Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blooms and Baby Cucs

The garden continues to grow by leaps and bounds with this weather. Today I was making my daily rounds and noticed quite a few blooms - tomatoes and peppers are just loaded.

Sungold Select Tomato

My first Jimmy Nardello Pepper!

I also pulled the last of the beets today - overnight something went ahead and ate all of the leaves, so I figured I might as well pull them. With the new soil that this freed up, I planted the cucumber and yellow crookneck squash starts that I have been growing indoors.

That means that all of my cucurbits are out now with the exception of the Minnesota Midget Melon. They are still a little small to be planted out, and I need to harvest the carrots before I have room for them.

CSA: Week 4

Each week's CSA share keeps evolving in a beautiful way - this week we were introduced to a baby head of cauliflower as well as a box of snow peas.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I pulled the largest of the beets in the garden today - both Golden and Cylindra varieties. They were gorgeous!

I also noticed that the zucchini and butternut squash have sprouted in their hills. The indoor starts of yellow crookneck squash, melon, and cucumber are also well on their way - once I've finished pulling all of the beets and carrots then I will be able to transplant them outdoors.

My Kentucky Colonel Mint has gotten unruly this week with the hot sunny weather. I took a page from my mom's book and made a pitcher of mint lemonade with some fresh sprigs of mint. So refreshing after a couple of sweaty hours outside...

I then proceeded to process and freeze the remaining rhubarb from last weekend. I'll pull these puppies out of the freezer when I make strawberry rhubarb jam in a few weeks.

Rounding out the day, I picked a quart of mulberries from our tree in the backyard. Crazy I never even knew it was there until a week or so ago...

It's been one of those days where you're reminded of why you fell in love with nature way-back-when.

More TLC for the Yard

I'm in the midst of 6 days off of work, so you know that when you have extra time on your hands it's hard to stay out of the yard. Yesterday I was bad, I went plant shopping for a few nostalgic favorites that remind me of my mom's garden...

Coral Bells "Bressingham Mix"

White Bleeding Heart

Astilbe "Vision in Red"

Clematis "Vino", which I am hoping to train to climb all over the railing on our front porch

Butterfly Bush "Black Knight", keeping watch over my rhubarb bed nursery

It was steamy outside, even at 10:00am, but it feels good to sweat it out sometimes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sun Through the Clouds

It has been one wet and soggy week. The plants are crying out for some nice hot sunny days. It looks like this week they're going to get it.

Yesterday I planted out all of the nasturtium, coleus, yarrow, foxglove, and rhubarb seedlings that I have been growing indoors. I paired the coleus with a nasturtium in a glazed ceramic planter on our front porch - they both have very rich magenta and jade coloring and should look nice together when they start to bush out.

I have put special care and thought into where my rhubarb patch is going to be. Our front yard and side yard are the only areas that receive enough sun, and the side yard is already taken by my raised beds. I didn't want to plant the rhubarb in a raised bed - I wanted them to be somewhere more permanent since they will (hopefully) have a long lifetime over the years. I decided to incorporate them into the corner of my flower bed which borders the front of the house.

I turned the soil of a 2' x 4' area and liberally incorporated some Plant Tone to richen the soil. I have read that rhubarb likes very composty roots. After I was finished, the dirt was not all that bad looking, nice and aerated with some good dark coloring. I carefully tucked all five seedlings into the ground and watered thoroughly.

As my mom said the other day, I am the only person she has ever know to grow rhubarb from seed. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but I hope they are happy and grow big enough to provide me with harvests for years to come.

Some more exciting discoveries this weekend - the purple jalapeno has put out its first amethyst bloom. If the leaves and flowers of this plant are any indication, the mature peppers will be quite an interesting shade of purple.

We also had a moment of serendipity this week when we realized that the scraggly sad looking tree in our backyard is actually a very prolific mulberry tree! Funny, but neither of us remember seeing berries on it last year. However, this spring it is loaded with berries that are just on the cusp of ripening. The birds have been going crazy gorging themselves on the plump juicy fruit.

My grandma used to have mulberry trees on her farm, but always seemed to regard them as sub-par when it comes to eating. However, everything that I have read doesn't seem to support this. The final test was yesterday when I plucked one of the ripe berries and ate it - not quite saturated with flavor like a raspberry is, but still quite good nonetheless. I think they will taste best in a cobbler. I'll have to wait until there are enough to harvest then will take advantage of the unexpected treasure in our back yard!

