Category Archives: Healthy Greens to Grow

365/7 Indoor Hydroponic Gardening Means Fresh Bok Choy to start the New Year!

I never used to eat Bok Choy. Never.

I didn’t even know for sure how to pronounce it, let alone how to eat it. It can be even confusing in how you spell it’s name. If you see two main references: Pak choi and bok choy — don’t be alarmed… they are the one and same plant and considered part of the mustard family. Normally these plants are a bit smaller Chinese cabbage with leafy, green leaves and white stalks that have a bit of a crunch but not as stiff as celery — sort of the texture of water cress. Pak choi or bok choy, mostly grows in Asian regions like the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

Have you seen it in the grocery store? That’s where I first noticed it and also the very reason I never tried it. Whenever I would see it in the grocery store it would be floppy limp — ewe. Gross.

But every year, I commit myself to learning how to grow at least one new plant and a couple of years ago, Bok Choy was the one that I determined to tackle growing in my vertical garden Tower Garden hydroponic growing system (what is this?). When I actually tasted this plant straight off of the Tower Garden at it’s peak… well I fell in love with it as my new green go-to. This plant wasn’t meant to travel for days and days and sit on a grocery store shelf — it’s meant to be eaten freshly harvested.

Why I love to grow these cute little plants…

  • They grow fast. I’m a girl that likes to see some success from my efforts and these little bundles of green goodness are ready to start harvesting in 4-6 weeks.
  • You don’t harvest them like they harvest Bok Choy for feeding the masses. You’re missing out on this prolific little plant that produces leave after leaf from the center. All you have to do is continue to harvest the outer leaves and maintain the center three leaves for continual growth (about a 6-8 week continual growth with multiple harvests from the same plant). When the plant grows a bloom you know your harvest period has ended and you can swap out the plant for a new seedling waiting in the wings to go into your hydroponic growing system.
  • Did you know that Bok Choy ranks sixth on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) for fruits and vegetables and is considered one of the world’s healthiest foods? I especially like that it is full of beneficial antioxidants and fights inflammation in the body.  DRI/DV from this plant include: vitamin K (64% DRI/DV), vitamin C (59% DRI/DV), vitamin A (40%),  folate (17%), calcium (16%), vitamin B6 (16%), and potassium (13%).
  • And I love how the leaves curl down and out a bit — sort of reminds me of a little bridal bouquet.

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Varieties to try:

  • Purple Lady Bok Choy from RareSeeds.com is a beautiful plant and chock-full of antioxidants with it’s purple leaves and my new favorite Bok Choy to grow. (Remember half the fun of growing your own food is trying new vegetables you can’t find at your local supermarket!)
  • White Stem Bok Choy from SeedsNow are a great starting point. If you want to try it without committing to a lot of seed to save, this is a great option (plant shown above).

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Things to know as you grow Bok Choy / Pak Choi…

  • SEED STARTING: I typically see seeds germinate within 48-72 hours if using seeds from the previous growing season. I plant into rock wool and here are the conditions I recommend:

Seed Starting Guidelines for Bok Choy or Pak Choy

  • PLANTING TIMING: Transplant Bok Choy / Pak Choi starts outdoors into your Tower Garden hydroponic growing system as close to your freeze date as possible. You may want to add a water heater like this one for any freeze warnings and have a lightweight weather protection blanket specifically designed to fit a Tower Garden with one extension and have it on the ready to put over the seedlings should you get an unforeseen late freeze warning.  To find the local last frost date for your area, I like this resource (less ads than the Farmer’s Almanac web site.)

