Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, Plus a Springtime-Fresh Garden Recipe: Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs

April 23rd, 2013 § 6

Madi_Vegetable LiteracyVegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

As organic vegetable gardeners, we know how important it is to become familiar with the various plant families and to develop an understanding of how they relate to one another in the garden. Botanical knowledge is key to avoiding many pests, diseases and cultural problems. Having recently reviewed the topics of crop rotation, companion planting and intercropping in the organic vegetable garden —Kitchen Garden Planning, Part One, followed by Kitchen Garden Planning, Part Two— now seems like the perfect opportunity to discuss how this same botanical knowledge can guide creative use of homegrown produce in your kitchen.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been devouring Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, sent to me for review by publisher, Ten Speed Press. One of the most highly-regarded vegetarian cooks of our time, Deborah Madison is author of eleven cookbooks. In her most recent title, Madison explores the relationship between botany and cooking, and how that knowledge can serve us as we prepare produce in our kitchens. A new gardener herself, the author takes a down-to-earth approach; with stories and observations that will be both familiar and inspirational to those who, like Madison, are just beginning to grow their own food. More experienced green thumbs will be delighted by new botanical discoveries and unexpected, creative ways to use the fruits of their labor.

Late_Spring_Potager_michaela_thegardenerseden  Nothing will improve your culinary skills faster than growing fresh produce in your own backyard, and learning how to use those edible flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs, creatively in your kitchen

New gardeners will quickly observe that some natural companions in their potagers —tomatoes and basil or garlic and potatoes, for example— are also delightful partners in recipes. In fact, the joy of experimenting with garden fresh ingredients in the kitchen is often what leads a gardener’s hands to soil in the first place. By learning the ways in which edible plants relate to one another, a gardener can become a more versatile and confident cook. Out of onions, spinach or some other key ingredient and need a quick substitute? Looking for a way to jazz up a simple plate of carrots, but haven’t a clue what might work with them? With a bit of coaching from Madison, gardeners may find the creative answers to these culinary challenges, right in the backyard vegetable patch!

Filled with delicious, vegetarian recipes and gorgeous, full-color photographs, Vegetable Literacy is as beautiful to behold as it is delightful to read. Chapters in this cookbook are divided by plant families (Apiacea, Lamiacea, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, etc.). In addition to 300-plus recipes, the author has included a chef’s notes about her favorite varieties of each edible plant, as well as interesting and useful botanical details for gardeners. I’ve flagged a number of dishes to try with my early crops, but the one featured below, “Peas with Baked Ricotta and Breadcrumbs”, simply couldn’t wait. Although it’s a bit early here in Vermont for garden-fresh peas, I did try this recipe with some of last fall’s bounty (stored in my freezer), and was thrilled with the result. I can’t wait to enjoy this comforting dish again; only next time, with the incomparable flavor of hand-shucked peas, plucked straight from my garden . . .

Peas with Baked Ricotta Peas with Baked Ricotta & Breadcrumbs from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. Photo © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

Peas with Baked Ricotta and Bread Crumbs

A light supper for 2

Olive oil

1 cup high-quality ricotta cheese, such as hand-dipped
full-fat ricotta

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

4 teaspoons butter

2 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)

5 small sage leaves, minced (about 11/2 teaspoons)

11/2 pounds pod peas, shucked (about 1 cup)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Chunk of Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish; a round Spanish earthenware dish about 6 inches across is perfect for this amount.

If your ricotta is wet and milky, drain it first by putting it in a colander and pressing out the excess liquid. Pack the ricotta into the dish, drizzle a little olive oil over the surface, and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese has begun to set and brown on top. Cover the surface with the bread crumbs and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, another 10 minutes. (The amount of time it takes for ricotta cheese to bake until set can vary tremendously, so it may well take longer than the times given here, especially if it wasn’t drained.)

When the cheese is finished baking, heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots and sage and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas, 1/2 cup water, and the lemon zest. Simmer until the peas are bright green and tender; the time will vary, but it should be 3 to 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t let them turn gray. Season with salt and a little freshly ground pepper, not too much.

Divide the ricotta between 2 plates. Spoon the peas over the cheese. Grate some Parmesan over all and enjoy while warm.

With Pasta: Cook 1 cup or so pasta shells in boiling, salted water. Drain and toss them with the peas, cooked as above, and then with the ricotta. The peas nestle in the pasta, like little green pearls.

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Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Madison. Photographs © 2013 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

All Other Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Designing an Enchanting Edible Garden And a Workshop for Vegetable Lovers…

May 10th, 2011 § 4

My Backyard Potager – An Edible Oasis in Mid-July

Like a butterfly flitting about the garden before deciding where to settle, I found myself drifting in and out of greenhouses and garden centers last weekend, ogling possible additions to my backyard potager. I couldn’t help but notice that the aisles of my favorite farm stand and local nurseries are filling up with annuals, perennial herbs, vegetable starts, berry bushes and fruit trees. Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to plant the vegetable garden!

There are so many things I love about growing my own produce, but my favorite summertime pleasure has to be settling into a comfy garden chair at the end of the day —glass of chilled white wine in hand and dinner fixings in a basket at my feet— as I watch the golden rays of late afternoon sun illuminate the beautiful flowers, fruit and vegetables in my potager. Of course the best part of edible gardening is doing just that —eating it! And by mid-June, I needn’t make a special trip to the grocery store to create a gourmet meal. Everything I need for a great breakfast, lunch or dinner is growing in my own backyard. On sunny days, I often enjoy alfresco meals in the garden itself, overlooking the beautiful vine-covered fence and swaying sunflowers…

Heavenly Blue Morning Glories are Attractive to People and Pollinators Alike!

An Alfresco Lunch – Last Summer in my Sun-Drenched Garden

Calendula Blossoms Not Only Add Beauty to a Garden, But Also Attract Beneficial Insects and Deter Undesirable Pests…

Heirloom Tomatoes Begin to Produce in July and Continue through October

Working in a Beautifully Designed Vegetable Garden is a Treat for All Senses

I Plant Sunflowers Partly for Decorative Reasons, But Also Because They Provide Food for Birds, Bees and Other Beneficial Garden Guests

Pathways Edged with Herbs are Beautiful and Fragrant Additions to the Potager. Why Not Make the Walk to the Vegetable Garden as Lovely as the Destination?

I’ll be presenting a free seminar on the art and science of vegetable gardening this Saturday, May 14th at Walker Farm, together with owner and organic farmer Jack Manix. We’ll both be discussing a wide range of edible gardening topics. The seminar will begin at 10am with Jack covering the basics of organic vegetable gardening. Jack will review the practical side of growing your own produce; with topics ranging from soil chemistry and compost, to pest management, specialty crops and succession planting. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and have a look around the farm. Then after a brief tour of the fields, I will pick up where Jack leaves off; discussing ways in which you can make your vegetable garden a beautiful, welcoming multi-use space for your family, friends and other garden guests; like birds and beneficial insects. We’ll talk about edible, living walls and other fences, raised beds and borders, vertical structures and vines, bird, bat and toad houses, companion flowers and herbs, plus all the little details that will make your time in the garden less work and more pleasure.

