On Friday, the third grade (Room 14th) made a fantastic Fava Bean and Pancetta Bruschetta with the Fava Beans that they grew and harvested themselves. Everyone took turns and had a hand in each aspect of preparation. They were all eager to participate and excited to try the final result, especially once the pancetta and garlic started cooking! The fragrance wafted through the yard bringing more than one curious (and hungry) onlooker out to see what was going on.
Once the treat was finished, they invited the other two 3rd grade classrooms to come out and share the deliciousness. It was a huge success, as there were many requests for seconds and declarations of the “best thing ever!” Ask your child how they liked it.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shelled and peeled fresh fava beans
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 slices country bread, toasted
4 ounces pecorino cheese, shaved or grated (optional)
1. Heat half the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the favas, season with the salt and pepper, and cook until the beans are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the bread slices and toast in a 450°F oven for 5 to 6 minutes.
4. With the back of a fork, mash the beans in the pan until the mixture is chunky.
5. Spread the beans on the toasts and top with the pecorino, if desired.
One of the keys to having monarchs—for their survival now and in the future—is having lots of milkweed. Because of modern changes, such as suburbanization and Roundup-Ready crops, there’s a lot less milkweed than there was in the past. This is a disaster for monarchs since monarch caterpillars can eat nothing but milkweed.
No milkweed, no monarchs!
We want lots of monarchs, so we plant lots of milkweed for them to lay their eggs on. We’ve tried to maximize our milkweeds in a number of ways—especially since it’s sometimes difficult to find them for sale or at least to find them for sale at an affordable enough price to buy more than just a few.
NOTE: The specific milkweed species I discuss are for my part of the country. Check the sidebar to find milkweeds native to other regions.
Purchasing milkweeds: All milkweeds are of the genus Asclepias. When we look for milkweed seeds or plants to purchase, we always look for this name. Sometimes nurseries are afraid to call them milkweeds since people shy away from anything with “weed” in its name, and because milkweeds have an undeservedly bad reputation.
Some nurseries name them something innocuous like “pink butterfly plant,” but that doesn’t help people who are looking for milkweeds. Knowing the botanic nameis very useful and helps us find the real milkweeds (if the grower actually uses these more correct names).
Local ecotype: Now that there is an organized campaign to restore milkweed, local ecotypes of milkweed species are becoming available. If we were to buy any new milkweeds, we would look for plants grown from seeds responsibly collected in our own region.
An aside: We wish nurseries would offer six-packs of small milkweed plants rather than large, pricey single plants. They grow quickly enough that these large plants aren’t necessary, and having one plant isn’t going to really help much.
How will a monarch find one isolated plant? Monarchs usually lay just one egg on a leaf, but they lay eggs on lots of leaves of more than one plant.
How could one or two plants be enough food for the caterpillars that develop from the eggs of even just one monarch? These caterpillars are eating machines!
Read full article here
California Pollinator Plants Native Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)
Fifteen species of milkweed are native to California. These drought-tolerant plants play a critical role in supporting a tremendous range of pollinators, and occur in nearly all of the state’s eco-regions. The showy flowers of milkweeds offer abundant, high quality nectar to pollinators, making them notable honey bee plants in many parts of the country. However, an enormous range of other pollinators from hummingbirds to butterflies are frequent flower visitors.
Milkweeds are named for their milky, latex sap, which contains alkaloids and cardenolides, complex chemicals that make the plants unpalatable to most animals. The plants have fleshy, pod-like fruits (“follicles”) that split when mature, releasing the seeds. Fluffy hairs, known as pappus, silk, or floss, are attached to the seeds. These hairs aid in wind dispersal.
Milkweeds have a variety of ethnobotanical uses. Native Americans used stem fibers to make string, rope, and cloth. Also, the sap was used by some tribes to heal sores and cuts and for wart removal. During World War II milkweed floss was used to fill life vests and is currently used as hypo-allergenic filling for pillows and comforters. In addition to native species, California has three introduced milkweeds, A. curassavica, A. fruticosa, and A. tuberosa. While these species are widely available, there is debate among ecologists about their effects on wildlife and native plant communities. Given this uncertainty, they should not be introduced to natural areas. Though a few milkweed species are common in disturbed areas such as roadsides, railways, and fields, most require specific habitat conditions and are not common as cropland weeds.