Ideal Tower Garden Hydroponic Growing Conditions for Bok Choy:

Tower Garden Hydroponic Growing Conditions for Bok Choy Pak Choy

Hydroponic Growing Conditions:

  • TEMP: Like cabbage, this plant likes to grow at 55ºF-76ºF temperature meaning it’s a spring or fall plant or grow indoors. Avoid the hot summers.
  • LIGHT: They tend to like 7-10 hours of light, so if you’re growing them indoors, don’t push them with extra light hours, it may actually end up slowing their growth.
  • PPM/EC: 1050-1400 ppm and 1.5-2.0 EC.  I recommend using Tower Tonic for a well-rounded supply of minerals that will benefit you nutritionally when the plant is harvested. I use this meter and keep it in the PPM range of around 1200.
  • pH: Keep plants in a pH range of 5.5-6.5. I use this pH meter and this pH up and pH down to maintain the range. (Remember, plants need to be in ideal pH range for uptake of nutrients / minerals to occur.)
  • Air movement is always a good idea with any plants you are growing, but we are not looking for windy air circulation, just a slight breeze or moving air in the room.
  • Final Tip: When growing hydroponically indoors, your timer will need to be set to 15 min on and 30 minutes off. If you want to keep this plant happy, add an aerator to your reservoir. It likes to have oxygenated water—a little more than just the aeroponic benefits that typically the Tower Garden provides on most occasions. (If you’re running your Tower Garden continuously outdoors during the day, you can skip the aerator.)

Pests and Diseases to be on the lookout for while growing Pak Choi:

  • PESTS: Aphids like this plant as well, so plant marigolds and petunias in the area (may even put some pots at the base of your Tower Garden) and do spot checks periodically on the stems and under those bodaciously beautiful green leaves. If you see aphids moving in, rub your thumb across the plant henceforth squashing them. You can follow-up with a spray treatment of Neem Oil. Once you get aphids, if you don’t eradicate them quickly, they will multiply every three days and may take your entire crop so heed my warning and spot check every day or so under those leaves and towards the base of the plant.

How I incorporate Bok Choy / Pak Choi into my meals for nutritional benefit…

  • Dice up quinoa and add it to your cooked quinoa
  • I love it in the wonderful Coconut Chicken Bok Choy Soup that warms your tummy and satisfies — my husband claims it’s better than the one he eats at the local Thai place in Atlanta! (Whoop whoop!)
  • Instead of going for traditional lettuce, put on top of your next homemade burger to add some crunch and nutritional benefit
  • Dice and throw it on top of chickpea salad for added “crunch”
  • Add to any super-food smoothie for a power-packed nutritional drink on the go

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Our Exclusive Bok Choy / Pak Choi Cheat Sheet and Seed Organizer
(Great for your seed stash organization and quick reference)

Get Bok Choy Recipes

 

Sources:
World’s Healthiest Foods
Late Start? Grow these fast plants
• 13 Greens That Will Forever Change the Way You Think About Salads
Purchase White Stem Bok Choi Seeds

How to process your Hydroponic Jalapeños Harvest (say that fast 7 times) & more importantly… How to Fix a Jalapeño Pepper Burn!

The jalapeños are coming on strong with the harvest right now on the hydroponic Tower Garden by JuicePlus+, so naturally I’m finding ways to take advantage of this bounty with three recipes in mind: jalapeño jelly, candied jalapeños, and good ol’ pickled jalapeños. (Spoiler alert: fav’ recipe links at the end of this post.)

You should be eating Jalapeño Peppers — home grown Jalapeños… 

Jalapeños are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin B6 and common consumption of jalapeños may reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and platelet aggregation and partially improved liver damage due to the properties of capsaicin (the spicy part of the jalapeño). (You can read more about the study here.)

Be forewarned….

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As I went to slice and dice my jalapeños, the thought crossed my mind to put on some gloves, but since I didn’t feel anything as I was cutting the jalapeños, I ignored the thought and kept right on processing my crop — processing it without gloves on. I rinsed the cuttings in a sieve and proceeded to wash my hands and that’s when I began to feel the heat on my finger tips. Within 15 minutes my fingers felt like little flames had been lit. You guessed it — I had a jalapeño pepper burn on my left hand. Over the course of the evening I tried seemingly everything… scrubbing with soap and hot water, soaking in cold greek yogurt (which did feel soothing at first believe it or not), Biofreeze, pain meds, lavender essential oil, coconut oil, more scrubbing with hot water and soap followed by my black salve… no relief.

