Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fall Planting Already?

We saw our first red leaves on the maple last week.

Incredible - it seems like a trick, but it's not.

This got me to thinking that tomorrow is the first day of August, and it's a short few weeks until fall rolls around.

This means that it's prep time - preparation for the fall garden. I'll likely plant carrots, beets, radishes and greens - spinach, lettuce, arugula, and I'll try out planting mache this year as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The First Tomato

I've been watching one particular tomato intently for the last week. It's been slowly turning green to pink to orange-ish and then finally to red and to deep red.

It is a hybrid tomato that spent its first months in a greenhouse at a local farm, until I went on a farm tour and received a free plant to take home.

I do not have a photo, but let me assure you - this is a run-of-the-mill hybrid tomato that looks like something you could buy at the grocery store. It's not exciting on its own merits of taste and aesthetic appeal, but has earned its very own blog post by virtue of getting a headstart by early propagation. The first harvest of any produce is exciting, as it portends future bounty.

So, how will I eat this first tomato? I don't know yet. I feel like the first tomato of the year should get special treatment, but I can't seem to decide how it might be prepared. Usually, the first tomato of the year is a cherry tomato, and that's easy to figure out how to eat - straight from the vine.

Tomato with goat cheese?
Chopped tomato in scrambled eggs?
A composed salad with tomato wedges arranged around the edge of the plate?

What would you do with your first tomato?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Knee High by the Fourth of July

Did you know that you can keep track of the summer's passing by watching patches and fields of corn stretched along state highways and back roads? In the Northeast, we say "knee high by the Fourth of July."

This week, as I've been staking up many of my garden plants, I've noticed that there are several other vegetable plants (besides corn) that grow to be knee-high or even waist-high by Independence Day:
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Pie pumpkins, if you are trellising vertically
  • Sunflowers 
  • Brussels sprouts

Some of my Brussels sprouts and sunflowers were eaten back by a roving deer, who has been clipping the neighbors' pea plants. I am trying out a product called Liquid Fence to discourage him or her from a return visit. Liquid Fence is made principally with rotten eggs and garlic, which I should hope would be  a sufficient deterrent.

You know what else is great about July? You start harvesting baskets of produce, instead of handfuls. Yay for summer.
The scissors are in there for scale, not for eating.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Bumper Crop of Snow Peas

Every winter, during garden planning, I ask my husband what we should grow next year.

To which I get the same few answers: cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro and snow peas.

I think it's good to have a husband who knows what he wants; or at the very least, it's good to have a husband who knows what he wants in the garden. Garden planning gets a little easier when you have some standard vegetables that you know you will grow year after year.

I've had troubles in the past growing lettuce and cilantro, and this year, I've replanted my cucumbers three times. But so far, I've had really good luck growing snow peas.

And this year, we are getting a bumper crop of snow peas. Yahoo!

What do you do when snow peas start to cover your countertop? Eat them, and keep eating them because the pea plants are still flowering and producing new pods.

Get ready to eat them everyday, get yourself some friends who like snow peas, or get crackin' on filling up your freezer with 2012-grown veggies.

My favorite is to eat them fresh - even Briar the dog likes raw snow peas. But they also go great in stirfries with tofu and peppers, or you can make a cold snow-pea salad with peanut sauce.

Snow Pea Salad with Peanut Sauce

Wash and trim a large pile of snow peas.
Saute garlic, green onion and ginger in a small amount of oil in a large wok or skillet.
Add snow peas and saute for two minutes only - just to cook the snow peas a little bit to keep some of their crunch. (You could also add finely shredded carrot, peppers, cabbage, or other veggies at this time.)
Remove the wok or skillet from the heat, and stir in peanut sauce.
Transfer to a serving dish and put in the fridge to chill.

To make your own Peanut Sauce:

Put the following ingredients into a bowl, stir them together, and adjust quantities until you get something good.

Peanut butter - a few spoonfuls
Soy sauce - a small puddle
Very hot water - a small puddle (more if needed to thin to the desired consistency)
Rice wine vinegar - a few splashes
Simple syrup - a drizzle or two
Chili garlic sauce - somewhere between a pinch and a teaspoon (depending on how hot you like it)
Fish sauce - a splash