Monday, December 31, 2012

Harvest Monday, December 31st, 2012

Last week featured the Christmas meal. I ended up using a couple of squash to make a squash puree. My other dish was some Boston baked beans made from my Jacob's Cattle beans and onions. I used not quite two pounds of beans for the dish. I'm guessing that people not from the US haven't heard of Boston baked beans and many people who live here haven't had the real deal. The canned beans you get from the supermarket is not real even if they say Boston baked beans on it. I had never had it until I went to Durgin-Park for dinner one time. The beans are baked with onions, molasses, mustard, and salt pork or bacon for 6-8 hours. Though some contend they have to be baked underground in a pit (much like pig in a luau), I wasn't about to go that far. The long cooking time caramelizes all the sugars and the taste is very transformed.

My baked beans were going to be done all vegan. Since we had a large group of not quite 50 people we had a mix of vegetarians and semi Kosher folk. However I couldn't fit all the beans into one casserole dish to bake (I don't own a traditional bean pot), so I made two and one had bacon. We even had the farmer who raised the pig at dinner. So it was a very much home grown dish.

I was going to have homegrown in my last dish too, but decided not to. I made thumbprint cookies. I was going to use some homegrown strawberry jam, but it was my last jar. And I still had a jar of my homemade cranberry apple jam. I thought Christmas a better time to use that.

I had few leftovers from Christmas. Just about a cup of each of my dishes. I thought they went well with my my morning eggs.

In fact I liked the beans and eggs so much I had to bring out some Gallo Pinto that I had frozen earlier in the year. Beans and eggs make a very nice breakfast.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Now I just have to figure out what I'm making for the New Year's party tonight. I still have a lot of sweet potatoes that need to get used. Even though I've been eating them every week (above is some mashed sweet potatoes I made, along with the last of the fresh spinach), it still looks like I haven't touched them. My boxes are still almost full. So they would be the best choice. Maybe I can make my quinoa and sweet potato soup. Hmm I'll have to think about it.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crystal Wonderland

I so love the snow. We got about 4-5" of snow over the night. Above is a street close to my house. It almost looks like it is in the country with all the snow.

My road is a little one car width private road. It almost looks like an alley.

My front yard with my peach trees. One tree is sadly leaning. I'm trying to straighten it up rather unsuccessfully. In late winter I'll trim the tree up.

My backyard has a small space for our table and grill. If you look in the corner you will see my townhouse mates' hot tub.

And of course the garden sleeping under its blanket of snow. Right now the sun is starting to come out and the snow is all glittering. So pretty.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

I always placing my first seed order for the year. For some vegetables I save my own seed and for some I still have plenty. But sometimes I neglect to save seed, or like my favorite Kentucky Wonder beans, the seed crossed so isn't pure anymore. Some seed I buy is hybrid like my corn, onions and some brassicas. And some seed takes a lot of space for a over time to save. Onions are one of these types. I'd have to grow the onion the first year then save it over the winter than plant it back the next year. Onions are also plants that have inbreeding depression, so you need to plant a decent amount of them to keep the line going. I don't get to eat anything out of the space. With things like these have have two choices. Give more space to that plant and maintain a line that could over time do very well in my area. Or I could grow more crops to eat locally. My yard is only 9000 sqft and shared by both townhouses. I really don't have space to do both. So I save what I can but my priority is to grow more food.

In fact my choice this year is to take one 4'x'8 vegetable bed out of production in veggies and put in a few more blueberry plants. I could eat pounds and pounds of these every year if I could just grow more of them. We do have some blueberry plantings in the front yard. But most of them are lowbush blueberries as landscaping. The bed that I'm going to plant up as blueberries is the shadiest part of the garden. It always unfreezes late in the spring as the neighboring houses shade it. But blueberries will be just fine with that space.

My favorite place to order seeds from is Fedco. It is a New England cooperative owned by the the consumers and workers. They aren't a company like Park or Burpee that push to sell to anywhere. Their focus is New England and they have seed that works in our climate. The descriptions sometimes will contrast how a seed will grow in Northern versus Southern New England. It isn't that the seed won't grow in other climates, but I know it will work in mine.

So here is my first order. I might or might not place another order. I haven't yet decided.

  • Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean
  • Serendipity Bicolor Sweet Corn*
  • Sensation Melon
  • Mokum Carrot
  • Sugarsnax Carrot*
  • Andover Parsnip OG
  • Oasis Turnip*
  • Copra Onion
  • Ailsa Craig Onion
  • Space Spinach*
  • Giant Winter Spinach
  • Argentata Chard
  • Gigante d’Italia Parsley
  • Early Mizuna OG
  • Ruby Streaks OG
  • Shuko Pac Choi
  • Purple Pac Choi
  • Kolibri Kohlrabi*
  • Winner Kohlrabi

* means that I purchased more than one packet or a large packet. I buy carrots and spinach every year because old seed is unreliable for them. I buy a lot of them because I grow so much of it. Things like turnips or kohlrabi have long lasting seeds. I may not grow that much each year, but I'll use the same packet for several years.

