Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Saturday, September 4, 2010
A garden is like an experiment that never ends, which is one of the reasons I’ve come to love gardening. Every year, I try to plant something new or improve something I tried without huge success.
This year, I was determined to improve my tomatillos. I planted them last year for the first time and liked them well enough to try again this year. Last year, my biggest mistake was overcrowding, so I spaced the plants much farther apart.
This year, my biggest issue is still overcrowding, but that’s because tomatillos are hogs. They refuse to stay in the area they’ve been allotted and are threatening to overtake everything in their path. I think they’re the hurricane of the garden.
I planted Cisneros tomatillos, which are supposed to be huge, and purple tomatillos, which are supposed to be purple. The purple tomatillos sprouted earlier and seemed hardier at first, but once they were both transplanted in the garden, the two seemed to grow at an equal pace.
The Cisneros tomatillos are much bigger and the plants are just as prolific as the purple ones. A few of the purple tomatillos are purple, but most of them are green. I confess to being an impatient gardener and I may be picking them before they’re fully ripe, but the husk gets dry and splits, which is usually a sign that it’s time to pick.
My goal with planting so many tomatillos was to have enough to make green salsa. Last weekend, I picked a colander full of tomatillos and started chopping.
I also had peaches from my favorite orchard in Palisade, so I found several tomatillo recipes and chose not to follow any of them, since none included peaches as an ingredient.
But here’s what I did:
Peachy tomatillo salsa
7 – 8 cups quartered or halved tomatillos
1 large chopped onion
3 large chopped peaches
4 – 5 cloves minced garlic
2 jalapenos, diced
1 finely diced habanero (I used 1 tsp of frozen diced habanero from last summer’s habaneros, since my habanero isn’t producing yet this year)
1 cup lemon juice
zest and juice of 1 large lime
1 tsp salt
Put everything but the lime in a large pot and cook for 20 – 30 minutes until the tomatillos are saucy. Add the lime juice right before pouring the salsa into hot, sterilized jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
Note: Our friends at the Extension office say to always use a tested and approved recipe for salsa if you’re not going to pressure can it. This recipe is not tested or approved. (Although I did bring a jar of it into the Sentinel, where many willing folks both tested and approved the taste.)
Before I made the salsa, I consulted several tomatillo salsa recipes from various extension offices across the country and noted that the ratios of vegetables (peppers and onions) to acidic ingredients like the tomatillos. I increased the amount of tomatillos, added the peaches (which are also acidic), increased the acidity by adding the lime and decreased the amount of vegetables by substituting a very small amount of habanero for a larger amount of green chiles. It’s still not tested and approved, but I did my best to make it safe.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Oh, Cabana Boy ...
Tourists aren't the only ones who like to make for the shade in sunny
western Colorado. Some plants perk up with a little shelter, too.
Faced with the prospect of another season of burnt peppers and wilted
eggplants, earlier this summer I asked my husband to assemble some
kind of shade for newly transplanted peppers and eggplants as we were
headed out for a weekend away. He hastily assembled a "cabana" of
leftover plywood, survey stakes and wire. The results were not
elegant, but were highly successful. I have big, plump peppers and
oodles of eggplants.
Next year I think I'll expand our efforts and experiment with shade
netting over even more of the garden.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
A couple of years ago, I decided to try growing pattypan squash. The round, scalloped summer squash resembles a 1950s version of a flying saucer, although there are no little green Martians inside the squash, just seeds.
It grew better than zucchini, produced a boatload of squash and tasted better, too, according to the opinion of everyone in my family. So pattypan became a must-have in my garden.
The plants grow to enormous proportions; bigger than any zucchini I’ve ever grown, so if you decide to plant one, be sure to give it a lot of room. The one in this photo is my small plant. The big plant takes up two counties.
They’re best eaten before they get the size of a dinner plate, although we had a huge one sitting on the counter that my husband decided to grill like a steak. Awesomely delicious. He sliced it vertically into half inch “steaks,” spread each slice with olive oil, sprinkled liberally with garlic powder, Johnny’s seasoning salt and chili powder and then grilled until they were brown.
Because pattypan is a little firmer and less seedy than zucchini, it holds up well to grilling.
I dreamed up a pattypan pasta recipe, which I’m planning on cooking later this week. Let me know if anyone wants me to picture and post it.
By Carol Clark
Monday, August 30, 2010
Saturday was pickling day at the Clarks. In order to grow enough small cucumbers for pickling, I estimate you would have to grow 1/2 acre of cukes! We don't have that much room.
We bought the bulk of ours from Okagawas on Orchard Mesa. They sell 1/2 bushel of small/medium cucs for $20. Hellman's also grows great cukes and will save the smallest for you if you call in advance.
If you crave pickles you are probably a salt-aholic like my husband, Olan. He craves salt so much he carries a little Ziplock bag of salt in his car. I'm always worried the police are going to think it's cocaine if he ever gets stopped. So if you ever see his name in the blotter ...
I wish I could share the recipe but it was entrusted to us by a grand champion winner who made us promise to never give it out but, you can see by the photos what type of ingredients we used. The manly champion likes to add jalapenos and cherry bomb peppers to his — we are a little wimpy for that. We did use a few ingredients from the garden — dill, garlic and a few cucumbers. At the end of the day we had a measly 30 jars of pickles and 7 jars pickled okra. Our crazy champion friend cans 150 jars in one day every year! Now that's a REAL man!
"I think pickles are cucumbers that sold out. They sold their soul to the devil and the devil is dill..."
By Penny Stine
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Everybody knows you can’t garden without good tools. This year, I added a basic pitchfork to my arsenal of shovels, hoes and other weapons of grass destruction. The pitchfork’s great for turning compost, which is a necessity for the kitchen gardener. However, I have really come to appreciate another gardening implement that’s made my life easier this summer: the salad spinner.
I know. At first glance a salad spinner doesn’t seem like a great garden tool, and I suppose it wouldn’t be if I had tons of time, drying racks or didn’t want to eat almost everything I grow. Since I don’t use pesticides or herbicides on my garden, I don’t need to worry about washing that off my produce, but I use irrigation water. My veggies, especially those with an edible leaf, tend to be coated with a fine film of your basic Colorado River silt.
A spinner, for those not acquainted with this high-tech gadget, is an indispensible piece of equipment. Put the dirty leaves in the colander. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Put the colander in the bowl and add the top piece.
Give it a couple good whacks to make the colander spin and in a matter of seconds, your greens are silt-free. Not only does the spinner get rid of the excess dirt and water, it also separates the earwigs and other bugs from the produce. How cool is that?
I’ve used my spinner all summer long for spinach, Swiss chard, basil, lettuce, kale and other assorted herbs that tend to get waterlogged after rinsing. Plus, the basic bowl is big enough for gathering strawberries, squash, corn, tomatoes, broccoli, tomatillos, beans or anything else that requires a simple rinse rather than a soak and a spin.
Of course, it lives on the counter all summer long, which adds to the look of chaotic disorder that is the hallmark of my summertime kitchen, but whaddya going to do?