GARDEN NEWS – IT’S ONLY BEGINNING!

 

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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.

20170619_105117Beans

  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.

Broccoli

  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.

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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

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Available on Amazon – Kindle and paperback versions.

THE FIRST SALAD OF THE SEASON – #GARDENLOVE

IMG_0648We rolling in lettuce right now. Radishes are beautiful and tasty, too. My husband planted a variety of radishes, and the taste differences are subtle, but none of them are bitter as sometimes happens with older radishes.

I’m amazed at how fast the garden is growing. I’ll soon be pulling down the canning equipment from the attic and buying new jars to put up sauces, pickles, and relishes. I didn’t pack our canning jars from Pittsburgh — too much to move as it was. Time to stock up on freezer bags, too, for peas and beans that will surely come on quickly and soon.

The photo on the left was taken March 20, and the one of the right I took this morning, May 5. It’s a lovely, yet shocking, surprise. I guess my northern gardener adapted to gardening in the mountains with ease.

The bed with straw on top in the photo on the right is planted with approximately twenty-eight asparagus plants that arrived via mail the other day. We have to wait two years to enjoy their bounty.

Today, he’s building the last of the beds, and I’ve asked him to hold off on planting anything there. Fat chance. He has winter squash in pots ready for the ground. At least, I won’t have to deal with preserving those because they should store all winter long once harvested.

We went to the local farmer’s market on Saturday to see what others were offering in local food. They had about the same things we did. I should look into getting my own table at the market for later this spring.

How’s your gardening growing?

 

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From Seed to Table is FREE on Kindle through May 7, 2016. Grab your copy by clicking on photo or if you’d prefer the paperback, click here.

 

 

 

#Garden – Pea Time

June Garden 2014

June Garden 2014

I decided to take a break from my job today to give a brief update on the garden now that we’ve moved into summer here in western Pennsylvania.

The spinach has gone to seed, but we put up a few bags and ate quite a few meals of the fresh stuff. The raspberry bushes are alive with small white berries and the bees are buzzing around the blossoms. I watch daily for the first sign of red. I’m ready to pick and preserve–and of course, slip a few in my mouth.

The news this week involves peas. We’d been snacking on peas for the past week. I put some in a tuna macaroni salad, and we’ve been eating them raw. Late yesterday, Robert went out to pick and he came back in with a grocery bag packed with them plus enough for us to have large servings for our supper–we’d had a late lunch, so we made peas our evening meal. Tonight I’ll be blanching and freezing. Mid June Peas 2014

Peas should be blanched in boiling water for two minutes and then submerged in ice cold water for another two minutes. They should be a wonderful bright green and ready for putting in freezer bags for winter consumption. Peas hold up well for freezing, perhaps the best vegetable of all for preserving this way.

So it’s back to work. I’m in the process of getting three books ready for publication. I participated in a Romance in a Month class and really did finish a draft of a book. It’s shorter than my previous novels so I should be able to publish Behind the Altar by September. 64

NATIVE_WEBNative Lands is next in my Florida Fiction Series. I started this novel in 2006, and then left it for a few years. I’ve been working on it since 2013 and it heads to my editor in July. I hope to have it published by October.

And finally, the third book, Odyssey to Myself, is a collection of travel essays I’ve been working on in my spare time for the past year. It covers a decade in my life when my world tilted. As I struggled to adjust, I traveled: Morocco, Italy, Panama, and Chile. There was a trip down Route 66 in between. Most of the essays were already written and published in various places. I’m just writing the transitions and pulling into one cohesive whole. I hope to publish this one before summer ends.NewKindleJune5

I’ve been busy. I imagine things to pick up with the garden with the ripening of twenty tomato plants. I’m excited to make Italian sauce and salsa since we didn’t make any last year, partly because the tomatoes didn’t perform as well and partially because I wasn’t performing at all.

What a difference a year makes. I’ve never felt better, and when I look out at the garden, it reflects my feeling of health and well-being. We’re eating broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce almost every night. Thanks, Robert, for a job well done!

What’s growing in your area right now? I haven’t been out to a Farmer’s Market yet, but I bet they’re bursting with local food.

#Gardening – Spring Means #Spinach

Spinach ready to pick

Spinach ready to pick

This warm and wet spring weather means lots of big leaves on the spinach plants. It also means we’ll have it longer before it goes to seed, if the heat of summer stays away for a few weeks.

Robert picks the spinach after it’s been watered or after a good rain. . .after it’s had time to dry. He then puts it into dry plastic bags and stores in the refrigerator until I can find the time to start cleaning, blanching, and freezing. He actually does the washing part while I chop, blanch, and bag. The other night we managed to put up eighteen bags containing two servings each.

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blanch for two minutes

We’ve been eating it every other day in various forms: raw in wraps and salads, sauteed briefly in olive oil, garlic, and silvered almonds, in lasagna, omelets and just plain steamed.

Medical News Today reports the breakdown of what is contained in one cup of raw spinach: It “contains 27 calories, 0.86 grams of protein, 30 milligrams of calcium, 0.81 grams of iron, 24 milligrams of magnesium, 167 milligrams of potassium, 2813 IUs of Vitamin A and 58 micrograms of folate.”

bags ready for freezer

bags ready for freezer

We might get one more big picking before it’s done. But that’s thirty-eight meals of spinach for the winter and a few more meals with fresh spinach before the season ends. Then we’ll start on the peas, which are now climbing their chicken wire fence and reaching for the sun.