To find out more about Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping or purchase a copy, click here

I hope you’ll join us this Saturday, May 14th at beautiful Walker Farm (click here for details and to save your seat) but until then —or if you live too far away to make it— I have a few beautiful and inspirational books on edible gardening to recommend. Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping (pictured above) is a great book, just chock full of gorgeous garden design photos and practical, inspirational ideas. I mentioned it in this post (here) earlier this year and I still highly recommend it. And landscape designer Jennifer Bartley —who will be speaking on Contemporary Kitchen Garden Design in Wilmington, Vermont on June 24th at the Sixteenth Annual North Hill Symposium —- author of one of my favorite potager design books Designing the New Kitchen Garden, has just released another beautiful and informative title, The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, from Timber Press.

Jennifer Bartley’s The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

I’ll be writing much more about creating enchanting edible gardens in the coming weeks. And, if beautiful and productive vegetable gardens appeal to your senses, you may want to revisit my potager page at the left (click here) and past-posts; including The Art of French Vegetable Gardening (click here) and Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager.

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Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of businesses or products in this post.

Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here (including Amazon.com book links and Terrain Garden & Home). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Joyful New Beginnings: Bright-Green Herb Seedlings Emerging from the Soil…

February 3rd, 2011 § 1

Seedlings in the Morning Sun:  Johnny’s Herb Disks in the Windowsill Garden (Coriandrum sativum)

Lately, the weather in here in Vermont has been a bit challenging (to say the least). Even we native New Englanders start to groan when back-to-back blizzards deliver multiple feet of snow and there’s nowhere left to pile it! Three feet, four feet? With all of the blowing and drifting and snowbanks everywhere, I’ve lost track of the total accumulation here on my hilltop. Let’s just say that you now enter the house through white tunnels. Enough said…

Coriander (Cilantro) Seedlings Emerge from Johnny’s Herb Disks in the Windowsill Garden (Coriandrum sativum)

If you live in a northern climate like I do, then you are probably beginning to tire of the big storms and the endless shoveling, and you may be wondering if spring will ever come again. Yes, yes she will. I promise. And while we gardeners are waiting, there are a few things we can start to do. If you live in zone 4 or 5, you will want to start gathering your seeds and checking on start dates. Over the next couple of weeks, you can begin setting up grow lights (full spectrum), and sow onions, leeks, celery and hardy herbs indoors (for tips on starting onions & leeks visit this post here)…

Pots brushed with Primary Colors Add Life to the Kitchen Countertop

Of course, round ’bout February, most kids will be starting to get stir crazy indoors. Plus, those mid-winter vacations are coming up soon… Aren’t they? This simple project is the perfect way to introduce seed-starting to little gardeners and to help keep those tiny hands occupied. Even if you don’t have children, these seed disks make starting herbs indoors simple and quick. I love fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves in my guacamole and I use lots of fresh basil, and other herbs in my kitchen. So last year, I decided to give Johnny’s Seeds pre-prepared herb disks a try, to see how they would work in clay pots. And the results: totally fun and easy project!

Seed starting disks from Johnny’s Seeds fit perfectly inside these brightly painted, 6″ tall clay pots

All you need to do is purchase seed-starting soil (a well-drained medium with super-fine soil particles) and fill appropriately sized pots near-full with the mix. Moisten the soil thoroughly and lay a seed disk atop the soil (pots with a 4.5″ diameter at the top work perfectly for Johnny’s Seed disks). Cover the disk with soil to the recommended depth (varies depending upon the plant – check instructions of the back of each packet) and moisten again. Line your herbs up in a brightly lit window, water regularly with a fine mister and wait.

Depending upon the kind of herbs you grow, within a few day to a couple of weeks, you should begin to see bright green seedlings emerge. Be patient, though! Some herbs take quite a bit of time to germinate. Parsley seedlings, for example, can take a month to emerge. Once the seedlings have popped through the soil, keep the herbs moist, but not soggy. Be sure the pots are located in a warm spot with good light and air circulation. One the first set of true leaves appear (as opposed to the tiny seed leaves) you will want to mix up a weak solution of organic fertilizer (I use fish emulsion), and feed your herbs every-other-week. Rotate the pots once a week to keep seedlings growing straight, as opposed to leaning toward the light. For best results, you want to start your seeds beneath full-spectrum grow lights (keep the light source very close to the plants and raise it as the seedlings grow). The nice part of using prepared disks is that the seeds come pre-spaced. Of course you can always start seed without disks; planting them in trays filled with starter soil mixture. If you do this, you can thin the seedlings of herbs and vegetables later on (see photo below).

I will be writing much more about starting seeds indoors and out over the coming months, so stay tuned and think spring!

Is there anything more hopeful or uplifting than fresh green seedlings emerging from damp soil?

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Simply Lovely: Etched-Gourd Cachepots

January 25th, 2011 Comments Off

This Pretty Etched-Gourd Makes a Lovely Cachepot for Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ (and on the right, Colocasia affinis ‘Jenningsii’)

Displaying plants indoors can be as creative and fun as arranging pots outdoors on porches, patios and balconies. Whenever I spot an new and interesting vessel —natural or man-made— I log it in my mental-file cabinet as a potential cachepot for a plant. Two years ago, while traveling in Vieques, Puerto Rico, I picked up this etched gourd from an artisan at a street market. Sure, it makes an interesting bowl for collecting spare change or keys, but why not use it as a cachepot? I sealed the inside of this gourd to waterproof it (wood-sealer or shellac work well) and filled it with a lush Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ —and wow! The purple-red stems jump out when played against subtle golden-undertones on the surface of the dried gourd. You may remember how much I love this plant from a previous post (To read “Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” click here).

A great mix: Crafter’s Gourds from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Like the look? There’s no need to travel to the Caribbean to get it! Growing gourds is fun and easy —a great garden project with kids— and when dried and sealed, they can be used in all sorts of creative ways. I plan to etch and carve many more gourds this year to use as indoor cachepots. Just imagine the possibilities! Of course, dried gourds can also be used as serving bowls/dishes, desk accessories or jewelry holders, and in addition, bottle-type gourds are often used as small bird houses. Gourds do require a long growing season —they are harvested in fall— so in cold climates these decorative delights are best started indoors before the last frost date. Now is a good time to order gourd seed from one of the many catalogues filling your mailbox. Renee’s Garden Seeds has a great “Crafter’s Mix” which includes larger, smooth-gourd varieties -these seeds are specially selected for creating vessels of all kinds. An excellent selection of gourd seed, as well as organic gardening supplies can also be found online at Burpee (and they sell luffa gourds: perfect for drying and using in the bath). Gourds grow on vines in full sun, and they can be trained up a trellis in a small space, or left to sprawl in a larger garden.

Read more about the lovely Pepperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ here.

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Article and Photographs (with noted exceptions) are copyright Michaela/The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

December 17th, 2010 § 5

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Oh yes. I know what you’re thinking. What is she doing, lounging about in the afternoon with a plate of French Toast? Oh the sloth, the sloth! It’s just nothing but wickedness {smirk}. OK. Yes, Santa Baby, I have been a little —how shall we say— self-indulgent recently. But, try to go easy on me. During the short New England growing season —with gardens to plan, plant and tend— there are few leisurely days on my calendar. So I really treasure this quiet time of the year, and I like to treat myself a little.

