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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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?
By Carol Clark
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
We're getting ready! We are drying herbs, canning and planting cool weather crops for fall. With only 60 days until the average first frost in the valley, it is time to plant lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes and spinach.
Yesterday, we prepared sun-dried tomatoes. Those little cans you buy in the store are exorbitantly priced! You can make your own at home for almost nothing.
Use fresh Roma or Italian Plum tomatoes and simply cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and lay them on a cookie sheet. You may want to cut bigger tomatoes in slices about 1/4 inch thick. For real sun-dried tomatoes, lay them on an oven rack lined with cheese cloth, set another piece of cheese cloth over the top of the tomatoes and set them in the sun for a couple of days. Make sure you will be having hot sunny days and bring them in at night to avoid morning dew.
You can also use your oven. Place them in the oven at 200 degrees for around eight hours. Tomatoes are done when they are dry and leathery, but not crispy and not sticky - like a raisin.
This year we used our dehydrator. We brushed the tomato halves lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh oregano, parsley and basil and dried them for around 15 hours. We froze them separately on racks, filled a freezer bag full and popped them in the freezer for winter.
Some Italian free-thinkers store their tomatoes in a jar of extra virgin olive oil in their pantry. They say it keeps indefinitely, but with the advent of botulism, I play it safe and freeze them.
Eat these luscious babies on pizza, pasta sauces, sandwiches and on crisp Italian bread. MmmmMmm.
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Sunday, August 22, 2010
This is what we’ve worked for, gardeners.
I bow to my intrinsic, agrarian rhythms. In March they compelled me to plant when I would have preferred to ski the last few runs. In June I weeded when I would have liked to have hopped on my single-speed cruiser, instead.
But this is the bounty of August — the gardening reward, and not only the reward, but a brief, indulgent respite.
The weeds have slowed, plants are sturdy, monsoonal rains are helping water, and my agrarian rhythms are telling me to leisurely grill the sweet corn and slather Brandywine tomatoes with mayo on a BLT.
This is the in-between, calm and grateful gardening season — time to examine flowers. Time to lie in the hammock. I don’t even care if squash bugs eat the zucchini; we’ve had our fill.
It will pass. In a few weeks I’ll feel antsy again and will start canning, freezing and dehydrating everything that’s left, squirreling away for the winter. But for now … pass the mayo.