Friday, March 27, 2015

Potted

Here are pictures of pots of plants I have taken over the years. Today is rainy but summer pots are just days away here in the sunny (sometimes) South. One more week and last day of frost will be o-o-ver.
Black Mountain, NC

Raleigh, NC


Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

Black Mountain gift shop courtyard

College of Charleston Library

T Rex in cork forest

Fairy Garden, Mine

Downtown Cheraw, SC 

Pansy pot

Brooklyn Brotanical Garden, Lettuces with Dill 

Mixed pot with basil

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pea Lesson-A Letter To My Children

Shell, snow and snap…
Dear Children,

Your father grew up northwest of the Mason Dixon line. I am Southern through and through. Peas to southerns are brown, pea-nutty flavored, cooked in a broth. They were the staff of life here once, filling, hearty, protein packed and brown. Served with corn bread or biscuits a filling enough meal. I am NOT talking about blacked-eyed peas here I am talking crowder or cow peas. They were once reserved for animals and used as cover crops to lock nitrogen into the soil. Then, we had the Civil War and food was food people. My grandmother always had a pot of peas on her stove. Always. If you needed a snack, have a bowl of peas.
The peas of Dad's youth are round and bright green. As far a I know, broth is not part of the cooking method. I did not grow up eating them. My mother served them from a can occasionally and I hated them. Mushy and scanky-tasting I could only get them down whole with a big gulp of milk. This is a truth: many nights I would excuse myself to the restroom to spit them out, until she got wise.

I digress. Here's the lesson on green peas.
1. They grow in cool weather unlike field peas which like it hot, hot, hot. Plant green peas in late winter, field peas in May, then again in late July.
2. There are THREE varieties of green, cool weather peas. I know this now because Dad wigged out when I bought the wrong variety. Folks. He wigged. I do not like his wigging.
3. The three varieties are: shell, snow and snap. Do not mistake snap for shell or Dad will... wig. ( I will not go into the, "Well, if you don't like what I bought why don't you go out and buy your own damn seeds?" thoughts I was having because he was losing it and could not be rational. It happens to all of us.)
4. Shell are the prize! They are sweet, like candy. They must be eaten soon after picking and go starchy. Then they are just like canned. Yuck.
5. Snow peas are Asian varieties and are flat. They are also sweet and nice steamed or stir-fried.
6. Snap peas?  I am using them for pea shoots in salad, because garden friends I bought lots…

Creatively yours,
Mom
Closely sown snap peas for salads :)
PS They all look the same before their pods mature…The Same. Alike. Identical.


Monday, March 2, 2015

WHAM! BAM! OOF.

February was tough. Really tough. Wet, grey, cold days for days on end. Man. Or, changing a single syllable word into two as Southerns do for emphasis: Ma-Yun! I can only shake my bowed head in hopes that the worst is over.
Yesterday, the 1st of March was also a loser of a day. I am sure March had not gotten the memo that it had arrived, but today? Ma-Yun. It's been a perfect gardening day and that's exactly what I spent the day doing.
We struggled and planted onion sets in the cold Saturday, hibernated in frustration Sunday, and planted broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce seedlings today. I soaked pea seeds for shoots overnight and planted them this afternoon. I potted up dill and Swiss Chard seeds, moved pots around so they can be in the sunniest spot and flipped through seed packets for more planting tomorrow.
The mach, spinach, bok choy, arugula, carrots, and tiny lettuces were uncovered for optimal sun this morning. Turnip seedlings survived the cold and kale is limping along. OOooo baby, the garlic is looking good.
Now, as I finish typing, I remember I promised myself I would put out cornmeal in jars as slug lures. Cheaper than beer ya know. Must do. Asap.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What is chitting?

It's when you, the gardener, take potatoes out of storage in a cool dark place, give them sunlight and they begin to sprout. It supposedly gives the plants a head start on production. Potatoes bought for garden plantings will begin to sprout right away when given sleight because they have not been treated with chemical to inhibit growth. Store bought potatoes are some of the most heavily chemically treated produce, along with apples and tomatoes. That's why you grow your own if you can. Also. Fresh potatoes have not converted their energy to starch yet. They have a very different taste from store bought a sort of nutty sweetness about them. The same is true for brassicas-cabbage, broccoli and turnips. They are sweet when freshly picked without that gacky sulfur taste of store-boughts. Garden grown gives a different eating experience.

Waiting for the soil to warm up...

