9 Garden Results That Taught Me a Lesson in Winter

                                                                                                                          Every winter I wistfully dream of my Spring Garden:

Every winter, my boredom with the dreary weather and its indoor regimen force me into the most evil tasks. While the wind howls and the last of fall gets blown away, cabinets get scrubbed, linens get rearranged, and loads of extra wash and dry create snuggle spots for the cats. The snow begins its steady drifts and the driveway is a sheet of ice. Going out is out of the question. My spirits begin to lift as the household slowly gets put into order and I remember the gardening catalogs I didn’t have time for during the rush of harvest. My excitement over the color photos begins to hit high notes as the winter wears on. I don’t mind being shut-in. I have something that occupies my heart and mind to the fullest.

Books, magazines and the Sunday Garden section are all over the place.

Previous logs, journals, notes, and calendars get pulled from drawers, closets and computers. Mind in a whirl, I can’t think straight. What to plant this spring? I remember the problems, but try and focus on that gorgeous melon and delicious eggplant Parmesan the family raved over. Where to start? I dive for John Jeavons’ “Plant More Vegetables”, and congratulate myself for having planted a cover crop before the rain and winds hit.

The nitrogen is getting built into the soil as we speak.

Like every year, I had to rein myself in from ordering up countless packages of seed and even more color catalogs. I decided to build a “What to Do and What Not to Do” list. First, I meditated deeply on what has happened in the past:

  1.  I planted vegetables I didn’t like to eat. They were recommended, and organic, or I was told (about the peppers) “they were not hot at all”. Baloney. I fed the compost.
  2. No idea cauliflower grew that big and took over that much space for one edible head.  I guess we could have eaten lots more leaves, but they were full of insect holes. Then there was that  night-flying moth whose larva turned into tiny green worms with voracious appetites. There really wasn’t much left of the leaves anyway.
  1. Surely tomatoes could not grow that much into each other with 6’ wire supports. They did. It was a jungle in there. I squirmed and fought my my through to get those last little tomatoes and didn’t know I could wear that scent so long.
  2. People do not want any more lemon cucumbers. They grow so prolifically and are so full of seeds, most varieties, I could not say “enough!” more emphatically.
  1. Same with zucchini. One plant would have been more than enough, but no. I had to plant several varieties and the neighborhood was drowning in crocknecks.
  2. Does your family really go for all those greens? All those nights with dinner?. Never have I seen more wrinkled noses over the mustard/spinach/chard saute´ I slaved over, buttered-up, mixed with quinoa, laced with garlic and lemon, and presented with such aplomb! No dice. No takers.
  3. I don’t like eggplant. But it’s not all about me. Husband adores it. Since the big ones always “mushed out” on me, I planted the Japanese variety. Nothing appeared until so late in the season, I was ready to feed the compost again when they spit out so many eggplants even my husband called a halt. All from one plant.    But no, I had planted three (just in case). In case of what, starvation?
  1. “It doesn’t grow here” I was told by more than one expert. No, I knew better. Then I planted peas and carrots at the wrong time, and lost most of the cucumber and squash to mildew to over- watering and not enough sun. Do you know how long it takes for a spaghetti squash to ripen? By then, the whole plant looks dead. They need a huge fence to crawl on, take over, and only give you one or two. It’s another thing I don’t like, anyway.
  1. Another big mistake was trying to plant seeds indoors. A magazine idea fed my brainstorm to fill a plastic shoe bag with organic dirt and wait for seedlings and transplants for spring. Surely that big garage window was plenty of light and it never got colder than 60°F. Plants? Not in this lifetime. Organic transplants are a lot less of a mess than that shoe bag, believe me.

Meanwhile, the cover crop looks great, come heck or high water.



Green Chef Press Newsletter: April 2016


Greetings from Placerville, California and welcome to the Green Chef Press newsletter!

This month, Green Chef Press launched its new blog on WordPress. I am excited to share my passion for farm-to-table cuisine, health, nutrition, wellness, and recipes that will get you cooking in your kitchen. I look forward to meeting you and welcome any of your questions. I want to hear from you!

The Latest News from the Blog:

Spring is in the Air!

While we wait for cherries, berries and other spring bounty, our garden is in grow mode. Don’t forget to keep your roots moist so plants can access nutrients. It’s such a beautiful season with the scent of blossoms fresh in the air. Find out here how to recognize the blossoms you see.

Celebrate Spring with Asparagus

3443126ASPARAGUS! The spring veggie loved by many, or few? We Italians love it every which way and, from the excitement this past weekend at the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival in Stockton, California, we know many enjoy this wonder veggie.

