"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it". Genesis 2:15

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Frozen Cabbages

Well I played chicken a little too long with winter and had to run outside Wednesday night and bring 12 frozen cabbages inside. The big outer leaves were stiff and unbending, and very cold to hold in our bare hands. The cabbages covered up one side of my kitchen counter completely.

It was late and no time to do anything with them then. I just hoped that when they defrosted they would be fine on the inside and that I would be able to get some use out of them. The next morning I checked on the cabbages and they looked perfectly normal. No burned or wilted leaves. After school all three of us women got to work and started making cabbage rolls. We had never made these before and it was quite a bit of work, but fun.

There are tons of recipes for these on the net and we just picked one that we liked. We used the big outer green cabbage leaves to line the bottom of the pan. The big but light green leaves were used to roll up a meat and vegetable mixture (after blanching them in boiling water to make them pliable) and the tomato sauce was made from  my stash of ripening garden tomatoes. I used my vitamix so I did not have to peel all those tomatoes, just threw them in and blended with the spices. The tomato sauce was poured on top of the bundles and the whole thing was topped off by more big outer cabbage leaves.

The most work of this whole affair was cleaning and preparing the cabbage leaves for the dish. We had to clean off dirt, fallen tree leaves, moths and other dead bugs, plus a few live caterpillars. The kitchen was such a mess afterwards! We were left with a big pile of unusable huge outer leaves (that felt like a big waste throwing those in the compost) and twelve little round inner cabbages, about 5 lbs worth, (and water and dirt everywhere!) At least I can report that the dish was a success, yummy, and lasted us for three meals.

The next day we were gone to band until the late afternoon when we tackled the rest of the cabbage. We had decided to make homemade sauerkraut. This time only Anna helped me. We chopped and chopped and chopped until I got tired and got out my kitchen-aid attachment that would shred the cabbage. We shredded cabbage and carrots and an apple, we pounded and pounded, added spices and packed it all in a big sun-tea jar. We added whey from yogurt to start the fermentation process, and set the jar on our counter to start working. Now I need to go to the store to get some wide mouth jars to pack the sauerkraut in for storage. I stupidly got rid of mine last time we moved. I will write another post soon all about using lactic acid fermentation as a way of food preservation at a later date.

Sauerkraut in gallon jar. The cup on top is a weight to hold down the cabbage under the juice. Its hard to believe that 5 lbs of cabbage only makes half a gallon of kraut. In front are some pumpkin muffins.

I checked the garden today and the broccoli and brussels sprouts are still doing fine despite the freezing weather. I even have another broccoli to harvest and a few broccoli side sprouts coming along. The brussels sprouts are still only as big as my pinky fingernail so I dont know if we will get any of those before it gets really cold. The mustard is just fine. Next thing on the schedule is garden clean up and processing 4 more pumpkins ( I have to get them out of my kitchen before the big church Christmas party at my house this Sunday.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Snow

Wednesday we woke up to a surprising site - big puffy flakes of snow falling from the sky! No snow or freeze had been predicted so no one was expecting this. It snows so infrequently here - maybe once or twice a year, usually in January. Our first freeze was two weeks late, then snow. What next? Of course it did not stick to the streets and by late afternoon it turned to rain and the snow was all gone. Here are a few pictures of the garden. Anna took all these pictures for me.

Looking over the side fence at the vegetable garden.

Lantana and iris in the snow.

Frozen Vegetable Garden

Cute Cabbage in the snow.

Frozen Okra flower.

Fall colored leaves.

Green Pumpkin Recipe, Last Harvest Chicken Soup

Since we have had a few frosts that mainly affected the tender pumpkins and squashes, I have chickened out and picked all the tender vegetables from the garden. This time of year you truly play a game of chicken with the last tender tomatoes and peppers and the first freeze. When will it be? Do I want all those green tomatoes in my house or can I wait a bit longer and let some of them ripen? If you wait too long and get caught by a freeze you will lose them all. (Not really because you can go ahead and make green tomato relish right away. The green tomatoes just wont keep and ripen if they have been touched with freezing, they will quickly rot in your house, so you really do want to get them before freezing weather.) Other vegetables like cabbage and broccoli can be left in the garden here in North Texas for a good while longer as our freezes usually only dip a few degrees below 32 over night.

