Week 5 CSA

Week 5 (July 8-14): Cucumbers, zucchini, basil, kale, peaches, broccoli, beets, tomato

Monday: Started eating peaches as is.  Roasted zucchini again to put in spaghetti.

Tuesday: Cucumber and Black-Eyed Pea Salad using 4 cucumbers, the tomato to replace the red pepper, and oregano from the garden.  We made a lot of substitutions, but I think it would be really good if made as is, since it was pretty good how we made it.  Also had Southern Cabbage that was made last night using cabbage (from last week’s box) and chicken stock my hubby had made and froze.  My husband really liked this dish, despite the video’s obvious need for a text editor, and said it could make a good substitute for the noodles in chicken noodle soup.

Wednesday: Ate in the mall.  It was exciting.  I don’t get out much lately.

Thursday: Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli using the broccoli, and since we didn’t have enough broccoli, we subbed in the zucchinis.  Broccoli was very good, but the zucchini needed a lot longer to cook.

Friday: Kale and Roasted Beet Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing using the kale and beets.  I never thought I’d say this, but I LOVE BEETS now due to this recipe.

Saturday: Leftovers.  Seriously so sad when that kale and beet salad was over.

Sunday: Creamy cucumber soup using the last cucumbers.

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Week 4 CSA

Week 4 (July 1-7): kale, rainbow chard, basil, yellow squash, cabbage, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, sweet cherries

Monday: Devoured cherries as is.  Another peanut sauce stir fry, using some of the broccoli, cabbage, and the hubby roasted 2 of last week’s beets (which were huge) before throwing them into the stir fry.  Made a fun, pink meal.

Tuesday: Zucchini patties using the yellow squash and zucchini.  Doubled the recipe and sprinkled some salt on the shredded zucchini in a strainer and, after a few minutes rest, squeezed out some of the water as other website’s zucchini burgers suggested.  Without that step, they would not have been as nicely firm.  These were declared by our friend to be her new favorite kind of non-meat burger!  Again, cheese makes everything better.

Wednesday: Swiss chard and basil pesto out of the rainbow chard and basil.  We are freezing this for future use, as we are eating at the in-laws tonight.

Thursday: Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli using the broccoli.  This has become a standby in our house and a friend of ours deemed it the best way to eat broccoli.

Friday: Roasted some yellow squash and zucchini and added it to spaghetti and marina sauce.

Saturday: Made Matt’s Garlic Salad again using the cabbage to bring to a potluck dinner

Sunday: Leftovers

Week 3 of CSA

June 24-30: Week 3’s box: another head of cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cilantro, green onions, beets, broccoli

Monday: Returning from traveling, so no cooking.

Tuesday: Sautéed cabbage and kale using cabbage, kale, and green onions and leftovers.  We agreed it needed something, probably some lemon or something else acidic.  It was still a good side, but 1 pound of cabbage isn’t that much when we have this much cabbage.

Wednesday: Matt’s garlic salad using cabbage and the other cucumber that was meant to go in the salad-e shirazi from a previous week.  This was made the night before, as it needs to sit for several hours.  Also made Zucchini Gratin using yellow squash and zucchini and baked haddock in some cilantro and lemon balm from the garden.

Thursday: Fingerling Potato-Leek Hash with Swiss Chard and Eggs using the rainbow chard and subbed some green onions for some of the leeks they call for.  This worked out that it called for Gruyere cheese since the Zucchini Gratin made yesterday had called for Gruyere.  As my husband started making this, I suddenly regretted picking another sautéed greens recipe, but the potatoes, eggs, and cheese made enough of a difference and I enjoyed the dish.  Though, the potatoes did not cook all the way through like some warned in the comments.  Ate this with the leftover garlic salad.

Friday: Went to make thai curry using the broccoli with some curry paste we had, only to discover the date was WAY old (we follow the directions on the back, which basically has us cook random veggies and pan fried tofu in coconut milk and the curry paste).  Oops.  So the hubby quickly made Vindaloo curry paste, which just happened to use the bunch of cilantro.  Had some paste leftover, which we froze.  Win!

Saturday: Leftovers.  Just to note, we do eat leftovers from these dishes for lunch everyday as well.  And bought pizza.  Hey, everyone needs to get out once in a while.

Sunday: Used 1 beet to make a vinaigrette, but something went wrong and it was a fail.  Ate leftovers.

Start the CSA!