Milkweed Pollination Milkweed flowers have a unique shape and are pollinated in a more specific way than most other insect-visited flowers. Rather than occurring as free grains that are accessible to any visitor, milkweed pollen is contained in pollinia, waxy sacs located inside vertical grooves of the flower. When an insect visits the flower to obtain nectar, one of its legs may slip into a groove (“stigmatic slit”), attaching pollinia to the insect’s leg. Fertilization occurs when pollinia are then inadvertently transferred by the insect to another milkweed flower. Monarch Butterflies Milkweeds are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Caterpillars sequester the plants’ chemical compounds, giving them protection by making them distasteful to predators.
Monarchs’ annual migration is a widely-known phenomenon, particularly the eastern populations that fly to Mexico. In the western U.S., each fall, over one million monarchs from an arc of states from Arizona to Washington and north into British Columbia, fly to more than two hundred groves along the California coast. These butterflies leave their overwintering sites in spring, and fly eastward to California’s Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills and north to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in search of milkweeds on which to lay their eggs. Annual counts of overwintering monarchs on the California coast have revealed significant population declines. For example, in 1997, Natural Bridges State Beach near Santa Cruz had an estimated 120,000 monarchs. In 2009, only 1,300 butterflies overwintered (Frey et al. 2010). A major factor contributing to these declines is the loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States. This loss is due to urban and agricultural development and the application of herbicides in croplands, pastures, and roadsides. The protection and restoration of native milkweeds is critical to reversing this trend.
Enhancing Pollinator Populations
Extensive research demonstrates that crops with sufficient nearby natural habitat can achieve all of their pollination from wild native bees alone, and that managed honey bees are healthier and more resistant to diseases when they have access to diverse and abundant floral resources. As highquality nectar producers, milkweeds play an important role in supporting bees.
Attracting Beneficial Insects
In addition to attracting pollinators, milkweed nectar supports beneficial insects that are natural predators of many crop pests. A recent study conducted in Washington state evaluated 43 species of native flowering perennials for their potential to attract beneficial insects.
Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) attracted the highest number of beneficial insects, including mite-eating ladybeetles, minute pirate bugs, hover flies, and parasitic wasps, of any plant species studied (David G. James, pers. comm.)
Milkweeds are susceptible to infestation by specialistseed bugs (Lygaeus and Oncopeltus spp.), milkweed longhorn beetles (Tetraopes spp.), and oleander aphids (Aphis nerii). These insects are generally host specific and are not a threat to agricultural crops.
Commercially Available Species
Due to their ability to grow in a wide range of conditions, two species of milkweeds—narrow-leaved and showy—are the most suitable for the majority of restoration efforts.
Narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
Elevation: 50 – 2,200 m (150 – 7,200 feet)
Flowering time: May – October Flower color: corolla pink, corona white
Maximum Height: 3 feet
Description: Narrow-leaved milkweed is the most widespread species in California, growing in every region of the state except the Sonoran Desert and the upper montane, subalpine, and alpine zones of the Sierra Nevada. Suitable locations include dry to moist soil in open, sunny areas. It is typically found in plant communities such as valley grasslands, wetland-riparian areas, foothill woodlands, and chaparral, and clearings within yellow pine, red fir, and lodgepole pine forests.
Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Elevation: 0 – 1,900 m (0 – 6,250 feet)
Flowering time: May – September
Flower color: corolla pink, corona pink or white
Maximum Height: 5 feet
Description: Showy milkweed grows in dry to moist soil in open, sunny areas and occurs in many plant communities including wetlands, meadows, savannah, and forest clearings, as well as disturbed sites along roadsides, railways, and waterways. The species occurs in the forested montane regions of the Sierra Nevada, the North Coast Ranges, and the southern Cascade Ranges, and in the arid northern Central Valley and Owens Valley
Other Common Milkweeds
Four other native California milkweeds have a fairly wide distribution and occur in a variety of plant communities, but are not yet widely available from commercial sources. These species could be targeted for special conservation efforts where they occur.
