Saturday in the Garden

 

summer squash and garlic chives

summer squashΒ  “early prolific straight-neck” and garlic chives

The gardens in the north woods of Michigan are something of a challenge — you never know what will grow well. One year the tomatoes are awesome, the next it might be the peppers. I can’t complain about any of it, but it’s always a surprise. This year, the tomatoes all seem to have some disease so I can only hope for a few ripe ones before the vines die. The surprise has been the cucurbits — the squash and cucumbers in particular. My little Pickle-bush cucumbers have been going strong since June, and now the summer squash and Korean squash are growing beyond my wildest expectations! I’ve already had a mess of summer squash and the Korean squash are ready to pick.

summer squash blossoms

a mass of summer squash blossoms!

korean squash

korean squash climbing the trellis

korean squash ready to pick

korean squash ready to pick

Tonight’s supper included baby beets and their greens, summer squash and fresh lake trout, lightly smoked on the grill with coriander, pepper, and garlic sprinkled atop. Delish!

beets, pickling cukes, summer squash twins and green beans

today’s harvest included baby beets and greens, summer squash twins, pickling cucumbers and some lovely pole beans called ‘kentucky blue’

lightly smoked lake trout with baby white beets 'n greens, fresh summer squash

 

dinner (mostly) from the garden!

 

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Pick a Peck of Peppers

On Sunday we took a ride to the ‘Sunrise Side’ on Lake Huron, to see the lock on the Inland Waterway. I didn’t get a picture of that but I did get one of the huge USCGC Mackinaw — the icebreaker in winter — in the Cheboygan River. Not as pretty as the classic old Mackinaw, but impressive nonetheless. There’s also a cute littleΒ crib light peeking out from the river mouth.

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US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw in the Cheboygan River

mackinaw crane

close shot of the buoy crane

cheboygan crib light

Cheboygan crib light

Then we came home and picked a peck of peppers! πŸ™‚

banana peppers

loaded banana pepper plant

peck o peppers

various hot and sweet peppers – the first harvest!

Happy Monday!

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Happy Gardening from the North Woods!!

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potted herbs in the north woods – basil, thai basil, cilantro, and dill

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fresh dhania from the garden

Hooray for summer weather!

I am in arrears again — posting arrears! Do you even remember me, friends? I remember you all! πŸ™‚

School had barely ended last August when the busy autumn appeared and I was consumed with job-hunting and visiting back to my kids and my folks in Massachusetts. The visiting was a huge success.

Home again to Michigan, dear G and I settled in for the end of winter here in the North Woods. January and February were quite mild , but it turned out to be a long, chilly March into spring. Over the winter months we organized the garden seeds, and did some indoor planting with the new grow-shelf! This has turned out to be a perfect set up, and not expensive at all.

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lots of little tomato and eggplant seedlings under the grow-lights!

This year we are trying some dwarf tomatoes. The Dwarf Tomato Project strives to combine heirloom tomato size and flavor with smaller plants for smaller spaces. I am excited and have high hopes for fabulous tomatoes with less disease/trouble! You can check it out here:

Craig LeHoullier’s Dwarf Tomato Project site

Spring finally did arrive and with it a new job for me. I was lucky enough to land a job as a legal assistant for a local attorney — just what I hoped for! It’s a total career change and I have so much to learn — thankfully my new boss is patient and a great teacher. That said, I barely cook on the weeknights now — all this using one’s brain at work is tiring! πŸ˜‰ That means weekends are made for cooking and gardening. Although I don’t grow cauliflower, I love the huge $3 heads that appear this time of year — one could make meals for a week! Tonight I chopped one in half and came up with this mixed bag from a variety of sources — mostly Chef Harpal Singh and Manjula’s Kitchen πŸ™‚ I also cheated with a can of Progresso Vegetable Soup — that stood in for tomatoes as I had none. Do you guys ever watch cooking videos? I love them! Anyway, here’s my takeaway from those and thanks to the chefs! πŸ˜‰

Spicy Cauliflower Yogurt Masala Gravy

For the base:

2 tsp canola oil or ghee

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

2 tomatoes, chopped (or cheat, like me, with a can of soup!)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp red chili pwd

2 tsp dhania-jeera pwd

1 tsp amchur pwd

1/2 tsp garam masala pwd

1/2 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)

For masala yogurt gravy:

2 TB oil or ghee

1 tsp kalonji seeds

2 TB besan

1 tsp garam masala pwd

1 tsp kashmiri chili pwd (optional)

1 c yogurt, beaten smooth

salt to taste

fresh cilantro to taste

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Make the base:

Heat oil or ghee over med-high and add cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds. Let them sizzle and add ginger garlic paste, stir a few seconds, then add onion. Lower the heat and cook 10 minutes, stirring, until onion is golden. Add the tomatoes (or soup) and the turmeric, red chili, amchur, dhania-jeera, and garam masala powders, along with a good pinch of salt. Mix well, reduce heat to med-low and cover. Let this simmer for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are cooked or soup has thickened. Use an immersion blender to mix this all to a smooth gravy. Add cauliflower florets and 1/2 cup water. Mix well, cover, and cook over med-low until cauliflower is done to your liking – about 10-15 minutes for tender.

