Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Long View

Thought I would put in a photo of most of the vegetable garden, it's so big, I can't quite get it all in one shot. But it's just been looking so lush and fruitful lately I had to share. Closest is the bean trellis with turkey craws climbing to the heavens, then a big row of purple hull peas, their double pods curling up above the plants, beyond them is squash. David is in the eggplants, cukes behind him on another trellis, bush beans behind them. Tomatoes and peppers to the left, asparagus as a back drop. There is another big bed beyond the asparagus that currently has winter squash.

David is our one man pest control unit, he patrols daily, mashing flea beetles on the eggplants, searching for hornworms and fruit worms on the tomatoes. He spent an entire morning a few weeks ago performing surgery on the squash to remove the vine borers, more than 50 got dug out! but it seems to have revived the plants, they are still perking along, still making squash.

Here is one of our new varieties for this year, eight ball. It's the ultimate stuffing squash. I've also been making monster batches of ratatouille, the perfect thing to preserve squash, eggplant and tomatoes, a little onion, garlic and basil with lots of olive oil round out this delicious concoction that freezes great and later can dress pasta or fill a lasagna. I like to eat it room temp next to a slice of cold roast lamb or beef.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why We Garden Part II

David bringing in the harvest
I dug the potatoes today. We experimented with growing spuds in cages this year. We made hoops with tomato wire about 3 feet across and 2 feet tall. Lined it with landscape fabric. I loosened up the soil at the bottom and added some good stuff then set the potatoes on that, put a couple of inches over the tops and we just kept adding soil as the taters grew.

We started a bit late, I think we planted them about a week after the last planting date for potatoes here in central NC. They grew like mad, the combo of clay, compost, peat and leaf that D mixed up to keep adding on was nice and rich, we filled the bins close to the top and the plants just kept getting taller.

I decided they must be dug, the plants were dying back and we're getting too far into July. There begins to be a risk of soil born stuff rotting them or making them scabby. I pulled the soil away to discover all of the potatoes were down at the original soil level at the bottom of the bins, I thought the idea was they would make potatoes all the way up the stalk but they didn't, maybe if they had more time to grow. I don't know. But it ended up not too bad in the end, we got 13 pounds from an original pound or two of seed potatoes.

Tonight we roasted all the tiniest babies along side a localy grown fresh chicken and man were they good, you CANNOT buy this stuff, you have to grow it!

Monday, July 13, 2009


I've been trying to go for a walk/run a few mornings a week. I run till I can't any more, then walk to catch my breath, then run some more. Despite the darkening sky I decided to head out this morning anyway. I like to get my exercise early in the day, less chance to procrastinate and completely blow it off. I can hear the jolly little old man that used to swim laps next to me in the early morning at the Y saying, when you get your exercise done "Your halo is tight."

We've had 3 weeks of dry and each spend at least an hour a day standing behind the hose to keep the veggies alive and producing, not to mention watering the recently planted shrubs and trees. I was feeling kind of parched myself. I've always been critical of people who ran in the rain- cold rain in particular, or in the blazing heat of the afternoon- just considered them crazy.

But this morning, it started to come down almost the minute I left out and I ran in it till my clothes were completely soaked, the water running down my face and legs, my hair dripping into my face, it felt fabulous, I was being moisturized, revitalized, just like the dry parched earth that the rain was soaking into, and puddling up on. I found myself splashing through rivulets that ran down the road. Not until the second big peel of thunder did I deem it time to head home, so I didn't go as far as usual, but it sure was great to get refreshed and rehydrated.

It's still coming down out there.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why We Garden

These tiny little eggplants are called Fairy Tale. I don't actually remember ordering them but I started some seed and planted one good plant into the garden. We are growing 4 kinds of eggplants this summer, Rosa Bianca, Black Bell, Fairy Tale and Orient Express. They are doing quite well and all have good fruit set. We only have 6 plants, 2 each of the Rosa and Black, one each of the Fairy and Orient. It's enough. We can make ratatouille and baba ganoush, imam biyaldi (the priest fainted), asian eggplant salad, eggplant parmesan, have plenty to eat and some to freeze. We would be hard pressed to find all of these at market. I priced organic eggplant yesterday, it's going for $2 a pound and tiny ones like the Fairy Tale are $4/pound.
We try some new varieties every year. Another new trial this summer is Haricot Verts Tavera. It took us about 10 days to pick enough of these for two generous servings as I only planted a small section with them. But let me tell you, we simply blanched them and ate them at room temperature with NOTHING on them, not even salt, they were scrumptious. Here they accompany the best and simplest pasta ever, fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic, cooked in olive oil, tossed with penne and topped with the real deal, Reggiano Parmesan. The little eggplants I halved and cooked slowly with S&P in olive oil. They were creamy, sweet, no seeds, totally delectable. Here they are dressing up the pasta plate.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Latest "In Season" Column in CH News

Check out my latest column in the Chapel Hill News "Battle for the Garden Never Ends". My working title was Reality Check. I fear our little home town paper may be on its last legs, but hope not. They are now only running my column every other month it seems, the paper shrinks by the week and they've let most of their regular paid columnists go. It'll be a sad day if all our newspapers dry up and die.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Freezer Iron Chef

I defrosted the freezer this week in anticipation of whats to come and decided a little Iron Chef competition was in order for us to use up the stuff that's got some age on it. I don't like to keep things in the freezer for more than a year and preferably less than that. Food starts to lose its nutritional value after a few months in the freezer and eventually loses its taste too. We actually did pretty well eating stuff up this year, I only had one small basket of items on the use first list.

What could you make with kasha, hazelnuts, tomato soup, whole tomatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, pistachio nuts, sausage, bacon, roasted poblanos, serranos, corn, coconut and cranberries? In addition, we are picking loads of green and yellow beans and squash now and still have some of the shitakes from two weeks ago floating around in the fridge that need eating too.

My first effort was outstanding. A soup made with bacon, onions, garlic, corn, squash and poblanos, all cooked up with chicken stock, a little cumin, cayenne and white pepper. I pureed this base, added cream, salt and lime juice. Garnished with bacon bits, grilled chicken, green onions, pumpkin seeds toasted with chili and salt, and sauteed shitakes. WOW! This was inspired and tasty.

Tonight we'll have a black-eyed pea salad as part of our supper and I'm planning a baked orzo with that tomato soup. We'll see what else inspires us.
If you haven't yet voted for the Carrboro Farmers Market as the best market so they could win $5,000, you can do so by clicking on this link: http://www.care2.com/farmersmarket/
Help them out and tell your friends you don't have to live in Carrboro to vote.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Onion dissapointment/fiasco

So you might remember that I was super proud and excited about the onion crop last year, lots of huge and perfect onions. Even though we harvested them during a wet period, they dried out and kept really well right through the winter.

Onions from summer 2008, many of the yellows weighed more than a pound each!

Well this year the crop was not nearly so impressive, I blame my planting them too close together, in a shadier and less nutrient rich section of the garden. All three factors ganged up for a smaller than hoped for crop.
But to add insult to injury, after I pulled the onions and had them laying on the ground to cure, I decided to put a layer of remay (spun polyester floating row cover) over the top to keep them from getting sunburned. It was really hot, in the 90's this week. When I went back that evening to take a look at them, the remay had made it so warm underneath that many of the onions had literally cooked. When we picked them up they were soft, when we cut them open they were transluscent and smelled like roasted onions. Bummer. We picked them up and put them on a screen to finish drying in a shadier spot but I think many were ruined already.

The entire crop from 2009, half the size as last year and probably half of these are COOKED!