Mid-Day Snow-Squall

With snow flying, and daytime temperatures struggling to reach the double digits, outside work is off the schedule. These days, I like to wrap myself in fluffy office-attire and slip into cashmere power-slippers before I settle into my couch desk for the day. Oh, I’m still keeping busy -of course. I read and review garden and landscaping books. I write. I research. I draw and sketch out new design ideas. I edit photos. I begin to shift focus to my painting studio. And you know, it’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re comfortable. That said, I find it really hard to stay focused when my stomach starts to grumble. And, it seems this little conversation with my tummy always takes place in the late afternoon. So rather than argue, I give it some love. Which brings us, of course, to the Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Love in the Afternoon French Toast

Ingredients (serves two with an appetite, divide or multiply according to desire):

6             Slices of day-old, thick, French bread

3             Extra large eggs

1/2        Cup of cream

1/4        Cup of Vermont maple syrup

1             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

1             Teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1             Teaspoon vanilla

1            Teaspoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

A pinch of  Salt

Fresh zest of one ripe, golden Meyer lemon (Do you grow your own yet? Oh… you really must)

For Pan:

1/2           Stick of sweet butter

For Serving:

Real Vermont Maple Syrup to Taste (warmed)

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top

Sweet, Organic Meyer Lemon from VivaTerra’s Lemon Topiary

Directions:

If you’re making breakfast for a group, warm an oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit to hold batches of toast on a platter until you are ready to serve.

When I make French toast I mix the batter in a bowl with a fork and then pour it in a shallow dish (a pie plate or any shallow dish will do the trick). Add each slice of bread to the dish one at a time; dunking each slice in and swishing it around as you go, to absorb the batter. Allow the slices to sit in the dish while you warm a couple of tablespoons of butter in a good sized skillet. When the butter is melted, raise the heat up to medium and add the toast. Use a good sized skillet to hold at least three slices at a time.

Add the slices of bread to the skillet and fry each side until golden brown. As the toast is frying, I like to drizzle it with maple syrup and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on each slice. Be sure not to over-cook French toast. You want the bread moist and luscious on the inside, and golden-brown/lightly crispy on the outside.

Sprinkle each serving with confectioners’ sugar and serve with a pat of fresh butter and warm Vermont maple syrup.

Can you feel the love?

With proper care, Meyer lemon trees make wonderful houseplants. A lemon topiary is a beautiful & unusual holiday gift that keeps on giving. Here’s one good source: Organic Meyer Lemon Topiary from VivaTerra. Trees from this company are sent priority, in pretty clay pots. And if you hop to it, there’s still time to order before Christmas.

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Article and Photos (excepting links from VivaTerra) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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The Sweetness of Summer, Saved in a Jar: Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil…

October 5th, 2010 § 4

Sun Dried Tomatoes on the Terrace

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs in Olive Oil in My Pantry

Hillside in Autumn Rain…

Beautiful, misty mountain tops and grey, moody skies greeted me when I awoke this morning. It seems that the wet, unsettled weather has returned to New England this week, and I —for one— welcome it wholeheartedly. With such a dry summer and early autumn, the fields and forests need all of the rain we can get. But it’s more than that, really. I actually have a thing for fog and mist. Maybe that’s why I like New England. A bit of gloom can be rather appealing, I think. I lived in the San Francisco area for awhile, and I loved watching the damp fog move like a thick blanket across the landscape.

But what about the sunshine? Well, I suppose I must be one of those ‘absence make the heart grow fonder’ types. I find that when the sun goes into hiding —and then finally makes an appearance after three or four days of rain— I tend to appreciate it more. Ever notice how wonderful home feels, after you’ve been traveling for awhile? That is how I feel when the sun comes out after a stretch of overcast days. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the glowing, golden orb. Oh, quite the contrary. I do miss the warm sunlight on cold, cloudy afternoons. In fact, that’s when I usually end up cooking something with orange colored winter squash, bold, yellow bell peppers or better yet – red tomatoes! Oh my, sun dried tomatoes… Of course! Sun dried tomatoes are the perfect way to bring a bit of warmth and color to the table on a cloudy day!

Fresh Tomatoes From My Garden

Tomatoes Drying on a Screen in the Sun

During the long stretch of hot, sunny weather in August and September, I decided to make sun dried tomatoes the old-fashioned way: in the sun! If you live in a hot, dry climate, sun drying fruits and vegetables is easy. But if you live in the northern reaches of the world, regular periods of sunny weather are very unusual, and can be a bit hard to predict. I took full advantage of our unusual hot-spell to dry as many tomatoes as possible in the sun. But tomatoes can also be dried in other ways —in an oven, a dehydrator or even on shelves above a hot, wood stove— with excellent results.

The process is really quite simple. I made both my seeded and seedless sun dried tomatoes the Mediterranean way. Leaving the skins on, I cored and sliced the tomatoes in half lengthwise (I cut in quarters for thinner strips, and remove seeds from those strips, as shown above), sprinkled them with sea salt, sandwiched them between two screens and placed them out on my sunny terrace to dry (I brought the trays in each night to thwart critters). One week later: presto, sun dried, leathery goodness! I put all of the dried tomatoes up in ziplock storage bags and set them in the pantry to enjoy in pasta, on pizza and in appetizers. I also enjoy sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. To make them, I just put a handful in a canning jar, add herbs like dried basil and oregano, and fill the jar to the top with good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Then, I place them in the refrigerator to use as needed. You can add garlic too, but it’s important to always store these mixes in the refrigerator for safety, and use them within a week or so.

Sun Dried Tomatoes are Great Eaten As-Is, and They Add Intense Tomato-Flavor to Appetizers, Pasta, Pizza and Many Other Dishes…

If you would like to make sun dried tomatoes, but can’t get a break in the weather, try drying them in your oven instead. They taste just as good and the process is much faster (you can also buy or borrow a dehydrator). Preheat an oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit (approximately 93.33 celsius) and prepare the tomatoes as described above. Roma tomatoes do work well, but you can use any kind, including heirloom and cherry tomatoes. If you like, you can remove the seeds, or leave them in (I prepare them both ways, depending on how I am going to use the dried tomatoes). Spread the salted tomatoes out on wire-mesh racks if you have them (or on cookie sheets if you don’t). Be sure they aren’t touching. Roast them in the oven at 200 degrees fahrenheit (or around 93.33 celsius) for about 6 hours, maybe longer if the tomatoes are extra juicy (if the tomatoes are super wet, I usually remove most of the seeds and pulp and/or cut them into wedges). Check the tomatoes frequently toward the end of roasting time. The strips should be completely dry and leathery, but not crisp. Remove the tomatoes to cool, and then seal them in ziplock bags, or store them as described above in olive oil (be sure to refrigerate to prevent botulism).

This Small Plate of Sun Dried Tomatoes Represents Approximately 6 Large Roma Tomatoes After Drying for One Week in The Sun. The Pretty Plate is by California Artist, Aletha Soule.