The tomatoes green and red, the peppers, cucumbers and squashes are all safely in my house now waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Most of the broccoli has been picked and eaten. The cabbages, Brussels sprouts, carrots and mustard greens will be fine in the garden for now, but what about all those green unripened pumpkins sitting out there on their shriveled vines?

I wasn't sure of you could eat a green pumpkin so I did some research on line. I found out two things. The light green pumpkins that still had soft skin could be eaten just like any other squash. The dark green pumpkins with hard skins were fully mature and would turn orange if they got enough sun. One site suggested that you pick the green pumpkins and put them in a sunny dry place, such as a porch, while another site said you could leave them in the garden as long as it didn't freeze hard. Since that end of the garden tends to be wet I decided to pick my green pumpkins. Of course since last night was supposed to be the first freeze I had to bring them inside for the night - I am over run!

Green Pumpkin Stir-fry
Soft skinned small green pumpkins cut up. Do not skin or seed.
Several onions cut up in rings.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Add olive oil, butter and onions to a large frying pan. Cook on medium heat stirring frequently until onions are translucent. Add the cut up green pumpkin and spices. Cook stirring frequently until pumpkin is tender.

Last Harvest Chicken soup
Its really hard to go wrong with soup. You dont really need a recipe - just start with good broth and add whatever you have on hand.

I started with a whole chicken and boiled it up in a big pot. We had half the chicken for one dinner, then the pot was put in the fridge overnight. Next day the solidified fat was removed from the top of the pot and the rest of the chicken was de-boned. This gave about half a pot full of good broth and chicken. To that was added the last butternut squash picked from the garden along with several of the last green peppers. This was allowed to simmer until the squash was getting soft. I added water if the soup was reducing too much. Next I added some of the last broccoli, about four or five tomatoes rescued before the frost (skinned by poking them with a fork and dipping them in the boiling soup for 10 seconds. The skin comes right off), and a good two handfuls of chopped mustard greens. I added salt and pepper and Cumin. This was served as soon as the broccoli and mustard greens were soft. It was delicious.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November update Vegetables

Garden Mid November. Since this picture we have had a slight frost which only cut the pumpkins back a little and didn't hurt anything else.

First time for growing cabbage. It looks like they are starting to form heads. We plan to try and make sour kraut with these. Unlike some people we really love cabbage. We will eat it just steamed with a little yogurt and salt added. I did have some worms but a little Safer Caterpillar Killer (which is organic) killed them all.

First time I have grown mustard. I think tonight I will try to make some fried mustard greens with bacon!

Bell Peppers
I have just picked a bunch of bell peppers. Now I have to decide if I want to freeze them or figure out something to cook them in. I usually just eat bell peppers in salads, but these wont last that long. I could make a peck of pickled peppers I guess.

Green Tomatoes
Some of the tomatoes are starting to ripen. I have to figure out what to do with them all. I love to just eat these raw sprinkled with a little salt.

Tomatoes are very tricky in the fall, because if you let them get the slightest bit frozen they will rot and not ripen. You have to really keep an eye on the weather and bring them all in green if freezing is forecasted. They will ripen on their own sitting on the counter. I almost always have to bring them in green, which is really aggravating, because after the first frost we can have weeks of great frost free weather - too bad you can't put them back on the vine!

 I've got lots of broccoli in the fall garden. Its so fun to pick your own.

Baby Pumpkin. The pumpkins were hit by a slight frost we had a while back, but they didn't die completely. I have quite a few baby pumpkins still on the vine, but I am not sure how they will do now. So far we have harvested 4 10-15 lb pumpkins and I hope we get a few more.

Garlic coming up.
This is my first time to plant garlic. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I made sure I planted a sweet, non-bitter cucumber for the fall garden (Cucumber Sweet Slice hybrid from Park Seeds) as the bitter kind attracts cucumber beetles (and nobody likes bitter anyway!) I planted them under a row cover to keep off the beetles that were already out there until they were big and ready to flower, then I uncovered them to allow pollination. This strategy worked great and I hardly have any beetles in the fall garden, or any bad bugs compared to the late spring garden. I will use this strategy in the spring with all the vegetables in the melon family, because cucumber beetles killed every single one of my cantaloupe plants this year. These cucumbers taste really good too.

