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.




House painting in progress


We’ve been in Florida since November. The time has flown as we’ve been taking back a house that had been a rental property for six years. We tore out the kitchen and replaced it with new cupboards, counters, and appliances. We painted most rooms and had renovations done in the bathrooms. And then in January, we tackled the exterior of the house turning it from gray to barn red. We love the results.

But through it all, my gardener husband, Robert, studied and planned and then he built. He sowed seeds and planted. We now have a 20 x 4 raised bed garden, a small herb plot (that was already here but filled with weeds), and three fruit trees planted.


Peas climbing


He’s been pulling seedling trays outside and then back in at night under grow lights. These will go to our cabin in Murphy, which he plans on putting in next month. Finally, this week he built a cold frame, which is large enough to be a guest bedroom, so those plants can just stay outside permanently until they’re ready for the ground.



The Cold Frame

We only have a few months left to enjoy the Florida garden, but that’s all right. It will be a delicious two months. We’re eating lettuce and spinach every day now. Herbs are lush and green and grace every meal. Pea pods are forming, and the broccoli and cabbage appear to be doing well. Bush beans will be ready for consumption soon. What we can’t eat, will be blanched and frozen.




Beans and Herbs

When I prepared to roast a chicken the other day, I chuckled and hummed, “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” and that’s precisely what I put in the pot with the chicken.


Robert has found the best of all possible worlds for a gardener–year round gardening. And I am the lucky recipient of all his hard labor. It’s a good life.


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?

#Gardening Update

photo (1)


Things are moving slowly here in the Zick gardening world. Robert has gone out and covered some of the raised rows so they won’t get too wet to work. The seedlings are straining in the grow lights, but he was able to put them outside yesterday for a few hours of sunlight. I walked around the yard this morning and saw little signs of spring from the buds on the lilac bushes to the tulips and daffodils peeping up out of the ground. The plants are yearning as much as we are to burst out into the sun, but we’re all hesitant in case it snows again. It’s going to be a slow spring.





Spinach is usually in the ground by now. In 2012, we were blanching and putting away in the freezer by the first of May. Last year was another slow spring, and the spinach didn’t produce as well. Fortunately, I’m hoarding six more bags of frozen spinach from 2013.

What’s going on in your garden?


Click on cover

Click on cover

January Gardening?

catalogs galore

catalogs galore

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The seed catalogs appear in the mailbox daily now. Today we ordered seeds for broccoli, brussel sprouts, radishes (both red and the long white variety), lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley, basil, and flowers. However, the catalogs came a little late for onions. After consultation with Llewellyn’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, my husband determined the best time to start the seeds was in the waning days of 2012.

So while we were in Florida over Christmas, my husband began sprouting onion seeds. He buys the cheapest and thinnest paper towels and places a layer of seeds on one sheet. Then he piles sheet upon sheet until the top of the plastic container is full. He dampens the towels with water and keeps the container in a warm place. He treated his package as if it was a pet, carrying it inside wherever we visited and adding water as necessary to keep the towels damp.

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

the sprouts after ten days in damp paper towels

This year he sprouted seven varieties of onions – both short and long day types – of yellow, white, and red.

By the time we arrived back in Pennsylvania, the seeds had sprouted in their paper towel womb. The thin paper towel helps those tiny little sprouts from sticking to the layers.

A week ago, he put the seedlings into four-pack containers filled with regular potting soil with a very small quantity of organic and rock fertilizers. He uses a five-gallon bucket for soil (two-thirds filled) and throws in a handful of the fertilizers. Once the packs are filled with dirt, he pokes holes in each section with a pencil.

pencil poking

pencil poking

Then he “pokes” the onion seedlings into the soil.

poking onion sprouts

poking onion sprouts

Now the seedlings are growing happily under grow lights in cupboards in our family room. Unfortunately, we don’t have a heated greenhouse, but we’ve found a way to manage.

minutes in soil

minutes in soil

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

a week later after living in a cupboard under grow lights (set on a timer)

Now we await the shipment of the rest of the seeds. Some seeds, such as tomatoes, peppers, and butternut squash, he’s kept from last year’s crop. But he’ll still get some new seeds, even though each year I tell him more than twenty healthy tomato plants are way too much for two people unless I set up a roadside stand.

