Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
This definitely goes on the nice list... As some may remember, I grew a bunch of winter squash in my garden this year. Rather than cook and freeze them, as I did last year, I've left most of them sitting in my living room as decorative pieces because that's the kind of interior decorator I am. I also moved some out to the garage where it's cooler, in hopes they would last even longer.
I had this mystery squash that was long and yellow. It might have been a silbey, since my friend, Jan, was sharing silbey seeds the day we planted in our straw bales. I googled silbey because I didn't know what they looked like and discovered that they were also called banana squash. I didn't think to take a picture of it by itself last night before I started cooking, but once I realized this was gonna be good and I'd want to blog about it, I took a photo of the half I didn't use.
I found this recipe for banana squash that inspired me, although I didn't actually follow it. If you don't have a banana or a silbey squash, try it with another yellow-flesh winter squash. I wouldn't use spaghetti, acorn or hubbard. You want one that's easy to peel before you cook it.
Peel the squash and cut it into one-inch cubes. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan and saute the squash until it's tender and starts to brown. Salt and pepper liberally if you like salt and pepper. Not so much if you don't. It should take 5 - 10 minutes. While it's cooking, mix a couple tablespoons of orange juice concentrate with a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam. Add a couple good shakes of ginger and the tiniest smidgeon of habanero paste (or any other hot sauce to give it a tiny tang). When the squash is tender, pour the juice mixture over, stir it in and cook on the stovetop until it's carmelized. (maybe another 5 - 10 minutes)
The recipe said to use cloves rather than ginger. Since my husband hates cloves, I thought ginger would be a complimentary flavor. Kent is not a big fan of winter squash, either, but he said this was pretty good. I think kids would really like it. He also said it would be interesting to see what it would taste like with limeade rather than orange juice, so I may try that with the other half. I'm thinking limeade, a little dark rum, fresh cilantro and a dab of habanero paste. I will keep you posted if it's a hit.
By Penny Stine
Monday, December 10, 2012
Because it's been so warm, this has been a great year to experiment with four-season gardening. Last month, I mulched all the carrots and beets that were still in the ground. Even though I still had a couple carrots in the fridge, my curiosity got the best of me last week, so I had to pull a few to see what they looked liked.
I also decided it was time to pull my last parsnips, which have been in the ground for more than a year now. Since the ground was hard and dry, it was a lot harder than I expected. I suspect their odd shape, with various rootlings and knobs also contributed to the difficulty. Since the carrots and beets were so tiny, I had no problem pulling them.
After a good washing, I decided the parsnips were still odd and the carrots were still tiny. The beets are pretty, though.
Since snow and colder temperatures were in the forecast, I decided it was time to pull the plug on this, which is either Romanesca broccoli or veronica cauliflower (which I think is more or less the same thing.) I planted both last spring. It never did form a head during irrigation season, so I left it in place. I think if I had watered it more, the head might have gotten a little bigger.
So now I had a collection of odd roots and a tiny head of something. I ended up roasting them all in the oven, and was pretty pleased with the results. I kept the carrots and parsnips separate, mixed with a bit of honey, olive oil and chopped thyme. I peeled the beets, chunked the tiny head of whatever it was into bite-sized pieces, added a couple of small potatoes and some rosemary and roasted them all at 350 for 25 minutes or so.
I would have taken a picture, but I forgot. Sorry.
Parsnips and beets have been surprise hit in my garden, because I discovered that I actually like them. My husband does, too, so they're going back in the garden in 2013.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Dreams of presents in the mailbox and... magic. I open the mailbox Saturday afternoon and what to my wondering eyes should appear?
The 2013 Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Book!
Filled with the GOOD,
AND THE UGLY!
... and the EXOTIC
The sight makes your heart swell more than any handmade gift or Hallmark Christmas special.
While it's hardly been chilly here, we can dream of warm spring days ahead, digging hands into sweet smelling earth, planting rare heirloom seeds, watching them grow into the miracle of life in our own backyard.
Heart, soul and passion goes into an amazing book of summer dreams. All for you to snuggle on your couch in your wool blanket and read from cover to cover.
Order your taste of summer or browse online at www.rareseeds.com.
By Penny Stine
Monday, December 3, 2012
Although I didn't hear it last night, I could smell rain when I let the dog out this morning, and I could see puddles on the ground when the sun finally came up. Yay!
I'm a four-season gardener this year, since I not only have spinach, garlic and onions coming up (because I planted them earlier in the fall), I also have this, which is a red mustard that I planted for the first time last spring. I picked it just a few times before it bolted, but it obviously went to seed, since I have little mustard seedlings coming up in multiple places. I liked it, but it definitely had a bite to it. I'm thinking it will be a good green for winter, since it obviously doesn't mind sub-freezing temperatures. I have more mustard coming up in a few other places, and I'm leaving the leaves in place to act like a mulch.
So I'm happy when it rains, because I don't know if my once-a-week hose dragging is giving everything enough water, but it's all I can manage in the winter.
In addition to the aforementioned spinach, garlic, onions and mustard, I also have carrots and beets still in the ground and kale and broccoli that are still producing. Ever so slowly due to lack of water, but still producing.
So yay for rain!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
While I was perusing through Thanksgiving cooking tips and tidbits, I came across an interesting salad using kale. In fact, kale was the only ingredient besides the homemade dressing, which had whole grain mustard, lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and olive oil in it. I decided it's going on our Thanksgiving menu, since I still have kale in my garden.
I don't pull my kale at the end of the season unless it's totally overrun with aphids. So I went out at noon today and picked this bowl of greens. Not a bad haul for November.
After I picked it, I realized I should have taken a photo of the kale still in the garden, so after I rinsed off the greens, I headed back out to the garden with my camera.
This is a dwarf blue kale (I think). I planted it in the spring of 2011 and it survived last winter and continued to produce all summer - again. It's planted in a rather shady spot, which is why the leaves stay so tiny.
This is red Russian kale. Sometimes it over-winters, and sometimes it doesn't. So far, it's not looking too happy. I think it's lack of water rather than cold temperatures making it look sad.
I got the seeds for these plants from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. It's supposed to be this heirloom Italian loose-leafed cabbage called Nero di Toscano. Since kale and cabbage are kin, I suspect this is also what some seed companies call dinosaur kale.
The salad said to use kale or Swiss chard. I also have a few Swiss chard plants still trying to survive, so I picked the biggest leaves I could find (and took the photo below afterward.)
Even though I haven't made it or tasted it yet, I decided the salad was too boring. I'm going to add some toasted nuts (pecans? almonds?) to the greens and some chopped thyme to the dressing.
The kale in my garden seems to be doing fine, which makes me a happy November gardener. I suspect it would be doing much finer if it had more water, but I'm not willing to drag hoses around in the dark when I get home from work.
When I got back to work, I decided to write the following Ode to Kale:
You're not picky about water,
you're always leafy, green and hearty.
In heat, through frost or cold fronts,
you're the main star of my garden party.
OK, so I won't give up my day job to pursue a career as a poet.