Monthly Archives: June 2008

A Very Maple Hoo Harvest

We were greatly encouraged by our “poking at the potatoes to see what’s going on down there” test harvest last night, and discovered the Desirees were already way bigger than we really wanted them to be. They were the first of our potatoes to sprout, and the first to flower by far, and now they’re the first to be getting that “yellowing leaves means it’s time for harvest” look to them.

The others? Still looking green and robust. And planning to eat the house:

Digging up potatoes is awesome. You just push the soil around a bit, and all of a sudden, attached to a little umbilical cord shooting out of the roots, is a potato!

Tugging up the plant brings up a handful of them:

There wasn’t a huge quantity under these first two plants, so we decided to leave the other two in place for a couple more weeks. But considering this was just 1/12 of what we planted, we’re awfully pleased.

And in the next bed over? A garlic bonanza!

We planted three varieties of garlic: Persian Star, German White, and Chesnok Red. The German White was the first to sprout and the first to get scapes, so not surprisingly, it was the first to get to harvest point. When 40% of the leaves are brown, it’s time to dig the heads up.

German White seems to have heads that are made up of just a few really big cloves. These are by far the biggest garlic heads we’ve ever grown…

… And we got tons of them:

The best part about the harvest today was that it was actually less than a third of the entire garlic bed.

The New York Times recently ran an article about how much cheaper it is to grow your own veggies than to buy them, and we laughed and laughed at that notion. There is no way this is a less expensive way to get the kinds of crops that are standard staples, like tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. But in looking at how much garlic we’ve gotten this year, and considering how little effort we put into them, this might just be one crop that is not only yummier to grow yourself, but also cheaper. Oh, and Matsui enjoys home-grown garlic a lot more than store-bought.

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Filed under 6. June, Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling

Cute Baby Veggies

On a day that saw some full-on, grown-up, for-reals vegetables pulled up out of the ground, we were equally excited to see some wee baby crops developing around the other beds.

For starters, the nardello peppers are spending all their energy growing peppers the size of the entire tiny plants. We should probably take them off, but they’re just too cute:

Even more adorable? The baby gherkins, which look like spiky infant pickles with flowers attached:

There are also itty-bitty, teensy-tiny pods growing on two of the calypso bean plants, but they’re so small we couldn’t really get a picture of them:

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Filed under 6. June, Garden

Tuber Pommerdoodling!

The potato plants are, officially, completely out of control at this point.

This picture was taking four days ago, and the plants are actually about a quarter again as big now as they were then. If this goes on much longer, they are going to swallow up our house. Which means it’s time to make them sing for their supper. With Kate the Great visiting for the weekend, we decided to take a peek under the soil and pull out some new potatoes. Without putting much effort in, this is the harvest we dug up:

We didn’t have any Yellow Finns near the surface, but we did get a hold of some Desirees…

… All Blues…

… And Banana Fingerlings.

We boiled them up, straight out of the soil, and did a head-to-head taste test. The blues were the clear-cut loser — they were attractive, and held their shape really well, but their flavor was nothing to write home about. They’d be really nice in a potato salad, though. The Banana Fingerlings were exquisite; they were tender but not at all crumbly, and their flavor was rich and buttery. And the Desirees? Out. Of. This. World. When they were very hot they were fluffy and starchy, but when they cooled, they seemed to be much more inclined to a waxier shape-holding. And they tasted, plain, like they’d been buttered and salted to perfection. Last summer we grew Yellow Finns and thought they had to be the single greatest potato on the planet. This summer the Finns in the garden best start producing, because their claim to that title has been seriously challenged by these Desirees.

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Filed under 6. June, Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, Worth Selling Your Soul For

New From The Framer

A box arrived from Mesa, AZ recently, bearing exciting contents: finished stitching! Sandy, the framer at the Attic Needlework shop, does such a beautiful job framing stitching (and the local shops around here have consistently let us down) so all the needlework done at Maple Hoo gets packaged up and mailed cross country immediately after the final cross is made. The only draw-back to this system is that we’re not the only ones who rely on Sandy’s excellent eye and exquisite attention detail; as a result, it can take a while to get our projects back. More often than not, when we see a box from the Attic the initial reaction is, “I wonder what’s in here… I can’t remember the last projects I finished…” It’s like Christmas morning, then, opening the box and rediscovering whatever we’d sent out weeks (or sometimes months) before.

The latest box contained two pieces I’m super excited about — “1824” and “Live Each Season As It Passes”. Both were small, impulse projects that stitched up in next to no time. Blogging has put a serious spoke in my stitching wheel; small, impulse projects seem to be the only thing I can finish these days! Fortunately, these little gems will be excellent additions to our rotating wall of seasonal pieces.

