Side Garden



Here, I mentioned that Keith accidentally purchased 2 acorn squash seedlings. I had never had it before. I guess I never will. Read on.

Here, I braggingly showed you a picture of our little acorn squash doing quite nicely. (The other seedling never really took off.)

I need to let you know that it died. Gone forever. Kaput. Compost. (Com-pissed is more like it. I mean, what the hell?) Some fungus, powdery mildew took over the leaves and stems and so the stem with the squash broke off completely. Look at this picture. Gross.

 

And so, a lament for our dearly departed Acorn Squash, having perished too early in the twilight of his life (Team Edward!)

Acorn Squash, 4 mos.
Former DaisyPatch Farm resident, Acorn Squash, 4 mos., died September 22, 2011 in his garden bed. No service will be held.Mr. Squash was born May. 10, 2011 to Comstock, Ferre and was moved across the country, living in an Agway for a short period of time before being adopted by the owners of DaisyPatch Farm.
 
Acorn could accomplish anything he set his mind to do. At a very early age, he grew one leaf, then another, and continued to grow leaves, despite the loss of his infant brother and his cousin, Butternut in a freak dry spell.
 
Acorn served in the United States Squash Force during operation Zucchini. Mr. Squash spent more than 3 months in New Hampshire. He never married. He is survived by distant cousins, the Giant Pumpkins.
 
Condolences may posted here under comments.

My pumpin haiku…ahem…

Crazy big pumpkins

Can our garden contain you?

You’re freaking me out.

We’ve never grown pumpkins before. We’ve grown zucchini, however. I always need sugar pumpkins for my Thanksgiving pies and end up wanting more, so have to go out searching. Well, it’s less “wanting” more because I usually only need 2 pumpkins for my pies. I usually need more. One year, I left them outside and they froze. I didn’t want to use them after that, the texture was weird. The next year, I didn’t want them to freeze, so I kept them inside on the windowsill and they rotted. We decided that, this year, we’re going to grow our own and bought some organic, heirloom seeds (gotta start out right!)

I was a bit late in planting the seedlings and they were root-bound and not-so-great-looking. Same with the cucumbers. Keith picked up some more pumpkin and cuke seedlings for me at the garden center, you know, just in case (so thoughtful!) He also picked up 2 acorn squash by accident. We’ve never had that.

So, everything is doing great. More than great. The plants are large. Feed-me-Seymour-large. Shall we analyze the hows and whys? Yes, lets. Because Mr. DaisyPatch has access to the internet and he knows how to use it. He’s been reading up on the best fertilizers for each phase of the life of our plants (that sort of sounded parent-ish, like our garden will be fed Gerber Graduates or something. Now is not the time for psychoanalysis, thank God! Moving on…). We have all sorts of organic fertilizers that have numbers and pictures of veggies all over them.

Needless to say, the shit seems to be working (oh, and we did, of course, use guano, aka bat shit, when we planted, so that shit is working too). The thing about it is, um, how to word this, I think we’re sort of screwed. He also bought giant pumpkins in that little trip. Yeah. I guess the plants are giant too. There are three very long branches, (tendrils? stalks?) and, so far, at last count, over 20 flowers. Yipes.

These are just the giant pumpkins. I’ll save pictures of the cukes, etc. for the next freak-show-post. OH, small DaisyPatch update. The Edamame is dead. I repeat. The Edamame is dead. I’m pissed. I shouldn’t be. I knew it was going to happen. But still, I’m pissed. That is all.


It has been too long, so…without further ado, my too much snow haiku…ahem… (OH MY GOD! That rhymed! Yeah, baby, this post is startin’ off good.)

We have too much snow

Just way too much goddamned snow

Dreaming of the beach

(As my intelligent and devoted readers know, I am pretty hard on myself. It is time to admit that haiku sucked. I know I gave you a good beginning what with the rhyme and everything, but then let you down with that sham of a poem. Dispicable (please go back, read that sentence again, and say, “Dispicable” in your spittiest Daffy Duck. I will wait. Did you do it? Did you get the lisp in the ‘s’ as spitty as possible? Ok, then. Moving on. This way please.))

