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 22, 2011
Whitney Houston may have sang, "How will I know if he really loves me?" but I've got more important questions. Like, how do I know when this melon is ripe?
These cute little melons are called tigger melons and they're supposed to be orange with yellow stripes when ripe. Last year was the first year I successfully grew a couple of watermelons, and I was truly horrible at knowing when to pick them. Is there a rule of thumb for knowing when a melon is ripe?
I didn't think these melons were supposed to be so small. Not exactly big enough to take along on a picnic, but they are pretty cute.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Look at these! These are Chinese red noodle beans, from seeds I bought through Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I didn't realize I had any beans on the plants until my buddy, Jan, told me she picked some red licorice whips from hers. I picked two last night, which I put in an asian vegetable pickle mix that had to sit 24 hours before eating.
If it's any good, I'll take a picture of the pickled dish and post the recipe tomorrow.
In the meantime, enjoy another photo of these cool beans.
By Penny Stine
Monday, August 15, 2011
I grew amaranth for the first time last year out of curiosity. I read the description in the Park Seed catalog and thought, "I gotta try that!"
I loved it last year and learned that the seed of some varieties is supposedly an incredibly amazing protein and can be eaten like a grain. So this year, I was determined to grow both the ornamental variety I grew last year and one that's grown as a grain. Saved seeds gave me my ornamental ones, which aren't as tall as they were last year. I suspect it's because they're so close together and I didn't thin them.
Still, they're kinda cool in the garden. Supposed to be a good companion plant to tomatoes. I hope.
I ordered the grain seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I was a tad disappointed. Amaranth is related to a common weed known as pigweed, and most of my golden giant amaranth seeds turned out to be plain old pigweed. I only had two that were really amaranth plants. They are pretty awesome, though. I'll probably save some of the seeds and sow them again next year. Unless I decide to grind them up as flour and bake a loaf of bread with them!
However, the absolute coolest amaranth I've seen this year was grown by my friend, Jan of the awesome garden.
I made her son, who had just picked a bunch of kale, stand next to it to give some perspective on how tall it grew in just a few months. I'm going to beg her to save some seeds from that plant for me to plant next year. The truly amazing thing about this particular amaranth is that it was grown from seeds that sat in Jan's freezer for about 10 years.
By Penny Stine
Friday, August 12, 2011
I made pasta with shrimp and Thai pesto from my friend's huge Thai basil plant last night. Because I'm incapable of using a measuring cup when cooking, all measured amounts are somewhat suspect - but the following recipe will give a general idea of what to do.
6 - 7 cups Thai basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh horseradish
1 dried red chile
3 - 4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
I happened to have some fresh horseradish from a neighbor's garden, otherwise, you could probably add a tiny amount of horseradish paste or even wasabi if you don't happen to have a neighbor who has recently gifted you with fresh horseradish. I wouldn't recommend making this with regular basil rather than the Thai basil - the Thai variety has that nice, anise flavor that adds to the Asian flavor of the pesto.
I had a few ripe sungold hybrid tomatoes on the vine, so I picked them and added them to the dish, too. A half cup of chopped red pepper would add some good color. We also added shrimp that we sauteed with onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. I think I'd prefer a long pasta rather than the penne, but I didn't have any spaghetti, fettucine or vermicelli, so I used penne.
It was tasty, but my husband was distracted by this, which we also ate for dinner last night. Sadly, the tomato was not from my garden (but the fresh basil was). My favorite peach grower gave me a ripe, delicious tomato, which we ate with grated parmesan, chopped fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Heavenly.
By Erin McIntyre
Thursday, August 11, 2011
As the rest of my garden finally starts producing, it’s time to harvest those beautiful garlic bulbs that I planted last fall. I managed to dig up most of them without nicking the bulbs (with “help” from my supervisor, Maxwell the dog), trimmed off the stalks within a few inches of the bulb, and hung the fresh garlic in a burlap bag to dry.
You can eat fresh garlic, but boy, is it hard to peel. Some people wash their bulbs off, but I worry about mold … so I just brush off the dirt as much as possible and let them dry out. I plan on using some in a few weeks, and I’ll save the biggest, most gorgeous bulbs to separate into cloves and plant this fall.
Yes, that’s right. You plant garlic in the fall, and now is the time to order bulbs for planting from online seed companies. I got mine from seedsavers.org, and I really like the Georgian Fire and Pskem River varieties. My homegrown garlic tends to taste a little spicier than grocery store garlic, and I believe it’s worth it. Generally, garlic is best planted in mid-September through October.
I know it seems odd to start planning for another planting as you harvest tomatoes and peppers, but that’s exactly what needs to happen if you want garlic next year, or even if you would like another crop of lettuce, carrots or kale. Get going now with successive planting (or your first planting, if you missed out last spring) and you will likely enjoy vegetables into early October, and garlic next summer. You may have already lost the war on weeds this summer, but clear a spot and have at least one fresh start in your yard.