It’s not surprising since this is the biggest festival of its kind in the west! San Joaquin County grows the most asparagus of any place in the U.S.

Did you know asparagus is rich in vitamins B and E, is great for your immunity, and slows the aging process?

Celebrate spring’s first green vegetable with these recipes: Fried Asparagus with Dipping Sauce or mixed with spinach into a fabulous Asparagus and Spinach Frittata. Check out the wild asparagus notes from my friend Anne in Italy!

Placerville in the News

Spring is the season for festivals and I just happened to be in Placerville when our local news station was in town interviewing the Fausel family, the proud owners of the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi, Placerville Hardware. They shared their preparations for the Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit and the next big event, the World Gold Panning Championship at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds which will take place in September 2016. More on that to come.

Whole Grains

Are you eating enough whole grains? Whole grains are an excellent way to nourish your body and boost your intake of protein and fiber. Combine whole grains with vegetables in this Multi Grain Pilaf that will satisfy even your pickiest eaters. Remember brown rice pasta is another way to get your grains. Try this Brown Rice Pasta and Shrimp Entree for a quick and healthy meal.


For a sweet treat, use whole grains to make this delectable gluten-free Vanilla Coconut Pound Cake.  I recommend using products from Bob’s Red Mill, which are available in most grocery stores, outlets and health food stores.

From the Green Chef Press Kitchen:
Recipes for April

Poppyseed Muffin

Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomatoes Pasta Dinner
Asparagus with Quinoa
Asparagus and Spinach Frittata

Fried Asparagus with Dipping Sauce
Brown Rice Pasta and Shrimp Entree
Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Salad
Lemon Blackberry Pie
Multi Grain Pilaf
Orange Poppyseed Muffins
Vanilla Coconut Pound Cake

Until next time, be well and bon appétit!

About the Author
Betty Albert is a native Californian and resident of Placerville since 2003. She is retired from her own Health Nut Products company where she worked as a baker, caterer, personal chef, and served on the board of the Placerville Natural Foods Co-op. She recently published an ebook, “Lost in Italy and Loving It!” Her latest endeavor will be a “Farm to Table” series, reflecting her admiration for the farms and their owners, and in celebration of food everywhere.

Celebrate Spring with Asparagus

ASPARAGUS! The spring veggie loved by many, or few?

We Italians love them every which way, especially found wild and wrapped up in some farm fresh eggs as a frittata. You can roast them, sauté them, put them in a pie, use in a cheese fondue. I’ve found them on a pizza, in a salad, wrapped in prosciutto, speared through a hot dog or sausage and toasted on the grill. If you want to really appreciate asparagus wild, take a look at Anne Robichaud’s article from Italian Notebook.


Asparagus with Quinoa

Saute two sliced shallots in 1 T each butter and olive oil until softened. Add a bunch of asparagus sliced on the diagonal and season as desired. Cook on lowered heat, covered, until softened, but still firm to the bite.

To serve, portion over cooked quinoa with a squeeze of lemon. Drizzle with bacon bits, or Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Asparagus and Spinach Frittata*


1 lb each spinach and fresh asparagus, washed, drained, tough ends discarded
8 eggs
3 T whipping cream or water
s/p to taste
¼ c Parmesan or Romano cheese
4 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths, cook in boiling, salted water until tender to pierce, about 3 minutes. Drain, immerse in cold water and drain again. Cook spinach in a covered pan until wilted, stirring. Drain, cool, coarsely chop. Set aside.

Beat eggs, cream, salt and pepper, cheese. Set aside.

In a large on-stick skillet, place olive oil, and garlic cloves over medium heat until just beginning to brown, do not scorch! Add spinach and asparagus, and sauté 2 minutes. Pour egg mixture over asparagus and cook until eggs begin to set. Sprinkle with cheese and reduce heat to medium-low. When almost set, place skillet under broiler until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let frittata stand 4 minutes before loosening, and sliding onto a plate.

*Optional ingredients

  1. Omit spinach, add 1 seeded, diced tomato and Fontina cheese instead of Parmesan.
  2. Use spring onions in addition to or instead of garlic, and Gruyere or Swiss cheese.
  3. Cut unpeeled red potatoes 1/8” thick and sauté w/green onions 6-8 minutes, covered, then uncover, brown well another 7-8 minutes. Add to asparagus/egg mixture.

Spring is in the Air

Though it is still chilly, there is no lack of farm fresh fruits and veggies to choose from while we wait for the cherries, berries and other spring bounty.

Your Garden is in the “Grow Mode”

Flowering and deciduous trees need water (before and after) fertilizing and application of  nutrients as they bud out.  Plants need to have moist roots to access nutrients.  Continue reading