Category Archives: My Gardens

What works and doesn’t work in the home garden. Great garden ideas, practices, blooms and growing suggestions

Today’s Harvest Basket 7/19

The July garden is bursting with produce and in need of water every day.

Orange and yellow carrots, Anaheim peppers, purple bell peppers, Padron peppers, green beans.

Carrots, peppers, beans

Where are the tomatoes?

The missing tomatoes in this picture were stolen by a ruthless gang of squirrels. Those thugs absconded with my big heirloom tomatoes. But, I picked a few before they were completely ripe. I’ll show you in a day or two.

I am buying tomatoes at the farmers market. But, the cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen faster than the squirrels can eat them. So, I pick a few cherry tomatoes everyday.

Trellised red and yellow cherry tomatoes overlooked by the tomato cartel.

The heirloom tomato cartel, is the squirrely gang involved in tomato trafficking. These well fed rodents can move fast and manage to disappear on site. I can imagine that the neighbors just see me yelling and waving my fists in the gardens.

A peck of peppers picked:
Padrón, Anaheim, Chocolate-brown bell peppers

Padrón or shishito peppers are new to my garden this year. Easy to prepare, grilled or flash fried and sprinkled with salt. Mild and very flavorful, about 1 in 10 of these tiny peppers is fiery hot.

The Anaheim peppers are about 6″ long and mildly hot. Every few days, while the peppers are firm and shiny, I roast, chop and freeze them. I’ll use some of these in homemade salsa.

The earliest bell pepper to ripen are the chocolate peppers. So named for their color, this bell pepper is sweet, juicy and thick-walled. The smooth, medium-small, tapered blunt end bells are chocolate-brown peppers that ripen early and are heavy producers.

The carrots will be served fresh or roasted. To store the carrots, seal unwashed carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper. I’ll also sow more carrots that will be harvested in the cool fall weather.

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/14

This is a small garden with a bit of many different vegetables.

green beans, red okra, a pepper variety show, two kinds of cucumbers, red onions,  scallions, Chinese cabbage.

Chinese cabbage  will become sesame slaw and veggie spring rolls.

Beans, okra, peppers, cucumbers, onions, cabbage

A  bit of a an overgrown garden. I pulled enough red onions to make a jar of two of pickled red onions.

There are a few pods of red okra, not enough to cook or add to a recipe. Maybe in a day or two I’ll have enough peppers and okra for a pot of gumbo.

Two kinds of cucumbers are growing in the garden. I like the long skinny English cucumbers* that grow about 12″ long. It’s thin-skinned, never bitter, very mild and crisp.

The smaller, more prolific pickling cucumbers** are also good eating. These are the ones used for bread and butter pickles. If I don’t have enough from my garden for a small batch of pickles, I’ll buy more at the farmers market.

The bells and Anaheim peppers are almost ready for picking. But the ones I’ve started picking are those little Padrón peppers. These small bright green peppers. Padrón peppers are from Padrón in the province of A Coruña, Galicia, in northwestern Spain.

Only about one out of ten of the small green peppers from Spain are wildly hot, L :Padrón and R: Red Okra

Padrón peppers are usually served as tapas and a bit like playing Russian roulette. Most are mild, but occasionally you’ll bite into a fiery hot one.

Tapas

Blistered Padrón Peppers

1/2 pound peppers, washed and dried

1 Tablespoon of good olive oil

Flaky sea salt

Try these peppers cooked on a grill pan or big hot skillet.  Once the peppers are clean and dry and the grill pan is hot.

Add oil and peppers to a bowl and toss together. Grill of flash fry until the peppers a softened and blistered. Pour cooked peppers back into the bowl and toss with a course or flaky salt.

Serve warm. Good luck,

Napa or Nappa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage

Cole slaw at our house means using this cabbage with a mild sesame and vinaigrette  dressing, It’s good and it’s tasty the second day so, make extra. Try Martha’s recipe Napa Cabbage Slaw – Martha Stewart or, use your own favorite dressing.

