Tuesday, September 20, 2011

in the garden









take a moment to pause & savor
the work that has been & yet to be done.
take a walk in the garden
eat lunch in the garden
as summer transitions to fall.

this is my favorite time of year.
the harvest is plentiful
my pantry is full
& there is still so much to be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

early fall harvests

early fall harvest 

okay, i'll admit it.  i am guilty of neglecting my gardens.  i know i'm not alone, which is why i feel comfortable admitting this here.  clearly taking on my most ambitious gardening efforts the same summer that i was planning a wedding [mine] and that my full-time job was extremely demanding was not the best idea.  but still, i do not regret it.  i know i could have actually pulled out the peas once they dried up back in july.  and i know i could have planted some fall crops in their place, and in the place of the garlic i harvested months ago.  but i didn't.  and you know what? it's okay.

as much as i may have neglected my gardens these past two months, it is still producing.  still making me happy every time i pick a tiny little cherry tomato off those volunteer plants wedged between the chard and beans.  still surprising me when i pulled up over a dozen small onions that i thought were dead and shriveled [even if they're not much larger than the starts i planted back in the early spring, i will still eat them with pride].

so. even though my garden could have been better, more productive, more lush, more organized.  it's not.  and i am still so very grateful for what it produces.  because of my efforts, or in spite of them. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

almost










although it is not quite officially fall yet, i can feel it coming.

this time of year always brings a new flurry of activity into our lives.
and i find myself stepping back and observing more than doing in the garden.

some observations:
-the song of the cricket
-sedums in bloom
-the changing light
-seed heads, and pods
-the rustling of grass heads
-ripe crab apples soon to be eaten by the squirrels and the birds
-beautiful brown eggs
-the slowing down of the harvest

some additions:
-two new critters
-and a rock wall

i hope to finish a few more tasks and projects in the garden before the cold weather really hits.

but i too find myself slowing down a bit and going to seed.

yes fall is coming.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Delicata squash

This is the first year my husband and I have planted delicata squash. Last year we bought a couple regionally grown squashes from the grocery store and really liked them. They reminded me so much of sweet potatoes which are one of my favorite autumn foods. So this spring, we planted two mounds at the back edge of the garden with about three plants (from seed) in each mound. Thankfully, the plants spread and flourished all through the hot summer. Now that some of the older leaves are dying back we have just begun to harvest them. (I believe M. said he counted about forty squash out there!) Two nights ago we ate one that he stuffed and grilled, so good. Today I picked these three, along with zinnias and gomphrena. (I'm still all about the gomphrena.)

Anyway, the little research I've done on harvesting and storing delicata squash suggest a few things: 
  1. Use a serrated knife to remove the squash from the plant. Leave part of the stem attached to the squash, it is supposed to store longer that way. The stems do snap off easily so if this happens as it did on one I picked, eat that squash first. 
  2. To cure or not to cure: I have read different views on this. What's your take on it? Are the squashes sweeter tasting if kept at room temperature a few days after picking? 
  3. For the long term, store the squash in a cool dry place, around 50 degrees. 

Have you grown delicata squash before? What have you learned?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

cover cropping

cover crops

we had such issues with soil fertility this year that we decided cover crops were a must for us. if we're lucky, the cover crops will help take care of our weed problem, too.

measure

i love organic grower's supply handy dandy chart, which tells you all about the cover crops available. we selected two for our two gardens.

winter rye
winter rye

morton oats
and morton oats.

we simply sprinkled the seeds in all of our raised beds, even if there were still vegetables growing. a great place to use a cover crop is in your garlic bed, as soon as you harvest. broadcast your seeds, watch them grow, and then turn the cover crop under the soil before planting your garlic in october. cover crops definitely give your soil a boost, which in turn gives your vegetables a boost. win-win.

do you have any experience with cover cropping?

