Friday, December 31, 2010

Jung's Order

I received my first seeds of the year today. I ordered them from Territorial Seeds a couple of days ago. They were fast in getting the order out! I ordered the following seeds:

Edamame (bush beans-Sayamusume): I ordered the edamame because it's one of my favorite vegetables when I eat out at Japanese restaurants.  I want to try to grow them myself. Since they are often steamed after being frozen, I assume that they will be even better fresh.

Celery (Redventure): The red and yellow stalks of this celery are what called to me as I was browsing through the catalog. When I grew celery last year, I grew a green celery that was self-blanching. Unfortunately, I got more leaves than stalk.  The celery made great soup but there wasn't much substance for munching. I'll have to read up on celery so that I can avoid this problem this year.

Cucumber (Lime Crisp): I chose this variety because it is supposed to be both sweet and crisp.

Eggplant (Fairy Tale): Fairy Tale is a pretty purple and white small eggplant that isn't supposed to have the bitterness of other eggplants.

Strawberry (Italian Alpine): I want to grow alpine strawberries because of their sweet taste and clumping (rather than spreading) habit. I will plant them in my flower border because my strawberry pots always dry out. I've never grown strawberries from seed, so any suggestions are particularly encouraged!

Broccoli (Apollo Hybrid): I dislike broccoli as a general rule because I think that it tastes bitter. However, I really like broccolini. Supposedly, Apollo will prolifically produce the side shoots that are sold as broccolini. I grew Apollo last year and didn't have very heavy production. I think that I didn't water the plants enough.

Heliotrope: My mom loved heliotrope and grew it every year. I, too, love the way that it smells, but I think that it is too expensive for an annual. I'll try growing it from seed this year and see what happens.  Maybe I'll get lucky.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bringing My Rosemary Inside

I love rosemary so this year I was thrilled to find out that rosemary 'Arp' is hardy with protection to zone 6. Since I live in zone 5b, it might make it through the winter in a sheltered part of my garden on the south side of my house. I bought two plants: one for overwintering indoors and the other for planting outside. Maybe one of them will survive.  According to the label that came with the plants, Arp will grow to about 48" tall and 30" wide.

I haven't experienced much luck with rosemary.  I can grow it through the summer, but overwintering inside usually results in an untimely death due to fungus or mites. My rosemary last year survived the winter but died from mildew in the spring after I set it on my front porch. Well, in all truthfulness, it may have died from a homemade treatment made from baking soda and other household ingredients that I used to treat the mildew.

This year, I will try to not overwater or underwater the rosemary.  I will let the top inch of soil dry out and then give it a good soaking. I put it in a south window for as much light as possible, but my neighbor's house blocks some of the south sun.  Maybe I won't kill it this year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Squirrel Buffet

My younger dog, Marci, likes to look out the window overlooking my front porch. She rests her elbows on the back of the sofa in front of the window and scans the street and sidewalk. She watches for people and dogs to walk on her sidewalk. Then she barks what I suspect might be some obscenities.  She's not a very refined dog.  

For the past couple of weeks, she has started to bark at what I assumed was nothing. She would start one of her tirades and I would look out the window.  I saw nothing.  I saw nothing because I wasn't looking closely enough.  We had squirrel intruders.  Neither the dogs nor I are very fond of the squirrels.  They are rude house guests. I've been angry with them ever since I moved into the house and they dug up all my porch plants and flung them across the porch and front lawn.  Because of these little &%#$#, I can't have any potted daffodils on my front porch in the spring. The dogs don't like the squirrels because they run along the top of the fence and taunt them.

I found the evidence of the squirrel activity this morning and I had to apologize to Marci for questioning her instincts:
Lately, the squirrels have been digging up acorns from my lawn 

and eating them on my front porch.

I don't mind if they eat the acorns.  I just hope that they won't dig up my daffodil bulbs.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Return to Blogging

I really enjoy taking pictures of and writing about my garden.  I got busy last summer and then I got out of the habit. However, I'm back and I intend to do much better this year.

I also have some extra time on my hands.  I was supposed to go to France for two weeks to be with my niece, Polly, who is an English teaching assistant in an elementary school in Valenciennes. We were going to travel through France and Germany. Unfortunately, the weather in Western Europe and the Eastern US has been so bad that I had to cancel my trip. Oh, well, I will probably go over there in May and the weather will be warmer and the gardens will be in bloom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

Another one of my favorite summer recipes is strawberry cream cheese pie. This recipe came from my grandmother and my mom made it all through the summer.

1 baked pie shell
1 package cream cheese
1 quart fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar

Spread cream cheese softened with a little cream (or in the microwave) over the bottom of the crust. Place half of the strawberries over the cream cheese. Mash half of the berries until they are really juicy. Bring to a boil and slowly add sugar and cornstarch stirring constantly. Cook slowly for 10 minutes. Cool and pour into pie shell. Chill. Top with sweetened whipped cream.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mmmm, zucchini blossoms...