We joined a CSA! Not only is it our first time being in one, but it is also this family farm’s first time running a CSA.  We are thrilled to eat more locally, eat more seasonably, eat more vegetables, and cook to the challenge of a mystery box of goodies every week.  The CSA box is also very good for us, as having a baby in early spring has basically left our garden barren and neglected, so there will be next to no edibles coming from there this year.  Last week was the first box, and it definitely took some creative thinking and internet searching to find recipes to use all of our produce, but we did it!  And just in the nick of time for this week’s box.  I’m recording what we are making with everything, so that next year we won’t have to think so hard as to what to do with these vegetables.  While I often use the “Simply in Season” cookbook to cook seasonally, it did not focus as much on the vegetables we happened to get the first week.

Week 1’s box: Swiss chard, kale, green onions, lettuce (of varying kinds), eggs, cilantro,  granola

Monday: The CSA’s Swiss Chard and Spring Onion Frittata recipe using some of the Swiss chard, eggs, and spring onions

Tuesday: Leftovers

Wednesday: Felafel using cilantro (the recipe we used we do not recommend, hence no link) with Swiss chard tzatziki (yogurt dip/topping) and Salad-e Shirazi using ingredients we already had

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Asian Grilled Salmon Pineapple and Rice in Lettuce Wraps used the lettuce and green onions

Saturday: Leftovers and salad using the lettuce.

Sunday: Kale chips and Swiss chard pesto, both using their namesake, to make pesto mozzarella paninis and the lettuce was used for more salad.  The rest of the pesto can then be frozen for future use.

Week 2’s box: rainbow chard, kale, basil, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cabbage, green onions

Monday:  Curried Udon Noodle Stir Fry using the broccoli plus peppers we already had

Tuesday:  Rainbow Spaghetti using the basil, rainbow chard, and green onions, plus mint from our yard

Wednesday: Parmesan Zucchini Rounds using zucchini (it said 2 small zucchini makes 2 1/2 cups worth, but our 2 small ones made 5 cups, so we had to double all the other ingredients) and some pan cooked potatoes to go with it

Thursday: 5 Minute Kale using the kale plus leftovers.  It called for an onion but the directions never said when to use it.

Friday-Sunday: was traveling, so didn’t do any cooking.  This left the cabbage and the yellow squash to be used next week.

…to be continued!

Mother’s Day: Time for New Life

We’re two days away from Mother’s Day, and I barely have anything done in the yard.  Amongst other projects I have been meaning to document on here.  But! speaking of Mother’s Day,  I have a good excuse for all this: In March, I became a mom!DSC01167Life with her is so sweet!  And yet so different from before.  Her smiles and little noises are so adorable and I love it when she falls asleep on my chest.  I look forward to the joys and wonders of each stage in our new life together.  At the same time, it’s challenging and exhausting, suddenly being thrust into a new schedule of feeding, diaper changing, and rocking her to sleep that repeats every 3 hours.  If someone else is around to help care for her, I may get 2 hours to work on something, but that’s not the norm.  Sometimes I only get 10 minutes!  Getting out of the house is a special challenge, even if it is only into my own yard.

So, back to the state of the garden.  I did get to weed by the mailbox, and am thrilled to see the mystery flowers I had dug out of someone’s yard (thanks Freecycle community!) are now blooming beautifully.  Honestly, I forgot what I had put there, so it was a very pleasant surprise.   DSC01432

As for the rest of my garden areas, there are weeds all over the place. DSC01436 (What ARE these?  Especially the thin ones.  One touch and they spray their little seeds?  all over the place.  I am not pleased.  Though, I realize I am much to blame for their prevalence, as I had left the area bare and open to weed seeds last season.  Hey, I had morning sickness and increasingly lost my ability to bend over.   What’s a girl to do?)

One happy thing is our collards came back on their own!  Yay cold weather crops!  Also found a few green onions I had forgot about still going strong.  So nice to have fresh veggies from the garden again.  DSC01392The collards are bolting and blooming now, which is quite beautiful.    Hopefully I can harvest the seeds and regrow them, as collards have been a very faithful and nutritious plant in our yard.DSC01397 DSC01398 The strawberries are coming in and the oregano is also looking fluffy and full.  Due to our late start with the baby, we bought a variety of tomato and other edible starter plants.  Even though its more costly than starting them from seed, it will be interesting to try the different kinds and see what we like best for what uses.  We also have a bunch of new, free plants to put in that my husband picked up at his company’s annual Earth Day plant swap, along with some flower seedlings I just started last weekend from seeds saved from my and my grandmother’s garden.  That is, if I make sure to keep them labeled properly!  We all know how well I keep track of things.  For now, its just a matter of keeping it all alive until some friends can help us build the raised garden beds I’ve been planning for a long time now.  I love how spring is full of new beginnings and new things to learn, plus welcoming back all the familiar beauties from previous years.

