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, August 4, 2014
Last week, someone who knows I love unusual produce gave me two long Asian green beans and said that she likes them stir-fried. Two wasn’t enough to make a meal, so I went out to see what I could find in my garden to add to it. More green beans, a long green chile, some ground cherries, and of course, tiny onions and garlic.
Hubby still wasn’t home, so that was enough for just me.
I started by sautéing the onions and garlic until they were crispy, because everything is better with crispy onions and garlic. Except maybe peach cobbler. That would just be weird.
Then I tossed in all the other veggies and got them on the crispy side, too. Because I was going for an Asian theme, I added finely chopped Thai basil, too.
Finally, because I was working on the peach section last week and read that peaches originated in China and China is the world’s leading grower and consumer of peaches, I decided to add a peach to my stir-fry.
The peach was somewhat overwhelming, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It wasn’t so sweet that it was weird, and I left it in the pan until it was warm, soft and delicious.
Not a bad Friday night dinner at all.
By Penny Stine
Friday, August 1, 2014
Last night, my darling hubby wasn’t home for dins, which meant I got to cook something that he probably wouldn’t be thrilled about. So I experimented with roasted beets (he’s not a fan) and peaches.
I had some leftover grilled chicken, so I diced that and threw it in my salad bowl, too. I diced the roasted beets and the peaches, then I went out in the garden in search of greens. I was hoping to find some arugula (because I had looked at a couple recipes online and they said to serve roasted beets and peaches over a bed of arugula), but my arugula had all grown two feet tall and went to seed. I think I managed to find about five decent leaves.
I did find some baby kale, and then went and picked some lemon balm. After scrounging around my ground cherries, I found about a dozen ripe ones, so they went in the salad, too.
When I assembled the salad, I ended up chopping both the arugula and the lemon balm fairly fine, while tearing the kale into bite size pieces. The ground cherries were tiny, but I halved most of them anyway, in hopes of getting the juice to mingle with the rest of the ingredients.
I tossed in a little bit of goat cheese, then squeezed a small slice of lime over my salad, letting it sit for about 5 minutes to allow all the flavors/juices to interact with each other. Fresh lime juice also takes some of the extreme bite out of kale.
As you can see by the photo, letting it sit also let all the colors mingle. Well, they didn’t all mingle - almost everything but the kale got influenced by the beets and turned pink. I thought it was kinda pretty.
It was also very tasty. The combination of the roasted beets and peaches is one I’ll continue to play with this summer. Maybe I’ll even get my hubby to like it.
I haven’t decided if I love gardening because I also love to cook, or if my enjoyment of cooking has increased because I love to garden. What do you think? Or is it like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first?
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I was poking around in my garden last night, trying to see if I could figure out what kind of squash plant was in a corner. With all my squash trials this year, I have no idea what survived. I was tickled pink to see this, since that little flying saucer means that this gigantic, healthy plant is a pattypan squash plant.
I love pattypan squash. It’s so versatile and tasty. You can use it in place of any type of summer squash, and one good pattypan plant should produce plenty of squash.
I decided to go scrutinize the squash plant growing in my small, backyard garden area to see if I could see any type of squash forming, so I’d know what kind was growing out there. When I got close to the garden box, I heard a rustling and saw a quick flicker of serpent skin gliding through the onions.
I did not scream like a little girl (although I was tempted). Instead, I decided to go back for my camera and a small stick, which I threw into the onions and grass, in hopes of making the snake come out and pose for a photo.
As you can see, I was successful, although the snake refused to smile.
The snake did not appear to be in a hurry to go anywhere, and kind of moved out, stretching across my small backyard garden box.
I decided the squash would wait for another day. Needless to say, I will toss a small rock or piece of wood into the weedy/grassy/onions before I get close to the garden area, since the squash is also spreading in that direction, where the snake has no doubt made a nest and has hatched kazillions of little baby snakes in my garden.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
I grow tomatillos every year because I like to use them in Mexican cooking. I made Howie pose in front of the plants so you can see how tall the plants are. As you can see, he’s somewhat anxious about his modeling career, hence the laid-back ears.
This year, I’m also growing pineapple tomatillos or ground cherries (I’m pretty sure they’re the same thing) just because I was curious about them.
They’re related to tomatillos, and as you can see, the plants look similar. They’re a little lower to the ground, however. I took this picture a week or two ago, and in that time, the plants have seriously gone bonkers.
They’re much more overgrown and jungle-like.
The little ground cherries seem to grow on the underside of the leaves, which makes them difficult to see. You’re supposed to wait and harvest them after they fall to the ground, and according to one website, it said that the paper-like covering protects them from bugs while they’re sitting on the ground patiently waiting for the gardener to come along and find them.
This is a lie. The first ground cherry I picked from the ground had an earwig inside the outer covering. I haven’t found any earwigs since then, however, so perhaps the covering slows the bugs down a little.
The taste is hard to describe. They don’t taste like tomatillos much at all. They don’t really taste like pineapples or cherries, either. They are sweet, however, and can be eaten raw. They’re supposed to be good in salsa, too.
As you can tell by this pic, they are a lot smaller than tomatillos. I didn’t realize I had any tomatillos that were ready to harvest until I saw these ones lurking under the leaves. Every year, I wonder what else I can do with the tomatillos besides cook them in salsa (or soup, stew, sauce for fish/chicken/pork) and last night, I found a slew of recipes here, although many of them are for soups, stews and sauces for fish,chicken and pork.
I also found a recipe somewhere else that mentioned a salad with watermelon and raw tomatillos (I think, although I don’t know where it was) and something else that sounded interesting. I'll have to experiment with that. The sweetness of the melon might make up for the tartness of the tomatillos, although I'm not sure.
I put one of the tomatillos in my grilled veggies, added one to my morning smoothie and put the others in the freezer for canning sometime later, when I have more tomatillos.
I used the ground cherries raw in a cucumber/peach salad. I also added some cilantro and goat cheese. I thought it was pretty tasty.
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 28, 2014
I love growing herbs in the garden. I also like growing them in pots, especially when I can bring them inside in the fall and have them survive in the house during the winter.
I bought this rosemary bush last summer and managed not to kill it when I brought it in the house. I almost killed it by leaving it out one night this spring when it got colder than I thought it was supposed to, but as you can see, it’s doing fine now.
There's also a petunia and an elm tree sprout growing in this pot.
I hate elm trees. My neighbor has a gigantic one that sends seeds flying all over my yard. I've got elm trees growing everywhere.
This, believe it or not, is a basil plant. I know, it looks nothing at all like regular basil. It tastes just like Italian basil, though, and it doesn’t seem to go to seed. I think I bought it at Bookcliff Gardens, although I’m not sure. I believe it’s a perennial plant, but isn’t hardy enough to survive winters in western Colorado, which is why I put it in a pot. I’m hoping it will be happy in a sunny window all winter long, too.
Although my I-phone camera does tend to make things wash out in broad daylight, the plant really is that color.
See, this is what it looks like close up. The leaves are light green, with white tips.
I think it was called “pesto perpetuo,” although the scientific name is ocimum x citriodorum. The scientific name for Italian basil is ocimum basilicum. I have no idea what the difference means, but I do know that I’ve been using both all summer and I can’t tell the difference.