Friday, July 11, 2014

The Ascent

Full summer garden production is nearing. 2lbs of tomatos here, 3lbs of eggplant there, a few peppers, a handful of cukes and zucchini... I'm kind of sad to be going on vaca for a week of peak garden time.

Let's start with Ronde de Nice zucchini that didn't come from my garden. Thanks Holly! I used the stuffed pepper recipe my family already likes. Housemates loved it. 
 Hollow out. The bottoms are already flat so you don't have to 
worry about them tipping over. Sprinkled with S & P and Olive oil. 
Stuffed with: Brown rice, mint, dill, feta, olives, sunflower seeds, garlic & onion.
On the bottom of the dish I put a little oil and some Bloody Mary mix, because it needed to be
used. Sealed with foil. Baked at 350 for about 45 min. Perfect.
The Bloody Mary mix had reduced and we just scooped a spoonful over each 
zucchini. Delish. 

Experiment updates
The pot potatoes were dying back so I took that as a sign to harvest. I know I put some pretty crappy little turds of potatoes in here, but I think I was expecting a little more than this. Oh well, it was fun to try. Probably wouldn't do it again. 
I'm certain they will still taste good anyway.

Biochar update: The pepper on the left (control) continues to do a wee better than the one on the right. 
Both have 1 pepper, many flowers/buds, but the pepper on the control plant is larger and the plant is taller. 

Coming Soon to a Kitchen Near Me
From the new patch:
       Hmong Red cuke                            Seminole Squash

    Unknown melon variety                       The new mixed patch: cukes, melons, squash

 Criolla de Cocina- I just love these crinkled peppers
They turn a gorgeous red when ripe.
 Jimmy Nardellos- I think. The plant is just loaded down.

Yellow Stuffing Pepper- first year trying these.
These plants are also loaded down and can't stand upright.
I can't believe how productive these are. 
Heirloom- from Baker's Creek.

Peppers in Pots:
These were overwintered in my basement and are doing awesome. I decided to do more peppers in pots. 1) because I ran out of garden space and 2) it makes them easy to take inside and overwinter at the end of the season. Aside from these two varieties I also have- Peach Habs and Shishitos.
 Lemon Drop ^
Mustard Habaneros ^
Tennessee Sweet Potato                       Not sure, but abundant and rambling

The TN Sweet potato is rampant & productive. It is running over my Sweet Potatoes, which I guess they would substitute for as a similar veg anyway so I'm going to let them do as they please. 

Lots of eggplants coming in.
I've made a Thai eggplant dish and a pasta sauce w/maters
in the crock that turned out well. So far- not enough to freeze.
I have 11 plants. I'm hoping this turns out to be enough for fresh eating & freezing. 
If not, I will forgo beans next year. The beans are a wild jungle now.
In Bloom
 Beebalm being loved on by Bombus auricomus
 Garden Phlox ^
 The Prairie + Silver Spotted Skipper
Virgin's Bower
 Joe Pye and Bombus bimaculatus
 LOVE this Zinnia!
Cactus type + color
 I didn't know that the Common Mullein flowers
smelled like roses in the morning! How exciting. 
Driveway plant.
 Cottage garden corner ^
 ^Comes back each year from the root. 
 Wait. What? How did Nya get here? 
 River Oats^
Tiger lily

It has been a very nice summer so far. It has been relatively cool. We haven't had the AC on yet. The house is staying in the 70s and we've had lows of upper 50's a few nights. No 100's yet, although one day with a heat index of, although we may see that again this weekend. Rain has been steady enough that I haven't watered, but one tomato plant and I did that today. Finger's crossed things stay this nice. 

Happy Gardening Folks.

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Love for Lamb's Quarter

I know I've mentioned that Lamb's Quarter is the bee's knees and it's still true. Why?

  • It plants itself
  • No care to maintain it
  • It's free
  • It'll grow about anywhere
  • It produces all summer long
  • It is incredibly healthy
  • It tastes better than spinach
  • Can be used in any recipe that calls for cooked spinach
  • Easy to store/keep- you can can it or freeze it
  • It probably grows in every state
  • You can harvest and it regrows
  • It grows fast
Lamb's Quarter, Pigweed or Goosefoot are common names for Chenopodium album and is related to the common spinach. The reason you must cook it is because it has a mealiness that is present on the under surface of the raw leaves that isn't very appealing on the tongue. 
Notice the white meal on the leaves?
Leaf (upper surface-below) for ID.

