Know How, Know More Connecting You with Your Food, Farmers and Community Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 DIY: Regrowing Celery Wed, 15 May 2019 09:00:00 +0000 A fellow Illinois Extension colleague shared a blog last year titled "Kitchen Scrap Gardening." You might have heard of these home kitchen experiments regrowing foods from leftover seeds, stems, and scraps.

Using the stem leftover from my last post on freezing celery, I have been growing and documenting my journey of growing celery from "scrap." If you want to try it at home, download this step-by-step handout to get started.

As of May 2019, the celery is not large enough to harvest and eat. If it gets there – here's hoping – find updates on Facebook at nutritiondmp.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Mellendorf. Caitlin Mellendorf, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Journey to Freezing Celery Wed, 06 Mar 2019 00:10:00 +0000 Celery is one of the foods that tends to go limp in my refrigerator. I do not use celery as much in recipes as, say, onions or carrots. I never enjoy throwing out the limp celery, and set out to find a way to save as much as I could of my purchase.

  • Try 1: Make lots of celery recipes in the same week. A week is about how long fresh celery holds up in my refrigerator before becoming limp. After three recipes in a week – and the leftovers – I decided it was too much celery for my taste. I needed more veggie variety.
  • Try 2: Cut into approximately 4-inch pieces and put – unwashed – in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This one worked better. It helped keep my celery in good condition for almost 2 weeks. It did start to get slimy and turn brown in color towards the end.
  • Try 3: Freeze chopped celery. This one I really like for saving extra celery and having it pre-chopped and ready for cooking. I know I cannot use this frozen celery in raw dishes, like to snack on or in potato salad, and that is okay by me. I tend to cook more with celery than eat it raw anyway.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has these instructions on freezing celery. I skipped the blanching step. Blanching stops enzymes involved in decomposing foods, so frozen foods last longer. By not blanching, I know my celery will have poorer quality the longer it sits in the freezer, so I have been making sure to use my frozen celery within two months.

What food preservation and food waste tips do you use? Share in the comments!

Today's post was written by Caitlin Mellendorf. Caitlin Mellendorf, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Learn to Propagate Your Plants at From the Ground Up on March 9 Fri, 22 Feb 2019 08:00:00 +0000

Most of us gardeners are itching to get gardening this time of year, which is why Extension offers lots of great programming in the winter to get gardeners excited and inspired! Next up on our gardening calendar is our new From the Ground Up program coming up at Allerton Park and Retreat Center on March 9.

Join University of Illinois Extension for a morning of engaging horticulture sessions for gardeners of all ages and levels. Connect with area gardeners, learn from experts and go home with research-based information you can trust and ideas that will get you excited about getting your hands dirty this spring!

One of the topics I'll be presenting that Saturday is called "Pass It On, Propagate Your Plants." We'll be using the really cool greenhouse at Allerton as a space to learn how to propagate a variety of different plants. Here's a little background information on propagation to get you started!

The term Propagation refers to any method of producing new plants from existing plants. Plants can be propagated from seed or by using pieces of existing plants (vegetative propagation).

There are various methods of vegetative propagation, including cuttings, layering, and division and we'll take a look at all of these. Vegetative methods will produce an exact duplicate of the parent plant in most cases. Some plants can be propagated using any of several methods, while others are best propagated using a single method.

Starting your own plants can be an entertaining and educational experience, and is an inexpensive way to get more plants for yourself or to share. It can also be used to rejuvenate or multiply plants that might be hard to replace or that have sentimental value or unique characteristics.

Propagation Methods

Some flowering plants will produce seed. These can be planted to produce new plants, but the plants may not be the same as the old plant, and the plants will take longer to reach maturity. Plants that produce clumps with multiple stems, such as ferns and peace lilies, can be divided.


Remove the plant from its pot and separate by pulling or cutting apart, making sure each piece contains a stem and roots. Repot in separate containers. Some plants naturally produce small plantlets at the base of the mother plant or at the end of runners. After making sure that roots have developed, these can be removed from the parent plant and repotted. Some houseplants will root easily in water, but this tends to produce weak roots that often do poorly when transplanted into soil.

One other methods of propagating plants are by taking cuttings.


A cutting is any piece (leaf, stem or root) removed from an existing plant and used to start a new plant. For all methods, start by filling a container with moistened medium. There are many variations - a few are discussed below. Depending on the variety, conditions, and technique used, the rooting process may take several weeks.

