Apologies for the silence, I have been trying to keep up with work and all the vegetable picking in the garden. What has been most surprising this years is that my kale is still growing like crazy and it has not been attached by any of the many insects that often attach it every year. Lucky me!
I LOVE kale but I come across a lot of people who don’t love it so I am always looking to create recipes to convert people. Admittedly, I have failed more often than I have succeeded but I continue to try. I wanted to share the recipe which has created the most kale converts. Enjoy!
A good glug of olive oil
About 15-20 kale leaves
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 cup of beef stock (chicken will do but beef is better)
1 cup red wine if using beef stock, white wine if using chicken stock
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
3 tablespoons of butter
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Black pepper (optional)
Strip the kale leaves from the tough centre stalk and discard the stalk. Roll the kale leaves up into a tube and cut the tube into slices (or just chop the kale). Cut the onions into two halves, then slice each half so that the onions are in long slivers. Chop the garlic. Heat a non-stick pan and add the olive oil. Add the onions and turn pan onto a low heat. Fry the onions until they are transparent and soft. Add the garlic and keep frying until the garlic and onions are pretty soft.
Heat the pan up until its hot and add the stock. Keep the pan on high heat until the stock reduces to about 1/10th of its original volume. Add the cup of wine and reduce that until its about 1/10th its original volume. You're trying to get something which is a bit thickish, not just liquid.
Turn the heat back to low and add the kale. Keep cooking the kale until its still bright green (not pale green) - probably about 4 -5 minutes on a low heat. Stir the onion and kale around so its all mixed in together.
Add the parmesan and stir.
When it looks like the liquid is just covering the bottom of the pan - its ok if its still a bit liquidy, but you don't want it to be a half inch deep for instance - then add the 3 tablespoons of butter and stir until the butter is melted.
The butter and liquid should thicken slightly.
Turn off the heat and stir everything in the pan so that it is well mixed.
Grate more Parmesan over the top, grate some nutmeg and/ or black pepper, and serve.
Apologies for the blog silence these last couple of weeks. Life has really got the better of me since returning from Italy. It is always tough adjusting back to normal life after being on vacation but this was compounded by it being the end of the quarter (I run a sales team) and our nanny deciding to become a stay at home mom.
I will not bore you with the details but it is NOT easy to find a nanny! We survived almost a month without a nanny and it was really an all hands on deck effort with my 70 year old parents helping out daily and my husband finishing work early every day. This past month was a blur of interviews, work and stress. What really helped me get through each day (in addition to my amazing son) was my garden. Each evening after I put my son to sleep I was able to take 10 - 20 minutes to walk around in the silence of the evening. I was able to look at the zucchini’s that had doubled in size since the day before, I smelled the roses and generally took a moment to relax and forget the crap in life that had been getting me down.
An article I read on health.com said ‘A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities.’ With all the distractions we have in life today being able to be outside and focus on the garden helps me remember what is really important and realize that whatever is causing me stress is temporary and, in the scheme of things, not worth worrying about. Thank you garden...
I ate my first tomato of 2017 today and WOW was it good, you cannot go wrong with a Gardeners Delight tomato! I think that this is a little later than my normal first tasting which I always remember being in June. I believe that in years past I ate my first tomato in June because we had some warm weather in April or May, not this year! The weather only really started getting nicer at the end of May. Regardless I now have tomatoes going crazy and this gets me thinking of the obvious question, ‘What am I going to do with all of these tomatoes?’.
I asked myself this question for the first few years after building the greenhouse and having literally baskets full of ripe tomatoes. I tried to start canning various things in batches when I had tomatoes and made things like salsa and tomato sauce. I found myself doing this once-twice a week from the months of July - October, it was very time consuming! A few years ago I was about to go on vacation and had so many tomatoes so I just stuck them in a bag in the freezer. When I was home from vacation, and was making my next batch of tomato sauce, I dumped them in. I use a food mill before canning my tomato sauce so these frozen tomatoes with skins did not matter.
From that day on I put tomatoes in the freezer when they are ripe and then make a couple of massive batches of tomato sauce each year. It is the same amount of effort but much less frequently. I just used my second to last jar of tomato sauce from last year so fingers crossed this will be a good summer for tomatoes!
I built raised beds about 5 years ago and have tried many different approaches and techniques for growing things most effectively. One really stuck, which I love sharing with other people with raised beds, is my approach to supporting tomatillos and ground cherries. I have always grown tomatillos and ground cherries in my raised beds. They both need a lot of support but the support they need is different for each. Ground cherries grow more laterally and tomatillos grow taller. I found that a standard tomato cage just did not cut it in terms of support. I decided to put some bamboo and cable ties to use and came up with a really stable support system that actually fits my raised beds perfectly. I thought I would make a video to show you how it works!
Check out the finished cage, this is going to be full of ground cherries in the next month or 2!
Every summer one of the favorite plants I like to watch grow are the tomatoes in my greenhouse. Everytime I walk through the greenhouse door I feel very lucky to have a greenhouse at all. It is only because of my greenhouse that I am able to grow amazing tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest. I go inside the greenhouse house every day, when possible, to give the tomatoes a little shake. This helps ensure that the tomatoes are pollinated and the fruit sets. If the tomatoes were outside a bee or even the breeze would do this but in a greenhouse they need a little help.
In the last month the tomatoes have grown several feet and have added 2 - 3 new flower clusters. In another month these tomatoes will likely be close to hitting the 14 foot roof of the greenhouse - really! Before getting the greenhouse I had no idea that tomatoes would get this big if grown in optimal conditions.
