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 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.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 11, 2011
This is a testament to the hours and hours I spent listening to pop music as a kid – I can’t think of much without thinking of song lyrics. So when I think about sunshine, I can’t help but hear John Denver singing about sunshine on his shoulders.
But it’s true that more sunshine on my garden would make me extremely happy. I have big shade trees in my yard, which I love because they keep my house cool. They also make it tricky to find a good spot to garden.
My gardening buddy, Jan, has no shade trees blocking her garden. Check out her Thai basil…
I cut about six cups of leaves from her plant to experiment with a Thai basil pesto. We’re eating it tonight with grilled shrimp and pasta – I’ll let you know if it’s any good and share the recipe if anyone’s interested.
Jan and I split a packet of kale seeds. This is how it looks in her garden.
This is my shady kale:
It tastes fine when roasted, but I’ve got to pick a lot more kale leaves from my puny little plants!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
I can't grow zucchini. There, I've confessed. I heard Dixie Burmeister recently confess that she can't grow it, either, so I don't feel like a total failure as a gardener.
I’m growing two different types of scallop squash this year and neither one is the standard pattypan that I’ve been growing for the last three years. I wanted to try something different, so I decided it was time to try some new scallop squash varieties.
I planted a few G-star hybrid squash from Park seed. The description said they were extremely prolific, do well in the heat and are resistant to powdery mildew. They’re dark green like a zucchini, but shaped like a pattypan.
I also planted a seed from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds called patisson panache jaune et verte scallop. I forgot everything I learned in my one year of high school French, but I think jaune et verte scallop simply means yellow and green scallop. No idea what patisson panache means.
I chose it because the description said you could eat it like a summer squash when it was small and like a winter squash if you forgot about it and let it grow to plate-size proportions. It was also supposed to be yellow with green stripes, which I thought would look cool. And the name is already awesome, so there ya’ go.
So far, I’ve discovered that the dark green squash has very few seeds (a big plus) and tastes slightly better, in my opinion (also shared by my son and one of his buddies, who was eating dinner with us one night when we were eating stuffed squash). The green squash has more squashy flesh, since it has fewer seed goo.
Both are producing well and both have that lovely, flying saucer look that I love in a pattypan. I’ll also use both as zucchini substitutes later this summer when I start baking chocolate zucchini bread to store in the freezer for winter consumption.
Unless the heirloom one is amazing when baked as a winter squash, I think I’ll just go with the G-star hybrid next year.
Unless, of course, I see some other squash seed that I want to plant in my experimental garden.