Any kind of cabbage makes a great slaw with this rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil dressing. It’s good to make ahead and just let it marinate in the fridge.

Seed Source

* English Cucumber, Chelsea Prize and ** Pickling Cucumber, Endeavor from Renee’s Garden Seeds

 

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/9

Green beans, cucumbers and, kale.

July 9, 2017. Plenty of heat, rain, weeds and green vegetables.

A couple of days of rain and the garden exploded into high production. The garden, patio and deck are thriving, herbs, veggies, weeds and all. The basket has cucumbers, green beans and kale.

Green Beans

Green beans (snap beans) are classed as being pole beans, growing 5′ or 6′ tall, or bush beans which only grow a foot or two. The bush beans do well as container plants and you can see the continuous blooms. I grow beans in the raised bed gardens and in planters on the deck.

Tonight’s dinner included those green beans with ham, onions and new potatoes.Snap beans are more productive for a longer time with regular picking. Use mulch to suppress weeds, preserve soil moisture and keep the beans cleaner.

As you harvest garden produce, immediately plant beans in empty rows to improve the soil.

Because beans fix nitrogen in the soil, they are great companion plants for kale, potatoes, carrots and, chard. Bush beans in my garden are growing  side by side with chard and carrots. As  I harvest the chard and carrots,  I’ll plant more green beans.

Cucumbers

After waiting  and waiting for homegrown cucumbers, I discovered four on the vine. Because the vines grow on a trellis, these vertical climbers don’t take up much space. When we’ve had our fill of fresh cucumbers, I’ll make a few jars of Bread and Butter Pickles.

Find recipes for pickles on my Pinterest page: Canning, preserving, pickling, smoking . Refrigerator pickles, canning recipes for Bread & Butter Pickles, and dill pickles are on the page.

Kale

Purple tinged kale is growing from self-sown seed. The leaves are mild and excellent in fresh salads. This is Red Russian, an heirloom kale.

Leaves are frilled, purple-veined and, deeply lobed like oak leaves. Tender, mild and sweet even in summer, but more colorful and sweeter after frost. Gives repeated harvests through a long season.  Ready in 55 days.

We are eating the kale fresh in a salad. My favorite way to use kale as a cooked vegetable is in green rice. Use kale and chard interchangeably in any spinach recipe.

I pulled a few Cipollini onions this morning. (Pronounced chip-oh-LEE-nee) They are curing with the other onions and garlic on the covered porch. As the stems fall over, I pull the onions and let them dry in the shade.

Our garden is mainly for fresh eating. But if we suddenly have too many green beans and kale to eat fresh, it’s easy to blanch and freeze a package or two.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/12

It’s all green

All three of these vegetables were started from Renee’s Garden Seed.

Pak Choi, Green Beans, Chinese cabbage.

We are mostly eating out of the garden this month, because I set my own personal challenge. I’m cooking everything we eat this month, no eating out. It’s my choice because we have some amazing fresh, organic food.

This week we also have chard, onions, kale, squash blossoms and baby zucchini. I have all these good foods growing just a few feet away from the kitchen door. It tastes like every meal is a special occasion.

Tonight’s dinner includes Glazed Shiitakes With Bok Choy. The recipe is from the NYTimes Cooking section. From my Pinterest page, Zucchinni Everything you will find squash blossom recipes that are baked, not fried.

Trying to keep a head of the zucchini tsunami, we are picking plenty of squash blossoms for stuffing.

Rabbits love these long, thin green beans, so pole beans are ideal. The rabbits can’t get to the beans! As the bush beans come on, I’ll surround them with chicken wire.

One of my favorite green bean recipes is the dry stir fry method in Chinese restaurants. These are Pole Filet Beans, French Emerite. If I keep these very productive vines picked every day or two, it will be an extended season.

Beside the kitchen door are pots of herbs. You will be surprised how often you add fresh herbs if they are handy.

There are four kinds of mint near the patio. I keep them under control by cutting a generous spring from one plant every day for my tea.