Today, I am finally getting to the much anticipated theoretical discussion of, “What defines Edible?” As you may recall (you forgot, didn’t you?) a few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to discuss this topic because I was starting to question what “Edible” really meant. No, I am not talking about chopping up corrugated cardboard to sprinkle on your salad, I’m talking about the lettuce greens I had picked from underneath the frost blankets outside.

You see, at that time (before Mother Nature decided to dump large amounts of snow on us every weekend and every Tuesday for a month now and cause roof collapses all around New England and the topic of discussions to shift dramatically from the normal, “How’s your snowplow?” to “We’ve got ice dams”) I was picking lots of baby greens from underneath those frost blankets I purchased from Gardener’s Supply.

They were doing really well. They were. Salad every night with little dressing made of grew-it-myself pride. Then, it started to get colder. And colder. They were supposed to provide cold protection to 24 degrees. We had some 15 degree nights for a while there, and one or two nights in the negative numbers. Yet, they still survived. Sort of.

You see, when a piece of lettuce freezes, it isn’t pretty. You’ve all done it, somehow, it gets too cold in the fridge crisper and you take out a little bag of, well, what can only be desscribed as brown snot sort of clinging to a translucent and very wimpy piece of lettuce.

And, here begins the debate.

Before, when I bought it from the grocery store and just put it in the fridge, only to be frozen or forgotten or both, I would throw it away when I found it. Yeah. Cuz that’s what you do with food that has gone bad, right? Well, we all know about my hoarding tendencies. I knew the end was near. Not in the Chicken Little sense, just that, pretty soon, we weren’t going to be able to get to the garden (in case you’re wondering, the end is NOW. The gardens are buried under, what looks like, 4 feet of snow and there is no way in God’s white earth that I am trying to dig them out to get 6 lettuce leaves). So, I picked a lot of lettuce each time I went out. A big ole bag full of baby lettuce.

But, as it got colder,  they sort of got paler and uglier and a bit more frost-bitten. I definitely noted that the leaves toward the end of the beds were worse off than the ones in the center, under the peak of the domes basically. But I still picked them. And washed them. And served them. And ate them.

Why? Purchased lettuce would have hit the pail without even a moment’s thought. (Actually, we do compost, so they would have hit the compost pail – you gotta follow that link if you haven’t read that post, it is one of my funnier ones if I do say so myself.) (I did say so myself, it’s just me and Peber here in the kitchen, unsuspecting little bugger doesn’t know he’s getting shots today. Anyhoo…) Why? Could it be I don’t want to waste? Could it be that, since I grew the lettuce, I trusted the lettuce? How bad could a little cold burn taste? Could it be that I’m regressing into the dark depths of a hoarding tendency that is just so twisted and demented, that I will serve spoiled food to myself and my husband? (Well, NO! Of course not, but that one episode of Hoarders where that lady had like, fridges of spoiled, contaminated food, sort of came to mind. I am not that bad, honest. It was just a few pieces of ugly lettuce!)

See, not so bad.  A little yellow, perhaps a little spotty, but overall, not bad for eating fresh greens from the garden in January in New Hampshire. I think that eating this lettuce is like, wearing that sweater you knit, even though the left arm is a bit too long. Or, enjoying the picnic table you made, even though it wobbles. Sort of that “I made it myself” stubbornness. (Stubbornosity? Stubbornity? Stubborn Identity?)

So, now it is all gone, the gardens are buried and we’re back to buying greens at Hannaford. We do still have tomato sauce, lotsa garlic, dried herbs, frozen carrots, frozen onion and celery from last year. Oh, and the zucchini from 2 years ago that I still have carefully hoarded in the basement freezer for a rainy day.

Sigh.

Next post…who the hell knows. You can probably just view it on A&E on Mondays at 10, 9 central as some gentle-voiced, slim lady who looks good without makeup asks me how I FEEL when someone throws away the zucchini in the freezer.


My November gardening haiku…ahem…

Useful frost blankets

Thanks for keeping the ground warm

So veggies can grow

It is almost Thanksgiving and I snipped baby greens and pulled some carrots last night for dinner. How cool is that? Technically, 27f cool.  That has been our lowest nighttime temp and there’s no sign of distress. I have the carrots tucked into salt marsh hay (god that shit is like velcro. I got it over 1 month ago and continue to pick the strands from my trunk. Lesson? Line the ENTIRE trunk with plastic next time, do not just lay down one piece and expect the trunk to be sparkling clean after bringing home a bale of salt marsh hay).

