Category Archives: We Grew This

An Important Announcement About Gardening

I was getting all ready to start putting together posts about our recent awesome vacation in Dallas, but then something amazing happened that is putting the organization of our (kick-ass) pictures on hold. Look at this:

Inadvertent Harvest

Dozens of frying peppers, ranging from zesty green to sweet red! Buckets of spicy purple peppers! A surprising handful of basil! And underneath that all, quarts of fresh tomatillos! This was what we shook off the plants in our garden today when we started in on the end-of-season plant removal from the beds. This is a garden that we have literally been neglecting for the last six weeks. Literally. We haven’t watered, or trimmed, or weeded, or pruned, or anything. We walked away, and when we came back, this stuff was waiting for us.


Perhaps even more significantly, we hadn’t even planted tomatillos this year. Or the year before. Or the year before that. They just sprung up out of the dirt, and because we were neglecting the garden, they were perfectly content just to hum along bearing fruit with nary a care in the world. And this leads me to an important announcement: apparently you can do literally nothing and still successfully grow vegetables. Whenever I hear someone remark that gardening is difficult, or that we have some kind of special skills or wizardry to draw the bounteous bounty from our front yard, my response tends to be “pish posh! I have no idea what I’m doing, and it still works!” But here is proof. If you have dirt and you introduce — in any way at all, even in theoretically inert seeds from years-old compost — vegetable plants to that dirt, you can garden. Nature just wants shit to grow, you know?

[Posted by Schnookie]


Filed under Bonanza!, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This

This Is What We’d Been Planning All Along

So, way back on February 18 we could wait no longer to start gardening and dropped some tomato seeds into little seedling trays.

On March 30 it was unseasonably sunny and warm, so we sat out on the deck and moved the seedlings to bigger peat pots.

On May 3 we transplanted the tomatoes into the garden beds.

On May 15 we saw our first tomato flower.

On June 9 we noticed our first Black Plum tomato on the vine.

In mid-July we started harvesting the Black Plums and a few San Marzanos, and a few tomatoes at a time, built up a nice collection of them.

And on July 26 I roasted a bunch of them…

… ran them through my food mill, and ended up with an almost impossibly thick sauce, nearly the color of barbecue sauce. This is how thick it was without cooking down at all:

With a bit of minced garlic sauteed in olive oil and a dash of chiffonaded fresh basil, there was dinner. I tossed the sauce on spaghetti, and then we drank a toast to those moments when life is completely, deliciously perfect.


Filed under Garden, Harvested, Pommerdoodling, We Grew This, Worth Selling Your Soul For

The Great Garlic Taste Test Of ’08

Now that the entire garlic crop has been picked and cured, it’s time to tackle that most onerous task: figuring out which one tastes best. The three contenders in today’s battle are, in no particular order:

Persian Star

Chesnok Red

German White

The methodology was as follows:

We were going to test the flavors of the three garlics in three settings — rubbed raw on toast, roasted and spread on bread, and raw in a simple bruschetta treatment. Each type was handled with uncontaminated utensils, and they were eaten in a random, blind test.

The Persian Star had a small head with about a dozen teensy cloves. The skins of the cloves were a lovely purply red, but they were a total pain in the ass to handle. I don’t have a lot of patience with wee garlic cloves.

The Chesnok Red was basically exactly like the Persian Star. Again with the wee tiny cloves. Again with the eye-rolling and me grumbling, “This better not taste that good.”

The German White, though, was much more my speed: big cloves (but not very many of them in the head), easy to peel, basically a dream to handle.

The processing was fairly simple for this test. I toasted some slices of bread with a little olive oil for the raw-rubbed test, nestled a few cloves of each in some tin foil and drizzled them with olive oil before roasting for the roasted-and-smeared test, and stirred together some finely diced Black Plum tomatoes (from our garden), the finely minced garlic, a pinch of chiffonaded fresh basil (from our garden), and a healthy drizzle of olive oil for the bruschetta test.

Then we hunkered down for some serious bread consumption.

For the raw-garlic-rubbed-on-olive-oiled-toasts test, we ended up liking the three almost equally. We started with the German White, and felt it had “a mild, not very forward flavor” and was “complimentary”, “a team player”. The Persian Star was “more garlicky”, “sharper and sweeter”, had “a flavor that lingers”, but was “more raw-tasting” and was “asking for something else” to go with it. The Chesnok Red was our winner, by a nose, for being “a garlic-lover’s garlic” and “very strong”. In a very close vote, we decided the German White was the second best, and the Persian Star brought up the rear.

The roasted-and-smeared-on-bread test was next, and the Persian Star led things off by having a flavor “where ‘sweet’ and ‘rich’ meet”; we struggled to verbalize exactly what the flavor reminded us of, ultimately agreeing it tasted like the texture of tomato paste. It had no sharp garlic aftertaste. The Chesnok Red was up next and was “a total loser”. It tasted “like if garlic and tap water were combined”. Third was the German White, “delicious”, “light and airy”, “gardeny”, “full but not heavy — tastes like spring green”, and was fresh-tasting even when roasted. The clear winner was the German White, with the Persian Star a modest second and the Chesnok Red a crushing disappointment.

