Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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Yes, you can grill that

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I’m attempting to grow broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale this year. The kale that I planted from seed didn’t come up, and the kale that always overwinters and gives me kale most of the summer went to seed. I have a small patch of kale that’s doing OK, but nothing like I’ve had in previous years.



We eat a lot of kale, so I’m kinda sad about that, especially since we love roasted kale.

I was eyeing my broccoli and wondering about the leaves. As you can see, this broccoli isn’t forming a giant head of broccoli, but the leaves are beautiful. It's growing in a fairly shady corner, which could explain why the head is about two inches in diameter rather than six or seven. 


I googled the edibility (is that a word?) of broccoli and cauliflower leaves and discovered that yes, they are edible. I decided to try roasting them like I do kale and went out to the garden to see what I could find.

The Brussels sprouts leaves are pretty and they're just hanging out... waiting for the sprouts to do something. 

They're a long season grower, and I won't harvest the actual sprouts until late fall. What a good idea to pinch a few leaves here and there while I'm waiting for the real crops!

I ended up with a basket full of broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts leaves.The broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts leaves were all bigger than the kale leaves. 

Last night, it was a kajillion degrees and I didn’t want to turn on the oven. I was already grilling pork chops , so I figured I’d try grilling the leaves. I tossed them with olive oil and soy sauce, just to try something different.
I found a recipe that said to use a grilling basket, but my grill basket is small, so I simply laid them directly on the grill. We have an older Traeger grill, which doesn’t have an exact temperature control - I had it turned on high for the pork, which was probably more than 400 degrees.

At that temperature, it didn’t take long at all - so if you try this at home, don’t throw a bunch of broccoli leaves on the grill and go weed the garden while they cook. I turned them after 3 − 4 minutes and then took most of them off the grill after another minute or two.
They were crispy, charred and kinda smoky. My husband thought that grilling added an entirely new flavor sensation. Normally, I’m the one who hogs most of the roasted kale, but he had seconds (and maybe even thirds) last night. He wasn’t fond of my roasted beet salad with goat cheese and plums, which I adored, so I let him fill up on kale.  


Plum tasty

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 21, 2014

I bought a box of plums from someone at work who has a small orchard out in Palisade. She didn’t know what kind of plums they are, but brought in a box for people to sample. They seemed to get sweeter the longer they sat and they were pretty tasty, so I figured it would be fun to try and figure out what to do with all the plums.


If we were toast and jam eaters, I would have made jam, but we don’t usually eat toast. On those rare occasions when my husband eats it, he prefers honey to any kind of jam.

I googled a bunch of plum recipes, looking specifically for side and main dishes, rather than jams, jellies or preserves and noticed that a lot of them paired plums with onions. One paired them with goat cheese.



So on Friday, I grilled a mixture of veggies, including these pretty purple onions I pulled out of my garden, along with garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and a bunch of Thai basil that’s growing in one of my flower pots. I halved a bunch of plums and threw those in the grill basket, too, and stirred several times during the grilling process to get the plum juice on all the veggies.

When they were almost done, I added a bunch of raw shrimp to the basket and grilled just long enough for the shrimp to turn color. I'm calling it grilled shrimp Thai plum. 
I served it with brown rice. It was pretty tasty.
I still have a bunch of plums.  


Donated plants survive where others didn’t

By Penny Stine
Friday, July 18, 2014

Because I let my coworkers and friends know that I was a bozo and put not-yet-decomposed wood in places in my garden, (and thereby making the soil extremely nitrogen-deficient, which caused most of my tomato plants to die) they have been sympathetic.
I got donations of healthy volunteer tomato plants from friends’ gardens, as well as three little plants from different friend who started them from seed and then ran out of room in her garden. Those three plants didn’t look happy when I got them; they were root-bound in their containers and longing for freedom.

I added extra nitrogen to the soil before I planted my donated tomatoes.

I took that pic this morning of the three plants. Aren’t they happy? When I got them, they were spindly and about four inches tall.

The volunteers that I got from friends didn’t fare as well at first. For one, they were quite happy where they were; in somebody’s garden, growing quite happily and hogging the sunshine. One died within a week.