Eric and I picked some zucchini blossoms at the community garden and we bought some more at the Lexington Farmer's Market. I thought that it would be lovely to make fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese.

So I stuffed each zucchini blossom with about a tablespoon of herbed goat cheese. The blossoms that we picked at the community garden were very fresh, so I was able to open the blossoms and spoon in the goat cheese. The farmer's market blossoms were a little older, so I had to slit their sides open to spoon in the goat cheese.
I dipped the stuffed blossoms in beaten egg and then in a mixture of Italian herbs, sea salt, and panko.  I fried them on each side in medium hot canola oil until they turned golden brown. They were delicious!

Spinach Salad with Peaches and Blueberries

I made a delicious spinach salad for Yoli and Eric over the weekend using the fruit that we bought at the farmer's market and the yummy blueberry balsamic vinegar.

I rinsed and picked them stems off of some spinach.  Then I pitted and sliced some peaches and tossed them in blueberry balsamic vinegar to keep them from turning brown. I placed the peaches and some blueberries over the top of the spinach with some feta cheese.  I drizzled some extra virgin olive oil and more blueberry vinegar over the top.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grandma's Peach Cream Pie

This pie, more than any other, reminds me of summer and my childhood. My mom used to make it every summer during peach season.  It was her mother's recipe. I made the pie this weekend for Yoli and Eric with peaches Yoli and I bought at a farm stand. It's important to used only fresh, tasty peaches.  Frozen peaches are too watery and the pie will never set. Tasteless peaches make a tasteless pie.

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup cream
3-4 fresh peaches, peeled and halved

Mix first 3 ingredients together. Pour half into unbaked pie shell. Fill with fresh peach halves. Cover with the rest of the mixture. Pour cream over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until set.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Making Pesto

Eric and I made pesto this weekend while Yoli sat on the sofa reading a book. We harvested two bags full of pesto that was starting to flower from the community garden. I left enough lower leaves and stems that the plants should send up a new burst of growth within the next couple of weeks. I cleaned the pesto and removed the leaves and small stems from the larger, tougher stems while Eric made the pesto.  My thumbnails are still stained from using them to cut the basil stems.

To make the pesto, we stuffed a food processor bowl with basil and added about a tablespoon of salt, 1 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of walnuts (because the one store in their town didn't have pine nuts), 2 tablespoons of minced fresh garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt. These measurements are approximations because we eyeballed the amounts of ingredients that we added. We processed the ingredients on high until they were fairly smooth. We spooned the pesto into 1 cup containers and froze all of them except for what we ate over the weekend.  We made a gallon and a half of pesto. Stupidly, I left mine at Yoli's house and will have to pick them up next time I visit her. This weekend, we made crostini and roasted potatoes with the pesto.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Breakfast Crepes

One of my favorite summer breakfasts is fruit crepes. They're healthful, delicious, and easy to make.

To make the crepes, I just throw a cup of flour, 2 eggs, a cup of skim milk, a dash of salt, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter into a blender and blend them until they are well mixed. Then I spray a small skillet with cooking oil.  I heat the skillet to a medium-high heat.   Then I pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and swirl the batter so that it covers the bottom of the pan.  I cook the crepe until the sides start to curl up, flip it over, and cook it for about 30 more seconds.  I place the cooked crepes on a large dinner plate and cover it with a kitchen towel to keep the crepes warm until I finish making all the crepes.

I make the filling by sweetening some yogurt with stevia powder or honey. Sometimes I add other favorings like high quality flavored balsamic vinegars or spices. I added cinnamon and blueberry balsamic vinegar to the filling in the crepes that I made this weekend. I fill and top the crepes with the filling and fresh fruit. I used mango and blueberries in the crepe shown above.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lexington Farmer's Market

This past weekend, I visited my friends, Yoli and Eric, in Georgetown, Kentucky. Eric and I are both foodies, so while Yoli went to belly dancing class, we went to the farmer's market in Lexington. We bought fingerling potatoes, blackberries, zucchini blossoms, black cherry tomatoes, and beef short ribs. It was wonderful to have fresh, locally grown tomatoes. Lexington in a zone south of us so their tomatoes are a little earlier than tomatoes here in Indianapolis.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sowing Carrots

On someone's blog somewhere, I saw a terrific idea for sowing tiny seeds. I would like to give the person credit, so if someone out there has seen this idea on another blog, please let me know. On this blog, the person showed how to make her own seed strips. I decided to try this idea out myself.
[Update:  The idea comes from Annie's Granny's website.  You should totally check her out.  She's definitely a gardening goddess! I steal ideas only from the best gardeners ; )  ]

First I place dots on a napkin with a marker about an inch an a half apart.

Then I placed tiny dots of non-toxic, washable glue on each marker spot.

