November 13th, 2017


I prepared horseradish sauce yesterday.  I ran the horseradish twice through a food processor, first slicing, then shredding the pieces of root. As I was shredding, I added enough vinegar to keep the horseradish from drying out or heating up. The vinegar helps retain the hot flavor and allows it to keep for a while in the refrigerator. It will last a couple months.  It’s a tasty condiment and it has an impressive list of purported health benefits.

Horseradish Plants

Horseradish Plants

I grow horseradish in the herb bed, along with my plantings of perennial onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.  It is very easy to grow and quite difficult to get rid of once you have it.  I could encourage larger, cleaner, and easier to harvest roots if I grew it in softer soil, but it’s not high enough on my list of priorities to give it the treatment it deserves. I do like to have it around because the finished product is so good.

Horseradish Roots

Horseradish Roots

I dug out several plants. The ground was frozen on top but quite soft below the thin crust. I didn’t try to get out the whole plant. That would have entailed a lot of work. Pieces left in the ground will most often grow back. I brushed off as much dirt as I could. I trimmed off the crowns which I shoved back into the soil where I had harvested, just to make sure there would be some around next year. It was too cold to wash them outside so I brought them inside to do that.

Horseradish Peelings

Horseradish Peelings

I’ve read recipes suggesting not peeling the roots, but just washing them before shredding. The roots I harvest are pretty gnarly, with folds packed with dirt, bug holes, rotten spots, and other imperfections I’d rather not have in my sauce. I think peeling is in order.  The peeling process is where the vapors of mustard oil that make horseradish famous first show themselves. Strong whiffs of horseradish vapors could be likened to tear gas. Usually, it’s just some fun in the kitchen, but I think an overdose of fumes could be a real problem.

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Horseradish: washed, trimmed and ready for the food processor.




Roasted Shishito Peppers

November 9th, 2017
Blistered Shishito With Sesame Seed

Blistered Shishito With Sesame Seed

This year was not particularly good for our pepper harvest.  It may have been the location and the fact that the ever so tall Jerusalem artichokes  blocked the east sun from the patch.  That won’t happen next year.  Live and learn.

Luckily we had a late frost so when Noel pulled the last of the pepper plants from the garden on October 30th, we had a bonus – a couple dozen shishito peppers.  We had never grown them before so I thought they were immature wrinkly little things, but it turns out they were exactly as they should be.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them so I did an internet search on the various ways of preparing them.  The simplest way I found was roasting them at 500 degrees with olive oil, salt, pepper then sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds.  Here’s a link to the recipe and video of Michael Symon making them on a television show.

The peppers can also be roasted on the grill, pan blistered, stuffed with cheese, dipped in sauce, etc.  It all depends upon what you’re in the mood for and how much time you want to spend on the preparation.  No matter how you make them they’re sure to disappear quickly.

The seeds were from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.   Check out their amazing website.  And, of course, don’t forget the tool section.  They might just have the CobraHead Weeder and the CobraHead “mini” Weeder in their offering.

CobraHead Tools in Uganda

October 30th, 2017
Happy Gardener in Uganda

Happy Gardener in Uganda

I think Rose Berry bought her first CobraHead from us at the Madison Garden Expo many years ago.  Rose likes our products and she has purchased many tools for gardeners over the years. She let me know that she really could use a lot of CobraHead tools for a project she was involved with in Uganda. I let her know that I had a lot of obsolete but totally functional tools that I would be happy to donate.

Blue CobraHeads in Uganda

Blue CobraHeads in Uganda

Rose is involved in several projects that help Ugandans live better lives.  She got our tools to Africa and sent me pictures of the local people getting their CobraHead tools. I got the pictures but no background story so I asked for some information and Rose sent me this:

“We work with an amazing nun in Uganda named Sr. Salome.  I also work with Remembering Jesse Parker Inc. (You can see the documentary by going to News8000 and search Tears Into Water). Jesse’s Mom is a friend of mine here in Tomah.  Jesse died in an auto accident and aspired to a life of drilling water for Africa. In his honor we have now (in 7 years) drilled 51 wells.

Other projects we have there are a Diva Cup Project which allows adolescent girls to attend school during menstruation, a sewing project, a microloan project, a school sponsorship ($20. per year for primary school for a year), Photos For Peace (where we set up a photo site and take pictures of families (the only one they own), and more. 

