Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

With the end of the '09' gardening year, I thought a quick look back might be fun. Enjoy and hope you come along for the 2010 events.
Happy Gardening

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Snow Covered Garden

We had over 15 inches of snow in the garden after a recent storm.
The entire 2009 apple crop is eaten.
The Chicago Fig gave us a one last delicious fruit
Blanched cardoon ready for baking
The 'au gratin' is oven ready
Bring on the forks!!!

Our recent huge snowstorm dropped at least 15 inches, by my measurements, and really covered the garden. I had to remove the snow from the hoop house as I was afraid the structure would collapse. This deep snow cover will make the harvest of the parsnips on January 1st easier as the ground should not have frozen too hard. However, digging on that day will tell. The storm caught me off guard with my cardoon harvest. Unfortunately like most big storms very cold weather followed so by the time I got to the cardoons they were a "bit" frozen. But I dug them out, cut them, and cooked them. They seemed to clean easier as you need to remove the strings in the stems and cut off the leafy parts. I had tied them up in September or October to help blanch the inside stems and for the most part that did work. I cleaned the stems, peeled them, and blanched them in lemon water for maybe a total of 15 to 20 minutes or so. The chopped cardoon stems were used to make "au gratin" with bread crumbs, garlic, cheese (Romano) onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I layered the cardoons between the bread crumbs and cheese and finished off the top with cheese. Baked the dish covered in a 350 degree oven for maybe 45 to 60 minutes or until I could see that the dish was bubbling and then uncovered the pan to allow for browning. We really like cardoon cooked this way. You can Net search similar recipes for this attractive, delicious and somewhat old time American vegetable that more of you should grow.
The entire apple crop has been consumed. The last batch of apple sauce is in the refrigerator and I will miss this good stuff for cereal and snacking. I will just have to grow more apples next season. The fig tree gave us one last fruit this week and we savored each morsel. Now I have to decide to if I want to keep the tree in the house or make the tree go dormant into the garage. I hate to fight spider mites all winter but would really hate to lose the tree if it should not survive in the garage.
I am experimenting with sunflower seed sprouts for salads this week and have found a few good sites on the web. Just Google "sprouting" or "sprouting sunflowers" and some nice sites come up. Hope to find enough time to make the last entry for the year a colorful one.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December Salad

On the December 1st I harvested the pictured lettuce from the garden. This was not a cold frame crop but out in the main garden - unprotected. The plants were transplanted in the early fall and did well in this warm fall, even with a few light frosts. However, since then we have had cold freezing weather enough to make digging carrots hard and putting an end to most plants. The little white zinnia pictured I can call the last flower of this season even as ragged as it looks the plant was still blooming the first of December. Now with the ground frozen, winter has officially arrived and the garden is down to its last crop - the parsnips that are waiting for the last day of this month for a harvest. Hopefully we will get some insulating snow so that I will be able to dig one on December 31st, 2009 and follow our tradition here in the garden.

Only a few more catalogs have arrived so I don't have enough to really start to plan for next year's garden but as soon as I get them all, I will start. When we had our garden salad this week, we had some store bought sunflower sprouts. I usually have a jar of sprouts going most of the winter but I want to try the sunflowers and as I do the sprout research if I find some good info I will pass that on.

We hope for few more postings this year and look forward to the last one this month as I would like to do a "looking back in pictures" kind of post.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Still Warm Weather

A November Queen Elizabeth
Sesame flowers
Sesame seed pods
The ripe open seed pods

I shake the dry pods and their seed into a bin
The sifted seed almost clean and ready to use in bread
The NoKnead bread recipe is back in the August 24th blog entry
The Chicago fig tree gave us three ripe figs this week - they were great
The Meadow Vole trap parts

The finished trap ready to be baited
The lard in jars cooling down and soon to be used

This month has been unseasonably warm. Today the temperature here at the garden was a sunny 54 degrees. No wonder I still have the Queen Elizabeth rose trying to bloom and out and about I have seen a Shasta Daisy and Easter Lily blooming in a yard! Too bad I harvested all the apples off the trees a month ago - they would have been much better tree ripened than cooler ripened.

The sesame crop for this year was small but the included pictures show the harvest and the half cup of seed for bread that this year's crop provided. The great NoKnead bread recipe is back in August. The sesame seeds will be used in the loaves Susan will make for Thanksgiving. Next year I am going to try for a full cup of harvest so that will mean a big row of sesame in the garden instead of a 6 ft. row next to the house. I planted the crop there because that spot was warm enough for this long season crop, but maybe with another warm fall, I can get a bigger crop in the garden.

I have included pictures of the PVC Vole trap in this issue because meadow voles are such a terribly destructive pest in the yard and garden. I make these traps from 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. I usually buy a half length, 4 feet, and can make two traps from that amount. The pictures show two 8 inch pieces for the sides and one 4 to 6 inch piece for the center fill tube. If you want to use the trap in the garden buy some end caps for the center tube so you can place that part of the trap vertically and fill it in the winter without digging the whole trap out of the snow. I do not glue my pieces together because you don't need to, as the pipe will fit snug and glue just adds to the cost. I have used two different poison baits this season and will see which one gets eaten the most by the voles. I still put plastic rings around my fruit trees just to be safe. There is nothing worse than when the snow melts in the spring to find that your fruit tree has been eaten on all winter by voles and you have to try to save the tree with bridge grafts. Voles are territorial so the more of them you can remove the safer your plants will be during the winter. I have seen these vermin destroy huge hosta clumps because voles do not hibernate but must feed all winter long. Take the time now to manage the population.

The garden is still providing some greens, nice parsley and carrots, and the Napa cabbage is still growing and we should be able to have some for Thanksgiving dinner. The fig tree, whom we have named "Stinky", provided us with three tasty tree ripened figs this week. Stinky is a keeper.

As a cook I like to experiment and I have been reading about returning to using animal fats for some cooking. Old fashioned organic "LARD" has resurfaced as not as bad a fat as was once thought. Lard has some of the same good nutrients that one finds in olive oil; so this week I bought some organic pork fat and rendered it on the grill. The included pictures are of the the three half pints of cooking fat that I got. I am going to experiment with the product this holiday with biscuits, pie crust and some frying to see just how we like the lard and how our digestive systems fair. This is plain, no additives added fat from organic pork that was locally raised so the product I rendered should be about as pure as one can get.

Happy Gardening