Make the masala yogurt gravy:

Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the oil or ghee over medium heat. Add kalonji, let them sizzle, then add besan and cook, stirring well, for 4-5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Add garam masala and optional kashmiri chili pwd – mix well. Off the heat, add the beaten yogurt and mix to combine. Add this to the cauliflower base mixture and stir well. Cover and cook on low for a further 5-10 minutes. Taste for salt, add fresh chopped cilantro and it’s done!

cauliflower masala.JPG

Perfect for rice as it makes lots of rich, spicy gravy — this one is a keeper.

I miss my blog hopping and all of my dear friends, so hope to spend some time doing that over the remainder of the summer — it will be fun to see who is still around!

~~~~~~~~

I’ll leave you with some pics of the little gardens in the north woods πŸ™‚

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African queen potato-leaf var.Β  – baby tomatoes

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bee bath full of petoskey stones from lake michigan

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black krim tomatoes from seed – in the front herb garden with horseradish, my nana’s rhubarb, and a few weeds πŸ˜‰

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korean squash growing up the trellis — corn behind

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dear g built a two-step deck for the tomatoes!

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orient charm, orient express, and thai long green eggplants – they love to live in pots on the tomato deck

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giant mariachi pepper plant – a fresno type – hope they will ripen to red!

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lemur in bee balm πŸ™‚

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School’s Out!

harvest 8.18.16
the harvest basket ~ one evening last week

In the past few days since school ended, I’ve had time to look back at my poor neglected blog — never did I dream that over a year has gone by since I posted *anything*! Well dear friends, school is out, not only for the summer this time but for GOOD. I completed the requirements for my bachelor’s as of August 9. I’ll have to wait a few more weeks for the official conferral of my degree, but I’ve finished! This is the realization of a lifelong dream — and the exorcism of my only regret — not finishing college when I was “college-aged”. If you’re reading this and think it’s too late to go back to school — I hope you will think again. It’s *never* too late and I am proof positive. If I can do it, anyone can!Β  πŸ™‚

finito!
4.0!
a wee bit o’ bragging πŸ™‚

I couldn’t have done it alone, however. I’ve been fortunate to have the unending support and encouragement of my fabulous kids, friends, colleagues, and of course — dear Gary. DGΒ endured endless evenings alone while I studied — he took care of the house and the garden and the cats — all while acting as proofreader for each and every paper I wrote — quite ably, I might add.

I am forever grateful.

The big and little gardens in the North Woods are flourishing. It’s been a hot summer and many days we need to water twice. We have been blessed with loads of tomatoes (ripening early!); peppers hot and sweet; corn; squash (winter and summer) and cukes; chard; beets and carrots; lettuce growing in the shade; papdi beans and pole beans flowering; mini-melons and asian eggplant galore; herbs, too! Although it’s only the end of August, the kitchen is overflowing with good things to eat and preserve. My *other* dream of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes is coming true this year — although a few have to be taken inside early as the birds are going nuts over them! πŸ˜‰

heirloom tomato salad
the first tomato salad of the season — a celebration!

How does your garden grow? I can’t wait to hear πŸ™‚

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak with berry

juvenile rose breasted grosbeak enjoying the viburnum crop!

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Ringing in the Season with Curry Leaves Galore

tiny christmas tree
our tiny tabletop tree ~ complete with clementines and christmas candy

When I moved to northern Michigan, I knew I would miss the proximity to the Indian and other Asian grocery stores that I loved so much. Now, nearly two years later, I have learned to handle this minor inconvenience. I shopped around town and discovered ghee and a few other staples at Meijer’s supermarket — who knew? Meijer’s even boasts an expanded produce section — think bottle gourd and small brinjals and greens of every description — once I even found fresh methi there and I nearly cried!! I found a Latin American store which sells rice and tapioca flours, dried chiles and cumin, and many great veggies such as chiles, cilantro and limes which are cheaper and fresher than the supermarket variety. I grew my own Korean radishes in the garden for making kimchi. The one thing that eluded me was curry leaves.