My total is $42. I always have to purchase at least $30 or I get hit with a $5 shipping fee, and I like my free shipping. No trouble this year. In fact I ordered a little more since I'm ordering for Granny and those don't go into my totals. This total won't go on this year's tally. I'll be starting next year's tally with it since it is for next year's crops.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Harvest Monday, December 24th, 2012

No harvests this week. This week it was all about eating from my stores. For Christmas I go to a large potluck dinner. Well I say go, but my townhouse mates are hosting so it is in my house too. We have a door between our living rooms that we open for big parties as our downstairs isn't large enough for really big parties. She has been throwing the "orphan" Christmas party for years and years. It started small as most had a place to go for the holidays, with people who didn't celebrate to those that had too far to go home. As time went on more people started showing up. Now it is huge. There are usually between 40-50 people. She never sends out the invitation until very close to the holiday so those that have other places to go will go there.

But I digress. I decided to bring some squash. I wanted a more savory squash, so I've been experimenting with casseroles. It looks so good doesn't it? Well it didn't taste that good. I've tried a couple ways, but maybe I just don't like the savory preparations. I still didn't try a curried one, maybe I'll try that next. But home. Experiments shouldn't be brought to parties. I'm going to resort to the typical pureed squash, seasoned with maple syrup, butter, and spices. I know that will be good.

I made a couple of spinach salads from the spinach picked last week. If you remember a while ago I sent out gift bags to my neighbors with homemade treats. A couple of them sent me back gifts. One had oranges from his mother's neighborhood in it. They go well in my spinach salad. I also added some sweet potatoes and some home made candied walnuts which I hadn't yet put on when this photo was taken.

The weather has finally turned colder. So of course it was soup time. I made a bean soup with my Calypso beans.

From the garden it contained squash, Calypso beans, carrots, shredded zucchini, celery, onions, and herbs (not shown). I used broth from some bones that I'd saved from previous meals. It had both ham and chicken bones. The ham flavor really predominated though. Sometimes I eat it straight and sometimes I puree my soups. This one I did as a puree and then swirled in some Greek yogurt before eating. It was yummy.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice

Gardens revolve around the seasons so to me a gardener ought to celebrate the solstice. Or more to the point celebrate the return of light that is about to come. Today we are having a perfectly miserable "winter" storm. Driving rain and lots of wind. It feels like a nor'easter, but I haven't been following the weather like I do during the growing season. I did notice that my outdoor thermostat reads 51F. I really hope winter comes back this season. I suppose if we have switched permanently to zone 7 I might have to think about gardening more during the winter. But to be honest I really like my winter break. I like that I have a real season to dream about what to plant for next year. Right now I'm reading the Fedco catalog and making my list and checking it way more than twice.

Over the last couple of weeks I did get a tiny bit of gardening done. The roots of figs are hardy here, but the wood is not, so I wrapped up my fig tree. I'm doing an espalier. The main trunk is going about a foot off the ground. Well two trunks. I took two branches and trained them horizontally. Then I'm letting real branches grow up vertically about a foot apart. I bent the branches down so they were closer to the trunk and then buried it all in dry leaves. Then I covered it with a tarp. The other side of the tarp is brown and I was going to leave it brown side up, but I was afraid it would get too hot under the tarp. So the more ugly silver side gets to be the view from my desk window. But if I get figs next year it will be worth it.

The way I wrapped it up is NOT how the Boston fig expert tells you how to wrap your tree, but I just couldn't bear to put on that awful pink fiberglass insulation under the tarp. I could just see it getting caught in everything. Ick! We will see if dry leaves work. If not I might have to talk to a neighbor I don't know. I go by his yard on occasion and he has a little fig tree about five feet tall. Right now it is all wrapped up. I've seen another one in another yard farther away and their tree is about the same size. Of course I've seen ripe figs on neither of these trees, so don't know how successful they are. I figure if I can't get it to work, I can always move one of the figs to the garden proper. There it would be alongside the foundation, which would help some.

I also raked up the pine needles off of the bamboo and put them around my blueberries. I keep hoping I can lower the pH of the soil. I should have taken a soil test to see, but I didn't. I did get some soil from the main garden to test. I dried it out and have it packed up to send to the extension service after Christmas. For now I want to stay as far away from the post office as possible.

So Happy Solstice everyone. I hope you are having a merry season. I know I am. Last weekend was the Chanukah party; today is the solstice/end of the world party; Tuesday is the Christmas party; then comes the New Year's party; then my birthday party just five days later; then another friend's birthday party. I think I'm going to be partied out after the season is over. You would never know I was a bit of an introvert.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Harvest Monday, December 17th, 2012

I still had some small patches of veggies to pick for the winter. The weather forecast was for colder weather and I had used up my greens from the fridge. So it was time to pick.

