Cookbook Dreams

It may be the middle of December, but the pictures from this Jamie Oliver cookbook has got me thinking garden.

It may be time to break out the seed catalogs...


Quiet October

There is not much going on in the garden at the moment.  I've cleaned out a good portion of the beds, with the few remaining squash and melons ready to be removed at any time.  I just thought I'd take a picture of the trellis to show how well the Morning Glories did this year.  

Considering they need bascially zero attention, they really did a great job of climbing, and providing a nice canopy of shade under the trellis.  I'd like to eventually have Wisteria instead, but for now the Morning Glory is a nice stand in.

I also did a quick project the other day I wanted to document.  I made a teepee out of the old hardwood stakes that were left over when I pulled out the tomatoes.  I put it in place of that old ladder, which never looked very good anyway.

Most of the big sunflowers have whithered, but a few of the smaller ones are still going strong.


I Dream of Coldframes

Every year around this time I start to get an itch for some good ol'fashioned cold weather gardening.  As the tomatoes and other warm weather crops fall by the wayside I tend to find myself wishing that fall and winter were more then just 'cleanup' season in the garden.

One of my first gardening books was Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman, and it is good enough to make any gardener start dreaming about coldframes, greenhouses and fresh salad all winter long.  His other book, The New Organic Grower, is equally as good and I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Maybe eventually I'll find some ways to work in some coldframes and the like, but until then I'll have to just keep on dreaming.


The Zucchini Stands Alone

This little Sebring Zucchini is one of only three that I was able to harvest this year.  


Last year I had more Zucchini then I could handle.  This year: nada.

Although  I am pretty sure that there was a bad case of Vine Worm Borer running around the garden, it just goes to show that even the most vigourous plants require attention to soil conditions and sunlight position.

That's the great thing about gardening.  Every year is a heap of new lessons learned, and new info to log away for future years.  Even though this growing season had it's share of frustrations, it was a good time for experimentation and trial and error.

And, on the plus side, that little zucchini was pretty tasty.


Frosty Morning

Looking out the kitchen window this morning I'm noticing that there is a very light layering of frost on the lawn.  I'll have to get out to the garden later today to evaluate the damage if any.

Things have been winding down recentley anyway, but I have still been holding on to hopes of a late summer zucchini and squash harvest.

We'll see...


Bugs, Blight & Bunnies

There have been some battles waging recently in the garden.  Of all the casualies thus far the tomatoes have been hit by far the worst.  All that rain I was so excited about back in the month of August has brought about some nasty consequences.  Namely a serious case of tomato blight.  

Apprently there is not always  just one factor that causes tomato blight, but constantly wet weather is a major piece of the puzzle.  This nasty looking rot started in just one plant and has worked it's way quickly down the row, plant to plant, like a bad case of the flu.  I've tried to stay on top of it by pruning the infected fruits out (and I have been able to salvage a few here and there) but for the most part this has thrown a serious wrench into my tomato-growing machinery.

Likewise I've had some problems with my winter squash (pumpkin and butternut).  The vines grow, the flowers bloom... and then before the squash sets in- the flowers just fall off.  At first I thought the blossoms were being nibbled by the local rabbit  population, so I put my portable rabbit-proof fencing around the beds.  No dice though.  The flowers kept disappearing.

Turns out the problem was not bunnies, but bugs.  There are tiny bugs that bore their way into squash vines (appropriately named Squash Vine Borers) where they lay eggs and wreak general havoc.  Plants can still look relatively healthy but, as I've found, the flowers do not fully develop.  The solution (say the books) is to bury the stem farther up from the affected area where the ought to put out new roots, causing much rejoicing all around.  

I'm not fully convinced, but I tried it anyway.  We'll see.

After all that depressing disease and pestilence talk I'll end this post with some cheery Sunflower pictures.  Because really, whats cheerier than a sunflower?


Seed Savers

I don't know how I missed the boat on these guys for so long, but the other day I stumbled upon the website run by the good people of "Seed Savers Exchange."  Their company's mission statement is, in their own words, as follows: 

Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange members have passed on approximately one million samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners. We are a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

So bascially its some people who were so dedicated to not losing our country's old, regional, heirloom varities of vegetables (and fruits, herbs and flowers) that they rounded up these seeds from home gardners and now offer the seeds for sale on their website.