Sauteed Beet Greens with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Earlier this week I had a hankering for some of the beautiful beet greens that have been waving in the garden. I've never eaten or cooked with beet greens before, so I decided to try something simple. I sauteed some garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil, then tore the greens and wilted them down in the pan. Towards the end I added some creamy white cannellini beans for some protein. I served it with sides of roasted sweet potatoes and some red quinoa with tamari.

It was delicious, and very healthy - I'll plan on making this more in the future!

CSA: Week 3

Some exciting newbs in our CSA share this week - rainbow swiss chard and a bunch of green garlic - two things that I have never cooked with before but am very excited to experiment with!

Also included in our basket were a head of lettuce, oriental greens, several radish, a pint of strawberries, and a half dozen eggs - quite a rainbow of color.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Tonight I was in the mood for an old-fashioned down-home kind of dinner. The inspiration came from some mouth-watering strawberries and rhubarb that we have gathered this weekend.

Earlier this week my mother's friend in Columbus was kind enough to send me about 15 huge stalks of rhubarb from her monster 4' wide plant. The stalks were firm and dappled pink and green, the colors of spring.

I have had a slight rhubarb obsession the past few weeks, I must admit. I'm not quite sure where it sprang from, because as a child I never ate rhubarb, so I was never aware of its tart old-fashioned deliciousness. My grandmother in Hamilton used to have a plant, but I checked last weekend and it's no longer there. I've suddenly developed this strong desire to have my OWN rhubarb plant.

Maybe I'm fascinated by the tradition and long life-span that the plants usually have. From what I have read, some plants can live up to 20-30 years if they are happy and healthy. It's possible for one generation of a family to plant a rhubarb and the next generation to still be harvesting from it decades later. This is the case with my mom's friend - her father planted a rhubarb years ago and now that she has taken over the home, she is still able to harvest from that very same plant and remember her father. Too cool.

This morning our CSA share came with a full quart of beautiful strawberries. They were 100% deep red and smelled jammy as heck.

I knew that for dessert tonight I was going to have to take a crack at making a strawberry rhubarb crisp.

I'll go ahead and give myself a little pat on the back - it was the best crisp I've ever had. I love tart, fruity desserts, and this takes the cake. I'm having to hold myself back from sneaking into the kitchen for seconds...

For the actual meal tonight I made Carolina-style barbecue seitan sandwiches with homemade coleslaw - it doesn't get much more country than that.

Our tummies are happy tonight.

Yard Day

Yesterday I had a play day in the yard. Some weeding, fertilizing, trimming, planting, staking, and harvesting to do. I staked my tomato plants and rounded up some supports for the eggplant and peppers if it turns out that they need them.

Rather than use tomato cages this year, I decided to try out faux bamboo stakes and soft twist-ties. I hate using tomato cages, they are so unwieldy , take up a lot of space, and have sharp edges. I like the rustic way the stakes look - hopefully they provide enough support for the kings of the garden!

I also pulled the rest of the radish and harvested some more greens. I now have enough room in the "low" bed to plant a hill of zucchini and a hill of butternut squash. Since I don't have room yet for the yellow crookneck squash, cucumber, and melon, I planted several of each indoors under the grow light.

Most of the nasturtiums now have a new home outside on our porch. I hope it gets enough sun for them to flourish and create a tiny oasis. The indoor starts of asparagus, rhubarb, yarrow, foxglove, and coleus are coming along quite nicely.

So elated that things are growing happily this year - both familiar and new.

CSA: Week 2

Our CSA pick-up today was almost identical to last week, with a few exceptions: a bag of mixed lettuces, and a full quart of strawberries rather than a pint. Beautiful, beautiful fruit of the earth!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CSA: Week 1

I know I must have had the biggest, goofiest, gleeful smile stretched across my face today when I picked up our first CSA share from the Eaton Farm at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market.

Since the spring has been so kind to us so far, the share pick-ups have started a little earlier than anticipated - fine by me! Each week we receive 8 dry quarts of freshly harvested produce along with half a dozen pastured eggs. This week's share includes:
  • bundle of French Breakfast Radish
  • bundle of green onions
  • head of lettuce (Bibb? Boston?)
  • bag of beet greens
  • head of Chinese cabbage (Green Tower variety?)
  • pint of strawberries!
  • half dozen eggs (HUGE!)
I plan to keep a record each week of our share - I have a feeling we are going to love being members of a CSA.

