Strawberries

Its finally strawberry season!

I just harvested the first of the strawberries, and even though it was only 8 ounces worth today, we should be bursting at the seams in the next few days!

Here are a few other random garden shots:

 The kale that overwintered has started to go to bloom. Although the leaves are a little tough, they still have a great taste. Apparently you can heads of the kale once it starts to go to seed, but I didn’t get to them before they started flowering. I’d like to try sautéing them with a little ghee or oil. The chives are blooming like crazy! I love the contrast of the purple flowers on such a rich green leaf.

I found this little guy who had made a home in our garden. I’m honestly not sure what it is – maybe a salamandar or a newt? When I first spotted him while pulling weeds I thought he was a really big earthworm!

Our neighbor came over and Matt helped him learn how to plant onions.

Garlic

We finally got our garlic planted!

I always have great hopes of planting it in September or October, once the weather has cooled and the fall crops are finished, but I’m usually too pooped to do it. The past two years I’ve just planted it in the spring, and I’ve found that my bulbs get big enough for me.

This year I had about 20 plants spring up from cloves I accidentally left in the ground last year. I also planted 1/2 pound each of Extra Select, Early Italian, and Silver Rose. It was one of Burpee’s best selections. We’re just finishing up the garlic we harvest from the garden last year, so I’m hoping we’ve planted enough to get us through an entire winter again.

I can’t wait until the soil dries out enough to till it – I am so anxious to plant this year!

 

Pears

Today I am thankful for the generosity of friends!

20110913-101159.jpg

I have been trying to stock up on produce while it is in season so that we will have healthy eating options during winter. I’ve discovered that once you start looking for food, you begin to see it all around you. This summer I found wild blackberries in abundance. Last year I found a black walnut tree in our backyard. Today I remembered that my friends Joy and Molly have a pear tree in their backyard that they don’t really pick from. I asked if I could pick in exchange for some pear butter, and they were happy to oblige!

20110913-102254.jpg

20110913-102354.jpg

So I did what I am assuming all good gatherers do, and I went over with my laundry basket.

20110913-101705.jpg

And I filled it up!

20110913-101915.jpg

I will be making pear sauce (like applesauce) and pear butter this weekend! Thanks Joy and Molly.

Edible Gold {Potatoes}

I have a theory that digging up potatoes is similar to finding gold while panning. Well, you might only think that if you saw me digging up potatoes. To say I get excited about finding them is a great understatement!

I was worried about our potato harvest this year and had pretty much written them off. We got them planted too late, and then we didn’t have enough dirt to mound on top of them. They got pretty tall and leggy, and a storm came through and broke many of the plants. We finally got more dirt to put on top, but by that point it seamed like a lost cause.

About three or four weeks ago all of the potato plants just started dying. Now, I know what a potato looks like when it is dying back and ready to be harvested, and unfortunately that is not what these looked like. They looked sickly, and the plants never even flowered!

20110823-090202.jpg
See the dead limbs coming out of the ground? Those used to be our potato plants!

I started digging up the row so that i could put in fall carrots, and you can only imagine my surprise and excitement as I found edible gold!

20110823-090643.jpg

20110823-090736.jpg

20110823-090811.jpg

20110823-090839.jpg

I feel so blessed that we got potatoes. It is amazing to me how resilient plants can be. Ironically, it seems that the plants I spend the least time often produce great fruit, while the plants that I baby often produce less!

This year we grew French Fingerling and Yukon Gold potatoes that I ordered from Seed Savers. The purple ones were accidentally left in the ground last year.

Busy August Days

Yesterday I spent four straight hours after work in the garden. I must tell you that it felt so good. My “to do” list has been growing exponentially the past few days, and so many of the things on my list were related to the garden or putting up food. I still have a lot to do, but I feel slightly less overwhelmed today. I have recently come to grasp with the fact that our house will not stay clean during the summer. There just aren’t enough hours. End of story. Yesterday Matt suggested we hire someone to help clean, and well, I’m seriously considering that. Mostly because my kitchen has looked like this since July.

20110817-100401.jpg

I am literally out of counter space. Everywhere. This is what I have managed to accomplish since Monday:

*plant broccoli
*dig up potatoes
*pull up green beans
*make and freeze 6 quarts of tomato sauce
*pick and freeze strawberries, twice
*write and mail 4 cards
*harvest 20 pounds of tomatoes
*pull out cucumber plants and cantaloupe (which failed miserably!)
*pull up kale and replant
*plant Swiss chard, sugar snaps, and peas for a fall harvest

I am quite tired, but I know I will be so thankful when I pull that delicious tomato sauce out of the freezer in January or when I harvest the Swiss chard in September. I sure am glad that the days in August are long!

Crispy Flatbread Pizza

Here is our most recent garden harvest:

I feel so blessed that we are getting such an abundance of fresh produce right now. I spent all day yesterday making strawberry vanilla jam and freezing green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, and peaches. We will be eating well way into 2012!

Given all of our fresh produce, and the fact that our local Earth Fare weekly special was free fresh mozzarella cheese, I decided to make flatbread pizza tonight.

We usually switch between two different pizza dough recipes, depending on how much time we have and what type of pizza we feel like eating. Mitch’s basic pizza dough has been our staple for several years. It is a thick and delicious crust, but it requires at least 1 1/2 hours for the dough to rise. Sometimes we just want fast and quick pizza, and I have started using the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Rosemary Flatbread as our crust recipe. There is no rising involved, and you can easily go from ingredients to crispy pizza in less than 30 minutes. We’ve tried several flatbread pizza recipes, and this is the only one we’ve found that is actually thin and crispy instead of thick like focaccia bread.

Flat Bread Pizza
 *(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen’s crisp rosemary flatbread recipe)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
Combine dry ingredients in bowl of mixer. Add water and olive oil and mix until dough forms a soft ball in the middle. Divide dough in half and roll out or press out with fingers onto baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 6-8 minutes until the crust is crispy. Put tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings on cooked crust. Bake for another 4-6 minutes until the toppings and crust turn a golden brown.

Serves 2-3 people. We often double this recipe in order to have leftovers.

Topping options:
Sauteed onions and bell peppers.

Vegetable: onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, and zucchini

Margarita: basil pesto instead of tomato sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil

The pizzas were delicious, and I love that fact that every single topping, except for the mozzarella cheese, was from our garden! We are down to one last jar of tomato sauce and one last jar of basil pesto from last year’s harvest!

Bee on a Sunflower

Our garden has been all abuzz with flying insects lately. We try to put in flowering plants, like cosmos, dill, and sunflowers, that will bring in beneficial insects to help pollinate our plants.

 

Kale

This is the first year we’ve grown kale, and I must say it has done surprisingly well. Early this spring I had a problem with it being eaten by grasshoppers and worms, but once we got past that stage it was smooth sailing.

Now we can harvest as much as we can eat! We put it in everything from smoothies and stir-fry to soup and lasagna. Every now and then I make kale chips for us to snack on. It was starting to slow down its growth with the hot weather we’ve had lately, so I harvested a whole lot. I blanched it in boiling water and froze it to use this winter!

Kale Chips:

These are so easy to make and you can customize them for your palate! Wash your kale and tear it into pieces about 2-3 inches large. Mix a little bit of olive oil, a little lemon juice, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Massage the oil mixture into the kale before spreading it out on a baking sheet. Bake at 200 until the chips get dehydrated and crispy – usually 30 minutes to an hour – stirring occasionally. Store uneaten chips in the refrigerator and eat within one week.