Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fresh garden beans

I picked some of the first beans from the garden today. The purple ones are a variety called Red Swan, and the stripy ones are a variety called Dragon Tongue.

They look very pretty, but when you cook them, at least with water - either steaming or boiling - the color disappears and you have just green beans again. I don't know what happens if you stir-fry them. I'm sure I'll find out soon :-)

But they were very tasty. I made them my favorite way to have green beans: boil them with potatoes and onions, and a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Yum! We had them along with a ham steak I bought from the farmers market (local farmer, no nitrates, etc.), and some corn bread.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Homemade Japanese Beetle Repellent

Japanese beetles have begun to invade our new rosebush plantings. My son is learning the hard way that roses can be a lot of work.

I did some research on the handy Internet to see if there was some non-chemical way to discourage Japanese beetles from munching on our flowers and bushes. What I found is easy and seems to work wonders. Here's the secret:


Apparently Japanese beetles hate the stuff. Sort of like vampires.

To make the beetles go away, you'll need:

1 spray bottle

Puree a couple cloves of garlic with some water in a blender or food processor. Strain the liquid to get the little chunks of garlic out - you don't want them clogging the nozzle of your spray bottle. Pour the strained garlic liquid into your spray bottle.

Spray your rose bushes, flowers and all, with the garlic water. You will be rewarded with the site of Japanese beetles taking flight to get the heck away from your foul-smelling potion.

Sure, your roses won't smell as sweet, but at least they'll be intact and not all eaten up.

I'll be sure to keep plenty of garlic on hand for the coming Japanese beetle season. Another reason to think of me as Van Helsing.

In the fall I'm thinking of planting a few garlic cloves around my rose bushes. Unusual, I know, but the plants that come up in the spring may discourage the nasty beetles without the fuss of spraying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Using the fruits (and greens, and flowers) of the season

We've been eating a lot of chard lately. We have lots in the garden, along with red lettuce. We put them together in salads and they're very yummy. I just wish my tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers were ready too. By the time they're ready for harvest, though, the greens will be history. Unless I plant more. Which I may.

Another way I've used the chard is on pizza. We had homemade pizza the other night that had chard and spinach from our garden included in the toppings. It was very yummy. I'll be trying some other cooked chard recipes soon, although you really can't beat it taken fresh from the garden and put into a salad.

Another thing I have a lot of right now is lavender. I just finished making a blueberry and lavender gelato with the help of my ice cream maker. It's tucked away in the freezer waiting to be pulled out as a treat after dinner, but you can bet that I already had a taste. Mmm, I can't wait till after dinner so I can have more.

Here's the recipe for my lavender and blueberry gelato. It's extremely easy:

Lavender and Blueberry Gelato

1 pint fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp. fresh lavender blossoms (just the little blossoms pulled off of the flowering heads)
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1.5 cups cold heavy cream
1.5 cups cold water

Clean and wash the berries. Place blueberries, lavender blossoms, sugar, honey, vanilla, and water in a blender and blend until smooth.

In a bowl, beat the cream until it is only slightly thickened - like the consistency of buttermilk.

Pour the berry mixture into the cream and mix thoroughly.

Now you're ready to freeze the mixture as instructed by your ice cream maker.

That's it! No cooking! I came up with this recipe by modifying this extremely good strawberry gelato recipe.

EDIT and REVIEW of my recipe: My family thinks that the lavender taste is too strong in this gelato. If you decide to make it, I would recommend using less lavender (maybe only 1/2 to one Tbsp. of fresh blossoms). I would also recommend using more blueberries - up to 1 pound of fruit, as is called for in the extremely good strawberry gelato recipe (which I have made with great success using 1 pound of mixed berries: strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries). I only had one pint of blueberries on hand today and thought it would be enough with the lavender. Back to the drawing board with this recipe.

Happy eating!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Library of the Early Mind

I just found out about this film and it sounds very interesting. It's called Library of the Early Mind, a documentary film exploring children's literature. It's set to be screened in October, 2010 at Harvard University.

You can see a trailer for the film here, at the documentary's blogsite.

It looks like it includes lots of interviews with authors, illustrators, and publishers of children's literature. I'd really like to see this one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yarrow, Elecampane, and the Iliad

There are two plants in my garden right now with connections to characters in Homer's Iliad. They are yarrow and elecampane.