Ready to be eaten. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Vegetables

Almost too pretty to eat :)

This Fall I planted cabbages, broccoli and kale in The Middle Garden. The broccoli was taken out by extreme cold and I learned my lesson about picking. As in, pick, even though things aren't perfect. Savoy cabbage has a well earned reputation for being cold hardy and kept going and growing through temperatures in the teens. They were very nice. So nice that our dog ate three of them just as they were forming heads before we wised up to her greedy ways.
Today, knowing that it is going to be in the single digits for the next two nights I went a'harvesting. I ate pea shoots straight from the garden (yummy). Tonight there will be Japanese chicken soup with soba noddles.  Kale stands in as seaweed. Elephant garlic in for leeks. Tomorrow there will cabbage casserole. And then we will start eating down turnips and sweet potatoes. Did I mention I try to cook what's currently growing in the garden and what I've saved.
Spinach has withstood so far. We had as much as I could pick in a salad last night with pretty little pansies as garnish. Under the row covers the mache, bok choi, turnips and peas are just up. They were planted weeks ago when we had a warm spell. In the house there are lettuces, broccoli and kale sprouts waiting on warmer days to be transplanted. Potatoes are chitting, lined up in egg cartons on the kitchen windowsill. Hurry spring! Cold winter can't last. Me? I am having trouble lasting also.
Good eats from our winter garden! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Whiskey for Breakfast

You'd look like an ancient Egyptian too if you'd been soaking in alcohol for months.

Not quite.
This has been the year of fruit flavored alcohols or alcohol flavored fruit, however. It began innocently, last June, as a big basket of peaches bought on the way home from lovely, Hendersonville, NC. Juicy, jewel colored, fuzzy, flavorful, make-you-weak-at-the-knees-beautiful southern belle, Georgia peaches.

June 2014 I was whipped, done, exhausted from a doozy of a school year, not to mention a lifetime of working in the public schools, and I was delusional, or I wouldn't have bought a lifetime supply of peaches. We started eating but we couldn't eat them fast enough. They go bad in a hurry, ya know. It was hot. Small Town Southern hot. No way I was going to can peaches when it was 100 + degrees. I was so not acclimated yet. How to preserve them? I asked the internet. Liquor. A most appealing idea, not offered in the UGA, So Easy to Preserve, tome on food preservation. What!?! So Southern :\ So USDA:/

Europeans to the rescue! Germans have rumtoff. The French, fruit flavored liquors. Me?  I made both. Look. I didn't even have to peel the peaches. Cut them in half, remove pit, put in a glass jar or crock, and pour on the rum and some sugar water. Now here where it gets good. Keep adding fruit. All summer long. Figs. Blackberries. Apples. Pears. In the Fall add sticks of cinnamon, a few cloves, a nutty nutmeg and wait some more.

Mid-winter scoop out some fruit for a warm winter compote good with roasted hunks of meat. Make a When cooled, serve over yogurt and you can have liquor for breakfast, sort of. Make a Rumtoff Cake soaked in spiced rum and eat it for breakfast, more liquor for breakfast. You will also have a tasty spiced rum for your Super Bowl Football Knitting Party. Because some of us are are in it for the commercials and half-time show.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Rock and Roll!

Take a lickin', keep on ticking', Savoy cabbage. The shar pei of brassicas! 

God loves us. That's my explanation for this warm, sunny mid-January day. All weekend the high temperatures were in the 60's and a most welcome sun has shone down on us. I pruned dead, slimy leaves from broccoli and lettuces, pulled the ones with frozen stems. They don't call it agricultural science for nothing: I'm always experimenting. Maybe the un-dead broccoli will send out edible side shoots. Maybe :)  Maybe :] Maybe :\
There was also pulling and digging of limp lettuce. In the now empty beds, Scott shoveled in composted chicken manure and wood ashes. Right behind him,  I sowed mache, spinach, boo choy, and arugula seed. A brave, hopeful, glass-half-full measure. Weather Channel forecasts show days and days of temperatures just right for cool season crops. Fingers, eyes, and toes crossed!
I also pulled turnips which were yummy julienned in pork tacos yesterday. It served as a fabulous substitute for other crunchy things recommended in the recipe. Turnips are really sweet this year. I credit the right regular rain for this.
The weather made gardening an all weekend event. I cleaned the clutter all around our garden bench and planted broccoli seeds in pots for indoor germination. Scott cleaned gutters. We pulled weeds, admired and wrapped up with a late season planting of garlic, because, you can never have too much garlic.
Rock and roll gardeners!