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.

CUKES & ZUCS – GARDEN MADNESS HAS BEGUN

 

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June 23, 2016

Suddenly, I’ve been thrown into overdrive in the kitchen attempting to preserve the produce starting to accumulate. The past two days found me dealing with the cucumber and zucchini madness happening right outside my door.

 

Yesterday, I decided I had enough cucumbers to do seven quarts of kosher dill pickles.

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Kosher Dills

Wrong. I had enough to do almost twice that many, but my canner only holds seven. So today I used the rest to make my bread and butter pickle chips.

 

So far, the zucchini is under control, but still three good sized ones made four loaves of zucchini bread, which will be great for when we have visitors later this summer. Nothing beats coffee, fresh fruit and zucchini bread for an easy summer breakfast.

 

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Zucchini Bread

 

 

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The Leftovers

 

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Bread & Butter

 

 

The tomatoes are starting to produce–mostly small varieties–but my husband tried a new variety this year, Black Brandywine. It’s gorgeous. Only two have been brought to the windowsill. We plan to eat them plain with salt to savor the taste, which hopefully will be as wonderful as their deep burgundy color.

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Black Brandywine

 

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick

Walnut Date Zucchini Bread

4 eggs

3 cups flour

¾ cup maple syrup

2 cups buttermilk (use regular milk and add 1 tsp vinegar)

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup chopped dates or raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

3 cups shredded zucchini, drained

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients until blended. Place in two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until brown on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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WANING DAYS OF SPRING

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?

It’s Growing! #gardenlove

Beds2My husband rushed to put all of his seedlings in his newly built garden bed before we headed to Florida for a few weeks. The light began fading from the day as he tenderly placed the last plant in the soil he’d been preparing for a few weeks. And then the heavens opened up.

He raced to the porch just as the rain poured down on the plants. Now almost three weeks later, I’ll let you be the judge whether that was a good omen. The plants are all thriving here in the Smoky Mountains.

Before we left, we put together a simple, yet effective compost bin. We’ve been unable to compost for the past ten months, and it felt wasteful to throw away onion skins, broccoli stalks, eggshells, and coffee grounds. We put the new bin right next to the deck steps for easy access from the kitchen.Compost

Here’s an excerpt from my book, From Seed to Table, which contains a section on creating a place for your scraps from the kitchen.

Composting

I’ve been composting kitchen waste ever since I had a small rooftop garden in my efficiency apartment in Ann Arbor in 1979. Since then I’ve composted on a twenty-acre homestead, in an urban backyard, and behind the shed in my current home in Pennsylvania. It’s a simple process and begins with finding a container with a sealable lid to keep in the kitchen for the food scraps.

It’s not a complicated process, although many folks hesitate to begin because they believe it’s difficult. If you simply follow a few basic instructions, you’ll be rolling in the black gold of the gardening world as quickly as the tomato plants begin sprouting green fruit.

Not all of your waste from the kitchen makes good compostable material. Avoid the use of meat scraps, fish byproducts, cheese, bones, fats, oils, or grease because they attract wild animals, take a very long time to break down, and can spread harmful bacteria into the soil and infect plants.

Eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable matter make the best material to start the process of minting your very own black gold. We buy brown (unbleached) coffee filters, so we throw the grounds and the filter in the compost bin as well.

Once the container is filled with your kitchen scrapes, empty it into the compost bin and cover with either brown or green organic material. Making the rich topsoil requires a balancing act between green materials and brown materials placed on top of the kitchen scraps. The green things are those still close to the live stage, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and some manures. Don’t use the manure from pets or pigs, as it will promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Chicken manure is the best kind. The browns have been dead for a while and consist of dry leaves, woody materials, and even shredded paper. We use the ashes from our fireplace, too. Layering these elements, with the browns taking up the most space, leads to the decomposition of the materials. Air and water are essential in assisting in this process, but usually there is enough liquid in the compost container and in the air without watering the pile. If you notice the material in the bin looks dry, go ahead and water it.

There are products you can purchase from shredders to rotating drums to three-stage bins. You can spend from $20 to several hundreds of dollars to make a compost bin. If you live in the extreme north, you may need to invest in the more sophisticated type of equipment to ensure the success of your compost bin. However, I’ve composted in Michigan, Florida, and now Pennsylvania and managed to do it successfully without expending tons of money.

When I lived in an urban setting in Florida, I did the simplest thing. I bought a plastic garbage can for under $10 and cut off the bottom. I drilled holes all over the lid and sides to allow airflow. You can spend a little more on a galvanized garbage can, but it will be more difficult to remove the bottom. I dug a hole about three-inches deep in the soil the diameter of the can and placed the bottom into the ground, filling around the outer sides to make it secure.

