Archive for the ‘Herb’ Category

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!

Sage Dressing (Stuffing)

November 28, 2010

Stuffing, Not Stuffing

We call this “dressing” because we never actually stuff the bird with anything but a half an onion, fresh herbs, and maybe a lemon.  It’s baked separately, and you don’t have issues with “is it cooked?” or having to dig it out of the bird carcass.



1 Cup finely grown white cornmeal

Boiling Water

About 1/2 pound of dried stale mixed bread remnants from a variety of different breads (mostly dried crusts)

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1-2 cups chopped celery

1-2 cups chopped onions

3 cups chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon of dried thyme

Fresh sage leaves, chopped, about 1 cup

Fresh parsley, chopped, about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons black pepper

2 tablespoons sweet paprika


This time I was able to pick up a bag of mixed bread crusts and bits from the local bakery.  These had already been dried and were the approximate texture of croutons – you can just leave bread out overnight after being sliced, and then roughly chop it up if you can’t buy it like this.  This bag was wonderful, it had rye, pumpernickel, whole grains, rustic, etc.

All my life I’ve made “cornbread dressing” wherein I cooked the cornbread first and let it cool.  Last year, I cut out the extra milk and eggs from the dressing recipe, and this year I decided to refine that even further.  The earlier cornbread recipe I knew was to mix cornmeal and boiling water until it was a thick batter (not quite pourable) and then fry that in a pan with oil.  So I added boiling water to a cup of cornmeal and kept stirring, adding a bit more water until it was the consistency of thick grits.  This was added to the mixture made below.

Sweat the onions and the celery in the butter at low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.  Add the stock, the thyme, the fresh sage, parsley, and the spices.  Pour all of this over the bread/cornbread in a large mixing bowl and stir.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes to soak up the liquid, then spoon into a flat casserole dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Bake at 350 degrees in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Note:  This recipe used to be all cornbread, and had eggs in it.  This current version appears to last longer as leftovers, and has a great texture, and if you really need it to be a bit wetter, just add gravy when you eat it (yum).  As of the 2011 edit of this recipe, the texture remained moist and flavorful for days.

Weekly Update: November 14

November 14, 2010

We harvested the rest of the peppers this week.  We’ve had at least three days that have gotten down to freezing at night, and the plants were starting to look frost-bitten.


Pepper Harvest


The greens and other winter crops look fine, but the garlic still hasn’t started up in their beds.  In another couple of weeks I’ll cover them in leaf mulch regardless.


Dried Peppers


I’ve dried two batches of peppers, and have the last batch in the oven now.  Then I’ll separate out some for reconstituting, and grind the rest for powders.


Tomato Sauce


We used the last of the tomatoes that were turning red this week, and the last of the basil as well in this batch of tomato sauce.

And we made Lemongrass Shrimp soup this week for dinner.  From our garden we had cilantro, lemongrass, cayenne, peppers, and a couple small potatoes, as well as our own homemade chicken stock.  The recipe is listed under our recipe section, along with a picture.

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



Weekly Garden Update: 10/23

October 24, 2010

We went to the NC State Fair yesterday, and had a wonderful time.

Among other enticements like the food, the dairy goat show and all the other livestock, and the Village of Yesteryear, we spent some time examining the preserved food, grown food, and baking categories for the state competitions.  It is our considered opinion that our hot pepper jelly, some of the things we grow, and some of the other things we preserve, including dried items, are worthy of being submitted in next year’s competitions.

This week we harvested more greens.  We got a few more peppers, a couple tomatoes, and some green beans.

Garden shot

I harvested oregano and dried it in the oven.

We caught some deer coming up into the garden to nibble on the squash plant – the dog raced out the doggy door, down the stairs, and out the other doggy door in order to chase them into the woods.

The red clover in the boxes and the crimson and white clovers in the yard are germinating!  Lettuces, greens, beets, spinach, and carrots are growing.

Still been too hot in the days to plant garlic, so our projected planting date is still October 30th.

This is a picture of a close-up of what mycorrhizal fungi does to our garden mulch.  Yes, it’s a full color picture.

Mycorrhizal fungi

Given the slow down in garden information, I am predicting an increase in weekly cooking posts of some sort or another.

In that vein, I want to speak about bacon.  It has been very very difficult to get real cured bacon with the changes in our eating habits.  By which I mean, humanely-raised “pastured” natural hogs that were humanely slaughtered and raised without unnecessary antibiotics or with growth hormones.  People who raise this kind of meat rarely get it cured in a real fashion, i.e., with nitrites.  It is interesting to me that the stuff some companies use to cure bacon without adding nitrites actually results in the finished product having a higher percentage of nitrites from a chemical process than if they just added the nitrites to begin with.  And there are a lot of people that sell or process uncured bacon.   But bacon has a really short shelf-life without nitrites and you really can’t freeze it, the taste of the fat goes “off” very quickly.   Consequently we have been unable to locate a bacon that I have been happy with.  But today we discovered a regional bacon producer who uses humanely raised and slaughtered pastured pork, who uses nitrites to actually cure the bacon — and they’re only in Alabama.  We bought 6 slices, and we’ll try it and let you know how it tastes.

