watering treat is a warm roll, a fresh couple of iceberg lettuce leaves, 1 to 2 pieces of well sautéed bacon and the star ingredient- a juicy red slab of red tomato.  If you would like to lower the calorie intake, just swap the bacon for a turkey or soy option.


Ratatouille is probably one of the most decadent yet simple dishes that tomatoes are the most celebrated.  Since the concoction is traditional within a multitude of cultures, we are lucky to have a variety of recipes to choose from.  My favorite involves adding chopped green pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms to a simmering pot and seasoning it with salt and pepper.  Once the ingredients condense, add a can of tomato paste and a bunch of your own tomatoes.  Allow to cook until resembling a sauce and serve as is or serve over rice or pasta.  

Tags: Chef, cooking, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Summer Dishes For Your Newly Grown Vegetables and Fruits

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 08, 2015

Now that our gardens have begun to fill with sensational fruits and vegetables, its time to start planning a fun summer menu to best utilize our efforts!  There’s a pretty high probability that if you’re a gardener in New England, you’ll see the snap peas, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries and lettuce as some of the first arrivals.  Later on in the season, eggplant, squash and my favorite, tomatoes will appear with gorgeous color signally that their time has come to impress upon your culinary skills.   As the summer comes to an end, potatoes, corn, garlic and onions are ready to be added to the sauté pans to kick up the spice and zest of your favorite dishes!   It all sound fantastic, but lets focus on the produce that we’ll be able to cook with now that will be great options for your warmer weather dining room tables.  Here are my must-haves that have always pleased my entire family-including the kids!



Cucumber and Couscous

Couscous is a wonderful grain to get your little ones accustomed to as early as possible because the taste is mild with a low fat content and can be mixed with a variety of vegetables for a healthy dinner side.  One of the first things I throw in the pot are chopped cucumbers seasoned slightly with Italian salad dressing.  Stir the contents of a Near East pre-packaged couscous box and add chunks of the water- based succulent.  You might even want to toss in a few cherry tomatoes to add more color and watch your family devour a healthy and fresh summer salad!


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Snap Peas and Sweet Potato

You would be surprised by the reaction of guests when you add a well-cooked sweet potato with a handful of raw snap peas to the dinner table.  All you need to know is butter the spud lightly and add your desired seasoning such as thyme, white pepper, salt or rosemary once its been cooked to taste.  Mash up the contents and generously shower with a bunch of fresh green snap peas.  The texture is pleasant and allows an unusual but sensational blend of flavors.  I highly suggest this as a featured menu item since the presentation is impressive when served with a grilled helping of swordfish or salmon. 




There is no telling the possibilities when you can grow your own varieties of lettuce.  You can use the roughage as either a plate garnish or create wonderful salads that will leave your mouth watering.  If you’ve never eaten lettuce picked straight from the garden, you’re in for a treat.  The crisp yet buttery consistency of the leaves allow a fun combination when paired with berries such as blueberries or strawberries and works well with breads for easy lunch options of pita or club sandwiches.  One tip for the eager picker: make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly to evade dirt and soil smudges. 

Tags: Gardening, Chef, cooking, #EXFL, Vegetable Garden

Keeping Pests Away From Your Garden Naturally

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

We’ve all been there…


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Our gardens are just beginning to grow wildly from the heat and moisture that the summer season brings.  Our squash plants are beginning to flower with brilliant yellow blooms and the broccoli heads are just about ready to make their debut.  Pea pods are climbing the trellis and cucumber vines are curling their way around the edges of the raised beds.  Your green thumb efforts are finally paying off with the anticipation of growing a hearty and delicious harvest.


That’s right about when it usually happens…


Somewhere, something has also discovered your bountiful vegetables and has decided to help them selves to an uninvited tasting!  Your strong stalks of broccoli and cauliflower are nothing now but a few naked stems protruding through the earth.  Those stunning yellow flowers of the zucchini have somehow disappeared into the night.  Your cucumbers have been chewed, the strawberries picked over and even the green beans have been nibbled.


You’re furious.  You feel violated.  You want nothing more to find that varmint and give him a taste of his own medicine. 


But wait.  Did you know that there are flowers, herbs and other organic tips that you can use to stave off these pests without having to buy expensive and potentially harmful products?  Try out these natural ideas and watch your gardens burst again with healthy livelihood!


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Eggs Shells

Creepy crawlers such as slugs and snails can reek havoc on vegetable and flower gardens.  A great way to get rid of them is to lay down a sharp path such as crushed eggshells on the floor beds surrounding the plants.  They won’t like the tricky and dangerous course they’ll have to travel. 


The Stinkier the Better

Many garden pests have something in common with humans and that includes their intolerance for certain smells.  Create a border around your most victimized crops by planting yarrow, basil, mint, catnip or citronella and you’ll see that the scent will drive away unwanted eaters.