I used a screw to pick up small amounts of seed since I didn't have any toothpicks. I dipped the screw in a little glue to help the seeds stick to it.

Finally, I placed 2-3 seeds on each dot.

I'll let the seed mat dry and sometime next week, I'll place the mat in my garden and water thoroughly.  I'll keep you posted on how this works out.  It will be nice not to have to waste so much seed and not to have to thin out the carrots.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sweet Anticipation

My tomatoes and eggplants aren't ready yet, but they will be soon. I can't wait to make eggplant parmesan with them.

Eggplant 'Listada de Gandia'

Tomato 'Sweet Tangerine'
Notice how the tomato is starting to take on an orange tint.

Tomato 'Bloody Butcher'

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Favorite Perennial

I bought pink poodle echinacea this spring.  It started blooming when I was on vacation.  I came home to this beautiful surprise.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Favorite Summer Salad

As soon as I get my first cucumbers in the summer, I start making my favorite summer salad and I don't finish making it until the last tomatoes have ripened in the fall. I almost always have tomato, corn & cucumber salad in my refrigerator. I made this salad for the first time this year last night using cucumber and basil from my garden.

To make this salad I used fresh tomatoes, cucumber, corn (fresh when I can get Indiana corn), garlic, basil, sea salt, a very good balsamic vinegar, and a decent olive oil.

First, I saute minced garlic in a small skillet in 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil at a medium heat until it turns golden brown. If I am using fresh corn, I saute the corn for a few minutes in the skillet right as the garlic starts to show a little golden color.

While the garlic is browning, I cut up the tomatoes and cucumber into bite-sized pieces and add them to a salad bowl.

Then I add the browned garlic and some chopped basil leaves to the bowl.

Finally, I toss the salad with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden of Shame

I've been on vacation. When I returned home, my garden was a mess (and still is).  I have A LOT of weeding to do. I also need to tie my blackberry canes to the fence and stake up various perennials. This morning, I managed to mow the lawn and weed the front part of my front lawn shade bed. The temperature is 95 degrees in the shade. When sweat was running into my eyes, I decided that I would weed my garden in short bursts of 20-30 minutes and only weed those sections of the garden that have some shade. Maybe I'll have it all weeded in a couple of days.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Favorite Combination: Caladium, Coral Bells, and Hostas

My front porch faces east and I have a large oak tree in my front yard. Consequently, my front porch is shady. The area next to my front door gets no direct sun and it's fairly shady. I struggle to find colorful plants that will grow in this space. I have finally found a great combination: caladium, southern comfort coral bells, and thunderbolt hosta.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Favorite Combinations: Variegated Red Twig Dogwood and Pink Asiatic Lilies

I bought these Asiatic lilies at a big box store and found them on the clearance rack for $1 a pot. I love the clearance racks.  Once the plants are past their prime, they are heavily discounted. I bought three pots and they have established a large healthy stand. I'm sorry that I can't remember the name of the cultivar. My computer crashed last year and I lost my plant name database. 

Asiatic lilies are easy to grow.  When I dig the hole to plant the lilies, I throw a handful of compost in the hole and mix it into the dirt in the bottom of the hole. In the spring, I top dress the soil around the lilies with some extra compost.  After the flowers bloom, I remove the deadheads to encourage more flowers.

The read twig dogwood bushes are one of my favorite shrubs.  They provide a lovely backdrop for perennials in the spring, summer and fall.  In the winter, the bright red color of their new growth branches provide some winter garden interest. Red twig dogwood thrive in full sun but will tolerate some shade.  In the spring, I prune out the old and dead branches and trim the bush into a rounded shape. I also spread a shovel of compost around the base of each bush and mulch the bushes with chopped up leaves.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First Tomatoes : )

When I was weeding the vegetable garden today, I noticed my first tomatoes on my Supersweet 100 tomatoes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Garden Fairy

I have the BEST sister, ever. Liz is a true garden fairy. She just spent the day with me weeding my backyard vegetable and flower beds. They were a weedy mess, but now they (almost) weed-free. I just didn't have time to weed the past two weeks and we've gotten a lot of rain.  

The weather was oppressive-hot and humid.  We were both soaking wet with sweat by the time we were finished. We had to take several cool down breaks to escape into the air-conditioned house and drink some iced tea to rehydrate. I wanted to post a photo of my sister weeding on this blog, but she threatened to beat me bloody if I posted a picture of her looking so dirty and sweaty [and let's just say that you all are lucky that there's no such thing as smell-o-vision!]

I still have about 8 feet of my perennial bed to weed and I need to weed between the plants in my vegetable garden.  I should have the all finished by the middle of next week if it doesn't rain too much.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Daylilies Blooming Now

Ruby Spider

Double Sweets

Siloam Double Classic

Lemon Custard

Strawberry Frappe
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