Tag Archives: seasonal foods

The Plan

is to produce/put away enough produce in the spring/summer/fall that we don’t have to buy any in the winter.

I have potatoes that were sprouting in the bin, planted out in the yard growing. I intend to grow the red seed potatoes I bought yesterday for winter. I also got storage onion starts. Celery was planted, it’s not doing well, but I planted it. I bought 2 celeric bulbs last week, haven’t been able to find the seed or starts. Figure I’ll plant those, either use the stalks, get seed, have it for next year OR the bulbs will grow enough that I can harvest 1 and grow the other.

I have summer squash, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, peas, & beans coming up, home grown broccoli seed sprouting, asparagus making wonderful ferns, etc. The garden is trying hard to produce food. The problem is that my garden sits atop the septic field, all sand. All the nutriends I feed the garden just seep away. I’ve added compost, leaf litter, worms, potting soil, you name it. And, as long as I keep it up, the plants do okay, but stop for one week? And they go back to producing enough to keep us in salads throughout the summer.

Raised beds help, but they don’t entirely change the situation. A giant sponge sits under my yard. The other side of the house is the north side, and is heavily wooded, so that won’t work.

Arg. I’ll manage. But I’ll never have a spectacular garden here, because I have a spectacular leach field, all nearly 1/2 acre of it!

 

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First Garden Harvest & First Plantings (Same Day!)

So how did I do this?

My veggie garden at the end of the summer always looks like a messy jungle. Why? And what does that have to do with the subject of this post?

That “messy jungle” is made up of chicory plants, root parsley, and dill which flower then set seed in the fall. Accordingly, early spring I always have some wilted parsley (I  just leave it alone for a few days after I uncover it) but I also have some radicchio (the overwintered chicory) if I can get it before the chipmunks! The dill won’t surface for a while; it comes up at the same time as the self-seeded mustard greens.

But there’s green garlic  (I’ll use some of the tops), sorrel, and radicchio out there to pick — today! We had a taste of the sorrel yesterday Tonight’s dinner will be stir-fried lettuces and ? (I got a bargain on a container of mixed lettuces yesterday). I’ll add some of the radicchio and sorrel and garlic greens to my bargain greens.

First harvest! 😀

 I also planted the first seeds today. Yes this is almost 6 weeks before our “last” frost date (Memorial Day). I planted mixed lettuces and spinach, cold tolerant, but not tolerant of a hard frost. I’m gambling we won’t have another snow. Could be that I just added the seed in 5 4′ rows to the soil to compost or feed chippers. Or, it could be that I’m a lucky soul and we’ll have some lettuce and spinach in a few weeks. We’ll see!

I sprinkled a little water on the bed after I planted the seed then I got a call from my friends who make the compost I use (I can’t make enough for our garden). I got 3 buckets of the stuff, used 2 immediately: over the bed where the radicchio is, the lettuce/spinach I’d just planted, the rhubarb, the sorrel, and lastly, the raised bed where the asparagus is.

I have 1 bucket left: I think that goes on the thymes (I grow 2 types: pizza and regular), tarragons (3 plants, 1 variety) and the wild grape vines.

The folks who make the compost gave me some of their stock, they don’t have any for sale, yet. It was a favor, and I appreciate it! If you want information about where I get my compost, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll posta  link.

It’s finally spring!

J

Working on the Garden/Veggie Plan

This is usually a fairly complex task, but it seems harder this year for some reason. There are all sorts of side issues:

  1. We decided to buy into a CSA this year, so the garden is auxilary  or winter storage foods, rather than augmenting or replacing supermarket and farmstand stuff.
  2. The garden planning software I’d used two years ago has been improved, but not to where the varieties I want to use are on it.  (I didn’t use anything last year, and it was obvious.) They give you the option to add plants, but so far as I can tell, you can only use what you specify, not what someone else does — which means I’d have to enter all the plants because I use different seed vendors than they do.
  3. Because of 2, I went looking for new garden planning software. Found some I liked at Mother Earth News, but it’s only free for 30 days. It’s $25 a year otherwise, and the plant/seed database seems to be a lot bigger, but I can’t get it to let me do anything but spec. Burpee seeds, which I also don’t use, and essentially repeats the problem I already had (see #2).
  4. Seed prices have gone up, making me even more unsure about what to plant.

