Monday, June 18, 2012

History in the Garden

If you're interested in garden history, there is a terrific article in the New York Times about the recreation of slavery-era African American gardens.  Both Kathe Hambrick-Jackson of the River Road African American Museum and Michael Twitty, a culinary historian, are at the forefront of a movement to educate people about the important role that heirloom plants played in effecting survival and independence among African Americans.  The article profiles them, and others, who aspire to educate their communities about these lost gardening traditions.
To view the article, see Freedom Gardens: The Seeds of Survival


Harvest Monday 6/18/2012

This week's harvest was a small one; just a bunch of baby beets.  The weather has been extremely hot, and that seems to have slowed the growth of the garden.  Many of my little tomato flowers have dried up.

Plus, a glimpse of the harvest to come...





Happy Harvest Monday and see you next week!

For more great harvests, check out Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weed your garden day

Today is "Weed your garden day", at least according to the calendar I ordered from Baker Creek.  I don't know about the rest of you, but my garden needs weeding on a near constant basis.

Maybe I'll go pull a token weed or two this evening to celebrate the day, that is if my husband left me any!  He was on a mission to eradicate weeds this weekend and surprised me with a perfectly weeded garden.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvest Monday 6/11

Last week was a lazy week in the garden.  It probably should have been a busy week, given the quantity of weeds that need to be pulled and crops that needed a second thinning.  But alas, I spent most of my time in the kitchen cooking up radishes from last week's harvest (braised radishes are totally amazing!), making stock with kitchen scraps, and turning the last of my 2011 frozen zucchini into bread.
I don't have the funds at the moment for a drip irrigation system in the garden, so I've been relying on the hose.  I know, I know.  Leaves don't like to get wet, especially in the evening, which is the only time I'm not at work.  So a couple of weeks ago, my husband decided to set up the sprinkler in the garden to save me some time and at least get the watering schedule moved to the mornings.  And it has really works wonders!  I know turn the sprinkler on a few days a week at 5AM as I am getting ready for work, and then turn it off before scooting out the door.  It's a real time saver, and my plants seem to be doing great.  But it's also caused me to become a little bit of a lazy gardener, as I haven't had to rush outside every night to make sure the plants aren't wilting. 
Anyway, on to Harvest Monday!
My first picking of Swiss Chard yielded approx. 60 leaves!  I sauteed the stems in a little butter and honey and served those as a side with dinner.   I blanched all of the leaves and had enough for 3 freezer bags.  I love Swiss Chard in Italian Soups, so I'm looking forward to stocking the freezer for winter use!
And then, of course, I picked several more small heads of the Merveille lettuce (and my second-to-last Tennis Ball).  My cuttings haven't even made a dent in the patch, so I think I definitely planted too much!
My marjoram and thyme needed a good trim, so I cut them down and am drying out quite a few leaves for winter use.

I also decided to pull some dill while its leaves are still fresh and tender to dry for later use.  This is about 15 stalks, and there is at least three times as much left in the garden waiting to go to seed.

And finally, I pulled a few green onions (not pictured).
For more great harvests, check out Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Taste Test: Radish Pickles

Well, they're ready!  Now comes the moment of truth...
Delicious.  A hint of garlic, a hint of heat, and a delicate vinegar base.  
I will definitely be making more of these!

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Perfect Tomato

To many gardeners, the perfect tomato can be an elusive mystery.  Why did the tomato picked on Saturday taste sweet and juicy, while the tomato picked from the very same plant on Wednesday was flavorless and mealy?  I love a good mystery, but really, sometimes I just want an answer.  So I was thrilled to discover that NPR's food blog, The Salt, recently posted an article on the science behind the perfect tomato.  
Some revelations include:
  • Large amounts of direct sunlight to fruits yield sweeter taste
  • Over-watering, or an abundance of rain just before harvest, dilutes flavor
I can definitely be guilty of over-watering my garden at times, so I'm curious to see if this advice will produce a noticeably tastier tomato harvest.  I guess only time will tell... 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grapefruit Tree?

My husband's grandmother loves to spend her days germinating seeds from various fruit and vegetable species.  Last year, she sprouted several avocado trees.  This year, she has taken up citrus.  And yes, I am now the proud owner of a tiny grapefruit tree. 

I am not a houseplant person and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've killed every plant that has set foot indoors.  Now, I'm terrified that I will kill grandma's tree. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Little Garden Ingenuity

To extend my harvest, this year I planted Good Mother Stallard pole beans in large pots.  The idea seemed like a good one, but oh were those seeds slow to germinate.  I even contemplated replanting at one point, but finally beautiful little pole beans emerged.  They really were darling and I was absolutely in love.  Totally worth the wait!  Then one day last week, I came home from work and discovered that all of those delicate little bean leaves were gone.  Someone had wiped out my entire crop of pole beans in a day! 

After a little investigating, I've determined that the culprits were a flock of birds.  Probably Robbins or starling, as they are most common in the neighborhood.  I fretted for most of the evening, even telling my husband that those birds are no longer welcome in my back yard!  Of course try to enforce that rule!!  In the end, I turned to an easier method of protecting my newly planted crop...

Onion bags!  I contemplated spending money on netting, but then I noticed two bags of onions in the pantry and set to work devising a shield around my pots.  I simply peeled off as much of the label as possible without ripping the bag and then cut off the sealed bottom.  I stretched one open end to fit around the middle of the pot and the other open end provides some extra light for the plants.  Now, any bird trying to mess with my beans will get wrapped up in netting -- a pretty good deterrent so far!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Harvest Monday

I finally made it out to the garden mid-week and pulled the rest of my giant radishes for a total harvest of 48!

Now the question remains, what to do with all these radishes?  I took some great advice from last week's comments and made a couple of jars of refrigerator pickles, but I still have a huge bowl in the fridge!  I guess I'll be eating lots of salads over the next couple of weeks!

I also picked a head of Tennis Ball lettuce and made a delicious salad -- I'm really regretting not planting more Tennis Ball.  The Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce is delicious, but a little bitter.  This Tennis Ball has such a nice, mild and buttery flavor.  Something for me to keep in mind next year, I guess!

Check out more great Harvest Monday posts at Daphne's Dandelions.  I can't wait to see what next Monday will bring!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Help from Mother Nature

We finally got rain -- two glorious days of rain!  I've been watering regularly, but there is nothing like a good soaking rain from Mother Nature to perk up the garden. 

Yesterday, I headed outside to check the garden's progress and was amazed to find that my tomatoes had doubled in size! 

My potatoes have also sprung to life in the past week, and easily grown several inches in just a few days.   I'm so relieved to see that they are finally thriving after a slow start. 

My peppers are still fairly small and compact, but they bushed out quite a bit. 

When my bush beans first sprouted, the beetles attacked and ate quite a few holes in the bottom leaves.  However, I'm so pleased that the pests haven't come back to snack on the new top growth.  I've been watching closely for several days, and so far so good!

All that rain did a lot of good, but it also created a thriving weed community (you can see several in the top left corner next to the bean patch).  I guess it's time to put on the garden gloves and get to work!