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 9/2

Peppers kick into high gear, watering required.

All these vegetables are grown from seed.

Cherry tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, Swiss chard, Padron peppers, bell and, Anaheim.

Peppers, growing in the garden or in containers, do better when the weather gets cooler.

Padron, little one inch long peppers, could be called surprise peppers. Or, Russian Roulette peppers. These are a mild tasty pepper. Most of the time. But now and then, WOW! you get a hot one.

Randomly Hot

Blistered Padron Peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Padrón or shishito peppers
Course sea salt

Heat large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add half of the peppers, tossing to cook until peppers are softened and blistered. You may cook in multiple batches in a single layer, not over crowding.

Empty skillet onto a warmed platter, add half the salt. Repeat, blistering the rest of the peppers in more hot oil. Add more salt. Serve right away.

Black Bell Peppers

There is a big color choice of bell peppers in the garden. Red, yellow, green, purple, milk chocolate color and these beautiful black peppers. The plants are loaded with medium-sized thick-walled sweet peppers.

All the bell peppers taste alike, some bigger or thicker. Regardless of color, peppers not eaten fresh are chopped or cut into strips and frozen for winter use. Freeze chopped peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pop peppers into a heavy zip lock bag and return to freezer. Easy to do.

Cherry tomatoes

Pickled cherry tomatoes with rosemary and thyme.

Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen in the summer. As full-sized tomatoes come on, the cherries just keep producing until frost.

I dehydrate most of them, making sun-dried tomatoes. These little jelly jars are filled with tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, vinegar and salt. These pickled cherry tomatoes will be served on appetizer trays or anti pasta platters.

Peppermint Stick Chard

This chard is heat tolerant and pretty enough to be in flower containers or planted in the garden. I use chard leaves like spinach in casserole dishes, vegetable lasagna, of enchiladas.

Stems can be pickled like Jardiniere. I just pop the stems in an empty jar of pickle juice after I’ve eaten all the Jardiniere. The chard stems become a crispy refrigerator pickle in a couple of days.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/28

Wrapping up summer

Summer wraps up with rich, ripe vegetables; golden carrots, red okra, bell peppers, green beans.

yellow carrots, red okra, sweet peppers, green beans.

Carrots

Jaune Obtuse du Doubs Carrot is a French heirloom. These tender carrots are yellow and about 8″ long. The key to long straight carrots is preparing the soil before planting.

Well worked soil with plenty of compost or organic matter, is the secret. Keep carrots thinned and weeded. Carrots store well in the refrigerator, or can be canned or frozen.

We can usually grow two crops of carrots each year. Spring carrots and then the seeds started in late summer that will thrive in the fall garden. Once the seeds are started and spaced, carrots only need regular water.

Grated carrot salad of yellow and orange carrots, a sprinkle of parsley in a vinaigrette dressing.

Peppers, carrots, okra and beans are some very good reason to grow your own vegetables. Diversity. These are not varieties that you usually find in the grocery store.

Grocery store vegetables are grown for transport not taste. Taste and nutrients are never the point in mass market. The goal of a grocery store vegetable is durability and longevity.

Lots of carrot and root vegetable recipes are on the Pintrest Carrots, Potatoes, Root Vegetables.

 

Second season green beans

It’s not too late to grow another batch of green beans. The soil is warm and will quickly germinate. Keep the plants watered and you may have your biggest crop ever.

French Green Beans Almondine

Plant seeds one inch deep and water well. If your hanging baskets or  container gardens are exhausted, replant them with beans or greens. Space pole beans about 2 inches apart and bush beans 4 to 6 inches apart.

Keep your beans picked for steady production until frost. Plants are dependent on you for food and fertilizer.

Other crops you may plant at the end of the summer are, lettuce, leafy greens, radishes, turnips.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/26

Today’s Harvest Basket is the little red wagon. A couple of these big butternut squash would fill the usual harvest basket.

Yellow Finn potatoes and butternut squash.

Potatoes

It’s fun to dig up potatoes and see what’s there. Grown in a are specialized fabric “pots,” Grow Bags that make it possible to grow potatoes anywhere there is sun and water access. This year, I harvested a whopping 20 pounds of potatoes.

The potato harvest will become a potato salad made with the littlest whole roasted potatoes. Some spuds will be cooked with green beans and caramelized onions.

Potatoes have pretty lavender flowers. Choose a variety that you don’t find at the local grocery store. Try some fingerlings next year.

 

The endless stuffed yellow squash blossoms of spring did not deter an abundant fall harvest of butternut squash.

Winter Squash

Butternut squash soup.

Beautiful butternut squash  appeared in the garden, I did not plant it, the seed must have been in the compost. The plant took over a 4’x4′ raised bed and then tumbled out to cover about a third of the garden! The rambling plant kept down weeds, plus I got all this free squash with only an occasional watering.