Stem tip cutting: This is the most common method and can be used on almost all plants. Remove top 3-6" of stem, cutting at an angle just below a node (raised area where leaf emerges). Remove all lower leaves keeping 2-3 stem tip leaves, dip in rooting hormone if desired, and insert into rooting medium about 1-2", making sure at least one node is below the surface. Gently press rooting medium around cutting and mist lightly. Cover with plastic bag - new cuttings do not have a root system so moisture must be absorbed through the top. Remove or loosen bag temporarily if excess moisture accumulates. Do not allow to dry out. Place in bright, indirect light. Transplant to permanent container when roots are about 1" long.

Whole leaf or leaf/petiole cutting: Remove leaf only or leaf with petiole (stalk) and insert in rooting medium. Proceed as with stem tip cutting. Leaf petiole is the most common method of propagating African violets, while whole leaf cuttings can be used for jade plant, sedums, and some cacti. Leaves of cacti and other succulent plants should be allowed to dry for several days before placing in rooting medium to prevent rotting from excess moisture.

Get some hands-on experience trying out these propagation techniques at:

From the Ground Up
Saturday, March 98am-noon

Allerton Park & Retreat Center
515 Old Timber Road Monticello, IL

Register for From the Ground Up here:

Furred and Feathered Townies Thu, 21 Feb 2019 12:52:00 +0000 I once had a squirrel enter my house from an upstairs window, which promptly ran downstairs to finish my breakfast of eggs and toast on the dining room table. My dog and two cats watched from the sidelines incredulously; no doubt asking themselves why they didn't get invited to breakfast.

Homeowners and gardeners are often confused and sometimes irritated with encounters of wildlife on their property. At Extension, we get phone calls each year from concerned people who have found a fawn on their front lawn, a (literal) bat in their attic or Canadian Geese encroaching on the pond behind the house.

Many of us have had occasional annoyances with our local wildlife, they don't want to respect the property lines, and who pays the taxes here anyway!? It first helps to remember that wildlife belongs here; it is actually us encroaching on them. With pressures of increased habitat loss and fragmentation, many animals are adapting to the environments we have created to survive. The truth is, as urban sprawl continues and subdivisions expand, so will our encounters with wildlife.

There is a strong body of scientific research suggesting we should embrace living with wildlife to support biodiversity. This notion is gaining popularity. In fact, London is set to be the first major city to become a national park in 2019.

To reduce nuisance problems, properly screening attics and under porches to prevent bats or skunks from setting up residence, fenced gardens, not allowing pet food to sit around outdoors and keeping garbage cans well covered are all great strategies to prevent unwanted mammal visits to our personal spaces.

For more information on co-existing peacefully with wildlife, here are a couple of good websites:

Proactive measures to keep encounters on the up and up are not just beneficial to us - let's turn the focus on its head for a minute and think what to do for the animal's best interests. Outdoor cats, ingested poison, barbed wire, windowpanes and of course cars are major threats to our urban furred and feathered friends.

When wild animals get injured or we find baby animals who appear to be orphaned, we don't know what to do (clue, they very likely are NOT orphaned and should be left alone). At any rate, we are lucky there is a place nearby specializing in this topic. The U of I Veterinary School of Medicine has a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with trained volunteers and students to help!

They will be visiting with a few of their charges at the upcoming Piatt County Master Gardener program From the Ground Up at Allerton Mansion on March 9.

Delphine the Virginia Opossum and Vara the Barred Owl and a variety of other animals may be coming, depending on which ones feel like visiting. Come meet them in person and hear their story!

DIY: Red Pepper Flakes Wed, 16 Jan 2019 09:00:00 +0000 Every summer, gardens at home are hit or miss on what grows and what doesn't. Sometimes a plant just grows and grows! This was the case for the gardener who brought me multiple bunches of hot peppers – jalapeños, poblanos, and lots of small red hot peppers.

Just for fun, I decided to string and hang the red peppers to dry. For instructions on drying peppers on string, I recommend reading Heat up summer with peppers (University of Missouri Extension) and Using Chile to Make Ristras and Chile Sauce (New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service).

I air-dried these peppers indoors, which took a little more than a month. If you want to dry the peppers faster, look to a dehydrator for help. Once dry, I thought I could make cayenne pepper with the dried skins, but what my experiment became was red pepper flakes. And, boy, are they HOT and SPICY!

Download this infographic for instructions on what I did. Besides sprinkling on pizza, what recipes do you spice up with red pepper flakes? Tell us in the comments.