Garter Snake- I don't grow these, (though it seems like it.)
I run into one of these frequently in my garden. I thought they would be eating insects, but I looked it up and they eat what other snakes eat - rodents, lizards, snails, frogs, birds, spiders, worms and fish. These guys are pretty small, that's a soaker hose it is next too, so what could they be eating in my garden? I hope it is snails and not frogs! I love all my frogs!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Early to Middle November Update - Flowers First

Blackeyed Susan vine climbing on the rose instead of the trellis. Lantana.

I'm a little late with November pictures but here they are finally. I am breaking this into two posts because I have a lot of pictures; one for flowers and one for vegetables.

My aim with flower gardening has always been to have something blooming every month of the year possible. Toward that aim I did a lot of research on what blooms when here in North Texas, and when to plant each flower to get the best bloom in its season. Maybe I will write a post about that later, even though it is pretty specific to this area, a lot of it can be extrapolated to different areas.

I have been pretty successful in getting something blooming at all times even if it is a lone flower in the landscape for that week/month, but I would really like to improve in the overall fullness of my garden. I love pictures of gardens that are chock full of greenery. For that I need more bushes and evergreen plants, which I can't really afford right now (I do most everything from seed for affordability) but I have plans for that later.

Anyway as I dislike winter as a gardener I have focused a lot on fall blooming plants in order to lift my spirits as a see the dreaded bleakness of winter approaching. Besides mums, there are asters, fall blooming crocus, fall blooming lilies, re-blooming roses and irises, wildflowers and herbs. I let herbs that I have been keeping from flowering set seeds now if they are the self-seeding kind.

I am particularly proud of these asters. For some reason they are very hard to get started here. They are available for planting at a particularly hot and dry time of the year. I have killed about four of these, but this one took off with daily watering for about a month after I planted it. It is four years old and very large. This picture is a little late. Earlier it was covered in so many blooms you couldn't see the foliage.

Three different mums. I dont like the typical "fall" colors, muddy brown/yellow/oranges. I go for more clear yellows, purples, and reds.

This is a wildflower I think is called a straw flower. This flower blooms all year round, even in winter! It is not fully open here. It has a brown center and does not look like a dandelion when it is open. Very pretty and welcome in winter time.

Crab spider and re-blooming pink Knockout rose.

Red Knockout rose and morning glory.

Red knockout roses and bluebird house. Vegetable garden is behind the fence.

My first ever Florence Fennel bulb!

German Chamomile flowers.

Pretty blue borage flowers. See the Bee looking at us!

A somewhat blurry picture of a bee on basil flowers. The basil and the borage have been full of bees every day. Its really hard to get a picture of these fast moving guys! I am hoping that the basil and borage will self seed this year so I dont have to replant next year.

Thats it for flowers and herbs. Next post will be about vegetables.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Quiche

I am still on a quest for pumpkin recipes to use our fresh garden pumpkin in. I combined several recipes to make a pumpkin quiche. Since we are gluten free we made ours crustless, but you can make yours in a crust if you like.

Pumpkin Quiche

One Onion, chopped
3 cups fresh cooked pumpkin (or one can) drained well
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for one minute. Pour into a greased quiche dish and bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes until set and golden.

It was very good.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Processing Pumpkins, Pumpkin soup, Pumpkin Seeds

We processed our first garden pumpkin this week. It was 12.5 pounds and from it we got a big batch of pumpkin soup, 4 quarts of pulp for the freezer, and a couple of cups of pumpkin seeds.

Our first pumpkin.

The pumpkin was pretty easy to cut up and get ready for cooking. I cut the pumpkin up in wedges with a butcher knife, and carefully scraped away the stringy pulp that contain the seeds. Its easiest to remove the seeds if you dont jumble this pulp up as you remove it. The seeds come out easier and are cleaner.

Pumpkin subterrania

Next we roasted the pumpkin in a turkey roaster in a 375 degree oven for an hour and a half.

This looks like a lot of pumpkin, but since it is mostly water it cooks down a lot. We got about 5 quarts of pulp.