Tonight’s dinner: Crispy Chicken with Soba Noodle salad (containing our carrots!) Tomorrow we will be having roasted root vegetables with a Shiitake mushroom risotto. Yum.

Let’s go for a Winter walk in the Kitchen Garden..

Mixed greens in the foreground. Varietals in the back.

 

Golden Oregano

Catnip

I had some Dusty Miller in a pot with Dracaena in the strawberry patch. I like how the grey/silver looks against the red strawberry leaves.

Kind of a neat variety of carrot (my way of saying, I don't remember...)

Garlic Chive seeds just hanging out in the dead flowers.

Daisy Mae (a.k.a. PooperDoopers) hanging out under my feet as I blog at the breakfast bar.


My end of season haiku…ahem…

Yesterday was it

The gardens have been torn down

Choking a sniffle

I wonder why I’m so emotional about wrapping up the back gardens. Methinks several reasons. When the beds are so buried in snow that you would never have known they were even there, will I have a purpose? I mean, sure, my life has purpose, but I’ve had such focus for the last several months that it has become routine and, routine is well, comfortable. I actually liked coming in sore in the afternoons – that means I worked – toward something. Why is it so different than any other year? We’ve had gardens for years, what’s the difference? Well, they are bigger this year, that’s for sure. We also had a goal in mind with them – to produce as much food for the two of us for the present and to store for the Winter. Is that it? Now that we have done what we can to reach that goal and there’s nothing else we can do, I’m at a bit of a loss. I know I can plan for next year, we’re definitely going to make a lot of changes in what we plant, where and when.  I guess I just need to redirect my focus toward another goal. I’ll work on that.

 Meanwhile, technically, we didn’t tear down all the gardens, just the back gardens next to the greenhouse. We have a small surprise happening in the Kitchen Garden. You see, it’s all about zagging. Huh? Follow me on this…We had a small snafoo with the greenhouse. We ran out of greenhouse plastic when putting it on, so used cheap-ass plastic and it ended up getting sort of crispy in the sun this Summer. So, the good plastic goes over the top, we have fiberglass weatherproof board and a door on the back of the greenhouse and, well, nothing on the front. It was that cheap-ass plastic which has since ripped off/been torn down. Since we don’t have a truck to get more fiberglass, we’re waiting until BFF Roy can spare a day to come help (guy works a lot, bless him. If you need a Harley, we can put you in touch with him!) Meanwhile, it is mid-October and I should have the greenhouse plants planted by now. But, with no front to the greenhouse, that wasn’t going to happen. So, instead of zigging, we had to zag. (Did I mention learning lessons this Summer?)

I ordered some items from Gardener’s Supply (again, they’re not sponsoring me!) and have planned some low tunnels for the Kitchen Garden. The boxes arrived and sat in the kitchen for several days. Once Keith discovered my master plan, he took it upon himself and put it all together for me.

Mesclun mix (before)

Hoops are in.

With the frost cover

 

1 1 /2 beds done!

Hooray! So, since we weren’t able to plant Winter greens in the greenhouse, we’re going to try them like this. Technically, the Frost Blankets make it to 28 degrees, so I’m being realistic, but I bet we’ll b e able to extend the season a little bit anyway. But, we’ll mostly just be harvesting, there won’t be much weeding or planting. So, back to my purpose for the Winter…It needs to be something challenging, realistic and gives me the feeling of accomplishment. Maybe I’ll knit my first sweater.

Yesterday, I was out in the Chef’s Garden pulling weeds and thinning carrots when Keith came out to join me. Here’s what transpired.

Me: Hey, whatcha doin?

K: Helping weed

Me: Cool

Him: That your weed bucket? (points to bucket)

Me: (Weeding) Yup

Him: (Weeding)

Me: (Weeding)

Him: (Weeding. Puts weeds in bucket)

Me: (Weeding. Put weeds in bucket)

Him: (Weeding)

Me: (Watching him weeding)

Him: (Weeding)

Me: I will cherish this moment forever

Him: What?

Me: I will cherish this moment forever

Him: Why?

Me: Here we are, silent, side by side, working together toward a common goal like true partners. It’s special. I will cherish this moment forever.

