July 10, 2012
Have I ever sung the praises of humble lettuce here? I’ve probably overlooked it despite how much it contributes to our diet and our garden. So, today’s the day!
From the soft, tender crunchy leaves of Buttercrunch, which we grow from seed all season long, to the deeply cut, crinkled rusty leaves of red oak leaf and mysterious, speckled varieties that I bought as starts to “fluff up” the garden before our recent tour, let me remind you that lettuce is a must-have in any garden!
It adds seasonal color and foliage to the garden. It grows well in dappled sunlight and even deeper shade in warmer climates. It germinates rapidly and continues to mature to luscious heads quickly.
It may be harvested by thinning out young seedlings from thickly sown patches to create microgreen goodness. Removing a few outer leaves from each of several young plants creates a baby greens salad quickly. And, when an entire head is sliced at ground level and the root is left behind, a new head of lettuce will likely form from that same root.
True, lettuce is a cool season crop. But, here in the Pacific Northwest, that means it grows well from late winter until the first freezes of fall. And, with a passive protection system like an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, you may be able to grow it even when the freezes hit. If a head or two begins to bolt during the heat of summer, that leafy goodness is great fodder for the compost pile or pecking for chickens. Just re-seed every week or two to ensure a continual harvest.
On the warmer days, get out in the garden early to harvest your salad greens. Dunk them into a sink filled with chilly water. Swoosh it around and then let the garden grit fall to the bottom of the sink. Gently lift the washed greens, place them in a salad spinner, give it a whirl and then put the whole thing in the fridge to chill during the day. Come evening, even greens that were slightly wilty when picked will be perky and perfect for the table.
At our house, we’ve had some health changes that mean we’re eating more green salads than ever before. Some are kale. Others are chard and spinach. Many are cabbage. But, most of all, the basic leafy green dinner salad in our home contains loads of lovely lettuces.
Consider some of our favorite veggie mixes in a rich, nutritious seasonal salad tonight. Something similar to this one will be on our table. How about yours?
- Mixed lettuces, harvested at dawn
- peeled and sliced cucumber, harvested early & chilled
- 6-8 sugar snap peas, string removed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- freshly pulled & scrubbed carrots shaved with a peeler
- fresh, raw baby beets, peeled and sliced thin
- a few tablespoons of raw sunflower seeds
- a few shavings of Romano cheese
- a handful of roasted, chopped cashew nuts
- a few pansy petals, borage blossoms or other edible flowers
- Tossed with a tiny amount of homemade vinaigrette
June 21, 2012
The sun is out (kinda) & the garden still needs a bit of fine-tuning before the Sustainable Ballard Garden Tour in just two days, so I’ll make this brief.
First, I’m thrilled to let you know that both Fiskars and Renee’s Garden Seeds have ponied up some amazing garden goodies that will be both given away and raffled at this event. Each paid attendee will get a surprise freebie from Renee’s plus (update as of June 22nd: Renee’s generous freebie gift items won’t arrive in time. Darn!) one raffle ticket. Additional raffle entries may be purchased at the ticket table.
Raffle items include weeding tools, compost bins, rain barrels and even one of Fiskars’ amazing reel mowers — all of which you’ll be able to see integrated into our home garden where we use them all the time. Yeah, there’s more cool stuff too, including a mystery item that is apparently coming from the Renee of Renee’s Garden. We’ll all be surprised by that one!
As I’ve been preparing for this event, I’ve spent a lot of time close to the ground pulling weeds, transplanting, mulching and digging. And, each time I shove a spade into the soil or winnow out a weed, I’m reminded that in the Earth is where it all begins. But the true beginning really is a chicken and egg question. Is the death that then rots to build the soil the beginning or is the sprout that grows from that beautiful soil really the beginning? Perhaps the answer is there is no beginning and no end; it’s all that never-ending circle of renewal. And, it all begins with the soil. Each time I dig into ours, I thank myself for the care we’ve taken in building its health and tilth over the years.