Flower Power

Rabbits can be an awful problem for many of us because they strike fast and leave little behind in their tracks.  Try putting in flowers such as lantana and ageratum close to the vulnerable beds.  These two varieties tend to block most critters since they detest their biological make up. 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden

Gardening Calendar for July

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

July_Calendar-page0001 an easy reference guide for the novice, intermediate or expert gardener.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar, July

Cool Foods That Yield Plants

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 24, 2015

I saw this in a book recently and couldn’t believe my eyes when the author listed an extensive list of fruits and vegetables that actually could be used to re-grow food!  We have all done the potato experiment in science class as kids but I honestly didn’t realize that the possibilities are numerous.  Did you know that there is produce available in your super market that if prepared correctly will actually grow into a tree that you can plant in your backyard?  Or how about a vegetable that can reproduce multiple bearings of veggies just by placing it within the correct environment?  It’s true and they’re the perfect projects that you can set up for your kids to teach them a thing or two about cultivation, agriculture and preserving our natural resources.  Although there are many, here were my favorites that I couldn’t wait to try out on my own!


Avocados avocado-heart-400x400

You’ll want to keep the pit of an eaten avocado and wash it thoroughly.  Prick toothpicks through the heart and immerse a little under one half of the seed in warm water.  Be careful not to place the cup in a brightly lit window and wait for the fruit to root three inches.  Once the plant leaves begin to grow, you can repot in soil and watch your new avocado tree grow!





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You can’t get any easier than this when trying to replicate a one unit of food into several.  In fact, you don’t even need water or soil in the beginning because the onion will sprout its own green shoot once it begins to age.  You can simply drop the entire head with the greens protruding upward though the soil and be amazed how fast your old onion blooms into an impressive plant!




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Although it’s true that most varieties of apples need pollination, there are a few exceptions.  Simply core the seeds from types such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Braeburn and place in a fertilized pot near a well-lit window.  Water every other day and watch the sprout begin to rise.  When the stem is strong enough to withstand the outdoor elements, you can plant it in your backyard.  It may not produce a ton of fruit as a natural pollinating species, but you will be amazed at your new apple tree, which can be grown just about anywhere!

Tags: Gardening, Garden Show, Vegetable Garden

How To Start Your Dream Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 19, 2015

The garden industry is worth millions and sales depend on the coaxing of the customer to buy products that they believe their gardens are dependent on.  Over the last few years items such as non-chemical fertilizers, organic soil mixtures, hybrid packs of grown plants, expensive tools, varmint free fencing and state of the art hose nozzles have been mass marketed to appeal to the struggling green thumb who is determined to have a healthy and happy garden.  Many end up spending hundreds of dollars purchasing these products from name big companies with the hopes that they will cure all of their gardening woes.


Don’t be fooled…


Propagating a successful vegetable and flowerbed can be done without expensive tabs or exorbitant processes.  There’s a better way and a lot cheaper strategy to cultivate your dream garden!  All you need are the essentials, most of which you probably have.  Here’s my list for my summer gardening needs that are easy and inexpensive to buy or things that I reuse to help my garden beds during the summer season.


The Plot

If you have a backyard with a ton of space, you’re lucky because all you have to do is choose an area that is the right size for your garden that receives sunlight.  You’ll need full sun for vegetables and partial to full light for flowers.  If you don’t have a useful part of land for gardening, keep reading…


The Soil

Whether the soil that you have in your yard is sufficient to grow plants depends on the consistency, sediment and moisture of the earth.  If your ground is soft and adequate for easy plotting than you may have lucked out and you can skip the potting soil step.  If you have a hard, dry and coarse platform to work with, you might want to consider making your own raised beds.  Please don’t run out and buy a pre-constructed kit from a hardware store or garden center-its not necessary.  You can either find some scrap wood planks to nail together to form a hollow square or look around your house for old furniture.  If you find a bureau or nightstand that you don’t want, take the drawers out and place them directly in the yard.  They make perfect flower and vegetable beds plus you’ll feel great knowing that your green thumb extending to the green reuse of unwanted items. 



Trust me, there’s no better way to produce plants than starting with a simple germinated seed.  Not only can you start them indoors but the roots will also fixate better in the ground than a pre-bought plant that has already rooted somewhere else. If you want a suggested brand for seeds, I would advise on buying from Burpee.  Although they are a bit more expensive in some nurseries, you can grab great deals at discounted stores such as Ocean State Job Lot where they are almost half the price!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Rainy Day Gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 15, 2015

It’s to be expected that not every day in New England is going to be perfect weather and that unfortunately goes for the summer season as well.  But before you throw in the towel on your gardening ambitions, there are a few activities that will not only benefit your outdoor gardening efforts but will also satisfy your green thumbs while the forecast clears a bit.  No, I’m not insinuating that you grab your trowels and rough it out in the rain or break out the lawn mower and take your chances.  The grass can wait to be cut for a day or two so try another strategy if you’re stuck in the house waiting out the storms.  With just a few needed supplies, you can turn your depressing rainy day schedule into a fun and creative experience that your flower and vegetable beds will thank you for.


