Archive for September, 2010

Herbalicious Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I should probably tell you to gather your herbs before the nights get too close to frost. Many herbs are native to a mediteranean (temperate) climate. They can’t take much cold and wilt at the first sign of crispness. One way I could stretch my herb harvest is to bring the pots I have herbs planted in inside at night, but I’m (once again) too lazy and my pot is large. I’ll have to harvest what I have.

I’ve already taken a few handfuls of oregano in to dry. I set the pile on a plate in the dark cupboard and left it there for a couple days til it was crispy the pulled off the tough stems from the crumbly leaves, poured what was left on a piece of paper and used that as a funnel to put in a recycled glass spice jar. My favorite spices are the Wild Organic – not just because they are good spices (great ground pepper) but because the glass jars are great to reuse. Unlike plastic spice jars, glass ones don’t absorb odors that can taint new spices.

I’ve also been meaning to get some pesto made – I have all the ingredients, just haven’t gotten it done. My basic is: basil, garlic, salt, walnuts (cheaper than pine nuts), lemon, olive oil. Put in a food processor or good blender til pulpy or finer then place in ice  cube trays to freeze portions. Later, when using it you can add the parmesan, the pesto keeps longer if you don’t have cheese in the mix. This type of process can be used for fresh-tasting herbs. You can even suspend fresh herbs in water and freeze in trays for use in soups and sauces too.

Also good – collect mint, lemon balm for teas (thanks LadyBug!).

Garrrrrlic! and autumn ramblings Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sorry folks – too much work and none of it in the garden as of late. But, BUT, The Hub got his first garlic bulbs in – I told him we still had some ordered bulbs on the way but he was determined to plant some by the light of the Harvest Moon. We saved one good bulb of cloves from this last meager harvest so that’s what he stuck in the garden. This is possibly based on some principles from the idea of biodynamic gardening. But that’s another post at another time.

The garlic we ordered came in today – both varieties are hardneck. My mother gave me, basically, one tip: follow the directions. This calls for high nitrogen fertilizer (think lawn feed) and bonemeal (phosphorus) to be added at planting time. A good amount of hummus and fluffy, compost rich soil doesn’t hurt. So I’ll need to pick some of that up tomorrow in hopes I, or The Hub, can finish this last bit of fall planting. The Hub also plans on taking down the garden this weekend but I’m skeptical, we’ll see. It’s time to get the last hopeful tomatoes off the vines and cook up or store what pumpkins are left and gather those last few seeds to seed the dreams of next spring

Fall/spring bulb basics Monday, September 20th, 2010

I’m confused, should bulbs planted in the fall be referred to as “fall bulbs” because of when they are planted or “spring bulbs” because of when they bloom?

Regardless, I just planted mine to welcome the start of autumn on Wednesday. This year I decided to put in a few crocus. These and snowdrops tend to be the earliest bloomers. I love my mother’s sunshiny yellow ones that are the first to greet the warming rays of early spring. I picked up a cheap-O bag of 30 and popped them along the very front of my south and west facing beds along the house. Regardless of what type of fall-planted bulb you choose, there are basic tips for each.

  • Plant them at a depth of 2-3 times their height. In spots that stay bare or get really cold, deeper is better.
  • Plant them with the pointed in facing up and the button (roots) end facing down.
  • For a natural look dig a wide whole and plant several a few inches apart depending on size
  • For a pop of color in the lawn, lift a small chunk of sod, plant bulb and replace sod – use very early bloomers so by the time that first lawn mowing comes around the blooms will be spent and leafs starting to wither
  • Plant alongside later risers – plants that don’t get going until full summer – that way these plants will cover the withering, brown leaves of the spent, spring-blooming plants
  • If your spring-bloomers aren’t as prolific as they once were it usually means they need to be divided. Just dig and space out now and/or share extras with friends
  • There are bulb cages you can get if you have a frisky squirrel or other bulb-munching rodent around
Pumpkin Pancakes Monday, September 20th, 2010

Whisk in a bowl:

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour

2 Tblsp. ground flaxseed

1 3/4 tsp. backing powder

3 Tblsp. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Melt together in small saucepan over medium low (I don’t have a microwave):

2 Tblsp. butter

3/4 C cooked pumpkin

Whisk together:

1 C. milk (I use 1%)

2 eggs

Pour pumpkin butter mixture into milk and eggs mixture

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix quickly with a whisk until just mixed. Pour as desired onto med-heated flat, oiled, griddle. Flip when bubbles surface and golden on bottom. I enjoyed these plain and the kids had them with a little honey

In preparation Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The dawn before fall is nearly as good as spring when it comes to gardening, for me at least. The first plants are drying in their beds. The grass has all but stopped growing. The temperature inside need only be regulated by the opening and closing of windows. We are passed the heavy maintenance stage of weeding and watering and wrangling. All the pumpkin vines have shriveled leaving our back steps a staggering of orange orbs with only a couple looking as though they are waiting for Cinderella’s fairy godmother out in the garden bed.

