Category: garden

Growing celery indoors!

Growing celery from scraps!!

Last year I talked about how you can grow your own garlic from cloves you already have, even inside. It was insanely simple and in the spirit of being green & the popularity of composting/reusing kitchen scraps, it’s one of my most popular posts.

This year I decided to expand on that & show you how celery is extremely easy to grow, as well. Yes- even indoors! I promise. It might not be quick or give you instant gratification… but in 6 months you’ll have tall, fresh celery. And you can certainly use the stalks before that; the 6-month mark is just the thickest, tallest celery (think of the kind you see in the supermarket or farmer’s market).

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Garden vegetable quick pickles.

Quick garden vegetable refrigerator pickles.

It’s nearing the end of a quiet, still, warm summer day. Its just about 5 p.m. The birds are still chirping, and it’s still light out, but the light is diffused; not so strong as it was just two or three hours ago. Everyone is just getting home from work or the beach, and kids are just pulling up on their bikes after a day out with friends.

And me? Well, I decide to make pickles.

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Garden’s last hurrah: nectarine basil preserves (+ a salsa).

It’s September, and the weather is changing. My little herb garden is still growing, but it’s struggling. I know it’s short-lived: the temperatures are dipping down into the 50′s at night, and they’re starting to show the signs that it’s too cold for them. So I’m using every last bit that I can. Making sauces & throwing in extra basil, making cilantro rice, and making rosemary-herbed chicken. Because before I know it, I’ll be drying them all for use over the winter.

When I was a kid, this time of year used to depress me. Back at school for weeks already, time in the pool getting cut drastically short (or disappearing altogether), the weather changing, etc. As an adult I find it doesn’t anymore… sure, I miss the summer. But after long, swelteringly hot days where my face feels like it’s melting off, I look forward to the coolness of the fall. The quietness. The changing leaves. The awesome fall TV lineup. The ability to bake a cake & not have it be too hot to breathe or have the frosting form nothing but a sad, pathetic puddle of sugary mush.

I definitely always miss my garden once the fall weather moves in. Using dried herbs just isn’t the same. And I miss all the fresh produce, too.

But right now… it’s still just warm enough, and it’s all still fresh.

Beautiful, fresh Washington State nectarines.I mean, come on… really now… they’re insanely beautiful!

I made the following recipes after receiving a second massive box from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. You might remember that the last time it was a huge box of beautiful peaches. This time, it was half ‘Sweet Dream’ peaches, half ‘Honey Royale’ nectarines (shown above); grown in an orchard right outside Yakima, Washington. They were so stunningly picture perfect, I couldn’t help but snap some photos before they were gobbled up. The nectarines were so big & perfect they almost looked like apples! Just gorgeous. I swear, I have never seen such beautiful fruit before. Not even at farmer’s markets, or gourmet food stores. The fruits I’ve received from them have been some of the best produce I’ve ever had.

So of course, after I took photos… a few of them got eaten fresh. And my parents took some. Gave a few to lucky neighbors.

And the piles of fruit that were left were all for me to play around with!

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Freshly minted.

Fresh mint! Turn it into jelly in less than 15 minutes!

One of the best parts of having a garden in the summer is the fresh herbs. I use my cilantro in tacos, salsa, guacamole & jasmine rice while the green coriander seeds go into pickles, I use the basil & oregano on fresh pizza, Caprese salad or in tomato sauce as well as drying some, the dill goes into pickles & gets dried for winter soups & sauces, the tarragon goes into flavored vinegar & gets dried, same goes for the sage, etc. Everything gets used, ultimately, whether it gets used fresh… or dried.

Mint is excellent when used fresh. It’s awesome in water or lemonade, or as a garnish on ice creams/sorbets. But if you’re growing mint & not making homemade mint jelly, you’re seriously missing out. Even if you don’t like it you probably know someone who loves to smear it on lamb chops or a leg of lamb, so gift it to them.

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Scenes from the garden, 2013.

My grandpa's 60+ year old rose.

