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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer! Rolls

FIRST cucumbers, a tiny zucchini and 5 Sungold tomatoes + mid-90's T = Summer rolls!

 Mint, Chives & Thai Basil

With shredded carrot, tiny diced tofu
 Toss with a little S & P and olive oil
Plus rice noodles & paper
 AND don't forget the Sriracha!

This is divine.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Comes

Looks like our lovely couple of weeks of rain, clouds and 70's are over. The forecast for the week is 90's and I'm seeing my first zucchini and tomatoes- sure signs of summer.
 First zucchini and
first maters- Sungold
(plant purchased from store)

Can hardly wait....

The Alpine Strawberries

Black Raspberries- my fav garden fruit
 The smaller fruits have richer flavor

Lots in bloom and bumbles
Butterflyweed and
parsnip flowers (covered in wasps, hoverflies, small bees, flies)

 Illinois Prairie Rose- a native climber
The flowers change color as they mature. The darker pink are younger and fertile- notice the pollen. The bumblebees love this rose.
 Oriental Lilies and

A new Salvia for me- Amistad
from Bowood nursery

A daylily in the Biergarten

Bumbles happy at Borage

Dill coming into flower- a self-seeder

First Nicotiana in bloom in the garden
having returned from last year's roots,
which is surprising given the hard winter.

Indian pink- Spigelia

Experiment Update
This is my biochar experiment (very unscientific with my small sample size). The California Wonder bell pepper plant on the left (control) has continued to outgrow the one on the right (biochar-treatment). The left one also has a blossom. 

Reuse, reduce, recycle
Closing shot- using an old (and broken)
ladder as a plant stand.

Happy Almost Summer