Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When to Harvest


Just when I was about to give up hope on my eggplants I found this.

As we shift from planting/mulching to harvesting/tending the question of when to harvest comes up a lot. It was nice to find this link that gives simple tips on how to tell when a variety of foods are ready for harvest:
http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/when-to-harvest

Something else that made me smile:
I've planted quite a few of these around my gardens over the years never to get one to bloom or come back the following year. Until now. First beautiful bloom of cardinal flower. Lovely.

I tried to take photos of the bee filled sunflowers but with a breeze it was hard to do. So I'll post one I took the other day at our school garden. I just think it's the prettiest picture.

May your harvests be plenty and delicious,
Mary

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's For Dinner?


As I was working in our school pumpkin patch today with a friend I got a text from my husband wondering what I wanted for dinner. He was planning on BBQing pork chops that we had gotten from a local farm. Years ago I gave up eating meat. As my children got older they really wanted meat on the dinner menu. So we began to eat it again. Then I watched a movie. I don't remember the title exactly, maybe Food Inc or something like that. It ended, or at least I stopped watching, at the most inhumane death scene of a cow. That was the first time I had heard of factory farming and saw the slaughter houses that follow. I know this may sound silly but I cried like a baby as I watched that. I couldn't believe we, in this country, could, would, treat another living thing like that. So I began researching factory farming and that was when I stopped eating meat again. It took a while to get my family to stop purchasing meat that lived a life of absolute torture but it happened when local meat became available. The local foods movement has made local, grass fed, humanely raised and butchered meat available again. So our family made the switch. At first my husband said how expensive it was. Then we began to raise hens for eggs. We became acutely aware that the local meat wasn't in fact expensive. The problem was the grocery store meat was cheap. And the only way to get such cheap meat was to raise the animals it comes from in cramped quarters eating extremely unhealthy food. The local meat is in fact the true price of meat. Believe it or not this story does lead to, "What's for dinner?"

So I thought about what I wanted for dinner. I didn't have a clue. When I got home I went out into the garden to see if there was something for dinner. I knew there were still lots of greens. But I wanted more than sautéed greens over rice. A basket of greens and the contents of the above basket is what I came in with. Dinner. Isn't it great to walk out back and go grocery shopping!

May your garden baskets be full! Bon Appetit!
Mary

Monday, July 21, 2014

Herb Butter

My family loves to use herb butter in place of butter for some cooking and eating. A favorite is for radish sandwiches. Simply butter rye bread with herb butter and pile on thick slices of radishes to form a sandwich.
We also like herb butter on toast, when frying eggs, and to use when making grilled cheese sandwiches.

It's so simple to do:
Gather a nice sized bunch of culinary herbs. I use what is on hand. A favorite combination includes french tarragon, common sage, rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, lavender, parsley, lemon balm, garlic chives, and chives. But you can use whatever herbs you enjoy.

Remove unwanted debris including stems

Chop fine

Mix with room temperature butter. Real butter. Made from local, grass fed animals is best.

Enjoy!
Mary

Bee Swell - Free Bee Poster


We need bees to pollinate the food plants we grow. Without pollinators we lose a lot of food choice. Did you know that 53% of plants sold at major retailers tested positive for bee-killing neonicotinoids? Ask before you buy! Learn more and download a beautiful bee poster for free! Another reason to buy plants from small, local greenhouses and farms.

http://beeswell.org/posters/

Sunday, July 20, 2014

First Thinning of Carrots


We wait for and enjoy the first carrots of the season. I postpone my thinning so that first thinning can be eaten. While I like to harvest carrots after a good frost (because I think they taste sweeter), these first carrots are so good. They are warm like the earth and mild, delicious.

One easy way to eat carrots is the classic carrot salad. I admit I like the simple, traditional grated carrots, raisins, and a dash of mayo with some allspice and sugar added for flavor. But I love David Lebovitz's recipes so here's his not so classic French carrot salad:
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/07/carottes-rapee/
If you are like my daughter you just park yourself in the carrot patch, pull and eat. That's how she likes her carrots. And no matter where she lives, she calls or texts me about this time each year to ask if the carrots are ready. I tell her they are and there is a bowl of water next to them waiting for her. She always tells me she'll skip the water.

So it's that time of year. Whether you like them cooked, raw, grated, mixed with other ingredients, or plain and soil coated right from the garden; I hope you enjoy your carrots!
Mary

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Probiotics for your Plants? It's the Fungus Among Us


Fungal mycorrhizae, the life force behind a healthy garden. In a previous post I was trying to capture the role soil plays in a healthy garden and found myself rambling about compost and worms which are very important but I couldn't quite capture the intricate and wonderful world of the soil. The mycorrhizae, or fungus roots (really hairs not roots) called hyphae or mycelium, are what has a fantastic relationship with the roots of your plants. That relationship is called a symbiotic relationship. A give and take. Some of the sugars the plant roots obtain via photosynthesis get transferred to the mycelium of the fungus and in return the mycelium of the fungus transfer hard to obtain nutrients to the plant roots. Perfect! This symbiotic relationship was the much needed missing piece. Below is a link to an article that does a fabulous job explaining this and is so worth the read. When you get a chance, go out into your garden and do some digging and look for mycorrhizae in your garden soil. And if you can get a hand lens use that to look at these lovely hair structures hiding in your soil a bit more closely and enjoy!
On a little side note I must say that I love how the article starts with the invention of the microscope. Always a wonderful science story.

Article link here: (you'll have to copy and past; sorry the live link option isn't working) http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/mycorrhizal-fungi-zm0z14aszkin.aspx#axzz37xFxH0hA

May your mycorrhizae be there and be strong!
Mary

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Garden Helpers


We all need a little help from our friends and our gardens are no different. Here are a few things I have that help with making the garden a better place. Those of you who know Bill and Rachel of Zone 4 Perennials recognize this turtle garden mascot. Very cute little fellow and he does a great job watching over the garden.

So important are the bees

A leaf cutter bee box to attract leaf cutter wild bees

Now for friends of the soil we have compost builders such as the girls.
And for great compost, their bedding

And then there is vermiculture aka the worms and their worm castings

Compost tea

Yes we get by with a little help from our friends and I hope you and your garden do too,
Mary