2014 Summer Garden Wrap Up

As the heat kicks off outside when temperatures start falling, I turn the heat on in the house to keep from freezing and am already dreaming of warmer weather again.  Mostly because I love to garden.  And I don’t have the biggest, best garden either.  But as long as I’m growing vegetables on some level I’m supremely happy.  Thought I’d share a little 2014 summer garden wrap up with you as my first in ground garden goes to sleep for the season.

I learned lots to apply to next year’s efforts.  I’m already making plans for a larger spot, a larger selection of vegetables, a few raised beds, two vertical gutter gardens my brother made me in two-5 foot sections, a potted herb garden, and potato towers.  And I’ve placed another heirloom seed order from Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Seed Company.  Three years ago I bought my first heirloom seeds from Baker Creek.  I have been seed saving every year and haven’t had to buy any seeds at all AND have given away a ton of seeds to friends and family.  But Seed Savers Exchange was having a clearance sale on some of their heirloom varieties so I thought I’d introduce some more types of vegetables to my standard harvest.  I got 11 packs of seeds for $19 and some change.  Not bad, I’d say!

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This is my favorite picture of my garden for the whole year.  Not because it’s full of veggies yet, it wasn’t at this point.  It’s because it shows my favorite place in all the world in such a beautiful, peaceful moment.  This is my zen place.  Even now with the grass grown in for the winter and not a thing planted, I can still sit on my little $5 Goodwill bench and look out over my garden area and think and plan and let everything go.

 

I put away so many veggies in the freezer.  And that doesn’t even count all the ones we ate throughout the season.  We did get planted late this year.  We didn’t start harvesting until mid-late July.  I picked the last of everything three weeks ago now.  And it ended up being 1/2 bushel of green tomatoes.  I made homemade green tomato hot sauce with them.  Several pints were put away to freeze.  And incidentally, they are all gone already thanks to the teenager.  He has made a request for me to find a grocery store that sells green tomatoes so I can keep him supplied year round now…  Teenagers!

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But these next pictures right here are really what it’s all about for me- homegrown, heirloom, organic, ripe tomatoes fresh from my own garden!

How did your garden turn out this year?


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2014 Garden Update

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In spite of the fact that the neighbors chickens and one wayward dog completely leveled 5 trays of seedlings back in April we have managed to put together a garden anyway, albeit much smaller than we planned for this year.  I can’t tell you how happy I am that there are hundreds of blooms spring forth from this tiny backyard garden.  If all those blooms survive and produce fruit, it will definitely be an added bonus to help our little family save and make healthy choices.

The brown, Goodwill special garden bench in the pic above is my favorite seat at the house.  I spend a lot of time sitting and thinking about things on that bench.  It’s by far the most peaceful place in my life.  I don’t know what I’d do if this little patch of land wasn’t a reality for me.

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Check out the tomato and zucchini babies!  I am growing only organic, heirloom variety seeds in my garden.

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In the next month or so we are tilling the ground to make three more garden patches like this one.  So the back yard will be four garden patches of vegetables.  There is an old barn/shed on the back edge of our property and we plan on clearing off the vines and brush that have grown over the structure in the fall when all the green dies away and leaves dry, brown, fibrous stalks so it’s easier to trim.  I’ll be putting in supports all along that structure and planting blackberries, raspberries and blueberries in the spring along that area.

How is your garden growing this year?


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My Garden Project 2013

I know, I know.  Last year I started a garden project and one family event came along and I let all my seedlings just die.  BUT, this is the first year in three years that I do not have a CSA membership.  So, I have to succeed at my back patio garden project this year or else!  And here are the new babies already peeking out to say hello.

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Updates coming soon!  I already have over 20 seedlings.  I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  All of my seeds I had saved from my CSA veggies sadly came to a traumatic end so I had to order seeds this year.  I am planting 10 kinds of tomatoes, 1 tomatillo, 4 kinds of bell peppers, 1 cucumber, 1 jalapeno, 1 leek, 1 red bunching onion, 6 herbs, and in the fall I am succession planting 1 type of kale, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash.  As of today all seedlings, except for the kale and squashes, are in eggshells with organic seed starter growing up a storm!

Who else is growing their own veggies this year?


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Prepping and Storing CSA Shares

Washing spinach in the sink

I believe I mentioned someone told me at my last CSA pick up that their spinach had gotten slimey in the refrigerator before they had a chance to use it.  This can be a common problem when you have a ton of greens you are waiting to eat and little time to deal with properly storing what you bring home.

I got in the habit of cleaning on properly storing all of my CSA basket items as soon as I get to the house.  I recommend making whichever day of the week is your pick up day, usually a Saturday, CSA day in your house, or at least most of the morning anyway.  It takes me a few hours to wash and put away everything even after I have spent a few hours at the farm.