This year I decided to mostly try new varieties of indeterminate tomatoes. I am growing the following:
All of my tomatoes are doing really well aside from one of the Gardeners Delight, it seems to have had an issue which, based on my research, is from an herbicide. I grow 100% organically but I suspect something might have been blown through a roof vent on a windy day. I believe that my neighbors treated their roof with a moss control which could be the likely cause, what a shame! The rest of the plants are doing well but it is the growth at the top of the Gardeners Delight which is suffering.
I am also growing the amazing Red Robin small bush tomato. This is an amazingly prolific plant which can be grown in small pots and even hanging baskets. I cannot go a summer without this tomato, some nights I pick and pick for close to an hour from just 4 plants!
When I lived in England I had a couple of allotments which was quite fun. I lived in a small house with a small garden so this was my only chance to grow anything. I had a smallish allotment in the beginning which was perfect and then a couple years after getting that one I took on another allotment 4x the size.
When taking on the large allotment, much to the dismay of the gentleman who ran the allotment, I refused to double dig as I had watched people do this on another allotment and was horrified by the amount of time it took them to do. I decided I would use half to grow potatoes and the other half for winter squash. I had heard that growing potatoes can help fight out the weeds. For the squash I put down black plastic and cut holes for the squash, again to suppress the weeds and keep the roots and soil underneath warm.
Weeds, especially bindweed, was a constant battle even with this approach. Every weekend I spent hours weeding and each weekend I returned there were more weeds.
When I moved to Seattle and bought a house with some land I think the fear of weeding led me to build my 30 inch high raised beds (also I needed them high enough to keep the rabbits out). Raised beds are not ideal for potatoes, onions etc. as I could not grow the quantity that I would find satisfying.
At the same time I have developed a system to ensure that I am getting massive amounts of vegetables and fruits for the space I have. The key to keeping the raised beds as productive as possible is to start the seeds in containers rather than sowing seeds in the beds. Vegetables like radish can't be done this way but most fruit and vegetables can. The benefit is that when you gain space after harvesting a crop, you have a ready supply of new plants to put in. This works so well for lettuce, spinach and other salad crops. I even start beans and peas in pots and plant them out when appropriate. When it comes to peas I plant the seedlings and then sow another pea seed close by for succession planting in the same space.
By using this approach my raised beds are pretty much full and productive 100% of the time (from May - October)!
This is the first time I am trying to grow cucumbers in my greenhouse. I have grown them for the last few years in my cold frames but the last 2 years something would go in and eat them. I suspect it was a rat or squirrel. This year I am going to try winter squash in the cold frames as their tougher skins might not be as appealing to these elusive creatures, fingers crossed.
I grow all of my plants in Smart Pots in the greenhouse as the greenhouse floor is gravel and growing things in pots gives me more options. I love Smart Pots and the ones I am currently using are 6 years old and still working perfectly! I plan to grow the cucumbers up some sort of trellis that I will build this once they are larger. I selected 2 special greenhouse varieties from Territorial Seeds, specifically Excelsior and Picolino and I look forward to seeing how they perform. I am already impressed with Excelsior, as you can see from the picture there are 3 cucumbers in a very small space in the stem. I love Lemon cucumbers and although they are not a ‘greenhouse’ cucumber I am going to give them a try. I would welcome any advice on pollination of non-greenhouse cucumbers but I suspect I will need to hand pollinate the female cucumbers with the pollen from the male cucumbers much like you need to do in order to pollinate eggplant/aubergines.
I am so lucky to have this greenhouse which brings me so much joy year round. Clearly the Spring and Summer months are the most exciting though. Spring is so fun as I get to start so many different types of seeds and each evening I pop out to the greenhouse to see what seeds have germinated, every day there is something to see!
May is the time that I plant my tomatoes and by June I should have my first tomatoes ready to eat and they keep cropping until October/November. I have been growing them in the greenhouse for 6 years so I have a great system that works for me and I wanted to share my approach with you! I hope you find my tips useful to you!
I love cut flowers in my house. As much time as I spend outside in the garden I spend more time in the house and over the years I have realized how important it is to have something growing outside that I can enjoy inside. A couple of years ago I bought 50+ Oriental Lily bulbs and planted them and enjoyed them for 2 summers. This year I was devastated to see that I lost these bulbs to a hungry mole (after discussing this with many gardeners I believe that moles were the culprits).
As I now have a large space to fill I decided that I would try and plant as many perennials which have flowers which are conducive to cutting. As my cutting garden is in a raised bed I really want to pack them in as I don't need to worry about creating space for weeding or walking.
I already have scabiosa and anemones planted which I love. Anemones are great early spring flowers that are so pretty and delicate. I also always grow calla lily tubers in the greenhouse so I planted a few of those in the cutting garden. I decided to add the following:
I will miss the fragrance of the Oriental lilies but I hope that this variety in flowers will make up for the loss!
Every year around Mother's’ Day I make up my containers which I fill with flowers to enjoy all summer. I have perfected this over the years and I really think I have a winning formula when it comes to pots full of color and non-stop flowers. I thought I would share my approach and ideas to creating beautiful containers:
I went for an orange and white theme this year, I started both Begonias and Calla Lilies from tubers in the greenhouse rather than buying them at the garden center as this means I get to select colors from a much larger selection. I bought Calynopsis, Dahlias and Jasmine from the garden center. Calynopsis is a stunning plant with balloon-like flowers that are prolific bloomers all through the summer and add such an interesting contrast to the other plants.
Let the warm weather begin!