Monday, April 29, 2013

Mail Order Gardening

In the past, when I had fewer children and wasn't officially homeschooling, I started my entire garden from seeds.  I had flats of tomatoes and peppers, yogurt cups with pansy and snapdragon starts.  I spent hours up-potting the starts and my basement living area with the big picture window looked like a messy greenhouse.  I passed out the extra starts to friends and packed some up to deliver to family in Oregon.  Trips down south saw the cup holders in my vehicle filled with baby tomato and viola plants. 

O.K., I am so over growing everything from scratch.  For the second year in a row, I ordered my tomato and pepper plants from Territorial.  I feel a little bad.  Like I am cheating.  But also relieved.  The plants seemed to have magically appeared.  Handed to me by the friendly Fed-Ex driver. 

But why do I need to order them?  Can't I just get them from a local store or nursery?  It turns out it's not that simple.  The garden stores near me do not sell the varieties that I want to grow.  For some reason, they are still stocking the full size long season beefsteak tomatoes, which I know have little chance of ripening in our chilly summer nights.  They may offer some cherry tomatoes, but only indeterminate varieties, which is fine but too many of those would overtake my small space.  They do offer Oregon Spring, but I'd like a little more variety to choose from. Or they offer the hot peppers, which I do not want to eat, or full size, which would take a lot of care to get to ripen before summer's end.  So I spend some late winter days deciding which varieties from Territorial I want to try for the year.  This year, I ordered one each of the following:
Glacier Tomato
Northern Delight Tomato
Stupice Tomato
Sweet Million Cherry Tomato
Golden Honey Bunch Grape Tomato

Miniature Red Pepper

Once out of the box, the plants are a bit wilted and look sad.

So I place them in the sun, give them water, and wait.
I have since potted these new plants in larger containers with potting soil and a bit of Whitney Farms Tomato & Vegetable fertilizer.  They are downstairs near that big picture window.  It's a neat and tidy greenhouse this year.  I'm sure they will be staying inside through May, though I will put them out on mild days to begin hardening them off for their eventual transplant to the great outdoors. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Drying Chives

As I have mentioned previously, I have an abundance of chives growing out in the vegetable garden.  I have, apparently, over-planted!  With a surprisingly dry afternoon, a baby napping, and one child at the hardware store with husband, I found an opportunity to begin to harvest the chives.

I began mostly to give the asparagus some breathing room, as the chives have been encroaching on their space.  Once I had a healthy pile of pulled plants, I decided I could not just let them go to waste.  With baby awake from nap, I had to return to duty.  But later this afternoon, husband took a break from his project in the garage to relieve me from baby care.  I snuck off to the kitchen and began rinsing and trimming the chives.  Brought up the food dryer.  At this time, eldest child found me and asked to help.  In a few minutes time, we had the chives clean, trimmed and in the dryer.  All four layers are full!  I trimmed off the tough areas that grow close to the ground and cut just so the stems fit in the dryer.  I plan to chop them up after they dry.  I was afraid that if I chopped them up before drying them, they would begin to just fly around in the dryer.  So now, at 95 degrees F in my Nesco food dehydrater, the chives are drying.  Out on the veranda, to keep the house from smelling like onions.   The drying guide says it should take 20-24 hours to get them dry. 

If the drying works out, I may package some up to pass out around Christmas time.   There are so many more huge bunches of chives out in that garden to deal with!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Recipe: Gluten-Free Impossible Quiche

You don't have to make the crust for this one.  While not quite the same as a quiche with a crust, this is very good and you can just mix it up and pop it in the oven.  Go pull some weeds while it bakes.

1 3/4 cups evaporated (canned) fat free milk
2/3 cup brown rice flour or gluten free baking mix
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp oil (canola)

About 2 cups of chopped vegetables.  I like to use any of the following: bell peppers, onions, broccoli, spinach (blanched), kale, Swiss chard (blanched), asparagus, tomato.  Whatever is available and liked by you.
About 1/2 cup sliced ham, optional.
1/2 cup shredded cheese, whatever you like.  Sometimes I use feta crumbles. 
Chopped chives for topping.

Set oven to 350
Spray a 9 inch pie dish with oil.  Place desired vegetables and ham in bottom of the dish.
Mix the first 7 ingredients in a mixing bowl with a whisk until well blended.  Pour mixture over the vegetables and ham.  Sprinkle the mixture with cheese, if desired.  Bake 50-60 minutes, uncovered, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Sprinkle with chives.  Let it cool a bit before eating.  I like it with a slice of gluten-free toast and a green salad if you want to get fancy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

We Planted Some Seeds

Last weekend was so warm and dry, I moved up my planting date by one week.  On Saturday, the two kids and I prepped the garden area with a fresh sprinkling of fertilizer and a good cover of compost.  With the two little helpers, I planted three square feet of loose leaf lettuce, 6 square cages worth of peas (shelling and snow), and three short rows of Swiss chard.  Our Easter lunch was our "impossible" gluten free quiche with ham, a bunch of freshly picked Swiss chard and two asparagus spears, right from our garden.

Last night was pretty exciting around here.  We found 5 asparagus spears ready to harvest.  One for each of us!  OK, so we made baby share his.  I sauteed the spears in peanut oil with a bit of salt, then added a sprinkle of brown sugar and cooked them until nice and caramelized.  The candied asparagus went over well with kids and adults alike.  The asparagus was a side to our basil pesto pasta with chicken, peas and broccoli.  The pesto was from the frozen basil cubes husband and I made last summer.

We will wait a while before planting any of the summer vegetables, but we do hope to see some lettuce or peas popping up soon.  There are several more asparagus spears growing out there.  I think I will start a tally to record exactly how much asparagus we can get this year.  Nine so far!