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Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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A Garden of Bold Tastes and Colors: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Ruby Red Chard, Fresh Herbs and Vermont Cheddar…

September 12th, 2010 § 3

Golden Tomatoes, Stuffed with Chard and Cheddar, Oven-Roasted to Perfection

Every garden year is different, and in the northeast, 2010 couldn’t be more opposite from 2009. A summer ago, the weather was cold and wet, and I was rained out of more projects than I care to remember. By the end of last year’s growing season, I expected my toes to have webs. Cool, wet weather is perfect for growing crops like leeks and leafy greens, but 2009 wasn’t a great year for tomatoes – not at all. And what of 2010? Well, my goodness! Suddenly, the kitchen island is overflowing with a crop I usually consider quite precious. I honestly don’t know what to do with all of my tomatoes. I’m canning them —of course— and preserving them in other ways, and enjoying them daily at meals. I’ve been giving away baskets of the golden and ruby fruits to friends, and heck, I’m even handing out heirlooms to total strangers. The hot, dry conditions this year have been absolutely perfect for heat-loving plants —including the herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and squash of various kinds— and they are all doing remarkably well. But for me, late summer is all about the Queen of the Nightshades. Finally, I am enjoying a great tomato year!  And in order to continue enjoying my crop straight through early October (and beyond with hoop-houses) I water my tomatoes daily (at the root zone to avoid wetting the leaves and fruits), and pinch off late blossoms, which haven’t the time to mature before frost and only drain energy from the plant…

2010 Crop – One Day’s Harvest of Orange Blossom, Lemon Boy, Early Girl, Jet Star Tomatoes

Of course, some vegetable crops wilt in the heat, and other plants stop producing fruit altogether. Spinach —one of my favorite vegetables— is a cool-season crop, which bolts quickly and tastes bitter in high summer. I have begun —and will continue—  to sow spinach and other leafy greens for autumn harvests. But when conditions are hot and dry, many gardeners —myself included— consider chard to be the perfect spinach-substitute. I love chard, and I grow several varieties; including bright-lights, rainbow, old-fashioned red and the standard Swiss. Brilliant as stained-glass in the afternoon sunlight, chard is beautiful both in the garden and on the plate…

Rainbow Chard – The ‘Spinach’ of Summertime

Ruby Red Chard with Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes

When fresh tomatoes are plentiful —literally falling from their vines as they are this year— I enjoy them stuffed with herbs and vegetables; oven-roasted  and topped with melted cheese. Tomatoes can be filled with a wide variety of savory stuffings. But when the garden is producing such an amazing range of red, purple and chartreuse-veined, leafy vegetables, I am most inspired to fill them with color! Yesterday afternoon I took a break from my weekend chores and loaded my harvest basket with ruby red chard and golden tomatoes from the potager, and headed into the kitchen for an artistic lunchtime experiment. The recipe below can be made with or without the bread-stuffing base. If you opt to go with a lighter version, simply double the amount of steamed chard in place of the bread/egg/milk base. If you eat meat, you can add cooked chicken, beef or shellfish to the stuffing in addition to the vegetables and herbs. I think it’s fun to experiment by using different ingredients in each tomato. Kids love to carve out vegetables, and because the scooping is done with a spoon, this is a really fun and safe harvest-cooking project to share with them…

Stuffing the Tomatoes

Oven-Roasted Golden Tomatoes Stuffed with Ruby Red Chard and Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients: Serves 6 as a side-dish

6      Large Orange Blossom or other orange or yellow tomato

2      Cups of chopped, steamed Ruby or Rainbow Chard (leaves only), drained on paper towels

3      Cups day-old bread, crumbled into pieces and lightly toasted

3/4  Cup of milk

2      Eggs lightly beaten

5      Tablespoons Freshly Grated Reggiano Parmesan Cheese

1      Clove garlic chopped

2      Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine

1      Tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped fine

1      Cup Grafton Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2      Tablespoons artisan quality extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Select a shallow baking dish, large enough to hold 6 tomatoes. Wash the tomatoes and remove lower stems. Cut just the top off each tomato, as if you were carving a jack-o-lantern. Chop up the leftover top pieces and set the aside. With a spoon, carve out the inside of the tomato very gently, removing all of the seeds and pulp. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt and pepper and arrange in baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the lightly beaten eggs, milk and bread crumbs. Add the garlic, basil, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and parmesan cheese. Mix well. Finally, add the chopped tomato tops and the drained chard, lightly tossing together. (For lighter stuffed-tomatoes, or for vegans, simply skip the bread/egg/milk base, and combine the other ingredients to make your stuffing. If you are vegan, use an appropriate cheese-substitute). Divide the mixture evenly between the tomatoes and top each stuffed-shell with the grated cheddar. Lightly drizzle with olive oil to prevent burning. Place the stuffed tomatoes inside the oven and roast for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese topping is brown and bubbly. Be sure to watch the tomatoes carefully, it’s easy to burn them. Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

The Colors of Summer – Beautiful and Delicious…

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Savoring Summer: Harvesting and Drying The Garden’s Finest Herbal Treasures…

August 19th, 2010 § 4

Drying Herbs in the Stairwell

One of the great pleasures of living in New England is, of course, the seasons. The natural world operates on a distinct schedule here, and all life flows along with it at a steady pace. On these late August days, the song of the hermit thrush —an ever-present twilight melody enjoyed throughout summer— begins to fade as flocks of songbirds gather for migration before the full moon. And the sun, shifting position and setting earlier each day on the horizon, glimmers low and gold in the trees now. Although the noontime hours of late summer can be quite hot, and evenings are still spent bare-shouldered, it won’t be long before downy quilts and lavender-scented sweaters are pulled from closet shelves.

August is a month of preserving; of putting up and setting things by. Jars of jam and pickled produce form neat rows in the cupboards, and my freezer is packed wall-to-wall with summertime’s bounty. This is the time of year when my voluptuous herb garden literally spills from its neatly-edged confines. Borders? Fiddle-dee-dee, the mint seems to say, as it runs wildly wherever it may. But I never mind a bit of excess in the garden -it’s so nice to have plenty to spare. Mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender and lemon verbena; their scents perfume my fingers and fill the cellar stairwell with beautiful fragrance. …

Freshly-harvested basil – Tied with twine for drying…

Basil and Mint Bundles

With dry air and scant rain, August is a great month to begin harvesting and drying herbs for winter. In the coming months, I will be grateful for a hint of summertime’s pleasures in warm cups of tea and fragrant breakfast scones. Drying herbs is simple and economical; an easy way to trim your monthly grocery budget and add flavor to daily meals. Have a look at the price of dried, organic basil next time you visit a grocery store. If you need a bit of convincing before bundling up the harvest and making room in your rafters, that little bit of sticker-shock should do the trick.

I grow herbs in my potager amongst the vegetables, on my terrace in containers, and throughout the ornamental gardens as well. Once the morning dew has dried —usually by 10am— I head outside with harvest baskets to gather whatever tempts my eye. Some days, I focus on aromatic herbs for cooking; including basil, rosemary, thyme and mint. But I also keep other uses in mind; gathering lavender, bergamot and hyssop for scenting oils, soaps, and sachets. Dried bundles of artemisia, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and other herbs are also useful for wreaths, swags and dried flower arrangements. Once the cellar stairwell and loft are filled —mostly with herbs for teas and cooking— I string clothesline in my dry cellar to hang bunches of herbs, protecting them from dust with loose paper bag ‘hoods’…

Herbs in the Potager

Keep potted herbs attractive by frequently pruning. More than you need? Try drying bundles to use in recipes —including soup and salad dressing— throughout the winter…

Once I’ve collected herbs, I spread them out on the terrace and pick them over; stripping lower leaves and forming small bundles. I like to use natural twine to tie the herbs together, but I will use recycled rubber-bands as well; particularly for large bouquets of flowering herbs. Once bundled up, I hang the herbs in a dry, dark place. When they have completely dry-cured, I will strip the leaves from the stems and store the herbs in tightly sealed jars (clear is fine for closed cupboards – use dark glass if storing herbs in brightly-lit spaces). Although I try to harvest most culinary herbs before flowering —for best flavor— I do allow some herbs to blossom, in order to provide pollen for bees and other beneficial insects in my garden. Flowering herbs make great companion plants in the potager…

Bundles of herbs are picked over and thinned, then bound together with twine…

Harvesting Herbs in Late Morning, After the Dew Has Throughly Dried

Sorting and Bundling Herbs in My Kitchen

Some sage is left to flower in the potager. Other plants are kept tightly pruned through regular harvests…

Rosemary is a beautiful, as well as a useful herb. I like keeping aromatic herbs near my door, where I brush against them as I come and go. Here, I can quickly snip bits to flavor teas, salad dressings or garnish cocktails…

And as wonderful as dried herbs are in winter, there’s nothing quite like the flavor of fresh rosemary and basil —is there? I keep pots of herbs just outside my kitchen door all summer long, where I can easily access them if I need to add a sprig to a special sauce or evening cocktail. Come late autumn, I will bring the potted rosemary inside to my windowsill, and in late September, I will begin sowing flats of basil to grow indoors beneath lights.