1824
Designer: Carriage House Samplings

I adored this piece the first time I saw it on the Carriage House website. There were two colorways to choose from, but I loved the vintage-y feel of the red, brown, and dark gold. I think it really sets off the simple yet funky look of the giant flowers.

I also really loved the linen the designer suggested (Pear, from Lakeside Linen). The hand-dying is very subtle, but adds a depth that this piece might other be missing.

Technically this piece is called, “1824”, but I like to think of it as “1848”, because that was a date my college American Western history professor deemed “a date to hang your hat on” because so much happened that year. My little jaunty deer seems like one to want to hang his hat on something, so “1848” it is.

Live Each Season As It Passes
Blackbird Designs

I can’t remember when exactly I stitched this. I don’t remember what I had just finished, or what I put down to make it, but I do remember waking up and saying, “I must start ‘Live Each Season’!” I had no idea where the chart or materials were in the giant basement-sized stash Boomer and I share. I gave up looking for it after about ten minutes of looking in all the obvious places it could be. Boomer, however, was much more dogged. After descending into the Stash Abyss, she returned some twenty minutes later, victoriously holding up the chart, linen, and threads.

The linen was a special cut (I’m assuming of Lakeside Linen) that was provided with the chart (which I think is part of a series of little charts called the Loose Feathers Club; members get awesome new charts every other month, with special hand-dyed linens selected for that exact piece) and the threads were Weeks Dye Works overdyed cotton floss. There’s a big upswell in the popularity of variegated threads, but I’m finding they really have their time and place. I think they’re used to great effect here, giving a subtle shading to the white of the flowers while adding a dramatic punch to red lettering.

I love this piece for two reasons. The first is that this year Schnookie and I have both come to the shocking conclusion that we now both love all the seasons equally. Summer used to be a big downer around here thanks to the lack of hockey. But now that summer means watching the garden hit its peak (as well as sitting around playing Katamari instead of being tied to the hockey schedule), summer is just as much fun as Spring, Autumn and Winter. So the sentiment on this little project is perfectly suited to commemorate this year.

The second reason is that as a hockey fan, I think the sentiment to enjoy the season (as in, “the NHL season”) as it chugs along, never taking for granted that there is hockey on TV to be tied to, is a good thing, too!

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Filed under Pins and Needles, Stitching

Paying Off My Debts

On the very short list of Pookie’s favoritest meals is black bean cakes. No matter how they’re made, she loves them, so when Bon Appetit ran a recipe for them in 2004, I knew I had to give them a try. They turned out to be an enormous hassle, but were also, predictably, the first thing Pookie would suggest whenever I’d ask her what she wanted for dinner. Because I loathed making them, I quickly turned the promise of black bean cakes into a bartering chip. I’d beg her to do stuff for me in return for the cakes, and more often than not, I’d totally renege. Going into last weekend, in fact, I think I still owed her three batches for driving me up to Baking Boot Camp four years ago. And then we went into New York to have lunch with Margee of SportSquee fame.

After nine hours of pint-sized margaritas, I needed Pookie and her sobriety to get my very, very drunk ass home from midtown Manhattan. Somewhere along the way, I apparently promised her black bean cakes. I don’t remember this promise, but this time I think she really deserved them.

As it turns out, the recipe is a lot easier now than it seemed four years ago:

3 15-ounce cans black beans, drained (about 4 cups), divided
2 large eggs
3 cups breadcrumbs, divided
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions (about 4)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Puree 2 cups of black beans with the eggs in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in remaining beans, 1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs, and the remaining ingredients. Shape the mixture into ten 1/2-inch-thick patties, using about 1/2 cup of the mixture for each. Coat the cakes with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and working in batches, cook the cakes in the oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.

The original recipe calls for making the breadcrumbs fresh, with crustless French bread. I think this is where the sticking point was for me, in my decision that I hated making these. Tonight I decided to cut a corner and just used panko, and you know what? It made this recipe a zillion times easier.

I also didn’t have scallions, so I just really thinly chopped a white onion. After all these years of thinking this recipe was a terrible burden, I’ve got to say it was a piece of cake. A piece of black bean cake, that is. Yukety yuk.

Anyway, these are delicious served up with some salsa and sour cream while they’re hot, but they’re also just fabulous plain when they’re cold.

These are so scrumptious they’re well worth keeping in play as my bartering chip with Pookie. Of course, if she ever finds out how easy they are, she’ll probably think of something more comparable in value next time she’s stuck trucking me through Times Square late on a sweltering summer night.

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Filed under Hearty Meals, Hot Commodities