Posts Tagged ‘garden’
I wish you had smell-o-vision. I wish you could put your nose up to the speaker on your computer and smell the wonder that is fresh dried parsley. Or cilantro, or basil. It smells like this:
Okay, now, go to your cupboard and open your store-bought dried parsley. Smell it. That is not parsley. That is a remnant of what was once probably poorly grown, harvested at the wrong time, stuck in the container forever before hitting the store shelf, parsley. I never knew. Did you?
The same goes for the “fresh” parsley you buy at the grocery store. That is not parsley. Have any in your fridge? Go smell it too. Yes, it actually has a distinguishable scent to it, but it still doesn’t come near to what you can get if you are growing it in your own backyard. If you aren’t growing your own herbs, put your computer down now, go buy some plants and plant them!!! My local garden store, McDonald’s Garden Center, just posted that their herbs are half price right now (originally 4.99 each, not 4 for $10).
Then come back here and read about using and drying them after!
It has always been a wonder to me why recipes call for parsley (just one of many examples, but go with me here). I have always had an issue with parsley in particular. My container of dried parsley smells like nothing to me. This has been the case all my life. The fresh stuff at the store was never much better. I just did not understand what this was supposed to add to my meal.
I get it now.
Mainly, I decided to grow parsley for that once a month meal I make that calls for a 1/4 cup of the herb chopped fresh. But you know the story. You have to buy it in this huge bunch and even if you try to make several parsley-containing recipes that week, you still throw most of the bunch away. I knew if I planted it I would have just enough to use it for such occasions.
Of course, the more you pick herbs, the more they grow. I have to keep pruning them so they keep producing. This has left me with an abundance of fresh herbs this year. So it was time to start drying! So far I have dried basil, cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, lavender, and tarragon.
The amount I pick each time only gives me between a couple teaspoons and a couple tablespoons of dried herbs. But every couple of days I go out to pick more, and dry them again. There are two methods to drying your own herbs that I know of.
Clip the stems of your herbs and tie a piece of twine around them. Hang them upside down in a sunny area and wait several days for them to dry. This can be difficult if it is humid where you live, but you can make sure they are near a fan or source of circulating air, and they should be fine. Here is a great tutorial:
Lay your herbs in a single layer on the dehydrator sheets, set between 95 and 115 degrees and dry several hours until they are free of moisture. This will vary greatly between different herbs. When the herbs crumble easily off their stems, they are ready. Store in a air tight container and keep in a cool, dry, dark place like your pantry.
This is the method I use. When I was in the market for a dehydrator, Jennifer recommended I purchase the Excalibur model. I knew I would be using it a lot for my garden harvesting, so I went with the super model. It has 9 trays and a timer. I would not want to get one without It is expensive (almost $300), but It is THE dehydrator. I laughed out loud when it was delivered and I saw how huge it is. I thought there was no way on earth I would put that size to use. Holy cow, I use it every other day. I regularly make my own beef jerky, dried herbs, almond flour (when I make almond milk), dried fruit, and more. I am really looking forward to drying my peppers once they are ready to harvest. Here’s what my beef jerky looks like:
So, do you have your herb plants in the ground now? I hope so! If not, what are you waiting for!?
Have you ever had Fordhook (Swiss) Chard? Me neither! Yet, for some reason I decided to grow it in my garden this year. I should also mention that this is a cold weather plant, and I did not plant my seeds until the middle of April. Somehow, though, it is doing fantastic, along with the rest of my garden!
I am going to share a chard recipe with you today, but first, give you an update on my garden. Everything I am highlighting below was started from seeds, unless I say otherwise.
My star performers right now are my squash: (these are three plants in a 6 foot long box that I built just to give you an idea of size):
My snap peas, seen here on the right winding around the pole trellis I built:
My pole beans, borage and Fordhook chard:
And the cucumbers (on the tall, board trellis), and tomatoes (on the poles). The tomato plant towards the middle of the picture was purchased, the rest are from seeds:
We have also been eating fresh salads from the garden daily and have truly enjoyed just about every herb there is to be grown from out there!
My homegrown chard was more leaves than stem, so I supplemented with some celery I had. Other than that I stuck with the recipe exactly. In all honesty, I was afraid to taste this. I tried the chard during the prep process, and did not care for it. The stems are similar to celery, but incredibly bitter. The leaves are similar to spinach, but same problem. So I was already going into this a bit biased. I am not one for “unusual” foods, especially vegetables. This recipe just did not look all that appetizing once I cooked it, even though it smelled fantastic.
See! That just looks pretty gross to me!
Oh my gosh, I was pleasantly surprised! The chard was fantastic and I would definitely cook this again! Even though there was very little cheese, it made a huge difference and probably made the dish. This recipe definitely made me eager to find more yummy ways to cook chard. If that’s not possible, this one will certainly do the trick! Go buy some chard this week and try something new!