How about you? Are you sprouting seeds, looking at catalogs, waiting for the nurseries to open with plants, or anticipating the local farmer’s market in your area? Whatever you do, locally grown food is always the best choice.

last year's crop we're enjoying this winter

last year’s crop we’re enjoying this winter

Note: We recycle the magazines when we’re done with them each year. We also reuse all the four- and six-pack containers as well as the trays.

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.


Enjoying the Bounty


By P.C. Zick @PCZick

I spent last night in a whirlwind in the kitchen. I decided it was time to use up all the bounty in some way. My husband picked broccoli in the morning because the rabbits have discovered the leaves of the plant and love to munch on them. We had a bag of spinach picked two days earlier waiting for me to do something with them. And the zucchini threatened to overflow the crisper. As I worked on preserving and creating dinner, Robert worked in the garden. As I called  him into eat, I heard him enter the house.

Yes, I’d cleared out the frig of the current produce, but I heard that sound and knew I wasn’t finished. I heard the rustle of a plastic bag as he let the air out of a bag of green beans and then another bag of peas. I haven’t gone into the frig to see what else is there, but rest assured we’ll have another dinner of fresh vegetables tonight. I’m not complaining. As I worked last night in the kitchen, dirtying dishes and floor, I felt a calmness and peace come over me. I describe it as grace and the feeling of symmetry and participation in nature’s abundant cycle as shredded zucchini flew out of the food processor and into my hair. But enough of my sentimental journey! Here’s the work I accomplished last night.

Zucchini – I decided I didn’t have enough to do at least 8 1/2 pints of relish. The recipe I use makes 4 1/2 pints, but I double it. I don’t can food unless I can do a full canner of something; otherwise, I’m wasting a lot of energy and water for very little return. So I made two loaves of zucchini bread. Why do all the recipes call for so much oil and sugar? I usually up the amount of zucchini – it’s a very moist vegetable – and add a little bit of skim milk and cut the oil amount by half. I always use less sugar in everything I make and last night I cut back even more by adding raisins to the bread. I froze one loaf, and we’ll munch on the other for the next week. I had a slice for breakfast, and Robert took a slice for his lunch.zucchini breadYummy, but I still had about six cups of shredded zucchini leftover so I decided to freeze it in two-cup servings, which is the amount I use to make two loaves of bread. I bought a new preserving book yesterday. The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest gave me instructions for steam blanching the zucchini. I placed two cups of shredded zucchini in my steamer basket that was in a pot with an inch of boiling water. I steamed for 2-3 minutes and then placed in ice water for another two minutes. I strained in the colander and placed in freezer bags. It was a very quick process and probably the best for retaining vitamins, minerals, texture and color when thawed.steam blanched zucchiniSpinach – Then I ventured into dinner recreating a recipe I used to make twenty years ago. This is always risky because I’m using my memory to figure it out. But of course I also have a little knowledge about cooking. I decided to make Greek pizza with the spinach. As I put it together I realized all the vegetables in the pizza came from the garden. That’s not been the case so far this summer, so we are making progress. Steamed broccoli provided a side dish.

I used phyllo dough sheets for the crust. What hung over the edge of the pizza pan, I folded up over the pizza after all ingredients were in place. I followed the instructions for the dough on the package. I steamed the spinach, and Robert squeezed out as much liquid as possible with a spoon. I sauteed several small onions, four garlic cloves (our first harvest of the season) onionsand basil (picked from the pot I keep on the balcony near the kitchen).The sauteed items went on top of the dough. Then I placed the spinach on top of that. I crumbled about 1/4 lb. of feta cheese on top of spinach and then covered whole thing in approximately 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese. I baked at 350 for 15-20 minutes. It took longer than I thought because I usually bake pizza at a higher temp for a longer time, but with phyllo dough you have to keep temperature a little lower.

My memory served me well, if Robert’s comment at dinner is any indication.

“You can make this pizza for every meal if you want.”