This sudden abundance of squash sent me to Pintrest to collect recipes. Here are a few alternatives to my usual brown sugar and butter topping: Butternut Squash. Checkout my choices. Butternut Squash chili, ravioli, enchiladas and stuffed will be on the menu this winter.

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/27

Summer color explodes

Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, onions

I grow just a few eggplant because I believe it’s best fresh. Canned or frozen eggplant is always disappointing. Ratatouille and baked Eggplant Parmesan are my favorites.

Charred Anaheim peppers.

Anaheim peppers and poblanos are beautiful and plentiful this year, especially now that the weather has cooled a bit. These mildly hot peppers get charred on the grill and then chopped and frozen.

As the peppers are needed, I pop a cube of frozen peppers into whatever I’m cooking. Fresh roasted poblanoes go into my salsa. That’s the heat level perfect for my salsa.

 

Peppers are growing well in the raised bed garden and in 5-gallon buckets on the deck. Sweet bell peppers are red, black, chocolate, golden and green. The long Anaheim peppers are mildly hot and juicy green and continue to ripen to a bright red.

Charred, peeled, and chopped Anaheim peppers are easy to freeze in cubes.

When peppers are charred and peeled, remove the seeds and stem. Chop peppers and pack in cubes, freeze. Once frozen, store cubes in heavy-duty ziplock bags.

I’m getting a few tomatoes – if I pick them early. Before the squirrels get them.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with caramelized onion on puff pastry.

Tomatoes for salsa and marinara, soup are purchased at the Farmers Market. We pick enough home-grown tomatoes for fresh eating. I’m buying tomatoes, “canners,” for making winter time tomato dishes because I do not buy tomatoes in the winter.

Cherry and pear tomatoes seem like the perfect choice for Tomato Tarte Tatin. I’ve made a fast and easy version using puff pastry. Choose a recipe to fit your tastes, there are several versions on my Pinterest tomato page.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/20

A rainbow of peppers both sweet, mild bells and mildly hot Anaheim and poblanos.

Yellow eggplants, chocolate, red and black bell peppers, butternut squash and Anaheim peppers

Today’s harvest basket is full of colorful peppers and eggplant. That means it’s time for ratatouille, a French vegetable dish  hardy enough to serve as an entrée.

I now have all the herbs and vegetables for ratatouille. There are faster but not better ways to make this French peasant stew, but Julia Child’s recipe is simply the best. Find the Ratatouille recipe in her cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Try this vegetable dish that has summer squash, eggplant, and bell pepper tied together by a fresh tomato sauce. I add a few more herbs than Julia does but her classic recipe can be a springboard for your own version.

Green, red and black peppers all on the same plant.

All the pretty bell peppers are meant to be eaten fresh or chopped and frozen for winter cooking. I make lots of stuffed peppers and freeze some for quick comfort food this fall. Depending on the degree of ripeness, bell three peppers start out green and color as they ripen.

We always grow more than we can eat fresh so there will be plenty for freezing. Most peppers are chopped and can be added frozen to any cooked recipe. Also, some are cut in strips to use in fajitas and wraps.

Roasted peppers are quickly blistered on the grill, outside.

I’m roasting and peeling the hot peppers, Anaheim and poblanos. What we don’t use fresh, will be frozen in cubes for winter use. Many are going into pint jars of salsa.

Each ice-cube square in the plastic tray holds about the equivalent  of 1 or 2 roasted and chopped chili peppers. The frozen pepper cubes can be added to soups, chili, casseroles.

If you are growing heirloom peppers, it’s easy to save seed. Be sure to let one stay on the plant until big and fully ripe.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/30

July 30, Harvest Basket

Eggplants, sweet peppers, Anaheim and poblano green chile peppers, giant heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onion

Eggplant at last!

Finally, the eggplants are plentiful. That completes the ingredient list for ratatouille. Ratatouille is a showcase of summer garden in one main dish. By the time all the ingredients are assembled, the dish is big enough to ensure leftovers. I believe the dish is better the next day.

This vegetable casserole is great served with rice. I make a slightly under cooked version of this and freeze it. One snowy winter day, I’ll enjoy my homegrown taste of summer.

Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Eggplants* grown in a container on the deck.

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Cherry tomato pie

I love cherry tomatoes, they start producing early and just keep on growing till first frost. With the full size tomatoes coming on strong, cherry tomatoes are good for dehydrating.

Mix colors and shapes of cherry tomatoes for a mix of sweet and tart tomato flavors.

Easy, fast, tomato tart suitable for serving at any meal. The tart is a lighter version of tomato pie. Tomato Tarte Tatin is a simple summer-only treat.

This is a great way to use up a lot of cherry tomatoes. I used a mix of red and yellow cherry and pear tomatoes. Caramelize a small onion, and fill the skillet of onions with a single layer of little tomatoes. Cover with a layer of puff pastry. Bake tart until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Loosen pastry around the outside of the skillet. Place large platter over skillet. Hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and Parmesan.

*   Container Eggplant Little Prince grown from Renee’s Garden Seed.

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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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