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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
My tomato plants got serious about forming fruit sometime in October, which meant that I had a nice pile of green tomatoes when I did the final harvest a couple of weeks ago. Most of them turned red (or yellow, depending on the type of tomato), but there were a few that were just too young. I’m not a huge fan of fried green tomatoes, so I had to find some other use for them.
One year my gardening buddy and I made green tomato chutney, and it was OK, but not worth repeating.
I found this recipe for green tomato casserole, and thought it sounded delicious. Of course, I didn’t actually follow it. Instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I caramelized the veggies and browned the stew meat in the morning, then put everything in the crock pot to cook all day while I was at work.
The recipe said to use two green peppers, but I still had a yellow one from my garden and a red one in the fridge, so I used a little green pepper, a yellow pepper and some red pepper. The recipe only called for four green tomatoes, but I threw at least eight (maybe more). I also did sage and thyme instead of thyme and bay leaves.
When I got home, it smelled wonderful, although you can see the color made it look like dog food. Normally, we would have just eaten it straight from the crockpot as stew, but my husband went to yoga, so I decided to transfer it to a dutch oven and do the biscuits on top. The recipe said to make sweet potato biscuits, but I made oatmeal cheese biscuits instead. The biscuits baked on top of the stew, which thickened considerably. In fact, by the time we ate it, it was no longer stew-like. It was a lot thicker and probably could have been served on a plate instead of a bowl.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.
Now that I’ve found such a great thing to do with green tomatoes, I’m kind of sad that I won’t have any more. I do have tomatillos in the freezer, however, and I figure this recipe will also work for them.
By Penny Stine
Monday, November 10, 2014
I’m always open to try something new in my garden or my kitchen, so when I heard someone say that eggs pickled in beet juice were amazingly wonderful, I thought I’d give them a try.
My gardening and canning buddy and I made a batch of pickled beets earlier this summer. Since my hubby doesn’t like pickled beets and hers does, she took most of them home. I took the beet greens, which I froze for smoothies, along with one large jar of refrigerator pickled beets and one small jar of pickled beets that we processed in the canning kettle.
I’ve mostly forgotten to eat them, even the ones in the huge jar sitting in my fridge.
I did, however, remember to hard-boil a couple of eggs earlier in the week and plop them in the jar, just to sample eggs pickled in beet juice.
Unfortunately, I forgot to read the fine print. You’re supposed to hard boil the eggs, peel them and then plop them in the jar of pickled beets. I merely boiled and plopped.
The peel turned pretty, kind of like an Easter egg.
When I peeled the egg, the color had seeped through, but the pickling flavors did not. It tasted like a plain hard-boiled egg.
No problem. I boiled two eggs for my experiment, so I peeled the second one, plopped it back into the pickling juice, where I let it steep for a few more days.
When I took it out of the jar, I saw immediately that the color did more than seep through. It penetrated that egg and turned it a brilliant magenta color.
I tasted a portion of the white, which was not white at all, and thought it was delish. Then I nibbled on a bit of yolk, which was also no longer yellow. That was pretty good, too.
I added it to some tuna, which made the tuna turn a delightful pink. Tuna is pretty strong, so my sandwich tasted more like tuna than pickled egg.
I think I’ll throw a few more hard boiled eggs in the jar and make some deviled eggs later this week, just because I’m curious.
By Penny Stine
Monday, November 3, 2014
I realized it was way past time to tear out all the heat-loving veggies in my garden last weekend, even if they hadn’t died yet. My pineapple tomatillo, tomato, tomatillo and pepper plants were still blooming, with new little tiny fruits on them. It was cruel tearing them out, but I know winter is coming and they'd die soon even if I left them.
Before I tore out the pineapple tomatillos/ground cherries, I picked all the ones that were ripe or large enough that I thought they’d ripen on the counter. I’m going to miss these. Although I tried pie, cake and ice cream syrup with these, my favorite way to eat them was to just eat them.
There were hundreds of ground cherries still on the plants. Some of them ended up in my compost bin, which means that next spring, I may end up sowing ground cherry seeds whenever I use compost from this bin.
I deliberately left a bunch of fallen fruit in this bed, too. This was a good place for the plants, and I’ll be quite happy if they just reseed themselves and grow here again. Although if even a tenth of the seeds grow, I’ll have ground cherries sprouting all over the place.
I had a couple of Swiss chard plants growing in this bed, and I left them there for the time being. They'll take a light frost without dying, so they'll be fine there probably until Thanksgiving. Likewise, I've still got broccoli, carrots, kale, leeks and beets in the ground, too, for the same reason. I'm sure they all appreciated the rain we got yesterday.
While I was out there, I planted a bunch of new crocus bulbs in this bed. It gets great winter sunshine and is in a fairly protected area. Usually, the crocus start blooming in here by the end of February or the first of March.
While I was out planting, I also got spinach and garlic planted for next spring. I’m trying two new types of garlic and two new varieties of spinach. By next week, I will forget exactly where I planted them, so it will be a delightful surprise when they sprout next spring.
By Penny Stine
Friday, October 31, 2014
I wasn’t able to water much at all in October because we didn’t have enough irrigation water, so the fall plants that are left in the garden aren’t looking very good.
I wanted to make some roasted kale, but the kale is very droopy and sorry-looking.
So I picked a bunch of broccoli leaves and decided to use those. I also picked sage leaves because I read a recipe for fried sage leaves that said they were amazing.
I should have a photo of my broccoli plants, but I forgot to take it. They’re about two-feet tall and very shrub-like, with tons of leaves. They never did form large heads, but have been giving me tons of little florets for a month or two.
I spread the leaves out on the cookie sheet and gave them a good splatter with olive oil and then a thorough sprinkling of spices.
We had company for dinner and it didn’t seem appropriate to whip out the camera and make them wait to eat until after I’d taken a photo of the food, so you don’t get to see what it looked like after I roasted it at 350 for 20 minutes or so. It was crispy, salty and delicious.
Fortunately for me, my broccoli plants are still loaded with leaves!
I also saw this recipe for fried sage that I had to try. Actually, I saw a couple of recipes and decided to follow one that assured me the sage was better if you dredged it in a simple coating of equal parts flour and water before sautéing them in olive oil.
I thought the little leaves were tasty. My husband, who’s not a fan of sage, was not a fan of fried sage, either. Our son and his girlfriend, (who were the dinner guests), seemed to like them, but I didn’t ask them to rate on a scale of one to 10.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Look what I found on my doorstep last weekend! Just when the outside garden is winding down, I got my grow box full of mushroom spores!
Some women get excited about jewelry; my heart goes pitty-patter over a box of dirt and fungi.
The mushroom kit came with instructions, which were pretty simple to follow.
Open the big box. Take out the plastic bag with the spores and add water.
Dump the wet mess on the compost in the box (the box is lined with a heavy plastic bag).
Make sure the compost is all thoroughly wet, then fold the plastic back over the compost.
Close the box. Stick it in a dark place and leave it alone for a week.
I did all of that on Friday night. This Friday, I think I’m supposed to check on it and spritz it with a spray bottle full of water. I don’t remember whether I’m supposed to close the box back up again or not, but I kept the instructions.
I’ll take photos as I see something growing.
The portabella kit was a little pricy - I think it was $34.99 plus shipping. Shipping was a boatload because the box was full of compost, which isn’t exactly lightweight. Button mushrooms were cheaper, but I like portabellas and they’re pretty pricy in the store, too.
Besides, I need garden therapy in the winter, too.