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Archive for August, 2013

abundance

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The late summer garden means baskets full of food and crowded kitchen counters. Our dining table makes me claustrophobic lately, covered with bowls of tomatoes and zucchini squash and not always enough time to deal with it as quickly as I should. I won’t even talk about the fridge full of beans and cucumbers. I won’t lie, it’s a little overwhelming sometimes.

This week I hope to do some canning, but in the mean time we’ve been as creative with meals as time allows, and loving the fact that produce never enters our grocery bags.

I wanted to share a few things we’ve been especially enjoying recently.

tomatoes_2Our favorite summer treat is slow roasted tomatoes, which we add to sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and anything else we can think of. Seriously, we talk about roasted tomatoes all year long, in anticipation of the next tomato harvest.  They’re a little bit like bites of ketchup (did you add ketchup to everything when you were a kid, too?) only 6.9 million times better.

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zucchini_crust_0I was turned on to a recipe for zucchini pizza crust recently, and have since made it twice. I doubled the batch the first time, and tripled it the next. It’s a great way to use up a couple large summer squashes, and it makes a delicious, moist-yet-crispy crust. Make extra because leftover pizza is always a great idea.

zucchini_crust_1The recipe seems pretty forgiving, and flour substitutions have worked well for me. I used a combination of brown rice flour and flax meal in place of the almond meal called for.

zucchini_crust_2I’ve also been blending up improv tomato sauces. This one was made with a mix of fresh and roasted tomatoes (mostly orange, hence the color), fresh picked Walla Walla sweet onion, ground sunflower seeds, sea salt, dulse and fresh oregano, thyme and savory. This particular sauce was pretty thick, making it a versatile sauce or spread.

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So in the end, I guess growing a garden all comes down to pizza (just kidding). But really, these have been some of the most satisfying pizza pies I’ve ever made. Almost completely home grown, and so representative of the season right now. And one single place to combine all our favorite things. Don’t forget the pesto!

What are your favorite summer meals?

(And, any favorite ways to preserve green beans?)

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Happy weekend!

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saving garden seed

This is a repost of an article I wrote for Tend this week.

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This is a great time of year to think about saving seeds. A number of garden plants are either starting to bolt and flower, or are already bearing seeds at this time. Rather than pull plants once they’re past their prime, consider leaving some to complete the cycle of growth in your garden.

I have been been focusing almost 100% on growing heirloom varieties, which makes seed saving feel even more rewarding. For example, the melons I’m growing are from seed that dates back to the 1800s. There is quite a history in that plant! I take it as a responsibility and a challenge, and one that I enjoy.

I thought I’d share some of what’s happening in our garden right now, in terms of seed production.

 

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seed_saving_3aSage seed is ready for harvest. See the dark, round seeds inside the dried flower heads?

 

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seed_saving_2We hardly need to save calendula this year, as I harvested an enormous amount last year, but I have been keeping a few seed heads here and there. Calendula seed is ready to harvest when the seeds easily rub away from the flower head.

 

seed_saving_0aI have had this enormous Bull’s Blood beet plant in the garden all spring and summer (I should have taken a photo of the whole plant!). It’s actually been kind of an unsightly nuisance, in the most inconvenient location, but I have been patient. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands of seed pods to harvest soon. Beet seed is also shown above in the first image.

 

seed_saving_7Some of the earliest of the pea vines I planted have a few pods coming close to harvest. With peas and beans, simply leave some pods on the vine until they are completely dried. Then you can remove the inner peas/beans and store.

 

seed_saving_1Coriander (cilantro) seed is coming along. I will use some for cooking, and save some for planting. Cilantro flowers also add a delicate beauty to the garden bed.

 

seed_saving_9Kale, planted last year, is another monstrous tangle that I have been waiting patiently for. The pods are now dry and the seeds fully mature. There is more than enough seed on this plant grow countless gardens full of kale.

 

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Honey bees like when plants are left to go to seed, too. They are completely crazy for the leek flowers shown above, and at most any given time you can go out and find 2-6 honeybees on any given flower head.

Here is a brief post I wrote about seed saving last year as well, if you are interested.

Do you save seed? I’d love to know anything you’d like to share about your own experience.

