Reach for the sky!

on Friday, June 24, 2011

At least that's what it looks like is going on here!

After I worried and griped about how slow the peas were growing this spring, just sitting there at the same height (2"?) for soooo long, you can see here that they REALLY took off! Maybe it's hard to tell from these pictures, but here's the math (these things are taller than me, and I'm not reaching up to harvest peas!). The raised bed containing the peas is 12" tall, but I'd guess the soil filling the bed is probably only 8"-10" deep. The peas are climbing a trellis made of concrete reinforcement mesh - it's the same stuff many home gardeners use to make their tomato cages (as I have). Each square in the mesh is 6" square - so it's real easy to figure out how tall something is growing. In this case, there's 5' of mesh above soil level - and you can see some of those peas tendrils are easily a foot taller than the top of the mesh! Before long I might need a step ladder...

Speaking of peas, here's what's pickin' right now....three varieties, but you can use them interchangeably - you get a mix of peas, and they're great raw or only ever so slightly cooked (if using in soups, just drop them in a couple minutes before it's time to serve up). The first two peas in the picture below are both snow peas, and then the third is a sugar snap. Notice the difference in pod shape/thickness - snow peas are always flat, and sugar snaps look nice and plump. You never want to let these "edible pod" types of peas get too developed, or they get starchy, lose their sweetness, and the plant will stop producing. Basically the plant wants to get seeds out there for reproduction, and we keep picking off the seeds before they're full developed (and and we EAT them)... so the plant keeps making more while it still has the energy.

I hadn't planned on growing snow peas this year because I find they're not as flavorful, but then I came across the green variety on the left, called "Snow Sweet", which was advertised to be the sweetest snow pea ever. Yeah, I don't know about you, but I'm not finding these guys to be very sweet. The plant is interesting though - it's not even two feet tall, is only just starting to produce, and the leaves are the DARKEST green I've ever seen for a pea plant!

The next one over is "Golden Snow Pea", and caught me at a weak moment - I thought it'd be fun for the CSA members to get a yellow snow pea. Gotta say - it's really starting to get prolific, but the flavor's only mediocre.

But perhaps I'm not being fair to the snow peas because the sugar snaps just taste SO much better. That third one in the picture is called "Sugar Anne", and that's the 6+' vines you see in the pictures above. I was really skeptical - another sugar snap variety that was producing earlier (but hasn't gotten more than 3' tall) was really cranking out the peas while "Sugar Anne" just kept getting taller and taller. I knew it was supposed to get tall, but thought maybe we'd see some peas sooner. Suddenly, WHAMMO, now it's cranking out the peas, and I have to pick every couple days! Sugar snaps definitely have a more crisp texture and sweeter taste....while I think snow peas are more attractive than flavorful. What are your thoughts?

And speaking of plants that are producing...I told Mary I'd have to take a picture of the first pepper in my garden to send with you. I was in the garden trying to take a picture that looked good, but the lighting wasn't working with me. Only after I took several pictures did I realize I was seeing not ONE pepper, but several! Sure, they're not big yet....but there's at least three peppers that've formed. (Yes, there's still so few that it's fun to count them....that'll change real soon!) ;-) So if you click on the following picture to view the full-size, you should be able to find at least three peppers and some blooms. I've got onions interplanted with the peppers, so that's what the other things are in the pictures.

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Kale Salad

on Friday, June 17, 2011

Well now here's something really interesting to do with the kale you're getting in your shares - Kale Salad with Apricots, Avocado and Parm.

I gotta say, that's a mighty unusual combination. I have had salad with romaine, dried cranberries, sliced fresh pear and almond slivers with a great dressing - so I suppose it's just a variation on a theme.

This one sure LOOKS good, and I like all the individual components. Be sure to let us know if you try it - or whatever else you're doing with your weekly veggies!

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Will these be your new fava-rite veggie?

on Thursday, June 16, 2011

I've never grown fava beans before... they have a very different growth habit from standard bush beans and runner beans. The flowers are really attractive. Can't wait to try the end result!
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The beginning

Looking forward to tomatoes! Some of the blooms on this supersteak variety are huge. There's even a double, which will probably result in a strangely shaped tomato. It'll still taste great!
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on Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's another picture of the funky garlic scapes starting to form in the garden:

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Garlic scapes | Talli d'aglioImage by Rubber Slippers In Italy via FlickrGarlic scapes are an odd-looking, often bent/curved, growth that comes out of the top of some varieties of garlic, typically those that are considered hardneck varieties. The garlic scape is basically the flower stalk that grows up out of the top of the garlic plant, and each year I've grown garlic it seems the scapes can be sitting there for a short while before you even realized they've formed! I have a feeling they actually grow really fast - which might be why they seem to tender and bendy?