So at the stroke of midnight, as I’m laying in bed with my hand in the air hoping to catch a bit of breeze from the ceiling fan and contemplating my options in how to endure pain, my husband and I decide to do one more internet search for ideas to remove the oil from the recesses of my skin cells. I clumsily type one-handed into my phone’s internet search, “How long will jalapeño burns last?” Answer seemingly comes back in article after article that I could be suffering for several weeks if not a month! Aaaccckkk! And then I found Kendra’s post from newlifeonahomestead.com and sharing how she treated her jalapeño pepper burn. Her story seemed to match mine in trying everything the internet threw her way, but she found a solution that worked. And I shrugged my shoulders, looked at my husband and said, “Why not? Let’s try it.” So he went to the fridge and brought me… yellow mustard.

What I found to end all Jalapeño Pepper burn misery...

That’s right. Yellow mustard. We lathered it on like my fingers were hot dogs celebrating the Fourth of July. And the cold condiment felt amazing! Immediate relief! Like ice water hitting hot burning coals. I left the lather of yellow goodness on there (with a few more squirts of reapplication) for a good 35 minutes and then rinsed off with cold water. Were my fingers a little yellow? Yes. Was I in excruciating pain? Praise God, no. So I trotted off to bed.

How to treat jalapeño pepper burn on hand

Lesson #1: Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever cut jalapeños without wearing protective food grade gloves. Gloves should be worn while handling hot peppers and make sure you definitely don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth areas with your hands if they’ve come into contact with the Capsicum oil from Jalapeño Peppers.

Lesson #2: If by chance you do encounter jalapeño’s Capsicum oil — reach for your handy-dandy yellow mustard.

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And my jalapeños that I grew on my Tower Garden? They taste AMAZING! A million times better than anything I’ve found in the grocery store.

Remember, if you eat a pepper that is too hot, don’t drink water or milk to try to extinguish the spicy flames. Liquid only spreads the heat around. Instead, it is recommended to eat some sugar or honey and/or something starchy, such as bread, crackers or potatoes.

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How to grow Jalapeño Peppers hydroponically…

Here’s what jalapeño peppers need to succeed in the Tower Garden or similar hydroponic system (like a bato bucket).

EC/PPM: 3.0-3.5 EC / 2100-2450 PPM

pH: 6.0 – 6.5

Temperature: Hot peppers grow best in daytime air temperatures 65° to 80°F (18-26°C) and night temperatures above 55°F /13°C (nighttime temperatures between 60° and 70° are best). In addition, daytime temperatures above 90º F inhibits fruit formation, but fruiting will happen once temperatures drop back below 90º. If growing into the Fall, be sure to have a weather protection blanket on hand for evenings that have freeze warnings.

Light: 10 – 12 hours daily (outdoors). If growing indoors, the grow lights should be for flowering plants and placed 6 to 8 inches over the pepper plants. Any closer could cause scorching, any further away and the plants will not get the full benefit of the light. As the plants mature, adjust the height of the lights to maintain the 6-8 inch distance. (It is important to note that the Tower Garden lights are not rated for growing flowering plants according to the Tower Garden Juice Plus+ website, so if growing Jalapeño Peppers on the Tower Garden, grow them outside in full sun.)

Days to Harvest: Transplants will begin to bear ripe fruit in 70 to 85 days, depending on cultivar. 70 days Green; 93 days Red Ripe.

Other helpful tips to note:

  • Jalapeño Pepper plants will need support. The Tower Garden‘s support cage will work perfectly for holding up these plants. Plant them on the lower three tiers of your hydroponic vertical Tower Garden as they will grow to about 3′ in height (remember, things grow faster and typically bigger in a hydroponic system because you’re giving the plant everything it needs to thrive.)
  • Peppers don’t continue to ripen well off the plant (like tomatoes), so harvest when they are ready and process immediately if possible.
  • Peppers can be kept in the refrigerator, but avoid moisture. Avoid washing the peppers before refrigerating them, and dry them if they have dew or water from the irrigation system. Store them in a paper towel towards the top of the refrigerator.
  • Bacterial Spot: Bacterial spot can be seed borne. Purchase seed from a reputable source like Johnny’s Seeds or Seeds Now (100% Heirloom/Non-Hybrid/Non-GMO). Johnny’s pepper seed lots are tested for bacterial spot.
  • If planting for a fall crop in the Atlanta, Georgia (zone 7) region, the following are average freeze dates:
    Earliest Occurrence Latest Occurrence Average
    October 11, 1906 December 18, 1998 November 13