Typically, I update about my little container “Victory garden” a few times during the summer. But because I’ve been so busy this year, I really had to pare down. I didn’t grow anything other than the usual herbs; a few of mine come back every year (chives, oregano, mint) and I bought a few more, like dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. You all saw my garlic already. So I was going to stick to just herbs, my little garlic shoots & my flowers, but then I bought a cherry tomato plant at the last minute because it felt kinda naked without any veggies. But I swear, I’m stopping at that!  I have way too much going on this summer to have a massive garden.

Anyway, I was inspired by my visit to the Queens County Farm Museum & I thought I’d share some photos with you of my garden, & what I’m growing this year. Even if it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still beautiful, because nature is always beautiful & interesting. That rose pictured above is from a plant that’s over 60 years old. It was one of the first ones my grandpa planted when he moved out to Long Island from the Bronx, and it’s still the most beautiful rose I have.

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Grow your own garlic- inside!

Wow.. it’s been a while since I posted an actual recipe or how-to kinda post, or rather any post without links to other places. I apologize. I’ve been really busy; Jay was on vacation this past week, we got engaged, etc, etc. You know how it is.

Anyway, any reader of the blog that’s been a reader for longer than a few months will know I love to putter around in the dirt & have a garden. In addition to flowers (especially lilies & roses) which I love to grow, I’ve grown my own food. Eggplant, cucumber, zucchini squash, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes (both heirloom & not), peppers of all kinds, and one of just about every herb available. It’s been a dream of mine to someday have a massive garden where I grow at least one of everything I love- including carrots & broccoli, and to expand into more exotic herbs such as purple basil, etc. I’d also like to buy some berry bushes, since I tried one once (blueberry) and failed.

However, I haven’t gotten into growing onions, garlic or any kind of edible bulb-thingy until now.

How to grow your own garlic indoors!

I stumbled upon quite a few how-to’s on regrowing kitchen scraps like garlic, and then I saw this one. It just so happened that not only did I have some coffee cans left from that cake, but I had a few old cloves of garlic that were starting to sprout. I thought I’d combine them with a few other cloves and see if I could grow my own garlic indoors.

One can never have too much garlic around. Especially since it seems I make more pickles & Italian dishes (like pizza with homemade sauce) that require fresh garlic than anything! And even better if I can do it inside, on my windowsill.

In a coffee can.

It's easy to grow your own garlic... even inside!Four days after planting!

Here’s what I did:

  • Using a hammer & nail, I poked holes in the bottom of a coffee can*. I didn’t want to use a can opener, because I had no extra screen or cheesecloth laying around to cover the holes to prevent the soil from washing out. I decided 5-6 holes per 13 oz. can was plenty. If you’re using a larger size can then obviously more holes are needed. If you use a coffee can, keep the plastic lids and use them as water-catchers under the cans.
  • I filled the cans up with a sandy soil**, then I watered them until the water came out of the bottom. I let it sit, until all the water was out and it didn’t drip when I lifted it.
  • While the water was draining, I separated my garlic cloves. You want to keep as much of the skin or papery stuff on as possible, so don’t peel them! If you’ve got cloves that are sprouting already, then obviously use those. Otherwise you can use any garlic cloves as long as they’re fresh, not preserved or from a jar and they aren’t peeled. I decided to put 6-7 cloves in each can, assuming some might not grow.
  • I pushed the cloves into the soil, flat side down/pointy side up, a few inches in. The garlic can be close to other cloves, but just don’t cram them in so much that they’re touching. A far as depth, I’d say you want (at least) anywhere from 1/2″ – 1″ of soil covering the garlic.
  • Cover them with soil and pat it down gently. Place them in a sunny spot, like a kitchen window that gets a lot of morning light. Water often & keep soil moist but not soaked.
  • As soon as you get green shoots that are a couple of inches high, you can snip them off (leave 1″). They can be used just like chives, as a topping on salads or in other dishes; the flavor is a very light, delicate garlic taste.
*you can also use a large tomato can or just a flowerpot.
**I mixed a few tablespoons of sand into my soil before filling the cans, but if you live in an area where the soil is already naturally sandy then you can skip this step.

