Garden update: April 2018

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As I write this, a heavy spring storm is moving in over the mountains. Once again, I’m left worrying for my peach tree’s blossoms (will they all be frozen, and we’ll have no fruit come fall?) and all the tender young things coming alive.

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I am lucky enough to have a small yard, and I’ve been enjoying the sight of all the perennials waking up in the front yard. I’m like Mary Lennox, crying in delight over everything showing how “wick” it is. Our tulips are going to bloom soon, and even last year’s Mother’s Day forsythia is throwing out a first few brave flowers.

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This is the peony I added to the bare patch last fall. We’ll see if it survives. So far, so good.

One of our neighbors (I think it was a kid) made some delicious-looking sushi or spring rolls with the leaves from my tulips. So far everyone has denied being the mystery chef.

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I’m conflicted: I love the creativity, but I think I’d rather keep the tulips in the garden.

I finally planted the spinach, broccoli, lettuce and peas in my garden. We have two square foot gardens in which I plant just my favorites.

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We are so lucky to be members of a CSA farm, which provides the vast majority of our produce. A CSA is like your own private farmer’s market, which provides fresh, local produce to its members on a weekly basis. If you’re curious, I’ve written about CSAs here and here. Perhaps a CSA near you might have an opening in its membership for you to try out. Here are two links to help you find a CSA near you: Local Harvest and the USDA directory of CSAs. Joining a CSA truly transformed how we eat- both in terms of quality and variety- and I think has been a huge part of my journey toward health. Plus, buying food that is locally produced has a major impact on the environment.

Okay, back to my garden. These are 4’x4′ boxes filled originally with a 1:1:1 mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and compost as specified by the Square Foot Garden method by Mel Bartholomew. Then every spring I add an additional layer of compost. In our first SFGs, I made wood grids, but we have since changed to twine and string (it’s easier to cut the compostable strings than to disentangle large squash and cucumber vines from the wood).

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It was so good to have my hands in the dirt. It smelled wonderful, and something in my own heart came alive again with a day spent planting in hope of sweet June shelling peas eaten raw and crisp salads of baby spinach. (Are you hungry yet?) I started basil, zinnias, and cherry and Roma tomatoes (for canning) inside. The farm gives us lots of big, juicy heirloom tomatoes, but there’s nothing like pulling a warm cherry tomato off the vine on an August afternoon and popping it in your mouth.

Have you started your garden yet? What’s your favorite thing to plant?

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Summer Eats: Week 7

One of our favorite ways to cook vegetables is grilled in packets.  So versatile- anything goes, as long as what you put in the packet cooks in approximately the same amount of time- and easy.  This week we had Japanese eggplants, red banana peppers, garlic, potatoes, and summer squash, and I chopped it all up, tossed it with olive oil and folded it into packets to grill.
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Japanese eggplants. You can leave the skin on. Here you can see that I changed my mind in the middle to switch from rounds to chunks.

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Toss it all with evoo, salt & pepper.

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Here you can see I added the garlic cloves (peeled) whole, and whatever herbs we got from the farm this week. (I think it was basil and oregano.)

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Here is a finished packet, waiting to go on the grill. Note: I spray the inside of the foil with oil just to make sure the food doesn’t stick to it. And I folded down the corner of this packet to distinguish it from the nearly identical packets of potatoes. The potatoes always take the longest to cook.

I will make packets like these with whatever vegetables we have on hand.  Onions make everything taste better.  And then I grill whatever meat/protein accompaniment I pulled from the freezer or was on sale that week.  Tonight it was burgers.

Can I just say that the whole reason I wanted burgers was to eat one with these gorgeous tomatoes on top?
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And then, because I am to only tomato-lover around here, I ate the rest of the tomatoes and left the grilled potatoes to them.

Happy eating, friends!

P.S. You can find Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Weeks 4-6 of the Summer Eats series here.

Summer Eats: Week 2

For previous posts in this series, check out Summer Eats, week 1.

Monday: Chicken Fajitas (I slice the meat in thin strips, marinate it in a mixture of chili powder and lime juice in a ratio of 1:2, and stir fry it with red onions* and peppers) with melon*.

Tuesday: Beef Noodle Bowls from Pioneer Woman (I added steamed broccoli* to ours), a beet salad (roasted golden and red beets* drizzled with balsamic glaze and sprinkled with feta cheese) and Special Cake (with zucchini* in it) to celebrate our friend’s engagement. Hooray!
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Wednesday: Tacos (it was Takos Tuesday but on a Wednesday). Musk melon* (like a cantaloupe but way tastier) and green beans*.

Thursday: 3 bean salad (with green beans* and hopefully undetected zucchini*) and quiches with our eggs*, and broiled (or grilled works too) apricots* with mascarpone cheese and cinnamon.

Friday: black bean soup with avocado, lime, and corn chips.  Musk melon*.

Saturday: sauteed vegetables (zucchini*, fennel*, green beans*, onions*) over pasta.

Sunday: out for a birthday dinner, and at home: birthday cake!

What’s for dinner at your house?

 

Summer Eats: Week 1

Our summer CSA deliveries started a month ago, and we’re working to adjust. It’s a change every year, switching from the routine of winter recipes we love (chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti…) to the new and different, based on what’s in season. I love the challenge, and it makes me enjoy cooking again after my winter rut. The kids often don’t love what I serve, but none of them is going to starve, and at least no one complains any more. (More on the why we joined a CSA here and here and here.)

So I thought I’d share here our weekly menu. My links aren’t working right, so no links today. Hopefully I’ll figure that out and link the recipes where I can. Anything with a * was sourced locally.

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Oregano I’m drying

Monday: roasted kielbasa and vegetables (beets*, turnips*, zucchini*, and sweet potatoes with fresh oregano*), and kohlslaw (kohlrabi*, red onion, apples and dried cranberries in a little olive oil and cider vinegar.)

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Tuesday: sour cherry nut bars (sour cherries* from our neighbor’s tree), frittatas (eggs* from our chickens) and sautéed chard* with bacon*.

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Wednesday: spaghetti and meatballs (I didn’t say we were abandoning ship on our standbys). Don’t tell the kids, but I threw an aging zucchini* in the sauce before I put it through the food mill.

Thursday: maple-mustard spare ribs* with turnip* soup and a garnish of bacon* and croutons* and a green salad.

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Smoky turnip soup

Friday: fried rice, sliced cucumbers* and a mango-melon-strawberry* salad.

Saturday: a pasta salad with all the leftover vegetables* and meats tossed in.

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Sunday: the other pan of sour cherry bars or toast with strawberry* jam. Hamburgers*, oven fries and fresh cherries*.

Please post your local eats in comments (especially any special ways you’ve gotten your kids love all the stronger vegetables!)