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 letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

Page 114 of 120

Sunshine and watermelons

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 26, 2010

John Denver wrote that sunshine on his shoulders made him happy, and my watermelons and me agree wholeheartedly with that statement. (And no, that's not a euphemism for anything else. I'm talking about watermelons here... in spite of the name of the blog, this is a G-rated entry)

We tore up a huge section of lawn on the west edge of our property in search of a big enough space and better sunshine for growing lavender and melons. I planted the melons on the same day and took these pictures last week. This one gets at least eight hours of sunshine a day.

This one gets about five or six hours of sunshine a day.

In the week since I took the photos, the big watermelon plant has gotten bigger and has at least five baby melons growing. I hope to be eating yellow doll watermelons in another two weeks.

The little plant has grown, too, but I think it will need another six months of summer to realize its full potential and produce anything big enough to eat.

I understand that feeling; I’d like another six months of summer myself. Unfortunately, we won’t get it!

Oh well, now I’m already thinking about next year, wondering what will survive and thrive in limited sunshine. Any ideas? E-mail the gardeners at letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.


Currant Pie Wins!

By Geri Anderson
Saturday, July 24, 2010

You may remember that I wrote that I would try the red currants I grew in two recipes. Here’s the tart fruit on the plant. The fruit grows as multiple currants on a tiny stem.

I made two recipes, Currant Pie from an old-fashioned cookbook, and Red Currant Muffins from a muffins cookbook. We had a taste testing—and the pie won, 3 to 1! One taster said of the muffins, “Wonderful, moist, packed with flavor.” Several tasted the muffins first, then the pie, and commented that, "The muffins were good...but, oh, the pie!”

The currants do have a tiny seed, and some folks thought it was less noticeable with the chewy pie crust.  So, here’s the scoop on both recipes.

The tasting going on--both of these photos taken by Debra Dobbins of The Daily Sentinel:

              Vickie Pletcher enjoying the muffins!

                                    Which to try first?


The pie—
It isn’t a standard pie. I used an alternative crust; then the fruit is combined with egg, flour and sugar for the filling. The crust and fruit are baked. Lastly, the pie is topped with meringue. 

The filling is rich, the crust textured and chewy. Although the pie is sweet, there’s a good measure of the currant’s flavor and tartness. The thin light merinque tops it off. I am delighted with it!

The muffins—
The muffins were moist and flavorful. Very light and delicate. A bit tart. Change the flavor by serving it sliced in a bowl, while still warm, with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Or serve sliced over a bowl of plain yogurt.

If you like, you may substitute blueberries (and perhaps use less sugar ) and have a similar muffin when no currants are available.

Recipes ;

Currant Pie

 Alternative Crust - from Shelly at Culinary Corner, and she credits the Crossroads Health Club Newsletter for the recipe. It has no shortening in it.

   1 cup oatmeal
   ¼ cup whole wheat flour
   ¼ cup almond flour in original recipe. I substituted 2 Tablespoons oat flour and 2 Tablesp. rice flour
   2 Tablesp. brown sugar
   3 Tablesp. canola oil (I used safflower)
   1 Tablesp. water

Mix together – treat like graham cracker crust, press into pie pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes for shell, which is what I did. (For cream pies bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until brown.)


Currant Pie (the filling) – I started with the recipe from The Settlement Cook Book, Treasured Recipes of Six Decades, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1965, pp. 326 -327     (The book a gift from Janice Strong over two decades ago!!)
I changed quantities and cut back on the sugar. Here’s what I used:

   2 ¼ cup fresh, ripe currants
   1 ¾ cup sugar
   ½ cup unbleached flour
   2 Tables. water
   3 egg yolks

Mix currants with sugar and flour, add water and the slightly beaten egg yolks. Pour into a 9 inch pie pan lined with the above Alternative Crust. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set, about 45 minutes or so. While pie is still warm, top with Merinque Topping

Merinque Topping - same cookbook, p. 325, which I modified slightly as follows
   2 egg whites, at room temperature
   ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
   3 ½ Tablespoons sugar

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy with hand mixer. Beat sugar in gradually, a little at a time. Continue beating until mixture is stiff and glossy, and sugar is dissolved. The egg whites should hold a soft to moderate peak. Spread the merinque over the pie. Use fork tongs to lift the merinque to many tiny peaks (the peaks brown first and give the pie a pretty look). Bake at 400 degrees just for a few minutes until the peaks are lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it browns quickly.


Red Currant Muffins – from Muffins by Francesca DiPaolo, Adams Media Corp., 2000, p. 91, modified

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter as directed below and let it cool. Place the eggs still in the shell in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temperature. If you keep your whole grain flour in the refrigerator or freezer, measure it and place in mixing bowl to allow it to come to room temperature.

Prepare the pan by spreading a layer of oil (I used safflower) over each muffin tin. Using a plastic glass with about the same diameter as a muffin indentation, draw 12 circles using the glass as a guide on wax paper (I use the blade of scissors to score the paper as I draw around the glass). Cut out circles and place one in each muffin indentation (they don’t have to fit exactly).

In a medium bowl blend well:
   2 large or 3 medium eggs
   ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
   1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (or 1 ½ teas. Store bought)
   ¼ cup milk

In a large bowl whisk together:
   ½ cup whole wheat flour
   1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unbleached flour
   2 Tablespoons oat flour
   ½ cup sugar
   2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
   ½ teaspoon baking soda
   1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon

Other ingredients:
   1 ½ cup fresh red currants
   ½ cup fresh currants, mashed with a fork
   Additional 1 – 2 Tablesp. sugar

Combine the first two mixtures just enough to blend. Fold in the currants (whole and mashed ones). Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tin. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the muffins by going around them first with a table knife. Cool on a wire rack. Remove waxed paper from bottoms. Enjoy warm or cooled.  Store covered if not used in a few hours.

