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 letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

Page 9 of 102


Beyond lettuce

By Penny Stine
Monday, January 6, 2014

Because I like to eat what I grow in my garden and I can't grow lettuce to save my life, when I make a salad I tend to think outside the hutch.
In the summer, I make salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, peaches or anything else I can find in the garden or growing locally.
In winter, we don't eat near as much salad because it's cold and we can eat soup, so who wants salad?
Unless, of course, you have pea shoots growing in the living room.
My living room cucumbers are looking pretty pathetic - I think they're protesting that it's cold and they'd appreciate a little more light and warmth. My peas, however, are doing quite well. It's hard to get a decent photo of my living room garden because of the light coming in the window, but I have pots full of peas, basil, arugula, rosemary, cucumber and sorrel on three different shelves. The peas are the clear champions of the living room experiment. 

 

 

So I picked some pea shoots on Sunday after church to go with our Sunday dinner of pork roast and sauerkraut. (How's that for a midwestern meal?) I also picked some arugula and basil, since it was also growing in the same container in the living room.

 

 

 

It takes a lot of pea shoots to make a salad big enough for two, even with some baby arugula thrown in, so I also added some purple cabbage. I made a dressing out of olive oil, vinegar, chopped dried cherries and dates and an anchovy. Yes, I'm weird that way. I love anchovies.
Mix it all together and top it off with a little feta cheese. It was a lot of flavors, but they all worked and tasted delicious. The dried fruit gives it a little sweetness, while the anchovy and feta add a nice savory tang.
Quite by accident a week or so ago, I discovered that I can omit sugar from salad dressings and add finely chopped dates or some other dried fruit instead. I prefer the flavor and texture, and since refined white sugar has no redeeming nutritional value while dates and other dried fruits have many fine qualities, it's a win-win for me. Plus, my husband, who has a clear "don't fruit the meat" sensibility, doesn't seem to mind if I fruit a savory salad. 

Don't you just love turning nouns into verbs? 
 

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When the inversion makes me cranky

By Penny Stine
Monday, December 30, 2013

My garden is covered in snow, it's dark when I get home from work and all of my produce is coming from the freezer rather than the front yard. On top of that, our heater/hot water boiler decided it didn't want to work anymore, so we have no heat other than the gas fireplace and no hot water except for what I heat in my canning kettle. 

Grrr. It's enough to make anyone cranky. 

So I wandered over to my planter box and took another photo of my ever-so-slowly growing cucumbers. 

Who knows when or if the HVAC guy will be able to fix the boiler (I'm not holding out much hope), but at least I have a little tiny cucumber that's half an inch long growing right in my living room. It reminds me that winter won't last forever and someday, I will be warm again. 

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Black bean brownie basics

By Penny Stine
Friday, December 20, 2013

 

 

This is a gardening blog, so why am I writing a column about black bean brownies that have these ingredients (none of which I grew in my garden)? 

 

 

 

Because this is what my garden looks like right now. There are spinach seeds waiting to sprout, along with onion and garlic bulbs somewhere beneath all that snow.

So sad this time of year when everything is covered in snow. This is my herb garden, where the snow is starting to melt and show the plants that didn't get pulled before that last big snowstorm (because the parsley and the mint were still surviving).
Needless to say, neither are still doing well now. However, I can still pick thyme and sage. The flavor will be fine, although the plants won't start growing again until springtime.

Back to the brownies… we had a story in our paper about the latest research on vitamins and supplements, which suggested that taking them didn't do a whole lot of good. Although I don't take multivitamins, I take a magnesium supplement, because someone recommended it for insomnia. As all of my fellow insomniacs will agree, after a couple decades of trouble sleeping, you'll try anything.
At first, the magnesium supplements seemed to make a difference (placebo effect?), then I was back to my standard waking up at 3 a.m. routine.
The latest research indicates that getting vitamins and minerals (magnesium is a mineral, ya know) from food is the way to go. I'm a big believer in food, especially real food that doesn't come from a can and is packed with delicious, nutritious yumminess that doesn't taste like a multivitamin. That's a huge part of why I garden (see, there is a reason why this post is in a gardening column).
So I researched magnesium-rich foods and discovered that all of the foods in the first picture are high in magnesium. I've made black bean brownies before and was pleasantly surprised to discover they were moist and delicious. There are a ton of recipes out there - google it and you'll find one that suits your fancy.
My goal was to develop a recipe that tasted great but had a boatload of foods high in magnesium and had no white flour or processed sugar (not that I have anything against limited use of either one - I use both in baking because sometimes you just need white flour and sugar). 
Some research indicates that processed sugar inhibits sleep and remember, these brownies were going to help me sleep. Plus, they'd give me a great excuse to eat brownies every night before I went to bed. Sadly, my first attempt, although they looked delicious, didn't taste so great. They weren't sweet enough.
So it's back to the mixing bowl for me. When I come up with a good recipe, I'll be happy to share it.  

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Still cooking with something picked in the garden

By Penny Stine
Friday, December 13, 2013

The other night, I decided to sauté some savory stuff to add to the plain brown rice I was making for dinner. I took a picture of it all in the pan because it was the last celery root from my garden. The leek and garlic also came from my garden, but the mushrooms did not. I still have plenty of garlic from my 2013 garden and about three more leeks.

Since I could probably count on one hand the number of times I ever purchased leeks at the grocery store, I can't say that homegrown leeks are so much better than the ones available in stores, but they were kinda fun to grow. Mostly because you pick them after everything else is done. So I'll grow them again.
I think I want to grow celery root again, too. It was one of those odd, fun things to have out there in the garden. Plus, you can cut the leaves and stalks throughout the summer to use as celery and then dig the root in the fall. Like a two in one deal.

Here's what the rice looked like with the tilapia my husband cooked and the peas.

Our plates really are round, I don't know why this one looks oblong. 


No, the peas didn't come from the pea plants in my living room, but as you can see, the pea shoots are big enough to cut and put in a salad again.  

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Living room cucumbers

By Penny Stine
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I bought a packet of hybrid cucumber seeds a month or so ago from Park Seed with the intention of growing them in my living room this winter.

What? doesn't everybody garden in the living room in the winter?

Normally, cucumbers need bees for pollination, but this particular seed was supposed to produce all female plants that didn't need to be pollinated. According to the seed catalog, it's also supposed to produce cucumbers in 45 days.
It's been seven weeks since I planted the seeds, so these are a little slower than advertised. I have to admit, however, that the growing conditions in my living room aren't the best. I'm not using any artificial light or heat, so these cukes are getting just what comes in through the picture window.
And we're cheap and chilly - we have programmable thermostats that we turn down to about 60 degrees at night and only turn up to 67 for a couple hours in the morning and back up to 65 for a couple hours in the evening.


I don't know if you can tell by these photos, but this plant is about to blossom and there is a little tiny cucumber already forming at the not-yet-opened flower. Pretty cool. Even if I don't get many cucumbers this winter in my living room, I'm thinking these will be a good addition to the garden in the spring, where they probably will produce cucumbers in about 45 days.


This particular seed is called Cool Breeze Hybrid and it's on sale right now on the Park Seed website for $1.50 per packet. So much cheaper than therapy.  

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Page 9 of 102




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