Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Kitchen Garden in July

Hard to believe July is almost over. Goodies from the kitchen garden in July included the first of the cherry-sized tomatoes, lettuces, sorrel, basil, parsley, garlic chives, cucumbers, and yellow squash.

It has been great having both the Red Rubin and the Sweet Basil. I have found that a really great salad combination is arugula and basil. The flavors go together so well. Also in this picture is Sorrel, which I love also in salads.

This adorable little pepper is a variety called Sweet Tweety. It should turn yellow, hence the Tweety reference.

Speaking of yellow, I have two Yellow Squash plants. I have gotten a couple of squashes so far, but they looked like they were getting powdery mildew just like last year. I sprayed them with an organic spray and hope that stops the spread of it and will save my precious plants.

Look at all of those squash blossoms. I can’t remember if this is the Yellow Squash or the Acorn Squash.

I had several Sugar Crunch Cucumbers in July and even used some for making dill pickles. Hopefully they turn out well.

Still enjoying Gourmet Mix and Caesar’s Favorite lettuces.

Yet again, the blackberry bush has tons of little berries, but not fully formed berries. Actually, this is looking more like a raspberry bush here. I’m sure the birds are enjoying these.

When Brian saw my Solanum quitoense (naranjilla) plant in this blue pot, he said, “Wow, that looks dangerous.” Dangerous-looking indeed. This is supposed to form a citrus-flavored fruit. Will be interesting to see if that happens.

It is a really interesting-looking plant. I had first seen it in the Burpee Kitchen Garden at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and thought it was the coolest plant. I love the dinosaur-like, thorny leaves and the purple stems with little hairs.

Some things I’m hoping to harvest in the coming months: Acorn Squash and String Beans (on right in this picture). The plants look nice and healthy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

More Canning Fun: Boozy Canned Peaches

July seems to be canning month for me. I’m hooked now. I had planned to do my canned peaches last weekend, when I had also planned to do the dill pickles – but ended up not having time for either. In my previous post, I mentioned doing the dill pickles. Tuesday I did the canned peaches because it was obvious they were ripe and I didn’t want them to go bad. Yet again, I used a recipe from Marisa McClellan’s book “Food In Jars.” The recipe is called “Boozy Canned Peaches.” The ingredients are yellow peaches (obviously), water, sugar, and bourbon. I bought bourbon that wasn’t the cheapest, but also wasn’t the most expensive. I can’t wait to try these.

The only thing about Marisa’s book is that I can’t seem to find any information about how long to wait before you can open your canned goodies. Googling around, it is my best guess that these will be ready in a week or two...????

For more of Marisa’s recipes, check out her website.

P.S. No, I don’t actually grow peaches. I used “Jersey Fresh” yellow peaches from my favorite local farm market, Hunter’s

Monday, July 21, 2014

Making Pickles Makes Monday Fun

I had meant to make dill pickles this weekend, but my weekend project mentioned in my previous post took up more time than I thought it would. I had picked some Sugar Crunch Cucumbers from the garden and wanted to get them pickled ASAP, so I did it tonight. Sugar Crunch are supposed to be good both raw and pickled, so we shall see how they turn out.

This was my first venture into canning using a boiling water bath. I have only done what I guess you call refrigerator pickling before. (I posted about making pickled curry eggs and pickled radishes on the Fourth of July.) I was a little nervous, but all seems to have gone well. I borrowed my mom’s big canning kettle. I found the best way to get this huge kettle of water to a boil was to put it over two burners.

I followed Marisa McClellan’s Classic Dill Pickles recipe from her book “Food in Jars.” I hope it turns out alright because it indicates it should make four pints of pickles and mine only made three.

Last year I did a post about a one-day workshop I took on canning with Marisa. We had made strawberry vanilla jam, which turned out great. She has some recipes on her Food In Jars website and she also has a new book called “Preserving by the Pint.

Now that I have seemingly successfully tackled the boiling canning process, there’s no holding me back!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Weekend Project: Finishing the Flower Garden Path

First-time visitors to my garden inevitably are drawn to the arbor and path in the flower garden – the path that dead-ends at a statue (Winnie).

A path that doesn’t really go anywhere isn’t much of a path.

Winnie used to be surrounded by tons of overgrown ivy (and poison ivy) that also climbed the trees. A couple of years ago, when we had the overgrown left side of the yard cleared out by a landscaper, we had him clear out the mass of ivy around Winnie, as well. (Somehow, the ivy on the trees still lives.) It was around this time that I had elbow surgery and this was as far as I had gotten to extending the path...

I had laid bricks (that had been found in the overgrowth on the left side of the yard) to form a path around and past Winnie. This path became a haven for weeds and had remained so for about two years. Until this weekend.

I weeded and leveled the ground as best I could. There are a lot of tree roots in this area due to the three large trees that are there, so I knew it wouldn’t be perfect.

I edged the circular area with plastic edging since I knew I wanted to put River Jack stones around Winnie. I put down landscaping fabric and hammered in earth staples to hold it in place.

The stones are the same used for the older part of the path, they are just covered in dirt so they look more white here.

