Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Carol Clark
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
When we hike in the mountains I love to search the forest floor for treasures. Sometimes it's a stick bent into an interesting shape, sometimes pinecones or flowers to dry. This year I have been amazed by all the different types of mushroom, the odd living organisms scientists don't consider plants or animals.
I would love to learn which mushrooms are edible, but I am afraid it would be the last thing I would ever eat. A man at the grocery store said he knew how to spot edible cremini mushrooms growing on the Mesa. At Seattle farmer's markets they paid $44.00 per pound for the same mushrooms.
My friend Rita has grown button mushrooms in her cellar year round for twelve years now, from the same original box of mushrooms - this seems a little safer. A wise investment if you have a cool dark place you don't mind smelling like wet manure.
It is amazing the different shapes and colors these mysterious fungi come in. Last weekend near Silver Jack Reservoir I spotted these two mushrooms growing out of the ground. At first I thought they were Ptarmigan eggs, since we kept seeing these cute baby birds following their mothers. But I soon found another obvious mushroom coming out of the ground nearby.
These red spotted mushrooms that I found on Crag Crest trail remind me of the kind you see in nursery books with little people living in them.
I wonder how much it needs to rain for a mushroom to grow out of a rock!?!
Amazingly, some live entirely on trees.
One day, hiking through the forest, I found this mystery. At first I thought it was a melted candy bar someone dropped, but as I looked closer it looked like something living although I didn't want to touch it in case it was poisonous. There was no water to wash my hands with and I didn't want to ruin it with a stick. Later, I looked online and could never find any mushroom remotely like this. What do you think, melted candy or a living neither plant nor animal fungi?
“The Smurfs are little blue people who live in magic mushrooms. Think about it.”
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.