It seems many folks just throw away the scapes after cutting them off to improve the growth of the garlic bulb down in the ground. This is a waste of a perfectly good piece of food you've grown! Garlic scapes have that pungeant scent and flavor that you expect of garlic bulbs, although from what I've read it's implied they're milder. I don't know about that - the garlic scapes I cooked last year were pretty strong!

Here's some sites with suggestions/recipes on how to use your garlic scapes:

Oh, and btw - it's only fair that I warn ya - you're going to want to get something to freshen your breath once we start giving you garlic scapes! ;-)
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Now THIS is how you irrigate!

on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ever since I started experimenting with drip irrigation a few years ago, I've found it makes life sooo much easier! Sure, this first year was a flop (SOMEONE doesn't read instructions very well, and has little common sense), and no, I haven't actually tested my "gallons per minute" like you're supposed to, but I've finally figured it all out, and I love it!

No, you don't normally plan to have the drip lines hovering in the air like these are (although I doubt there's any harm to it), but this is brand new line, so it's still got a lot of desire to coil back up. After running water through it a few times, plus some weathering, and it'll settle down. Sure makes a cool image though!

This bed looks pretty sparse on one side. The variety of leeks i'm trying here (Megaton) were more of a mega-flop, the carrots didn't do so great (storms washed them into one big pile), and the cucumbers just got put in yesterday. The peas on the far right are spotty... but they're climbing the trellis anyhow. The cucumbers are a mix of climbing and bush varieties.... hopefully they'll do better than the spring crops did!

Later this week I hope to try a new attachment for the drip irrigation... pour in concentrated liquid fertilizer (I have fish emulsion and kelp), and the hose line runs through it... picking up a diluted blend of fertilizer and water to drip out down the line. Garden nerd fun!
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Go meatless on the grill

Grilled vegetablesImage via WikipediaJust to help inspire you when you start getting more chunkier veggies this summer, check out Fine Cooking's Go Meatless on the Grill gallery of pictures and recipes! Mmmmm - grilled veggies! Just think of grilling onions, peppers, squash, eggplant and more - you can start with a simple toss in olive oil, and then a light sprinkle of salt and pepper if you like or go all out nuts with herbs, citrus juices, additional spices and more! Veggies turn out great on the grill, whether you're a vegetarian or a meat-eater!

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Snake in the grass?

on Monday, June 6, 2011

Ok new CSA members... do you know what this is?? You're going to get to try working them into your meals real soon!
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Some of this week's goodies!

Hi folks! We're starting the Monday delivery of food this week. I'm not sure what all Mary will be bringing in, but here's what's included in your bags from me. Since we're just getting started, the shares are still really small (new people: ask the folks who were members last year - there will come a time this summer where you probably WISH your shares are as small as they are now! Eat your veggies!)

First off, we've got the little bit of broccoli that one person will be getting this week. Remember, some plants really don't produce so much food that every person gets it every week, so I have a random order that you guys will get your food. Last week two of you got broccoli, and this week I barely have enough for one person. You'll be notified via email. These broccoli side shoots are much more tender than the big heads you buy in the grocery store. If you're someone like my Brett who only eats the flowery tips, PLEASE be open minded and try eating the stalks on these as well!! Maybe pick off the leaves... There's not a lot here, so maybe lightly/barely steam them (stove top or microwave), then submerge in cold water to stop the cooking and keep their green color, and then add to a lettuce salad.

Peas are the same way - especially at first. I planted a number of varieties of sugar snap peas, and so far only the "Sugar Ann" variety is providing (and they're the shortest!). I've got enough for two members - you'll get notified. If you've never had sugar snap peas, you eat the whole thing. Sure you can open the pods and pull out the little peas, but the pods are crispy sweet, and are fun to eat - even raw! Toss 'em in a salad. Or if you must, LIGHTLY steam them (on the stove or in the microwave.) I couldn't tell you how long - I never cook them. You might prefer to string them - sometimes the strings in sugar snaps are a little tough.