Him: You’re queer


I had a small problem yesterday. I let Keith know that I was going outside to harvest some of the veggies. He said, “Bring a big basket.” You know how you hear something, but don’t really HEAR it? I sort of heard him say that, but it didn’t register. (If you ask him, he will say that is a constant problem of mine. I say it is because I am so intelligent that I’m constantly thinking…all the time, thinking, and sometimes, something new just doesn’t have room to enter at that exact moment. I think he would say it is because I’m not paying attention.)

Outside I go with our little basket. Green beans, peas, husk cherries, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onions, shallots, scallions…It took me three trips inside with the small basket to harvest what was ready.

If this is one day of harvest, we’ve got our hands full. I haven’t picked the basil yet, but it looks like I have about 12 cups. Dreams of pesto fill my brain. (Did I mention that I have 5 freezer bags full of pesto in the freezer from last season? Um, yeah…)

The good neighbor, his daughter and some of her friends were walking by as I was picking. They sampled some husk cherries, green beans and sugar snap peas, fresh from the basket. Doesn’t that just warm the heart? Neighbors, standing by the garden fence, chatting about the weather, taste-testing crispy, fresh-picked sweet peas. An idyllic picture of countryside life. (We had to stop mid-sentence as a motorcycle hit the bottom of the hill and revved it’s engine to pick up speed for the straightaway. Jerk! C’mon, it’s a residential neighborhood. Did you do that on purpose when you saw the 5 of us standing there? I hope you get crotch-rot in your leather chaps on a humid 90-degree day!) I smile as I look back on yesterday – a lovely Summer day on the homestead.

Keith is making blueberry pancakes for breakfast with local blueberries (if you see a farmstand, stop and get blueberries and corn – it’ll be worth it!), King Arthur flour (I love that brand) and our maple syrup. Doesn’t it sound so delish? I can’t wait. I asked him to save 5 blueberries from the container to decoratively arrange on top of the pancakes when he serves them. Martha taught me right, it’s all about the presentation! (That’s true love, he just puts up with little requests like that.)

While he works at the griddle (we love our Jenn-Air – hey look, two N’s! It’s one of the reasons we bought this house – not the N’s – the grille) I look up recipes for using green beans. You can only steam them and serve with butter for so many meals before it gets a bit boring. I bought 2 varieties. One is called Tavara. They are slim and skinny – ones I would call French. The other are Burpee Provider. They’re fat and almost fuzzy. I like the Tavara better, but the Burpee Provider is really that – they are prolific!

*****Small aside*****

Dear Future Jenn:

While you are having fun ordering seeds, please remember that more is not always better. Unless you became a vegetarian again or plan on supplying local restaurants with your harvest, might I suggest you cut back on the number of each variety you put in the ground in 2011 and try more varieties in general? While 24 green bean plants sounded good in 2010, please remember that harvesting a gallon bag of green beans each day did cause you to spend the entire July weekend in front of a pot of boiling water blanching green beans for the freezer instead of floating in the pool. Just sayin’.

*****End of letter*****

Something about the idea of that Green Bean Casserole from our childhoods makes me skeevy. Canned soup, french fried onions from a can and greenbeans, slimed up and cooked. I am making a “that sounds yucky” face. So, here I am with Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals GetTogethers trying to get inspired. Page 167 – Green Beans with lemon and toasted almonds. This sounds good. We’ll have it tonight with the buttermilk fried chicken K has been soaking in batter since last night.

2 oz sliced almonds

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 tbsp butter

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

In a medium pan, toast almonds over medium heat. Remove from pan and add 1/2 inch water to the pan. Bring water to a boil, add the beans and cover the pan. Reduce heat. Cook beans 4-5 minutes until just tender, yet still green. Drain beans and set aside. Return pan to stovetop and melt butter over moderate heat. Add lemon juice to butter (juice lemon half right-side up to keep seeds in lemon rather than in your beans). Add beans to lemon butter and coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer green beans to dinner plates or serving plate and top with almonds.

Thanks, Rachael. I’ll let you know how it is.

Another recipe is mine. This one rocks. It takes an entire day to prepare, but I’ll tell you where you can take a shortcut.

Smoky chicken pesto salad

Smoke a whole chicken in your smoker (shorcut: Don’t smoke the chicken) Cool and cut meat (white and dark) into chunks.