Delicious just as they are. May be served over a bowl of plain yogurt for breakfast or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.


One last currant tip – Annie from Hotchkiss tells me she freezes them on a cookie sheet, then puts them in ziplock bags. She adds a handful to pie cherries when making cherry pies for an additional tart flavor treat.


Peas Porridge?

By Geri Anderson
Friday, July 23, 2010

I remember the ryhme about  peas porridge, and while  I don't know how good Peas Porridge is. . .But fesh peas from the garden--ooh, I can't describe how very yummy they are.  Yesterday evening I picked peas, shelled them, and gently cooked them.  Add bit of butter--oh - FABULOUS!

I wish I'd planted two rows...

From another gardening site here's more info about garden peas: http://www.flower-and-garden-tips.com/gardenpeas.html

I'm told it's best to plant them early, but I tend to plant them when the garden plot is ready, about Mother's Day.  Maybe because mine get some morning and late afternoon shade, and I keep them watered often, they bear well.

However, I found an intriguing idea for planting them early that I hope to try next spring, from which I quote: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/

RE: Best way to grow peas         (But I couldn't re-find it via the forum's search, had to use Google.)

Posted by justaguy2 5 (My Page) on Fri, May 9, 08 at 12:20

Anney (and others),
I too have found peas take seemingly forever to germinate in the spring. I think if you look up optimal germination temperatures for 'cool season' crops you will find that with the exception of lettuce, almost every one of them germinates poorly or slowly in cool soils.

I used to think it quite odd that a plant grew best in cool air, but did poorly in cool soil. I mean, how could such a plant survive in nature with those requirements?

Then it dawned on me. These aren't really 'cool season' plants, they are 'fall season' plants. In other words, they do best when germinated in warm soil and grown out in cool air.

Thankfully there is an easy way to replicate nature. Germinate the seeds indoors and immediately plant them outside. A very simple, reliable and fast way to do this is the 'baggie method'. Take a wet coffee filter or paper towel, wrap the seeds inside and put in a zip lock baggie and place somewhere warmish (normal room temp). Germination occurs quickly in such conditions and as soon as it takes place the seed/plant can be put in the ground, no hardening off necessary since it hasn't yet acclimatized to the warm, low light conditions.

This is easier said than done with some plants like carrots whose seeds are so tiny, but for peas it's a piece of cake.

So, I want to try that for early planting.  I also was surprised that peas can be grown in a large container, with netting to climb on.

   Peas porridge hot

   Peas porridge cold

   Peas porridge in the pot

   Nine days old.      [Ugh!--I'll eat my peas fresh from the garden, please!]

         Traditional Mother Goose Rhyme


Garden party gluttons

By Carol Clark
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Throwing a beer party for the earwigs and slugs in your garden may seem a little generous for those leaf loving gluttons, but it can help to save your plants.

To say we have an earwig infestation is putting it mildly. Last year we used a spray bottle of water with a couple drops of dish soup. Spraying this on our plants makes those nasty vermin move; unfortunately, they just move over to the next-best tasting plant. Furthermore, once our sprinklers watered the garden and washed the soap off, their midnight dinner parties were back on! Because I don't like sharing produce with uninvited guests I resorted to a poison made for kitchen gardens. Making me feel a little uneasy while eating our well scrubbed veggies.

Well, this year I learned to attract those lush slugs with a kegger. Filling empty shallow tuna cans with beer and burying them at ground level in my garden did the trick. Saturday night was the first "woodsie" with cans in each garden bed filled with a little Bud Light. The next morning it looked like a frat party gone bad, several dozen earwigs, zillions of tiny sugar ants, and a cricket all dead or passed out at the bottom of the can. I figure this is a fairly painless way to die.

I have discovered vegetable oil works as well. It's just not as fun as having an opened can of beer you have to finish. So, we will continue these evening get-togethers until the problem drinkers are taken care of.

"I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn't look the same."

— Ricky Nelson


Art thieves in the garden?

By Penny Stine
Monday, July 19, 2010

This year, I was determined to create a whimsical, fun and beautiful garden, which is why I created pathways, planted more flowers and tried to find garden art for one of my gardens. Yes, one of my gardens… I actually have three separate garden spaces in various places in my yard, created as I search in vain for the perfect spot to grow tasty things to eat.

I got this way cool piece of old farm equipment from a friend whose family used to run a dairy farm in Loma. Her husband collected old farm equipment, trucks, hand tools, gadgets and other treasures for years. I’m pretty sure it’s a potato digger (or it could be a planter); either way, it was meant to be pulled behind a plow horse. I thought it would look cool in the garden with pole beans and morning glories trailing all over it.

When I had too much corn seed for the two spots I was originally going to plant corn, I threw the seed in a border around the planting bed with the potato digger.

Then God made everything grow.

Now I can’t find the potato digger anywhere. I’m sure it’s still there since I trip over it every time I’m walking down the pathways, which seemed plenty wide enough when I made them in April. They’re still large in the shady parts of the garden, but where the sun shines brilliantly, the garden has taken over. Just the way I like it.

Next year, I think I’ll try cantaloupe in the planting bed with the potato digger and I’ll look for an old door or something equally tall for the pole beans to climb. Not sure where I’ll plant corn.

Anybody have photos of other interesting pieces of garden art to share? E-mail them to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

Page 114 of 120


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