Yes, I enjoy thinking ahead to the coming seasons, but I’ve never been much of a pleasure-delayer at heart. I believe that being prepared for the future should never detract from the importance of the present moment. From lemon-mint sun tea and caprese salad with fresh basil at lunchtime to ice-cold mojitos and herb-infused ice cream enjoyed by the light of the moon; savor the rich tastes and sweet smells of the season while you can…

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea (Click Here for Post and Recipe)

Mentha piperita (Peppermint flowering in the garden)

Cuban Mint Julep (aka the mojito) – Click here for recipe and story

Some great herb gardening resources to give as gifts, add to a wish-list or purchase for your own horticultural and culinary bookshelves…

Gardening with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead

The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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August Abundance: Notes from the Kitchen Garden…

August 12th, 2010 § 3

My Summertime Kitchen

Mid August is always a busy month in the kitchen garden. Abundant cucumbers, summer squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and onions must be harvested and put up —frozen, dried, pickled and/or canned— at the peak of freshness. Late summer chores in the potager include watering —especially during this extended dry spell we are experiencing in New England— weeding, monitoring and managing pests, succession sowing for short-season fall crops, and of course, daily harvests. Some of my stand-out crops this year include cippolini and sweet onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, romanesco broccoli, arugula, cucumbers, and finally —after last season’s meager crop and fears about late blight— gorgeous, fruitful tomatoes. Read more about the highlighted crops by clicking on each to return to a previous blog-post.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to make notes for next year; jotting down harvest dates, this season’s plant successes and failures, troublesome pests and current plant family locations to assist you with next year’s crop rotation. Carrots look stunted or forked? Maybe it’s a good time to raise your beds, giving them more root-room. Lush growth in your garden but little or no produce? It could be time to test your soil pH and fertility. Plants petering out? Sow some quick turn-around crops like lettuce, arugula, beets, peas and beans for a fall harvest. If you live in a cold climate, now may be a good time to begin constructing hoop-houses to protect your crops from frost and extend the growing season (see post on hoop house construction here). If you are making your own compost, be sure to turn it regularly, keeping content balanced with layers of fresh ‘green’ kitchen scraps and pulled garden plants, dry (such as straw and paper) and brown (mature compost).

And busy as we gardeners tend to be in August, I like to slow myself down by pulling out the camera and taking a close look at the beautiful colors, textures and shapes in my late summer potager. Here are some highlights from my morning garden walk and daily harvest…

Romanesco Broccoli in the Potager

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes Ripening in the Garden

The Beautiful Edibles – Nasturtium and Pansies in the Potager

Ripening Butternut Squash Along the Kitchen Garden Fence

Cippolini Onions at Harvest

Yellow Summer Squash and Haricots Verts

Red Hot Chili Peppers in August

Morning Glories Along the Potager Fence

Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes in August

Basically Beautiful – Orange Blossom and Basil Salad

Garlic Harvest – Hard Neck Music, Continental & Doc’s German Garlic Drying on the Terrace

Haricots Verts, Calendula, Tomatoes, Arugula, Nasturtiums and Alpine Strawberries Bask in the Late Summer Sun

Blanching and Freezing Haricots Verts from the Kitchen Garden

Shiitake Mushrooms Harvested from the Mushroom Garden in my Forest (See Tutorial Post Here)

Ruby Red Chard in the Potager

Summertime Herb Harvest – Rosemary, Thyme, Sage and Mint

An Armful of Fresh-Cut Flowers Makes for a Different Kind of Treat in the Jar

Late Summer Abundance in the Potager

Late Summer Chaos in My Kitchen (read about building this homemade kitchen island here)

Gourmet Potatoes, Chard, Cucumbers, and Nasturtiums in the Potager

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Some Like it Hot! Keep Things Cool & Enjoy Long, Slender Haricots Verts: Chilled Green Bean Salad with Feta…

July 16th, 2010 § 9

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela Medina

The Long, Hot Summer. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Some Like It Hot. I don’t know about you but I just love a sultry summer, and we are sure getting one this year in the Northeast. Summertime humidity… It makes your hair curl and your skin glow, and dapples your water glass with beads of condensation. I think it’s kinda sexy. Of course, not everyone agrees with me, and plenty of my friends are getting fed up with the heat.

So what do you do when you’re feeling wilted by the mid-day sun, dabbing away at your dewy brow and glistening collar bones? Well lately, my answer is to get daily chores out of the way early and to avoid a hot kitchen like the plague. When I have a little extra time, I like to prepare cool salads and sun tea (lemon-mint is my favorite) in the morning, so that I can enjoy a languid lunch in the hammock or a slow dinner on the terrace later. Chilled summer salads are particularly wonderful when it gets this hot. Cucumber, tomato, arugula, pea and pasta; why the combinations are almost limitless in high summer. But at the moment, my favorite just happens to be a cool salad of haricots verts and feta…

Haricots Verts – French Style, Slender Green Beans- Photo ⓒ  2010 Michaela at TGE

Haricots verts —or French-style filet beans— are slender, beautifully green and very flavorful. All beans should be picked frequently in mid-summer —daily when hot— to insure a steady crop. Unpicked beans will stop producing if allowed to go to seed. When the mercury rises, I think it’s best to pick beans very early in the morning, to enjoy later in the day. Summer savory, which is believed to improve the growth of bush beans and deter beetles, is a fantastic companion plant for haricots verts. Soil enriched with well rotted compost and regular foliar feeding (applying liquid fertilizer to leaves in a spray or shower) with Neptune’s Harvest or fish emulsion will help to provide a beautiful, tasty crop. Always wash beans thoroughly when harvesting, especially after applying fish emulsion or any fertilizer. I like to freeze bags of haricots verts to enjoy in wintertime, but I also love them steamed, sauteed, served in soup —and of course— in chilled salads…

Freshly Harvested Basket of Haricots Verts in my Garden – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta


Ingredients – Serves 6:

1           Pound of freshly haricots verts (filet beans) end stems trimmed

1           Large red onion chopped coarsely

1           Clove garlic minced

5           Tbs fresh chopped cilantro (more or less to taste)

2           Tsp fresh chopped oregano

4           Red or pink radishes sliced thin (other colors may be used, the red is a nice contrast)

1           Pint sungold or other cherry tomatoes cut into quarters or 2 heirloom yellow and/or red tomatoes cut into small wedges

6          Ounces freshly crumbled feta

4          Tbs fruity red wine vinegar or raspberry/red wine vinegar

6          Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Pour an inch or two of water into a pot with steamer. Bring the water to a boil. Place beans in a steamer (or colander) above the boiling water. Cover and steam for approximately 7 minutes. Check frequently and remove from the heat when just tender (the texture of fresh beans is ruined when overcooked). Rinse the beans in cool water and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar.

