Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Weekly Garden Update: 4/10

April 10, 2011

Weekly Garden Update:  4/10





It was the week of bolting.  The over-wintered cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants bolted along with the mizuna and mache.  The cabbage and brussels sprouts were disappointing because the plants looked so healthy.  We ended up just cutting the leaves, a nibble of which proved pretty tasty, so we’ll use them in Suan la Chow Show (a Chinese dumpling dish with cabbage and pork) later this week (N.B.:  If anyone has Mary Chung’s recipe for either the dumplings or her sauce, please please email us.  I can make some pretty good imitations, because I have a recipe imitation back from when it was made at Colleens, but I can’t match her).


Help meeee, I'm boltinggggg



Some internet research revealed that these two plants aren’t good candidates for over-wintering in our region as they tend to bolt once warm temperatures arrive if they’ve been exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for a length of time.  Live and learn.  Of course, when we planted them last Fall, we had hoped they would produce by the time really cold temps arrived.  But Fall 2010 was short – summer lasted forever and snow came in early December (somewhat early for us).  True Spring and Fall crops tend to be hit and miss around here.



And more....

And more harvest


We harvested the rest of the mizuna and mache and some more of the various lettuces this week.  We also harvested the rest of the over-wintered Lacinato kale, some of the over-wintered mustard, and some of the over-wintered Red Russian kale (which is also bolting some).  We have more of these plants growing, which we direct sowed in mid-February, but the seedlings probably need another month before they’re harvestable (if they don’t succumb to potentially too-high temps by then).




The potatoes are leaping up to worship the sun god!  It’s amazing how much they’ve grown in the past week from little nubbins barely poking up to actual plants.


This weekend we also potted up some of the peppers and tomatoes growing in the basement.  We also started to harden off the celery which we intend to plant out next weekend.  We hope that low temperatures will be forecast to be high enough soon so we can transplant out the summer squash seedlings.  They are now at the size at which we intended to plant them out but there are still some lows forecast in the upper 40s this week so we want to wait until lows are always in the 50s.


Peas Peas!

Broccoli & Cauliflower




Peas, garlic, and the other brassica are motoring along.


New Asparagus Bed with 31 Planted Crowns


Lastly, we finished the asparagus bed and planted the asparagus.  Hopefully we’ll be in asparagus for years to come!



Apple Trees

Blueberry Bells


How is your garden growing?


Weekly Garden Update 2/13/2011

February 13, 2011

Today was the type of pre-Spring day that beckons you to the outdoors and tempts you to start planting.  We tried to hold out on much planting, knowing that weather is unpredictable but the favorable 10-day weather forecast on caused us to give in.


Mustard Box

We uncovered all of the covered boxes so they could bask in the sunshine today and gave everything a good, long drink.  We cleared out the mustard plants that obviously weren’t going to make it.  Three of the Southern Giant Curled Mustard had put out new growth with the better weather we’ve had lately so they received a reprieve from being ripped out.  In the box, we planted Chinese Mustard Greens from, two types of kale from, and more Southern Giant Curled Mustard.



Spinach Box

Three spinach plants survived the over-wintering so we planted a few more Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach to hopefully have a few more plants.  We also planted French Heirloom Breakfast radishes from in this box.



Carrot Box

One of our boxes had become overrun with a creeping weed so we pulled out the weeds, trying not to damage the carrots that had been overrun.  Since relatively few carrots were able to out-compete the weed, we planted Shin Kuroda Carrot seeds from here and some butter crunch lettuce seeds.



Mache Box



Lettuce Box

Our over-wintered leaf lettuces and mache are doing pretty well.  We cleared away the leaves from around the plants to help everything breathe a bit more.  Hopefully the leaves weren’t an integral part of the lettuce’s survival!