I had decided I didn’t want the whole path to be the stone because I also use stone in the Kitchen Garden, which is where this path leads. I thought it would be nice to break it up and give the eye something different to look at, as well as a different kind of texture to walk on. So this part of the path has more of a “woodland” feel with mulch and stepping stones, although it still has brick edging.

I should’ve taken a close-up of the stepping stones. Each stone has a bee on it. Seems appropriate since I have tons of bees in the garden all the time.

I faced the bee stepping stones towards Winnie, since she is really the main focus here. She was a real prize find and has been a part of the garden since not long after we bought the house. She is the protector of the flower garden.

Doing this work this weekend reminded me of the many weekends I had spent building the Kitchen Garden – hauling soil, compost, gravel...digging and leveling the ground...all of that back-breaking work. I am one big ache today and I am sure it will be worse tomorrow. I am not as young as I used to be, but I can’t imagine life without gardening. It keeps me fit, it keeps me sane, it keeps me connected to nature, and it brings me peace and contentment. There’s not much you can say that about.

Now that I have this area looking more “finished,” I guess I need to start weeding back here more often. A gardener’s work is never done.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recipe from the Garden: Tomatoes Stuffed with Corn and Black Beans

This tomatoes stuffed with corn and black beans recipe is from Martha Stewart. It’s a great recipe to do now since both corn on the cob and tomatoes are in season. Plus, I love black beans. It also has jalapeno, cheddar cheese, scallions, and bread crumbs (I used gluten-free bread crumbs since I have celiac disease). (As I have mentioned before, I don’t have the space to grow corn on the cob, so I always get it from Hunter’s Farm Market. They have THE BEST corn.)

It says it takes under 30 minutes, but it seemed to take me longer. Maybe that’s because I was worn out from a day of yard work. I have another little “project” I’m working usual.

Because I worked so hard, I thought I would reward myself with a mojito. Got plenty of mint in the garden for it. I posted my favorite mojito recipe a couple of years ago.

Tomorrow will be another day of working in the garden. It is nice actually having a free weekend to get stuff done.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Recipe from the Garden: Spa Water

When you’ve been dripping sweat on a hot day working in the garden, all you want is water. However, wouldn’t refreshing spa water be even better?! The kind that makes you feel like you just had an amazing facial or massage? My (non-alcoholic!) drinks of choice are iced tea and water. I already posted about my iced tea last year, now it’s time for some jazzed-up, feel-good water. I can’t take credit for this, though – I saw it in a magazine. I think it was Better Homes and Gardens.

So simple, yet so refreshing: Slice up some cucumbers from the garden, cut up some lemon slices or wedges, and stick in some mint sprigs (I tend to mush them in my hands a bit to release the oils), then add cold water. Let it sit for awhile in the fridge to get the flavors to blend. Do some yard work, then take a spa-like break while surveying what you’ve accomplished.

P.S. I have used this gorgeous hand-blown, glass pitcher before, but I should mention that it is from Simon Pearce. It was a special gift from my mom a few years ago for either my birthday or Christmas. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My New Favorite Ingredient: Radish Seed Pods

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I have fallen in love with radish seed pods. It never occurred to me to eat them! They are like tiny bursts of radish flavor with a green flavor mixed in, kind of green bean-ish flavor combined with radish, I guess. Love it in my salads. Looks like you can use them in stir-fry dishes, too, according to Mother Earth News. Must try that next!

Recipe from the Garden: Salad with Cheese-Smothered Yellow Squash

Last night I posted about coming home from yoga class and finding goodies in the garden. Here is what I did with some of those goodies: I made up this salad.

My salad consisted of Merlot Lettuce (purple lettuce), Caesar’s Favorite Lettuce (Romaine style), Sorrel, Sunchocola Tomatoes quartered, Sugar Crunch Cucumbers sliced thin, Cherry Belle Radish seed pods (YUM!), Red Rubin Basil, Curly-leafed Parsley, some of the pickled radishes that I made a couple of weeks ago, and Yellow Squash that I quick pan-fried with a mix of cheeses on top (I used some from a bag of parmesan, romano, provolone, mozzarella). I topped it with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When I do fresh garden salads like this, I only like a little bit of dressing so it doesn’t distract from the fresh garden flavors. It was quite delicious. Actually, the pan-fried Yellow Squash with cheese alone is pretty awesome, but I also liked the addition of the greens. I think the pickled radishes are actually better on their own, though. Very tasty, but didn’t play as well with the rest of the ingredients.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today’s Harvest

Took a stroll in the garden after yoga class tonight and found some good stuff: Yellow Squash, Sugar Crunch Cucumbers, Sunchocola Cherry Tomatoes, Merlot Lettuce, Caesar’s Favorite Lettuce, Sorrel, Nasturtium, Parsley, Red Rubin Basil, and Cherry Belle Radish seed pods.