Today's Harvest (above)
was blanched and packed into freezer containers

Look! FREE food! 

Top favorite uses of LQ are: Palak or Saag Paneer, Spanakopita or in curry.

If you are interested in Wild Foraging here are the books I own and would recommend for different reasons:
I only have the California one because I worked in a wildlife refuge 
there one summer in college, but I've found the same weeds 
can be found all over this country.

Recipe: Palak Paneer- made with Walking Stick Kale, but could be made with any greens, including the above.
 Blanched & chopped kale. One cube of scape pesto.
Half a block of paneer (Indian cheese). One large carrot-diced.
1 onion & carrot sauted with 1/2 tsp cumin seeds & 1 bay leaf
later add 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ground chili powder
1/2 tsp garam masala, salt to taste
 Fry paneer in a little oil. Set aside
Two handfuls of frozen pear tomatoes (thanks to Holly)
 It may not look pretty, but it was delicious.
After sauteing the onion/carrot, add all of the other ingredients, 
except the paneer and cook down. Use a hand-blender to puree it.
Serve over rice.
First Harvests:
Eggplant are coming in!

What's in Bloom?
 Wild Petunia ^
 Oriental Lily ^
 I was surprised to see this primrose, just grown from seed blooming

 Red Plains Coreopsis ^
 Whorled Milkweed- first time blooming here. 
Grown from seed last year along with the Purple Coneflower

Butterfly weed, also just grown from seed last year
I'm still working on my insect identifying skillz.
I think this is a type of Mining Bee. 
Anyone know? 
The wine colored beebalm has burst into bloom.

I like to end on a buggy note
Swallowtail on Dill

Happy Gardening.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eat Your Peas.

I find myself in the lull between spring and summer harvests. This has me using small quantities of many foods as the spring crops dwindle and the summer come in.

Breaking the Fast
 A few premature peppers, a handful of chives & oregano
tossed into the breakfast hash. 
I like to cook a hot breakfast on Sunday morn. I'm really
missing my eggs since the chickens stopped laying.

I had a strange batch of pea seeds that resulted in something between a snow and an English pea. The pods were not tasty, but they were shaped like snows. The peas inside ended up being tasty, even when over mature. So I picked the last of them, shelled them and found this dumpling recipe, which I modified and am glad I did. The fresh dill was the real gem in these. We couldn't decide which we liked better. The steamed ones allow you to focus on the great flavor of the filling, while the fried ones offer a very nice crunch. Somehow I didn't get a photo of the steamed ones.
 I had to bulk up the peas with a few edamame.

With a hand blender mash up- 2 cups cooked peas, 2/3 c. ricotta, 2 Tbs olive oil
scant 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, several Tbs of fresh dill & chives. 
Once blended, stir in 1/3 c. parmesan. 
 Fold and seal with water 
into these wee food packages.
 Fry or steam.
 It was nice to have both fried and steamed. 
Steamed is easier and not as hot in the kitchen (or stinky).
I can see me making these again. 
There are endless ways to stuff these little dumplings.
For years I didn't make them because I thought I needed a bamboo 
steamer- not so, I just used my collapsible metal steamer in a pot. 
Make sure to rub the steamed ones with a little oil to keep them from sticking though.  

Garden? Project
I'm always scheming up a new project. This one was somewhat born from necessity. The kitties were misbehaving and needed some stimuli. Also, it was another place to put plants! Welcome to the new Catio! The cats love it and hardly come inside now. Yay for no one putting their paws in my beverage! I've had my morning joe out here every day and it is wonderful. Kiddo plans on sleeping in here the rest of the summer. Things got a little wet & dirty from the rain last night- why the cushions are upright and there is mud on the bench. I couldn't be happier with it. Well, maybe if there were a few more plants.
 An old and formerly used (and trash treasure) closet 
door was made into a hanging bench. 
 I reused a planting frame to make the benches.
Toby on the table.
 We attached it to the existing cat porch (turquoise) so
now the cats have run of the porch, catio and into the chicken coop.
 I made ladders so they can get up to the swinging bench.
Here Urey is demonstrating how to use the cat walk.
 Squiggy on the swinging air bench. This is the kittens fav spot.

 Another kitty ladder and Bea on the shelf.
More room for plants! There is a dog house
under the table for cooler weather sleeping. 

It's official- Happy Summer.