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, 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.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I dug up about half of my carrots last week and stored them in the fridge. I covered the rest with straw and hoped they'd be fine out in the garden. They were already half-covered with leaves from my neighbor's trees, so I don't know that the straw was all that necessary. I starting pulling beets, too, but was a bit disappointed with the size of the beets. After digging five or six, I covered the rest and hoped the roots would continue to grow even if I hid the green tops under the straw.
Yesterday, I decided to do something in the crock pot for dins. I raided the freezer for appropriate beef and figured chuck steak with carrots and potatoes would work. Then I figured I may as well throw in the beets, too.
Those are the Viking purple potatoes from my garden. They weren't very prolific, but they had a good flavor. I peeled the beets because the skin has seemed kinda bitter whenever I've cooked them any other way.
I also washed, chopped and set aside the beet greens so we could have those for dinner, too. First, I fried two pieces of bacon with some onions, garlic and the last yellow pepper from my garden. When everything was crispy, I took the bacon out, added the greens and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Then I added a tablespoon of Four Thieves Vinegar, along with the crumbled bacon bits. The result was pretty tasty, but then again, what wouldn't be tasty if you sauteed it with bacon, onions and garlic?
The beets were good in the crock pot, but it's the carrots that are really good cooked that way. I can't remember what kind of carrot seeds I purchased, but whatever they were, they produce some really tasty tiny carrots. The beets did color the broth, making it a deep burgandy. I saved it. I'm sure I'll use it next time I make beef stew.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I always plant spinach sometime in late October or early November. It usually comes up a couple months later in late winter and survives some very cold temperatures. This year, I planted it in a bed that gets a lot of shade in the summertime and sun in the winter thanks to some huge nearby deciduous trees. I also planted garlic around the edges of the bed and there's some sage and columbine in there, too. What can I say? I like variety.
Oops. The spinach is up already.
Normally, it stays at this seedling stage for a month or two, depending on how early it comes up.
Because it was so warm until this last weekend, some of the spinach formed a first leaf. It's a really tiny leaf, but still...
So now I'm in a quandary. I don't want it to die, but I don't really want it to grow too much, either. I'm thinking that maybe I'll just water it with the hose or a watering can on weekends if it's been particularly dry.
Whaddya think? Should I cover it with mulch and hope for the best or leave it uncovered and water occasionally? Last year, I had some over-winter broccoli that came up in the fall (like it was supposed to) but didn't survive the winter. I think it was the lack of water rather than the cold that doomed it.
So maybe I should water the spinach this weekend, cover it with mulch and continue to water once in a while if it doesn't snow. Oh, decisions, decisions. The things we gardeners do for a freshly picked spinach salad.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I grew a lot of winter squash this year. I'm currently using some as a decoration in my living room.
The big orange one is actually a spaghetti squash. The big green one (that's starting to turn orange) is also a spaghetti squash. I had a plant in a straw bale that was quite prolific.
I also grew quite a few other kinds of squash, which I've stored in the garage on the shelf with all my canned stuff.
Boy, do I need a pantry closet or what?
The other day, I decided to cook one of my spaghetti squashes. So I split it open, scooped out the seeds and baked it.
I roasted the seeds with salt and the tiniest bit of butter. They were delicious. I was quite pleased with the amount of seeds in one squash plant. They were gigantic, too.
I made some Italian-style sauce and we ate half the squash with that. I still had a ton of squash.
So I googled and found something that sounded good. It called for spinach, but I've still got kale in the garden, so I used that.
Then I sauteed the kale in my cast iron frying pan. I should have chopped it into small bits first. Oh well, you live and you learn.
I also put a bit of the cooked spaghetti squash in a muffin pan (that had been not-quite thoroughly sprayed with non-stick stuff). Somewhere along this process, I also fried some bacon. You know it's gonna be good when you add bacon.
Next, I mixed eggs with the cooked chopped bacon, the not-chopped kale (and realized I should have chopped it finer), and some parmesan and blue cheese.
Then I baked them (sorry, can't remember at what temp or for how long) until they looked like this:
This will be a repeater, but next time, I'll chop the kale finer and grease the muffin pan better.
I had more squash than would fit in the muffin pan, so I just put it in a plastic bag in the freezer. If you've got a great recipe for spaghetti squash, please share it with me!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Since we had a hard freeze that turned my garden into this, I decided it was time to get most of it cleaned up for the season. Cleaning out the old debris and brown, dry stalks is a good deterrent to some diseases and pests. Plus, it makes you feel like you've accomplished something by the time you're done.
Squash bugs overwinter as adults in garden debris, firewood stacks and piles of leaves, so clearing out the dead plants can disrupt their long siesta. Of course, if you simply chop everything in small pieces and then toss it in your compost pile next to the garden (as I did), perhaps you're just inviting the squash bugs to overwinter there instead.
As you can see, I left the broccoli standing, since it has yet to form a head. I haven't given up hope yet. I read that broccoli needs plenty of water to help it form its head, which is somewhat challenging, since our irrigation water is shut off for the season. I'll haul hoses for a couple Saturdays before I give up entirely.
I planned on spreading the compost and working it into the soil, but by the time I had wheelbarrowed it to all the little piles scattered here and there, I was done. It took me the better part of Saturday to pull, chop and haul out the garden's remains. I thought I could work equally hard on Sunday, but I wanted a day off! There's always this weekend.
I also left carrots and beets in the ground. I was going to cover them with straw to protect against a hard winter freeze, but since most nights still aren't dipping lower than 32, I'm leaving them alone for now.
Last fall, I planted garlic in this bed. I thought I dug it all up, but since I can see it sprouting in several places, I guess I missed some.