Monday, September 12, 2011

speaking of pickles

spicy polish dill pickles

after amy's post about pickled peppers on friday, i've been thinking i'd share with you some of my favorite pickle recipes.  let me just start by saying that i love pickles.  seriously love.  give me a jar of sour pickles and i'm set.  in my few years of making pickles, i've mostly stuck with cucumbers, with a slight [and delicious] foray into dilly green beans last year.

my stand-by recipe is for spicy polish dill pickles.  these are the perfect sour dill pickles with the added bonus of a nice spicy kick.  i discovered this recipe a couple of years ago and have adapted it a bit.

spicy polish dills
[adapted from that's my home]

3 1/2 lbs small to medium cucumbers, sliced in quarters [the long way] will make approximately 5 pint jars.  i prefer wide mouth for pickles so the jars are easy to pack.

while you are sterilizing your jars, make the brine.  for 3 1/2 lbs cucumbers, heat up 3 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup canning/pickling salt.  heat until just before boiling [so it's bubbling around the edges]

once the jars are sterilized, pack each jar with:
1 grape leaf [this is key to keeping your pickles crunchy]
1 fresh dill head
1 whole jalapeno pepper
1 whole garlic clove
1/4-1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
cucumber slices

pour hot brine over packed jars, leaving 1/2" headspace at the top of the jars.  put on lids and bands and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

refrigerator pickles 
since i had so many cucumbers this year, [after making 3 batches of these pickles] i wanted to try something new.  last week, i made 2 new pickle recipes.  the first was these quick refrigerator pickles.  i'd always avoided refrigerator pickles, thinking they wouldn't be sour enough for me.  i put these together on friday [almost 36 hours ago] and tried one today.  while not as sour as i prefer, they are quite tasty, and definitely not sweet.  i think they'll only get better with time.  [side note: that jar in the top is the only thing i could find to weigh down the cucumbers that would fit within the opening of this half gallon jar.  looks weird, but it works!]

kosher dill pickles 
the third batch of pickles i'm currently experimenting with this year are these kosher dills.  i started these on friday evening as well and haven't tried any yet.  i'm going to put them in the fridge tonight and see how they progress.

so, any other favorite pickle recipes out there we should be trying?

Friday, September 9, 2011

pickled hot peppers




a few weeks ago we made nachos.
as we were munching away, we all agreed that they needed a little something.
a little heat maybe?
yes. some pickled hot peppers.
the next day we picked some jalepenos and serranos and got pickling.
we are all set now for our next batch of nachos.

pickled hot peppers

jalepanos or serranos whole or sliced
1 sweet red pepper sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic, lightly pounded
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp sugar

pack the peppers in a glass jar.
in a saucepan, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes.
pour the hot pickling liquid over the peppers and let it rest for a few hours. shake it up a bit so that the peppercorns are evenly distributed.
for a crunchy bite, you can start nibbling on them within a few hours. for a softer texture, let sit for 4-5 days.
keep refrigerated for up to two months or can it according to jar manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tomatoes

yesterday's harvest

This has not been the best year for tomatoes. In fact, most of our tomatoes (with the exception of Cherokee Purple) have experienced some serious cracking due to a dry July followed by heavy rains. We've also been contending with septoria leaf spot, watching as it crawls up the base of our plants. After reading up on septoria, I think we are partially to blame. We often plant our tomatoes a little closer together than is ideal, due to lack of space and our desire to plant many varieties. Have any of you been dealing with this fungus? It is quite common.

Still, the tomatoes are coming in (finally!) and I have my eye on a few ways to preserve them for winter eating:

Tomato Jam Food in Jars

DIY sun-dried tomatoes
Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Salsa Rojo Local Kitchen

Do you have any favorite recipes for preserving tomatoes?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

seasonal eating: stuffed acorn squash



i love following the palate of the season. there is a real connection made with farmers & the landscape when enjoying in-season foods. tonight's dinner was just that & delicious, too- acorn squash stuffed with sausage from the farm, carrots, yellow squash & garlic. paired with frozen peas, this meal was quick, which allowed for a few more hours spent outside enjoying this cool relief.

stuffed acorn squash
adapted slightly from simply in season
serves 4

2 medium acorn squash
cut squash in half. remove seeds with a spoon. place cut side down on a greased baking sheet. bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes until soft. remove from oven & set aside.