Soya Envy soybeans, dried on plant, collected for next year's crop

Next steps:

  • Continue gathering seeds – so far I have edamame, marigold, pepper, tomato and butternut squash
  • Covering the tomato plants for a few more nights before picking all and leaving them to ripen on newspaper in front of a sunny window
  • Pick the last peppers
  • Make a list of what did well and didn’t for next year
  • Canning tomatoes
  • Cooking and freezing the pumpkin for pies and baby food
  • Help my parents pick apples and pears, with bonus bagfuls to take home
  • Plant fall bulbs – my pick this year was crocus
  • Plant garlic – just waiting for the order to arrive
Gardening workshop, Aberdeen SD Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The Prairie Partners’ Gardening with the Masters fall workshop will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Dacotah Prairie Museum, 21 S. Main St.
Within the day will be four individual workshops: starting seeds, growing garlic, hardy roses and raised bed/square foot gardening.
Cost: $5 and payable at the door. Treats and refreshments will be served.

Chile Relleno Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Poblano and jalapeno peppers

This Labor Day was spent laboring over making chile relleno. My mom’s hot Big Jim peppers were ripe for the picking and the Hub and I had found 4 lovely poblanos on one of our little pepper plants. So, what better to end a long weekend with than a 3.5 hour experimental cooking session. My mother had made them several times with mixed results and I was inspired this year by a post from a favorite blogger who happened to get into more and more cooking posts recently – much to my liking.

It was fun charring the peppers – too much rain meant we couldn’t use the grill so luckily my mom had a gas stove. The poblanos really danced but the Big Jim’s seemed to rest well during the toasting.

The blister-skinned peppers were then placed in a paper bag. Thus making their own steam which helps with the skinning of the pepper. While skinning I held the still hot peppers under cold water which also seemed to help the skins release.

My mother either sliced the tops off or made a slit in each pepper to dig the seeds out as best as possible. With 14 peppers to do I finished the job not as thoroughly which made for a few surprising hot mouthfuls when we’d finally sat down to eat. I told burning-eared sis that she’d won the Prize Pepper. After seeding we commenced to stuffing with triangles of Jack cheese and some cooked burger I’d seasoned with a little salt and cumin.

The very-basic batter is what attracted me. The peppers are simply dusted with white flour . . .

and then dipped in stiff-beaten egg whites folded back in with their whipped yolks. I used a pinch of salt during the white beating to get them to thicken a bit more substantially.

After dipping the lightly floured peppers they were placed in 1/4 inch of oil in a medium skillet. The oil is ready when you can put the end of a wooden spoon in it and small bubbles rise up. This test is less splattery than the water flick test I used to use.

The batter was puffy and light and adhered well to the floured peppers. They turned a lovely golden color. Each one took about 5-7 minutes to make sure the cheese had melted inside, turning every couple minutes. We served them up with homemade refried beans that my mother had started earlier and a tomato sauce I started earlier, from our garden tomatoes we cooked down, strained and blended. It was seasoned with chili powder, cumin, dried onion, fresh garlic, paprika, salt and a pinch of sugar.

It was well worth the mess and process. Definitely not something I’d want to whip up every weekend but a great once-a-year treat when the garden is bursting with that bounty of peppers.

Cha-cha sal-sa Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Last week my sis, mom and I made quick work of 18 pints of salsa. Last year we hadn’t done any. It can be quite the chore, but with three (and a couple beers) it was quite a fun evening.

  1. Sterilized jars
  2. First we scalded the tomatoes in simmering water for easy peeling
  3. Peeled tomatoes
  4. Chopped onions, garlic, sweet and hot peppers (make sure to use gloves – I also made it a point to take my contacts out before starting this venture, nothing says, “youch!” like hot pepper in the eye)
  5. Threw it all in a couple stockpots to simmer with some vinegar, a little brown sugar and salt – upwards of 3 hours (we didn’t do it nearly as long as the recipe said)
  6. Just before ladling into jars we added some lime, fresh garlic and chopped cilantro
  7. Ladled to within 1/2″ of top of jar
  8. Topped with sterilized lids and rings, tightened
  9. Immersed jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes

I’ve been eating piles of it. We used a few long hot peppers and a couple jalapenos to two grocery-sized bags of tomatoes. We got an awesome medium heat and it is very smooth.

What a great way to spend an evening.

Snap in the air means fall planting around corner Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The snap in the air reminds me that it’s time to order fall planting items. First on the list is garlic. My mother and I are going to send in an order to the Garlic Store. She’d been saving a bulb or two each year for planting but we are going to start fresh this year. I’m leaning the way of hardneck – they might not have as many cloves but the ones they do are larger and they seem to keep longer. These aren’t your braiding varieties.

About a month ago the hub planted some garlic seeds he’d harvest from a single plant. Now, if this isn’t a lesson in patience, I don’t know what is. Starting garlic from bulbils can take several years before full bulbs form. I guess we won’t be going anywhere for a while.