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 email@example.com.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I think I read somewhere that you're supposed to pick winter squash before the first frost. I figured now was a good time and decided to arrange my lovely cucurbits for a family photo on the kitchen counter.
I know, right? What was I thinking in planting so many squash? Not included in this photo are the three pumpkins still on the vine on my straw bales. And I have already picked, cooked and either eaten or frozen two other winter squash I grew. I moved them to the living room, where they're artfully arranged on my coffee table because we haven't turned on the heat and it's the coldest room in the house. In another week when the daytime temps start getting a little cooler, I'll move them out to a shelf in the garage in hopes they live up to their name and store well for the winter.
No, my husband doesn't know I have plans to invade, conquer and occupy his precious garage space with vegetables.
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 8, 2012
I know the end is coming soon, but I've been counting on a few more weeks for the garden. I've still got lots of green tomatoes, and I was checking the overnight forecasted lows all weekend. On Saturday, when I saw that everything (except the spaghetti squash in the straw bale) seemed to have survived Friday night, I decided not to pick everything in a panic.
After all, the weather was delightful, so I took another gamble that I wouldn't lose anything overnight.
By Sunday, I was checking the National Oceanography and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website practically hourly, and it kept insisting that the low would be 34 degrees. So I didn't pick my green tomatoes, squash, peppers, basil, cucumbers, tomatillos, okra or anything else that was still out there and would die in a killing freeze.
Then I made the mistake of watching the television news on Sunday night. The anchors went on and on about the freeze warning. They had a graphic showing the area (in blue!) that was supposed to freeze. My house was in the area. They had a table showing the previous two years' first frost compared to this year's projected date (that would be last night). They had enough information to put the fear of frost in me and make me wish I had picked all of my green tomatoes.
I couldn't bear to look at my garden this morning before work. Well, actually, I went to work early and it was too dark to really see much of anything.
So I checked at lunch.
Some of my basil didn't survive.
But, fortunately, most of it did.
The frost seems to have damaged my tomatillos somewhat, but I think if I pick tonight, I'll be OK. And frankly, I've had plenty of tomatillos. How many jars of tomatillo sauce do I need?
While the cucumber plants look pretty well gone, I think the cucumbers themselves will be OK.
Best of all, my tomato plants survived! Yes, I know, they will die soon, but in the meantime, they've got a few more days to ripen. And the NOAA forecast says 37 tonight. I refuse to listen to the television news.
By Penny Stine
Friday, October 5, 2012
While there is no reason why I couldn't roast this exact combination of veggies and herbs once my garden has frozen, chances are good that I probably won't. I probably won't start purchasing beets (although I will continue growing them next season) and I probably won't do odd combinations of veggies in the winter. But when you have four green beans, seven beets, one potato, a handful of thyme, and an onion ready from the garden, along with some questionable carrots in the fridge, it's a perfect combination. And so pretty in the oven!
I will also miss this, which is not merely a photo of two small sweet potatoes, but two small sweet potatoes from the Silbernagel garden, after Bob and his wife decided to try growing sweet potatoes because I had to order too many plants from Park Seed. (Seriously, they only came in groups of 25 plants! Who needs 25 sweet potato plants?)
Sadly, my own sweet potato plants probably didn't produce. Most died right away. One got overshadowed by a zealous marigold and I just about killed the other one with too much fertilizer, because it was in one of my experimental straw bales and I got carried away.
So in answer to my question, maybe I need 25 sweet potato plants.
I have yet to dig under mine, but I'm not holding out much hope. In the meantime, Bob graciously shared two of his precious five potatoes produced by the first plant he dug.
In the winter, no one leaves miscellaneous produce on my desk...
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
In my quest to grow something besides grass and weeds in the shade, I've been planting more herbs. Some people grow them just because they're pretty. I want to grow them and then do something with them. If that something involves tastiness, it's even better.
When you start doing herbal research, you end up reading about homegrown medicine, even if you really want information about savory seasonings. Turns out, herbal vinegars are supposed to cure or prevent everything from bubonic plague to high blood pressure. Who knew? I didn't.
Four thieves vinegar is one of those healthy vinegars, with various recipes that have been around for hundreds of years. Most include garlic and lavender, among other ingredients. Legend has it that in the middle ages, four thieves used to raid the homes of people who had recently died of the plague. The four thieves never got sick, and when they were caught, they said they'd reveal the recipe for their plague-prevention vinegar if they were released. Hence, the four thieves vinegar.
There are many recipes online and since I wasn't interested in warding off the plague, I tried one that I thought might taste good. As you can see, it looked pretty in the jars when I first made it back in July. You have to let it sit for several weeks and allow the herbs to infuse the vinegar with all their flavor, minerals and whatever mysterious elements ward off disease.
After eight weeks, I strained off the soggy herbs and put the vinegar in old wine bottles for use. I've been lazy, and have just used straight vinegar on cucumbers, as a marinade for shrimp and veggies and as a marinade for grilled chicken. I think it's all good, but my husband says its a bit overpowering and a little too vinegary.
Ha! We'll see who's overpowering the next time bubonic plague sweeps through the Grand Valley!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Although sometimes I plant something because it's pretty (like the red okra), usually I plant something in my garden because I want to eat it. Up until this year, I never wanted to eat beets.
My mom grew beets in the garden when I was a teenager and then she added even more sugar when she cooked them to create a thick sweet sauce.... aka Harvard beets. I think she also may have pickled them. Although I didn't hate them back then, I don't really want to eat them as an adult and my husband was pretty vocal in his disdain for beets, so I never planted them.
Then I talked to Beth Morris-Feely, who used to be at Redlands Mesa Golf Course and is now the broker at the Bridges in Montrose. She told me she grew lovely beets in her Montrose garden and baked them, wrapped in foil, like a potato.
Seeds are cheap and my gardening buddy, Jan, was willing to split a pack of Chioggia beet seeds, which are kinda cool-looking, with a bulls-eye coloring.
I've cooked them as Beth suggested and have to agree with her. They are wonderfully good with nothing but a little butter, salt and pepper. Even my husband, who insisted he didn't like beets before taking his first bite, like them baked.
In fact, we liked them so much that I bought another pack of beet seeds and planted them in July, hoping for a fall crop. I couldn't find Chioggia seeds, so I planted just plain red ones.
Being somewhat adventurous and always on the hunt for something I can deep-fry, I decided to make beet chips the other day. Although the recipes said to slice them with a mandolin slicer, I don't have one. So I sliced them with my food processor, as you could see in the photo.
I set my deep-fryer to 375 and fried until I guessed they were done. I thought they were pretty good, but my husband surprisingly said he preferred them baked. He thought they tasted too sweet after I fried them.
I haven't poked around my July-planted beets to see if the beets are developing, but I'm hoping they're happy and still growing. Baked beets in the cooler weather will be lovely.