They've got great pictures and descriptions of all the different types.  Although in some cases the names alone would be enough to convince me.  After all, who could resist an Aunt Rubie's German Green Tomato, or a Sweet Mountain Yellow Watermelon?

I already ordered a full catalog from the website, and I am predicting now that I'll be recieving lots of seed packets from Seed Savers in early spring for next year's garden.



We planted these carrots back on Earth Day as a family project.  And now, voila, here they are!

These were the first four that were ready to pick, but by the looks of it there should be plenty more down the road.

 I turned to "Barefoot Contessa" for a quick roasted carrots recipe.  A little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and thats that.

Might have been undercooked a little bit, but not bad overall.  With the next batch I'll try to get them a little more brown and crispy on the outside.


Big Boy

I guess there's a reason that this sunflower is named "Mammoth."  It's gotta be 7 feet tall, and the flower itself borders a "Little Shop of Horrors" level of hugeness.  



Tomato Town

With my supply of tomatoes from the garden continually mounting I've been looking for new ways to eat and enjoy these little babies.

A recipe for pizza in my baking cookbook "Knead" caught my eye.  You make the basic pizza dough from scratch, then top it with sliced tomatoes, basil, olive oil and mozzarella cheese.  Sounds simple and tasty.  Perfect.

I dusted off the old stand mixer to make the dough.  After a few minutes of mixing, and an hour or so to rise, I had a wee ball o' dough- ready for pizza making

We ended up making two pizzas.  One with the tomato sauce that I made last week, and one with these sliced tomatoes straight from the garden.

I really couldn't take pictures of the last steps as it involved sliding the dough onto a hot pan and hastily assembling the ingredients before shoving them into the oven.  The end result was pretty satisfying though, and very, very tasty.



Garden Tragedy

Everything that I've read about melons says that the best way to determine ripeness is to wait until the stem turns dry and brown.  And also that when the stem dries it will 'pull away' sightly from the body of the melon.

Well the other day I was out pulling weeds. It was hot, and I was really, really sweaty.  Well the heat must have affected my judgement.  At one point I looked over and saw this Sugar Baby watermelon, and it just looked so refreshing and so...ripe. I checked the stem...nope, not dry.  Not brown.   Despite the voice of reason whispering in my ear, I plucked the thing up and whisked it into the kitchen.

I mean look at this thing, doesn't it just look ripe?

Well it wasn't.  

At all.

Lesson learned.  (I hope)


New Look

Yep.  The blog title changed.  Get over it, I already did.

The garden is just about dripping with tomatoes at this point, and there is no way that I can pick them fast enough.  The sauce tomatoes (San Marzano and Juliet) are especially prolific.  It makes me think that I need to make a bigger batch of sauce since the first go-round was relatively successful.

I haven't shown the carrots much since planting them back on earth day, but they look good.  You can see some healthy looking carrot-shoulders poking out in this picture.

A snaky looking Zucchini plant tucked into a shady corner.

The sunflowers are big, bigger, and biggest.  This one is called 'Teddy Bear'- short, but with some serious attitude.

The Zinnias continue to be big and bright focal points of the herb garden.

Is there a flower more photogenic then a Dhalia?  These pictures would seem to say no... and I would tend to agree.


Garden Growth and Tomato Sauce

The rain has continued through the first half of August so far, and everything has just kept on growing.  I think that I've only had to get the watering can out once or twice all month. 

The Dhalias have started to bloom...

The sunflowers have really taken off too.  

The tomatoes are still growing like crazy- they kind of look like a mess in this picture though.

The watermelon patch is still looking nice and thick.

Some good looking watermelons peeking through the vines.  Hopefully this one'll be ripe soon.

This 'Chanterais' melon is looking pretty good too.

I decided today to finally use my paste tomatoes to make some tomato sauce.  This is a mix of both types the  'San Marzano' and the 'Juliet'.

It wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be.  Preparing the tomatoes took longer then the actual cooking.  Here are they are after being peeled...

..and and after being cut in half and seeded.

There wasn't much to it after that.  They simmered in the pan with olive oil, garlic and basil for about 15 minutes.

After simmering for a while it got pretty saucy, and smelled really good.  After it was done I ran it through the food processor to make a smoother consistency.  

I think that my first sauce making experiment was a success.  It was pretty easy, and it tasted pretty darn good.  The only thing was that it didn't make as much as I thought.  It takes a lot of tomatoes to make a little sauce I guess.  Good to know.