Bumper Crop

Bumper Crop is my attempt to celebrate the intersection of the garden and the kitchen — an intersection at which many of us love to linger, I think.  This week’s Bumper Crop is tiny, adorable tomatoes.

Tiny, adorable, plentiful

Tiny, adorable, plentiful

How grateful I feel, in late September, to have lovely little tomatoes practically bursting off the plants.  The tomatoes in the photo are a mix of Jaspers and Sun Golds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I have been so pleased with these tomatoes.  They are both prolific and delicious.

Almost too pretty to eat . . . almost

Almost too pretty to eat . . . almost

We consume a lot of these little guys while harvesting.  Many of them I pitch over the fence into the chicken yard, and the birds have a great, squawky time snapping them up.  The tomatoes that make it to the house, I put on a glorious Rebecca Wood Pottery platter (which was a very generous wedding gift years ago).  That color contrast — glossy shiny red and yellow against glossy shiny dark swirly blue — I love it.  It makes the tomatoes look all the more appetizing, and so I eat a lot of them one-by-one or in small handfuls as I’m mousing around the kitchen.

But this wouldn’t be a true Bumper Crop unless there were almost too many tomatoes to use up, right?   Luckily, no matter how many of these I eat au naturel, there are plenty left to make one of my favorite things: Flatbread with Schmeer and Salad.

Flatbread with Schmeer and Salad

Tomatoes, hummus, flatbread, basil - ready for yummy action

Tomatoes, hummus, flatbread, basil – ready for yummy action

First, prepare the tomato salad: slice small cherry tomatoes in halves, julienne a few leaves of basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Using a spoon, measure out the olive oil and red wine vinegar:  5 spoonfuls of olive oil to 2 spoonfuls of vinegar.  Mix.

Now, the flatbread or naan: sprinkle one flatbread lightly with water.  Toast in the oven for just a few minutes to make it warm and tender.

The final ingredient you’ll need is some good, creamy hummus.  I would like to tell you I make my own hummus from scratch, but I have wasted too many fine chick peas and expensive jars of tahini and never got a hummus that I love as much as this prepared brand.  Life is too short–I just buy hummus so I can really enjoy it.

Now for assembly: Tear off a piece of flatbread, schmeer on some hummus, spoon on some tomato salad and munch.  This part is messy, as the tomato-ey, vinegary oil dribbles down your hand and chin, so have a napkin handy.

Now it's really ready for yummy action

Now it’s really ready for yummy action

My two wishes for you today: that you have tomatoes still spilling out of your garden in September, and that you make and enjoy this dish as much as I do.  Bon appetit!

Curse You, Chunky Chuck

I love groundhogs.  I also love edamame.  The problem comes from the fact that groundhogs also love edamame, but they don’t really give a fig about me or my eating habits.  Hence, we come to the problem we are wrestling with: Chunky Chuck, the groundhog who has been living near our gardens for months and being a perfectly acceptable neighbor, turned into a ravenous little piggy once the edamame plants sprouted.  So our edamame crop, which used to look like this:

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Now looks like this:

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So Chunky Chuck has to go.  L’Homme bought a catch-and-release trap and has been trying to catch the little bugger for a couple of weeks now.  We haven’t had any luck; instead, we get little guys like these in the trap:

Wrongly convicted

Wrongly convicted–don’t worry, they were released as soon as the DNA evidence exonerated them.

L’Homme’s next strategy is to visit with a local trapper, who says he uses a bait that will definitely entice Chuck into that trap.  He calls it Groundhog Cocaine.  After 2 weeks of trying to catch the sucker, I have my doubts, but it will be fun to see just what Groundhog Cocaine might be.

Anybody have any luck trapping and relocating a groundhog?

Truly, madly, deeply

Zinnias hanging out with a few echinacea

Zinnias hanging out with a few echinacea

Okay, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that is how I love zinnias: truly, madly, deeply.  Such a prolific, vibrant, colorful, reliable flower.

Working among my zinnias always reminds me of a workshop I attended at an organic farming conference years ago.  The man presenting was a successful flower farmer.  A large part of his workshop consisted of bad-mouthing zinnias — too pedestrian, he said, too common, too easy and obvious.  What?  They are flowers, buddy.  But his message was repeated ad nauseam, and I internalized it, and I so often feel a little cheesy for loving and growing zinnias.

