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, October 6, 2014
I love homegrown honeydew melons. When they’re fresh-picked at the perfect time, the taste is unbelievable. Knowing that right time is not my strong suit.
Because they’re so disappointing if you pick them too soon, my tendency this year has been to wait and wait and wait some more. (Which is why I’m picking and writing about melons in October, rather than the hot days of July and August, when they would have tasted oh, so refreshing.)
On Saturday, I noticed that one of the smaller ones that I’d been keeping an eye on had split, which means it was ready to be picked the day before it split.
Obviously, the ants noticed it and got there first.
I was going to throw the entire melon in the compost pile, but thought about how few honeydews my vines produced this year, how much I love them and how easy it would be to cut away the split and the affected parts of the melon, along with the intruding ants.
So I did.
I would never buy produce from the store that looked like this or that had ants crawling on it, but I’ve worked too hard to just toss out the 3/4 of the melon that was still perfectly fine.
Trust me, it was perfectly fine - ridiculously sweet and full of flavor.
By Penny Stine
Friday, October 3, 2014
I planted quite a few different veggies mid- to late summer, hoping for a fall crop of something. I threw some leftover carrot seeds on the ground when I was planting everything else, not really expecting anything, since they germinated so poorly in the spring.
I completely forgot that I did that, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was picking beans one day and saw the carrots growing here, in this spot where beans didn't germinate very well.
I had several carrots that went to seed in another area, so I scattered the seeds, hoping that would hang tight and germinate next spring.I think they actually sprouted and are about half an inch tall. Well, there’s something growing in that area - it’s either carrots or that invasive flower, love-in-a-mist.
Btw, gardening experts don't advise doing that - most carrots are hybrids, so you don't get true to whatever you planted in the first place. However, one year I didn't notice a carrot going to seed in a little corner, and the next year, I had the most prolific (and tasty) little carrots ever in that spot.
So I do it, regardless of all the advice telling me not to. I'm a rebel that way.
I planted quite a few kohlrabi, and a grand total of five sprouted. I had both purple and white kohlrabi seeds.
I’m pretty sure this is the purple one.
I’m pretty sure this is the white one.
Kohlrabi does well in the cold and isn’t hurt by frost. I’m hoping they actually form little kohlrabi bulbs by early November. It’s just so fun to have something yet to pick in the garden even after the first frost or after the irrigation water is off.
I've also got a few beets growing that I planted sometime in the middle of summer that should be ready by the end of October or the first of November. I planted some spinach a couple of weeks ago, hoping for a very late crop. I've seen a couple of itty bitty seedlings pop up, and then disappear by the next day. I think grasshoppers, crickets or some other bug is chomping on them before they can get established. I may have one little green thing that's spinach in the bed, but I don't think I'll get a very good fall crop of spinach.
Perhaps that's another reason why spinach planted in November that's allowed to germinate and sprout sometime in late January or February survives. The bugs are all frozen!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I was planning on doing something with tomatillos for dinner last night, then I read that curry was supposed to be one of those foods that’s good for your brain, so I decided to make tomatillo curry.
Although I found a few recipes, I decided to just wing it with whatever I found ripe in the garden.
Oh my goodness. I found a lot.
These are the tomatillos, simmering in a saucepan with onions, garlic, a sweet yellow pepper, half of a Big Jim pepper, some ground cherries and a bunch of curry-type spices (coriander, turmeric, ginger and curry powder).
I had more tomatillos than I needed, so I peeled the papery lantern off, washed them and stuck them in freezer bags. I think I have about four gallon bags full of tomatillos in my freezer. I think there’s a lot of pork or chicken tomatillo stew in my future this winter.
This is the beautiful Kellogg Breakfast tomato and the mass of green onions I decided to throw in the curry.The Big Jim chile was hotter than I realized, so I hoped the sweetness of the tomato (and the ground cherries) would reduce the heat.
I also had a bunch of kale, which I was going to roast or sauté separately, but decided to chop into fine bits and add to the curry, because I was already dirtying another pot to cook rice and a sauté pan to cook fish. Unlike those TV chefs, I don’t have minions to clean up my mess, so I try not to use every pan I own.
This is what it looked like on the plate. I dredged the fish fillets in a cornmeal/spice mixture, then sautéed them in coconut oil. I decided to roll a few scrimps into the cornmeal and sauté those, too.
It was very tasty. I’m sure the connections in my brain appreciated my efforts to give them good food.
By Penny Stine
Monday, September 29, 2014
For a week I made myself pick up and hoard the ground cherries that ripened, even though I wanted to simply eat them. Every day, there are quite a few on the ground, like the ones in this pic. I’ve discovered that the ones on the ground taste better than the yellow ones still clinging to the plant. I think they’re just a little more ripe.
I have a short window of opportunity once they hit the ground. If I leave them there for more than a day or two, some critter comes along and eats them.
My goal was to have enough of the little fruits to bake a pie, and last Thursday, I finally reached the goal and made a pie. I had looked at a bunch of recipes online and discovered that most of them added a bit of lemon juice or lemon zest and one added some almond extract. So when I mixed the sugar and flour with the ground cherries, I added fresh lemon juice and zest, as well as a bit of almond extra.
The pie smelled really good when it was baking, and although I wanted to eat it when it came out of the oven, I didn’t. We were going to visit our sons in Denver, so I decided to take it with us.
Nothing says mom like homemade pie, even if it is made out of weird ingredients.
At first, everyone was a bit suspicious of the pie, but once they tried it, everyone (sons, husband and sons’ roommate - and me!) declared it good. It wasn’t so good that I’m going to start making ground cherry pie for Thanksgiving or even so good that I can’t wait to make it again. I think I’ll always prefer your basic apple or cherry.
I’m OK with that. It means I can go back to eating them plain or putting them in various salads and breakfast creations. I think that’s a better use for them.
I’m going to try making a tomatillo curry tonight, and I think I’ll add a few to that.
Will let you know how that works out…
By Penny Stine
Friday, September 26, 2014
Look what came in the mail the other day!
Yes, I had to order and pay for it. In spite of my enthusiasm for gardening, no one sends me free stuff in the mail.
This year, I’m trying two new types of garlic. The Italian late (in the purple mesh) is a softneck variety, which are supposed to store for longer time periods than the hardneck. You can also braid them to make a cool thing to hang in your kitchen, but in spite of the long hair on my head that I’ve been braiding for more than four decades, I can’t seem to get the hang of braiding garlic.
The garlic in the red mesh is elephant garlic, which I was curious about and wanted to try. I’ll plant them both sometime in late October for a harvest in late June/early July 2015.
I ordered two types of spinach, which I usually plant in late October/early November for a harvest the following May. This year, one of the varieties said it only took 37 days and was good for a fall crop, so I planted some this week. It’s been pretty warm around here, which is actually not good for spinach germination. I’m curious to see whether or not I’ll get any spinach before snow covers the garden. So far, I haven’t seen any sprouts, but it’s been less than a week since I planted.