Bless My Bloomers
Bless My Bloomers
On this snowy and chilly day of January, I start dreaming about the spring and what I am going to do different with my gardens this year. Many things are taken into consideration when I ponder over the next years garden. Here are a few of the things I think about from year to year.
First of all I get out my garden journal from the prior two years and take a look at where we planted what. My husband and I have a tendency to move things around to get a better harvest. We have learned an awful lot about gardening in our 40+ years together. Looking at our layouts for the prior two years gives us insight as to which crop does better in which location. I also take into account the variety of vegetable and how great or not so great the yield was. Sometimes we bomb on a variety and other times we find a new one to try that is outstanding. This is all trial and error on our part.
We look at the garden areas and decide if we will need to trim tree branches back to allow more sunlight and which ones will be trimmed. Usually we take a soil sample and have it analyzed to see what we need added to improve our soil, thus improve our yields.
I then hit the many seed catalogs that bombard my mail box this time of year and read up on new and different varieties. Usually I try one or two new varieties and many times I try something totally different. How else will I know if I like it or not, and who knows I may find a new vegetable to add to my table.
Unfortunately then comes the wait for spring and getting our hands in the dirt. There is something to be said about playing in the dirt. I love the way the soil feels, enjoy the bugs and worms, and knowing that we will have another successful garden. Happy dreaming to all!
This is the time of year I like to start planning for the garden. Have you ever had an herb garden? There are many things to consider when planting an herb garden.
Herbs grow well just about anywhere that has at least 6 hours of sunlight. However their are some herbs that tolerate shade. Keep this in mind when picking a spot for your herbs. Herbs also don't like getting their feet wet for any length of time. Good drainage is a must if you wish to be successful.
My advice is to pick a spot as close to the kitchen as possible if you plan on using your herbs for cooking. I have planted my herbs in more than one spot over the years and have found that planting in large pots works well for me. Right outside my backdoor is an open area that gets plenty of sunlight and I move my pots out every spring and bring my herbs back to life. Thyme, oregano, marjoram, mint and lemon balm are all herbs that keep well in pots over the winter if moved to the garage.
Over the years I have seen many different herb gardens, one of my favorites is at the Ozarks Folk Center in Arkansas. Herbs are woven in among the walkways and the aroma is heavenly. Find your niche and enjoy the aroma of fresh herbs in your yard.
Kale is very good for you and tolerates cooler temperatures very well. I have many kale recipes, here is one of our favorites.
Kale with Feta and Olives
2 lbs. kale, stemmed and torn into pieces
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, for , garnish
10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved, for garnish
Put the kale into a stockpot, add 1/4 cup of water, cover, and cook over medium heat for 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and saute for 8-9 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic, stir, and saute for 30 seconds. Add the kale and the remaining oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and vinegar. Uncover the skillet, sprinkle the kale with the lemon-vinegar mixture, and remove from heat. Transfer the kale to a serving dish and garnish with the feta cheese and olives.
Makes 4 servings.
Rain is so nice this time of year, especially if you are a Fall gardener. My husband and I were fortunate enough to get our Fall garden planted and up before the rain began. Our lettuce looks very nice thanks to the cooler temperatures. This is the time of year that is also bittersweet as we use the last of our fresh tomatoes and the spent plants are being pulled up and hauled to the compost pile. Our freezer is over loaded with produce, broth etc. The shelves in the basement are full of tomatoes, salsa, pizza sauce, green beans among many other garden items. We have our potatoes in the the cool as well as squash. Aside from some very warm temperatures this years harvest is rated as one of our best. All of our hard work has paid off and we can reap the benefits all winter long. When the temperatures are below freezing and perhaps snow on the ground I will look back on our hard work and be thankful for our garden.
This seems so early for the Dog Days of Summer, believe we usually have to wait until August. The good part about all this warmth is the tomatoes are thriving as is the okra and peppers. They all seem to love the heat. Unfortunately the crops that love water and a little cooler have died out. I really can't complain about the garden as we have had a great crop of potatoes, cabbage, beans, squash and cucumbers but boy the late frost didn't provide us with much fruit. We lost the plums and half the cherries, however, the grapes and apples look good. I guess every gardener is at the mercy of mother nature. Hoping the Fall temperatures will be more per usual and the late garden we will plant can thrive. Hope your gardens are providing ample vegetables for you to enjoy.
Here is a recipe to try, it is an oldie.
Baked Dried Corn serves 8
1 cup dried corn 3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs, beaten 2 tablespoon butter
Grind corn in food grinder or blender. Combine with milk and allow to stand
1/2 hour or more. Add salt, sugar, and eggs. Mix well.