I have been scouring the internet for new recipes lately. There are so many new plants in my garden this year that I don’t even know what to do with 1/3 of them! Today I came across this recipe for Sparkling Lavender Lemonade at the website All Things Lavender.
It does not appear to be an active blog (her last post was last August from the looks of it), but there are several great sounding recipes that use lavender. This is one of them!
The lavender is infused in water and honey as though you are making a tea. After the mixture is cool you stir in a cup of lemon juice and 2 cups of sparkling water. I served the drink on ice.
Tea is probably my least favorite drink. Ever. I also don’t particularly care for sweetening things with honey. My husband, on the other hand, loves tea. Several of my garden plantings were solely for the purpose of making him fresh tea. He already tried lemon balm tea from the garden, which he said was like drinking a fresh cup of Pine Sol. Guess that wasn’t a success.
This drink, however, was delicious. The man of the house said he liked it, but he didn’t down the drink, as he usually does with food and beverage he really enjoys. I thought it was fantastic though! It was even better since I made it after sitting through another day of 90 degree temperatures in my house. That’s right, the AC system has still not been replaced. As a matter of fact, it is after nine o’clock at night and the guys are STILL in the attic working. I don’t foresee any cool air in my future this evening. :(
I am really looking forward to making this drink to have when friends come by and sit in my garden with me. It is a perfect spring or summer sweet spritzer. The only change I will probably make is to add less honey. I don’t think it needed the entire cup that the recipe called for. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I will only add 1/2 a cup and see how that does.
Today I am having a new HVAC system installed so I decided to take a break from the indoors projects and move outside. The rain finally subsided for a day and should be returning soon. I am taking advantage of this and getting a few things done in the garden boxes:
This is what my garden boxes looked like on April 29, 2013 after I sowed the seeds (24 days ago):
The garden is doing great! Only a handful of the plants are store bought. Over 2/3 of everything in those boxes was grown from seeds. I am so excited at how successful it looks so far.
Each day I spend about 5 minutes pulling out the little weeds and it has really paid off. With all the rain we have been having, I have only had to water a handful of times. My star performers from seeds so far are my squash, snap peas, chard, bush and pole beans, and radishes. My spinach, all different lettuce, carrots and marigolds also look fantastic.
My peas and beans are doing so well it was time to wrap some twine around the poles that will be used to trellis them. This is not a difficult process, and not necessarily cost effective (though not expensive either). You could easily buy a premade trellis, but they look exactly the way I wanted them to. The only concern I have right now is that the trellises will be too small. As I said, the peas and beans are really taking off. I fear they are going to outgrow their little home in their barrels!
Do It Yourself Pole Bean Trellis (makes one)
You will need:
- 5 – Five foot long bamboo poles (or desired number and length to suit your needs)
- Roll of twine
Place the poles equally distant in a circle in the ground. I sunk my poles about 10 inches. Gather the poles together at the top. Using the twine, knot the poles together with a lashing knot. Cut twine. Starting at the base of the pole teepee you have created, wrap the twine around the circle of poles, tying a knot around each pole as you go. Keep the twine taught as you move around the circle. Repeat as many levels of twine as necessary to support your plants.
I am not great at planning ahead. I am a “spur of the moment, it needs to be done, so let’s take care of it now” sort of girl. For days I have been thinking of how I need to run to the grocery store and pick up a sweet little bouquet of flowers. Today is my daughter’s dance recital and heaven forbid you be the mom that shows up without flowers for her little star! Not to mention, she totally deserves them!
Of course, this weekend dad and brother are out of town so it is just me and my dancer. How am I supposed to go buy her flowers? I have been thinking and thinking and the opportunity just never arose. I figured today I would just drop her with a neighbor and run out really quick. Then it dawned on me:
Uh, MARISSA you have a ton of beautiful flowers growing in the backyard. Surely some of them are ready to be picked?! ABSOLUTELY!
I LOVE being able to walk out of my back door and pick flowers for a gorgeous bouquet! Do you think she’ll like it? Beats a bouquet of carnations any day, huh?
So, this morning while she slept I ran out back and clipped the following from my garden: canna flowers, tigerlilies, zinnia, one of the large canna leaves (very tropical looking) and one of my ground covers for the white-ish gray accent. I am not sure what the ground cover is. It is somewhat soft like lamb’s ear. So let me know if you know what that stuff is!
I also didn’t have the other main item to making this bouquet work…cellophane. Instead, I found the most water resistant wrapping paper on hand (with no markings on the back of it). I cut it into a triangle and laid the prepared bouquet on top of it. Then I wrapped the paper around the bouquet so it would be inside out and taped it to secure it. Of course, as I am typing this, I am thinking to myself how I should have just cut some parchment paper and it would have done just as well.