You can still find herb starter plants at most garden centers. Buy a few herbs. It will turn an everyday meal into gourmet fare.

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Chervil – You Can GrowThat!

If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall. Chervil’s delicate anise flavor and dainty appearance make this a must grow herb for herb gardeners and foodies.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, is a mild flavored, delicate cool season annual.

Direct seed chervil in early spring. Plant in filtered sun or light shade if climate is hot areas. Sow seeds an inch apart in well worked soil. Barely cover and keep soil moist. Germinates in 10 to 14 days.

Chervil grows to 10 -12 inches tall.  Once seeds germinate and grow 1 inch tall,   thin seedlings to one plant every 6 inches or so. Chervil has a delicate tap root and does not transplant well.

Plant chervil in partial shade or, in the spotty shade under other plants. It grows best in moist soil and cool spring weather.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a nonmayonnaise based potato salad.

As soon as the weather heats up, chervil plants bolt (flower and set seed) By June, my plants have set seed. After seeds are brown and dry, I’ll collect them to reseed in the fall and  next spring.

Although you probably aren’t going to eat enough chervil to make a nutritional impact, it is a flavorful source of calcium and potassium.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines Herbes

Add fresh chopped chervil at the last-minute to enhance to bright flavor in any dish.

The famous French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

 

 

 

Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown  fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm.

Chervil Herb Butter

One of the best ways to preserve chervil is in butter.

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chervil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Blend lemon juice, and chervil into softened butter. shape butter into a log and chill. Refrigerate or freeze butter log.

Chervil is sometimes used as a tarragon substitute. When cooking with chervil, add to dishes at the ending of cooking to preserve the delicate flavor.

Use chervil or chervil butter in omelets and scrambled eggs.

Companion plant chervil near cabbages and kale. Chervil is said to help repel slugs. It is easy to grow as a container plant.

Chervil is a delicate herb with a short season. It’s rare that you will find it in the market. If you want to enjoy this herb, it’s best to grow it from seed. Make sure to save some seed so you can grow it again in the fall.

adding mixed herbs to the pot outside the kitchen door. Fresh Fines Herbs are always at the ready.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/4

Last of the lettuce.

Salad and stir fry ingredients

Picked the last of the lettuce today. The lettuce, radish and green onion will make a salad topped with strawberry poppy-seed salad dressing. Sweet local strawberries make the bright pink dressing.

Today’s harvest: kale, mustard, lettuce, peas, green onions, radish.

Fresh, red ripe local berries make this dressing bright pink. It looks like food coloring is added. There is no onion, usually found in poppy-seed dressing.

Strawberry Lime Poppy-seed salad dressing

1/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients except poppy seeds and blend till pureed and emulsified. Stir in poppy seeds.

Heads Up

Zucchini plants are loaded with golden blossoms. Zucchini Everything is my collection of zucchini recipes.

Zucchini is on the way.

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Todays’s Harvest Basket 5/24

I gathered our dinner directly from the garden today.

Still gathering cool season crops. Peas, radishes, green onions, kale, chervil and cilantro.

The egg basket is over flowing, so we will have a picnic favorite, herb deviled egg with dinner tonight. I have lots to lacy-leaved chervil and picked extra for my morning omelet. Delicate chervil is only in the garden for another week or so. It is my favorite fair weather herb.

What’s for Dinner?

  • Kale salad with green onions, home-made herb vinaigrette, topped with hemp seeds and currants.
  • Deviled farm fresh eggs sprinkled with chervil and chives.
  • Open-faced radish sandwiches, a springtime-only special: Simply fresh thin-sliced sourdough or baguette, fresh butter, salt, thin sliced radishes.

Chervil Anthriscus cerefolium, mild flavored, delicate lacy leaves. If you don’t grow your own, you probably will not have the privilege of  enjoying this fresh herb in the spring and fall.

I use chervil (pronounced SHER-vil) in delicate dishes, like tomorrows breakfast omelet. Sprigs of chervil will top the deviled eggs and, in a non-mayonnaise based potato salad.