Boil a box of pasta (I like the bowties, use whatever you like). Rinse with cool water and drain, making sure all the water has dripped out.

Make pesto. I eyeball it – but be sure to toast the pine nuts before you put them in the food processer. I will take you it makes a TON of difference. Save some of the pine nuts aside (again, all about presentation!)

Mix the pesto into the cool pasta in a big bowl. Add grape tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes. Add fresh mozzarella, cut in chunks – you know the stuff that is soft and spongy and is found by the olives in the grocery store floating in a liquid? (Or better yet, make your own! Making cheese isn’t difficult! More on that in a later post!) That stuff.

Pour into your serving dish, sprinkle with some baby basil leaves (keep them whole, they bruise when they’re cut), a few more tomato chunks and then the toasted pine nuts. Dust lightly with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Nummy!

WHILE i STRUGGLE with Caps-Lock thanks to Peber, I will say this post is finished just in time for blueberry pancakes. It’s a good life.


I woke up early yesterday morning. I’d like to say it was the rays of a new day on a bright, sunshiny dawn peeking through the curtains and warming my face that did it, but, the truth is, I had to pee.  It was kind of drizzly and grey out actually – not a good hair day. After the bathroom, I put a bathrobe on, slipped on a pair of flip flops and went to the Chef’s Garden to pick some strawberries.

I have been hitting traffic every morning and so have been leaving earlier and earlier each day – taking away my favorite garden time. I’ve also been working late each night, so, alas, poor garden has been neglected by me. It is overgrown with weeds (or are they beets, carrots and parsnips? See here for more on that) and I figured there were a few strawberries I could pick before heading to work.

I guess there were a few strawberries! There were  over 100! Some did have slugs on them, but the DE we’ve been using really seemed to do the trick, I think, because last year, every one of them would have been munched on by a slug when I picked it. These are beautiful, right? Then why am I like, “Shit!” instead of “Hooray?”  Well, lately, we’ve discovered that Keith has an allergy to strawberries. He gets a rash if he touches them. That means that these strawberries are not going to magically turn into jam some day while my back is turned (he does that, I’ll pick up ingredients and then come home late from work to a freeking masterpiece that he just “made up!”) My sister is coming over to visit this afternoon and she’s staying until tomorrow. I’ll wash them up and I guess we’ll just pick at them as snacks while I kick her ass in a game of WAR.

The parsley has gone to flower already. Not a big deal, we don’t use parsley that much, I still have an entire ziploc bag of dried, crushed parsley from last season. (If you do not know about my hoarding habit, you must start at the beginning of this blog and catch up, I have quite a penchant for stocking up.) After picking the strawberries and bringing them in the house (still in a nightgown, bathrobe and flipflops I might add), I went back out with a pair of scissors to cut the parsley flower stems and found this creepy crawly visitor. That is about actual size.

 Oh, and 6 of his brothers, all hanging out on different stems of the parsley. I don’t know what it is, but I can bet they were eating the plant. Great. We have another problem, I don’t squish bugs. I don’t. It’s gross (insert involuntary shudder here). It goes back to my childhood days in New Jersey where we had these fat, black crickets, (not those skinny green ones, these were very fat). They would get into the house and chirp and chirp and chirp. Well, one day, I squished one with my bare foot. I didn’t mean to, but it was in my shoe. There was white bug goo mixed with black bug legs and uck in between my toes. (Insert involuntary GAG right here and throw in an involuntary sphincter clench for good measure, that is how fresh and how gross the memory of this is with me.)

So, needless to say, I do not squish bugs. That is a problem. If you don’t kill them, they’ll come back. So, what did I do with these 7 caterpillers? I cut the branch of the plant off, carefully carried the branch with said bug still hanging on, over the the compost pile and threw them down the hill into the pile. I then looked the other way and did that 6 more times.