I covered the bottom on the inside with the dirt I removed to make the hole, making sure it was nice and loose. Then I placed my kitchen scraps on top. I covered those with leaves from my yard and put the lid back on the garbage can. Every time I put new material from the kitchen into the bin, I stirred the whole thing with a shovel.

In Pennsylvania, we bought a simple compost bin from Lowes for under $50. It has small panels on all four sides that slide off for easy removal of the dirt from the bottom.image008

In the spring, I fill flowerpots with the healthy rich soil from the bottom of the compost bin to assist grateful petunias, pansies, impatiens, and marigolds. We’ll gaze upon the blossoming colors on the patio and take satisfaction in making fertile soil that originated in our kitchen and garden. Our vegetables, herbs, and flowerbed plants will all receive a healthy dose of the soil as well, and then we start the process all over again.

Earthworms are the essential ingredient for turning the scraps into rich dark soil. If I see a worm in the yard, I’ll pick it up and carry it to the bin, but mostly the earthworms find it all by themselves. If you don’t see any in your pile, buy a small container of earthworms from the local bait shop and let them loose. They eat the organic matter, and quite graciously poop behind nice dirt.

I love the symmetry of composting. It’s a way to be a part of the cycle of nature without disturbing or destroying it.

How’s your gardening going? If you’re not a gardener, what’s going on with local food at the Farmer’s Market? Always love to hear what’s going on in different parts of the country. We figure we’re about a month to six weeks ahead from where we were in Pittsburgh. Even though we’re in the mountains, it’s still the south! Happy gardening and eating the luscious foods of spring and summer.

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Click on cover to purchase on Amazon.

 

Happy Spring – Building a Garden

 

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Cherohala Parkway – A frost in March that lingered

Living here in the Smoky Mountains during the winter made for some easy living. If it snowed, the sun shone the next day. If the temperatures dipped one day, we were in shorts the next. It’s been a lovely winter in our new home.

 

But now spring gradually spreads itself over us, and Robert has turned all of his attention to building a garden in the front yard of our mountain home. The first day we saw this cabin in May 2015, he jumped out of the realtors vehicle with his phone in hand with the compass app ready to go. He declared the side of the driveway (of course, on a hillside) to be perfect for a garden site as it faced south and receives the best of the summer sun.

DSC03586Onion seedlings ready to go in the ground. As usual,  he began his seeds several months ago, and now the onion plants are yearning to go into the ground. So are the other plants. Over the past two weeks, along with the help of some great folks, he’s been working every day to build beds and create a soil able to sustain vegetables during the growing season. It’s not cheap to build a garden from scratch in soil that is mostly clay, but it’s a one-time expense that will pay for itself within a few years of healthy harvesting of vegetables.The chosen spot for the garden before the heavy equipment arrived contained tree stumps we attempted to burn out to no avail. Let the excavation begin!

 

 

 

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Next post – the building of the beds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREE March 9-13 – FROM SEED TO TABLE

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Good morning – Just wanted to let you know that my book, From Seed to Table, is available for free download on Kindle today through Sunday, March 13.

This book is a compilation of my blog posts about gardening, harvesting, and preserving vegetables. It’s full of recipes and organized by the season. If you don’t have your copy, now’s the time to get it.

I haven’t been posting about gardening much in the past few years because we’ve been in transition and moving. But this month, my husband–the real gardener in our family–is building raised beds on the side of our North Carolina hill, foothill, mountain, and I’ll be posting his progress as he begins our new garden journey.

Here’s an excerpt From Seed to Table:

SPRING

Most years by the end of March, the seedlings are growing; onions and garlic are in the ground; spinach, lettuce, and cole plants await placement once the soil is workable. During the second week of March, Robert begins covering the areas of the garden with plastic sheets where he’ll plant first to protect the soil from the late winter/early spring snow and rain. The soil needs to be dry when he begins turning it over and readying it for planting.

Since there’s still a chance for frost or a freeze, we watch the weather each evening and keep the Reemay® near to cover the onions, if necessary. It’s a time of growth, but it’s a tender and tenuous time as well.

From Living Lightly blog – April 2, 2013

The spring of 2013 is late in coming to western Pennsylvania and other parts of the Midwest and Northeast. Spring sprung on the calendar more than ten days ago, yet the cold temperatures stymied our gardening plans. Seeds sprouted a month ago are now seedlings growing under lights in our family room.

I can tell they are yearning, as we are, for the warmer days and nights of spring, for the sunshine to heat the earth, and for soil large enough to spread their roots.