How to grow your own garlic, indoors... in a coffee can!

Garlic likes sandy loamy soil, so a good potting mixture with some sand mixed in is your best bet. Also, they like compost fertilizer. So if you have a compost heap that would be the best stuff to use. Other than that, a good ol’ fashioned blood meal works. That said… if you’re keeping them indoors in a small can, I don’t know if this will matter. Especially if you use a fertilized potting soil like Miracle-Gro.

Or you can just do nothing & use regular soil. If my original cloves started to sprout in my house without the benefit of soil, sun or fertilizer, I bet you really don’t need to do much once they’re planted. Those pictures were taken- I kid you not- four days after planting my cloves! FOUR DAYS. I literally had these shoots after just four days. This next photo was after six days.

Once I planted these babies, they literally exploded.

Grow your own garlic... on your windowsill!

They might turn out to be crowded in there, so I might transplant some to a larger container, possibly move them outdoors. We’ll see how it goes. I started this in late May and as you can see below, tons of things have changed since the above photos. I still have no idea where this is going, though!  I’m not fully sure if I’ll grow more bulbs this way or just scapes, but I would assume that eventually I’ll get garlic bulbs.

Garlic scapes are the long, winding, almost blue green shoot that hardneck garlic varieties put out in the spring. Scapes have a fresh, mild garlic taste and make the best pesto I have ever had. They can also be used to glorify mashed potatoes, salads, roasted vegetables or stir-fries.

Harvest scapes when they are young and tender. Once they have curled around in a circle, they are ready for picking. Picking the scape not only is not only good for cooking, it will actually help your garlic grow bigger and better – up to 35%.

- about.com

I want to try this with onions as well… especially since I have a tendency to just throw away onions when they sprout (I know, shame on me) & possibly with leeks or green onions too. It’s amazing what you can grow from things you’d normally toss. I’m even growing a pineapple from the top of a fresh one I used!

Growing your own garlic in coffee cans!They just keep on growin’!

Note: some people will say not to use store-bought garlic, just to use garlic you buy at a nursery, etc. These are the same people who tell you not to buy Heinz ketchup because of the high fructose corn syrup. And I get it, I do. I’m just not that insane about things… I’m too laid back for that. I like having fun, experimenting, & doing things randomly at 2 a.m. which doesn’t always afford me extra time to go looking for the right garlic bulb for planting. So if that means using some cloves of garlic I have in my kitchen instead of hunting down a specific variety, then so be it. Do as you will.

Garlic grown in coffee cans!

And of course I’ll keep everyone updated with the status of my (not so) little garlic babies.

A time to plant, a time to sow.

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Yes, I know, you’re all in “fall-mode” already. Me too. It’s hard not to be when Halloween has infiltrated every store & every blog (or Pinterest page) is pushing pumpkin desserts! And I’ve got those coming for you, too. But first there’s still some wrapping up to do when it comes to summer. Namely the garden.

Every year at this time, I start to dry my herbs. They continue growing until mid to late October, usually, unless it gets very cold at night very quickly. As do the peppers, sometimes. But the herbs usually get so large midway through the summer, that I end up cutting them back in late July and using most of them fresh (or freezing them). The rest I dry and add to my dried herb jars. Then I cut them back again in September. Drying fresh herbs is one of the easiest things to do, as is freezing them, and if you grow your own herbs I strongly suggest you do it! For cilantro, I suggest freezing it in olive oil. Basil is also good that way, as well as rosemary. You can freeze them in water, too, if you prefer. As far as drying them, there are, of course, quite a few different ways to do it… but this is what I do. I bought little jars from Ikea to store them in, but small Ball jars work too, as do cleaned out baby food jars. All you have to do is cut your herbs and give them a good shake outside to evict any unwanted tenants. Not cilantro, though, dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh and it’s not really worth it. You’re better off freezing that. Anyhow, cut ‘em down and give ‘em a a shake or two… then give them a good rinse and let them dry overnight on a paper towel or clean dish towel. The next morning, tie the ends of each herb together to create a bunch, and tie with soft twine (or use a small rubber band). Place them in a brown paper lunch bag that you already labeled and “hang” them in it, gathering the top of the bag together around the bottom of the stems and tying it. Then hang the bags or place them in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you’ll have dried herbs (if not, let them hang another week, there shouldn’t be any moisture left in them). Take them out of the bags and gently tug, pull or scrape the leaves of the herbs off the stems with your fingers. You can crumble the basil, oregano & parsley at this point, if you wish. Place them in your jars and label. Or, if you have non-edible lavender, use it in a sachet. All done!