Ok, all you gardener followers are shaking your head at me, while my non-gardener followers, especially those of you with a low creepy-thing-tolerance are thinking that sounds like a good plan. Well, I am not naive.  I know these things will 1) come back and 2) lay eggs which means 3) make more. Guh. I started looking through the “Insectipedia” to figure out what it was and how to kill it organically, but the site is listed alphabetically by name of bug, so I had to open the link to each bug to see if it was the right one. Yah, that isn’t happening, ewww. So, if I see another, I’m going to drown it in something. Or, maybe I’ll put it on a rock and then, from a distance so I don’t hear the squish, I’ll throw big rocks at it until I think I got it. Gross, I am so skeeved right now, I have to change the subject. If anyone knows how to kill it without a squish, please do let me know. Moving on…

After moving said buggies into their new home to happily munch away on my discarded food scraps (THAT’s the solution, keep feeding them, Jenn! Shut up.) I decided to head out back to check on the tomatoes and husk cherries. Keith had mentioned that some husk cherries had ripened (almost a month early, thanks to starting them indoors early! Look at us!) and he had eaten a few, so I wanted to see how far along things had progressed back there. As I head down the side hill toward the back yard, something moved in the distance. (It’s a small yard, it wasn’t too distant, it was basically at the back of our property, but I’m building suspense, work with me here.) Just beyond the trees something very large was definitely moving. Thankfully, it was moving away from me. Now, remember, my wildlife interactions usually happen when I am poorly dressed and today was no different. How am I going to outrun a vicious coyote or a rabid raccoon in flip flops I ask you? I wrapped by bathrobe tighter, and crept in closer with a strong predatory instinct, playing with danger because that’s the kind of girl I am – brave, bold, MIGHTY! (It was still a bathrobe, but it may as well have been a cape, really. I think I will knit myself one. My friend bought me a kit for superhero goggles, perhaps I will make those up and have them at the ready next time.)

The beast still rustled through the woods. It was large, I could tell it was as tall as my waist. It made no noise except for the sound of the earth and twigs being crushed under it’s weight. I just couldn’t see what it was. The hair on the back of my neck raised up in tense alert. Danger was only feet away. (Where’s my gun? (Read here) Oh right…)

Then I heard it, “BABE!”  The good neighbor was walking through from his yard calling for Babe, his pig who had gotten out of the barn. It was Babe the pig, cute Babe, the piggie I had fed kitchen scraps and scratched behind the ears. Babe was in the backyard. Of course. “He’s over here, I yelled.” Making sure the bathrobe was cinched (greeting a neighbor is not the time to have wardrobe malfunctions), I met him at the back of our property and pointed to where I had last seen Babe. “Do you have a rope? How are you going to get him home?” I asked, memories of using Daisy’s leash as a lasso the last time Babe got out. (My niece and I chased this same pig, much smaller a few years ago, across the street and up the hill, trying to keep him from getting onto the main street. We finally caught up to him and looped Daisy’s leash around his neck and kind of led/trotted him back to his barn.)  “Food,” he answered, holding up something from a take-out box.

I told you he wasn’t a small pig! We tried to gently convince the Good Neighbor, when Babe was still young, to have our friend Popper (www.poppers-sausage-kitchen.com) take care of him when it came time. He looked at us in horror, Babe had already become a pet. I understand, he is all cute and cuddly in that, “Please don’t step on my toe or you’ll crush it” sort of way.

Anyway, who knows how far Babe might have gotten without my keen senses and predatory instinct. Now, if only I could be that brave around bugs.


My strawberry haiku…ahem…

Oh sweet strawberry

Luscious red, your hidden fruit

That sounded dirty

First of the Season!

 Our first strawberries of the season ripened just in time for Memorial Day weekend. The strawberry patch is in a little square in the middle of the Chef’s Garden on the side of our house. You can see they’re just spilling out into the path. I like how they start out white and, with a little time in the sun, they turn red (like me, I guess.) Most of them end up hidden underneath the leaves, taking their own sweet time to ripen.

They smell so good. You know, I haven’t tried one yet. You’d think I’d taste-test just one, but I’m trying to gather enough to put in my breakfast yogurt. I expect they’ll be delicious. They’ve been through a lot. Someone else loved these strawberry plants before me.  When we bought the house, I had to move them, then we had to move them again, then they sat in pots getting knocked over by pigs (the neighbor’s pig got loose a few times) for a year while we built our deck. Now they’re happily blooming in their second year in the little garden next to the house. The garden Keith built for us. With love.
So it got me thinking.  These little strawberries-that-could have been shoved around, knocked over, ignored, eaten by slugs, snuffled by a pig…basically lived a hard-luck life. Now they’ve finally gotten into their groove, moved to a place that feels good and made themselves at home. They’re getting some love and you can tell they’re happy. Like me.
They’re not fruit, they’re soul food.