The onions should be in the ground by now or at the very least, they should be outside getting sunlight for a portion of the day. My husband has been putting them out for brief periods, but the temperatures are still too cold for any type of sustained sun bathing.

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The soil for spinach needs preparation. They’ll be ready to go into the ground as soon as the weather cooperates. If spinach is started indoors about a month before transplanting into the garden, the harvest will triple or quadruple, and huge succulent leaves will grow before the plants go to flower in June. Any plants grown indoors need to be slowly exposed to direct sunlight for a few days with minimal mid-day sun during the early spring.

The peas have been most affected by the cold weather of spring 2013. My husband worried for weeks that he wouldn’t be able to get the sprouts in the ground in a timely manner. He sprouts seeds on an old cookie sheet and covers them with several layers of damp paper towel. He has one tray all ready to plant, which he intended to do this past weekend. Then we heard the weather report for the first week of April: nighttime temperatures hitting the low to mid-20s. He said he’d put them in the ground even with predictions of high twenty temperatures, but 25 degrees is too low. He sprouted another set this past week because he’s fairly certain the ones already sprouted won’t last until he can put them in the

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peas ready to plant on March 30, 2013

ground. He put the tray in the basement, hoping to slow down the process.

We’re learning to be flexible with the unpredictable weather patterns of recent years. It’s not always easy, especially when we’re as eager for the warmer temperatures as the plants stretching for light right before our eyes.

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, download the rest of the book for free until March 13, 2016 by clicking here.

If you prefer reading the paperback, click here. It’s $7.99 on Amazon.

Thank you and happy gardening. Would love to hear what’s popping at your house!

 

GRILLED PIZZA WITH VINE-RIPENED TOMATOES!

Seed 99 cents smallerFrom my gardening book From Seed to Table, here’s one of my favorite recipes when the tomatoes are overflowing the kitchen window sills. I miss having our garden this year, but thank goodness for local food markets and farmers markets. And to celebrate the harvest, you can download the book for only $0.99 on Kindle by clicking here???????????????????????????????

Grilled Pizza

This recipe is one I’ve been perfecting over the past several years, and it’s best made with the freshest of tomatoes from the garden. Pizza is personal. I’m sharing my personal recipe, but you may find other toppings you like better.

Just like with pie, it all starts with the crust. You can buy pizza dough, but this recipe is pretty basic and easy to make.

Pizza dough

1 pkg. dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 ½ cups flour (all unbleached white or use half white and half whole wheat)

Olive oil

Beat yeast, sugar, and water until well blended. Let rest for a few minutes. Add salt and flour and mix until dough forms. Knead on floured board until smooth (three-five minutes). Place in a warm bowl coated with olive oil. Cover with damp towel and leave in a warm spot. Allow to rise until dough doubles (approximately an hour). Punch down dough and roll into oblong roll on floured board. (I usually cut dough in half and place one portion in a freezer bag and freeze). Cut into ten to twelve (full dough recipe) or five to six pieces and roll each into a ball.

Roll out each ball into a thin circle, approximately six inches in diameter and place on cookie coated with olive oil. The smaller the individual pizzas, the easier it will be to put them on the grill. Grill at 400 degrees Fahrenheit on side with oil for two minutes or until a crust forms on the one side.

The trickiest part of the whole process is making sure the crusts don’t burn on the grill. You know your grill best. I’ve learned to do this by trial and error and mostly by hovering near the grill and watching.

After one side is grilled, make sure cookie sheet is still coated with olive oil and place crusts back on the cookie sheet with grilled side up. You are now ready to put the ingredients on top of the grilled side.

Pizza toppings

(For six pizzas – double if using full recipe of dough)

3-4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 sweet or hot banana pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste

Place sliced tomatoes on the grilled side of crust. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly on top of tomatoes to taste. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Sprinkle basil and feta over tomatoes. Put on peppers. Finish with the mozzarella cheese. You’re now ready to put back on the hot grill.

You must be very careful at this point so you don’t burn the bottom of the crusts. Again, I’ve had to learn from practice. For my gas grill (which is very old), this method works the best. I put the pizzas on the hot grill and shut the cover leaving burners on high. After 2-3 minutes (without opening the lid), I turn off the grill and let the pizzas sit while the grill cools down. After 20 minutes, the cheese is melted and the crusts are not burned. Sometimes I put the pizzas on the cookie sheet and place under the broiler for one minute to ensure a bubbly cheesy top. Sprinkle the finished product with Parmesan cheese.

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Final task: ENJOY!!!!!