The area is called Busalo and is about 70 miles west of Kampala near Mityanna. Laura (my daughter) and I have traveled there 3 times and love the people and their culture. 

Thanks again for your donation!  Your Cobrahead tool has made a difference in my life and it is making a bigger difference in the lives of people who depend on their gardens for life in Africa!

Yellow CobraHeads in Uganda

Yellow CobraHeads in Uganda

The world certainly needs more Rose Berrys and I’m happy we’ve contributed in a small way to helping people in Uganda to grow their own food.  I’m sure Rose and the projects she is involved with could use more help so feel free to reach out to her.  You can reach her at jfberry at centurytel dot net or contact CobraHead and we’ll forward any messages.

Children in Uganda

Children in Uganda

Gardening in Uganda

Gardening in Uganda

Simple Sliced Cucumbers

October 20th, 2017
Simple Cucumber Salad

Simple Cucumber Salad

This has been the year of the cucumber for us.  I still have a dozen cucumbers sitting on the table (in mid-October, no less)  but I think the vines have died back and that will be the last of them.

We ate plain cucumber spears, chopped cucumbers with tomatoes and onions and various combinations of fresh veggies, with or without dressing, and cucumber soup.   I made 2 different kinds of savory sliced refrigerator pickles including one with vinegar and one fermented with salt brine.

Here’s a simple cucumber recipe that’s great for a last minute add to the dinner table.

1-2 peeled cukes or more, sliced on a mandolin or as thin as you can possibly cut them

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt

1-2 T. white wine vinegar

Sprinkle prepared cucumbers with salt and let stand for about 15 minutes or less if you’re in a hurry.  Drain excess liquid and splash with white wine vinegar to taste.  That’s it.  Makes a very refreshing side dish.  You can add sliced red onions or you can add a little sour cream (or yogurt ) for creaminess. Garnish with dill or parsley if so desired.

2017 Sweet Potato Harvest

October 17th, 2017
Sweet Potato Harvest. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Harvest

We harvested 89 pounds of sweet potatoes yesterday. That’s not a record, but it’s well above our normal yield, and we’re happy with the results. Our average sweet potato yield is about 80 pounds per bed.  We grow a variety named Jewel (sometimes spelled Jewell).  We’ve been growing Jewel from our own starts for over 10 years and we find it excellent for both yield and long-term storage, and they taste great, too!

Empty Bed. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Empty Bed

The potatoes were grown in this very clayey bed.

Sweet Potato Vines. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Vines

For harvesting, we first removed all the vines and the black plastic sheet which covered the bed and acted as a solar collector to heat up the soil.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants

Here are the 18 harvested plants.

Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Vole Damage

More Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

More Vole Damage

The forecast is for warm temperatures for the next ten days, but I had to harvest now because I noticed some vole damage on one of the potatoes when I checked under the plastic, two days ago. Any increase in yields we might have gotten for leaving them in the ground longer could have been easily offset by damage from these little varmints.

Fortunately the damage was limited to two plants and was not significant. I found a nest under the plastic, but no voles.

We trimmed up the roots before we weighed them and wheeled them to the house for a two week curing on the kitchen table.

After two weeks in the kitchen, we’ll wrap the larger potatoes in newspaper and store them in the basement. We will be able to enjoy our harvest all year long.


Tomato, Zucchini, Onion Potato Bake

August 29th, 2017
Garden Veggies CobraHead Blog

Garden Veggies

Well here we are again in zucchini tomato season.  I first posted this recipe about five years ago here.

I make it several times each year during the height of the season.  It’s a tasty stick to your ribs meal.

This time I layered the following items twice in a greased casserole dish.

  1. sliced potatoes
  2. sliced zucchini
  3. sliced onions
  4. sliced tomatoes (or chopped)
  5. shredded mozzarella cheese
  6. fresh chopped basil
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Bake covered at 375 degress for 45 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft or easily pierced with a fork.

You can leave out the potatoes if you wish to make it more of a side dish.  Eggplant and peppers would be a nice addition.  It’s a simple way to use up your garden produce and the leftovers are great!