Once the pumpkin cooled we scraped it off of the skin in chunks. Some we made into soup, the recipe will be below, and some went into the freezer.

The seeds and seed pulp.

The seeds we mixed with a tablespoon of butter, a pinch of salt, and roasted them on a oiled cooke sheet at 300 degrees for half an hour. Keep an eye on them and stir occasionally. When they start to brown, they are done.

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

This is adapted from the vita-mix recipe book.

2 Cups Chicken broth
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups fresh pumpkin cooked
1 cup diced onion sauteed until soft
3 garlic cloves sauteed with onion
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper

Place all in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat and serve. Its delicious!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

Lots of rain is lovely, but too much rain and too many gray sunless days are beginning to worry me. We have had almost 4 inches of rain in the last two weeks, and every day has been cool, cloudy and drizzly. The sun has barely made an appearance during this time and everything is soggy, soggy, soggy. What I am worried about are mold, mildew and all kinds of fungus in the garden. (Not to mention that I am allergic to all this and have had a headache for over a week.)

Things seem OK in the garden. We are starting to get tomatoes and we picked our first pumpkin!

This pumpkin actually broke off when we were looking at it in the garden, thus it got "picked." It is ready though and weighs 12.5 pounds! It is our smallest one.

Here is a long view of the garden.

Here is a closer view showing the broccoli.

The blooms in the pumpkin patch are bigger than my hand.

Here is the thing I have been fearing. Some sort of weird fungus. You can see that it is growing on the wood chip mulch, but it is also growing right up the leaf of this cabbage. Anna is studying biology this year and we had fun trying to figure out what this is. It is some kind of parasitic sporangiophore, but what exactly we dont know.

Here is a closer view. Black balls with yellow stalks. Cool looking, but now I am afraid for the whole pumpkin patch. I have found this on leaves and stems in the pumpkin patch and even growing on a soaker hose! It would be useless to spray anything in this weather.

Here is some growing on a baby acorn squash and the stem and leaf. Also the hose! Maybe this is the revenge of the tree we cut down and used as woodchips! I'll have to figure out what to do , if anything, and post it here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Photos late September

Here are a few photos from late September. I have been refurbishing the front flower beds. These beds right in front of the porch get hardly any sun and hardly anything grows there. If you look at this photo taken last year (its not time for the Red Oak to turn red yet here, but it will be great when it does) you can see that only a few clumps of Cast Iron Plant are growing in the bed right in front of the porch railing.

I would like to put some low growing evergreen bushes in front of the porch, but for now I am only going to refurbish this bed with existing plants. I dug up a few scraggily things that needed more sun and moved them elsewhere, then I dug up the clumps of Cast Iron Plant and spread them out in the middle of the bed. From another location I dug up about a foot sized clump of Liriopie. This was enough to spread all along the edge of the bed. Now both the Cast iron Plant and the Liriopie will thicken and spread. They are both evergreen so, until I can get some bushes in the back, my bed will look still full from the street even in the winter.

I bought a one gallon pot of Cast iron Plant 6 years ago. I took that clump from the old house and broke it up into 5 clumps for the front of this house. Now four years later I have spread three of those clumps out on this side of the porch (I still have to do the other side). This is one way to make gardening economical, by taking advantage of plants that can be divided. My two other favorite dividing plants are Irises and Day Lilies. I also take advantage of bulbs that divide such as daffodils, Joseph's and Ox Blood Lilies, grape Hyacinths, and spring and autumn crocus, as well as saving seed every year from many of my flowers.

Giant Pink Autumn Crocus

Golden Rod gift from the birds.

Yellow Autumn Crocus in front of the Pyracantha.

I have forgotten the name of this already. It is a spreading ground cover for under the pink Knockout roses.


My first cup of tea from the herbal tea garden. I realize now that if you are going to be cutting a lot on something you need to plant a lot more than you would think. In this picture the blue flowers are Borage flowers with a borage leaf on bottom of the pile, the white and yellow ones are Camomile, and the ferny sprig is fennel. It was a good cup of tea!

Four-O'clocks. Pyracantha on left.

Four O'clocks.

Morning Glory.