So here we are in autumn, a beautiful time of year. I’m so happy to see we are really getting a good one this year, the leaves had time to change and create the painted landscape when in previous years they were somehow torn from the trees overnight from a bad storm. There was no time to enjoy them. What comes with the changing season is also the end of the garden. Today I pulled up the remaining plants with the exception of some radishes, beets, and swiss chard that are still hanging in there. I learned some big lessons this year. I branched out and tried growing broccoli. Although it thrived, I realize I can really be a bad gardener. I could not bring myself to eat it as I found some well hidden, broccoli-stalk colored caterpillars hiding between florets. They were so well camouflaged that even after two sets of eyes and hands prodding the head of broccoli, they still remained mostly elusive. Even after the weather became cold and I believed they would have changed to whatever it was they were to change into, I cut some side stalks, inspected and saw none. Then as I chopped up the head to steam, a caterpillar began climbing up the side of the bowl. Gross. I felt so wasteful and for most tossed in the back of the yard for some little creature who needed some extra winter padding. Then I came upon an excellent post that proved I was not alone and explained one method to draw out the creepy crawlies was soaking in vinegar. My main lesson this year is I can handle flies, bees, ants, even beetles (unless they kill my plans), but I cannot handle any strange, alien-looking soft-bodied crawlies like caterpillars, slugs, earwigs, or anything else whose body shape is just not normal. So I need to either toughen up or hit the farmers market for those crops the weird creatures prefer.
Wine Cork Plant Markers July 31, 2012
I love Pinterest. Of course, I am sure there are plenty of misleading things on there, just like blogs too. But I found this little crafty idea and I did it and am so happy with the results. What a cool idea! I took used wine corks (of which I have many), drilled a hole in the bottom, inserted cheap-o wine stirrers, and wrote the crop name in a Sharpie. Seriously easy and much sturdier than regular plan markers, not to mention economical and environmentally-friendly.
Watch my Garden Grow June 23, 2012
This is one of my favorite times of the year, when the garden starts showing off – getting buds, flowers, and fruits. Just looking at it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I know that in a short time I will have more produce then I can handle and I’ll break out the pressure canner. I cannot express enough the difference between food you grow on your own and what you buy in the supermarket. Did you know that celery actually has flavor and peppers aren’t bitter? Even more, growing your own food gives you a level of control over what goes into your body. I know what I use in and on my garden. I know how fresh the produce is because I am the one who picked it. This year, we extended the garden again and planted more than last year. This year’s offerings:
- Red onions
- Swiss Chard
- 3 Types of Tomatoes
- Green Peppers
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Green Beans
- Straightneck Squash
Simplicity June 11, 2012
In many of my recipe posts I mention the farmers market. (I say many, and I’ve only been posting for a few weeks, but just let it go.) This “farmers market” is so unique here as it is an Amish market. Sure, I’m in Pennsylvania, but Amish country is about an hour and half west and although I love making that trip now and then, I am glad the Amish sellers make it here every week. The Bristol Amish Market is why I love farmers markets and anything like a farmers market. I go at least once a month and they have the most fresh vegetables, meats, fish, bakery items, cheeses, and more. What’s even better is the fact the Amish do not use hormones, pesticides, and other crazy things to mess up perfectly wonderful food. I feel confident in what I buy. I like that I have to rinse the vegetables because there is dirt on them – they should have dirt on them because they grow in the ground! Take the time to check out the markets in your area, it’s worth it. Once you grow or buy a vegetable from a non-commercial source, you will realize strange things: celery actually has flavor, a head of garlic isn’t that big, and carrots actually come in different colors! Even more, visit a pick your own orchard or farm for a really different, satisfying, and fun afternoon. Kids who grow or pick their own vegetables tend to eat more fresh foods – same with adults. Find pick your owns and farmers markets in your area.
Fresh Radishes June 9, 2012
There is nothing I love more than going out the garden, picking a vegetable, and coming inside to prepare it. It’s the freshest food you can ever eat. See that dirt? That’s the sign of real, fresh food. What I love about gardening is that I know where, how, and when it was grown – I know that dirt. No surprises. I know I didn’t genetically modify the radish to have a limit of five leaves and grow uniform two inch diameter roots. That’s the joy of it. Real food comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors. But really, this variation is the most beautiful. Like people – wouldn’t it be boring if we all looked, acted, and thought the same?
Roasted Radishes with Greens
4-5 large radishes with greens attached
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 cherry tomatoes
1. Preheat oven to 500. Rinse radishes. Separate leaves from radishes and slice radishes. Chop greens and set aside.
2. In a medium, oven proof skillet, add olive oil and heat until shimmering over medium-high heat and add radish slices. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until radishes begin to get brown spots, about 2 minutes.
3. Place skillet in preheated oven and roast radishes until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes.
4. Return skillet to burner on medium heat. Add butter, stir to coat. Add radish greens and garlic and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, and salt & pepper (if needed). Cook through about 1 minute and serve immediately.
Time for Impatience June 3, 2012
I check my garden every day, sometimes multiple times per day just waiting to catch the first signs of something I missed last time I checked. Again, as I have said before, I just check which means “look and don’t touch.” (Nature gets insulted if you act like it’s helpless and lets you know it’s angry.) The tomato plants have flowers, the potatoes are growing overnight, the radishes are getting some bulk, the celery is getting taller, fatter, and stronger, the beans are trained to climb the pole – but still I am waiting. I go through this every year, waiting for the first nice harvest kills me although this year the strawberries are amazing so I cannot complain. My favorite days are ones when I have to bring the basket in a couple of times to empty before I go out for more and then take the rest of the day deciding what to do with everything. There is nothing more rewarding than using something you just picked from the garden. Yesterday I ate a strawberry I picked off the vine just seconds before – nothing like it. I feel I am in a lull but when the harvest starts, I cannot wait to share my enthusiasm, cooking, and preserving. Gardening is zen for my soul and joy for my tummy.
Stop & Smell the Roses May 31, 2012
Or lilies. Yesterday, I noticed my tiger lilies were starting to bloom. Lilies not only add a splash of color, but if you actually take the time to look and smell them, they are so much more. Their leaves and stalk are sturdy and shiny. The flowers are flashy and confident. These flowers are so perfect, they almost look fake. Ever have that feeling? Someone is too nice to be real? Are you often more shocked when people are kind and polite? The lily is the real thing and yes, there are good people out there. That being said, there is a lot to learn from a lily. In our society we rarely take (or have) time to pay close enough attention to learn such important lessons from nature.
Leaf it Alone May 27, 2012
The one thing I love about gardening is watching a plant grow from a seed to a beautiful, productive plant. What is it that tells us that plant is healthy? Its leaves. The leaves tell you if the plant is sick, thirsty, hot, or infested. So when there are beautiful leaves, you know your plant is doing well. My best advice? Let nature do its thing. The more I’ve fussed over my garden the less productive it became. Since then I’ve held myself back from “babying” the plants and it rewards me with a healthy, thriving garden. I had a rough start this year and lost a lot of my seedlings but after checking on the garden today, I’m really happy with the way my plants are after a sketchy start. Note the use of “checking on” rather than active gardening. Nature knows what it’s doing.
The Unofficial Start to Summer May 26, 2012
Nothing says summer is on the horizon like the first fruits of the garden. For me, it’s strawberries and nothing surprises me more. After about five years of trying to get more than a few strawberries, we decided to pull up the patch this year. I think it heard us, we have tons of strawberries growing! This is just a small picking for immediate use after yesterday’s harvest. Note to self: Apparently leaving the patch alone before and during the winter did right by it.