Transfer the beans into a large bowl.  Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, radishes and crumbled feta. Add in fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste.  Add the vinegar and oil and toss.  Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

For a a pretty, colorful presentation, arrange the salad on a large platter and top with red and orange tomatoes and a bit of cilantro. You can also simply toss everything together and serve on individual plates or bowls.

[print_link]

French-style filet beans, or haricots verts, as they are commonly known – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Of course, when it comes to loving summer, a little, steamy, celluloid-inspiration can’t hurt…

The Long, Hot Summer

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Some Like It Hot

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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The Art of French Vegetable Gardening in Honor of La Fête Nationale…

July 14th, 2010 § 5

A Country-Casual Potager from The Art of French Vegetable Gardening by Louisa Jones with photographs by Gilles Le Scanff & Joelle Caroline Mayer

A Formal French Garden of Culinary Herbs, Fruits and Vegetables featured in The Art of French Vegetable Gardening (image ⓒ Gilles Le Scanff & Joelle Caroline Mayer)

In remembering La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day), my attention has turned to the French and their spectacularly stylish potagers. Louisa Jones’ The Art of French Vegetable Gardening, with extraordinary photographs by Gilles Le Scanff & Joelle Caroline Mayer, was given to me as a gift nearly ten years ago. Although it is currently out-of-print, to this day it remains one of the most inspirational books on kitchen garden design that I have ever seen. The French have an instinctive way with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, designing beautiful, edible gardens that are so much more than practical. When planning my own kitchen garden, my goal was to create a welcoming place, where I would eagerly stroll on a hot summer day. By luring frequent visits, a garden is likely to remain well-tended, with weeding and watering chores becoming part of the daily routine. If you can find a copy of Jones’ book, I highly recommend it.

Companion planting with edible flowers and herbs is a great way to make the kitchen garden attractive both to beneficial insects and human visitors alike. Add a bench or a table to encourage prolonged visits or impromptu meals in the potager. Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead’s stunning Gardening with Herbs is another favorite title, absolutely bursting with European edible-garden style. One of my favorite images from the book, the thyme seat shown below, is but one of the book’s many great ideas for luring guests to the potager. Great kitchen garden design need not be expensive, but it does take a bit of creative thinking and resourcefulness. Keep on the look-out for recyclable furniture and containers to repurpose, or if you are particularly ambitious and crafty, visit Ana White’s Knock-Off Wood for some fantastic outdoor furniture plans and get to work building your own raised beds, planters and benches. I find my kitchen garden always performs best and is enjoyed to it’s fullest potential, when I am spending a great deal of time there. A beautifully designed space makes that easy to do…

A Pretty Destination Makes Everyday Gardening Chores a Pleasure. Inspiration from The Art of French Vegetable Gardening

Inspirational Places Lure Visitors into the Garden with a Place to Rest and Enjoy a Drink or an Alfresco Meal…

Fruit Trees, Arbors and Aromatic, Clipped Hedges Lend Structure to French Kitchen Gardens, While Ever Changing Arrangements of Pretty Pots and Herbs add Artful Accents. Images above ⓒ Le Scanff & Mayer from Louisa Jone’s beautiful, The Art of French Vegetable Gardening

An Aromatic Thyme Seat – Design Featured in Gardening with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead

***

The Art of French Vegetable Gardening by Louisa Jones
-out of print but available used-

Gardening with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead

The Nasturtium Seat in My Potager ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Article and photographs of Ferncliff © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All other photography excerpts included in review are copyright as noted and linked below the images.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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It’s Time for the Great Scape: Harvesting And Enjoying Flavorful Garlic Greens…

June 24th, 2010 § 3

Scapes forming on hard neck garlic in my potager…

Curious looking things aren’t they, the garlic scapes? In fact, whenever I look at them, I can’t help but think of ET. You do remember ET, don’t you? The friendly little alien flying around on a bicycle, trying to phone home? Of course you do. I loved that movie when I was a kid. And, who could forget such a beautiful-homely little creature? Well I think garlic scapes are a bit like ET. They are freakish, but you can’t help loving them. Look closely. Do you see a scrawny, curled little finger in there? OK, so maybe my way of looking at things is a bit odd, but I figure if you are reading this blog on a regular basis, you are getting used to it. You don’t really mind, do you?

Garlic Scape Harvest in June…

ET Phone Home...

Elliot… ?

Alright, back to the scapes. Last fall, I wrote a fairly lengthy article on how to grow garlic. And shortly after I published it, my friend John emailed, curious about why I didn’t mention garlic scapes. Well, there were two good reasons actually. Garlic scapes are a gourmet delight; found at Farmer’s Markets and specialty grocers, usually during the month of June. First of all, I wanted to wait until scapes were actually in season, so I could include a recipe for garlic scape pesto, (which I tried last summer and loved). And the second reason had to do with a matter of horticultural opinion.  As hard neck garlic, (Allium sativum) matures, it produces a straight green stalk which then forms a loop or two at the top. This loopity loop -which reminds me of ET’s finger- is the budding garlic flower; more commonly called a ‘scape’. That knobby spot is where a bulbis will form if left on the plant. Some growers remove the bulbis and sell the scapes at market. In theory, the plant’s energy is redirected toward underground bulb production. Other growers prefer to leave the bulbis intact until autumn harvest, later drying and propagating garlic from the bulbis’ themselves. I decided an experiment was called for on this one…

I enjoy eating garlic scapes. So, I usually harvest them in June. But last year I left a group standing, as a little horti-science project. I know – geek. And interestingly, I noted no difference in bulb size between the plants with bulbis left standing, and the garlic with scapes cut in June. So, there you have it, my little scientific report on garlic scapes. Others may have differing results, and I am interested to hear about their experiments. But for now, I will feel completely guiltless eating all the scapes my heart desires. And now that we are finally on the subject of eating them, I must say that one of my favorite ways to enjoy garlic scapes is in a pesto sauce. I tried several recipes last summer, and my favorite is actually a hybrid between one I found on Adam Roberts’ Amateur Gourmet and another referenced on Adam’s blog from Dorie Greenspan. I actually like the pesto with almonds, as Dorie prepares it, but I rarely have them in my house. Pine nuts are always in my cupboard, and I use them frequently in all kinds of pesto.

Garlic scapes are cut off just below the first or second set of leaves, and once harvested, can be prepared many ways. In addition to serving them in pesto, as pictured here, I also enjoy them blanched, roasted or sauteed with a bit of olive oil. If you’ve never had them… do seek these curious curlicues out at the farmer’s market. The scape season passes quickly, and it’s important to harvest them just as they form their loop-di-loops, or they become tough and bitter. Of course, if you grow your own garlic, (see super easy instructions here), then you will have a ready supply every June to enjoy in season, or freeze for later…

Garlic Scape Pesto Rotini – With a Garnish of Calendula Blossoms ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Garlic Scape Pesto

(From the collective wisdom of Dorie Greenspan and Adam of Amateur Gourmet)

Ingredients (makes 2 cups +/- of pesto):

12 Garlic Scapes, chopped fine in food processor

1/2 cup grated parmesean

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Rotini or spaghetti or other pasta, cooked al dente and rinsed

Directions:

Put washed scapes, cheese, pine nuts, salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a food processor  with a metal blade. Blend the ingredients and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust cheese and salt to suit your preferences. If you want a very smooth pesto, blend until creamy. If you are looking for a more rustic paste, then remove from the processor when just blended.