Most seeds are now .03 each, or more. Used to be you could get many seeds for .01 or .02 a seed. I usually make up a database with the calculated seed prices  from at least my three favorite catalogs. For the common varieties, it means that I can see which seeds are actually cheapest, not only by packet price. And, if I want to consider only organic, or see what that adds to the price, for example, I can do that, easily. One of the three companies added .30 a packet for organic seeds this year. Not outrageous by any means, but I sure wouldn’t have ‘seen’ that if I hadn’t been doing the data base!

Every year I grow lots of beans, peas, herbs, asparagus, jer. artichoke and a mixture of whatever else. Last year, I grew more lettuce and greens than anything else. If they survive the winter, I have sorrel and mustards out there that will be our earliest greens, except maybe some chives or root parsley. I want to make our garden more productive, have more food put aside for winter, and just make it so we don’t have to go to the market or farmstand as often this spring, summer, or fall, saving gas, time, $, and wear & tear on the car — all noble goals!

I love, love, love looking through seed catalogs in January — but planning the garden can be an exercise in finding out how ADD I can be!

Use It Up Casserole

Well, this kinda worked, but needs to be tweaked!

There’s a raised bed of parsnips, carrots and celeriac in my veggie garden, still. I had bought a dozen eggs as they were on sale for $2 or so a dozen, couldn’t resist that price! So, what to do?

I made a casserole: 2 bread heels, chunked, 3 eggs, 2C milk, about 1C chunked cheddar cheese, 1/2 sweet onion, chopped, 2 ribs celery, sliced, about 1C diced parsnips, 3 carrots, and 1 large patty pan squash. It should have been fine.

I baked it, tested it with a knife in the center, came out clean. Looked cooked through. Top was all dry, so I chunked the cheese, put it on top, then put the thing under the broiler to brown. Pulled it out, dished up a bowl and there’s a layer of liquid on the bottom?

Stirred it all up (mixing the cheese inside) and put it back in the oven. We ate it, but it was NOT the custardy veggie casserole I wanted. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find a recipe to modify for this, so I faked it. It was tasty, but NOT what I expected, sigh.

Back to the drawing board!

Lettuce Soup v 2

Well, this time it’s going to be a cold soup. It’s in the 90’s here, I’m not cooking anything!

I’ve pulled the first batch of peas, and have decided to put celery in that bed. I just have to get to the co-op to get organic celery to plant. (Even if I could grow it from seed, which I’ve never managed, it’s too late in the season.) The first bush beans are producing too, finally.

I’ve given away 2 bags of lettuce to neighbors & friends, I hope they enjoyed it!

Tonight’s soup is based on a soup that I love from a favorite cookbook: 10 Minute Cuisine – by Henrietta Green & M. Moine. Their soup uses 1 lb of spinach, juice of 1 lemon and 2 avocados. What sounds like would otherwise be weak is made substantial by the avocados’ fat content. The spinach is nicely enhanced and countered with the lemon. They also add stock, a few drops of hot sauce, salt and pepper. Washing the spinach, getting everything together and buzzing it takes very little time, as the book’s title implies.

I’m making it with the mixed leaf lettuces that are running amok in the garden. My only quandry about the soup is that much of the lettuce is red, which will make the soup an unattractive brown I’m afraid. The other lettuce soup was pale green and I chopped some of the red lettuce then put it in the bottom of the soup bowls and poured the soup over it. I also garnished the soup with a little minced on top, worked great.

I didn’t have enough green lettuce for the soup, so the red & green lettuces have to be mixed. Oh well. I’m sure it will be yummy, even if it looks more like onion soup than lettuce. (It didn’t, it was green with red flecks, different than normal, but not bad!)

