Showing posts from June, 2012

Freeze the Peas

I've written about the process of freezing peas before, but it's worth a look back to compare the volume of peas from last fall to the amount we have now. Our pea vines got off to a very slow start this spring, and even though they still aren't all that tall, all of their energy seems to be going into pods. Last night we went out and picked a giant basket and shelled them (which took two adults and one child about an hour to do). Today I blanched and froze them.

A small refinement to our process: instead of just dumping the peas directly into the bag, we added the step of freezing them on a cookie sheet.

This helps keep them separated instead of freezing into one big ball. You do have to use a spatula to pry them off the cookie sheet, but it's worth the extra iota of effort.

Here's a day's worth of harvesting this time around:

Now that's from 54 row feet of peas, which is a lot more than the 13 we had last fall, but even so, the plants are also more produc…

Lunching on Leftovers

Since we're not buying vegetables any more, it's a good idea to make the most of our garden odds and ends. Here's what I found for lunch:

Leftover new potatoes and peas from Sunday dinner, side shoots of broccoli (yes!) from the leftover plants that have not yet ben fed to the chickens, and some goat cheese (a great summertime staple, we have decided). I also ran out to snip some tarragon and a bit of thyme.
These things I worked into an omelet with a bit of salt and pepper. Omelets are a great way to blend weird leftovers together, and they are one of my favorite things for lunch:

Add some garden greens and voilà! Leftover lunch is served, quick and delicious.

Lovely Lovage

Of all the herbs we planted this year, lovage by far is our favorite. We bought it kind of on a whim when we saw it at the Herb Farmacy earlier in the spring, even though all we knew about it was that, according to Back to Basics, it tastes like celery leaves. And that sounded boring enough that this was originally only a second-string choice on the herb list, something we almost didn't make room for.

Well, now it's filled out nicely, and it is delicious. It does taste like celery, sort of, but also so much more — there's a definite curry flavor in there (almost never part of any description you read about lovage, but it's there). We've been picking leaves for salads, and it's always the best bite when you get a piece. 

Lovage is related to carrots, celery, and parsley, as you can see by the leaf shape. It's got a good lot of essential oil in the leaf, the way cilantro does (though they don't taste much alike). Recipes I've looked at say to go easy…

Securing the Borders

Since the utter decimation of our broccoli plants (all 32 of them), we have also experienced some friendly fire:

The chickens got into the Brussels sprouts again. Time to get serious about protecting our food.

With some more stakes inherited from the move into this house and some more rolls of chicken wire from the hardware store, we added a big cage around the Brussels sprouts patch. That will definitely keep out the chickens, and hopefully whatever else has been munching on our brassica. So far it's working on the cabbages pretty well.
As you may recall, the Brussels sprouts aren't doing terribly well in that shady spot anyway, so we also decided to cut our losses there and sow more lettuces between the rows of Brussels sprouts. If we get a few Brussels sprouts there, great; if not, we are hoping that we can eke some summer lettuce out of that shady spot, since many of ours have either been eaten or have bolted past the point of being edible (although some of the less bitte…

Sunday Dinner

Despite our manyanimal-relatedsetbacks this week, we ended on a high note with this excellent dinner:

Tiegan made the dinner rolls (and is excited to make more — almost as excited as we are to have an on-site baker!), and they are excellent. She also helped dig the new potatoes you see, which Kirk made with some butter and basil, and garnish of fresh peas. The steak was marinated with garden garlic and rosemary before grilling; and last but not least is the creamed spinach and mustard greens (Jonas' surprising favorite). We are making good on our no-buying-vegetables policy, and everything on this plate but the roll and steak are from the garden. It's all still pretty local, though, with the rolls baked at home from scratch, and the steak from cows that pasture a few miles down the road. 

A great ending to a great first week of summer vacation!

The End of the Broccoli

It's a good thing we had at least one of our broccoli heads on some pizza the other night, because it's all gone now. We had a few heads left after the first attack of whatever is eating these plants, but now they have all been eaten.

This makes me doubt the wild turkey theory, because we were pretty sure they wouldn't bother to come back. Kirk is thinking groundhog, but I haven't seen any. But it doesn't seem likely that the turkey couple turned to each other and said, "Hey, remember that great dinner we had the other night? Let's head back there for seconds!"
On the other hand, birdies really like broccoli greens:

So on the (ever-so-slightly) brighter side, we have some free greens to feed the chickens now. Each day I'll pull a chewed-up broccoli stalk or two and hang it in the run for the girls. And boy, do they come a-runnin' for it! At least someone at our address is getting some broccoli this season. 
Oh, and speaking of chickens: the c…

Garden Dinner: Broccoli Pizza

The turkeys didn't get all of our broccoli, and one head was starting to open up in the heat. Once it does that, it still tastes good, but it's a little hard to work with. This one was just the right amount to chop up and top a homemade pizza:

Kirk made the sauce today with our own garlic, oregano, and basil, and we topped this pizza with the garden broccoli (chopped small), some scallions, and a bit of goat cheese. Yum!
As you can see, we also had salad on the side. The greens were a little wilty from the intense sun today, but I managed to find some lettuce that wasn't too bitter from the heat (the older ones are all starting to bolt). Also in the mix are some scallions, beet greens, mint, tarragon, radishes, and lovage. Mint and tarragon are great for making a salad taste really fresh and cool, and lovage is the greatest herb of all time. But more on that later.