California milkweed (Asclepias californica)
Elevation: 200 – 2,100 m (650 – 6,890 feet) Flowering time: April – July Flower color: corolla and corona both pink to purple
Maximum Height: 3 feet
Description: California milkweed grows on flats and grassy or brushy slopes in many plant communities, including valley grassland, foothill woodland, pinyon-juniper woodland, and chaparral. It is found in the central Coast Ranges, the southern Sierra Nevada, and the Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, but is largely absent from the Central Valley. Some authorities recognize two subspecies of this milkweed, with subspecies greenei occuring in the central part of the state, and subspecies californica occurring in southern California.
Heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia)
Elevation: 50 – 2,000 m (150 – 6,650 feet)
Flowering time: May – July Flower color: corolla dark pink to purple, corona pink or white
Maximum Height: 3 feet
Description: Heartleaf milkweed grows in dry, rocky areas in woodlands, chaparral, and evergreen forest in the North Coast Ranges, the Klamath Ranges, the Modoc Plateau, and the foothills and lower montane zone of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range. There are a few records from isolated hills within the Sacramento Valley.
Woolly milkweed (Asclepias vestita)
Elevation: 50 – 1,350 m (150 – 4,450 feet)
Flowering time: April – July Flower color: corolla yellow or pale green, corona yellow or white
Maximum Height: 2 feet
Description: Woolly milkweed grows within valley grassland, chaparral, and foothill woodland on dry plains and hillsides and in canyons in the South Coast Ranges, the Mojave Desert, the Transverse Ranges, the margins of the San Joaquin Valley, and the foothills of the central Sierra Nevada. Two subspecies of woolly milkweed, parishii and vestita, are sometimes recognized.
When feeding worms, it is important to remember a few key tips:
1. The smaller the better. Smaller pieces of food will break down faster, thus speeding up the composting process. Chopping large chunks of food to feed worms is recommended but not necessary. You can puree, freeze, or microwave food scraps before adding them to your worm composter to help break down material. Make sure that food has returned to room temperature before adding it to your worm bin.
2. The frequency and volume that you feed worms will depend on you and your family. You can add new food to the feeding tray at any time. Worms can eat up to half their weight in food per day in a fully established, well managed vermicomposter. Make sure that worms are actively engaged in eating the food you added most recently in the top feeding tray before adding more food. If they are not, this is a sign of overfeeding. On average, most people can fill a tray in about one month. It may take shorter or longer than that depending on how much kitchen waste you generate.
Make sure your worms are engaged with the last food you added before adding more.
(Image courtesy of Albert Tansey, New Hampshire)
What to feed worms in a worm bin:
When you feed worms always try to add equal portions of greens and browns!
Greens: Vegetable and fruit scraps, bread, pasta, coffee grounds and filters, teabags, dead plant matter from houseplants
Browns: Paper, junk mail, paper egg cartons, cardboard, dry leaves
All organic material will break down, some faster than others; however, there are some suggested foods to avoid:
Salty foods, citrus, spicy foods, oils (like those found in salad dressing), prepackaged foods with preservatives, meat and dairy products because they attract flies and can cause the vermicomposter to smell.
The Difference between BROWNS and GREENS as compost ingredients
This is a popular question among many first composters or organic gardeners. Regardless of the name, “Browns” and “Greens” are not differences in physical color. It is more technical than that. These terms are functions of the C:N (Carbon to Nitrogen) ratios in all once living creatures, plant or animal.
Browns and greens are nicknames for different types of organic matter to use in composting.
Browns to feed worms in a worm bin
Greens to feed worms in a worm bin
Browns are high in carbon or carbohydrates, thus they are organic carbon sources. These foods supply the energy that most soil organisms need to survive. Carbons also help absorb the offensive odors and capture and help prevent most of the organic nitrogen in the piles from escaping by evaporation or leaching. Carbons are also essential in the faster formation of humus from the organic matter in a composting process.
