April was a joke. I transplanted everything I could think of before I remembered to harden off the plants first. Now they all look sunburned. I left the garden gate open for an hour and a half while my chickens tossed my seedlings around the yard. That didn't help the sunburn.
My amazing zucchini plant turned yellow and started to die. My butterhead lettuce turned yellow just as it was on the verge of perfection. My tomato plant in the greenhouse started to turn yellow. My arugula all went to seed. It wasn't an inspiring month.
I visited the local nursery where they told me that fresh potting soil, even organic potting soil, isn't made with enough nutrients in it to support much plant life. This is disappointing to say the least. So I bought two boxes of E.B. Stone's organic vegetable fertilizer and doused my entire garden. It's been a week, and things are already looking greener.
My zucchini were suffering from blossom end rot, which occurs when there isn't enough calcium in the soil for the plants to form correctly.
The next discovery came when I compared my tomato plants. The first tomato plant on the left was planted in amended potting soil. The tomato plants on the right were planted some time later in a raised bed that I had filled halfway with unfinished compost to save money on organic potting soil. As you can see, they don't even look like the same kind of plant.
Below is a side-by-side example from another raised bed. The tomato plant on the left was planted over chicken bedding (fresh, completely un-composted), and the one on the right was planted in organic potting soil and amended with lots of plant food.
The next time I cleaned out the chicken coop, dug holes in my raised beds and buried the bedding directly there since I'll be filling in with more tomatoes and peppers soon. It seems weird not to compost it first, but so far no harm has come from it. If my family all dies from some kind of weird food poisoning, at least you'll know better than to try it.
It turns out that nearly every vegetable you grow in the summer requires lots and lots of rich soil to grow well. Rich soil never meant anything to me now, but I suppose it's code for being full of lots of rotten decomposed former plant life- compost and rotten manure. Corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, summer squash, cucumbers and peppers all require a lot to grow.
The other interesting thing has been the enormous number of aphids in the garden. I noticed them on the roses first, but shortly thereafter I realized that the tree next to the roses was dripping with ladybugs. I decided to let them all duke it out on their own. I've had a jalapeño in the greenhouse since last summer that I couldn't keep the aphids off of, and so I went and put it under the ladybug tree. First the aphids circled, then the ladybugs. The plant seems to be fine. I'm not sure that there's a huge takeaway from all this, but it's interesting to me.
A few years ago my dad planted a few tomatoes in the greenhouse. He felt that the ones outside grew better, but the plant in the greenhouse that survived went on to produce tomatoes for another year. It was a monster. I named him Seymour. So I am trying to grow another Seymour, but I think it might be necessary to prune at some point. Next time I will try this with a grow bag since they air-prune the roots, and maybe I'll have a perennial tomato.
Maybe this is an odd recipe to post on Memorial Day weekend, when everyone in their right mind is either camping or grilling. This recipe is so simple I almost didn't post it, but after some thought I decided that was the charm. It really is easy. The yogurt gives the stew a nice tangy flavor, and next time I'd like to try this with cream instead of the yogurt. I'd also like to try some more exciting Afghani dishes, but this was easy on a weekday and great served with rice and a roasted vegetable. According to Helen Saberi in Afghan Food & Cookery, this dish can be made with chicken as well without sacrificing authenticity although I plan on doing just that when I try this with cream next time. You can make this ahead of time and reheat it right before dinner.
I have eaten amazing Afghani food and ho-hum Afghani food, but I am hoping to find the great recipes in Helen Saberi's book. Her vegetables call for vegetable oil, but I use a blend of equal parts olive oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil. I bet that the traditional cooking fat was lamb fat, but that is impossible to find. Some day...
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup of oil
1 pound of boneless lamb or chicken
1 tablespoon on tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
2 whole cardamom pods
salt and pepper
3/4 cup full fat yogurt
P.S. My husband deserves full credit for the cream idea. I'll post an update once we try it.
If this sounds sanctimonious, you'll be relieved to know that I am typing this post over a corn dog.
I bought lots of blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and oranges. All the berries will be gone by tomorrow. I also found cabbage leaves, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, and beets. They all look amazing and fresh, and I want to get things chopped and roasted before they rot in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator. I hesitate to plan more than three meals at a time since I usually find it goes haywire if I plan out more meals. Other days we end up eating leftovers, soup, or spaghetti.
So here was the plan:
One week later, here's how it actually went.
And the stir-fry. I mixed some salted black beans and garlic in with the pork, fried it, and then stir-fried all the zucchini. There were so many vegetables I didn't include the cabbage or mushrooms. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture. If you would like to see an easy way to stir-fry, here's one way that I posted. I served that with rice and pickles.
Small children have been trying to sneak into my freezer. An independent panel of little boys have assured me that these are the best popsicles they ever had. Need I say more?
2 baskets of strawberries
1/4 cup of honey
3/4 cup cream
Blend the strawberries and honey together in a food processor or blender. Add the cream and blend again briefly. Pour the strawberry puree into popsicle molds and freeze. Enjoy!
Pronounced "jew-vedge", this hails from the part of the world formerly known as Yugoslavia. This is home cooking at it's best- simple, nutritious and rich. The miracle of this dish is that I made a mistake, turned off the oven halfway through cooking, and came home three and a half hours later to perfection. My kids have activities every afternoon right now, and I don't get home until around 7. I will be making this dish as often as my family will eat it.
I found this recipe in Elisabeth Luard's The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking. It was published in 1987, so it's hardly the hot new thing, but it is a good thing. The directions were so simple I reread them again and again because I kept thinking that I had left something out. No- it's just that easy. And did I mention delicious?
My kids abhorred the eggplant, but my sympathy is limited. Your family, your call. This needs at least an hour and a half to bake.
1/2 cup olive oil (it's rich, not greasy)
2 sliced onions
3-4 cloves of sliced garlic
2 pounds of boneless lamb, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
salt and pepper
2 pounds of chopped mixed vegetables (bell pepper, zucchini, green beans, eggplant)
1/2 cup of rice
1/2 pound sliced fresh or canned tomatoes
Options and Alterations:
You can leave out the meat and add feta cheese during the end of the cooking. You can switch out the vegetables for whatever is in season. You can substitute chicken for lamb. You can use 4 peeled, sliced potatoes instead of rice. You can also add some cumin to the spices. The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, not the paprikas that I used.
This was like a meaty shakshouka, another dish I love. It is an Iraqi breakfast dish, and a bit meatier and more aromatic than most American breakfasts. If that offends you, make it for lunch or dinner. I tried this with lamb and beef. The lamb is my favorite but it is more expensive and I know not everyone is a fan. This is such an easy recipe that once you try it, you'll see this is the kind of thing you can throw together at the last minute and has lots of possible variations. I kept the original amounts from the original recipe, but I think it should really read more like, "lots of chopped parsley, lamb for four people, plenty of juicy tomatoes, lots and lots of curry powder, etc." According to the Saveur article where I first saw this, this is based on a recipe found in a tenth-century Mesopotamian cookbook. It's called Makhlama Lahm, if that means anything at all to you. Here's a link to the original article.
This recipe finishes the eggs in the oven, but if you have really juicy tomatoes, you can just cover the pan and let the eggs finish on the stove.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 minced yellow onion
1/3 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 chopped tomatoes, or enough to make it moist and juicy
salt and pepper
crushed red chile flakes to garnish
griddle bread or flatbread
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!