Then I happily stumbled upon NJ’s Grocery in the tiny village of Lake Leelanau, on the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula. NJ’s is a sweet little hometown grocery store, offering the usual everyday groceries, produce, its own small meat counter and deli, and… homemade Indian cuisine!? How lucky could I be? Just a half hour’s scenic drive up West Bay from work there was a tiny Little India awaiting me, complete with a few dals and spices on the shelves. One look at the dishes on offer and I knew someone must have access to … ahem … the elusive curry leaves. Of course I am not shy, so I asked πŸ™‚

Rosie, the kind lady in the kitchen, was good enough to sell me some of her stock of lovely curry leaves — albeit frozen — which I otherwise would have no hope of obtaining. This is what I have been using in sambhar and other dishes since I arrived in the north woods. Then I traveled back to Boston for Thanksgiving last month. I ventured out with little m on a shopping extravaganza. From Patel’s in Waltham I scooped up bags of Haldiram’s cornflakes mixture (dear G’s fav!), some of my fav Gujarati fafda, a few harder-to-find spices, and about 10 packages of dreamy looking fresher-than-fresh greener-than-green curry leaves to carry home with me.

fresh curry leaves podi
precious cargo ~ fresh curry leaves and the tasty podi they made!

Back in the north woods, I immediately cooked up several sambhars and curries absolutely loaded with my fragrant find.

chicken curry with curry leaves galore!
chicken curry with curry leaves galore!

I froze a couple of packages, but I can *get* them frozen now. I searched and searched for the perfect way to preserve my bounty. Finally I decided on this tasty-looking recipe from Sangeetha of Spicy Treats. I made it tonight and it is absolutely divine! I followed Sangeetha’s recipe with few changes — I increased the garlic, reduced the red chilies, and forgot the jeera! 😦 Nevertheless, I was so happy with the way the toasted curry leaves ground to a fine powder with the fragrant dals and hing… the first time I have made a podi that came out so soft and … well … powdery! Thanks for the great recipe, Sangeetha πŸ™‚

curry leaves podi with rice and ghee
the fresh curry leaves podi with rice and ghee… mmmm

Of course, I saved a couple (ok, a few) packets of curry leaves from the deep-freeze because… I now am sufficiently encouraged to try my hand at ISG’s famous sambhar powder!

rice with curry leaves podi and ginger-lime rasam
the yummy curry leaves rice with ginger-lime rasam from Anushruti’s Divine Taste ~ another delicious recipe!

pinks and gibby
pinks and gibby are sleeping by the fire ~ all is cozy in the north woods

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Tomatoes (not enchiladas)

gibbily francis
gibby is waiting for the enchiladas…

I sat down to talk about enchiladas. Tasty enchiladas. Tasty, authentic, homemade enchiladas. Enchiladas from the fabulous Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table fame. That will come someday, because they were really *really* tasty enchiladas!!

This morphed into a garden post. It’s mostly about tomatoes, with a wee bit of my outlook on life. The good, the bad, and the ugly πŸ™‚

A riddle:

Q: What do you get when you cross a man with a disappointing tomato crop and a lady whose glass is half-full in spite of the tomato vines dying too soon?

A: I’m not sure what you would get, but around here we got a mess of watery, tasteless tomatoes tossed on at the compost heap.

That is sure to make some raccoon very happy tonight πŸ˜‰

the little tomatoes that could
little tomatoes that could — left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and a generic beefsteak

Ahhh, garden tomatoes. They can make your heart leap with joy, or they can crush it like a vise. How we yearn for them in the winter. We gaze longingly at the colorful pictures in the catalog, and after much discussion, choose and order the seeds. We watch for the postman, and worry that the package may arrive to an empty house and oh — horrible thought — freeze if we aren’t home! It may sound crazy but it’s true. That’s how we think up here in the north woods.

Then comes the happy day when the seeds arrive, to be safely carried into the warm house. There is much oohing and aahing over the pictures on the packets. We feel like pioneers. The garden is everything, and the tomato is king. Surely our tomatoes will look just like those pictures, and taste even better. We get out the calendar and talk about the last frost date.

From tiniest seeds planted with care by the warmth of the wood stove while the frigid February wind blows, the emerging seedlings are tended as one would tend a child. As winter wanes, we watch them anxiously — are they too leggy? too wet? too dry? It’s all in the hands of the garden gods. When spring finally arrives, the hopeful little babies are set out in the garden. If it’s a good year, we are rewarded with more fruit than we can handle — jam and chutney flow through our veins. Other years, the vines struggle and the fruit we harvest may not be as tasty as we’d dreamed way back in the chill of February. Still, any tomato plucked from the garden is a thousand times better than the hard, waxy balls from the grocery store.

If the tomatoes aren’t great, one could argue that it’s an off year for the garden. I respectfully disagree.

In the spirit of my lately-completed law class (with a hard-won “A”, too!), I offer the following evidence πŸ˜‰

corn in silk and tassel
Corn is in tassel and silk

