Dec 17, 2012

The Royal Herb

Aside: The word Basil comes from Greek, meaning "royal."

Basil.  It's a truly wonderful thing.  In fact, I often comment that I "should have planted more."  No matter how much I plant, I always feel that way.  Basil is a wonderfully fragrant herb and gives great flavor to dishes, and even better, can be used to make pesto.  Pesto also has many uses, so basil is the herb that keeps on giving.

This year, when my garden was taken over by unnamed persons, I knew I should have lots of basil coming.  I had planted a lot, it was a hot growing season (which basil loves) and I was already dreaming of pesto. Yes, readers, I dream about pesto. =)

One day, I inquired about the basil.  This gardening novice knew nothing about frequent harvesting of basil, and had let it flower.  Once it flowers, folks, it's the end of the basil.  So, I took what was out there and ran inside to make some glorious pesto.

Aside: I have been known, on occasion to make people in my kitchen stop what they're doing and smell the pesto. I've just decided, "Stop and smell the pesto," is my new life motto. 

If you look closely in the photo below, you can see the tiny white flowers at the top left.

When you are growing basil, pinch off the tops when it starts to get tall or show signs of flowering. You can also just pinch off a small amount if you need a bit for a recipe. It will continue to produce a lot more, until the weather turns cold.  For now, you can buy basil at the store, or try your local nursery to see what herbs they have available in plant or seed form.

Food note: If you find yourself with too much basil, send it to me.  Okay, but seriously.  You can dry basil to save it by hanging it upside down and then crushing the leaves.  However, I prefer to harvest it fresh, make a quick pesto, and then freeze that pesto.  It freezes and defrosts beautifully and then you can have the taste of summer all year round.  Below are two of my favorite recipes for pesto.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce

Grilled Veggie Pizza with Pesto

Dec 14, 2012

Jalapeño Business

What does a nosy pepper do?  

Gets jalapeño business.

One not-so-great thing about having a garden can be overproduction of a certain crop.  Depending on the year and conditions, you can have a surplus of just about anything.  To this point, I've only tried to grow enough produce for two people.  I don't want to get into canning and preserving, because that's more time and energy than I am willing to give/have at this point in my life.  Heck, readers, I can barely find time to blog as of late.

Anyway, back to the point of this post.  Jalapeños and peppers in general are one of the things that I love having in excess.  Notably, because they freeze well.  I take my extra peppers, like so:

Simply place them in a freezer bag and stick them right into the freezer.  I like to make salsa year round, and I've found that you can throw a frozen pepper right into your food processor straight from the freezer. No cutting of the stem required!  The last few years it has worked out that I am running out of peppers by the time the next planting season is rolling around.  That's pretty perfect for me.

Food note: I usually like to roast my peppers on a fall day, when I can have the windows wide open.  You can blacken them on a cast-iron skillet (or comal like I do), or under the broiler for a few minutes.  (Watch carefully if you choose this method, as they will quickly become burned if you turn away.)

Once the skin is charred, wrap them in a paper towel and put in a plastic baggy and let sit.  When cooled, you'll rub the blackened skin right off and stick in bags to freeze.  The added flavor is amazing, but be warned... Your house will be a little spicy-smelling and smoky; Thus the reason I prefer to do it with the windows wide open. =)

Aug 21, 2012

Under New Management

My garden has been taken over, by persons that shall not be named who have grand plans for said garden.  Honestly, my 2 small squares were enough to keep me busy, so I gave said person my garden when said grand plans were hatched.  Not much has produced this summer because of the heat and because frankly, I think my garden feels betrayed.  =) 

Honestly, I feel a little lost without it too.  This blog and that small patch of earth have provided a writing and creative outlet that I love.  So, dear friends and avid readers (Read: the 2 of you know who you are.): Help. What should become of this blog?  Is there anything else you'd like me to write about?  Or, should I let my small plot of land rest in peace? 

Jul 24, 2012

Taters, precious

This year I decided to try growing potatoes, Kennebecs, to be specific.  Aside: I find it somewhat ironic that they are supposed to be planted around St. Patrick's day. (Irish potato famine, anyone?)  However, I would highly recommend giving potatoes a try in your garden! 

There are two not-at-all-difficult parts about growing potatoes.  One is that you have to cut the variety you get so that there are at least two eyes in  each part, and then let them cure for a week. (Read: Cut haphazardly and then leave them on your counter to dry out a little bit.)  The second is that you have to remember when you planted them so you know when to harvest.  Kennebecs take about 100 days to mature.

Seriously, potatoes are a beginning gardener's friend.  Since they are planted in the spring, it is cooler, and here in Kansas, we get the most rain that we see all year, so watering is minimal.  Pests are also minimal with the cooler temps.  

I was surprised by how large the plants actually grow.  For some reason, I imagined that since you dig them out of the dirt, that the plants wouldn't be very big.  Obviously, I was wrong... again.  =) 

The potato plants are on the right, and you can see that they gave my zucchini a run for it's money before they were harvested.  Taters, precious! They are so worth it.