Use immediately as an appetizer, such as a spread on warm bread, a topping or layer on pizza or lasagna, or my favorite way: mixed with rotini pasta and chilled for lunch. If you aren’t using the pesto right away, place it in an airtight container, covering the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to protect the beautiful color from oxidization. Garlic scape pesto can be refrigerated for a few days, or you can freeze it for 2 – 3 months and use it later in the summer…

Garlic Scape Pesto – The Color of Summer!

Mmm…

Curly, twirly garlic scape – a beautiful freak of nature…

ET The Extra Terrestrial on DVD


Article and Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Strawberry Shortcake Facial – A (Mostly-True) Country Girl Story, Where Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest Meet Fruit Mush. Plus, a Really Great Recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. I Swear…

June 12th, 2010 § 6

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Butter Biscuits…

I grew up in a strawberry patch. Yes, I mean that literally. My family grew and sold organic berries, and when I was a kid, my sister and I spent many hours in the strawberry fields picking and tending the crops. Once you’re a grownup, this sounds pretty idyllic. However for a couple of kids, it’s kind of boring to pick berries for hours and hours on a beautiful summer day. You have to use your imagination to break up the monotony. And since my sister and I were always pretty inventive, we found plenty of creative ways to entertain ourselves…

If you’ve ever grown strawberries -or spent time picking them on hazy summer days- you know that there is a point in late June when the berries ripen so quickly, that you can’t keep up with the harvest. Add humid weather -which we often get in New England- and a few days of steady rain, and soon all of the over-ripe berries start rotting right on the plants. My dad instructed us to pick off these mushy, often slimy berries, to protect the rest of the crops from mold. And sometimes, after a particularly wet week, we would have as many throw-away berries as market-worthy fruits. Usually we would fling these slimy rejects as far away as we could; aiming for distant trees, clanging tin pie plates, wooden stakes or the odd scarecrow. Sometimes, we would collect the mushy berries and pile them on rocks for hungry chipmunks, or toss them into the meadow for birds. But then we got another idea…

This was the 1980’s and, as country kids, we were pretty fascinated with the glam city-culture beyond our reach.  T.V. Shows like Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, mostly airing past our bedtime -though our mom was pretty lenient about those kinds of things- were populated with sexy characters who sauntered around in puffy-shoulder pads, silky robes and high heeled mules. Talk about another world. Things like sports cars, cocktail parties, private jets, exotic spas, pedicures and facials were a big part of those fictitious women’s lives. In fact, much of their scheming seemed to take place during conversations on their boudoir telephones, while (unbeknownst to their male love-interests) goopy masks of one sort or another were smeared upon their pouty pusses. At the time, our mom was also into beauty treatments, though her’s didn’t come in Borghese or Chanel jars like those we saw on Alexis Carrington’s dresser. My mother of course made her own facial concoctions from what we thought to be truly gross ingredients; mostly things you would eat -but usually not in combination- like yogurt, eggs, cucumbers and lemon juice. Definitely NOT glam. But somehow, we must have been influenced…

I’m not really sure of how it all started. Maybe it was our mom’s idea, or maybe it was something we came up with. Maybe it was an accident, and maybe it was on purpose. Anyway, one hot afternoon, certainly following some drama, a handful of smashed berries ended up on someone’s face. And then another handful… And another… And another… Until our faces were completely covered in mushy strawberry goo. Of course this reduced us to gut-splitting giggles, and we thought it was all pretty hysterical -and outrageous – but somehow we decided it was also very, very glam. This ‘spa treatment’ came to be known as the ‘strawberry shortcake facial’, and it was all the rage that summer in the field. Yes, I know we weren’t the first -and definitely won’t be the last- kids to smear strawberry mush on our faces… But it sure is a sweet summer memory…

Strawberries are still my favorite fruit, and although my berry patch is quite small when compared to the one I grew up with, I do grow several different varieties in my garden. This year the early-bearing crops are fruiting a bit ahead of schedule, and even the alpine strawberries are beginning to turn red. Strawberries are easy to grow, and I will be posting more on the subject soon. But if you are just starting a patch for yourself, you may want to skip ahead and check out the post “Strawberry (and Blueberry and Raspberry and Kiwi) Fields Forever” I wrote for B&N’s Garden Variety earlier this week, featuring a review of Barbara Bowling’s great guide to raising small fruit, The Berry Growers Companion.

As soon as they are ripe, the first thing I always make with my fresh strawberries is shortcake. To me, this treat signals the unofficial start of summer. And to this day, whenever I pluck ruby ripe berries in the field, and slice them to make strawberry shortcake -my favorite summertime dessert- I think of my sister and our glamorous fresh-fruit facials. And you want to know a secret? Sometimes, when I am by myself, I still sneak a bit of the strawberry shortcake mash on my face as a special ‘treatment’. Truth be told, on rainy days, I might even do it while scheming on the phone. Hey, it’s like I always say: who says a gardener can’t be glamorous… ?

Freshly Washed Strawberries from the Garden…

Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4           Cups washed and sliced strawberries – plus extra for garnish

1           Tbs sugar, (adjust to tartness of berries)

1           Pint whipping cream

1/2       Tsp vanilla

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Biscuits

2            Cups flour

2 1/2     Tsp baking powder

1            Tsp salt

6            Tbs unsalted, chilled butter, plus extra for serving

3/4         Cup whole milk (plus extra for brushing biscuits)

Directions:

In order to get a juicy bowl of shortcake, you need to start at least an hour ahead. I don’t hull freshly picked berries, but if you prefer to do this, hull right before you slice them, or they will dry out. Wash and pick over the berries, and slice them, (not too thin… gross), into a bowl. Mash about 1/3-1/2 of them, but don’t turn the whole bowl into mush, (again, gross). Add sugar, tasting as you go, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can whip the cream and vanilla ahead of time too, if you like, and refrigerate. Some people prefer sugar in their whipped cream. I like mine unsweetened in this instance, to create a contrast between the tart/sweet berries and the vanilla-tinted cream.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together well. Cut the butter into thin slices, (about 10), and mix into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender. Work the dough until it’s crumbly and resembles cornmeal. Add the milk and quickly mix it together, blending well. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it just a bit.

Roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick and cut into 3 inch round discs with a cookie cutter or pastry form. You should end up with about 8 biscuits. Place the biscuits on an unbuttered cookie sheet and brush with milk.

Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove promptly. Split hot biscuits in half and place them in bowls. Spread with fresh butter. Once the butter has melted, add a generous amount of berries and whipped cream to one biscuit, then top with the other biscuit, and repeat. Garnish with fresh mint and a whole berry, and serve warm.

Dallas on DVD !!!

Dynasty on DVD !!!

Article and almost all photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Photos of Messy Michaela by an Anonymous Accomplice

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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A Coffee Break with Kick! Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream Corn Bread with Onions, Cheddar and Optional Hot Peppers…

April 12th, 2010 § 9

Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream and Cheddar Corn Bread with Onions – Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oochie, Owie, Yowie. Those are my  biceps, triceps and trapezoids speaking. They have been getting quite the workout. Gardening can be physically intense, and I work up a serious appetite raking, dragging debris and edging my client’s gardens. I also have very little free time to cook these days, (this post should have gone up yesterday, but I ran into a bit of a sanfu entering information into TurboTax on Sunday, and well, Uncle Sam must come first). On the weekends, when I’m not working, I try to make a few hearty things in the kitchen to carry me through the week.