I got a nice basket of bok choy, tatsoi, radish, and turnip.

There isn't much left in the little patch. I might get another harvest. But if I do it will be very small.

I planted spinach a while ago. I usually don't get a harvest in the fall. They were really planted for overwintering and an early spring crop. But I thought the plants were big enough to take a couple of leaves from the largest ones.

It was a decent harvest of spinach and a little bit of baby lettuce. I didn't plant the lettuce. They are a volunteer romaine. Maybe Little Gem. I don't know if the lettuce will survive the winter or not. Last year I had several babies over winter in protected spots, but last year we only got to 5F (zone 7b). I'm in zone 6b so it was 10F warmer than normal.

The garden looks so barren now. It just needs a covering of snow.
  • Greens 2.96 lbs
  • Roots 0.86 lbs
  • Weekly total 3.82 lbs
  • Yearly total 712.78 lbs
  • Tally $1509.22

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Harvest Monday, December 10th, 2012

No harvests yet. I'm eating all the greens in my fridge as fast as I can before they go bad. Above is one of my favorite side dishes - coleslaw with cabbage, onions, and carrots from the garden.

My pizzas don't have tomato sauce on them. I usually make mine with a mix of mushrooms, onions (from the garden), and greens (from the garden). I saute them with red wine for added flavor. This time I used Swiss chard.

Last night we had fried rice for dinner. It is one of my husband's favorites, but he hates to have veggies mixed in. So I made a side dish for me of stir fried vegetables. Onions, Mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, and purple sweet potatoes. All from the garden except the mushrooms.

I've cleared out most of the greens that I need to use up. I still have some chard and some bok choy left. I expect to have those done soon and then I'll start picking from the garden again until it is all used up. The weather has been very very nice. Too nice. My husband told me that this year is on track to be the warmest year for the US in recorded history. I'm really hoping for a real winter this year. The insect pests were a bit out of control and their timing was all off. It is easier to garden when things are predictable.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Holidays

Our family doesn't do gifts much anymore. I do give gifts to my kids and on occasion my husband gets something, but we don't do the normal holiday craziness. Still I like to make things for people. Two years ago I made baskets of goodies for the neighbors. This year I decided to do gift bags instead. I looked for baskets. But I'm just not going to spend $20 for the container for my homemade treats. It seems silly. Gift bags are cheap and much easier to carry around. And they can be recycled.

English Toffee and Chow Mien Cookies cooling

I started before Thanksgiving when I made Cranberry Apple Jam. Then came the fudge. Fudge is good to make ahead since you can put it in the freezer and pull it out when you are ready to assemble. I also made some candied walnuts. Again they don't go bad quickly so it was an easy ahead thing to do.

Tuesday we got back from a trip to Kansas visiting my in-laws for five days. After catching up on things today it was finally time to buckle down and get all the rest done. This is the first time I made muffins (pumpkin muffins with butternut squash from the garden). Unlike most of the things in the basket this needs refrigeration because of the cream cheese frosting. I've never put anything in before that couldn't sit on the counter for a week.

Form left to right and then top to bottom I have Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies, Thumbprint Cookies (with strawberry jam from my garden strawberries), English Toffee, Candied Walnuts, Cranberry Apple Jam, Pumpkin Muffins, Penuche Fudge, Chocolate Fudge, and Chow Mein Cookies.

Next year I'd love to do more things from the garden. Right now two treats use things from my garden. I'd love to make that all of them. I'm thinking when herb season comes, I could make some herbed vinegar. I could do some dried herb packets. The jam could actually be from the garden. I could do some bread and butter pickles. I'm wondering what else I could make from the garden that would be fun. Do you give gifts from your garden?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Harvest Monday, December 3rd, 2012

No harvests were made last week. I also didn't take a lot of photos of food. But I did have a couple. the first is a pie made from my homegrown butternut squash. Well not really a pie as such. There is no crust. So I guess you would call it a custard. If you take the crust out of pumpkin pie it is almost good for you. Soy milk, eggs, squash, spices. Yes there is some sugar, but I don't add a lot when I'm trying to be healthy.

Sometimes my lunches get weird. I had a sweet potato dish (sweet potatoes, onions, and thyme from the garden) and some baked beans (yellow eye beans and onions from the garden). The beans were an experiment. I can't eat tomatoes and the typical canned beans have tomatoes in them. But the traditional recipe for Boston Baked Beans doesn't. It relies on mustard and molasses for flavor. Well that and cooking them for eight hours in the oven so all the sugars are caramelized. They are so much better than the regular canned beans. I want to try to can them sometime this winter as I much prefer my beans canned than frozen, and the recipe takes too long to do it every time I want beans. I wanted to make the recipe once without canning just to make sure I like it. And I really, really do.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.