my favorite things

I’ve been thinking about my favorite vegetable to grow, harvest and cook, and to my utter surprise, it’s swiss chard. It’s super good for me; it has vitamins K, A and C, and it is anti-inflammatory & has anti-oxidants.DSC_0031As a plant, it’s easy. It always grows; I’ve never had one die on me. It forgives me if I don’t pick it at just the right moment. It keeps growing all summer, and it’s pretty. DSC_0048It’s simple to prepare. I rinse the leaves off, pile them up, slice them lengthwise 3 or 4 times, then chop it up.DSC_0056 I saute it in olive oil and water with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (because red pepper flakes are good with everything). It’s tasty just like that.  But I make a ton of it and keep it in the fridge to do this:

  • add to eggs and omelets
  • spread over sautéed chicken & top it with swiss/parmesan cheese
  • spread on top of pizza
  • add to any kind of pasta
  • add to soups and beans
  • toss into salads
  • spread onto toasted bread (with or without cheese – oh never mind – WITH cheese)

So I have to give an A+ to swiss chard: healthy, easy, simple, delicious.

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blooming sunflower

here comes the sun . . . flowers

blooming sunflowerAfter a few days of torrential rain, today was beautiful. I saw my first sunflower bloom at coffee time.

full view of gardenJust for perspective:  The lowest finger points to the sunflower bloom pictured above. The finger above it points to the birdhouse gourds that are happily climbing every tree in sight. The finger in the top left points to the sunflower blooms (nearly 8 feet) that are in the near future.

cedar waxwingMy little darling Waxwing greeted me at dawn with his silent welcome. Even though I have studied their sounds online, I have yet to hear them. The nest withstood the heavy rains. For that I am thankful. It’s all right (do do do do do do dododododo).

just picked tomato

tomato time

just picked tomatoBehold: my first tomato of the year. I ate this one warm from the sun, sliced, with sea salt and black pepper.

This is not one of the heirloom tomatoes that I started from seed; they are a bit slower. This is a “Celebrity” tomato. I bought the plants from the farm market down the road. After the first came ripe, I was almost struck with a glut. Never you mind. I can handle the challenge.bread tomato kabobs
First up: Bread Kabobs.  Day old bread, tomatoes, olives, artichokes. Thread on a skewer & sprinkle with olive oil, salt, all sorts of Italian herbs AND red pepper flakes. Grill until toasty. Oh, my.

early july : my favorite things

My yard is bursting: with birds, animals, flowers, vegetables. Sometimes July can feel parched, but not this year. We are ripe with all of the things I love.zinnias in bloomZinnias I planted from seed are in their full glory. When they no longer look pretty to me, I will leave them as a meal for my goldfinch friends.cherry treeThe cherry tree is overripe to me, but it is alive with blue jays, red-breasted woodpeckers (and a fledgling – the first I’ve EVER seen), robins, brown thrashers, finches, cardinals, flickers, and titmice. The hummingbirds spend a great deal of time perching in it – but I have never seen them eating the fruit in any way. There are also a crazy amount of bunnies beneath the tree. Are they eating the cherries that fall?birdhouse gourd plant climbing a homemade trellisThe bird house gourds are happy to climb the trellis I made to keep them off the ground. I have big plans ahead for these, but the hummingbirds love their blossoms right now.tomatoes almost ripeBut of all those things to love, beautiful tomatoes, just days from being ripe, are my current favorite things.

cabbage success

I am officially calling it a successful cabbage season. I bought plants (Golden Cross) and planted them on April 13th, over a month before our last frost date. They are in a raised bed which I filled with soil from my garden excavation and lots of compost (mostly kitchen scraps).

I planted them with rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. A few tomatoes volunteered, and I left them in there as well. After the heads formed,  I saw the evidence of cabbage worms on the plant farthest from the rosemary. The outside leaves had been eaten and there was lots of poop. cabbage worm poop and damaggeI used the hose to forcefully clean everything out, and as I directed the hose spray, I made sure to hit the rosemary first. I was sure I’d be doing the same thing in a day or two, but I never saw another poop.raised bed of cabbagesThis picture was taken about a week ago. I just picked my first cabbage this morning and made cole slaw for dinner. I’m going to have to get more creative than that.

garden structures and a special guest

My husband spotted him first while I was at work: a Rose Breasted Grosbeak at our feeder. SO exciting – I’ve seen them before, but rarely, and NEVER in my own back yard. Just plain old sunflower seeds on  a platform feeder did the trick. He was here for several days and I got a good look at him, the little cutie pie.Rose breasted gorsbeak at feederMy husband has been my best garden supporter this year; he signed me up for the organic herbal gardening course that spurred me on; he  gave me a gift certificate to the best nursery in town; AND he spent his birthday money to make me three of these excellent new planters.Raised bed vegetable planter

This one is sporting cabbages (I’ll pick the biggest and let the little ones continue to grow), rosemary, nasturtiums, and sunflowers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

gardening resolutions

Even though I’ve been gardening for more than 15 years, I still feel like a doodling newbie. THIS year, fresh from an organic heirloom gardening class and armed with heirloom seeds, is the year I take it seriously.seeds, gloves and markers for plantingI’ve already planted a dozen different types of seeds. I have them in cheap-o plastic greenhouses in my attic. My office is in the attic, so I have a heater up there; the greenhouses are next to the heater.greenhouse near heaterThere isn’t much light, so I put a fluorescent light on top. I turn it (and the heater) off at night. light on greenhouse

I’ll let you know how it goes . . .

companion gardening

I just finished an organic heirloom gardening class, and I am wildly excited about companion gardening. That’s the art/science/voodoo of grouping plants that are beneficial to one another. I am planning small clusters of companion plants instead of one large plot with everything lumped together.tomato, basil, chive

I can feel a full garden re-do coming on . . .

tomatoes

Every year around this time, I start to run out of ways to use up all the tomatoes. Here’s a list of my current favorites:

1) tomato & pesto sandwich
2) tomato pie
3) tomato salad with green beans & black olives
4) pizza topping
5) salsa (always)
6) halve cherry tomatoes, chop green pepper & onions & sprinkle with oregano. Keep in the fridge ready to add to: pasta, omelets, salad, soup, quiche, or pizza

Cherry tomatoes, chopped green pepper & onions with fresh oregano

Cherry tomatoes, chopped green pepper & onions with fresh oregano

How do you use tomatoes?

gardening

I can’t keep myself out of the garden. The laundry is piling up and my desk is a mess because I am spending way too much time checking on the progress of the sweet peas and planting flowers around the herb garden.

There’s something so compelling about planting a seed and watching it sprout, nurturing the plant and then picking and eating the produce. It feels like a little bit of magic, and it makes me see vegetables in a whole new way.