Japanese Soba Noodle Salad with Pea Pods

July 6th, 2017
Soba Noodle Salad

Soba Noodle Salad

Our snow peas, sugar snap peas and capucijner soup peas are doing abundantly well this year.  And Bambi, who has been frolicking in our yard hasn’t found them yet.  Of course, Zuri, our watch dog has been running interference so I’m sure that has helped as well.

Anyway, I found a Japanese soba noodle salad in a very old copy of Bon Appétit magazine that featured pea pods, so how could I not try it?  I did change it up a little but used the basic recipe.  It served four people very nicely for lunch.


8 – 12 ounces dried soba noodles (I only had 8 oz.)

4 ounces snow peas, thinly sliced (i used 2 cups sliced in 3-4 pieces each)

1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium carrots)

1/4 cup sliced green onions (I used minced shallots)

1 cup pea pods cooked separately for 1 minute in boiling water

1/4 cup chopped peanuts


1/4 cup soy sauce

3 T. rice vinegar

1 T. toasted sesame oil

1 T. minced fresh ginger

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling water until al dente (about 1 1/2 minutes less than recommended time on package).  Each brand has different cooking times depending upon thickness of noodle.  Add sliced snow peas, cook 30 seconds more and drain.  Rinse with cold water, drain again and place in large mixing bowl.  Stir in carrots and onions.

Mix the dressing ingredients, pour over noodle mix and toss to blend.  May use salt and pepper if desired.

Garnish with whole pea pods (gotta use up them peas) and peanuts.

Note:  The pea pods cooked for 30 seconds with the noodles are crunchy but do turn an olive drab color from the dressing.  That’s why I cooked extra pods separately to add at the last minute.   An addition of baked tofu would also work very nicely in this salad.  Bon Appétit!


T-Posts in Trellises

June 30th, 2017
T-Post Trellises

T-Post Trellises

Intensive gardening in open raised beds practically demands working with a lot of trellises.  The system of concentrated planting doesn’t lend itself to sprawl, and the solution is to grow vertically.   I stake or trellis many plants to get maximum production in limited space and to keep the aisle spaces passable.

I use T-posts as my main trellis component.  They are cheap, strong, and last forever.  And they lend themselves well to various designs. Most of my T-posts are 7’ 6” long.  I’ve found the 90” length adaptable to many trellises.  The post is tall, but not so tall I can’t work with them easily.  T-Posts normally come in lengths from about 3 feet to 12 feet.  I do have some smaller ones I use for other tasks, but I like the 90” post for most of my trellises.

Here are three different trellis structures using the same T-post for the frame.

Squash / Melon Trellis

Squash / Melon Trellis

Lacing Melon Through the Grid

Lacing Melon Through the Grid

Squash and melons:  This trellis uses concrete reinforcing grids.  The grids are 42” x 84” and are readily available at building supply stores.  I place one grid vertically between two posts and use jute twine to tie everything together.

Pea Trellis

Pea Trellis

Peas:  This trellis uses 24” landscape fence tied between posts set 3 feet apart.  The trellis makes it easy to get a lot of peas into one bed and it also puts the peas up and easy to reach from both sides of the trellis.

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

T-Post and Bamboo Tomato Trellis

Tomato Trellis - 2

Tomato Trellis – 2

Tying off Tomato Stems.

Tying off Tomato Stems.

Tomatoes:   T-posts provide framework for the bamboo stakes and also act as a tomato stake to the adjacent plants.

Guardian of the Garden

Guardian of the Garden

T-post trellises fill a need in my quest for both a practical and sustainable garden.



Garden Bloggers Fling – Willowsford Farm

June 29th, 2017

Hi, everyone. Anneliese here. I’m back! Did you miss me? After four years away from CobraHead, I’ve returned to the family business, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

One of my resumed responsibilities is representing CobraHead at events like the Garden Bloggers Fling. Geoff and I attended the very first Fling in Austin, TX in 2008, and I continued attending every year until 2012. The garden bloggers who attend the Fling are invariably a wonderful group of people, and I’ve maintained friendships with many of them over the years even when I wasn’t working in the gardening world. After several years away, it was a privilege both to see many old friends and to make new friends with bloggers who’ve started attending Flings in my absence.