Chervil is a delicate annual, growing only in cool weather. It’s a great herb for succession planting. Add a few seed to the garden every week in the spring to extend the season as long as possible.

Fines herbes, the French herb blend uses chervil. The combo includes chervil,  parsley, chives and French tarragon. Fines herbes (pronounced feens-erb) is best used fresh because the herbs lose a lot of flavor when dried.

Sweet and tender spring peas will be tossed into a stir-fry or used as dippers on a veggie tray.

2 Cool Seasons
Remember, anything you grow as an early spring crop can be grown a a fall crop. Sometimes veggies are even more successful since the soil is already warm. This fall, give peas a chance.

 

Spring kitchen bonus.

Pick chervil, chives and cilantro often, to encourage plant growth. Keep the cut stems in a glass of water on the kitchen counter, making it easy to add fresh herbs to any dish.

The peas, radish and herbs are grown from seed purchased at Renee’s Garden Seed.

When fresh herbs are not available, get Fines Herbes at Penzeys Spices .

My handy husband, Jeff, made the harvest basket.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 5/11/17

Spring greens

First basket of the season!

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens. PBH

Baby turnips, green onions, cilantro and mustard greens, These little turnips will change your mind if you don’t like turnips. They are small, radish-sized Japanese turnips. Sweet and good raw, eaten like a radish, grated into a slaw or served on a tray of roasted root vegetables.

The seeds are from Renee’s Garden. Always order enough seed so you can grow a spring crop and a fall crop. It’s the only turnip I grow. They don’t take up much space and are ideal for succession planting. Great for filling in any blank spots in the garden.

(FYI, Savor The Luxury Of Growing Your Own. Aromatic Herbs 20% Off Through 5/31. Order cool season crops and the herbs to freeze or dry in the fall.)

The rest of the basket was mostly thinnings.

I thinned the mustard greens. This early in the season, they are mild, but still a little spicy.These  greens are tender for a quick stir-fry addition to any mix of leafy greens or add a couple of leaves into the salad bowl mix. Mustard greens are too hot for me, but a little in a mix of greens or salad greens will add a bit of sparkle.

I always plant onions too close, planning on thinning the green onions until they are 6 inches apart.  My thought, you can never have too many onions.

Red Torpedo Onions A favorite. Makes beautiful pickled onions.

Keep a few green onions chopped in the fridge when green onions are abundant. If the are ready to use, I use more onions in salads, loaded baked potatoes, potato salad, topping enchiladas.

Alliums, in my garden a red, white, Cipolini onions, leeks, garlic and chives. The fall-planted garlic looks like we will have a good crop this summer. Thinned baby leeks made the best onion soup this spring.

Cilantro is popping up every where from volunteer seed that made it through the winter. It is really growing like weeds between the beds and showing up in surrounding  raised beds.

Plant this herb a few seed every two weeks so you always have it for canning and recipes. Usually cilantro is long gone from the garden when tomato salsa making season happens in August.

Thy hand hath provided.com has a genius recipe  for Cilantro sauce, a condiment frozen in tiny portions, ready when ever you need. Gather up this fresh herb now and you will have all you need for you tomato and salsa recipes.  I faithfully return to this site when it is tomato soup canning time.

You will get better production and higher yields per plant with properly spaced plants.

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Getting Ready For Canning Season

Grow your own herbs

Time to refresh the spice cabinet.

Time to gather all the herbs and spices needed for canning and pickling this summer. I’m planting several herbs, including half a dozen different types of basil. And, I’m putting in an order to Penzeys to refresh the spice cabinet.

Learning about herbs

Add 1 bay leaf. Really? I always believed bay leaves were a lie. A pretentious herb. Maybe because they didn’t make a single bit of difference in any recipe when I was a kid. Pot roast tasted exactly the same whether you a 1 or 2 or 0 to the pot roast.

But the Kroeger tin box the held the little grey bay leaves above the stove had been there for years in the hot, humid kitchen. So now, 50 years later, I refresh my bay leaf supply every year.