I am a big fan of all Southern cooking -OK, who isn’t?- and I am especially fond of Lee Bailey’s country-style recipes. Cornbread has always been one of my favorite comfort foods, but although I think it’s fabulous drizzled with honey, I don’t like for the bread itself to be sweet! I prefer to to taste the flavor of real corn -very forward in this recipe- and I am picky about a moist, springy texture. One of the things that makes cornbread special is its versatility. Sure, you can make it plain and simple -without the onions or peppers I mention here- but you can also really jazz it up with fresh things from the garden. Depending upon my main course, I might add chives, sweet onions, garlic, sweet or hot peppers, and just about anything else that strikes my fancy. Sweet onions -such a rewarding crop to grow- are one of my favorite additions. It will be sometime before I have ripe, hot peppers in my garden, but they also add a special kick to this recipe – especially if you are cooking Cajun or Tex-Mex. I will be talking more about gourmet peppers, and other potager-delights in the coming weeks.

The recipe below is taken from Lee Bailey’s Country Weekends. If the gorgeous photographs of al-fresco meals in various outdoor settings don’t inspire you, the recipes and menus surely will. Although Lee’s beautiful book has gone out of print, I believe it can still be found online, both new and used. I received my copy as graduation/first-housewarming gift in the 90’s, (from a fabulous foodie-friend), and I still think it’s a wonderful book worth seeking out.

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Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream Corn Bread with Onions and Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients:

2/3 c       Safflower oil

2             Eggs, gently beaten

8oz         Greek style Sour Cream (low fat is OK, full fat is heaven)

16oz       Creamed corn, (homemade is best, but canned will work)

1 1/2 c    Yellow cornmeal

2tsp        Baking powder

1tsp         Salt

1c            Extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1              Medium size sweet onion, grated

2              Finely chopped hot peppers, such as jalapeños, (optional, and awesome)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8 or 9″ pan. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, sour cream and creamed corn. Mix the grated onion, (and optional jalapeno), into the wet ingredients. Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The batter will be a little lumpy and clumpy – that is good. Pour half the batter into the pan and sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top. Then pour in the remaining batter. Top with the leftover 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake 45 minutes and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. This is best served hot, and don’t refrigerate it or it will ruin the texture…

And Hooo Wee. Try it with hot peppers, such as Jalapeños or Heirloom Hungarians, for an incredible kick !

Last year’s hot peppers, (including heirloom Hungarians), on my terrace in August

2009 Onion Harvest

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Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Functional Art, Inspired by Nature: Many Thanks to Talented Ana White and Knock-Off Wood…

March 3rd, 2010 § 32

My new, home-built, farmhouse style work island, in my very own kitchen, (before finish oil)

Want to know a secret? I stash glossy magazines under my bed. And sometimes, late at night, I pull them out and let my fantasies run wild. Do you do it too? You know the ones I mean. The naughty catalogues taunting and teasing you as they spill out of the mailbox: Restoration Hardware; Pottery Barn; West Elm; and the incongruously named Design Within Reach, (not within my wallet’s reach, friends). The tables, bookshelves, lawn and patio furniture whisper like Greek Sirens from the Rocks of Financial Ruin: “Oh look at me, look at me – aren’t I pretty ?”. You want them. You need them. They make you ache inside. Then, you take a peek inside your checkbook and you know you can’t have them – four thousand dollars has three zeros Michaela, not two. Those beautiful designs are not within reach – or so you think, (well, so I thought, anyway). Then I stumbled upon Ana White, and her brilliant blog, Knock-Off Wood. Suddenly, I found myself shallow-breathing. OH MY GOD, I can make these things myself?  Where have you been all my life Ana White?

But I am getting ahead of myself. What does this have to do with The Gardener’s Eden, right? Time for some back-story. So, it’s winter. Yes, (go ahead, roll your eyes), you know that. And if you read this blog regularly, you also know that I really like to make and do things. This urge to create is long-standing. First I tried to build a fort from a dishwasher crate when I was a kid, (sad, but true). Then I moved on to a tree house, (dismal failure). You see, my dad is an amazing gardener, but he’s never been much of a carpenter. And my mom is great with sewing and knitting, but I am not so sure she is familiar with a jig-saw. So, along the way to adulthood, I found myself picking up a little bit of this and a little bit of that in high school wood-shop class and from handy boyfriends. Gradually, I learned a few basic carpentry skills, and eventually I picked up some power tools and a passion for homemade things. I assisted with building various structures, from raised vegetable bed planters to rose trellises and even a garden shed. I was hooked. Then, my crafty compulsion blossomed into full-blown, do-it-yourself mania when I bought a piece of land, and designed and built my own studio/home. As the general contractor on my building project, I learned a great deal about how things work. And, I was fortunate to find a team of carpenters willing to let me work along side them, (thanks guys)!

Yes. I have had a bit of experience building things; big things even. But until last week there was one thing I’d never tried to do: design and build a piece of furniture. And boy do I really, really need furniture. Fortunately, I regularly read, (and adore), a blog called Young House Love. A few months back, authors John and Sherry featured a do-it-yourself furniture making site called Knock-Off Wood, written by the generous and talented Ana White. A stay-at-home mom and homemaking Alaskan, Ana describes herself as “obsessed with furniture”. And lucky for her readers, she definitely is! Yes, take one look and you are sure to notice that Ana is beautiful, but she’s a lot more than meets the eye. Ana is smart as a whip, (I think she’s a complete math whiz), and she is also one talented carpenter and furniture designer. Plus, her blog is ultra-approachable, tons of fun and easy to use. But here is the best part of her blog: she posts self-created building plans for some of the most coveted, name-brand furniture items… for free. The woman has single-handedly restored my faith in humankind. You must visit her site, even if it’s just to dream. Ana considers our moral support, (spread the word), our thank you –  and it’s also her motivation.

So now, this brings us back to my kitchen island, and to last week’s three-foot snow storm. Take another look at that farmhouse-style kitchen island at the top of this post. That island, (minus the two very handy drawers and added middle shelf), retails for nearly $3,000 from a certain catalogue company. Want to know what it cost me to build, (using sustainably grown and harvested douglas fir)? Just $165. Yes, you read that right. One hundred and sixty five dollars. That’s less than the cost of shipping and handling, and/or tax on the original, RH-inspired item. Ana posted two designs on her blog, and I fused them into one. The dimensions and basic building plan was taken from Ana’s W.S. inspired kitchen island design and the salvage-style and construction details were taken from Ana’s R.H. inspired farmhouse table. This island took two days and two sets of hands to build, (thank you Billy!). Warning: it’s not a beginner project. But plenty of the beautiful furniture plans on her site are suitable for beginners. Ana has created a “bragging board” and “suggestion board” on her blog and on her Flickr® site, (this island, and many other reader-built projects are featured there), where you can find and/or upload home-built examples of her plans.

So, just to bring this full circle –  Ana has really inspired me to get on some garden-related building projects to help The Gardener’s Eden’s readers. Some of you will remember that late last summer I posted plans for home-built hoop-house cold frames. Basic carpentry skills and building projects can really open up your gardening options, (think vertical, retaining, etc.). So what’s up next? Well, hopefully there will be project plans for trellises, planter boxes, raised beds, potting benches, outdoor furniture and more. Yes, I have some big ideas. And if Ana posts anything for use in the great outdoors, you bet I will link it here for you, because The Gardener’s Eden is a huge fan of Knock-Off Wood.

Thank you Ana White of Knock-Off Wood !

Knock Off Wood

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Article and Photographs © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy this blog? You can help support The Gardener’s Eden, at no additional cost to you, by shopping through the affiliated links on this site. A small percentage of every sale will go toward the maintenance of The Gardener’s Eden page. Thank you!

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