Thursday, November 08, 2012

Falling Behind

Well, well, well.  Missing in Action indeed.  Just a note to say I AM still alive and I have not given up either on gardening OR on blogging about it.  Our home in DC is sold.  We are living here full time now.  And today with the wind blowing hard enough to shut down the ferries for a second day, we are truly living on an island.  

My fence arrangement which has worked for me for almost a decade, was not sufficient to keep out the deer this year.  And once they got into the habit of night time visitation, there was no stopping them from marauding through the tomato and green bean crop with a vengeance.  I tried holding them off with a makeshift raising of the fence.  

I hoped to deter them from nibbling green beans to the ground with help from my local postman.

But each morning brought new heartache.  So I decided to give this year up for lost and commit myself anew to next season.

I was lucky that several new VERY local farm stands sprang up this summer to supplement my meager harvest.  When I say VERY local I mean that within a half mile bike ride I can get locally grown salad greens, kale, green beans, eggs, yogurt, raw milk, raspberries, heirloom tomatoes and honey.  In addition, within that same radius I can purchase locally raised beef, poultry and pork.  And I pass everyday the turkey I will eat for Thanksgiving.  

I have been busy putting the garden to bed and thinking about the fence I will put in for deer deterrence next spring.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Favas, Celery, and Eleanor Roosevelt

I have read rhapsodic blog entries about fava beans over the years.  This might not be the best year for me to experiment with a new crop, but I figured the nitrogen value alone would make the experiment worth it.  So when I returned to two rows of bulging pods and fallen plants, I dutifully took them from the vine and brought them in to try them.

I was guided in my culinary questions by Nigel Slater in his book, Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch. Slater devotes a chapter to the mystery bean.  I settled into the rocker on the back deck and eagerly read about stunning flowers (which I missed) and autumn plantings (which I assumed was a UK anomaly).  I decided that my beans were past the "cook them in their pods" stage, so I opted for a shelled bean recipe.

I had about a pound of pods.  A good pod yielded three beans.  But wait ... the uncovering continues.  You have to now peel the outer shell off of the bean.  Boiling salted water for 5 minutes followed by an ice bath.  Now the beans are both tender and easily removed from their jackets.  In the end I had about 4 ounces of edible bean.   Hmmmm.

But Slater proposed this lovely pairing of the beans in a sherry vinegar vinaigrette on thin slices of Spanish ham.  Prosciutto would have to do with a side offering of cheddar and fresh feta it made a perfect lunch.

So having relied on Slater's Fava Bean chapter, I turned now to the chapter on Celery.  You have to love a Table of Contents that reads like a seed catalog.  I knew celery was challenging so I was hoping to enjoy special tips on how to have a successful crop.  Once again, iced tea in hand, I settled into my outdoor perch and opened to CELERY.  Under the heading celery in the garden I read.  "I have never grown celery, and what is more I probably never will.  Celery is a crop only for the most committed of gardeners."

I was crestfallen.  Not that I have a prayer of getting a crop in THIS year, but I was hoping for some measure of encouragement.  I ate fresh celery once.  It was at a Farmer's Market in Pennsylvania and the experience was like eating a new vegetable for the first time.  It was sweet, crisp and bursting with flavor.  I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Lessons of Necessity

I returned to the garden on Thursday evening to find that good friends had tended faithfully to the watering chores and saved me from this very dry late spring and early summer.  I am deeply grateful for what they did.
I had made an executive decision to stop watering the garlic beds after the scapes had come and gone.  All the literature says to avoid watering after then to keep bulbs from splitting.  But normally I would harvest the garlic when the bottom 4-6 leaves had turned brown.  Given the early season, that date might have been July 1.  This crop was brown as toast from top to bottom when I returned, and I worried if maybe I had made a mistake.

One of the reasons you want to harvest earlier rather than later is to avoid THIS:

Only 3 head out of 200 harvested had this problem.

The truth is the bulbs were bigger than ever.  They had actually been curing underground in the dry soil and what ever moisture they might have needed, was provided by their very deep roots.   It is an EXCELLENT crop.

So if there is a lesson here it is that you CAN leave garlic in the ground longer than I thought, and as long as Mother Nature does not interfere with soaking rains, there is little risk to your crop.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In absentia

This is a different season ... a different spring.  I will not return to the garden until mid-July.  I have 21 tomatoes. 

2 Isis Cherry tomatoes - COMSOG (our community greenhouse)
1 Rutgers - COMSOG
7 Italian Sweet - from seed
6 Soldaki - from seed
6 Brandywine Sweet - from seed
1 Early Girl - farmstand

Cucumbers, shallots, fava beans, pole beans and bush beans, melons are in .  Garlic is scaping.  And most surprisingly, I have already eaten 3 artichokes.  7 artichokes overwintered successfully.

I am planting a salad mix called Ovation from Johnny's Seeds in my salad box.  It is tasty.  I am hopeful that there will be enough regular rain to keep the garden thriving, but I am also very grateful to dear friends who are tending things in my absence.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Missing in Action

This has not been a gardener's spring.  We are trying to get our DC house ready for sale, and I have been missing in action from the garden.  However, I am here for two weeks and last night reveled in fresh asparagus.  I want to post this recipe I tried.  The lemon zest really brightens it up.  I used what we call Maine shrimp ... a North Atlantic shrimp that is small and briny.  Also I substituted zucchini noodles for fettuccine ... You can make them with a spiralizer, or simply use a potato peeler

Lemon-pepper fettuccine with asparagus and shrimp

Serves 6

Salt and pepper, to taste 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths 1 pound fettuccine 3 tablespoons olive oil 30 large shrimp, peeled and deveined 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Finely grated rind of 2 lemons

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the asparagus and cook 1 minute until tender-crisp. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water.
2. Bring the water back to a boil, drop in the fettuccine, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
3. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shrimp, garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and cook 2 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through and the asparagus is warmed.
4. Return the pasta to the pot and toss it with half of the Parmesan, half of the parsley, the lemon rind, remaining olive oil, and reserved cooking liquid. Season with salt and a generous sprinkling of pepper.
5. Divide the pasta among 6 warm bowls. Arrange the shrimp and asparagus on top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Adapted from "Fast & Fit."

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Rooting for Root Crops

Around 3:30 each afternoon I start to think about what will go on the plate for dinner. There is something very satisfying about being able to wander into the garden at this time of year and solve that problem.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fleeting February

I hate to let a month go without at least ONE post. I have little gardening news to report. The garlic has stored well and I am still have a healthy supply. And there are still carrots and leeks and parsnips to harvest. I am thinking about a new "challenge crop" this year ... celery. I use LOTS of celery in my cooking. I know that fresh grown celery tastes SO much better than the industrially produced variety, but the work required is daunting.

Anyone in Zone 7 or lower have a celery variety suggestion?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

August in January

I took a look out the window at this morning's snowy landscape and decided I needed to leaven it with a touch of August memories. I rooted around in the basement and found one of my jars of tomato juice and brought it up for breakfast.Real tomato flavor is a celebration for the taste buds. I rolled it all around my tongue before taking the first swallow ... I was transported. Here's to a taste of sunshine on a snowy morning.