Jack’s Beanstalks?

Last year, our Smoky Mountain garden saw very little rain. The whole region suffered from a drought. But this spring and now into June, the rains have been frequent and steady. We left on our trip to Michigan hoping the rain would continue so our friend didn’t have to come over every other day to water. She came three times over a two-week period, but only to pick vegetables.


A few days before we returned, she hauled home a bag of beans, several green peppers and onions and a batch of peas. The day we arrived home, my husband went out and picked five plastic bags of vegetables, including a large bag of broccoli from plants that had already put forth heads. My well-heeled and prolific gardener husband had never seen such a thing.bowl

Yesterday, our first full day home, I spent in the kitchen. I blanched and froze fourteen bags of beans and seven bags of broccoli. There’s still a bag of beans in the refrigerator waiting to be steamed for three bean salad (see my recipe below).

Last night, he began digging up the garlic. This is the first year that we really have a crop. We’re letting it dry out on the porch now and before it rains this afternoon, Bob is outside digging up the rest.

20170619_105222Here’s a warning to family and friends we’ll see this summer – expect plenty of bulbs for your summer and fall garlic needs. I’d love to braid them, but haven’t a clue how it’s done. Anyone out there who knows how to do it?

Here’s the process for blanching and freezing both the beans and the broccoli.


  1. Wash and break into two-inch pieces.
  2. Place in boiling water and blanch for three minutes.
  3. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  4. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.


  1. Rinse and remove stalks and leaves. Cut into serving size pieces.
  2. Place in one gallon of salt water (1 cup of salt) and let soak for thirty minutes. This will make sure all the bugs are gone before blanching.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Place in boiling water and blanch for three to four minutes (depending on the size of the pieces).
  5. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  6. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.


Pat’s variation on a marinated green bean salad

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick with Robert Zick

4 cups green beans, steamed for about 7 minutes

1 can black olives, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 lb. Swiss cheese, cut into small chunks

onion, chopped (use amount to your taste – I used two small onions from the garden)

fresh dill, parsley or other herbs of your choice

1 red pepper, chopped (you can use green or banana peppers too)

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

juice from one lemon

Mix together all the vegetables and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving. This salad is even better on the second and third days.

green bean salad


Available on Amazon – Kindle and paperback versions.


beans1There’s something powerful in eating locally grown vegetables, either from our own garden or the farmer’s market. It makes me want to eat much healthier in all ways when the main pieces of a meal showcase homegrown bounty.

Something about the mountain air and my husband’s green thumb has bombarded our garden beds this spring, and now that his hard work is done, he spends his mornings and early evenings picking his ‘fruits.’ He likes to pick vegetables when the sun is not beating down upon them. He says the cooler times of the day are better because all the ‘energy’ of the plant are in the fruit. When the sun is out that energy is transferred to the roots. Using his philosophy, the root crops are best picked during peak sun times. Others say the morning while still fresh with dew is the best for capturing the most moisture.

All I do is say “Grilling salmon tonight. Make sure we have some green to go with it.” And right now magically when I go to cook dinner, the crisper is filled with rich goodness.

Right now, at the end of May, we are eating the last of the lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and radishes. But the broccoli, beans, and peas are coming on strong.

What are you enjoying in your area?

Don’t Try this at Home

Subtitle: I must be nuts.

It began as a cloudy rainy Saturday. The crisper overflowed with vegetables we couldn’t possibly eat this weekend. And another kit of home brew (American pale ale) awaited brewing. For a few sane moments, I thought about breaking the tasks into a two-day event.

But it was the Siamese love squash that changed my mind. When I found this beautiful double summer squash in the garden this morning, I decided I could do everything and anything. I blanched broccoli and green beans and put up several bags of each. I began making zucchini relish and then decided the beer would be a breeze in the middle of all this.

As the beer threatened to boil over, I discovered the zucchini relish made more than I anticipated so I quickly found another jar and did a speedy sterilization process burning my hand in boiling water in the process. My husband came running from the garden to assist, but the wort for the beer was already boiling over.

It’s now calm, and I have put up 7 pints of relish, 5 gallons of beer sits cooling in the sink. We’ll put it in the fermenter in fifteen minutes.And I need to start scrubbing the stove top.

I am so much in the mood to do nothing! But now it’s time to pack up a picnic and head down to the boat for the evening’s fireworks on the Ohio and Beaver rivers. Here’s hoping I can stay awake for the festivities.

Life in the garden here in Raccoon Township may seem dull until you live it.


An Almost All Homegrown Dinner!

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

Last night we managed to eat a meal, mostly provided by our garden, with a table graced with flowers from plants and herbs gone to seed, along with a very few wild irises growing at the edge of the woods in our backyard.The tall purple flowers are radishes; the long drooping yellow flowers come from our oregano plant leftover from last year; look very closely to see the basil leave peeking out from the front of the vase. Beauty graces our home and our plates.

A zucchini greeted me yesterday morning when I did my daily walk around the perimeter of the garden. At eight-inches, this lovely vegetable was the perfect size for grilling. I found one small cucumber to provide a little bit of crispness to our meal.Preparing the bounty

We picked enough beans for a small serving each. The onions are just popping up out of the ground so I decided some of the sweet “Vidalia” type would be great on the grill. And in the big sink, I soaked the last of the leaves of spinach for this year.

The spinach and beans I put on the stove to steam and then prepared the zucchini and onions for grilling (I did use one sweet red pepper with these purchased from Giant Eagle – it will be more than a month before peppers are ready for eating). As a marinade, I used olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon and thyme. Next, I prepared the salmon for grilling. No, I didn’t catch it from the ocean out in the backyard. I purchased this salmon on sale in the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh. I used the last of our zucchini relish from last year as a marinade and then plopped a few springs of our parsley on top before loosely wrapping in aluminum foil and grilling along with the vegetables for about 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. After the grilled items cooked for 15 minutes, I turned the burners on the other vegetables. And then I prepared our cute little cucumber – a delicacy at this point in the season.I presented our “almost all homegrown dinner” to my husband as a thanks to all his hard work for growing this bounty. I forgot to mention (and forgot to take a picture), for an appetizer, we ate the first peas from the garden. We were probably a little premature, but they are very close and very sweet. We managed about ten peas each as a preview to our coming attractions.

What are you eating from either your own garden or from the farmer’s market right now?