Greens are high in nitrogen or protein, thus organic nitrogen sources. These products help the composting microherd to grow, breed, and multiply fast in the piles, thus creating extreme internal temperatures in hot compost piles.
A simple test to determine if your organic matter is a “green” or a “brown”, is to wet it, and wait a few days. If it stinks, it is definitely a green. If not, it’s a brown.
These should last a few months as long as they are misted twice a week with regular tap water and kept in a cool spot. They would do well with a dose of daily morning sun, too! Enjoy this tutorial and get your pumpkins now before they are all gone from the stores and pumpkin patches!
Large Fairytale Pumpkin — The flat top is easy to work with in this type of design. Tall narrow pumpkins will offer more of a challenge for the first-timer. (Pumpkin Beer is optional!)
Craft Glue — Use the spray glue to attach the moss to the pumpkin and the tacky glue to attach the succulents to the moss. We purchased these glues at Michael’s Craft store.
Sphagnum Moss — When working with this, it’s best to wear latex or nitrile disposable gloves. This moss has sometimes been linked to a long-term skin infection caused by a fungus found in the moss.
Cutters and Scissors — Cutters for the succulent plants and scissors to trim moss.
Tray of Assorted Succulent Plants — Two-inch pots are good candidates for this design as well as cuttings from larger plants like jade and aeonium. Also, be sure to have some trailing type of succulent like sedum or burro’s tail.
Steps to Make a Pumpkin Succulent Planter
Step 1: Attach Moss — Spray the glue onto the pumpkin top and attach the moss. Press down the moss to attach firmly.
Step 2: Trim Moss — Trim moss to make it neat and tidy. Your goal will be to cover all the moss with succulents, so you don’t want any stray strands.
Step 3: Attach Glue to Succulent — Use the gel tacky craft glue to attach the succulent to the moss. Just do one succulent at a time. Glue then place…glue then place. NOTE: The succulents will attract water from their leaves and send out roots to the moss from the other parts of their stems. It’s okay to cover the bottom of the stem with the glue.
Step 4: Build Design — Start at almost center with larger cuttings and work your way out to the edges using smaller plants and cuttings as you go. The glue will take about 30 minutes to dry, so keep that in mind as you are working. Also, don’t try to do this outside on too cold of a day or the glue won’t set quickly.
Step 5: Add some Spilling Succulents to Add Interest — Add some trailing succulents to add interest to your design. Sedum is a good option.
Step 6: Fill in any Moss with Small Succulents or Leaves — Make sure the succulents are well-packed within the design. In about a week, the plants will start to shrink a bit so you want all the holes well covered before this happens. Use smaller stems of succulents or the leaves of succulent plants to fill holes.
Pumpkin Succulent Planter Care Tips
Mist twice weekly with plain tap water. Don’t overwater…pooling water on top of the pumpkin will cause it to decompose.
For best results, keep outside in a cool spot and give it a healthy dose morning sunlight to keep plants healthy looking.
Place pumpkin on a trivet if outside (will decompose if sitting right on top of concrete) or on a plate or platter inside to prevent any staining if you are using for a centerpiece.
When the arrangement has faded or you are ready to start decorating with a more winter theme, don’t throw the succulents away. Instead carefully remove them from the pumpkin moss, remove any dead leaves and plant in some light cactus mix. Any roots that have shot out will grab onto the cactus mix and the succulents should grow. Even single leaves will root and send out little offshoots that will become mature plants.
Here are a few little ones I did using the mini white and mini zebra pumpkins. I used just the tips of some small succulent blooms to make these. The Zebra pumpkin is about 4.5 inches tall by 5 inches wide and the white pumpkin is 4 inches tall by 4 inches wide. These little ones make great gifts.
This is a repost from a blog: Flower Duet. Written by Kit WertzDesign by Flower Duet. Photo by: Kit Wertz