Brussels Sprouts




More Cauliflower

Various over-wintered brassica seem to have made it.  We’ll see if they actually produce anything.  Of these plants, the broccoli seem the least likely to produce something, but time will tell.  Over-wintered brassicas include brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and one cabbage that survived the voles.  We also started more cabbages indoors this week.


The over-wintered kales are doing well enough that we could have harvested some this week, but we put together the week’s menu on Friday (for Saturday shopping) and didn’t realize they were chuggin’ away under the row cover as well as they are.  We know we have harvestable carrots as well, but they’re not part of this week’s menu either.  We’ve been eating a lot of our canned foods from last year’s harvests (tomato sauce, green beans, haricots vert), another butternut squash this week, and the frozen pesto has made an appearance in several lunches lately.

Waiting for Spring with excited anticipation!

Weekly Garden Update: 2/6/2011

February 6, 2011

Gardening season begins in earnest.  Our onions and other seeds which we discussed in the last update are germinating.



We were a bit slow in seeing that the broccoli and cauliflower was up and growing so they were in the dark a couple of days more then they should have been which has made them a bit leggy.  Hopefully that will be fixed as they’re now growing under lights.  We also germinated our snow peas and our sugar snap peas inside this year, and today we planted them all in two boxes.  We decided to do this because the soil temps (as they were last year) are too low to germinate them, but not too low to allow them to grow (we hope).

Pea Peas

In the pan

Today we seeded the celery.


I cooked venison steaks this past week, attached the recipe in a post just prior to this one.  Last night we had the smothered quail again, and it was great.  No I mean it was *GRREAT*.

The Kale seems to have survived the winter, as have bizarrely, the lettuces.  We have carrots still.  The Garlic is sprouting up through the mulch all over, and seem to be saying, “Ok, Winter did it’s thing, now let the Spring come in Early”.

February Garden

February Garden

Box for Peas





Weekly Update: 1/30/11

January 30, 2011

Weekly Update:  1/30/2011

Planting time has started.


Yesterday we (once again) removed covers from some of our boxes since we have a few days of weather averaging above freezing.


Voles continue to be a periodic problem.  Other than saturation bombing our garden I’m not sure there is a way to get rid of all of them.


*Something* chewed through the plastic fencing to get into a box that has nothing planted in it.  Then it dug around in a wide shallow area.  We have no idea what possessed whatever critter it was.


We also cleaned the seed germination area and got everything ready for today.  We’re planting yellow granex onions, dawn giant leeks, and what might be our last effort at broccoli and cauliflower, three varieties of the broccoli and two of the cauliflower.  We’ve not had much luck with them the past several years, and if we don’t get some production this year we’ll probably just reassign the garden space to something that does produce.


We have been doing mung bean sprouts for over a year now, when the fit hits us.  We like them in salads, particularly.  We recently purchased a mason jar sprouting lid so that we can do smaller seeds, and picked up a sprout mixture at the same time consisting of alfalfa, radish, mung bean, lentil, and broccoli.  Grabbed one of our quart canning jars, and now we’re off to the races.


We’ve been enjoying the fruits of our canning efforts from this summer.  Pepper jelly, pickles (cucumbers), pickled jalapenos, green beans, tomato sauce, and other products.  So far the feedback from our Christmas gifts of pepper jelly and watermelon rind pickles has been very positive.


My father gifted me with venison and quail and wild ducks recently.  Last night I cooked duck breasts, and tomorrow I’m doing some venison steaks.  I’ll attach the recipe for the duck breasts in the recipe section, they were delicious.  For the other of us, it was the first time she’d had wild duck, so I’m pleased they came out.



2011 Garden Beginnings!

January 2, 2011

For our weekly update this week, we have the beginnings of our 2011 Garden plantings, and a Seed Exchange!