    Plant between the dates of August 1 and August 15 to ensure a fall harvest. Cover your Tower Garden with a weather protection blanket should there be a freeze warning.

  • Growing in soil? Here are some additional tips.

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Even with a thick stalk like this, they still need support.

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In summary…

Grow jalapeños for their health benefits, but be prepared when it comes to processing these little gems of nutrition as they can cause serious jalapeño pepper burns on your hands if you don’t wear gloves.

Here are a few recipes I’ve personally tried. Maybe you and your family will enjoy them as well:

Enjoy!

— Erin

 

 

Rainbow Swiss Chard: Better Indoors or Outdoors?

My Rainbow Swiss Chard in my outdoor Towers is happy happy happy!

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Indoor Swiss Chard is going great as well, but definitely not as big as what’s growing outside and they were both transplanted on the same date.

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Health benefits of Swiss Chard:
Swiss Chard is a nutritional powerhouse — an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

How to cook with it:

Chickpeas and Chard with Poached Eggs

Swiss Chard Salsa Verde

Pickled Swiss Chard Stems

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Stuffed Breast of Veal

Autumn Greens with Sunflower Seeds

Chard Tzatsiki (I’d leave cucumber in the traditional tzatsiki and just finely dice in the Swiss Chard)

Swiss Chard with Currants and Pine Nuts

Swiss Chard Chips

#towergardenofficial #towergarden #gyhg #growyourhealthgardening #hydropinic #yearroundgardening 

Why you should eat Bok Choy and How to Grow it Tower-to-Table

Nutritional Benefits of Bok Choy and Why You Should Grow it + Eat It

Bok Choy (Brassica chinensis L.) belongs to a genus in the mustard family called the brassicas. Members of brassica include kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and many other similar important food crops.

Bok choy also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. These nutrientshave powerful antioxidant properties that help protect cells against damage by free radicals. Nutritionally, bok choy is loaded with cancer-fighting properties as well as a multitude of other health benefits, some of which are still being discovered.  Bok choy contains folate. Folate plays a role in the production and repair of DNA, so it may prevent cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

Bok-Choy-Nutrition-Facts-Why-You-Should-Eat

Bok Choy Fun Facts

The name “bok choy” originated from the Chinese word for “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

Bok choy ranks sixth on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) for fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Fuhrman's Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)

What Vitamin A does for your body…
Vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly. In fact, a single cup of bok choy contains the entire RDA of beta carotene, which has been shownto prevent night blindness and possibly reduce the risk of cataract and macular degeneration (source). It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Vitamin C does for your body… Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters; vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism [1,2]. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissue, which plays a vital role in wound healing. Vitamin C is also an important physiological antioxidant [3] and has been shown to regenerate other antioxidants within the body, including alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Calcium does for your body… Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions — the body uses bone tissue as a reservoir for, and source of calcium, to maintain constant concentrations of calcium in blood, muscle, and intercellular fluids. It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

What Iron does for your body… Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, an erythrocyte protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues [1]. As a component of myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles, iron supports metabolism [2]. Iron is also necessary for growth, development, normal cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue [2,3]. It is always best to get your vitamin and minerals from a natural food source primarily and important to understand proper levels of Vitamin A intake — please refer to the source listed in the following link to learn more: Department of Health and Human Services.

