Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Gardening, Anywhere, Anytime


With limited visits to the grocery store, I decided to put more energy into my garden this year. It helped that my husband raised the side of one of our raised beds, and added a wonderful soil mixture. However, even with a raised bed, I found I needed more space, so some of my garden plants are in large pots. Never grown a garden before? It's easy - kind of. That said, here's some pointers!

Raised beds, in ground, or pots - it doesn't matter which you use, just be sure you've got a good soil mixture. You can purchase premixed garden soil, but that can be somewhat pricy. A better price can be had if you can put together your own mixture. My favorite mix is about 60% topsoil and 40% compost. If you have good dirt where you live, use that as your topsoil. All you need to add is the compost. Compost is usually a mixture of leaves, grass clippings, straw, and manure. You can make your own or you can purchase it at places like Home Depot. You can enhance it with an extra bag of manure, my favorite is steer manure followed by chicken manure.


What to plant? Plant items that grow well in your area - these are usually the items that you see in abundance at your local garden center. Also, grow things you like to eat! Why grow watermelon if you prefer cantaloupe? Finally, grow things you like to eat frequently.

Here's what I grow in Sacramento: In February, before spring, I plant snow peas, onions, and potato sets. When spring is in full swing, during March, I plant lettuces, beets, and kale. When it starts to get warm in June, I plant tomatoes, peppers, arugula, and beans. This year, I planted the tomatoes in large pots. I'll let you know how they fare!When I harvest the snow peas and the first potatoes, I pull the plants out of the ground and replant the snow pea area with more potatoes, and the potato areas with cantaloupe and okra. When it starts to cool down in the fall, I replant lettuce for a cool fall crop. I also have an area near my house where I plant my favorite herbs. Many herbs are perennial, so I only have to plant a few new herbs each year. My favorite herbs are parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, Thai basil, lemongrass, and rosemary. I also grow rhubarb with my herbs, and strawberries next to the backyard. Finally, I've got a couple of pots with edible lavender near my back porch. Lavender is nice in teas, plus it has the added benefit of warding away mosquitos.

Potatoes are the easiest (and the cheapest) to grow. Just cut an organic potato so that each section has several eyes, let the sections dry for a couple of days, then pop them in the ground about 3 inches deep. Several weeks later, the tops will flower then turn brown - your potato crop is ready! You'll get about 5 potatoes from each plant. Snow peas are my second favorite - they don't last long once it warms up, but they are prolific in the early spring. I always plant them from seed. Finally, I always grow lettuces. I plant some early in the spring, then more in the fall - lettuce likes cool weather. For warm weather greens, I grow kale and arugula. 


You'll notice that many of my recent recipe feature items from my garden. It's so nice to eat fresh, really fresh, vegetables! Even if you don't grow your own, you may notice the seasonality of vegetables at the store. Buy the ones that are in season, grown locally, and you'll be rewarded with enhanced taste. As a note - the photos include cantaloupe, shishito peppers, and my constant garden helper, Annie Cat, sitting in front of a raised bed. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Rhubarb Orange Compote



Compotes were fruity desserts in medieval times. Now, they are sweetened fruits that can make an appearance on a dessert or appetizer tray or can be served alongside meats during a main course. I made this rhubarb compote with the last of the rhubarb from my yard and used kumquats instead of orange juice. I found a kumquat tree (on public land) with fully ripened fruit just waiting to be used! It was fun to harvest a few kumquats by climbing the tree and shaking the limbs until the ripest fruit landed below. Kumquats are little oranges that can be eaten whole, or used in place of oranges.

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup quartered kumquats (or 1/2 cup orange juice and 1 tsp orange zest)
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbs minced crystallized ginger or ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder (optional)
1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes if using kumquats or 30 minutes if using orange juice. Taste and enjoy. Makes about 2 cups.

Serves 4 for dessert or 8 as an appetizer or a sauce for meat

Stealthy Cooking Tip: I've been using up ingredients in new and unusual ways during this difficult time of shopping during a pandemic. I don't want anything to go to waste, but I certainly want everything to taste delicious! This will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, so make some up now if you're ready to harvest your last rhubarb for the season.