Note: Many potatoes were harmed in the making of potato egg and cheese burritos and mashed potatoes.  Delicious!

Jul 10, 2012


You know how life gets in the way?  It's been doing that a lot to me lately.

1. Yes, the garden is still alive and producing.  Lots of tomatoes this year, but they rarely make it indoors, much like the sugar snap peas I planted.  Some zucchini, I didn't plant enough basil, (PESTO.  It's so wonderful.) a plagued eggplant, lots of peppers.

2. Summer school, family vacations, trips, and tomorrow I am taking on my niece and nephew for Camp Auntie.  Someday this summer, I will take time for a breath. :)

3. In other words, sorry for my lack of posting the last month and a half.  I have a few things that I'll try to get done in the next couple of weeks, and I'll write some new posts as soon as possible!

May 23, 2012

Not-so-frequently asked questions

Now that I've been gardening for eons (Read: entering my second year) and have such vast knowledge (Read: Still clueless) I find people ask me questions all the time! (Read: One or two people have asked me a few things.)  So, I'd like to put these questions here as often as I can to pass on my immense knowledge. =) If you have a question, let me know and I'll do my best to answer it.

Note: Follow my advice at your own risk.  I don't want to be responsible for the death of your plants.

What do you think about using cow fertilizer in the garden?
 Even if I had it available, there are a few reasons why I'm against it.  
1. You're going to eat the things you are growing in this soil.  Animal feces in your soil = iffy.
2. You're going to be touching it with your own hands. (Especially if you're like me and often find your gloves on the ground and your hands covered in soil.)  Yuck.
3. If you are trying to keep the garden organic, this presents another challenge.  Do you know what the cows have been eating?  Have they been treated with hormones or other things that might *Ahem* carry over to your garden?  These are all things to think about with cow fertilizer.

My recommendation is to buy organic fertilizer if you aren't composting yourself.  I've had great luck with Garrett Juice, but check out your local stores.  You're bound to find something.

Does it matter when I water?

 If you read a few books or websites on gardening, they will mostly recommend that you water early in the morning.  This will give the plants time to absorb some water and won't harm plants that are prone to fungus problems, which can happen if you water at night.  Some resources will even go as far to say not to get any water on the leaves.  Not being a morning person myself, I used to stress out about watering, until I had a thought. (Shocking, I know.)

It rains at all times, day and night.  That gets the leaves wet too.  Rain is great for plants.  So, my young padawan, breathe easy.  Water early in the morning or late at night, but avoid the heat of the day.  The beauty of gardening is the experiment of finding what works for you and your plants, and no two situations are alike!

May 16, 2012

Bloomin' Broccoli

I know, I know, I am still ridiculously behind on blogging.  This Thursday is Graduation, and work and life have been so busy.  After this week, I promise to catch you up on what's growing in my little piece of heaven, aka my garden.  For now, my two readers, you'll have to make do with these pictures of what broccoli looks like when you let it bloom. =) 

Kind of pretty, don't you think?  These blooms are also supposed to be edible, but I didn't try my hand at cooking them...  I had things to plant and time keeps on slippin' away. Happy Wednesday!

May 9, 2012

Things I Neglected to Tell You

Yesterday was the first day in a long time that I got to spend out in my garden.  I've been so busy lately with many other things, but I've truly missed being able to putter around my tiny garden.  I had many plants to plant, among them three different kinds of love apples.  While getting ready to plant, I realized that I had neglected to tell you important information! 

1. Save your eggshells!  During the late winter/early spring, I begin saving all of mine.  Just give them a quick rinse and put them in a bowl on your counter so that you can let them dry out.  Once you have an amount that seems like a lot, put them in a baggie.  Then take your rolling pin, or instrument of your choice, and beat them to smithereens.

It feels great.  Trust me.  When you plant your love apples, mix and sprinkle the eggshells into the surrounding soil.  Tomatoes love calcium, and this also helps to prevent blossom end rot, which is a common problem with tomatoes. 

2. Plant the tomato so that part of the stem that doesn't have leaves is under the soil level.  Tomatoes are wondrous things that will actually sprout additional roots from the part of the plant you put under the soil, making the plant stronger and better able to absorb water. 

Now, grab a large pot or tiny plot of land that gets a lot of sun, head to your local nursery and get a tomato plant, and start planting! I've said it before, but if you are only going to grow one thing, grow love apples! 

Apr 12, 2012

"Out of the mouths of babes"

I've been on my hippie soapbox before talking about great economic lessons like supply and demand and scarcity of resources. (Hee hee, the Social Science teacher in me will not go away.)  This video is yet another reason why you should think about the food choices you make and to perhaps try growing some of your own food.

Apr 5, 2012

Seeing Green

Once I harvested the broccoli for super bowl, I honestly didn't think much about it.  It was tucked away in its warm sun box and I walked out a few times to give it water.  Needless to say I was a little surprised when I walked out one day to find this:

Let us out!! Let us out!!!

