Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

tulips 4-21-13

Last week was a difficult week. As someone on Twitter pointed out, you know it's been a crazy week when the story about an Elvis-impersonator sending a ricin-laced letter to the President is not the top news story in the U.S.  Here's to hoping that this week is more peaceful than last week, not just in this country but all over the planet.

For Earth Day, I like something that CNN's Eatocracy blog posted last year: Try to grow something that you can eat, or join a CSA, or support your local farmers' market. Do one thing to keep your resources in your community. I think it's a nice way to focus on our environment, and to remember that old slogan-- "Think globally, act locally."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Seed Sowing: Onions

Seed starting onions

The only seed sowing I've begun so far is my onion seeds. I started these back in February:

Seed starting onions
  • Bronze D'Amposta red onions (ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)
  • Sweet Spanish  (Ferry Morse, purchased at local garden center)
  • Red Burgundy (Ferry Morse, purchased at local garden center)
  • Hybrid Granex Yellow (Ferry Morse, purchased at local garden center)

Onion seedlings
I planted 5 of each seed. I got a good germination rate from the Baker Creek seeds-- 3 out of 5 germinated. I'm most excited to try these onions. They're described as "sweet...A great variety for fresh eating, as it is not too hot tasting." I think that means I won't repel my husband when I move in for a kiss.

Germination rates:
1 Sweet Spanish onion germinated, 3 out 5 Red Burgundy onions germinated, and only 1 of that wacky hybrid one germinated, but it promptly shriveled and died. Hybrids!

I think red onions are so pretty and I hope that my red onions seedlings pull through.

onion patch afterwards
I mentioned weeding out my onion patch in my last post. I planted this onion patch in Fall 2011, and last summer harvested about 2 pounds of onions. I left the others in the ground (show in picture above) and they survived the winter. It smelled really good when I was weeding last weekend!

onion harvest 8-18
 {{Here's what I harvested last summer from the onion patch.}}

Sadly, I cannot remember what variety they are!! That really bugs me because I'd love to grow more of them. They are mild and slightly sweet, and the flavor is very concentrated. A little bit goes a long way when I'm cooking and they're OK when eaten raw.

garlic 4-6-13
I also have a small garlic patch, which happened by accident. I call this variety Farmers' Market garlic because I bought a head of garlic at the farmers' market last fall, put in it in the ceramic garlic house when I got home, and forgot all about it. A couple of weeks later I went to use it, and the cloves had sprouted little stems. So I broke them apart and planted them in my raised bed out back.

Are you growing onions or garlic?

Friday, April 12, 2013

National Grilled Cheese Day!

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day. I don't know who decides these fake holidays, but my favorite sandwich is a grilled cheese, so I'm going with it.

It is pouring down rain this morning and a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, of course, sounds very appealing. If you're into grilled cheese, here are some links you might like:

As a kid I only wanted plain American cheese melted onto white bread, but as an adult I've been getting into interesting combinations, like these:

Spinach-artichoke grilled cheese

Jalapeno popper grilled cheese

Source: via s on Pinterest

Farmers' market grilled cheese (recipe calls for zucchini, spinach, tomato, and mayonnaise!! I would pass on the mayo, but otherwise it looks really good!)

You can click on the picture and/or source link under each picture to go to the recipe.

I think I'm going to have one like in the first picture--with melted mozzarella, tomato, and basil.

Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? How do you make them?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great Gardening Weekend

We had a beautiful sunny weekend in DC. I'm sure everyone who was in town for the Cherry Blossom Festival appreciated it too. Just to remind myself of  how time passes, exactly one month ago, on March 6, it snowed!
The Snowstorm that Wasn't

On this sunny weekend I had the windows open in my house each day. It felt so good to have fresh air circulating through the house. The rest of my April weekends will be busy with out of town travel, a crawfish boil, birthday parties, and a going-away party, so I took advantage of the nice weather to get some yard work done on my free weekend.

seed starting 4:6
First, I started some sunflower seeds. (I am so woefully behind on seed starting in general. I only have some onion seedlings sprouting from seeds I started a couple of months ago).  I'm determined not to let the squirrels dig up my sunflower seedlings this year. We'll see who wins that war. I'm growing Teddy Bear sunflowers, Mammoth sunflowers, and Chianti sunflowers.

tulips 4:7
These are my Queen of the Night tulips. They're growing more every day and I can't wait to see those lovely dark purple blooms. I planted some peach colored alyssum seeds in the spaces between the tulips. I think the color combo of peach and dark purple will look nice.

onion patch before

My big garden task was weed work. Look at how these weeds have almost taken over my onion patch. Now imagine all of that on a 10x10 space. That's about the size of my backyard and it's all full of weeds. It's going to take a while to weed everything.

onion patch afterwards
But for now I managed to liberate my onion patch. This was a lesson learned for me. I will mulch better and/or plant some cover crops next fall to prevent this from happening again.

I also squeezed some shopping in this weekend. I treated myself to these cute pink shorts. I don't think I've ever owned pink shorts in my life. I must have spring fever. I can't wait for the weather to warm up enough to wear them.

Did you get any garden work done this weekend?

Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Oven-Dry Tomatoes

A couple of people asked about how I oven-dried my tomatoes last summer. I'm re-posting my method below. Thanks for asking!
(originally posted September 2012)

I have never canned anything before, and I don't think I grow enough food to go through the trouble of canning. I like the idea of preserving fresh food for the winter, and we do freeze a lot of food. I have local squash, spinach, and broccoli in the freezer that I haven't got around to using yet. Peppers freeze very easily--we clean them, core and remove the seeds, and then slice or chop them up, put them in a container, and leave them in the freezer. When I'm ready to use my peppers, I often just run them under water to soften them up and then they're ready to chop and add to your dish.
I had several ripe tomatoes on hand and decided to try oven roasting them.

tomatoes for roasting
These are so many recipes online with varying times and oven temperatures, and after sorting through all of them, I decided to follow this one by David Lebovitz. The length of time is hard to gauge because it depends on the size and moisture level of tomatoes. I've read that Roma tomatoes are best because they have a lower water content than others. Unfortunately my pile of tomatoes was of different varieties and sizes, so I loosely followed his recipe, but mainly decided to wing it.

I had one beefsteak tomato, a few Romas, a handful of cherries, and some Pink Brandywine heirlooms from my garden. I waited until we had a cloudy, somewhat cool day so that running the oven for 3 hours wouldn't stifle us to death in the summer heat. Here's what I did:

Oven-Dried Tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 325°F
- Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, remove the stems, and remove the seeds. I patted dry some of the juicier tomatoes with a paper towel to remove some excess moisture.
- In an 8x8 pyrex baking dish, add about 3 tbsp olive oil, one clove of garlic, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp dried basil (from my garden!), and salt and pepper.*
- Toss tomatoes around in dish so that all sides are coated.
- Place tomatoes cut side down in the dish.
- Bake for 2 1/2 hours or until tomato skin is wrinkly. (Some of my smaller tomatoes were ready after 2 hours).

*Feel free to add your own combination of herbs and seasonings here. I think next time I'm going to use rosemary and thyme, or maybe do one dish with oregano only.

oven roasted tomatoes final
Here's the finished product. They don't look very pretty, but let me tell you, they smelled fantastic! The whole house smelled like olive oil, oregano, and basil, like a pizzeria! I almost hyperventilated from inhaling all that yumminess. I let them cool a little and then put them in a freezer bag. I think they'll be great in soups and sauces later this Fall.