Tuesday, September 23, 2014

fall flowers

Yesterday, on the way home from school, we walked down the back alleys of our neighborhood and brought in flowers for the dining room table.  All of the goldenrod is taller than I am and I picked armloads of it.
Although it is far from my favorite color, I love how all of the blossoms of fall are purple and brightest gold.  There was so much going on it the alleys- goldenrod swaying in the breeze, swamp sunflowers, almost 10 feet tall, budding out.  The poke sallet was full of dark purple berries on magenta stems, and the wild false ageratum looks like lilac pom pons.

From my own yard I picked more of the jerusalem artichokes that run wild through my front flower bed, and some of the hyacinth bean vine, both in blossom spikes and in spikes full of deep glossy purple beans (I'll dry them for next year; I've already noticed someone has been munching on them in the garden).  It's almost time to put in pansies and violas, and I hope that I'll be able to find some decorative kales and swiss chard starts soon since I neglected to plant my seeds when it was time.

Happy Fall, y'all!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

End of summer

I have been away from my garden for a long time. I was happy to be back, I feel I missed a good part of the summer in the garden.

End of summer. I like this time of the year when you can feel things are changing, the garden is dying slowly. 
Let me give you a tour of what is happening here.

Harvest of the day,
 I am really happy with those round carrots. We only had a few of them as one of our chickens escaped and ate all the seeds...

Tasty tomatoes for my salads

Pansies in the planters for a little color

From my trip I brought back a hazenult tree...  

Asters are in bloom, this morning walking out in the garden I saw a bunch of bumble bees sleeping right on the flowers ! What a great bed for a bee. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

the last of the tomatoes

Two weekends ago I was the very happy recipient of 20+ lb of cherry and san marzano tomatoes in varying degrees of ripeness and blemishes.  I got to sorting them as soon as I got home from the farmers market- I reserved 10 lb for bbq sauce and 10 lb for some kicked up tomato jam/marmalade/chutney.
This is the base recipe I used for my jam, but I increased the spices, particularly the ginger, added crystalized ginger chunks, and added a gallon bag of sliced meyer lemon quarters I found in the back of the freezer.  It is super spicy, still a little runny, and so excellent with goat cheese, brie, with Carolina-style shrimp and grits, and even over cream cheese and crackers.  I made at least 12 half pints of this jam! 

You can see from the photo that there were a fair number of green tomatoes included in this batch- and they were mostly cherry tomatoes.  I pulsed them in the food processor until they were just roughly chopped and I am quite delighted with this super spicy multi-use condiment. 

We use a lot of bbq sauce in my house, so I reserved the second 10 lb of tomatoes for bbq sauce. I am not really sure where my original recipe came from, but this is the same one I use every year.  We go through at least a dozen pints every year.  This batch made about 10 half pints, so I will probably need to find a box of late tomatoes from the farmers market in the coming weeks (or sacrifice some of my whole peeled tomatoes for later sauce-making).  The key to this recipe is the addition of liquid smoke (there's a really interesting discussion of liquid smoke, and how it's made, here) at the very end.  It's not too sweet, not too hot, perfect for making shredded bbq sandwiches (I use poached chicken breast for my boys' bbq craving, and chopped mushrooms for my own).
As you can see, my recipe has seen a lot of bubbling and spills over the years!

What are your favorite end of season tomato recipes?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

first hints of fall

Even though our Memphis temperatures are still hovering at the 90 degree mark, fall is on its way.  Mornings are cooler, I don't have to water every day, and late season plants are more prominent than the showy summer bloomers.
my lemon cucumbers are putting on a fresh set of fruit after summer's deep heat has broken.

bees, both honey and tiny natives, cover the garlic chive blossoms from dawn to dusk.  These reseed vigorously and I just let them grow where they please.  This time of year, I'm always happy to see their cheerful white clusters of blossoms along my fence line, in the lawn, and filling in gaps in beds.

While someone's made lacework out of the leaves, I've enjoyed my hyacinth bean blooming along both sides of my front yard fence.  The vines have worked their way up my bottletree in the most charming way.

My jerusalem artichoke patch has been blooming prolifically.  It will be time to harvest soon.

This is my first year to grow castor bean.  I think it's the most sculptural plant.  Next year I'll give it someplace with a bit more sun as these plants are very short.

The zinnias I planted late in spring are really starting to bloom, and after a break, the verbena bonerais is putting on a new flush of bloom.  This is another plant that I let self-sow.  Even though I'm not typically a fan of purple, I love the movement this plant brings to the garden.

