The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 29, 2013

Amanda Stone: Compost tea energizes garden

By Amanda Stone
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I'm a big believer in positive thinking. It can't hurt, right?

With all the recent storms, you may have some extra tree limbs and vegetation scattered in your yard. But it's not all bad -- your compost pile will love it.

It's tea time. Compost tea, that is. Compost tea is a simple way to fertilize your garden while naturally controlling pests and fungus. It can be a little messy, but if you like to garden and eat good, clean food, a little mess comes with the territory.

The beauty of compost tea is that it takes a little bit of compost and makes it into a lot of fertilizer. It turns into a lovely liquid compost concentrate; perfect for the gardener who wants to avoid chemical help. If a compost pile doesn't work for you, bagged compost will work just fine.

There are two methods of making compost tea: steeping and brewing. Steeping tea is simple, but brewing compost tea involves using tubes, a bubbler and other items I don't have on hand. Steeped it is. Depending on the size of your garden, use a 5-gallon bucket, a 35-gallon trash can or something in between. Plop some compost into your container, making it about a quarter full or a little less. Grab your hose and fill the container with water. Use the handle of your shovel to give it a stir at least once a day. Stirring adds oxygen to the mix, keeping your tea from getting stinky. For the same reason, leave it uncovered.

Your tea will be ready to use on your garden in just a couple of days. Scoop the tea out and pour it on plant leaves for a quick boost, or let it soak into the soil.

When I make a cup of green tea, I like to use the tea bag two or three times. Compost tea acts much the same way; you can dilute it a few times and then throw the used, wet blob of compost on your garden and start over.

Think of compost tea as superfood for your garden. It's alive and full of good bacteria ready to help you have a successful harvest. Compost tea is good for your garden in the same way that probiotics are good for your gut.

Use your compost tea to assist in the growing of the fresh produce needed for these recipes.


Asparagus cashew stir fry

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons cornstarch

11/2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup lightly salted cashews

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 cups hot cooked brown rice, quinoa or grain of choice

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the asparagus, onions and red pepper in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Combine the cornstarch, broth, soy sauce and ginger until blended; gradually stir into the skillet. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; add cashews and sesame oil. Cook 2 minutes longer or until heated through. Serve with rice or whole grains.

Adapted from


Penne with spring vegetables

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 (8-ounce) package dry whole grain penne pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook for 2 minutes. Add peas; cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente, then drain. Place pasta in the bowl with asparagus and peas. Toss with olive oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper.

Adapted from


Merlot strawberries with whipped cream

1/2 cup merlot

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup whipped cream

Bring merlot, lemon juice and honey to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Drizzle over sliced berries. Top with whipped cream.


Have questions? Email them to or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.