1 lb. sausage
3 cloves garlic (minced)
4 carrots (shredded)
2 yellow squash (cubed)
1 stale slice of bread
3 tbsp. brown sugar

saute sausage until cooked through. mix garlic, carrots, & yellow squash in bowl. add to pan with sausage, cover & simmer for 15 minutes. stuff filling into acorn squash. tear up bread & place on top. sprinkle brown sugar on top. bake at 375F for 10 minutes. add a dab of butter on top when serving.

delicious.

Friday, September 2, 2011

kale







i adore kale.
i can honestly say it is one of my favorite vegetables.
i enjoy red russian, and curly but i have a extra fondness for dinosaur or lacianato kale.
i love it's blue-green color and it's towering stature in the garden.
i used to always cook kale but was once at a picnic where a friend had brought a raw kale salad that was absolutely delicious.
i could not stop eating it to the point that i was a bit embarrassed after the third helping.
of course i jumped at the offering of bringing home the leftovers that night and found that it tasted even better the next day.
i have since altered the recipe to our liking.

kale salad
1 large bunch kale rinsed, de-stemmed and chopped up fine (curly or lacianato)
2 or 3 carrots shredded
1 red pepper diced
1 cup sliced almonds

dressing
3/4 cup olive oil
1 small shallot minced
3 tbs fresh ginger root, peeled then minced
1 clove garlic sliced
3 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tbs toasted sesame oil
3 tbs chopped cilantro
zest of 1 lime
black pepper and salt to taste


combine ingredients and dress.
it tastes best if it can sit for an hour before eating
but i have been impatient and have also enjoyed it right away.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Trying something new, gomphrena




This year we expanded our planting space to improve a strip of land behind my studio. It's by the alley, where the trash gets picked up and honestly has never been tended. We killed the weeds by covering the area with epdm rubber, (which we had leftover from construction projects) and leaving it there for several weeks. Old carpets could also have been used. Then we raked out the dead weeds and removed the gravel to prepare to plant. The soil isn't great back there but it's suitable for flowers. This season we got it partially planted and hope to completely fill it next year. For now a section is filled with zinnias and globe amaranth, or gomphrena. I had never grown globe amaranth before but really am enjoying them. And they are great for this spot, as it is very sunny and dry, and they tolerate drought and heat, which we have certainly had in abundance this summer. I want to harvest some to dry but for now will tuck a few into zinnia bouquets.
Another new plant we're trying this year is delicata squash. Which I hope to talk about here soon.

Did you try something new in the garden this season?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

irene, cabbage worms and hornworms, and surprises

harvest

last saturday before irene hit vermont, my husband and i checked in on our gardens and harvested what we could. dried dill seed, small ears of corn, zucchini, and a luffa sponge that we thought for a split-second was a zucchini. by the time we realized what it was, we had cut it and put it in our basket.
hornworms

it's always good to inspect your gardens regularly, impending storm or not, as you might stumble upon something like a hornworm that can really wreak havoc. we've had a time with the hornworms this year, finding them on green peppers and potatoes as well as tomatoes.

cabbage worm evidence

we also found evidence of the dreaded cabbage worm.

cabbageworms

can you see them? they blend in so well.

so, we stopped harvesting and made a hot pepper spray for our brassicas.

hot pepper spray

you can find a similar recipe here.

we also found some wonderful surprises while on our rounds.

striped dahlia

after two years of trying, i finally have a peppermint stripe dahlia. isn't it a beauty?

oranges

we've had this orange tree for years. it's traveled with us to denver, north carolina, and then vermont and has never produced fruit until this year. talk about surprising!

even though our gardens made it through the storm fine, others in my community were not as lucky. one of my favorite farms lost everything due to five foot flood waters. the entire state has been affected. please keep vermonters in your thoughts. it's been a difficult week.