Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heat wave wilts more than lettuce!

We are in the doldrums with a heat wave of above 90 temps all week and poor air quality.
Time to resource easy meals that use the vegetables that are fast maturing in the heat, and minimize time spent in the garden.I have a soaker hose, so I can run out and turn that on and it does the watering for me. On my forays to the vegetable garden I have noticed that I have a new addition to my wildlife enemies list-a chipmunk- and so far he doesn't appear to be afraid of the dog. So cute but so destructive. He has been up on my deck! digging up the containers for one thing, and he or one of his relatives has been eating the french pole bean stems before the they can even set blossoms. I am sure Bertie will be keeping an eye out for him.This is the seasonal change from late spring crops to summer- My first bunch of peas is winding down, but there is plenty of chard, lettuce and kale out there and we've eaten a few tiny cherry tomatoes from the ones on the porch. I usually have an early girl producing by about now, but this year I did not buy any commercial plants due to the destructive late blight that was spread by them last year.
Delayed gratification this time.
Here's a pasta recipe that we're having tonight to help use up all that lettuce that might be getting ready to bolt in the heat: ( you can substitute cooked crispy bacon for the prosciutto)

Lettuce, Pea and Prosciutto Pasta

2 Tbs butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups shelled fresh peas or two cups frozen,thawed
1 head of lettuce torn into pieces
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped parsley
4 ounces prosciutto, sliced into strips
1 lb pasta such as rotini

Melt butter and 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Sauté till tender and add wine; simmer until liquid is reduced about 3 minutes.
Cook peas until just tender, and drain.

Cook pasta until tender,drain it, reserving some pasta water, then reheat onion mixture, adding lettuce,allow it to wilt, then stir together with pasta, parmesan and parsley in the skillet. Transfer to a large bowl and top with prosciutto and more cheese.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bertie and the hoop house

Everything planted by memorial day

Well, now it is June 1st and the weather can't be more different.
The vegetable garden is planted and few days of above 85 temps have caused the beans to pop up and basil to germinate almost overnight! We have been eating lettuce for several weeks now thanks to the little plastic covered hoop house that I ordered from Gardeners Supply. Definitely a good way to get a jump start on the season. My garden club friends and I grew about a bazillion tomato seedlings which we donate to our annual sale and also to a community garden. We had so many that we had to rely on the gardening network to finally place all the adoptees in good homes! There is one of each kind with some old favorites such as Cherokee purple, pineapple, Dad's mug, pink pong and sungold, and a few new ones such as variegated,bush celebrity, speckled roma,and Mr Underwoods German pink (not a good germinator). I always try to spread the varieties through the season with some heirlooms and some hybrids so that I don't have to wait till august for my big crops.
I took the first compost from the worm farm this weekend; they and I seem to be getting the hang of things - how do you know when enough is enough for them?
The directions said don't feed them too much. What do overfed worms look like?It seemed to take a little over a month to start really producing, although only enough for some top dressing. I have some unusual russian varieties of squash seeds from someone in the Cactus society which I am curious to try. My Dad and pruned a salix lanfolia over Easter and I used the whips for stakes, and tutueurs-an idea I got at Chanticleer, which is right around the corner. A gardening friend suggested to set up a system of overflow containers for the rain barrel-there was a rain squall a few miles away that I got drenched in, but the black cloud did not make it over to the garden yet!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Its been a while!

So the fall frost came, the garden was put to bed, and then the winter from hell followed!
We got 55 inches of snow just in February and it was the most snow that fell in Philadelphia since snowfall records were kept (1860's!) The winter we moved to PA from California was the previous all time worst, so this just seems amazing. Bertie needed a tunnel dug to even get off the deck-the snow depth was about even with the tips of his ears! But he was able to hear (and pounce on) voles or other varmits deep beneath the surface of the snow, and his nemesis the neighbor cat was unable or unwilling to saunter over and torture him by meowing on the other side of the gate. But with that February snow (and then the most ballyhooed "snow a cane" which began while I was in DC with a Garden Club Conference, and which necessitated many early departures from that meeting) came the eventual promise of Spring. Valentines Day is my traditional time to start the pepper seeds in flats. We celebrated the day with a romantic dinner with my 89 year old mother in law, and I have since started 12 varieties of peppers from Fish, and Explosive Embers, to Pepper on a Stick, Gypsy and Carmen. The first tray is already up.
Tomato seeds will follow in a week or two-I always buy a lot of seeds at the Philadelphia Flower Show-I usually volunteer and it provides shopping opportunities galore. This year I also bought a worm farm along with a variety of garden doodads including a hoop house to lengthen the garden season; I started a windowbox of mesclun and arugula to put inside that when it comes!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Vines! The Vines! (or cucurbits are coming!)

It seems like this summer's theme is one of vines taking over the yard. I read somewhere that it will be a banner year for poison ivy due to global warming giving it the delightful opportunity for a longer growing season here in the Piedmont region. Perhaps this is why grapevines, virginia creeper and mile a minute vines are taking over my yard. Or could it have been the weeks of rain earlier in the season? Volunteer cucurbits of unknown origin are everywhere(is it a gooseneck gourd taking over my native hydrangea?Or could it be a fairytale pumpkin? I just have to leave the giant vines that spread by the minute, until I see what the crop might be)Even the vines that I have actually planted seem to be out of control. I practically have to use a machete to get into the garden. When my first planting of several types did not come up, I tried again with the result that we have 3 varieties of cucumber, four varieties of squash, including pattypan, acorn, ronde de nice (my go to squash every year) and an unusual one which I got from Native Seeds Search when I visited in Tucson this winter.(and where I evidently found the worlds hottest pepper which was just labeled capsicum). I like to cook the patty pan by sauteeing a sliced onion, adding the squash sliced in thin wedges and cooking till it carmelizes. Then I pour a little water in the skillet and put on the lid. When the squash looks done, I top it with parmesan cheese, put the lid back on till the cheese melts add sea salt and pepper and serve!