Monthly Archives: June 2013

Canninsanity

Between some good deals on fruit at local places (thank you Aldi’s!) and our community garden, a lot of this week has revolved around canning.  Here’s our take-home before stashing it away.

Canning fest 2013

I still have a couple of projects left in the near future (like corn salsa from some locally grown corn, and our neighbor offered for us to take some of their figs when they ripen), but I took today off from canning.

I did, however, have a mess of greens given to me by one of the families that I teach piano, so I threw those in the slow cooker for some palak paneer from one of my favorite cookbooks (The Indian Slow Cooker).  I usually cut out the jalapeno peppers and reduce the hot chili powder significantally.  However, I’ve found taking a pretty picture of palak paneer is nearly impossible, so I won’t include a picture with this post.

Advertisements

Porch garden: first harvest

First harvest

 

Our first little crop from the porch garden.  A good sized zucchini with a few more to be harvested in the next couple of days, a couple of snacking bell peppers, a few cherry tomatoes, and a couple of green tomatoes that fell off as I was trying to creatively stake them to our porch (will post pics when I’m more happy with the results).

Stuffed zucchini flowers–or how to blow your five year olds’ minds and be pleasantly pretentious at the same time

IMG_1005

At our little community garden, someone suggested cutting some of the zucchini blossoms to cook.  I had been curious about this for quite a long time, and as no one else wanted to take them home, I cut a dozen or so to take with me.  I cut a couple from our porch garden as well.

Cooking zucchini blossoms felt very hipster to me, like I should have been wearing thick glasses and a patchwork skirt, and be living in Portland.  The kind of thing you want to put up on your blog to impress your friends with your back-to-nature attitude.  But it also boggled the minds of two five year olds (“We’re having flowers for dinner?!?  Really, Mommy?  I want to eat flowers!”), and was quite tasty.

I poked around the web for a little bit looking for recipes.  I found this recipe, and used the process (generally).  It made way too much batter for what I had (I just did the flowers, no baby zucchini), so I would play around with that if I made it again.  Rather than plain ricotta, I mixed a few things into some homemade ricotta I made and cooled earlier in the day (it’s so simple, it actually was much easier than dragging two five year olds to the grocery store to buy some).  To about a cup of ricotta, I added

1 garlic clove grated on a microplane

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 a preserved lemon finely minced

A tablespoon or two each of minced fresh basil and mint

2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The flowers tended to tear when I pulled out the stamen and also when I accidentally overstuffed some, but I tried to do it as gently as possible.  Kept the kids out of the kitchen with the hot oil.

IMG_1006

Realized last minute that we needed to have a bit of something on the side.  So, I quickly sliced a couple of yellow squash onto a plate, and poured some tomato vinaigrette over it.  Snipped some fresh basil over it, and sprinking some Mexican crumbling cheese (Queso Fresco) over it just because we happened to have in the house (feta would have been great).

 IMG_1008

Our gardens: back porch

As we were looking for ways to get around the deer, I did a lot of daydreaming and searching.  I stumbled on a couple of things.

1. Grow bags.  Apparently these bags allow more air in than regular hard-sided pots, which helps the plants to breathe and to “air prune,” which helps the roots not to wither, as I understand it.  You can buy grow bags quite inexpensively, and it’s a great idea for certain sizes (a friend has a couple of huge ones that she’s using for sweet potatoes and carrots).

2. Then I found Global Buckets, a site where a couple of brothers (starting from when they were in high school) document their experiments with sustainable growing practices, especially for areas of the world where there isn’t a lot of soil or water.  And they demonstrate their results with using reusable grocery bags, made out of similar material to the grow bags, and dirt cheap (ha, ha).  I went to the thrift store and found a whole pile for about $.25/each.

3. I thought about putting the bags into larger containers, so I did another search and found suggestions for using large bins as “self-watering” containers.  Basically, the fabric of the bag can wick up water as the plants need it.

So, we planted several tomato (a couple kinds of cherry, and a patio tomato) and zucchini plants, a pepper plant, a couple of strawberries (we’re thinking it was too late in the season for those), and some green onions, Asian long beans, and carrots from seed.

Now–the system isn’t perfect, I’m still experimenting with it.  We had a few weeks of torrential downpours, which led to a lot of water-dumping.  And now it’s beastly hot, so it’s not so much self-watering as much as checking a couple of times a day to make sure there’s still water in the reservoir.  But so far, it seems successful.

Here’s when we first set it up in the middle of May

container garden, May

And here it is in June.  Our tomato plants are covered in green tomatoes, and we have some small peppers and zucchini coming in.

IMG_0949 IMG_0950

Our gardens: herbs

Image

We have three gardens right now, and I’d like to post about each one.

Our neighborhood is covered in deer.  They’re beautiful and brave, and have no problem coming out into the open–even in the middle of the day–to grab a nibble out of our yard.

Coming out of an extremely busy semester, we just couldn’t find the time or energy to fence a garden for this year.  Instead, as deer tend to leave herbs alone, I started by making a little herb garden in a corner by our driveway (spicy orange thyme from the local horticulture club, two kinds of basil, rosemary, lavender, and oregano in another space). Along with the theme of this blog–fresh herbs tend to be astronomically expensive in the grocery store, but they add tons of flavor, so it makes sense economically and flavor-wise to prioritize growing them.

At the end of the summer, I would love to dry some of the herbs to make my own herbes de provence mix (this post features several variations).  In the meantime, fresh basil gets tossed into almost everything.  And I think that basil, rosemary, thyme and lavender would be lovely in the slow cooker ratatouille.