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Really fresh is best

July 15, 2010

Roasted new Red Pontiac and blue fingerling potatoes.

I harvested some Red Pontiac and blue fingerling new potatoes today just to see how they were. After washing them thoroughly and peeling off their skins and dark spots, I coated the potatoes with a garlic grapeseed basting oil, sprinkled with Maldon salt flakes and ground pepper then roasted them in the oven at 350. Cook them for at least 45 minutes or until they are nicely browned. Wow, that fresh taste just can’t be beat!
     I’ve been making sandwiches lately of freshly harvested garden veggies. First I toast semolina bread, spread it with a little Hellman’s mayo, top it with leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, sliced tomatoes (so far grape and San Marzano), add a few carrot shreds (store-bought), sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and coarse ground pepper and top with another slice of the bread. Man, if a sandwich ever tasted like summer, that is it!

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Heavenly harvest

July 6, 2010

This year's lavender harvest.

     We’re in the midst of a heat spell here. At the same time, the lavender blooming is near peak. Add in low humidity and you have the perfect combination for harvesting lavender. The box here is from the beds at the front of the house. While I hate to lose the pretty purple blooms, the heavenly scent (and what can be done with cut blooms at this point) is more tempting.
     I always tie up bunches and dry them upside down to put in with my linens. Not only will they keep them fresh-smelling, they deter moths. You can also use the dried lavender buds in teas, baking or baths. Find a great lavender milk bath recipe here.

lavender wand

One time I had a lavender harvest party and invited some friends over for light dinner fare, dessert and afterwards we made dream pillows (small pillows stuffed with dried lavender) and lavender wands. The wands are dainty, hand-woven with ribbon and can be used to keep linens fresh. Here is an easy guide.
     As the lavender dries, your whole house is filled with a soothing, heavenly aroma.

Uh-oh

July 5, 2010

     I’ve had three San Marzano tomatoes fall off the vine. One was almost red and the other two in various degrees of orangeyness. Each had a similar marking that has me concerned. From the bottom up about halfway on both sides of each tomato was a grayish, blackish marking and on one the tomato was actually beginning to rot. I sliced that one open, and its core was black.
     Has the dreaded tomato blight of last year returned, or are these tomatoes reacting to a hot, dry spell?

UPDATE: I did some research and found out this was NOT a case of tomato blight, but instead BER (blossom end rot). It’s a malady common with San Marzanos. For more info on the blight and how to respond if you find it (yes, it’s still around), click here.

Swiss Chard Quiche

July 1, 2010

Just-picked Swiss chard

*** Easy***

This is a recipe I played with last year, and am delighted to fine-tune it this year using my homegrown Swiss chard. I don’t give exact amounts below. Play with them, and see what suits your taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

  • frozen pie crust (Mrs. Smith’s) or if you have time, your own (uncooked)
  • a good-sized bunch of fresh Swiss chard — washed, dried & chopped coarsely
  • two (or more) cloves of garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh herbs, I used rosemary and flat-leaf parsley. Thyme & sage are good, too.
  • Vidalia onion, diced
  • feta cheese
  • eggs
  • half & half
  • Maldon salt flakes (or a good sea salt) & coarse-ground pepper
  • nutmeg

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with the olive oil. Put on medium high heat and add chopped garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, toss in the Swiss chard all at once. Using tongs, gently move the chard in the pan until it’s nicely wilted. Add rosemary and parsley and cook a few more minutes.

Put the sautéed veggies on the pie crust and spread out. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top. Cover with diced onions and enough feta cheese to top all.

Beat the eggs (you can use from one to three) with half and half (about a cup and a half) in a bowl. When well mixed, season with a little nutmeg. Pour the custard over the veggies and put the pie tin on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes (until quiche is firm and the crust is browned).

Towering perennials

July 1, 2010

Queen of the Prairie

Just had to share a photo or two of my Queen of The Prairie plants in bloom. They have to be about 7-8 feet high now and their sprays of buds have opened into airy beauty.
     This was one plant a couple of years ago. It spreads by runners, like mint, and has pretty much taken over the back of the perennial bed. I even took one cutting away and planted on the other side of the yard, just by itself.
     They’re crazy-big for a back yard garden, but their blossoms are so pretty, that you don’t mind.

Closeup, Queen of the Prairie

Garlic harvest… in June?

June 25, 2010

The garlic harvest is three weeks early this year.

Cloves sprouting in a garlic stem

The garlic has behaved quite oddly this year. Only a couple of plants shot out curlicue scapes. The others grew thick, turkey gizzard-like branches and/or sprouted cloves in their stems. This has never happened. Perhaps the soil got too chunky to grow in? (Never added the spring topping of manure like I usually do. D’oh!)

My friend’s father, an amazing gardener, shared with me this garlic wisdom:

Always plant garlic on the day of the Harvest Moon in the fall (usually September, sometimes October — it’s the one closest to the autumnal equinox). The garlic will sprout, then die back with the killing frost. But the roots will be well established for the next year. Dress with a layer of manure after they sprout in the fall, and again when they shoot up in the spring.

    Tonight I harvested this year’s garlic and it’s almost the strawberry full moon. This is about three weeks earlier than normal, but the plants were giving all the signs that it was time to come out of the earth. I laid them out on a harvest basket and will cure them for a few weeks in the garage. Once they’re completely dried, the skill and dirt will slide right off the heads.

Last day of spring sendoff

June 20, 2010

I watched the Japanese iris bloom before my eyes this morning, gently unfurling petals from their mummy-tight wrap. Here’s one of the blooms, in memory of a lovely spring.