Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Monday, September 22, 2014
Kale is one of the easiest and most cost-effective greens in the garden. It grows in the sun, it grows in the shade. Usually, it survives the winter and continues producing the following year. The kale in that shady little corner is stuff I planted a year or two ago. The leaves don't get big, but the plants are about two or three feet tall.
Sometimes, it even grows where you don’t plant it. To be fair, I planted it last year in this spot, but it all appeared to die at the end of the season. I didn't think it was coming back, so I put a trellis in that space this year.
Kale is not, however, one of those veggies that you can just go out to the garden, pick and eat. If you don’t prepare it the right way, the taste is downright nasty and bitter.
Normally, I roast it (or use it in scrambled eggs, pasta, a smoothie or in soup), but I was cooking dinner for a crowd and had purchased a watermelon, so I wanted to see if anyone had ever created a salad with kale and watermelon.
This is why I love the interwebs. I think I use it for cooking more than I do anything else.
There are several recipes online, I found this one and decided to more or less follow it. I made dinner for about 60 people and they all liked it, too, so it’s not just me and my weird taste buds.
The secret to a decent salad with kale is the dressing. You have to make a dressing with either lemon or lime juice in it. I like to mix the dressing and the kale ahead of time and work it with my hands to coat. I don't think the recipe I used said to do that, but I've learned to do that, especially with kale I grow in the heat of summer. The foodies call it massaging the kale. I think that sounds weird.
This bowl of kale had the juice of half a lime (instead of the lemon juice in the recipe), a splurt of olive oil and a tiny dot of honey. Trust me, it’s not the honey that takes the bitterness of the kale away - it’s the lime juice. The honey is just because I like honey.
When I made the salad for 60 people, I remembered the sunflower seeds, but didn’t have a camera. When I made it for my husband and me on Saturday, I had a camera but forgot the sunflower seeds. It’s still pretty.
It was also pretty tasty. I can’t seem to stop cooking for a horde, so there was a lot of leftover salad. It was still good the second day (no nuts to get soggy and the kale and watermelon were both still crunchy).
There was still plenty left, which I ate today, on day three. Although there was a bunch of watermelon juice in the container, the kale still held its shape and the salad was still tasty. Not as good or as pretty as day one, but I didn’t have many other leftovers in the fridge, so I was happy to eat kale salad for lunch.
Even my hubby, who is a little more suspicious of kale than I am, thought this was good.
By Penny Stine
Friday, September 19, 2014
I decided to dig a few more purple potatoes and have them with dinner last night. As you can tell from the pic, they haven’t gotten much bigger. I dug one entire hill of them, and I only got about 5 potatoes.
The skin is so dark it almost looks black or dark gray, as you can tell.
Once you cut them, however, it’s pretty obvious that they’re purple potatoes.
After assembling and cleaning all my raw ingredients, I decided they were so pretty I had to take a pic. I cut the little purple onions into medium chunks, then chopped the herbs and garlic fairly small. I put them all in foil, splashed them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on the grill when we did pork chops. The potatoes probably got about 15 - 20 minutes more than the chops, but the grill was only set to smoke, which is a fairly low temperature.
I was going to take a pic of the finished product, but I sensed that my darling hubby is getting tired of me taking photos of all our food.
I couldn’t taste much difference between the purple potatoes and the Yukon gold potatoes, and both came out of my garden. I will probably grow the purple potatoes again next year just because I can, and it's cool that they stay purple when cooked.
Next time I cook with them, I really do want to make some purple mashed potatoes.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Because we cut down a dying tree, which opened my front flower bed to more sunshine, which enabled me to plant more sun-loving vegetables in my often-shady yard, I’m growing wonderful sweet peppers this year.
Right now (and for the last three weeks), I’m picking one or two almost daily. I had no idea there were that many peppers out there. I only have three pepper plants in this bed.
I had more than three plants in the spring, but the ones I planted in the bigger garden area (where I ruined the soil for a season by putting in fresh wood chips from the dead tree) weren’t happy and died, along with all the tomato plants I started from seed.
I planted two different types of peppers - Yum Yum gold hybrids from Territorial Seed and Orangesicle hybrids from Park. I bought them because they both sounded good. It was not until later that I realized they were similar peppers and I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Which is fine for now, but frustrating next spring when I will want to grow the best one again.
I’m pretty sure I have both types growing in this bed, and all the pepper plants are producing like crazy, with incredibly sweet, meaty peppers.
I’ve started to pick them with a little green still on them, because if I wait for them to turn totally gold, the bugs get them. Because they’re hanging over the lawn, my darling hubby has occasionally (and inadvertently) chewed one or two up with either the lawnmower or the weedwhacker.
These are worth repeating.
By Penny Stine
Monday, September 15, 2014
I planted purple potatoes this year, just because I could. I found them either at Park Seed or Territorial Seed, and the catalog said they were a late season potato that produced a lot and that stayed purple when you cooked them.
Yes, that’s a purple baked potato from my harden, with a big ole’ pat of butter. Actually, it’s two because they’re small.
How cool is that?
Plus, the seed catalog said they’re extremely healthy and nutritious, with a bunch of anti-oxidants.
This is what my purple potato bed looked like in July. Frankly, I was pretty happy with it, especially since so many areas in my garden weren’t this happy.
This bed isn’t totally sunny, but it gets about 5 - 6 hours per day.
With potatoes, I usually wait and dig them after the plant starts to die. Before we went on vacation in late August, I put a bunch of straw on the potatoes, in hopes that more potatoes would form.
When we got back a week later, I noticed the plants starting to die. Was it because they didn’t like the straw or because it was time?
I don’t know, but this is what they look like now.
Pretty dead-looking, huh? When I dug a few potatoes, I was disappointed with their small size, but pleased with the number of potatoes.
I decided to leave them in the ground a little while longer, in hopes they would get bigger.
See, they were only this big. No wonder I ate two when I baked them. My two purple potatoes were still smaller than the big honking Yukon gold potato I dug a couple weeks ago that my husband ate.
I noticed that one of the purple potato plants has started growing again. I don’t know what it means, but I figure I’ll just let it. I’m going to dig these as I need them, but I’m really hoping they’ll last until November. I really want to have purple mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving!
By Penny Stine
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Last night, I did a quick garden stroll, looking to see how happy everything was after the moisture earlier in the week. I was surprised and pleased to see that some of the green beans out in my garden have gotten a second wind.
These green bean plants have brand new flowers in several places, as they continue growing and winding all over themselves and the tomato cage and pole. Flowers now mean that beans will follow. My yellow pole beans are doing the same thing. Yay! I like freezing the yellow and green ones together.
As you can see, the Brussels sprout plant is still there, too, not looking much like a bunch of little Brussels sprouts.
I took a closeup of this one, since it appears to be forming one tiny little head in there. This is my first year to grow them, but from the photos I’ve seen, one Brussels sprout plant is supposed to have a whole stalk-full of little sprouts forming at the point where the leaves branch out from the stalk. I think. They’re a long-season grower, and you’re not supposed to harvest them until after the first frost, so I’m hoping they’ll start to form their little mini-cabbage heads in the next few weeks.
I will go out for a longer garden stroll tonight and inspect everything more carefully.
Pay no attention to the weeds. I'm expecting a magic garden fairy to show up any time now and weed the whole area and then sprinkle magic pixie dust on all my gardens so that no more weeds sprout.