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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Is it a weed or a garden plant?

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 31, 2014

I’m always looking for plants that will tolerate shade, and if I can cook with them, then that’s even better. That led me to experiment with sorrel. After buying the seeds, I did more research and discovered that I probably have sorrel the weed already growing in my garden, and I treat it like a weed. 

The sorrel seeds I purchased were red-veined sorrel. They’ve been growing in my living room garden all winter, but I recently moved the planter outside to let everything fend for itself. Now that I’ve started planting things outside, I find that I’m no longer interested in a few pots on a shelf in the living room.

I hate to start randomly eating weeds, but after looking at pics of common garden sorrel, I took a nibble on some that was already growing in my garden (another sign that it's a weed - it's hardy and is always the first plant to appear in the spring) and it tasted like the sorrel in my living room. 



The sorrel never got very big in this pot, as you can see. 

I’m going to leave it out all week and water it, and if it’s still alive, I’ll replant it in a shady corner of my garden. 

It may taste the same as the weed, but it's a bit prettier. 

Sorrel is used in soups and salads. It tastes a bit lemony. The tart taste is due to oxalic acid, which is toxic in large amounts. I’m not too worried, spinach is also high in oxalic acid and we eat it almost daily in late April and May.


Spring onions are a big deal… who knew?

By Penny Stine
Friday, March 28, 2014

Growing something in a garden is a great way to expand your culinary adventures. I’ve got these walking onions that are walking all over my garden and I’m determined to get them out of this bed so I can plant something else in here in a month or so.

I wondered about making some sort of green onion or spring onion soup. The onions aren’t actually green onions; they’re much stronger and slightly bigger, but that’s where I started.
It turns out that I’m way behind the times. Once I googled spring onion soup, I pulled up all kinds of things.
I also mentioned my quest to Julie Norman, a fellow gradening foodie who works in the Sentinel online department, and she sent me this link to a bunch of fancy schmancy recipe ideas for my spring onions. Who knew?

Last night, my husband was out of town and I had no leftovers to eat, so I decided to try making a small amount of spring onion soup.  I picked just a few onions and some garlic scape. I actually pulled the entire garlic and didn’t just cut a portion of the green top, since it was also a leftover from last year that I wanted to move so I could plant something else. The garlic are the red-tipped alliums. 



I chopped them and sautéed them in a pot, along with some sliced mushrooms and a minced anchovy. Next, I added some cooking sherry to deglaze the pot, then some chicken broth to make stock. My plan was to slice a thick piece of bread, smother it with cheese and then float it on top of the soup and put the entire pot under the broiler until the cheese melted, kind of like French onion soup. However, I got this weird urge to poach an egg in the soup, so I put the egg in the soup first, let it cook for a minute or two and then did the bread and cheese thing.
Swiss or gouda cheese would have been perfect, but I didn’t have either one. My choices were cheddar or mozzarella. I went with the mozzarella and put the entire pot in the oven with the broiler on for a couple of minutes.
The cheese wasn’t as toasty and browned as I would have liked, but the pot was probably too tall for that. Besides, my spidey senses were telling me the egg was perfect, so I had to settle for melted cheese rather than toasted cheese.
Once I had it ladled in the bowl, I broke up the egg, which was poached to perfection and the yummy gooey yolk added a delightful rich taste to the soup.
Delicious, and I made the perfect amount for one generous serving.  


Look what came back

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My mom has an enormous rhubarb plant that produces all summer long. She divided it and gave some to me several years ago, but it just isn't happy in my garden. I think I planted it in a spot that was too shady, so I have since then divided it and replanted it in sunnier spots. Here it is, already up and looking like it wants to be a happy plant, in its new space. 

Although my husband isn't a rhubarb fan, I like a good rhubarb pie or cake every once in a while, so I'l do my best this year to make this grow. I'm hoping this sunnier spot and a little extra fertilizer will mean more rhubarb for pie. 

Because rhubarb is a perennial plant that dies back at the end of the season, it's important to remember where it is in the garden so you don't dig up or disturb the roots when you're getting ready to plant something else in that particular spot the following spring.  


Don’t let mint happen to you

By Penny Stine
Monday, March 24, 2014

Seriously, if someone offers to give you some mint, be wary. Mint is an easy herb to grow and it tastes good in tea and certain salads, but mint wants to take over the world.

On Sunday, I decided to start pulling the mint out of my front flower bed in preparation to putting it to better use this gardening season. Look at all those roots!

At least when you’re trimming and yanking out roots, it smells good. I’m sure I’ll have to be diligent about continually pulling it all season, but diligence is my middle name!

Actually, my middle name is Lynn and I’m normally incapable of pulling out a live, healthy plant, but this year, I have vowed to rid my garden of invasive herbs and flowers that hog all the sunshine! So far, I’ve pulled mint, columbine, love-in-a-mist and parsley.

I’ve only just begun. The amaranth and sunflowers better watch themselves or they’re next.

Of course, I also ordered a new seed called feverfew, which my friend, Jan of the awesome garden, says are so invasive that you’d have to be in a full-on fever to plant even a few. I’m planning on putting it in pots, so hopefully, it won’t spread everywhere.  


Daffodils in a new, sunny bed

By Penny Stine
Friday, March 21, 2014

I was home at lunch a couple of days ago, so I snapped this photo of my March daffodils. They’re loving the warm weather and sunshine, as you can see.

In the summer, this flower bed is inundated with parsley and mint. There’s also some thyme in there, along with a pretty daisy and a large clump of fuchsia yarrow. The parsley and the mint kinda take over, and I always let them, because this bed used to be shady all summer, thanks to a silver maple tree that grew in the front yard.

As you can see by this pic, the silver maple is gone. It had been slowly dying for three or four years, so we put it out of its misery last fall. We planted a sensation boxelder, but it’s still pretty small. Howie the dog loves the sunny yard. At least in March. Come July he'll be hanging out under a shade tree. 

My gardening buddy, Jan of the awesome garden, pointed out this is now the sunniest spot in my yard.

Needless to say, I’m going to be digging up all the mint, which has already started to grow. Once the daffies and the tulips behind them finish blooming, I’m going to dig those up and replant them somewhere else.
The yarrow, thyme and daisies can stay. The mint and parsley are dead to me now. I’m going to put a couple of pepper plants, a cantalope and a couple of pineapple tomatillos in this valuable, sun-soaked space.

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