Seed Collection

A trip to my grandmother reminded me that it was time to start gathering seeds for next season.  I came home with little baggies full of seeds for these nice border flowers, the name of which I have no idea.  I am always humbled when I fail to grow something she gives me since she grows magnificent dahlias and other flowers in this tiny strip of land alongside her building in the middle of Boston.  Year after year her garden flourishes behind its short fence made of old oven racks and refrigerator shelves even as people who walk buy feel entitled to pick her flowers without permission (how rude!).  Maybe cause she uses chemical fertilizers and I don’t does she have a visual advantage, but its still not a good enough excuse when I have much more land and a much younger body to do the work with.  In any case, next year I look forward to pink and yellow flowers framing my lamppost and mailbox.

Today I gathered seeds from the cosmos.  It was accidentally perfect timing as many flowers had died off and only the dry seeds were left on the stem, making them easy to just brush into the bowl:

And then cut some of the heads from the cone flowers. They need to dry a bit more before I get the seeds off:

I am still enjoying the beauty of the zinnias.  I LOVE this flower since it is so stinkin’ easy to grow and makes such a great cut flower.  And they last more than a week, even when cut.  When this bunch of zinnias start to die, I will let them dry and collect their seeds to have a pink collection.  I plan to repeat with red zinnias, yellow, orange, etc.

When I left my grandmother’s, I left with not only flower seeds, but bags and bags of fabric!  As a seamstress and an immigrant, my grandmother would save the leftover fabric from where she worked.  I’m not sure how much of what she made at home was made from these scraps, but she did make much of her 5 children’s clothing as they grew up.  Here’s a sample of the loot:

She’s sorting out a lot of her fabric and thread since she’s getting older and has slowed down with making things.  I’m excited to make something with it and carry on what she started so many years ago.  My grandmother and aunts were laughing that this stuff was vintage since she’s had it stored in her room for possibly decades.  Turns out, they were right!  I found one piece of proof, right on the fabric.  It looks like it gives information on the type of fabric as well as the date May 14, 1963.  Isn’t history awesome?!

Pumpkin Primer

3 1/2 weeks ago, I thought I had a fruitless squash vine taking up all sorts of space in front of my house.  All bloom, no squash.

1 1/2 weeks ago, I discovered we had a pumpkin!

2 days ago, I find my pumpkin is already orange and ready for Fall decorations!   Check out that development!

The problem?

It’s mid-August.  Pumpkins are fall, harvesty things.  Who the heck decorates their home with a pumpkin in August?

Turns out I can make the pumpkin last for weeks by cleaning it in a weak chlorine water solution and the storing it in a cool dry place on a piece of cardboard. (http://www.pumpkinnook.com/growing.htm)  I hope it works.  It also says how I should leave it on the vine for as long as possible, but how long is that?  If all else fails, it looks like I will have plenty of little squash/ gourd things that are climbing all over the big metal trellises.  I thought it was very interesting that the vine basically died to pump the pumpkin full of nutrients (http://www.informeddemocracy.com/pumpkin/growing.html) so that the pumpkin could be a great pumpkin and then pass on its seed.  It’s not a perfect analogy, but it did make me think of when Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine and you are the branches.”  The vine grew up strong and then died so that it could give life to the pumpkin.  🙂

Another problem, with my literal vine and pumpkin, is now the vine is next to dead, leaving a big, empty space in prime, visitor-seeing garden space where all those big. pretty leaves used to be.  Looks wretched out there, doesn’t it?  Maybe I’ll just mulch it and call it a year for this area.  At least the tomato plant that randomly sprouted there (remember that guy?  No?  Neither did I till all the vine leaves wilted.) is making use of the trellis and starting too bloom. I’m still impressed anything grew here.  This is apparently the worst spot in my front yard.

I am interested to try growing corn, beans, and pumpkins together, as one of those websites was saying how they are complimentary plants.  The beans grow up the corn stalks (I knew that part) while the pumpkins sprawl in front of them, creating a weed barrier with those big leaves (did not think of that!).
In other news, more tomatoes are coming in so I made my first batch of spaghetti sauce using only tomatoes from my garden!  Still having blossom end rot problems, but most of the tomatoes have grown enough before getting noticeable spots that they are still useable.  I just cut around them.  I hope we have time soon to make fried green tomatoes.  Mmm!

Growth Explosion!