Just because there’s all that wet stuff falling from the sky doesn’t mean that you can’t get in the car and go for a ride to your favorite garden center or flower shop, right?  After all, didn’t someone once say that a little shopping therapy always cures the rainy day blues?  Then this is your chance!  As an avid gardener, I’m always running out of much needed supplies for my potting bench such as gardening twine for tomato stakes, plant food to spread over the beds once every month or so and packaged seeds of things like cosmos and peas to fill in the bare spots of the garden.  Most greenhouses have a sheltered area over their plants and supply areas for the sole purpose of appeasing those customers that enjoy gardening throughout any weather condition so there aren’t any worries about getting drenched while choosing your items.


If you see rain pouring out your window than this might be an excellent time to prepare your compost.  Homemade compost can consist of items such as coffee grounds, old bread such as donuts or muffins, grains, all fruits and vegetables and the best of all, egg shells.  Be sure to ground the material well so that all nutrients are blended sufficiently.  Once the rain clear, pour the compost over your vegetables and flowers and watch your plants go KABOOM from your extra added love and affection. 


Speaking of eggshells, if you have a few lying around your kitchen, they can serve another purpose other than compost.  Make sure they are halved and are large enough to support a small amount of soil.  Clean the insides well and place 2 tablespoons of well-nourished soil inside the cup.  Then grab your favorite seeds and place one in each holder.  Seeds that work the best and will grow fastest are peas, cucumbers, marigolds, zinnias and tomatoes.   Place back in their carton and set by a window with a sufficient amount of daily sunlight.  Once their heads pop up from the soil, place in your garden beds! 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden

How to Make a Salad Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 12, 2015

Make Your Own Salad Garden


I love salad.  No really, I do.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite foods and my family’s too!  There are many ways to serve a crisp, healthy salad including my preference of making sandwiches with fresh pita bread.  My kid’s even love the crunchy and zesty taste of dressing mixed with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower and broccoli.  Besides, can you think of a better way to get children to eat their veggies? 


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Since the ingredients of salad are so important to my household, they’re one of the first crops I plant in my vegetable garden once the summer rolls around.  Over the years, I’ve developed quite a system for these beloved greens and even constructed an actual “salad bed” at one time or another. 


So what’s a “salad bed”?


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A “salad bed” is a raised garden that has only the foods found in a salad of your choice.  In some versions, the plants are separated where others prefer to mix them all up which is the way you eat the dish anyways.  What makes this so much fun is that your whole family can participate in this backyard effort to produce your very own food that not only is entertaining to watch grow but also delicious compared to store bought items. 


Visually, you can be as creative as you like but here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.  Oh, and if you don’t have the space for an in ground garden, pots on the deck or doorstep work just as well!


Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, #EXFL, Vegetable Garden

Which Seeds Sprout the Fastest?

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, May 29, 2015


If you’re like me, you’re starting to spend lots and lots of time in the garden preparing beds, tilling the soil and planting the flowers and vegetables.  Although garden centers carry most of the traditionally “high in demand” products, using seeds instead of pre-grown crops can be extremely beneficial in several ways.  For one thing, there’s a lot less space being taken up in manufactured green houses saving time and energy driven from heating and packaging needs.  Breakage of roots, stems and leaves also decreases when you use seeds because you are eliminating the step of having to replant the specimen a second time in your beds.  But if you really want to be convinced, check out the money you’ll save when buying packages from Burpee, Park or Territorial seed companies and compare the prices.  Customers who invest in this method of growing save anywhere from fifty to seventy five percent allowing them to add an extensive amount of cultivated vegetation instead of the standard six pack. 


Now that I’ve got your attention, you may be asking what type of seeds should I buy that will spring up quickly once planted?




Protruding from the earth within weeks of planting, cucumbers are a lot of fun because they root quickly and can be started indoors while its still cool outside. Once the shoot rises from the soil, you will notice it begins as two flat leaves extending from a single stem.

The veggies grow on a vine that is dark green and forms yellow flowers signaling a fruit is ready to be produced.






Green beans, yellow beans-both are quite impressive with their ability to mature at a rapid pace.  Plats climb to extraordinary heights if a bean trellis is implemented near their base.  Their tendrils will naturally climb the posts, extending themselves to be able to reap maximum amount of beans. These are really neat to watch grow because they are elaborate in their structure resembling small tress.







Another intriguing seed to plant are peas, which are perfect for kids because they’re a fast breeder and beautiful to watch open with curled leaves and spiraled tendrils.  This is another great vegetable to utilize trellises with and you can even create some pretty cool structures like teepees and extended walls.

 The seeds packets themselves are keepsakes that gardeners collect like baseball cards. Each one has character and distinct identity.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Outdoor Living, Seeds, Vegetable Garden

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