By LYNNE IRONS
I am a big hypocrite! I go on endlessly about carbon footprints and using gasoline to move food from coast to coast, not to mention around the world. My friend Marie made a big purchase this winter of the tower of grow lights. We have been moving seedlings back and forth from my unheated greenhouse to the unused guest bathroom trying to get some size on baby snapdragons and lisianthius. We joked about the spike in her electric bill most likely alerting the drug task force. It is truly remarkable how the 12 hours of light push the growth compared to my measly 10 hours of natural light and freezing temperatures nightly. She has been accusing me, rightly so, of overplanting just to use up her space as well as my own.
We are looking forward to getting a really quick start with peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. A word to the wise: if you plan to use lights for starting plants, you must put them ridiculously close to the little babies, otherwise the plant gets too leggy and therefore weaker.
Three weeks ago I started some spinach and lettuce in some big fish totes inside the unheated hoop house. I couldn’t control myself one sunny day. Daily I can be found bent over with my reading glasses looking for some sign of life. Last Sunday, a Valentine’s Day gift I suspect, I finally spotted some tiny shoots. I was just about to give up and replant. Mind you, I have done that before only to have the original planting sprout along with the second one — often completely different crops.
Sometime last fall I seeded some mache, aka corn salad, in a big tub outside. I way overplanted and every one germinated. I hauled them inside around Thanksgiving and have been ignoring them ever since. The other day I noticed they have begun to grow. They are so tightly packed in the pot I have to laugh. I sat on a stool and painstakingly thinned every third plant. (They are at the most an inch and a half.) I made myself a delicious salad out of the thinnings. Resourcefulness is a fine quality to possess in this life.
A few weeks back I brought in a couple of quince twigs which have started to bloom. What’s odd is that they bloom a very pale pink when forced but outside are a deep red. I am fond of my quince. It is so dependable; it blooms sometimes before the forsythia. Also, it is planted on Emily, a favorite beagle mutt from the 1970s. One fine dog!
My friend, Pat Bakke, sent me an article from The New York Times entitled The Amazing Cucumber. There were 13 uses for the vegetable that I think I will pass along. Hey! It’s winter and I’m running low on material — plus it is downright interesting.
1. Cucumbers contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
2. Feeling tired midday — avoid caffeine and eat a cucumber pick-me-up.
3. Rub a slice along your bathroom mirror to eliminate shower fog and provide a soothing fragrance.
4. Place a few slices in a small pie tin to drive away slugs. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but will drive the pests away. (I’ll believe that when I see it!)
5. The phytochemicals in cucumbers cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, thus reducing the visibility of cellulite and wrinkles.
6. Eat some cucumber before bed after a night on the town. They contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish the body to avoid both a hangover and the headache.
7. Cucumbers have been used for centuries for a quick meal to thwart off starvation and so will help avoiding a snacking binge.
8. Rub a freshly cut slice over your shoes for a quick waterproof shine.
9. A slice will fix a squeaky hinge when you cannot locate the WD-40.
10.Place an entire cuke in boiling water for a relaxing stress-reducing aroma.
11. A slice pressed to the roof of the mouth with the tongue for 30 seconds will eliminate bad breath.
12. A cuke will clean your stainless steel sink and faucets. By the way, we used to clean the copper counter top in a local restaurant with ketchup.
13. Rub the outside of a cucumber on penmarks as well as crayons and markers kids use to decorate walls.
Oh, Homegrown meets this Sunday at the Agricultural Hall from 3 to 5 p.m. Would love to see you there!