So the soup was: about 1/2-1 lb mixed leaf lettuces, 1 quart stock, juice of 1 lemon, 2 avocados. Clean & chop the lettuces. (Because I was using med. size lettuce from the garden and I intended to buzz the soup, I included all but the toughest stems. When I make the soup with spinach, I always cut off the split ends but use the stems.) Put in a LARGE bowl. Add the stock and lemon juice. Pit the avocados and add the chunked flesh to the bowl as well. Use a stick blender to liquify until the avocados “disappear” and the lettuces are mostly liquified, or just small specks. Serve (if you’re me) with hot sauce salt & pepper.*

*I don’t cook with salt & pepper as my signifiant other likes a LOT more pepper than I do and I like a LOT more salt than he does.

Too Much Lettuce and Other Good Things

It has been hot, so the lettuce — ALL of it, is growing like great guns out there. We’ve been eating salads, yes. And I’m pulling plants now, rather than simply cutting off leaves, as the plants are 8-10″ instead of 3-4″.

We had lettuce soup for dinner Monday. I imagine I’ll make lettuce soup base (lettuce simmered in stock) before long for the freezer. The lettuce hasn’t acquired flower stalks yet, but they’ll be there all too soon — and all of the (overplanted) beautiful yummy tender greenery will become bitter compost heap fodder instead.

There actually were a couple of leaves big enough to do wraps with, so those are going in the fridge for Tuesday rather than in the soup. The first bed of peas need to be removed and something else (more lettuce? spinach? radiccho?) planted in that raised bed.

Otherwise, my beefsteak tomato is thriving, the cherry tomato plant is dying for some reason, and one of the squash plants was eaten by the chipmunks (they ate every one last year).

Monday’s dinner of lettuce soup was delicious enough that yes, I’ll make “soup base” to go in the freezer. Can you imagine heating up a block of frozen, buzzed lettuce & stock and making lettuce soup in January? Sounds like watermelon jam, something I keep meaning to make, but we eat the watermelon too quickly! I don’t want to eat watermelon in December, but the idea of watermelon jam – – now that’s another thing altogether!

More Long-Term Planning & Bargain Hunting

I find it amusing that I can’t use a menu plan, but I’ve been working out a years’ worth of foods in season, recipes to use the fresh foods on sale, etc. for a long time. I just enjoy the excitement of figuring out dinner on the fly I guess?

Yesterday because of today’s holiday,I made a point of going to the market. I’m really glad I did! I bought $99.01 worth of food for $56.84, 43% off, with 1 coupon. This was NOT extreme couponing, but extreme shopping I guess?

The market was doing a deal, get a coupon for a12 pack of Coke for .99 — if you turn in your “frequent user” card. I did that, but expect to give the Coke to a neighbor, as we don’t drink soda. The Coke was also on sale.

Having paid attention to what the local markets do, I know that just before holidays is one of the cheapest time to find many staples. Yesterday, it was meat and cherries. I got 2 pkg of beef stir fry, 1/2 off (around $1.50 a package). I got 2 natural chickens 1/2 off (about $6 each) and a package of sirloin tips 1/2 off again, about $6. They had BOGO on BBQ, so I took advantage of that too.

The deal I wasn’t expecting, and the one I’m thinking about going back to the market today for, was cherries, at $2.88/lb. Normally $5.99/lb. It still cost me $7+, pricey, but not as insane as usual! [I love cherry preserves . . . .]

I am proud of my deal yesterday, I grabbed all the bargains and stayed in budget — something I was not sure I’d done!

Last night’s dinner was lemon arroz con pollo (lemon chicken & rice). Tonight, if it’s not raining, we’ll probably BBQ beef or some such.

I even got charcoal on a markdown! What more could you ask the day before the 4th of July?

Instead of roasting the chicken last night, I was seriously contemplating cutting both birds up into their component pieces and freezing them that way: backs, breasts, legs and then making up broth from the carcasses, skin, and wings. I didn’t, simply because I don’t have room in the freezer. The beef I bought took what room I had, and I cooked the giblets and froze those, but that’s one tiny bag, not 2 birds’s worth.

Whatever else we have for dinner tonight, we need to eat SOMETHING out of the freezer, there’s just no room in there!