By Penny Stine
Friday, September 7, 2012
I stopped by my friend Jan's house to snap a photo of her gigantic amaranth, which is quite appropriately called "Golden Giant."
These all came up from seeds that last year's plants dropped. She asked her husband to whack off the top of the amaranth this weekend, before it scatters a kazillion seeds all over her garden. It does make a lovely pole for the morning glory to climb.
I also snapped a photo of her kale, which could easily be mistaken for elephant ears. Except the leaves are probably larger than most elephants' ears. My kale, which is planted in a semi-shady area, is about 18 inches tall. Hers is easily three feet tall.
Last, but not least, I took one last photo of the amaranth, along with the tomatoes, which are also climbing on the amaranth.The tomato plants are more than five feet tall. She's picked a few tomatoes that are almost as big as footballs.
What is the secret to Jan's gardening success? Her space has sunshine all day, every day. Her garden gets watered automatically twice a day, at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. for seven minutes. (Oh, for an automatic watering system!)
She also added about five yards of compost to her gardening beds in the spring.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I like flowers in my vegetable garden, but I'm learning that with certain ones, you have to be ruthless about yanking them out before they reseed themselves all over the place. Believe it or not, I didn't actually plant any flowers in my garden this year, with the exception of three dahlia bulbs that someone gave me.
Everything that's growing in my garden came up from seeds that last year's flowers dropped. I kind of like how the amaranth lines the pathway in my garden this year. It was actually coming up everywhere, and I pulled most of it except for the ones that bordered the path.
I need to start pulling flowers out now, before they goes to seed or I will have nothing but amaranth growing in next year's garden.
It's hard to pull when it looks so cool.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
My gardening buddy and I love to grow new, tasty things, and when we find one that's a keeper, I like to share it with the world. Or with whoever reads this blog.
This year, we tried several different types of beans. We ordered all the bean seeds from Park Seeds, although we also ordered a cow pea seed (which look like gigantic pole beans) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
We tried a yellow bush bean called a soleil. My reaction? Meh.
We ordered two different pole beans, Kwintus and Smeraldo.
Our reaction? Oh, my gosh, these are the best beans we've ever tasted! They are almost as sweet as a snap pea and three times as large. I love to eat them raw and they're delicious cooked. They're great in stir-fry, they're totally awesome with bacon and garlic. I LOVE THESE BEANS!
OK, so maybe I'm getting carried away... The only bad thing is that we cannot tell them apart. Both of them are long, flat and seriously delicious. I think the kwintus continues to produce and produce and produce some more, but the photo above is a smeraldo, so it's no slouch in production, either.
Jan's beans are doing much better than mine, but she has raised beds and she amended her soil a lot more than I did. Soil temperature in a raised bed is higher than in a plot in the ground, so although the temp in her raised bed was warm enough for bean seeds, the temperature in my garden wasn't quite there yet, which is why I had a much lower germination rate.
Next year, I'm using more compost and I'm going to wait until at least June before I plant green beans. Yes, I'm planting kwintus and smeraldo again.
By Penny Stine
Friday, August 24, 2012
I really try to eat whatever I grow in my garden. Well, OK, I've noticed that I seem to be growing lots of garden snakes this year. I don't eat them. But I have been able to quit buying most produce in the grocery store in the last two months. I still buy peaches from local producers and until a few weeks ago, my peppers weren't doing much, but my garden has kept me in enough onions, garlic, squash, tomatoes, kale, spinach, beans, peas, Swiss chard, beets and cucumbers that I haven't had to shop for produce.
So when I saw this lovely eggplant, I decided to make eggplant parmesan. Yes, these eggplant are tiny. I had two more tiny ones in the fridge.
Since they were so small, I thought I'd better make the meal as filling as possible, so I decided to dredge the eggplant in beaten egg and a mixture of bacon, stale hot dog bun (hey, it was the only stale bread in my cupboard!), Cheese Nips and Ritz crackers. Trust me, after I'd crumbed up the combination to a fine mixture with my food processor, it was a great bread crumb substitute. And no, I did not pick the bacon, hot dog bun or crackers from my garden.
I cut up all the tiny eggplant and realized it wasn't going to be enough. So I got out a pattypan squash and sliced it, too.
Meanwhile, I turned these tomatoes and this basil (along with some onions, garlic and olive oil) into sauce.
I dredged the slices of eggplant and pattypan in the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Actually, I did that with the squash, by the time I finished, I was tired of doing it and getting hungrier by the second. So I threw all the eggplant slices in the bowl with the egg, tried to cover them as much as possible, then put the remaining bread crumbs into a plastic bag, threw in the eggplant and shook it until every piece of eggplant had something stuck to it.
(It's shake and bake, and I helped!) Yes, if you remember that annoying commercial, you're old, too!
There were some bread crumbs left in the bag, so I shook them out into the tomato sauce. Fresh tomatoes can produce very watery sauce, so I figured fine bread crumbs would solve that issue. Plus, the bacony goodness did not disappoint - it was a very nice, subtle addition to the sauce.
Next I put some sauce in the casserole dish, layered the coated pattypan first, then more sauce, some mozzarella and parmesan, then the eggplant and finally covered it with a layer of sauce, and both cheeses once again. I baked it for a bit, maybe 20 minutes or more.
I didn't take a photo of the prepared dish because my husband came home somewhere toward the end of my preparation, we drank a glass of wine on the back deck while it was baking and I forgot.
The eggplant portion was merely OK, since I didn't peel the eggplant (because it was just so dang small to begin with). The pattypan portion of the dish was awesome and worth repeating.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I did not grow these big, honking cucumbers. Annie Levan did, but she's too busy selling advertising to write about them, so I snapped a picture of them to post.
These are Armenian cucumbers, and Annie says they grow even bigger and will grow a foot per day when conditions are right. They don't need to be peeled, and the seeds can be easily scooped out with a spoon. I think her family can't keep up with them, so she brought some to work to give away.
Although I'm growing lemon cucumbers at home, mine are really slow because the bugs or birds ate 'em every time a seedling emerged and I had to plant three times before they finally made it. So I snagged the really long skinny cucumber. I'm going to slice it and serve with an herbal viniagrette.
Mmmm.... I love eating in the summer.