More delicious broccoli than I had use for!!  

Either the foil light conditions, the fertilizer, or just the amazingly rich soil led to quite a bumper crop. =)

Wow.  Good thing fresh broccoli is so delicious.  =)
Once again, though, the poor headless broccoli kinda makes me laugh.  Hee hee.

Mar 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Almost a month since my last post, I can hardly believe that!  Spring has arrived in full force, and it was definitely time for me to do a little clean up!  Knowing how and when to prune your plants can be a bit of a challenge when you aren't sure what they are.  My tried and true method is to Google a description of the plant, look through images, and find one that looks just like your plant.  =)  Once you have the name, you can do a little more research on the plant in question. 

I pruned the rose bush I hate down to about a foot from the ground.  Please disregard the weeds.  They are next on my long spring to-do list. =) 

Hibiscus is supposed to be pruned down about a third in the spring.  Here you can see the before and after on the only plants in the front I like.  The longer I live here, the more irritated I become by the unfortunate plant choices that are in the front.  My shovel keeps calling my name.

 "Angela. Stop being a pansy and dig out the ugly plants."  - Your shovel

I found out this plant is a purple leaf sand cherry.  I can't prune it until after it flowers, which is currently happening. Finally, the daffodils and tulips are poking up again.

Oh gosh, the weeds!!!!  This mild winter gave them quite a head start... I better get to work.

Feb 23, 2012

Plotting and Planning

Sorry to disappoint you, it's nothing bad.  =)  It's almost that time where I start planting early seeds for my garden.  I know what worked last year and what new varieties I would like to try.  In the coming weeks, I'll start scribbling out my garden plots and also start my seeds indoors. 

However, in the spirit of going with the gardening flow... I'd like to give my devoted readers a chance to tell me what they would like to see me grow this year.  I'm up for almost anything as long as I have space for it, so leave a comment, send me an e-mail, write me on facebook, send me a text... Well, you get the idea.  =)

Feb 7, 2012

Super Broccoli Bowl

Does anyone else half-sing when you say "Super Broccoli?"  And maybe put your arms out? Oh. Me either.

Confession: In addition to a plant addiction, I have a food problem.  I always make too much.  I cannot help myself.  If you don't believe me, invite yourself over for dinner sometime.  =) So, although I didn't have anyone over for Super Bowl Sunday, here is part of what I made: Blackberry-Strawberry Brie Tarts and PW's black-eyed pea dip. (Try the dip!!!  It will change your world.)

Yes, part. I also made some sriracha-soy-sesame-oil-glazed drumsticks.  (Yeah, that's the best name I could come up with.)  I really thought I overdid it, until I read a certain friend's blog.  She put me to shame.  =)  So, what does this have to do with gardening?  I'm sure by the title you can guess: That broccoli came from my garden! 

I know I have said it before, but fresh broccoli tastes so different than what you get at the store.  It is juicy and tender and crisp and delightful.  Also, once you harvest the main stalk, it continues to produce small side shoots.  Delicious! And nutritious!

I realize this post is a little more food focused than garden focused.  By now, dear readers, you should know that this gardening thing partly came about because of my love for food. =)Thanks for humoring me.

Jan 22, 2012

"Sometimes when you lose...

You really win."  Okay, so I probably watched White Men Can't Jump too many times when I was younger.  What can I say, the basketball obsession started at a young age.  =)  However, this quote stuck with me for one reason or another.  There is actually a whole dialogue that I can quote, but I won't do that here.  The point of this post (I know, I know get to the point!) is that you can actually win by losing.  Sometimes.

I was going to extol the benefits of growing your own herbs indoors in the winter.  It doesn't require much but a window that faces South, and some water.  Unfortunately, due to the craziness of life, I kind of forgot that second part.

I did have some beautiful Italian Oregano and Thyme here that I painstakingly transplanted and nurtured for the last year and a half.  Seems like a loss, no?  NO!! The fantastic thing about inadvertently killing my herbs is that I can now strip the plants to have dried herbs.  (Yes, they are THAT dead.)  The other benefit is that I can head to my local nursery and see what they have growing, while I pick out new herbs to try not to kill.  =)  Somedays I wonder why anyone would follow my gardening advice.

Okay, most days.  =)

Jan 2, 2012

Still Waiting

Yes, I am still waiting for my tender edibles (broccoli) to make an appearance.  I was a little scared that my broccoli wouldn't survive, as I was out of town for an extended amount of time.  However, I found to my surprise that one additional benefit of having the broccoli in the sun box is that is requires less water.  With all of the mild temperatures, I might have a chance of seeing broccoli before the freezing cold  of winter sets in. 

Don't tell anyone, but I am ready for snow!!  People around here think I am a freak.  However, when you don't grow up with it, it is still a fun novelty.  I even like to shovel.  Shhhh! 

What was I talking about again? =)  Oh, yes, broccoli. 

It has gotten taller and leafier and I know the day will come soon when I can eat broccoli and complain to myself that I should have planted more.   =)  Stay tuned!