I left my garden in the care of a friend for two weeks while my hubby-hoo and I went on vacation. I was really glad to have found someone not only willing to plant sit for that long and for that many plants, but to also find someone who was actually excited about getting to garden! Ever since her parents moved to a townhouse, she’s been missing having a garden so this worked out great for the both of us. I told her at minimum, just to water it and keep everything alive.  As we pulled into our driveway and saw our yard, we both exclaimed, “HOLY CRAP!”  Compared to before, it was like a jungle moved in!  A good jungle, mind that!  Now, either it’s just that time of year or she is way better than me at caring for plants because everything had just EXPLODED with growth!   Look at all those flowers and the tomato plants are HUGE and covered with tomatoes!  I only had one cosmos starting to bud when we left, and now this!

By the lampost there were no flowers, now look!  Way to go plant sitter and the month of July!

In the bad news department, we’re still having a problem with blossom end rot.  I plucked a lot of bad tomatoes off, which is always depressing, especially when they account for most of the ones turning red, as well as breaking off a lot of diseased leaves.  It appears the bunnies are still munching away at all my basil and the lemon balm, so I have very little to work with.  The tomato plants in the back have outgrown my old trellis system and need extra support as they are falling everywhere.  Same old problems to work on.

What was new was that mystery plant that sprung up in the front by itself that we then realized was a squash plant, may not be a squash plant after all!  Is that a pumpkin?!?

When we left, we had this big vine just taking over.  I had trellised it to a bamboo teepee, but that wasn’t enough for it, it reached out along the ground as well.  I was getting annoyed with it because it had all these blooms, but I could never see any produce coming from it.  We return two weeks later to THIS!  Maybe I should go away more often!

The lightening show

10 hours after I finished putting up the new trellis, this MASSIVE storm blew through Maryland.  I have never seen the sky flash with lightening without break for 30 straight minutes.  When a lightening storm comes, I often do that thing where you count the seconds between when you see the lightening and when you hear the thunder to find out how far away the storm is, even though I don’t remember the formula for really calculating that. This time, there was no need.  I couldn’t get through 1 second without seeing more lightening.  The lightening finally slowed down to having an occasional 2 second break between lightening flashes.  It became kinda like counting the seconds when waiting for popcorn to be done popping.  That’s when I got bored and gave up watching the storm.  The wind was pretty fierce too with amazing downpours.  This area didn’t do too bad, but just 10 miles south of us they have trees and branches down everywhere and many are still without power, two days later.  Everyone is fine, just hot from the lack of air-conditioning.  The ice cream and snow ball stands with power are raking in the cash today!  It was nice to see that the trellis looked completely unfazed by the storm, so at least I know it can stand up to crazy winds.

The bulbs around the lamp post are springing up!  They must be very happy to finally be in soil.  I am, however, under the suspicion that the local feathery and furry friends have messed up most of the flower seeds since not much seems to be growing in that department.  I’m also not sure if I’ll keep this spot as a planting spot.  People keep stepping on it and compacting the soil. Part of the issue is the walkway itself.  I think it should start further down the driveway.  I should also finish some projects so I can park my car in the garage again.

Huh!  Turns out this blog thing is helping me.  I was all confused as to why these seedlings which I thought should be basil looked nothing like basil seedlings.  So I checked a previous post on my edible front yard garden and there it was, labeled that they are actually zinnias!  It all makes sense now!  Which reminds me that I have not labeled the side yard yet.  Another thing to do this week, as well as fertilizing, weeding, and moving some basil and tomato plants around for more room to grow.

A Bed for the Garden Bed

Two trellises up!!  It makes me think of an old-timey bed, haha.  Once the plants grow more and get adjusted to their new frame, I hope it will be a wall of beautiful!  We just got the metal part up last night and so this morning I sprinted out of bed to tie on all the strings before the heat advisory went into effect today at 11am.  Weather.com said 95 degrees by noon!  I didn’t get it done quite by then,but it didn’t feel too hot or muggy.  I am going to string more lines between the two trellises for extra support, since some plants are more in between the two rather than right up against one to properly wind around it.  One of the surprise squash plants seems very happy to have support and, you can’t really see it, but it was so long I already wove it halfway up the left side.  Again, thanks to this youtube video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCCx93hEoa8 for the instructions.  How to tie the strings was a major part of the video.  A huge improvement from the pvc pipe (too bendy.  I was not aware.)  I tried to use last year for my beans and randomly strung back and forth.

For the plants in the front, I was considering doing something different so it would look prettier as this is what is seen from the street.  Why is bamboo so expensive and cedar planks so hard to find?  I am learning towards more bamboo teepees so they can tie in with the squash plant by the door.