We spent part of the week planning out what (and how many) plants we need to start in the basement to be transplanted out in the Spring.  We’re expanding the garden a bit this year to the front yard to grow melons and winter squash where they can spread out and not be in the way.  Doing so opens up some of the main garden’s boxes for more PEPPERS.  We figure we have room for 86 pepper plants at the dense planting we tried this year (and it worked out great).  We have 16 different varieties we’re going to try to grow next year (some are even home-saved seed!).  The first number in the list below is the number of plants of each variety we hope to end up with; the second number is the number of plants we’ll start in order to (hopefully) end up with the desired number:

HOT Peppers:

Tabasco:  2, 3

Habanero:  5, 7

Ancho:  7, 9

Thai Hot:  1, 2

Cayenne:  5, 7

Jalapeno:  6, 8

Serrano:  4, 6

El Chaco:  2, 4

SWEET Peppers:

Cherry:  5, 7

Anaheim:  7, 9

Pimento:  3, 5

Yellow Pimento:  3, 5

CA Wonder:  11, 14

Red Marconi:  8, 10

Yolo Wonder:  9, 11

Italian Relleno:  8, 10

We’re cutting back on tomato varieties this year to only four (2 paste, 2 slicing) plus tomatillos.  We’ll be planting (and starting):

Better Boy:  9, 12

Early Girl:  5, 8

Amish Paste:  5, 8

Roma (seed gotten from Mimi):  5, 8

Tomatillos:  3, 5

Tomatoes/tomatillos will take up 3 boxes, as they did last year and we thought we had a good amount for eating, canning, and sharing.


In other plants, we had way too much celery last year, even though we lost a number of plants to voles.  But we had so much we actually sold some to a local specialty store.  Next season, we hope to have 25 celery plants and we’ll start 32; all one variety this year (Tendercrisp) – it’s our first time growing this variety so hopefully we’ll be successful!

Eggplant:  we lost all of our eggplant seedlings to the voles last year and had to plant store-bought seedlings.  Four plants survived the voles and we thought this gave us a reasonable number of eggplants through the growing season (basically, 1 per week).  We’re aiming for 4 eggplant plants again next year so we’ll start 8 since we have trouble getting eggplant to germinate well.

Onions:  this year we’ve finally figured out which onions grow in our area!  (Maybe we’re a bit slow…).  We’re growing Yellow Granex from seed.  We’re going to start half of the seed inside and direct sow the other half to see which methods works the best for us.  We may also pick up some Candy onion seeds from Southern States if we decide we need more than one seed pack.

Broccoli and cauliflower:  we’ll try again but this may be the last time we do so.  We do not have good luck growing either of these vegetables to maturity, regardless of whether it’s Spring or Fall.  But we will start two varieties of cauliflower (8 of each, hopefully to end up with 6 of each) and three varieties of broccoli (7 of each, hopefully to end up with 5 of each).

Summer squash:  we normally do not have room under the seed starting lights to start them early but we’re going to make room this year.  The plants germinate so easily when direct sowed but the squash bugs pose such a problem here in NC that the plants die long before they’re even thinking about giving up.  We want to plant transplants this year to give them a bit of a head start on squash bugs and hopefully get a bit more production.

Winter squash:  we may direct seed the butternut varieties since they seem to have a bit of resistance to squash bugs but the acorn squash we want to grow needs an early start indoors if we hope to get any fruit before the plants succumb to bugs.  We also ordered some “Lakota” seeds from Burpee and will likely start those indoors as well.

It’s looking like we may need to expand the indoor seed starting operation!  Maybe I’ll go down to the basement soon and figure out what we can do…

More Seeds!


We’ve culled the seed collection and decided what we’ll be growing next year so we have the following seeds to either just give away if you need seeds but don’t have any to trade or to trade for seeds we’d like to get.

Seeds we’d like to get:





French Breakfast radishes

something you have that you think is particularly worthy

Seeds to give away/trade:

Old Dutch Half-Runner Beans (a great, tasty, prolific green bean that we’ve grown for 3 years and will continue to grow but we have too many seeds.  Stringless when young.  Although a 1/2 runner, it grows to 8 feet in our garden).