I don’t have any pictures with it, but I am also going to tie a 2 inch wide ribbon around the bouquet for the last finishing touch. I think she will think it is the most beautiful, special bouquet ever. I am so proud of my ballerina!
It is summer, and the living is easy — 99° here at 6 pm on June 4 — after an absolutely beautiful spring, I think we’re going to have a Long. Hot. Summer. We made the first of our annual visits to A & N Blueberry Farm early Friday morning to pick blueberries (I got 10.5 pounds and Jen got around 7… pretty sure we’re going to have to squeeze in another trip!). They also had some other fresh produce for sale and I picked up some of Sarah’s delicious blueberry jam (because I don’t can), cucumbers and a nice big zucchini … I already have some yellow squash in the fridge, so just might have to make some zucchini bread later this week.
I don’t can, did you catch that above? I love the idea of canning and once helped my friend, Jenny K. (Jen’s namesake!), can about 400 pounds of tomatoes (we washed them in the bathtub). My sister-in-law, Rhonda D., is the canning queen — I love visiting when the pantry is full of homemade grape jelly, corn, tomatoes and other yummy treats from their garden. So, since I don’t can, I freeze and refrigerate! I bought these cucumbers specifically to make some EASY refrigerator pickles.
7 cups cucumbers (number of cucumbers needed depends on how big they are — I used 4 today)
2 Tbsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. celery seeds
Thinly slice cucumbers — or thickly slice, up to you! I prefer a thinner slice. Place in a colander and sprinkle cucumber slices with salt. Let stand at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, vinegar and celery seeds. Let stand until the sugar completely dissolves, stirring occasionally.
Rinse the cucumber slices and drain well. Put the cucumber slices in a large canning jar—my original recipe from about 30 years ago says “or a mayonnaise jar” … can you even buy mayo in a jar these days?? Really cram the cucumber slices in tightly. I finally had an opportunity to use this cute jar that Jen made for our annual holiday cookie exchange!
Pour the vinegar mixture over the top.
And, refrigerate. Done!
Now, try to wait 24-48 hours before snacking on these tasty morsels. Won’t kill you if you don’t wait, but they are better the longer they sit in the cider-sugar solution. I’m not sure if these ever have an “expiration” date … I’ve kept them in the fridge for weeks and they’ve been just fine.
It is that time of year again…the sun is shining a little longer, the days are a little warmer, and the birds are starting to chirp. My green thumb is a-itching and I am ready to start my garden planning. So early, some of you ask? It isn’t even daylight savings time yet!
I am relatively new to the gardening world (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog for my various “worlds”). At least to the “do it properly” gardening world. I have, for many years now, planted herbs and flowers, and vegetables. However, I basically stuck some seeds in the ground with Miracle Grow soil and hoped for the best. I spent minimal time tending to the plants and took whatever they decided to bring to fruition. Last year, I spent a little more time working in the garden and the results were amazing! I had squash plants, peppers, basil and chives that went CRAZY! Below are some of my peppers as they were growing last year.
We literally did not know what to do with the high yield of yellow squash we had. Four of us could have each eaten one with dinner for months! This has inspired me now to put a even a little bit more time into it this year, and see what happens. I would love to eat fresh herbs and vegetables out of the garden every night instead of buying them from the store.
So, back to the timing issue I was talking about earlier. The first thing I have learned, (well, already knew it, but never really cared) is that when and where you plant your seeds (I don’t buy plants) matters a great deal to the size and yield of your plant life. For summer veggies you have to plant a certain number of weeks before the last frost. I know, right? How are you supposed to know when the last frost is before it happens??? If you live in a state like Virginia, as I do, then you have a fantastic website you can check to see the estimated last frost of the season based on your area. The University of Virginia Climatology Office has published a website to look up such information. You can look at the table for your area, choose the lowest temperature your plants are likely to tolerate, and the table will give you the likelihood of the temperature being that low after a certain date. If you want to take a higher risk, plant earlier. If you want to be safe, choose the lower likelihood of cold temperatures.
There is also another easier way to check things if you are going to purchase seed packets from a company like Burpee. At there website you can search for the seed packets (and plants) that they sell. Once on the page of a particular plant, if you select the “growing info” tab on the lower right, it will tell you when to plant your seeds (and whether indoor or out) and when to transplant them.
For instance, if I want to plant Burpee’s Cherries Jubilee Tomatoes I can search them on the website, click the Growing Info tab, put in my zip code, and the chart will show me that I should plant them indoors in mid April and transplant them outside in late May.
Since all the sowing and transplanting takes planning, I am getting ready early! I also have more ideas for my garden that I thought I would be able to share with you today. However, I have kept you long enough already so I will let you get back to your world and you can return for my gardening ideas another time.
Good luck with your garden blueprints!