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Anyway… as you might have guessed, this is the last garden post of the season. Sad, yes. But each year it comes whether we like it or not. The good things far outweigh the bad: the fresh veggies that start to come in record numbers, the fresh herbs that grow like crazy, and the delicious meals, sauces & salsas that can come of them all.

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Except this year.

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This year I was lucky to get 8 Cajun Belle peppers, 4 SuperTasty Hybrid tomatoes and 1 Green Zebra tomato. That’s it. Of course, my herbs were huge and I got tons of use out of them all season, not to mention the pesto I’ll be making & freezing because my basil is taking over a small country. But my vegetables were not at all what they have been in the past. Why? I don’t know. The weather, maybe? I know the country is having the worst drought in two decades. But here in NY, it was a pretty wet summer (wetter than usual), but that flip-flopped from very very hot to very very wet almost constantly. The plants barely had time to dry out and recover from one storm by the time another one hit. Though really, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the crazy wind with all those severe thunderstorms (& tornadoes! WHAT?), maybe it was the really bad heat in between all that, maybe it was just me. My mind has been other places this summer, and I haven’t been as anal-retentive about keeping up with the gardening. I noticed some funky curly leaves on the tomatoes and I never even did anything about it. I haven’t weeded or used any fertilizer/plant food at all either. And maybe it was the fact that I chose heirloom tomatoes, not hardier disease-resistant ones this season. But regardless, no matter what the reason, that’s all I got so far. The “mystery plant” died sometime in mid-August, so I guess I’ll never know what it was (glad we weren’t taking bets!). Now my peppers & tomatoes will probably keep growing for a few more weeks, or at least until it gets too cold at night, but I doubt I’ll get much more out of them. Of course, if I end up with anything else, you’ll all read about it for sure. But basically, that was my bounty of 2012, and I was lucky to get it.

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But it was still worth it. Each tomato or pepper is one more tomato or pepper I didn’t have to buy.

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I cut those last three peppers off before they matured, because I wanted to use a variety of peppery heat in a dish I was making. The green tomato took forever to finish growing, it wasn’t done until last week. And the SuperTasty’s? Ugh. They were a struggle all season. Like I said, I could probably take some of the blame, if not most- I wasn’t 100% invested this year. But the weather was downright bizarre, so I’m just going to use that as my excuse. In all my years of having a veggie/herb garden, this is the first year my bounty was pathetic, so I guess I should be thankful. And the best part? Using fresh tomato slices from my own plant, and fresh oregano to make a fantastic light hot weather dinner: a tomato feta open-face sandwich, using one of my SuperTasty hybrid tomatoes & both kinds of fresh oregano.

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I feel almost silly for writing up the recipe for this, it’s so easy, but epicurious.com did too, so I’m in good company. This is a good way to enjoy the fruits of your garden on a really hot, sticky late summer night. Or a slightly warm early fall evening.

TOMATO-FETA OPEN FACE SANDWICH (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • Thick slices of white bread (Pullman loaf is ideal)
  • Olive oil (good quality oil meant for eating)
  • Tomato slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Slabs or crumbles of feta
  • Fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast thick slices of white bread, then drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Add tomato slices, salt and freshly ground black pepper, slabs of feta, fresh oregano, and more oil.
  3. Eat!

I bet this sandwich would look delightful with different colored heirloom tomatoes, and it would probably be amazing with blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles too. Noms.