Garden box

Garden box 2

Garden box 3

Weekly Garden Update: 10/17

October 17, 2010

Here in the garden, Fall is king.




This week we harvested lots of nice greens, including kale and mustard, and some lettuce.  We got a few tomatoes, more anchos and sweet Italian peppers, butter beans, and green beans.


A mostly ripe watermelon


We also harvested the last watermelon, and tore up the vines.  We’re down to the last squash vine, and that vine is being eyed with a lean and hungry look toward being torn up as well.


Last Watermelon, but a big one


Today we fertilized all the open spaces, and planted red clover (annual) in those boxes where we can.  We also worked the garlic beds, and are hoping to plant garlic by Halloween.  Depending on a spot of Indian summer they’re calling for, and a lack of rain in the 10-day forecast, it may actually be Halloween before we plant it.


Upper boxes


We also sowed the lawn, yes the grass, with cinnamon clover and white clover – lots of it.  I’m hoping to drive out the invasive grasses with invasive clovers.  They look nice and will be healthier for the lot.  For anyone out there reading this that spends oodles of money on your lawn, go ahead and shudder!


Middle boxes


Earlier this year, we wrote about garlic scapes.  At the time we froze some, and this week used the same garlic scape spread we made back then.  I am here to report that frozen ones just don’t hold up as well, we are unlikely to try to store them in this manner again.  The flavor is less garlicy, and more like .. grass.  We’ll eat this spread, but we’re throwing out the rest of the frozen scapes.  For us, garlic scapes will go back to being one of those things you get “in season” and no other time.


Horseradish, Sage, Rosemary, Dill, Tarragon


All the herbs are doing great right now.  In fact, after I write this I’m going outside to harvest a bunch of oregano.


Garden 1



Garden 2



Garden 3


Kale in the sink, with some salted water.  We do this to clean them, and also kill / drive out any tiny mites trying to hide in the leaves.


Kale in the Sink


The hummingbirds seem to have left for the season, neither of the two feeders has shown any activity in about a week now.

Weekly Garden Update: October 3rd

October 3, 2010

We had almost 7 inches of rain in the past 7 days.  Yes the ground is wet, but the previous 7 weeks of no rain has allowed the ground to quickly absorb nearly all the surface wet.  We needed it.


Another watermelon from last week wasn’t ripe again.  We don’t know why, but it’s a tad disappointing to cut it open and find greenish-white-pink interior on a melon whose stem died.  We have one more good hope for a ripe watermelon from this crop.



We harvested some butternuts; these are all the volunteer ones.  Between the volunteer tomatoes, cucumbers, and butternuts we have gotten a decent harvest out of seeds that apparently survived the worm farm and got mixed into the soil.

Volunteers of America

We cut up and ate the first butternut-type squash that we had that big picture of about 3 weeks ago.  It is a lovely color, almost like cheddar cheese when cut into a slab.  We roasted some of it in the oven the first night and the flavor is amazing, I can’t remember when I had a better squash.  I was worried that I’m gonna get tired of squash pretty quick, but not with taste like this.

Big squash

We’re putting the rest of it in a crock pot stew today, with locally-raised, pastured, sustainably-farmed, antibiotic and hormone free, humanely slaughtered stew beef, and our own peppers.  Yeah.  The last time we made this it was really good, and I have high hopes for this one as well.

Peppers are really a bounty crop this year.  I’m making another batch of Swamp Mud Hot Pepper Jelly this week, and I’m going to make a milder batch with just jalapenos, cayennes, anchos, and sweet peppers in hopes that we can give some to folks who like their pepper jelly a wee bit less hot than napalm.

We’re still getting a dribble of green beans, though I think they’re finally starting to give out.  We have some green tomatoes still, and we harvested field peas and butter beans again this week.

Some of the harvest

A lot of the herbs recovered quickly this week with the rain; the sage, tarragon, rosemary, and oregano all have new life.  The basil has apparently mutated into something that thrives on all environments and can consume all matter, it just won’t quit.



We’re going to harvest more greens this week, mostly mustard, and braise them again.  It’s nice to have some of the fall crops starting to kick off.  More planting today, with lettuce, cilantro, and getting the garlic boxes ready.

October will be garlic month!  We had such a great harvest this year of garlic that we are able to plant from that, and won’t need to order any more.  This brings up something that occurs to us frequently.  Now that we are growing so much on our own, not only have we quit buying much from the conventional grocery stores, but we have needed very little from our local produce farmers this year, and this summer we barely bought anything from the farmer’s markets because we had it ourselves.  We’re saving lots of seeds from things that did well, and therefore our seed purchases as of this year will be reduced as well.  If everyone tore up their grass yards, and planted produce and orchard plantings, how much would it end up affecting local farmers?  How hard would it hit the major agri-business producers?  I’m thinking a lot – in both cases.  I haven’t noticed any of our 10 neighbors cutting down trees and planting over their yards, even with our “good” example to follow, so this probably isn’t happening anytime soon.

Here is a picture of the Chinese mustard growing from seeds we got from meemsnyc .  We look forward to doing more seed exchanges with folks, if you want to be involved, email us at

Chinese Mustard

Garden 3

Garden 2

Garden 1