The order for pea-deliveries is:
  1. Sandie Ribita
  2. Kelly Shook
  3. Alison Murphy
  4. Carolyn Radcliff
  5. Julie Gedeon
  6. Diane Rupelt
  7. Erica Lilly
  8. Jennifer Wallace
  9. Anita Clary

We've got two varieties of kale coming out of my garden this week - first is the very frilly looking Russian kale. These are more of a tough kale - you'll probably want to roll a bundle of leaves up like a cigar and then slice the "cigar" into thin ribbons before steaming, blanching or sauteeing. You might prefer to cut out that mid-rib first if you don't like the firmness - but I'm sure it's good for you. Eat it. Kale's great when sauteed with some olive oil, garlic, maybe a little crushed red pepper, and a squirt of lemon juice or a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Warning - a lot of this goes a little ways - meaning it'll cook down a fair amount (like when cooking spinach).

There's less of the Niro di Toscana kale, also known as Dinosaur Kale. This is excellent for making the very trendy kale chips that you might've heard about the last couple of years. I've made 'em - and they're good! Nothing like a potato chip, but they're kinda fun to eat!

Please note that few of the kale leaves included this week are young, tiny and I don't know that any would really be a good addition to a raw salad. Maybe later...

More lettuce! This time you're each two baby heads of lettuce - there's three varieties, and you'll each find two in your bag. There IS a risk there's a slight hint of bitterness in the lettuce - just make sure your salad dressing tastes good if these are bitter. ;-) Oh, and I haven't washed any of the greens, herbs, etc - so make sure you give a thorough washing and picking over.

You'll each find a bundle of herbs in your bag. I know some of you aren't as familiar or used to working with fresh herbs, so here's a quick rundown.

First is mint. You could probably stick your mint in a glass of jar, find it'll send out roots in a week or so, and if you get it anywhere near soil, it'll take over your whole yard! But it sure tastes and smells good! Great in Mediterranean marinades and lemonaid.

Sage - there's three varities here - you'll find one in your herb bundle. You can see the plain green grows much bigger. A little of this goes a long ways. Excellent in pork or poultry dishes. Don't just think Thanksgiving turkey, but DO remember it can be potent!

Oregano - mmmm pizza sauce, right!? To make it easy to get all those leaves, grab the oregano at the tiny growing tip with one hand, lightly pinch the stem with the other hand and pull your pinched fingers down the stem to knock off a lot of the leaves for mincing.

Looks like I forgot to take a picture of the rosemary, but it's in there too. Pine-y scented, a little can go a long ways. Excellent with all meats if you ask me.

To be honest, whenever I'm doing any sort of marinade for chicken or pork for the grill, I'll grab whatever herbs are doing well at the time - any mix will do. Chop 'em all up, toss 'em in a zip lock bag with the raw meat, salt, pepper, lemon juice and/or beer and/or wine, and some glugs of olive oil. Let that sit over night - and it'll be great on the grill the next day. Using a different combination of herbs each time adds variety. For the vegetarians - um, maybe you can do this with tofu or halloumi cheese? (Yup, there's a cheese you can fry or grill easily!)

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The Guardian Toad

on Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear Mr Toad,

I'm sorry my dog and I scared you while you were wallowing in the cucumber and squash seedlings on the deck.

I promise we'll leave you alone. Please don't leave. I appreciate all the hard work you've probably been doing snacking on cucumber beetles.

Keep up the good work!

Farmer Jeph
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Tons of basil!

on Saturday, June 4, 2011

Man, I hope you guys like making pesto! There's more than just this one pot of basil... trust me!
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on Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ok, maybe that's a little bit of an over reaction... but it's very exciting to start finding flower buds on the tomato plants.

For now I have two raised beds with tomatoes... seven plants per bed. This is in the first row I planted... remember the experiment where I planted extra early? The other row is about two weeks behind this row... so they haven't really gained any height yet.

The neat thing about these tomato cages is that they're made with a 6" grid, so it's super easy for me to see that the first bed planted has all the plants at about 18" tall right now. Very exciting this early in the season... give it a month or so and that won't be a big issue anymore.

Now just because there's flower buds forming doesn't mean we can expect ripe tomatoes anytime soon. While 6 of the 7 vines in this bed have their first buds forming, odds are the earliest buds won't come to fruition. I think some gardeners even pick off the earlier buds, pushing the plants to grow more roots and height rather than struggling with fruit production so early.

I should probably do that.

Man, that's going to be hard to do.

Sure, it's for the good of the plant, but to just cut off what are potentially the first tomatoes?

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Guess those peas haven't been a total waste

Look what I was surprised to find this evening! Very few worth picking at this point... only one of the varieties is producing, and those are still mostly underdeveloped... but they ARE exciting to find!
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