The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Plant Power

“Wonder twin powers activate … form of … BROCCOLI!” It doesn’t get much more powerful than that – Broccoli is one of the world’s healthiest foods. A death-defying super hero, it can prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the body, and more.

As a gardener, I am also obviously a plant lover. Just as I see the magic of the universe in a Sunflower, I liken Broccoli, and many more vegetables, to super heroes. Gardening has changed my life in many ways. It prompted me to begin growing my own vegetables. Growing vegetables prompted me to learn more about organics and pollination. Organics and pollination opened my eyes to the magnificent world of insects, birds and more which inspired me to create a wildlife habitat. Growing my own fresh, organic vegetables also prompted me to learn to eat healthier and try new recipes. Learning new recipes prompted me to learn more about nutrition and food. Just as organic gardening led me to detoxify and question many of my daily living choices – harsh chemicals, throw-away-waste, recycling – it is also going to lead me to another lifestyle change, the plant-based diet. This is PLANT POWER resonating outward like pond ripples: from planting a flower bed, to creating and growing a life-sustaining garden (both animals and people), to changing an entire lifestyle.

As we enter the New Year, my husband and I are taking on a challenge: we are going to follow a plant-based diet for 90 days! For us this means no meat and no dairy – that is a challenge, no? We are going to evolve into Nutritarians. My husband and I turned 47-48, we are both carrying more than a few extra pounds, my cholesterol is quite high and he has a family history of heart disease. We decided it’s now or never to change our ways and enter a new life phase of fruitfulness. If we don’t do it now, we most likely never will and the pounds, (and possibly medications), will continue to add up. I know I need to make some changes – turn it up a notch. I can relate to this new lifestyle. I love plants and believe in plant power! Why not exist solely on plants? (Dairy) milk is not nature’s perfect food, plants are!

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

That’s my new way of thinking anyway. We have been reading up on and learning about plant-based diets for the past month. The information we have gleaned is eye-opening – we can cure almost any and all ailments we have through diet! So, we are going to try it. The proof is in the chia pudding  (something I will have to try), afterall.

Winter reading.

Winter reading.

These are some of the books (above) we have been reading including Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. All of them contain recipes – good recipes. Forks over Knives the Cookbook is all recipes – tasty (yes, really they taste good!) recipes – and the documentary is available to view on Netflix. We also watched Vegucated (WARNING: do not watch if you would like to continue to eat meat), The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, and The Gerson Miracle. Next, I would like to read Dr. John McDougall’s Starch Solution and The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food by Kaayla T. Daniel.

You might ask “How will you get enough protein?” The truth is many plants contain protein. Nut and Hemp milks are also a source of protein and let’s not forget beans!  A motto we are adopting is “Beans and Greens.”

You might ask “Isn’t soy bad for you?” I would answer that yes, in high amounts it can be. It can be highly processed, and we really do try to avoid processed foods. For example, I will make my own veggie bean burger and not buy a processed soy burger, or processed soy “lunch meat.” If I do choose to cook tofu, I always buy organic (90% of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified!), and cook it myself as part of a recipe. The majority of our diet will be IS whole fruits, grains, and vegetables – fruits and vegetables in their natural state. We also cook, a lot, and enjoy it. During this challenge my husband will cook three dinners, I will cook three dinners and on the 7th day we will go out! If you want to spur some strange looks, try ordering a veggie pizza without cheese!

Just as there is a caboodle of gardening advice, there is also an overwhelming amount of nutritional advice out there – much of it conflicting. My husband and I have delved into resources of our choice – we all choose for ourselves what guides us and what to believe in. You may not agree with me or believe in plant power, but I will be sharing my progress in taking on this new challenge every now and then.

My new favorite dish is Heidi Swanson’s Otsu. I just made it the other night for dinner. Just as tasty, and a recipe I will make again, is Heidi’s Yellow Split Peas and Greens (I substituted a little nutritional yeast for the parmesan cheese) – leftovers are today’s lunch. “Hey Mikey, try it you’ll like it!” I am excited and look forward to trying the many new, plant-based recipes I’ve come across. Plant power!


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What’s Growing: Tomato Sauce & Freezer Pesto

I love my Potager. I would love it even if it did not produce a large amount of vegetables although it usually does. It is not just a crop to be harvested, it is a sacred place for me. All the plants have been carefully plotted and planned to work together and yet it still manages to sneak in a surprise or two. They grow upward, onward and intertwine. There is always a “moment” to catch – a humming bird attracted by the red blooms of the Scarlet Runner Beans, a bumble bee tipping the delicate disks of Blue Scabiosa, a Robin perched on top of the rustic arbor, a flushed rabbit …


This year I planted Morning Glory among the runner beans, Cardinal flower beneath the peas, and Cathedral Bells along with the cherry tomatoes. Now, the Morning Glory masks the fading bean leaves and the Cardinal Flower blooms where there are no peas. The Cathedral Bells have yet to bloom but I see they have reached the top of the trellis and their leaves have a touch of purple to them and look fresh – not like the leaves of the cherry tomatoes that are growing tired.


I love this climbing Nasturtium Moonlight. It mixes wonderfully with the “surprise” ornamental gourds that began growing up the rustic arbor.


I have made three batches so far of tomato sauce which I freeze in jars. I cook them down skins and all and smooth using an immersion blender. I only add balsamic vinegar, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. This year I came across so many wonderful heirloom tomatoes between Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island, the community garden and a very talented friend on Round Island. I am attempting to save some of their seeds. They are fermenting now on the back porch. So far, they do not smell too strongly. (Click here to read about how to save heirloom tomato seeds from a previous post.)

I don’t believe my one German Striped Tomato plant has flowered yet. It may be too late. It is probably also too late for this eggplant. We will see but try, try again (next year).

With the dry, hot summer many of my plants bolted including the Cilantro. I chopped it down mid-summer and scattered the seed. I have a new fresh crop that I am really enjoying. This year I am going to harvest it and freeze it in oil for cooking all winter. And this year I finally harvested the Basil at its peak before too cold nights. I have a nice batch of freezer pesto.

Plenty of kale and collards for soups this season!

Carrots, golden beets and possibly a parsnip or two next. 


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Tipsy Chai Toddy

Tipsy Chai Toddy



Spice mix:
Dash cinnamon
7-8 cardamom pods
3-4 star anise pods
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
8 oz water
(You may substitute 1 Tbsp of loose-leaf Chai for the spice mix)

Tea infuser
1 Tbsp loose-leaf black tea such as English Breakfast


1-2 oz aged rum
1 tsp honey
Lemon juice


Twist of lemon and cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine the spices with water in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil for a strong decoction. Once boiling, remove cover and lower heat to simmer. Fill tea infuser with loose-leaf black tea and steep in pot for about 4 mins. Remove the tea infuser and simmer for 7 more mins. Strain the spiced decoction into your favorite mug. Add rum (if you haven’t already drank it by now), honey and a squirt of lemon stirring with cinnamon stick. If you want to get fancy, garnish with a lemon twist. Tip back and enjoy!

Single serving

Warm wishes, Christmas cheer, and a merry new year to all.