The bruschetta test was led off by the Chesnok Red, which saw a strong rebound from its failures as a roaster. It “tied the flavors together nicely”, “never tasted like raw garlic”, and was “a good team player’. The Persian Star was next and was “not as peppery as [the Chesnok], more buttery” but also “almost overpowers the tomato flavor”. The German White was the last up, and had a “warm finish” with “no sharpness”, “plays beautifully with the basil” and got the rave “all four flavors [in the tomato mixture] work together the best”. We voted the Chesnok Red our favorite in this round, narrowly edging out the German White, with the Persian Star coming up short.

Overall, even though the Chesnok Red won two of the three tests, we liked the German White best overall. The failure of the Chesnok to roast well was a damaging blow to its overall standings. The Persian Star, while delicious in its own right, wasn’t a winner in any category and had teensy cloves that are impossible to peel. So there you have it: German White it is. In fact, we just placed our order with Seeds of Change for oodles of it for next year.


Filed under 7. July, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, Taste Test, We Grew This

A Blushing Pinko

We’ve been drawing a rather steady harvest of a handful of raspberries a day from our wee raspberry canes in the backyard. It’s been pretty remarkable, actually, how these scraggly plants — which we thought we killed in the car on the drive home from the co-op, by the way — have been churning out the berries. They were producing from late August through November last year, and here they are warming up again. Today’s haul was pretty light, though — only nine berries. So what to do with them? How about muddling them into a Moscow Mule?

I made this by muddling the three berries in the bottom of the glass, then cutting a whole lime into sixths, squeezing it into the glass, and dropping all the pieces in. After a brisk stir to combine the fruits, I topped with ice, poured in two ounces of vodka, and filled the glass with ginger beer.

These are ridiculously flavorful raspberries, so just the three contributed a huge amount of sweetness to the drink, and, as I was armed with some Chambord to add some color if it was needed, it turns out they gave just the perfect tint to it. After a really humid day in the garden, these were crisp, fruity, and magnificently refreshing.

And really, after watching six seasons of MacGyver in rapid succession on DVD and laughing about how much our dad complained about the lefty, “commie pinko” politics of MacGyver back in the day, what better to call a rose-tinted Moscow Mule than a “Blushing Pinko”?

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Filed under Drinky-Drinky, We Grew This

Radish Harvest Redux

Okay, last weekend we pulled up two dime-sized radishes and called it a harvest. This weekend our radish chevron had filled in considerably…

…so we had a much more substantial haul:

Those are French Breakfast and Plum Purple radishes; the wee sample ones we tasted last weekend suggested the Frenchies are mild and sweet, while the Purples are atomic peppery. It was time to find out how they’d work in our very favorite radish setting: sliced thin and layered on some thickly-buttered bread.

It was an encouragingly large pile of radish rounds once I got through chopping:

And it was a delicious couple of radish-ciabatta tea sandwich-esque slabs when I was done assembling:

A few weeks ago, I succumbed to the siren song of radishes in the grocery store so I could make some of these sandwiches, and it was crushing. They didn’t taste like anything other than cold crunchiness. Not so our garden-fresh ones! The mature French Breakfast radishes were just as earthy and cool and sweet as the one we tried last weekend, but the Plum Purples were a heck of a lot milder. They were still a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. They were both magnificently scrumptious, but we all agreed that the French Breakfasts were just that much tastier.


Filed under 5. May, Garden, Harvested, We Grew This

The Garlicky Fruits Of Spring

The other day Pookie emailed me at work to say, “Check out this link — we need to investigate this green garlic thing!” I proceeded to spend a delightful afternoon reading the rest of Farmgirl Susan’s wonderful blog, and then Pookie and I hatched plans to double-plant our garlic bed next year so we could have bundles of green garlic in the Spring. Meanwhile, our regularly-planted garlic bed was taunting us with its massive stalks of allegedly delicious early-season green delicacy.

That stuff is huge! It could feed a family of three like ours for months! We were oh-so-tempted to pull up just one stalk, just to see what it would taste like… and then it came to us, like a bolt from the blue. The previous owners of our house had made a half-assed effort to put in an raised bed for a veggie garden behind the garage, where it wouldn’t be an “eyesore” but also doesn’t get a ton of sun. When we put our grape vines back there, we noticed there were a few little plastic tags from nursery plants in the soil, from a couple of tomatoes and, surprisingly, some garlic. The soil in the bed is too clay-y for the heads to develop, but last Spring we availed ourselves of the scapes from the second generation of garlics coming up in the bed. This spring? We were going to help ourselves to the green garlic instead of waiting on the scapes.

Thank you, previous homeowners! This was so exciting — a new delicacy!

I decided to prepare it basically exactly the way Farmgirl Susan recommended, sauteing the finely-chopped garlic in a fair deal of butter until it’s soft, then tossing it with pasta, salt, freshly ground pepper, and, in my case, a splash of olive oil. I also added some ribbons of prosciutto, then shaved some Parmagiano-Reggiano on top. What we ended up with has some serious potential.

The green garlic was so light and freshly garlicky, without any mature garlic harshness. However, I really didn’t have enough of it to go with as much pasta as I was cooking. So next year, when we plant tons of garlic, this is going to be awesome. I can’t wait!

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Filed under 5. May, Carbo Loading, Garden, Harvested, Lessons Learned, We Grew This