It's past time for me to start seeds for winter greens, but I still have time to get in some arugula and chard, and maybe some radishes for the cold frame.  How are you preparing for fall, friends?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Zucchini Bread

Summer is no doubt starting to wind down.  Spiders are spinning webs all over my garden, squash and pumpkins are starting to ripen, tomatoes have reached their peak, broccoli is turning to seed, dahlias are on their last leg, dogwood berries are falling, and it's the perfect temperature in the evenings (not too hot, not too cold) to huddle around the fire pit.

I was chatting about gardening with a  little old lady a few weeks ago and she shared with me a joke:
How can you tell if a person has no friends?
In the summertime, they have to buy zucchini from the store!
(Haha, get it?  Zuccini is so prolific and easy to grow, most people are trying to give it away in the summer.)

Today I wanted to share my favorite zucchini bread recipe.  I adapted it from Paula Deen's recipe.

Zucchini Bread or Muffins
1 1/2 C white flour
1 1/2 C wheat flour
1 1/2 t salt
1 t nutmeg
1 T cinnamon
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C honey
1 C vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 C pureed pineapple
1/3 C fresh orange juice
2 C grated zucchini
1 C chopped nuts

Sift together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and fold in the nuts.  Bake in 2 standard loaf pans at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Or bake in muffin tins for about 20 minutes.

(All photos taken with a Canon AE-1 Program and expired film)

Friday, September 5, 2014

The White House Kitchen Garden

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Last week I went on a pretty exciting adventure as far as gardening is concerned.  The farming organization that I work for was chosen for a private tour of the White House kitchen garden! Although I wasn't allowed to bring my camera, I was able to snap a few shots on my iphone. We all had our fingers crossed that we would meet Michelle but she is a busy lady as you can imagine so we settled for a run in with Sunny and Bo, the Obama's dogs!

Located on the South Lawn, the garden was beautiful and extremely well kept and organically grown, full of some of the Obama's favorite fruits and vegetables. They eat lots of different salads so the garden was chock full of a variety greens and even a papaya tree (that gets over wintered inside) for one of their favorite papaya salads. When I asked what Mr. President's favorite vegetable was I was answered with "he likes everything but does not like beets." So there were none growing in the garden.

I was most intrigued with those stunningly gorgeous Chinese purple long beans which can grow up to three feet in length and peanuts which I have always wanted to try growing.

 There were many heirloom varieties growing from Jefferson's Monticello garden such as sea kale and Purple Calabash tomato. After Jefferson left the White House in 1809 and moved to Monticello, he grew 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs!

The White House kitchen preserves some of the garden food pickling things like baby radishes and carrots that have been served at many prestigious State Dinners

And I was most excited to share with Melissa the first White House beehive! When White House chef, Sam Kass found out that the White House carpenter, Charlie Brandt was a beekeeper hobbyist he was quick to find out how honey could make it's way into the White House kitchen. Here's a little video on the hive. And why are there bolts and straps holding the hive down? For keeping it from blowing away from the White House helicopter which takes off and lands right there on the lawn.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Plum and almond tarte

This is my last week in France, I am staying at my parents house. It's the season for plums and peaches here. Plums for me sound like the end of summer.
I miss my garden in Philadelphia and I can't wait t be back home.
I know many of the plants grew a lot. I can't wait to share with you what's going on in my little jungle. 

This week we did pick some plums from my aunt’s orchard.  It's a very sweet and delicious plum called "Reine Claude".

I want to share with you a simple recipe for a plum tart. 
(this is my mom's recipe )

Plum and almond tarte

For the dough ( pate brisee ):
1 2/3 cup of flour 
1/2 cup of butter 
1/2 cup iced cold water
1/2 tsp salt

Filling, frangipane :
1/2 cup of white sugar 
100 gr of almond powder ( sorry I don't know in cups )
1 egg + a yolk
1/4 cup of butter

Prepare the dough by slowly bringing the ingredients together with your hands to form a ball and let it sit for at least half an hour. Be careful to not overwork it.

Prepare the frangipane, mix the egg and yolk, add the sugar, the melted butter and almond powder. 

Wash and cut the plums in two. Put aside for now. 

Heat your oven at 350F degrees. 
Roll the dough in a pie pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Take the dough out of the oven and pour the frangipane into the tart. 
Smooth over the surface with a spatula and cover the frangipane evenly with the plums.

Sparkle some sugar on top of the tart

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown and the fruit is tender.
Serve warm with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Enjoy !