Last year Sorrel was my new-found favorite of the Kitchen Garden. This year it’s the radish seed pods. I had no idea the seed pods were edible. Just never crossed my mind to try them. I was listening to Margaret Roach’s awesome podcast “A Way To Garden” July 14th episode, “Gayla Trail on Pickling Tricks,” and Gayla Trail mentioned pickling radish pods and how she loves eating them raw on salads. I decided to try it and man, they are delicious. A little hot like a radish, but with a “green” flavor. They definitely perk up a salad. And to think of all of those years where I threw them out! The shame of it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

First Tomatoes of the Season

One of my favorite times of the year is when I can eat tomatoes right out of the garden. I harvested my first tomatoes of the season this weekend. They are cherry-sized Sunchocola tomatoes from Burpee.

They are so perfectly beautiful. Burpee describes them as a “sweet, smoky flavored cherry tomato.” I would describe them as semi-sweet with a slightly smokey flavor.

Sunchocola is an improvement on the heirloom Chocolate tomato. So far they are pretty productive and are forming clusters of six here and there. I am curious to try grilling them a bit and see if that brings out the smokiness.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Happiness is a Daisy

The daisies are blooming! Nothing makes me happier than a daisy. Well, except maybe kittens. Ok and lambies, too. Daisies always manage to put a smile on my face, though, no matter how blue I may be feeling. There is just something about those velvety white petals and that sunny yellow center that makes me giddy. Maybe it’s because they make me think of my childhood when I would pick daisies for my mom – daisies are one of her favorite flowers. Or maybe it just makes me think of warm, summer nights with fireflies and the sound of cicadas. Whatever it is, it’s good.

The Flower Garden in June

Yep, still on June. I promise stuff is going on in July, too, and that will eventually show up here. Eventually being the key word.

I was in Michigan for twelve days in June. What happens when a gardener is away? Weeds happen. That meant I spent the last couple of weekends in June catching up on weeding.

The highlight in June was the roses. I am not a huge rose fan, as I am sure I have mentioned before. They look beautiful when they bloom and then they look awful the rest of the year. No matter what I try, they always get pests or diseases. Even Knockout Roses, which are supposed to be disease resistant. 

This pink rose is the only rose I can actually say that I like year-round. It blooms off and on all season and is especially nice around May – July, along with the catmint in front of it. What is the name of this amazing rose that I will actually admit to liking? I have no clue. I inherited it – this rose was in the yard when I bought the house!

The dainty, fairy roses around it add a nice touch, however, I can’t take responsibility for those either. This angle shows the catmint, the smaller roses, and another very thorny rosebush (on the left).

This rose is bright magenta. It has some really nasty thorns that seem to grab me every time I go to fill the bird feeder.

My purple Jackmanii Clematis bloomed more this year than it has in years past. It has taken this awhile to take off.

The Raspberry Wine Monarda has done exceptionally well this year. Monarda sure does take over, but the hummingbirds and bees adore it.

I have spotted at least two hummingbirds at the Monarda this year. Usually I only have one male hummingbird visitor, but this year there is a female, as well. I guess he found himself a lady-friend. I can’t seem to capture them on film, or I guess I should say digitally.

I like to try to get pictures of the bees, too. They are busy, though, hence the phrase “busy as a bee,” I guess.

The Hens And Chicks are blooming. Pretty, however, I do believe the plants that flower will die. Hopefully there are enough Chicks to the Hens And Chicks to survive.

This is a really cool plant that I got at the Unusual Tropicals and Annuals Plant Sale at The Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College this spring. Check out the vibrant, fun flowers! It is called Portulaca grandiflora “Double Sunset Fire.” It seems to only flower during the day and the blooms close at dusk or on cloudy days.

Had to sneak in a picture of Winnie in here. Haven’t included her in my blog for awhile. She watches over my flower garden all year long.

On the other side of the yard, the Sunfire Coreopsis was in bloom. Hard to see here, but they are dark red at the base of the petals. The one plant seemed to flop over for some reason.

I had gotten the red Coleus specifically to pick up on the red in the Sunfire Coreopsis. It’s my first time planting this variety and it thrives in sun, looking good no matter what. Look at that awesome color!

I love the hints of dark purple in there, plus the tiny, bright green edging that goes around the deckle edges.

Pardon me while I give Molly and Izzy their snack. Molly is meowing her head off at me because it is past snack time (8pm).

Ok, kitties are snacked so blogging can resume. Molly made me promise to sneak in a photo of her, though, so if you look closely in the next photo you can see her in her flower pot on the back porch. Really I’m including this photo to show how the oregano has taken off, but don’t tell Molly that.

The sage and thyme are equally happy in this bed, where they get full sun pretty much all day.

The blossoms on the sage really are pretty when you look closely.

I had to include a picture of this purple aloe next to this bright yellow/green sedum because this is one of my favorite color schemes right now. I want to say the sedum is “Ogon.” I had re-potted it this spring and it is one happy camper right now.

Right in front of those plants on the back steps are some succulents and one is blooming.

So that was June in a nutshell. Or should I say in a flower pot. I guess I bored Molly.

Hopefully she is dreaming of plants – the plants I could’ve planted in this pot if she hadn’t decided it was her favorite place to nap!