Elecampane, or Inula helenium, is said to have been brought to Troy by Helen. I don't know why Helen brought it with her. Perhaps it was because of its sunny, yellow flowers. Or maybe Helen suffered from asthma, or from frequent upper respiratory infections. A tea made with elecampane will help relieve both of those things. Today, there are more effective ways to treat asthma, but I include elecampane in teas to help relieve colds and flu and it works extremely well. You can see a picture of it in my garden here, and blooming in the wild here. It won't bloom until round about late July/August.

Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, is said to have been used by Achilles to treat the wounds of his men. It's helpful in stopping blood flow from wounds, and is antiseptic as well. It is also an antispasmodic so I not only include it in healing salves that I make, but in salves to rub on tight muscles. Even my husband, the habitual skeptic, has been converted to using my yarrow and goldenrod salve when he has a stiff neck. He even asks for it. That alone tells me that it works.

I gather yarrow from the wild and I've raised it from seed. It's a nice, white flower with feathery greens, but there are many cultivars around that have rich colors. The original white, however, is the best medicinally.

But you can see where the colors come from. In any typical grouping of white yarrow:

There will be the odd head with a touch of color:

By selectively breeding those with touches of color, eventually you will end up with something like this:

It's a beautiful accent in the garden, but I don't use it in my medicinal preparations.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Garden Pics - Hey, it's that time of year : - )

We had a yummy salad last night with some greens from the garden: red lettuce, chard, and spinach. Here's a picture of our colorful chard. The variety is Five Color Silverbeet. I ordered the seeds from Seedsavers Exchange:

Here are some pretty bean blossoms. I have two types of beans, one is called Red Swan bean, which is a cross between a purple snap bean and a pinto. The other is called Dragon's Tongue Bean, and is a type of Dutch wax bean. I'm not sure which these blossoms represent. I didn't mark them when I planted, but the beans will tell all. Dragon's Tongue pods are creamy with purple, stripey marks. Red Swan will have dusty red-rose pods. Hopefully we'll find out which these are soon:

Here is one of my Hillbilly Potato Leaf tomato plants:

They are aptly named by the looks of this potato plant:

Here is one of my garlics curling up with my lavender and yarrow:

My blueberries continue to develop and ripen. Yum!:

Yellow St. John's wort flowers produce a red-hued infused oil. These are just about ready for the process - you have to use the fresh herb to make infused oil:

What a surprise, calendula already producing buds! For the past two years I've had to wait 'till nearly August to see blossoms. Wow!:

How does your garden grow?

Monday, June 7, 2010

My wild, backyard gardens

My whole yard is practically wild, and my garden plots are just a smidge away from going native. Here's a shot of part of my veg. plot in the way back. What you can see are beans, potatoes, chard, weedy lettuce, and a mound of violets. The violets hide an anthill. I refuse to kill the colony. The lettuce is weedy because whenever I try to weed it, a cat comes along and lays itself down right on the lettuce to 'keep me company'. So the weeding of the lettuce is sporadic. 90% of the weeds in the garden are violets:

Here are my potatoes. I've planted Kennebec and Yukon gold. They aren't 'hilled' because I planted them in trenches and backfilled the trenches as they grew:

The Swiss chard is an heirloom variety called five color silverbeet. There are several colors, green, red, yellow, orange, and I'm not sure what the fifth is:

This is one of my heirloom tomatoes started from seed. It's called Hillbilly Potato Leaf:

My weedy red lettuce:

I have two asparagus plants coming up. I forget the variety, but it's the one that's all male:

In a sunny corner by the house, I have lavender (Hidcote, Munstead, and Provence), garlic, and yarrow all cozied up together:

The largest plant right now in my medicinal herb garden is my elecampane. I love the undersides of the large leaves, they're soft and textured:

Here they are from above. these are second-year plants. I'll harvest their roots in the fall:

These happy violas sit on our patio table. They were a gift from a neighbor:

Here's to half-wild gardens, always almost native!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

We must appease the flood gods

I need to find a sacrifice that will appease the flood gods. It's a good thing we replanted our community plot in raised rows and mounds:

Ours is not the only flooded plot. There are several, the one to the left of ours has even more water:

Our Lima beans have sprouted and are up out of the floodplain:

Some lemon cucumbers have sprouted:

And some zucchini squash:

We even have a rogue squash that came up between mounds. Someone must have dropped a seed:

Our corn is coming up, but we didn't get a close-up pic. The tomatoes and the peppers that are still alive continue each day in survival mode and not growth mode. They are the same size they were when I planted them over a month ago. But the carrots are growing. And here is a moth that my daughter caught in a photo:

I'll have to post some pictures of my other gardens. I'm particularly proud of my 21 (!) potato plants.