My lettuce haiku…ahem…

Live long, lettuce leaves

We happily crunch salads

Made with love from thee

Our lettuce bed is looking great. In the past, I’ve always bought lettuce six-packs and planted them. I can’t recall how long it took them to bolt (non-gardening fans of the Patch – that is when the plant flowers and the leaves usually lose their flavor),  so now that I’m starting from seed, I figure I’ll just keep planting seeds every few weeks until I run out.  This year, however, I’ll pay attention to when it is no longer, “lettuce season” so I know what to expect next year.

We had a delish salad last night. Granted, with grocery store tomatoes (although ours aren’t far off!) but still! Slivers of parm cheese fresh off the block and some balsamic, it was nummy. Spinach, Mache, Arugula, Red Salad Bowl, Drunken Woman, Bibb.

There is one problem with freshly grown baby lettuce and greens. I planted the seeds very tightly and am thinning them to eat, leaving some to grow bigger. I pull them, roots and all, which is the goal, but a bunch of dirt comes up too. So I have 1/2 a bowl of lettuce and 1/2 a bowl of dirt. Rinsing them in our sink results in grit and sand in the disposal. Not good. Last night, I put a paper towel over the disposal, but I need to come up with a better plan. Rinse them outside perhaps? Any ideas would be welcome.

*

I’ve been reading a book called The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.

Hey, look, he’s wearing mucks!

This is going to be my bible, I can tell. The basic premise is, you can grow veggies in the Winter, you just need to find ones that like the cold. That’s fine, but I live in NEW HAMPSHIRE. It gets pretty cold here. I’m wearing a sweater right now and it’ll be June in 5 days. I bought it, though, because the author, Mr. Coleman, lives in Maine. Sweet. Maine is definitely colder than here. He describes cold frames, root cellars, greenhouse growing, etc. I am sure I’ll be mentioning this book in the future. I bring it up at this point because he starts salad greens in the Fall and harvests them all Winter long. THAT is what I want the greenhouse for.

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Meanwhile, the strawberry flowers are crazy. When we first moved into this house, there was a small strawberry patch. I moved over 100 strawberry plants to a bigger patch to the side of the steps to the back deck. Slugs love strawberries, the little bastards, so we usually got only a few that didn’t have holes. When we rebuilt the deck a few years ago, the patch had to come up. I put the strawberries in pots just to be able to save them. Last year, when Keith and his brother built the Chef’s Garden (formerly the Side Garden and, for a brief, yet shining moment, Peber’s Point), Keith put in a section for the strawberries. They outgrew it already.

Last year, the strawberries did well. I would pick them every morning in June and early July on my way to the DJ (day job), sometimes eating the clean ones in the car, rinsing the rest went I got there and eating them with yogurt for breakfast. Seriously, what could be better? They were so good. If you do not have a strawberry plant, get one. I mean it. Grocery store strawberries, all big and heart-shaped have just NO flavor.  They are picked too early in order to make the trip to the store. Also, I firmly believe as do some other gardeners (I read as many garden blogs as I can! I want visitors, I need to be one too!), that the bigger the fruit or vegetable, the less flavor it has. (You know all those contest-winning veggies? They’ve been fertilized beyond the point of good flavor!) Anyway, ours are small/mid-sized and really fantastic. I have NO idea what variety…we inherited them.

Well, this year, the plants are spilling out of their bed, and they’re super “fluffy” is the only way I can describe them. I have a pot with flowers in the middle of the bed and the strawberry plants have pretty much engulfed it. I shouldn’t have bothered putting the flowers in.  So, as I sit here with growling tummy, I fantasize (well, “think fondly of,” “fantasize” might be a little melodramatic!)  of strawberry spinach salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Baby spinach leaves, washed and spun; Fresh strawberries, sliced; Orange segments, cut into bite-sized pieces

Mix together

Dressing: Stir 1 tbsp dijon mustard with 3 tbsp honey, about 4 -5 tbsp balsamic vinegar, about 1/4 cup evoo, pinch of kosher salt and pinch of paprika. (Those measurements might need to be adjusted, I don’t measure. Basically, it is thick and dark. It should pour like pancake syrup). Put the dressing on last as it’ll make the salad soggy. Sprinkle with crushed cashews.

Enjoy!

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