Heirloom Iceberg Lettuce (iceberg lettuce can be hard to get to germinate)

Parisian Carrot (small-ish round carrots)

Green Zebra Tomato

Greek Basil

White Sweet Spanish Onion (long day)

Walla Walla Onion (long day)

Bianca di Maggio onion

Ruby Queen beet

Chioggia beet

Plum Purple Radish

Watermelon radish

Chinese Red Meat radish

Chinese Green Luobo radish

Black Spanish radish

Japanese Minowase Daikon radish

Baby eggplant

Russian Tarragon

Utah Celery

Beefsteak Tomato

Bloody Butcher

San Marzano Tomato

Send us an e-mail: foodgardenkitchen at gmail dot com if you’re interested.

Weekly Update: December 5th

December 5, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!


Snowy Garden


As usual, the whethermen got it wrong.  It was explained to us for over two days that we were getting possible snow flurries or a light dusting of snow overnight on Saturday, but that any accumulation was out of the question.  By 1 pm Saturday afternoon it had started snowing, and by 3 pm we had about 1.5 inches accumulation.


Boxes in the snow



So I was told to go out and shoot pictures, which was fun.  The dog ran through the snow and gamboled about.  Hearts were comforted watching from the big windows looking out over the yard and the forest as the flakes swirled about and landed lightly.




We covered up most of the crops earlier this week due to low temperatures in the high 20s, using Burlap and the row cover we have.  The only production we’re getting right now is fresh herbs when we cook something (I used a LOT of sage last week on turkey and the dressing and stuff, along with some rosemary, tarragon, and dill).  Oh and the greens.  We’re getting mustard and kale, two varieties of each, on a once or week or twice a week basis.


Greens for some Color!


We are however, starting to hit the canned goods from this summer.  We opened our first jar of Haricot Vert this week, and oh my Yummy!  The very next best thing to fresh from the garden.

In cooking news, we ate all that lovely turkey this past week, including turkey curry and turkey hash and turkey sandwiches and sliced turkey with gravy, etc.  This week we’re varying the menu quite a bit, and one of the things I’ll be making is my Chicken Divan, at which point if I remember I’ll come back to the recipe I just posted here and add some lovely photos.

I first ate Chicken Divan at my Aunt’s house, and it was a perennial favorite as I grew up whenever I could cajole her into making it.  The recipe wasn’t really like the one I use now, it has changed regularly over the years, mostly as my eating habits have changed.

A good friend in the 1980s talked me into making my own sauce, and adjusting the cheeses and seasoning.  Adding the pimientos was my own idea as I was experimenting with variations.  It’s a great hearty one-dish dinner, and highly prized at potlucks as well.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Thanksgiving Post

November 28, 2010

The Thanksgiving Post:


Gobble Gobble



I got up this morning, the Friday after thanksgiving.  This week the leaves all fell in about three days, after one of the most remarkable fall color spectacles we’ve had in a few years.  It was so sudden and so complete, that it reminded me of cherry blossom time in the spring.

Right now, the rain is attempting to account for a few more leaves that have clung to their branches, little flags of glory waving just a little bit longer.

The fresh herbs I’ll be using to cook our “day after” thanksgiving dinner are being washed by the rain.  And the sound of the rain on the gutters and the windows is a gentle background rhythm to my typing.

We visit my Uncle’s house in Raleigh on Thanksgiving, a tradition that has existed since they took over the even more ancient habit of visiting my grandmother, and instead started having my grandmother come to them, along with the rest of us.  It is one of those markers of continuity in my life, if I get to go to my Uncle’s house on Thanksgiving and I get to hear “Alice’s Restaurant”, the life is good.  Not being able to do things like that would indicate to me that something was dreadfully awry.

