Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Absolutely BEST Way to Eat Green Beans

It's green bean time in the Extension gardens. And they just keep coming and coming.

As far as I'm concerned there is ONE, unequivocal best way to eat green beans -- lightly steamed and tossed with a dijon dressing with feta and tomatoes. Ummmmm.....I can't help but gorging every time I make it.

I use an old Martha Stewart Food recipe with slight variation. The original called for scallions (which I skip) and halved cherry tomatoes (which I generally replace with chunked romas.)

For the dressing - 1/3 cup white wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon (or more) dijon mustard. I like the fancy Grey Poupon stuff.

As for the beans, tomatoes and feta, I dunno. Eyeball that. I think this was about 3 oz feta in last night's dish, maybe four tomatoes, and my steamer kettle full to the brim with beans.

Best warm, but plenty fine served cold too. Love it!!!


That's me working the soil in the high tunnel with a broadfork--a human-powered rotatiller.

The fork is about 20" wide and has five tines, I think, to lift and aerate the soil. It worked quite well in the high tunnel, where space is tight. Really, a powered rotatiller would have been totally unnecessary. Because we haven't been trampling the soil all summer, it was still nice and light. I'd say it spent all of 15 minutes, maybe, loosening the soil in two rows.

It was HOT in the high tunnel though, even with the sides up, and I was fresh from standing outside working a golf outing all day. So I must admit that when Bill asked me if I didn't prefer that to a machine, I hestitated.

Now, in retrospect, in the cool breeze of morning, I can say that yes, the broadfork was WAY better than pushing some heavy machine into the tunnel and standing behind a hot, loud motor. It's just at 80+ degrees in a heavy weight polo and pants, just about any kind of labor seemed offensive.

That's okay. Took a super fast shower after the garden and then headed out to hear some jazz at Heritage Hill. They have a very nice 'carry-ins welcome' policy for their Monday night concerts, so I carried in some local red wine. Yes [sip]....I earned this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Four Pound Onion

We pulled the last of the onions from the high tunnel on Monday to make way for fall planting. This was the biggest, weighing in at more than four pounds. The next biggest was a mear 3.5.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flash in the Pan

Seems as though the pickling cucumbers were only with us for a few days. The bed was overrun just over a week ago, and now the plants are done. So done they've been yanked and sent to the compost bin.

That's okay, I guess, 'cause we're doing some FALL PLANTING tonight.

Speaking of fall planting, Bill put a new row of peas in an outside bed, and they're already popping up nicely.

Friday, August 21, 2009

We Be Jammin'

Well Preserved by Joan Hassol
175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads by Linda J. Amendt

These are my two favorite jamming books. Both available from the Brown County Library. (In fact, if you look closely you can see the one of the left IS a library book.) I own two others, but these are the best.

Why do I like them? Well, they both rely on commercial pectin and I appreciate the low-work, no-fail results you get with products like Certo and Sure-Jell.

Second, both books push the 'Strawberry-Rhubarb' envelope with fun new combinations that incorporate ingredients like preserved ginger, citrus, vanilla bean, spices and liqueurs.

Using these books last year, I made pear & Frangelico, cranberry jalepeno, peach brandy, raspberry rum, and blueberry lemon in addition to more traditional flavors, currant and elderberry. (Wow, that was kind of a lot!)

Would love to learn to make more artisan-style jams without commercial pectin, but I want a personal teacher for that. Every time I try, it's a failure and I hate to waste all that fruit. Sure, it makes good pancake topping, but there's something about failed jam that just doesn't say 'Merry Christmas' to me. (You didn't think I was eating all that jam by myself, did you?)

I've also done some experimenting with Pomona's Pectin, 'cause you can cut the sugar way way down, but that too can lead to failure if you don't have the right recipe. I started keeping a jam log last year so I can start to learn and experiment rather than just following a recipe all the time.

Anyone know of an artisan jam class in Wisconsin?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Apricot Lime

Bill shared some of the Extension's organic apricot harvest with me, so of course I had to make jam. You're looking at a jar of 'apricot lime.'

Last year my batch of 'blueberry lemon' was the runaway favorite. While I don't exactly taste the citrus, I think it really brightens the flavor.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Five Little Peppers

Did you read any of the Five Little Peppers books when you were little? No? Well me neither. But I know they were some of my mother's childhood favorites. Maybe it's time to visit them.

These are five dark purple peppers harvested from the garden yesterday. Most of the plants from our "rainbow" mix appear to be purple. And they're going gangbusters right now.

So far I'm only seeing two other colors -- one yellow plant and a few green. Those green better be turning some shades of orange and red, or I'm going to have words with the seed folk. Colorful words.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Missing Path

These are the cucumbers crawling out of their bed, migrating across the path, and encroaching on the onions. Bill estimates we've picked 169 lbs of cucumbers from the inside and outside beds so far this summer. Add on the....I don't know...10 pounds I picked today and we're nearing 200. Still lots of blossoms and lots of pickin' time to go.

Monday, August 10, 2009

(Above) These are the tomatoes inside the high tunnel, taken with the camera up at EYE LEVEL.

(Below) And these are the tomatoes outside, taken with the camera at HIP LEVEL.

It's been a cool, cool summer and our heat-lovin' plants are not exactly thriving. My cousin said they've just started to harvest the early "Fourth of July" tomatoes in her garden plot.

All I can say is that they better get going, or we're all going to have to go southern and start eating a lot of fried green tomatoes this fall.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Harvested a bouquet of zinnias from the garden last week. I put them out on the porch to photograph them, but the pup thought I was offering him a snack. As far as my dog is concerned, if it's green, it's good.

Does this bode well for my someday-kids? Will they be eager veggie eaters too? (Just so long as they don't roll in dead fish and sniff other kids butts.)

Anyway, the variety you see here is Benary's Giant. Their description is.....high yield of long sturdy stems with fully double, dahlia-like blooms.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kaolin Clay

To everyone who saw me in the grocery store on Wednesday night... no those were not deodorant stains all over my black shirt. It was kaolin clay, and I was covered with it after picking cherries.

Totally non-toxic, the clay reduces the insects and birds who bother the fruit, and is considered an organic solution.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cherry Bomb

Here's two of five luscious jewel-toned jars of cherry syrup I made from the recent harvest.

My husband and I made a batch of this syrup several years ago and were disappointed with the cherry flavor at first. Seemed like the jars were much better after a few years of maturity. We gave the last one away this spring, so I was bracing myself for a few years without.

But I was pleasantly surprised with the strong cherry flavor in this batch. We're ready to go right from day one. The difference, I think, may be because I pitted all these cherry and chopped some up, instead of boiling them whole. (I was prepping to make jam. The syrup was a last minute adjustment.)

At any rate, I'm decidedly pleased. Maybe even a little smug. (It's just soooo pretty.)