While green vegetables such as bok choy provide your body with many essential vitamins and nutrients, even healthy foods should be eaten in moderation. Too much raw bok choy can have a serious and potentially life-threatening effect on your thyroid gland, and medical professionals advise against overindulging in the raw version of this tasty vegetable. (source)

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How to Grow Bok Choy in a Hydroponic System like a Tower Garden:

You can purchase Bok Choy seeds (50 pack) here.
Bok Choy Seeds Now Preview

For planting Bok Choy seeds, you’ll want to plant two seeds per 1.5″ rock wool cube, placing the seed about 1/4″ down into the hole of a rock wool cube. Cover with wetted micah. It will typically germinate in 4-7 days. Transplant into your Tower Garden when your starts are approximately 2″ high and as soon as there are true leaves on the plant; this will typically occur in about four weeks from your seed start date.

JuicePlus+ Tower Garden

Ideally, grow Bok Choy indoors with a light source. This will reduce any aphid pressure common from exterior elements. Bok Choy thrives in a temperature range of 55°-75° F with a pH of 6.0-7.5 range and a EC value of 1.5-2.5 (or PPM value of 1120 – 1750).

Be sure to write down your seed starting date as you’ll want to wait to harvest Bok Choy until 8-11 weeks.

Check out the difference between Tower-to-Table Bok Choy vs. Grocery Store Bok Choy Produce offerings.

Tower Garden vs. Store Bought Bok Choy

While checking out the produce section at our local grocery store, I peeked over at the Bok Choy and it was limp and lame — you could tell it had been sitting there for days.  One of the key benefits of Bok Choy is its dark green leaves chalk-full of vitamins and minerals. The store Bok Choy begins to lose it’s nutritional benefits the longer it sits on the shelf, that is one of the benefits of having a Tower Garden where you can simply walk over to your indoor garden / garden on your deck and snip off what you need. The Bok Choy on the Tower Garden is similar to Kale — it will continue to regrow if you only take the outer lower leaves so you can get multiple harvests off of the same plant!

When I looked at cost, the store wanted $2.49 per Bok Choy in our neck of the woods (at the time of publishing this article in October of 2018). I plant two Bok Choy plants per rock wool and have four on the same level in my Tower Garden growing — that’s approximately $20 worth of fresh Bok Choy at my finger tips!

 

Grow your own food on a hydroponic Tower Garden

 

When Should I Plant My Hydroponic Tower Garden Bok Choy to Enjoy Fresh For the Holidays?

The advantage of growing in the Tower Garden hydroponic / aeroponic growing system is you can grow all year round with indoor lights! The following are key planting dates if you want to use Bok Choy in holiday sides and dishes (if planting in indoor Tower Garden with lights):

  • Thanksgiving Planting-Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds September 30th – October 6th to have in time for Thanksgiving dinner sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • Christmas Planting-Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds October 4th – October 10th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for Christmas sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • New Years Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds November 16th – November 23rd to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for New Year sides/dishes.
    Google_CalendarAdd Planting Reminder to Google Calendar
  • Valentine’s Day Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds December 6th – December 20th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for Valentine’s Day dinner sides/dishes.
  • Easter Dinner Planting Prep:
    Plant your Bok Choy seeds February 10th – February 24th to have in time for optimal Tower-to-Table freshness for 2019 Easter Day dinner sides/dishes.
    Google_Calendar Add Planting Reminder to Google Calendar

How to Use Bok Choy in the Kitchen to Cook and Eat What You Grow

The BEST part of the plant are the green leaves… you can eat the whole plant, but focus on eating whatever is green especially!

      • Try it in an immune-boosting soup like this one (recipe) or this soup recipe featured by “Plated” that incorporates mushrooms which also have health benefits (recipe). Remember, cooking vegetables reduces the number of nutrients they contain. Add your Bok Choy right at the end of the cooking process before you serve your soup. Tip: Try to find a protein-based gluten free noodle if possible.
      • Try it in as an element mixed in to stir-fried veggies with chicken like The Mind Full Mom’s idea here (recipe).
      • Enjoy it simply sauteed. This Baby Bok Choy recipe by Sam Sifton has a high rating online and worth the try or this recipe on Chow Hound — just a note to be careful with the soy sauce and vegetable broth as these can be high in sodium. The American Heart Association recommends not exceed 1,500 mg of sodium per day.