I’d love to hear from you on what’s going on in your garden or what you’re eating from the local farmer’s markets. Ours, filled with lots of local food grown in western Pennsylvania, are just opening for the season.

 

Click on cover to purchase

Click on cover to purchase

Our book From Seed to Table provides lots of gardening tips and recipes. Here are the steps I follow for blanching and freezing bags of spinach (in two-serving bags):

Blanching and freezing spinach

Note: The blanching steps below may be followed for most vegetables with variation in the time the vegetable is in the boiling water. The recipe below preserves as much of the vitamins and taste as possible. Our frozen spinach is green and tastes “almost” like we’d just picked it.

  • Wash the leaves – Put the leaves in a sink of cold water and carefully wash off all dirt and grass. Put in colander to drain.
  • Chop the leaves – I didn’t do this last year, and I was sorry. While the spinach tasted great, it was a bit stringy. I chopped them into about 1-inch squares.
  • Blanch – Bring a big pot of water to boil and place one colander full of leaves into the water for two minutes.
  • Ice water bath – Submerge in ice water for another two minutes.
  • Place in colander in a large bowl or pot and let drain for a few minutes.
  • Put into freezer bag that is labeled and dated.

One colander full equals two servings and fits perfectly into a freezer sandwich bag. It’s fine if some water is in the bag – it’s probably better for the spinach.


 

Garden Overflow Madness

DSC02594By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The rest period is over for gardening here in western Pennsylvania. First, we had a very long winter. Then we went to hot and humid for a week. Now for at least two weeks, the weather pattern is stuck over us with showers nearly every day. It feels as if I’m back in a Florida summer with the high temperatures and humidity and afternoon showers. The garden loves it.

Last night I grilled zucchini and onions. My husband steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Also he shelled and cooked the last of the peas – I’ve already frozen more than twenty bags. We also had a few green beans.

 

But the freezer still overflows with produce. Later today I plan to freeze broccoli and cauliflower. Then I’m going to make my “soup starter” mess with zucchini and onions. I bag it up in two-three cup servings. Then when I want to make a soup or sauce, I pull out the freezer bag and have an instant starter.

We pulled onions this week, too. My husband tried to pull some potatoes but discovered they are far too small to pick right now. The cucumbers are coming in slowly, but we’re enjoying eating those we have. I slice them lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and pepper – it’s heaven. Lots of work, but lots of rewards, too.DSC02596

Here’s the recipe for Soup Starter in From Seed to Table.

Zucchini Mess or Soup Starter

Chop up zucchini, onions, garlic, peppers, yellow squash (whatever you have!). When tomatoes come in you can add chopped tomatoes, too. Add herbs of your choice, fresh and/or dried. I tend toward the Italian variety. For this batch I used fresh basil, dried oregano, thyme, tarragon and a good Italian dried herb mix. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute until just tender, but not overcooked. Cool and bag in two-cup portions (or whatever amount you’ll use in one recipe). During the winter months, when I want to start an easy soup in the crock pot, I pull out a bag and I have the “starter” ready to go and just add the other ingredients to make any type of soup you can imagine. I’ve also used it in chicken and seafood recipes. Bon appetit!

Available on Kindle $2.99

Available on Kindle $2.99

Garden Loves June

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We shelled peas on Saturday night. Then I blanched them for two minutes before putting away in nine freezer bags. I love those peas on a cold winter night. We’re not halfway through the pea season. Last year, our peas didn’t produce very well. My husband believes he put mushroom manure to close to the seedlings and they were overwhelmed with fertilizer. He didn’t do it this year, and we have a fantastic crop.DSC02585Tonight we picked our very first zucchini. We have to watch those plants because when they hide, we end up with bats. I’m going to grill these small beautiful wonders.

The spinach is done for the year. I managed to freeze twenty-one bags. I’m going to steam the last of the leaves tonight and make Greek pizza. The recipe is included in From Seed to Table, but here it is just for you.

Greek Pizza

Ingredients

Phyllo dough – use half of a box

2 cups of cooked spinach

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 cup fresh basil leaves

¼ pound feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup cottage cheese

1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese, grated

2 TBSP butter, melted

Spray oil (olive or canola)

Saute the onion, garlic and basil in olive oil. Prepare the phyllo dough, following the instructions on the box. Layer half the sheets of dough on a cookie sheet, spraying each layer with oil. Layer the ingredients: saute mix, spinach, feta and cottage cheeses (mixed together), and top with mozzarella cheese. Layer the remaining sheets of dough on top, spraying each layer. Brush the top sheets with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. The dough should be a golden color.???????????????????????????????I hope your garden is producing. If you’re not gardening, I hope you’re able to enjoy some of summer’s bounty from your region. I bought five or six quarts of local strawberries and froze three gallon-sized freezer bags full. I’ve eaten my fair share. I can’t wait for blueberries. We do have raspberries but they seem to be slow to ripen. We bought some very think Remay to cover the tops so birds can’t eat those luscious beauties before us.

I look forward to hearing what’s happening in your local food department.

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