Hope to see you here on Saturday – rain or shine. We’ve got food growing from curb to alley. Berries are beginning to ripen. Compost is rotting. Carrots are coloring. Bees are busy. Cucumbers, beans & zucchini are harvest-able. And even our gorgeous, if fetid, Dracunculus may bloom for the event!
Now…back to spreading that pile of mulch! I’d really like to have it all cleared off the driveway before you arrive on Saturday.
(Note: Garden Mentors is a paid contributing writer to Fiskars & does receive press packet seed samples from Renee’s Garden without charge. However, no compensation has been received for this post or any subsequent promotion.)
November 18, 2011
Forecasters warned us to prepare for snow last night. Harvesting last crops is part of my prep for snow. I expected to get a few greens, a head of cabbage, and maybe some lingering root crops. But, tomatoes and cucumbers definitely weren’t on my November harvest radar last night.
So, this morning when I walked into our unheated greenhouse to see how my decorative succulents had fared the frigid, snow-less night, I was shocked to see these last summer crops waiting for me. Grown from seed much earlier this year, my Saucy Paste tomatoes and Marketmore cukes gave me these late garden jewels, which Kula apparently thinks should be dog treats or toys.
She’s not going to get them. They’re going in tonight’s salad!
What’s still growing in your veggie garden this late November?
September 12, 2011
We’re at that point in late summer when just about every fruit and veggie is ripening in the garden — or at the farmer’s market.
Years ago, we took out our peach tree because of pest & disease issues that simply weren’t worth trying to manage any longer. But, I still buy loads of fresh peaches this time of year from local growers.
And, our greenhouse is beyond dripping with cucumbers this year. We’ve enjoyed them in cocktails and salads. And, now I’ve started eating them for breakfast — in fresh, juicy smoothies that are delicious energy food.
Here’s a very basic recipe. Feel free to mix it up as you wish:
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 peach, peeled, pitted & cut into halves
- 1 T peeled & coarsely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 cups apple cider or pear juice
Add everything to a blender. Secure lid tightly. Blend on low until fruits are pureed. The yogurt will create a bit of a delicious froth on top, and the drink itself will not be very thick.
Pour into a glass & enjoy!
August 29, 2011
I’ve got to take a moment to sing the praises of my new favorite cucumber – Spacemaster 80. Kinda sounds like the spaceship of cucumbers, right?
When I saw that Irish Eyes Garden seeds had a new compact, organic offering — Spacemaster 80 – I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Purported to produce bitter-free, prolific fruits on determinant plants in 58 days even when planted in containers or in small spaces– I had to try it.
Because we have a cool, wet, short growing season, I decided to grow my cukes in our passive solar greenhouse, in containers this year. I seeded both SpaceMaster and Marketmore, which I’ve grown for several years with consistent results. Both germinated, and both took over the greenhouse, which is dripping with cukes right now.
But, I gotta say: SpaceMaster is sweeter than Marketmore, and the cukes are so pretty. They look like perfect little slightly striped dill pickles. If I had a larger crop, I’d probably try my hand at pickling a batch.
The pros on this crop: grows well in a container, crisp, fast-forming, sweet, thin-skinned, pretty snacking cukes. Best picked young before seeds begin to mature.
The cons: Powdery mildew hits them fast and hard. But, with vigilant cutting out of the infection; the plants will continue to produce for several weeks despite being determinants.
Next year I’ll definitely try these again. They taste better than Marketmore, which also grow well in containers in the greenhouse. And, yes, I’ll probably grow more Marketmores as well. They’re my old reliables, and it looks like their more disease-resistant, indeterminant vines are going to outlast the SpaceMasters, which are coming to the end of their life cycle.
Note to self: Next year try more succession plantings of SpaceMasters. And by that, I mean more successful succession plantings. This year, it took about 3 tries at seeding to get successful starts. Such was the problem with our especially dark, cold, wet growing year in 2011.