So after a “thanksgiving dinner that can’t be beat”, we drove over to my father’s house, where he and my step mom were entertaining more of our extended family this year; and we had *another* ‘thanksgiving dinner that can’t be beat”.  My father was cooking the turkey in an iron dutch-oven thing over a gas burner on the back patio, and I spent much of my time there sitting with him in quiet conversation that reminds me how much I value him.  Oh, and drinking French 75s with St. Germain is fun too!

Among other things served at these meals, we had oyster casseroles, buttery smooth salty country ham, rolls, gravy, turkeys, butter beans, green beans, creamed sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing (stuffing, just not in the bird), coconut cake, chocolate chess pie, sweet potato pie, whiskey-fig cake, pumpkin-pecan bars, and other delicious delights.  Charles Dickens is the only person I’ve read that manages to make long lists of so much food that it makes you both salivate and feel slightly ill at the same time.  But when I get to recounting our family Southern repasts, it frequently reminds me of him.

And today, well today we do it again.  We’re only cooking for here at home today, (and vanilla rum cakes with brown-sugar rum glaze to take tomorrow), but it’s still a thanksgiving meal all over again.  We have the turkey, the cheese pudding, the dressing, the mashed potatoes, and a few other items, and I plan to be toiling in the kitchen throughout the day.  I’ll be trying to remember to shoot a couple pictures, and then we’ll post a few recipes, notes, and tips herein, in case any of this is attractive to you.


Rum cakes with rum glaze



Today we got up, and with food in hand, headed off to another of my Uncles, where we were meeting up with the 30+ members on that side of the family in order to celebrate our being able to all get together again.  In this day and age, that is not so small a thing.

We had grilled chicken breasts, grilled pork loin, fingerling potatoes, cheese pudding, stuffing, Caesar salad, sweet potatoes, greens (collards, kale, cress, mustard, etc), asparagus casserole, fruit salad, macaroni & cheese, home-made rolls.  We had Italian caramel cake, blueberry pie, trifle, pumpkin cheese cake and other desserts.  We had home-made asian baked turnover/samosa like things that we dipped into sweet garlic chili sauce, and hummus, and chips, and iced tea.  Between the food and the company, we had a grand time.



No big news for the garden this past week, though the garlic continues to sprout, and the greens are growing nicely.  I’ll be mulching some leaves this week, and covering the garlic beds.  In a little bit I’ll be making turkey hash, served over toast, with creamed hash browns for breakfast.  Yum!

Weekly Update: November 21

November 21, 2010

The garlic is peeping up!  We’re very happy not to have to wait until spring to see.  Despite the weather, all our herbs are still doing very well.  We harvested more greens this week.   Other than that, there isn’t a lot to talk about with the garden.

I made biscuits this morning, and diverged from my normal plain biscuits and added some roughly chopped cheese, a small jar of drained pimientos, and some black pepper.




I have put off, and put off again, making a post about biscuits, and listing my biscuit recipe.  The truth is, I feel like a heretic.  I was raised to think of biscuits in a particular way, and departing in any way from that always seems a little “wrong” to me.  But years and years of making biscuits and experimenting with them, altering recipes in small ways just to see what happens next, has made me rather opinionated on the topic.

Yes, it’s true that you can make perfectly decent biscuits with just flour, water, and lard.  It helps if you have a touch for it, which is something that I’ve never been able to explain.


Plate o' Biscuits


But it’s easier to make biscuits that more people enjoy by adding a few more ingredients.  So today I’m posting my biscuit recipe in the other section.  And I have attempted to minimize my commentary, story-telling, extreme opinions, and sneering at some of the other types of biscuits from other places, all the while feeling guilty for putting in anything but soft winter wheat flour, because experience has taught me that mixing the flours changes the texture of the biscuit in an advantageous way.

I expect that some other people may take this recipe, and do what I do, which is change it immediately.  I just want to point out that if you make these biscuits using vegetable shortening, don’t come complaining to me.  Maybe *your* grandmother only made them that way, and they were great, but I cannot make them come out tasting decent using vegetable shortening.

