Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gift Guide: Around the Kitchen and Garden

Are you just now starting your holiday shopping?  Or need one or two extra gifts?  Below are 5 things I love for working around the kitchen and garden.  While none are absolute necessities, they are all incredibly affordable.  And to be honest, I’m not sure how I ever survived without them!  One, or more, may be the ideal present for someone on your list.

Pineapple Slicer
Mine is by the Dutch-based company Vacu Vin.  It cores a pineapple and slices the fruit into even rings.  Plus it keeps the pineapple shell intact… in case you want to re-use it to serve drinks or fruit salad.  Just slice the top off your pineapple and drill down as if uncorking a bottle of wine.

Vacu Vin also offers their Pineapple Slicer in stainless steel.  But mine is only plastic and has lasted almost 20 years.

Vacu Vin’s Slicer costs about $10 for the plastic version and $20 for the stainless steel one.  You can find them at Bed Bath and Beyond or Williams-Sonoma.  But check your local grocery store first.  They are often for sale in the produce section.  Add a fresh pineapple for a great hostess gift.

Mango Pitter-Splitter
Mine is by OXO.  Mango is one of my favorite tropical fruits, but I’ve never been very adept at removing the pit. It normally gets so juicy and slippery.  I used to cut myself all the time until… I was given a Mango Pitter-Splitter.  Ta da!

Just slice a little off the bottom of your mango, so it can sit vertically upright, and push down with both handles.  The tool cuts around the large pit and slices the mango into 2 fleshy halves.  Then, you just need to peel off the rind.

The OXO version costs about $15 and, once again, can be purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond or Williams-Sonoma.  It’s a fun gift for that person who has just about everything or pair it with a decent paring knife for someone who is just setting up house.

Velcro Plant Ties
I started using Velcro-brand Plant Ties about a year and a half ago.  I was training my standard-form Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and was concerned about damaging its delicate bark.

These “plant ties” are actually a soft, ½”-wide Velcro tape that clings to itself.  You just cut off the length you need and wrap it around your plant and support.  They are amazingly strong but gentle… much more forgiving than plastic ties or even string.  And I don’t lose little bits all over the garden.  I wish I had this product when we were first tying up our roses.

It comes in 30’, 45’ and 75’ rolls at $3-$9.  Velcro also makes a 2”-wide tape for trees and individual garden ties that work like zip ties.  All are adjustable and reusable.  Check your favorite garden center or nursery for a selection – the best stocking stuffer for gardeners in your life.

Galvanized Watering Can
We have 4 rain barrels, and so I spend a lot of time watering by hand.  This old-fashioned model makes the job a pleasure.

You wouldn’t think there was much to a watering can, but I’ve tested out many.  Here’s what I love about this one:
  • The upper handle lets me carry the can almost-level, so there’s no sloshing.  That water is precious in the middle of August!
  • The secondary handle offers a good tilt for watering.  No extra strain.
  • The 2.5 gallon capacity is just about the perfect weight… much easier than moving a 4-5 gallon bucket from rain barrel to plant.  Plus, the fairly standard measurement helps me track water per plant: 1 can per small shrub; 2 cans per large shrub; 4 cans per ornamental tree.
  • And finally, its heavy-gauge galvanized steel means mine is no worse for wear even after years of neglect in the rain and sun and dirt.
These simple watering cans are surprisingly hard to find, particularly this time of year.  Check your local hardware store.  Southern States and Tractor Supply usually stock them year-round in our area.  Make sure you get one with a removable nozzle.  Expect to pay $12-$25.
I know this may not be the prettiest present, but it will soon become something beloved.  A definite must for anyone who has invested in a rain barrel.  Believe me.  Just add a huge red bow.

Silicone Bowl Lids
I’m completely flummoxed by plastic wrap and prefer to use aluminum foil for baked goods.  So imagine my joy when I learned about these fun flower lids from my cousin.  Designed and manufactured by Charles Viancin of France, the Lily Pad and Sunflower Lids are crafted out of high-quality, food-grade silicone and were introduced to the U.S. about 3 years ago.

Just place one over any bowl or baking or serving dish with a smooth rim and push down.  Voila!  The lid forms an air- and watertight seal with suction.
Charles Viancin’s lids are safe for use in the refrigerator, freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher and look adorable.  Different sizes include: 4”, 6”, 8”, 9 7/8” and 11 3/8” in diameter.  Lids run $9-18 each, depending on the size, and $35-$45 for a set.  There’s even a Hibiscus variety.

I purchased my Lily Pad and Sunflower from Pomegranate Seeds in Arlington, Virginia, and spotted them at Ladles and Linens on our recent visit to Lexington, Virginia.  This might be the gift you save for yourself.

I hope my 5 favorite things for the kitchen and garden inspire your Christmas shopping.  Good luck!

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