This cherry tomato was huge when Carol Clark gave it to me and full of blossoms. It flirted with death, but decided to live. I trimmed a lot of the dead branches and it seems happier for it. I’m hoping it forgives me for making it move and starts blooming again.



My friend who gave me this one had no idea what kind of tomato it was, and at this point, I don’t care. It also acted like it was going to die, but after I cut off all the sorry-looking branches, it revived.  


It’s not exactly a braid

By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 17, 2014

The other night after work, I decided it was time to deal with the pile of dirty garlic sitting on my picnic table on the patio. I had dug it all up a couple weeks earlier and then left it in a pile to cure.

As I cleaned it, it seemed sufficiently cured (I actually have no idea what it means to cure garlic, just in case you’re wondering), but I was afraid I may have left it out there too long. The stems were all pretty stiff and unbending.

Of course, that could be because most of the garlic was the hardneck variety rather than a softneck variety. I planted both, but I seemed to harvest more of the hardneck.
Hardneck is supposed to have better flavor but a shorter shelf life and they also grow the curly scapes, which I love. Softneck is more pliable (go figure, right?) and can be braided easily and store longer.
I didn’t bother attempting to braid any of it. Instead, I kind of twisted some twine all around the stems to create culinary art and then hung it on my kitchen wall. It’s handy, accessible and will supply me with garlic for a year.  


Mystery plant probably not deadly

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I grow tomatillos every year because I like them in salsa, I like them in smoothies and I like them in tomato sauce and straight tomatillo sauce for Mexican food.

They grow well in this particular bed, and I haven’t had to plant them here in years. They tend to produce exuberantly and I can’t keep up with them. Some fall to the ground and reseed themselves every year, which is fine with me.

So I reserve this bed for tomatillos, and try not to plant anything else in it. Well, that’s not quite true - I scattered some lettuce seeds at one end and put in some onion sets in the front.




Imagine my surprise when I discovered an intruder in the bed.

(Gosh, that sounds a whole lot more dramatic than it actually was. It wasn't dark outside, the dog didn't bark and no one was trying to horn in on my pillow.)



The plant looks very similar to my tomatillos, but the flower is smaller and white and the leaves are just a shade deeper green.



I also found some berries on it.


I had no idea what it is. I googled tomato/tomatillo relative with white flowers and berries, and I came up with a noxious weed that’s not found in Colorado called the horse nettle. If that’s what it is, I don’t know how it ended up in my tomatillo bed.


Fortunately, there are a lot of plant people who know more than I do…

I wrote the first part of this blog earlier today, then I went home at lunch time and cut off a branch of the plant that had leaves and flowers, and another branch that had the berries and took it to Bookcliff Gardens. Mona took one look at it and said it was nightshade.
There are lots of types of nightshade, and we looked through her weed book and zeroed in on black nightshade. Mona said it’s toxic, but probably not deadly.

I warned my husband later not to make me angry and then accept a cup of homemade herbal tea from me. Just saying...

Mona said it grows everywhere and probably came from the birds. She advised pulling it and throwing it away, since I don't want to compost and recycle it. She also warned me to pull it right away, before the berries ripen and drop seeds for next year. 

It's just coincidence that it's in my tomatillo bed, where it fits right in. I'm guessing that I probably would have pulled it if it were growing where I planted cucumbers, kale, beans or broccoli, since it's obviously not any of those. 


On a somewhat related note,I planted pineapple tomatillos in this bed, and as you can see by the pic, they’re doing well. I have a feeling that pineapple tomatillos are the same thing as ground cherries, which are a close relative to both tomatillos and cape gooseberries.



This is what they look like on the plant. You’re supposed to wait for the husk to turn brown and papery and for the fruit to fall to the ground, which is how you know it’s ripe. I found two with brown and papery husks, so I picked ‘em and ate ‘em. I was surprised by how tasty and sweet they were.
Everything I’ve read said they produce prolifically, which is fine with me. They should also continue producing until it freezes and will store for a month or more after harvesting if left in their papery husk and put in a mesh bag in the fridge.
Perhaps I’ll have to dream up a kale/pineapple tomatillo salad for Thanksgiving, since it has become my tradition to pick the last of the kale right before Thanksgiving and make a salad. 

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