Today was a beautiful day - very appropriate for Mother's Day. For some reason, I've always "approved" of Mother's Day as a holiday. There are a lot of other holidays that I'm "meh" about, but mothers are always something to celebrate in my book.

I spent the day with family at my grandma's farm in Hamilton. The highlight of the day was getting to plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in her communal garden with my dad, mom, and brother. Dad tilled the soil so it was nice and fine, brother dug the holes, and mom and I planted and watered the plants. We were able to put in the rest of my tomato plants, as well as the rest of my Jimmy Nardello peppers and the lone eggplant. We also put in 18 Better Boy tomatoes. Given a good growing season, this garden should supply our family with plenty of tomatoes for fresh eating and canning.

Having all four of us be in that garden again brought back memories from my childhood. When we were all younger and less busy, our family and the rest of the aunts, uncles, and cousins would come together each summer to plant, tend, harvest, and preserve the bounty of this garden. I have great memories of "assembly line" corn husking, pea shelling, and bean snapping. It was great to be able to share this experience again with my little family, despite all of the changes that the past decade has brought for us.

Happy Mother's Day - I love you Mom!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tickled Green

I couldn't be happier with how the garden is looking right now - and it's only May 2nd!

This spring has been one of the nicest, warmest, plant-friendly springs that I can remember in a while. We have had just enough rain, lots of beautiful sunny days, and very few frosty-cold nights.

I managed to hold out until yesterday to put my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil into the ground. Trust me, they were screaming to be planted. The soil in those little yogurt cups I had them in had been sapped of nutrients, and the plants were on their way to getting a little root-bound.

My husband and I got home late last night and I knew that we were forecasted to get rain all day today, so my only option for planting was 8:30pm last night. It doesn't take long to plant when you've only got nine or ten plants to get in the ground. The soil was so rich and black - funny how only farmers and gardeners can get excited about rich soil. Every other shovelfull of dirt revealed a fat wriggly worm. They must be having a field day with that nice dirt. I dressed the soil with Gardener's Supply tomato/pepper/eggplant fertilizer and mounded up the soil around each little plant.

So to recap, I planted one-each of the following:
  • Tomato - Sungold Select II, Mule Team, Carbon, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Riesentraube
  • Pepper - Purple Jalapeno, Jimmy Nardello
  • Eggplant - Black Beauty
I couldn't believe it, but the Aunt Ruby's German Green already has a HUGE bloom - you can see it at the top of the plant. Maybe I'll be able to grow my first "large" tomato variety this year?

I also sowed my second round of arugula and mesclun mix, as well as transplanted my Sweet Genovese Basil as well as the two Catnip seedlings that sprouted. The Catnip went in a separate pot just in case the neighborhood felines try to maul it like last year. I wouldn't want them mauling the rest of my herbs in the process.

Here is my herb bed with the newly-planted basil, along with the thyme, oregano, and dill. I have two spots left, one for rosemary, which I'll have to buy, and one for lavender, which needs a little more time indoors to get nice and hearty before I transplant him.

I need to figure out what I'm going to do with supports; I know that these plants are going to be happy enough to grow big and tall and will need some type of support. I don't think I'll have room to put all eight plants into tomato cages. Food for thought the next week or so.

In other news, my latest round of indoor seedlings have been coming along nicely as well. All six types of plants are up, and the nasturtiums are pretty much ready to be transplanted outside already - that was quick, guys! From left to right: Empress of India Nasturtium, Rainbow Mix Coleus, Parker's Variety Yarrow, Apricot Beauty Foxglove, Victoria Rhubarb, and Mary Washington Asparagus.

The next round of indoor planting will involve squash, zucchini, cucumber, and melon. I'm going to wait a few weeks to give my greens, radish, beets, and carrots some time to finish up. Since I'm using the same bed for my "early" veggies and my "summer" veggies, I'll have to be careful about my timing.

Lastly, we received an email this week from Eaton Farm that our first CSA pick-up will be next weekend - May 9th! I'll make a quick stop at Hyde Park Farmer's Market to pick up up before heading to grandma's house for a nice Mother's Day celebration. Good things are on the horizon!