Summer Solstice Flowers

Happy solstice! We are in the longest (and hottest) days of the year, but the flowers in the perennial border are handling it well so far. Here's what we've got right now:

Japanese daisies peeking through the red Heucherella leaves.

White echinacea is starting to open up.

Our stonecrop has pinkish-red flowers along the stone wall.

Red climbing roses are still going strong. We'll need to get them trellised some time this summer so we can train them up the corner of the house for some height.

The only one complaining about the heat is this hydrangea. I should have taken this photo two days ago, before the flower heads started drooping. This is an everblooming variety, though, so even if it doesn't bounce back, we should get some more flowers throughout the summer.

Our shasta daisies are a huge success — and I do mean huge! They are as tall as I am. I will probably have to divide them next spring already.

The white lavender in the foreground is just starting to open open…

Eaten out of House and Home

We must not think that the Turk[ey] is so unskillful To leave that latest which concerns him first...
~Othello, Act 1, scene 3

Yesterday we spent the first day of summer vacation having family fun in Boston. Little did we know that while we were living it up, the same was happening in our garden:

This used to be our nicest, biggest head of broccoli. It was about a day or two from picking.

Here's another, which has a few nubs of broccoli left ungnawed. How thoughtful. Broccoli eaten whole: 19. Broccoli eaten partially: 4. Broccoli left unscathed: 4. 

Also, a whole cabbage here was mowed down. The bright side on this one is that we still have at least a dozen left, unharmed. The leftover leaves on this one went right to the chickens, so I suppose that's another glimmer of a silver lining as well.

Carrot tops: chewed. I don't think this will spell the end of the carrots. Lots of leaves are left, so they will likely be slowed down as they sprout new ones, but should be ok. 


The Trouble With Brussels Sprouts

Maybe we are destined never to have Brussels sprouts. Last year we planted them too late, and there wasn't enough time for the sprouts to grow bigger than a pea. This year we planted them nice and early, but we’re having all kinds of other problems.
First, they grow very, very slowly. Here's one that was sown at the end of April:

That's all the bigger it is after almost two months. Part of that might be because the spot where we planted them is too shady:

It gets some sun later in the afternoon, but in the future, this patch is probably better for summer lettuces and cabbages, where the shade could help keep them from bolting. As you can see in the photo, there are lots of spots marked with compost circles where seedlings have either not come up, or have been eaten, or are just too tiny to see yet.
Here's a formerly nice-looking plant that has been chewed on:

This time, the culprit isn't cabbage loopers or our squirrel vandals. Not chipmunks or slugs either. This …

Garlic Harvest

Most of our Spanish Rosa garlic stalks were lying down on the ground today. Some of their leaves had died back, and they each had about four or five good leaves left. I have read that you want to harvest garlic before all the leaves are brown, because each leaf is a paper around the bulb, and they will store much better with several layers of the papery husk left on them. 
This seemed like the right time to check them out, so I dug one up. It was gorgeous — nice and plump, with pinkish-purple papers:

So I kept digging up all the ones that looked ready, which was about 30 in all. The big ones I braided together to make ropes by which to hang them:

Kirk hung a hook and a small chain from the ceiling of the screened-in porch, and we tied our three garlic braids (about two dozen bulbs) to it. This isn't just for arts and crafts. When you pick garlic, you need to cure it by letting it air dry in a shady spot for several weeks until the leaves go brown and the papers are totally dry. W…

Planting Out Okra

I never took any photos of it, but back in the spring I started some okra ("Clemson Spineless") indoors. Okra is a heat lover, and because of that may be hit or miss here in Massachusetts, but we figured we'd give it a shot. What it has going for it is that it has a pretty short growing season, so if we get a few hot weeks, we might be ok.

Our original plan called for 16 plants, but not all of our sweet potato slips made it, which left room to put in an extra row (bringing us to 20 plants). These are about six inches high right now:

It's hard to imagine that this little seedling might someday be as big as the ones we saw in Williamsburg last fall. Probably not this far north, but it would be nice to get enough pods to make a gumbo and some shahi bhindi bhuna
In other, less exciting news, we spent the better part of the day in the orchard pulling weeds, re-edging, and mulching the fruit trees with compost. This was a bummer of a task because we let it go for too lo…

And Now ... Chipmunks

In addition to the plague of squirrels in the front yard, it would seem that we have some marauding chipmunks in the back. They have been digging up sunflower seeds that I planted and even dug up the seedlings to get to the seed. We lost all but one of our first go-round of sowing, so we slapped some row covers over the seeds on the second planting:

Clearly, this is nothing special. It's some short pvc posts holding up tent of row cover fabric, which is weighed down along the sides with lengths of scrap wood. Still, it's been enough to keep out chipmunks over the last week — they are burrowing animals but can't get at these from underneath, so it's working well enough so far.
Ah, but that lone seedling that made it through the first round of chipmunk attacks was left uncovered. We thought that surely by now it was big enough to escape their attention. And today it was lying at an angle, half dug up and a little scraped along its stem:

This is it after I dug it out com…