The peppers (hot and sweet varieties) are a success as usual, and there will be carrots for weeks to come. Papdi beans are coming on now. Pole beans are flourishing among the sunflowers and we are entertained by the bees (finally!) visiting.

sunflowers reach for the sky
sunflowers growing heavy with seed for the birds

Brussels sprouts plants are standing tall. The winter squash and Korean radish have exceeded even my optimistic expectations — with the latter literally vaulting out of the ground! Who knew?

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts plant ~ waiting for the autumn chill to form the sprouts along the stem

korean radish
korean radishes average over a foot long ~ can’t pick them fast enough

The herbs are growing nicely — some already dried for winter use.

fresh basil
yes, that is the outdoor garden sink full to the brim with fragrant basil ~ I made pesto with that πŸ™‚

It’s true: with the notable exception of those pictured here, this year’s tomatoes have been something of a bust.

Still I can’t complain!

amish paste tomatoes
amish paste tomatoes grow in various sizes and shapes

amish paste tomato
amish paste tomato showing few seeds

For years I dreamed of attending the Carmel Tomatofest in sunny California — not for the California sunshine but for the amazing array of heirloom tomatoes on display. Check out the photo on the link above — it’s good enough to eat, and lucky attendees could try each and every one! The classic Tomatofest has since merged with another festival featuring even more good things, but its tomato-only avatar lived on in my mind. I always wanted to have a mini-version of my own. Today, thanks mostly to dear G’s hard work, I finally made it happen. Only four varieties were featured — all the testers could handle πŸ˜‰

mini tomato fest in my kitchen
lined up for the taste test from left to right: park’s whopper, mr. stripey, golden jubilee, and beefsteak — tomato fest in my kitchen!**

We may not have a huge tomato-canning venture this year, but nevermind. There is plenty of tomato bounty left from last fall, and crop is not a total loss. There are some ripening yet, and the cherry tomatoes are doing well. If the garden gods smile upon us, we’ll have tomato fest part two in a few weeks with a few other varieties — either way I have a feeling that tomatoes will be simmering before September is out. Besides, I managed to make a small batch of ISG’s tasty thokku the other day. And that made me very happy.

ISGs tomato thokku
ISG’s tasty, spicy tomato thokku

We take the bitter with the sweet in this life.

I firmly believe there’s no great loss without some small gain (though I am not sure dear G would count attracting raccoons as a gain). πŸ˜‰

For me, it’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be happy with and thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really not that hard. Anyone can choose to be happy, or choose to be unhappy.

I choose to be happy, and I won’t let anything stand in the way πŸ™‚

**For anyone interested (and for my own journal!) the results were:
Park’s Whopper (7.6 oz) — tartest taste, my #1, G’s #4
Mr. Stripey (9.2 oz) — sweetest taste, a little spicy, unanimous #2
Golden Jubilee (5.6 oz) — a little sweet, peachy, unanimous #3
Beefsteak (5.9 oz) — G thought “pretty good” I thought “bland, watery”, G’s #1, my #4

Amish paste was not rated — it’s more a mealy cooking tomato.

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Gardening in the Cool of the North Woods

back garden complete with bat house
the little garden in the north woods ~ the red house on the pole is the bat house that dear G built to entice the creatures to our yard and gardens ~ first he built the house, then he hauled in a tree trunk and affixed the house to the top, then he *dug a hole* to set it in the ground ~ he is so clever πŸ™‚

Hello friends!

I’m thankful to say that the 5th term of school is over and there are still a few days before the 6th begins. We were able to take a quick trip to the Upper Peninsula in search of boats and birds and agates… then home to tend the gardens before heading back to work tomorrow.

grand sable dunes
sunset over grand sable dunes in the UP ~ storm rolling in

It’s been a very cool summer — things are growing, but s l o w l y….

back garden
the little garden out back ~ corn tops out at about 8′ high!

brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts growing in the big garden ~ waiting for fall to produce

korean radish
korean radishes have been a surprise success ~ I’ve already made Maangchi’s Kkakdugi with a few!

korean squash
korean squash baby with blossom waiting to open

maybe a kobocha?
winter squash have been another surprise success ~ this one’s a mystery ~ buttercup? kabocha?

pepper plantation
the pepper plantation is flourishing in spite of the cool weather

ridge gourd blossom
beautiful ridge gourd blossom

summer squash
summer squash was planted late

sunflowers
sunflowers bring the goldfinches and other birds

Tonight I made rasavangi with the first of the brinjals (yep, first! in August!?) and a Korean squash. It was based loosely on this recipe from Sruthi’s Kitchen — completely delicious!

Sadly the tomatoes all have a disease which is killing the foliage — but doesn’t seem to stop the fruit from growing. Here’s hoping for heat to ripen them before frost.

How does your garden grow?

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