This year’s Fling was held in the Washington, D.C. metro region, and boy, was it a good time. Probably my favorite site of the entire Fling was the very first garden we visited, and it was really more of a farm than a garden. In fact, the place was called Willowsford Farm.

Willowsford Farm

Willowsford is a relatively new residential development not far from Dulles Airport in northern Virginia. They’re committed to keeping 2,000 acres of open space, and 300 of those acres are kept for the farm. Willowsford’s Director of Farm Operations, Mike Snow, graciously led us on a tour.

Mike Snow of Willowsford Farm

Our first stop on the tour was the farm stand. Mike explained that the food produced on the farm is available to consumers in a number of different ways. They operate a CSA with members picking up their weekly produce shares, but for those who would rather not commit to a CSA share, they can always stop at the farm stand for a la carte shopping.

Produce for sale at the Willowsford Farm Stand

The farm sells some of their produce to the Willowsford Kitchen, where it’s processed into various ready-to-eat goods and then also sold at the farm stand. Some of their items are brought in from other nearby producers.

The dairy cooler at Willowsford Farm Stand

Right next to the farm stand is the “you-pick” garden, where visitors can harvest their own fruits, veggies, and flowers.

Bloggers enjoying the “you-pick” garden at Willowsford Farm

Mike then took us to the production areas of the farm. Our first stop was a corral with a chicken coop and a pair of geese. The fencing was easily movable so the animal pen could be relocated every few weeks. This way the animals could naturally fertilize different areas over time.

Movable fencing for the chickens and geese

The farm had several acres under cultivation and produces a wide variety of crops. Here Mike is explaining the fabric row covers that are used for insect damage prevention on certain crops. If I recall correctly, these were radishes or perhaps cole crops.

Crops with row covers for pest prevention

I asked Mike if they started their own plants from seed, and the answer was yes, most of the time. The farm utilized several hoop houses for both seed starts and some greenhouse growing.

Covered crops, lettuces, and hoop houses in the background

I was really interested to see that one of the hoop houses was being used to grow ginger and turmeric. These aren’t crops that are commonly grown in Wisconsin, and it’s always fun to see some of the plants that can grow in different parts of the country.

Ginger and turmeric growing inside a hoop house


I truly enjoyed my visit to Willowsford Farm. They’re doing great work using both traditional and innovative food production methods, and it was a perfect reintroduction to the Garden Bloggers Fling.

Cucumber and squash trellis

Stir Fried Vegetables Over Somali Bantu Rice

February 27th, 2017
Stir Fry Over Rice

Stir Fry Over Rice

Stir fries are a good way to use up small amounts of various veggies.  If you add some tofu or other protein it’s a very satisfying meal.

Here’s what I came up with this time.

8 oz tofu, cubed

2 dried shiitake mushrooms

1 cup water

1 T. Tamari

Simmer the above ingredients and drain, reserving the liquid.  Chop the mushrooms (discarding the harder stems,  and set the tofu mushroom mix aside.

Stir Fried Tofu and Veggies

Stir Fried Tofu and Veggies

2 T. Olive Oil

1 T. fresh ginger, minced

1 T. garlic, minced

1 medium onion, sliced

5 stalks bok choy, stems sliced and separated from the greens

1 cup cauliflower, chopped or sliced

1 cup red cabbage, sliced **

1/4 cup sherry

2 T. tamari

1 T. arrowroot

Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Sauté ginger and garlic for 30 seconds, then add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.  Add bok choy stems, cauliflower and red cabbage along with reserved liquid (and enough water to make 1 cup) from the tofu mushroom mix.  Cover and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add bok choy greens, cover and simmer for 2 more minutes.  Mix sherry, tamari and arrowroot together until there are no lumps.  Mix into vegetables and stir for 1 minute until thickened and liquid looks clear.

Serve over your favorite rice.  I cooked Himalayan Red Rice in the Somali Bantu style – recipe.  The red rice does take 50-55 minutes to cook.  If you start the rice first, by the time you get your ingredients ready and chop up all your veggies the rice will be almost finished when you’re ready to stir fry.  It’s just a matter of prioritizing what needs to be done first.

**If you do use red cabbage be aware that any leftovers will be purple the next day, especially the tofu!