How could you not love 'em?

But, how could you not love ’em?

Well, with the wonderful new air of acceptance and tolerance in our beloved U.S. culture, I am not going to be ashamed anymore.  I love zinnias, and I don’t care who knows it.

Oh, hello! Do you like zinnias, too?

Oh, hello! Do you like zinnias, too?

A better flower workshop was given just a few years ago by the fantastic Lynn Pugh of Cane Creek Farms

In that workshop, I learned tons of great information and tips on how to grow cut flowers, how to harvest them, how to arrange them, and how to sell them.  I haven’t put the selling knowledge to work yet — someday, someday — but I use the harvesting and arranging tips all the time.  So now I’ll share some with you:

Harvesting

  • Cut flowers in the morning (best) or evening, when it’s cool.  In the morning, plants have more water in them; in the evening, they have more sugar.  Either way, they’ll hold up better.
  • Cut each stem and strip off most, if not all, of the leaves.  Leaves in water promote the growth of bacteria; this is what makes flower arrangements get slimy and gross, and bacteria in the stems make them wilt and rot.  If you want greenery in the arrangement, leave some leaves up high on the stem, close to the bloom, but make sure the leaves remain above the water line.  You can also add separate stems of greenery to the arrangement, but keep to the same rule of “no leaves in the water.”
  • As you cut stems and strip leaves, hold each stem upside down; then periodically trim a handful of stems to equal length and put them in a bucket of water when your hand has reached maximum capacity.
Small, sweet and simple -- my favorite way to display zinnias.

Small, sweet and simple — my favorite way to display zinnias.

Arranging

  • Most people like a mix of different flowers, rather than a bouquet made up of one or two varieties.
  • More contrast (in both color and texture) = more excitement (and if you’re in it for the money, more sales)
  • One big showy blossom can make the whole arrangement.  A showy focal flower should be low and in the front of the arrangement for greatest pop.
  • First put greenery in whatever vessel will hold the arrangement, then place the flowers as you like.
  • If you’re not using additional greenery, gather a big bunch of flower stems and place them in the vessel all at once, then edit: rearrange, remove, trim, or add more stems as you like to achieve a nice look.  Placing the stems in one by one from the beginning never works well for me.
Voila! (Sorry, French speakers, for the lack of an accent. I know it's needed, but I'm also lazy.)

Voila! (Sorry, French speakers, for the lack of an accent. I know it’s needed, but I’m also lazy.)

I hope your flower beds and arrangements bring you as much happiness as mine bring to me!

Bumper Crop

Bumper Crop is my attempt to celebrate the intersection of the garden and the kitchen — an intersection at which many of us love to linger, I think.  This week’s Bumper Crop is green beans.  We grow two kinds of green beans: Maxibel Haricot Vert (a nice skinny bean) and Romano Italian flats, and we’ve been very lucky to have a great crop of each this year.  That said, there are only so many times I want simple steamed beans, or roasted beans, or green beans with potatoes and ham, or the hundreds of ways I’ve been cooking green beans this and every summer of my adulthood!  So I came up with a new one:

Soy and Sesame Beans

Steam green beans for about 6 minutes. Immediately plunge them into some ice water to stop the cooking so they’ll be bright green and crisp-tender.

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Put a little drizzle of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil in a bowl.  Add the beans and swirl them around to coat.

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Put the beans in the refrigerator and chill for a few hours to get them good and cold.

Eat with chopsticks!

This is how I like my recipes: so simple it’s almost a crime.  Note: I’m not being cheeky with the last instruction—I firmly believe these beans are a more pleasing food experience if eaten with chopsticks.  Don’t you find that to be true about some foods?

For this iteration of Soy and Sesame Beans I sliced some Italian flats into two skinny pieces before steaming them.

Please leave a comment and tell us about your Bumper Crop; in other words, what are you doing with what you’re growing?

Harvest Day

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Here’s part of the haul on a recent harvest day at Etc. Farms.  I love how the carrots look like Rockettes kicking up their legs. (That’s Rockettes, not roquette, although we grow that, too!) Just beyond the carrots are French breakfast radishes and then Hakurai turnips, and more carrots – yum!

The carrots are super for winter growing.  They can be left in the ground through the coldest months and pulled whenever you want.  They are a variety called Hercules.

We get all of the seeds for these three great veggies from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Happy winter gardening!