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Garden, kitchen, studio. These are the places I seem to spend most of my time recently. The garden is just doing it’s thing these days, making lots of food. There is a lot of food coming out of our relatively tiny growing spaces! Our main meals are almost 100% homegrown right now. The realization never gets old, that an entire meal is homegrown. I can really geek out on that sometimes, it’s just so satisfying.

The studio has been a busier place recently, and I have so many things I thought I might get done up there this summer – from painting the floor and some of the dark beams overhead, to building a new table. How does one renovate a space that is overwhelmingly occupied? I haven’t figured it out quite yet.

Speaking of the studio, my friend Camille, the talented craftswoman behind Red Onion Woodworks, has put up an infusion studio tour on her blog, Wayward Spark, if you’d like to check it out. And be sure to see her her beautiful raw edge cutting boards. I have been on the verge of treating our kitchen with one of her boards for so long. They are all one of a kind natural beauties, so if you see one you love, it’s best not to let it pass you by.

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stargazing

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On a whim, I suggested we have a picnic dinner in the yard the other night. Only a short time before we set out, did I remember it was that time of year where there is a big meteor shower. We had missed the peak of it, the night before – August 11 – but I knew from experience that there would be a number of nights where stargazing would be pretty exciting. Then I texted my brother and sister and mom to remind them too! August 11 is a day we all remember with a mix of sadness and fondness, as it’s also the day we lost our dad.

We packed a basket with wine and mini mason jars, a blanket and warm sweaters. We talked and sipped wine until darkness settled on us, and then we laid down to soak up the peace of the night and watch the sky come alive. The Milky Way was straight overhead. The Big Dipper sat low on the horizon. We both wished we could ID the constellations better! We had a pretty great show of shooting stars. They seemed so bright and low! The night sky fills me with awe and excitement, and makes my brain itch a little with the vastness, and the sense of the depth of what is out there.

I feel amazingly small in a way that brings an inexplicable peace.

Before we headed in we gave a shot at our night time photography skills. We didn’t manage to catch a shooting star in the frame, and the shutter speed was so long the stars were moving (and a little blurry) by the time it snapped, but I think we did alright considering.

Such an incredible world this is. It’s easier than it might sometimes seem, to shift, and regain perspective.

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pickles_1A recent rainy day presented the perfect opportunity to finally do some pickling. I’m growing Boston Pickling cukes this year, just for this reason, and they have been producing pretty well. I’ve been stalling on this project for a while. Being my first official foray into canning of any sort, I admit I felt a tiny bit intimidated. The worst that could happen though, is I would lose a few pounds of cucumbers. So!

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pickles_3I followed the garlic dill pickles recipe from Marisa McClellan’s site, Food In Jars. This is a quick pickle (she recommends letting them sit 2-4 days before eating), so you won’t have to wait for weeks to try them. The only modification I made was I added 1/2 tsp coriander seed to each jar. I also followed her guide for salt substitution, and used the sea salt I had on hand in place of pickling salt.

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pickles_6These were pretty simple to put together, just as I was assured they would be. The hardest part was just waiting for the water to boil to sterilize my jars, and then again for the water bath.  I realized halfway through sterilization, that I shouldn’t be using the canning pot on a glass cook top (indicated on the pot, and in part, because the base of the pot is not flat), so we moved outside onto a propane camp stove for the water bath. The water bath process can be skipped if one wants to keep their pickles in the fridge, but I’d rather have the fridge space.

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pickles_7I waited about 36 hours to pop open the first jar. And it’s true, this is a great pickle! Classic dill pickle flavor, with quite a kick of heat. If you like it spicy, I think Marisa hit it just right (I think my 1/4 teaspoons were overflowing a little). If spicy is not so much your thing, you will want to tone it down on the chili flakes.

I found that as soon as I finished making these, I felt excited about sharing them. I especially can’t wait to give some to my pickle loving sister.

I can see how people get really into canning. It’s a fun process, and the results are so satisfying. I am already looking forward to more. Next up? Maybe some tomato jam.

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This is a juvenile hairy woodpecker. I took at least 70 photos of this bird, as it pecked around in our old cherry tree. I quietly sneaked closer and closer as I clicked away. It let me get incredibly close. You can click any photo if you want to see it larger.

Observing birds, and identifying who is who is a favorite of mine.

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