Pour into a buttered 1 quart casserole dish. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.
This year has been a tough year for our broccoli plants. We got them out early, and they were flourishing, then the dry weather. No matter how much we watered they haven't produced any florets. Our gardening friends nearby have the same problem. What to do with big beautiful leaves and no florets you ask? Don't just throw them to the chickens or put them in your compost pile, cook with them.
My husband Jim and I decided we would eat the leaves. To our surprise we found the leaves to be very tender and have a good flavor. There are many recipes for broccoli leaves, but we eat them sauteed just like we make our kale. Use the more tender leaves, wash, chop and cook in a little butter or oil, add garlic, pepper and cayenne. The leaves are packed with vitamins A, K and C.
Another good way to use your broccoli leaves is to make broccoli leaf chips just like you make kale chips only use broccoli leaves instead of kale leaves. Wash leaves, I tear into smaller pieces and take out the large stem down the middle of the leaf. The stem can be tough when cooked. I put the leaf pieces in a large zip plastic bag and add olive oil, salt ( if you use it), garlic and parmesan cheese . Zip the bag shut, shake well to coat the leaf pieces. Bake in a 425 degree oven until crisp. This only takes a few minutes, you need to watch them closely. They make a great snack.
Hope you find many new uses for your broccoli leaves.
Gardening is such a wonderful hobby. What a great feeling to first feel the earth between your fingers, then hoping all the seeds and plants you just put out will produce the result you intended. My husband and I mostly do vegetable gardening as we like to have fresh fruits and vegetables and to know what our food contains. With all the medical issues around and preservatives etc. in many packaged items, it is great to know where my food came from and how it was preserved.
When the weather has been cooperative and our plants thrive I can freeze, can and dry enough vegetables and fruit to get us through until the next season. Knowing we have food to survive gives us some peace of mind. I will be the first to say it is a lot of hard work tending to a garden, picking vegetables and fruits, preparing for preservation then the actual preservation. My mothers saying was no one ever died of a little hard work. There is a gratification knowing our hard work and diligent efforts have provided for us.
We are already reaping the benefits of this years garden with lettuce, onions, chard, kale and fresh herbs. Can't wait til tomatoes, squash and beans are ready.
Hope your gardens be they flower, herb or vegetable flourish this year.
Just a note to remind everyone the Phelps County Master Gardeners and the Master Naturalists plant sale is this Saturday, May 12th from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. We will be located at the Rolla Downtown Farmers Market. Herbs, trees, natives and flowers are a few of the many items that will be at the plant sale. See you there!
Please save your clean pots as we will be having a pot swap in May.
Finally we are seeing more spring like temperatures. Gardens are being planted, flowers are blooming and the birds are nesting. It was such a pleasure to see these guys hanging around my house the last few days.
It is also a joy to see so many beautiful flowers. Enjoy your Spring!
Spring, a time I await with bated breath for the sweet smell of flowers and dandelion jelly. Here is my recipe for dandelion jelly. YUM!
2 cup dandelion blossoms, washed and flowers trimmed of calyx
4 cup water
1 package (1-3/4 oz.) powdered fruit pectin
5-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon extract (if desired)
Bring dandelion blossoms and water to a boil; boil 4 minutes.
Meanwhile line a strainer with a coffee filter. Place over bowl. When dandelion tea has been boiled pour mixture into prepared strainer. Reserve 3 cup liquid. Discard blossoms.
In large pot, combine pectin and reserved dandelion liquid. Bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add extract if using, skim off foam. Fill jars leaving 1/8" head space. Process as per extension guidelines or per your canners instructions.
On a nice early spring day go outside to an area where you don't spray or pets don't roam and pick 6 cups of the dandelion blossoms. Bring in and remove the blossoms from the calyx. The better you do this, the better the flavor. If you leave to many greens attached the jelly will be bitter.
Once you have all the blossom ends pulled off, rinse well. If you have any large green pieces remove them as you see them. You should have about 2 cups of blossoms.
Place the dandelion blossoms in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 4 minutes. While waiting for the tea to boil, place a coffee filter in a strainer. Once tea has boiled, strain the mixture through the coffee filter reserving 3 cups of liquid. Discard blossoms.
In a large pot, combine the pectin and reserved dandelion liquid. Bring to a full rolling boil, stir in sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add extract if you are using it. Skim off foam. Fill jars leaving 1/8" head space. Process.
You will have this beautiful golden jelly that tastes like honey, (if you don't use lemon) or a lightly lemon flavored jelly. Great on biscuits and pancakes.
If you make this, let me know how it turned out.