Weekly Update, Nov. 7th

November 7, 2010

November 7, Weekly Update:

Fresh Cut Dill

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November, the Gunpowder Treason & Plot….(happy belated Guy Fawkes Day)

Not much of an update this week, just a few items to be noted.

We got our first freeze last night; it got down to about 30 degrees.  Yesterday we covered our remaining pepper plants, and pulled the row covers over most of the fall & winter crops.

I was going to write about my sweet green tomato recipe, that I made from the tail end of the tomato crop this year, but for whatever reason they didn’t end up being as good as I had hoped.  I will need to go back to my father for more explicit instructions on the family sweet green tomato recipe.  I suspect that I am basically over-complicating a simple heavy syrup & cinnamon flavored sweet pickle, but the texture was also not what I had hoped, and I don’t know why.  That puts me back to the drawing board.

Sweet Green Tomato Pickle

We also harvested most of the parsley and dill yesterday, though I dragged one of the dill containers out of the open air, in hopes that it might survive.  I also covered the sage and the oregano.

It rained about an inch this week.

The lettuces appear to be doing well; we may be able to begin harvests in a couple of weeks.

Our limited harvest this week was jalapeno peppers, and what is probably the last of the green beans, as we expect that the freeze last night will end them.

The garlic hasn’t started peeking up yet, I find myself checking them more frequently than I should.

Weekly Garden Update: Halloween

October 31, 2010

Roll Me Over, In the Clover…

It is All Hallows Eve, and we descended on the Garden in a fashion which must have been scary to the plants.


Butter beans


We ripped up all the tomatoes, the squash vines, the butter bean plants, the Tabasco and Ancho pepper plants, and the basil.  We took down the hummingbird feeders, having not seen a hummingbird in at least 3 weeks now.  We cut more plastic fencing to surround a few more of our boxes, worked some boxes where we pulled stuff up, put away trellises until spring, and generally did some tidying up.


Green beans


Out of all that we harvested a nice basket of butter beans, a lot of Tabasco peppers, another 30 ancho peppers, green beans, and a couple boxes worth of green tomatoes (some of which will turn ripe, and some of which we will make green tomato pickle or other things out of).  We are thrilled to have had green beans and butter bean production all the way to November, and we still have pepper plants budding.  No one knows how long we can continue that harvest, I guess until we get a hard freeze.


Pile o' Peppers



Green tomatoes


We also harvested all the current crop of red cayennes and Serrano peppers.  Kale and mustard and other greens were harvested today as well.


Mess o' Greens


This past week we harvested the last watermelon.  And then we cut it open, and it was pink and green and delicious.  We were very happy to get such a nice tasting and firm textured melon at last.


Moon & Stars Watermelon


Garlic Planting!  Today we finally planted 2 boxes of garlic, approximately 128 plants, in hopes of a garlicy-green springtime to come.


Lemongrass Plant


The lemongrass plant is so large now that we cut out 3 large canes of it, and can’t tell where we cut them out.


Lemongrass stalks


We have volunteer dill coming up in both containers where we had dill earlier this year, and they’re doing great!




The clover is sprouting up everywhere, the annual red clover in the boxes, and the perennial red and white clovers all over the yard.


In the Clover


The whetherpeople (no I didn’t spell that wrong) are hinting that we might have a freeze coming up this next weekend.  If that looks like a serious prediction later in the week, I’ll be dragging out the burlap for some of our remaining growing things.


Bottles of Tabasco Peppers


I have 2 pans of peppers drying in the oven as I write this.  And I separated out my tabascos and some cayennes to make bottles of North Carolina pepper sauce, which is *mostly* vinegar and said peppers.  Based on how they look sitting in bottles by themselves, I predict they will at least look aesthetic.  Before thanksgiving, we’ll be compounding our chili powder for the year out of the different varieties of dried peppers we have.


Garlic box 1


Box o' Brassica

Garden 1

Garden 2

Garden 3