Gardeners and cooks share many character traits and perspectives. Another thing they share is that they will return to trusted sources for knowledge and information.
Men and women across the nation have a favorite cookbook with folded page corners (in spite of swearing they would not do that this time) and traces of frosting and sauces that might provide quite a story for future archaeologists. Gardeners save seed catalogs from their very first garden, thirty years ago. There is just something about how the information was put together in these publications that endures and inspires decade after decade. Perhaps children have the right idea when, even after learning to write, they continue to just look at the pictures, for it is images that make us dream most.
The Internet has changed how we search for and refer to knowledge, but we still recognize the “good seeds,” so to speak. Today, I thought I’d share three of my favorite information resources for the garden and kitchen. No food splatter or folded page corners, but a lot of reliable knowledge and pictures to make us dream too.
In no particular order, but beginning with an old friend:
The Old Farmer’s Almanac – Best planting dates, dates to transplant, tips about every imaginable aspect of gardening in every zone, plant guides, pest and weed control, farmers market directory, video tutorials and Granny’s favorite: gardening e-cards… As stated on the now famous Almanac label: “Useful, with a pleasant degree of humor.” The paper publication is available as well, of course. The online version will never replace the pleasure of leafing through an actual Almanac, but it is a splendid added value.
Let’s not forget the wee gardeners. Including children in gardening activity is an opportunity for them to learn about far more than gardening. They can learn patience, collaboration, nurturing and an appreciation for the value of hard work. Thus, I would like to bring your attention to another one of my favorite resources, Kids Gardening, a resource from the National Gardening Association.
Resources include: Ideas for introducing gardening as a school-based activity, teacher resources, lesson and activity ideas, how-to guides and classroom projects. There is a Family Gardening segment with activity suggestions and a featured activity of the month, how-to videos, food-specific guides, links to other relevant and fun resources, a great selection of kid and teen gardening publications and recommended books.
Last, but surely not least, we grow wonderful produce for the mere joy of collaborative work with nature and because we want to bring the best nutrition to the table. Transforming the harvest into delicious and visually beautiful dishes is one of the most pleasant things we can do for our families and for ourselves. The kitchen is the laboratory, where inevitably we cannot help but stray from the recipe on the page and discover or develop our own version.
I am not sure it is possible to talk about gardening and the kitchen without talking about one of the oldest means of preserving the harvest, canning. It is simple science, wonderfully simple, yet if the kitchen is our laboratory, as with any science and as with any experiment certain rules apply that ensure the desired outcome. While straying from a recipe may lead to very enjoyable discoveries, straying from the basic rules of the science of canning is not such a good idea.
Canning Tips and Guidelines to the rescue. The All Seasons Homestead Helpers website offers an easy-to-understand segment on proper canning methods, preparation, sanitation and storage tips and guidelines, as well as tips for identifying signs of spoilage. Of course, canning and preserving recipe books also offer invaluable sources of knowledge and information in addition to tasty recipes for your kitchen lab experiments. And you know as well as Granny that there is nothing like holding a good recipe book in your hands and dreaming of the feast with the flip of every page.