And read my post on red pepper flakes on Healthy Eats and Repeat for a tasty recipe.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Mellendorf. Caitlin Mellendorf, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Kokedama String Gardens Mon, 07 Jan 2019 15:49:00 +0000 Kokedama String Gardens

Get creative with your houseplant displays this winter and try hanging a few plants in the window to create a string garden. The term String Gardening is a term that has become attached to a style of Japanese bonsai known as kokedama, which literally means "moss ball" in English.

Instead of growing plants in a traditional container, the root ball is replaced with a special soil and wrapped in moss and string. These living planters can make a distinctive display piece in your home as they can be hung, fixed to a piece of driftwood or bark, or nestled into a container or tray.


Here are the supplies and tools need to create your own kokedama at home:

Lightweight potting mix or peat moss

Akadama bonsai soil or clay based cat litter

Sheet moss or Spanish moss

4-5" container plant





Bucket- to mix in

Newspaper or a tarp- to protect your work surface

How To Make a Kokedama

1. Moisten the moss if it is the dried variety by soaking in a bucket of water for an hour. Squeeze it out and lay aside until the last step.

2. Mix together your soil mixture composed of 70% peat moss or potting mix and 30% bonsai soil (akadama) or clay cat litter. Add water gradually to your mixture until the medium can be gathered into a ball. Press it firmly all around to adhere the soil mixture into a ball.

3. Remove your selected plant from its container, dust off the excess soil and gently break apart the root ball.

4. Make a hole in the clay ball big enough to push in the roots of the plant. Push the clay around the roots and compact it around the base of the stem.

5. Press the moss around the form until all the surfaces are covered. Use twine or string to wrap

the moss onto the ball with at least two passes around the surface.

6. Cut away the excess string and fix the ball to a piece of wood, hang in an appropriately lighted

area or place in a container.

Kokedama Maintenance

Watering is your main maintenance task with a kokedama and you can use your finger to check the moisture level of the ball and or check the weight. If the ball feels light, it's likely time to water.

If watering is needed: Fill a bowl, bucket or sink with room temperature water. Place your kokedama in the water, plant side up. Push the moss ball down so that it is fully submerged and begins to absorb water. Allow to soak for 10-25 minutes, or until bubbles stop coming up. Remove the kokedama from the water, and gently squeeze the moss ball to allow excess water to drain. Allow to drip dry in a colander before replacing it to its given home.

The Nuts Around Us Fri, 21 Dec 2018 11:29:00 +0000 Fudge, tea rings, macaroons, baklava, pralines, and brittles! These are some of the nutty holiday sweets we indulgence in this time of year. Besides these delectable offerings, unshelled nuts to be eaten in their natural state are common around the holiday season as well. I'm going to date myself, but stockings at my house didn't have toys, but a wonderful mixture of fruit, nuts and candy. The preponderance of nuts in the fall and early winter of course relate to the natural time of harvest- and a reason why so many holiday recipes call for them.

To a botanist, a nut is a hard surfaced fruit containing a seed (the part we eat). Most people refer to this edible part as the nut; so before we get too nutty about it; let's agree that anything you think is a nut is a nut- except for peanuts, which are actually legumes!

Many nuts we enjoy, including pistachio, macadamia, almonds and cashews, grow in warm and even tropical climates. In Eastern North America we are lucky enough indeed to have a few native nut (trees) of our own, and the opportunity to grow them successfully. The filbert (hazelnut) is a great one, American Chesnut hybrids immune to Chesnut blight, and the hardy Northern Pecan grown a little farther south of here are the more common ones.

A tree we are likely most familiar with is the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). Once ubiquitous in our surroundings, this tree is often scorned as messy and a bad team player in our urban landscapes. Yes, some plants are sensitive to the chemical jugalone it produces, (those in the nightshade family come to mind), but way more species are actually okay with it.

Black walnuts don't make themselves easy to love either when it's time to harvest. Thick outer husks and hard inner shells make them, let's say 'challenging' to get to the nut meat. Driving over the husks with a car back and forth or pounding them a mallet are common ways! That's why they are hard to find in many a grocery store, and expensive when you do.

BUT…. These nuts are so, so good; with more intense and slightly tangy taste than the imported English Walnut, you'll want them in your special dishes anytime of the year. Plus, there is a certain satisfaction experienced when the work is worth the effort. Try purchasing them this year to try in your favorite recipe; and maybe next year you'll be Black Walnut hunting the way some people morel mushroom hunt. The walnuts are easier to find, and are deee-licous!