First I wash all the greens in batches in a clean sink.  Just fill it up enough so the greens are in standing water and the dirt has room to fall to the bottom of the sink without still touching the leaves.  I use my hands to shake them around in the water some then let them sit for about five minutes in the water.  I take them out of the water, making sure not to stir up the dirt from the bottom of the sink, and put them directly in my salad spinner.  Once dry, I dump them out on paper towels.

Kale on top, spinach and mustard greens underneath

After everything is washed, spun, and laid out on paper towels, I use clean kitchen towels to press the leaves together and get any excess water still on the greens.  I use fresh paper towels to layer the greens on top and bottom, then slide into a gallon size resealable bag.  You can also use your green stay fresh bags here.

You can use this method for any kinds of greens including your lettuces.

For asparagus, basil, green onions, radishes, carrots and other root type produce, you can place in a container that will allow the root ends to sit in a small amount of water with the veggie standing upright, just like you would fresh flowers.

The most important tip I can give to help keep things from going bad is eat what you can’t freeze first.  Lettuce has to be eaten before the greens you can saute and asparagus for example.  That doesn’t mean I don’t eat the other things at all if I don’t want to.  But if I have a ton of greens and lettuce, I’m going to eat salad twice a day in some form until it’s gone before I eat anything else.  I will saute and freeze the rest for later.

What tips do you have for helping to prep and store your fresh produce?


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CSA Baskets 101: Second Pick Up

Everyone got a pint of strawberries.

When the greens come in, the greens come in.  Thank the Lord for the perfect cooling of the weather and rain to make them abundant for the CSA members at Madison Creek Farms this week!  You can tell by all the pics there were a ton of goodies in our baskets this time around.

Almost everyone got a red leaf lettuce.

Most everyone received a red leaf lettuce and a romaine lettuce.  I got a buttercrunch and a romaine lettuce.  I like them all so it really didn’t matter to me :)

Spring Braising Mix

If you are new to surveying the many types of greens there are, this is definitely an exciting week for you to experiment.  Braising greens are just a random mix of different types of greens sewn together in the field.  To cook them simply use a little olive oil, onion, garlic, a dash of vinegar if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sometimes after I saute them I use a little sprinkle of slivered almonds for crunch.

Kohlrabi

Alot of you had never seen or heard of kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi come in green or purple, can be eaten raw or cooked, and taste a lot like broccoli stems, radishes or cabbage. The word kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip (kohl as in cole-slaw, and rübe for turnip) though kohlrabi is more related to cabbage and cauliflower than to root vegetables.  You can even use the kohlrabi greens to cook with your braising mix.  You can make a kohlrabi and apple slaw or make quick kohlrabi pickles.

Kohlrabi Apple Slaw:

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon good mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled, grated or julienned
  • 2 apples, peeled, grated or julienned

Whisk cream into light pillows – this takes a minute or so, no need to get out a mixer. Stir in remaining dressing ingredients, the kohlrabi and apple. Serve immediately.

Quick Kohlrabi Pickles:

  • 1-2 small kohlrabi bulbs, trimmed, peeled, and cut into cubes
  • Good olive oil (optional)
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Black Pepper
  • Pinch of sugar or squeeze of honey

Place the kohlrabi chunks in the bowl of a lidded, airtight container.  Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, a good splash of vinegar, and honey.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Replace the lid and shake well.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Place in fridge, shaking occasionally.  They are best after they have marinated for a few hours.

Mustard Greens

You can cook the mustard greens the same way you would any other greens by sauteeing with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Kale

Our CSA owner, Peggy, led a workshop today showing everyone how to saute kale and make a dish that can be a side or a main meal depending on how you finesse it at the end.  My favorite way to enjoy kale is in an Italian soup I make every winter with potatoes, Italian sweet sausage, kale and crushed red pepper.

Radishes

Romaine

If you guys have never tried grilled romaine lettuce for a salad, you should.  It’s delicious!  You can grill the lettuce on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan, either way works fine.  It gives the lettuce a completely different flavor and texture alongside a wonderful summer dinner.

Buttercrunch Lettuce

Tea Rose

Ahhh the flowers, a wonderful perk to my CSA.  Tea roses and peonies made it into my bouquet this week.  It’s a great way to bring some of the beauty on the farm into my home and enjoy every day.

Remember to use everything from your baskets!  You can replant the onion and lettuce bottoms to grow more at home.  All the trimmings can be washed and boiled into stock.  I will only be composting the kohlrabi bulk peels and the radish tops.  I will even use the trimmed strawberry tops to make homemade strawberry mint lemonade syrup.  If you want to know more about this type of cooking to get the most out of your CSA basket, check out my ebook, Don’t Compost It, Cook It.

What did you get in your basket lately you are excited about trying?


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