Bay Leaves are Bay leaves are also spiciest when dried. But old bay leaves are tasteless. Today I proved to myself that bay leaves (Laurus nobilis)  do have taste and are also a fragrant herb.

Herbal Taste Tests

First, dump those herbs that have been in your cabinets for years. If you can smell nothing or haven’t used that jar of herbs for a couple of years, toss them. Buy a small amount of fresh herbs.

1. Bay Leaf  Tea

Add a few bay leaves to 2 cups of boiling water. Steep 5 minutes.

Do this test with any herb to learn about its unique flavor. Make a cup of tea. That’s it.  A cup of hot water and a tablespoon of herbs. Let it steep 5 minutes, taste the herb flavored water.

I add several leaves to a pint jar of hot water, put a lid on it and wait 5 minutes. There is enough tea for two cups, if you can talk someone into taste testings with you.

2. Herb Rice

Herb scented rice. Add a few bay leaves to the rice cooker at the beginning of the cycle.

Do this test to check how this herbs flavors food. Make a batch of plain white or brown rice. Add 2 or 3 bay leaves (or other herb) and cook the rice with no other seasonings, except an optional small amount of salt.

I use a rice cooker. So, I use a cup of rice and two cups of water, 3 bay leaves. When the rice is cooked, fluff and taste it plain and with a pinch of salt. I get light floral scent and mild earthy hint of flavor in every bite of white rice.

3. Herb Omelet

1 tsp butter, 2 eggs, 1 Tbs chopped chervil, 1 Tbs shredded cheese.

My favorite spring mornings begin on the deck or patio. Make the coffee and an omelet. Maybe through a slice of bread in the toaster. Dine outdoors with the humming birds and bees buzzing about. Songbirds sing and your plan for the day becomes clear.

Herb omelets are one of the delights of spring breakfasts on the patio.

A great way to educate yourself to the unique flavors of a fresh spring herb is in an omelet.

2 eggs

a buttered skillet with 1 teaspoon of butter.

1 Tbs fresh chopped chervil (or chives, cilanto, parsley*.)

1 Tbs shredded Swiss cheese ( or American or mozzarella, optional.)

The first herbs to pop up in the spring are some of the most delicately flavored herbs of all. A simple 2 egg omelet with a sprinkling of a teaspoon or two of fresh chopped herbs. Maybe add a tablespoon of mild shredded cheese, salt, pepper.

Herb omelet or scrambled eggs with chopped fresh herbs, it’s your choice. Try this method with just one herb per omelet to learn about the flavor of each herb.

I’m not going to get into how to make an omelet or scramble eggs. My mission is growing and enjoying herbs. An omelet made with fresh spring herbs is flavorful enough that you don’t need a lot of filling ingredients.

With more experience, experiment with herb combinations. My favorites are Fine Herbes: chives, tarragon, and parsley. Or any combination of these herbs.

This breakfast tastes even better served on the patio with a big cup of hot, black French roast coffee.

My favorite herb omelet is chervil and Swiss. A couple of slices of buttered and salted baguette with radish slices complete the perfect spring meal.

1 large Bay Leaf = 1/2 teaspoon broken = 1/4 teaspoon crushed

Substitute one fresh leaf for every two dried leaves.

More

Discover the flavor of  herbs with herb vinegar.

I show case single herbs in my herb vinegars. Save the flavor of delicate spring herbs by making herb vinegar while herbs are at their peak.

If you don’t think herbs have much to offer, it could be because you tasteless herbs are old. Buy a small starter plant and try some fresh herb leaves in your recipes this season. I don’t think there would be any point to raising tomatoes if  I didn’t also grow basil.

* Seed Sources

Renee’s Garden – Annual herbs are grown from seed. Chervil, cilanto, parsley and dill. Plus, chives, parsley calendula and nasturtiums.

Bay Leaves

The plant’s Roman name, Laurus nobilis, comes from the word laudare, to praise, and a crown of bay leaves has been a sign of  honor, as in the Olympic Crown of Bay Leaves.

 

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