Think About a Winter Garden

There are several plants that can go into the garden now as seeds and will reward you with greens into the fall and, if you’re lucky, up to  Christmas and beyond.

seeds for fall planting

The yellow wax beans are finished in my community garden bed. I was away for a week and just picked the last of them a few days ago. They were old so I cooked them a long time with a slice of bacon, but they were too stringy to eat. It was worth a shot, but they ended up in the garbage. I didn’t put them in my compost bin as they had fat from the bacon on them.

I’ll pull those beans up in the next few days and plant some kale and lettuce. I’ve already done that at home and here are some photos of Russian Red Kale which is a terrific green to plant now. Kale is one of the healthiest things you can eat. You can even make Kale Chips out of the leaves. These seeds were planted 8-14-14 and a week later had secondary leaves.

Russian Red Kale 8-14-14

The tomatoes in my community garden bed are still producing so they won’t get pulled out yet. When I do, I will make sure the cut up the plants before they go into the compost bin.

So…consider a fall/winter garden. You will be rewarded.

 

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Spaghetti Squash – the Rest of the Story

That spaghetti squash cradled in a panty hose sling finally seemed ripe enough to harvest. I’d never grown spaghetti squash before so I had to go on line to get advice about when to pick them. Apparently when the rind is tough they’re ready. They are, after all, a type of winter squash. My thumb nail didn’t make a dent so I carefully undid the panty hose and brought my squash to the kitchen.

spaghetti-squash

I pricked some steam holes in it and put it in the microwave for 12 minutes. I could have baked it in the oven, I suppose, but it was too hot. I let it cool for awhile and then cut it in half and scooped out the seeds.

cooked-spaghetti-squash

The flesh comes apart in strings and I use it as a substitute for wheat pasta for my gluten intolerant husband. It is way better than it looks. I put spaghetti sauce on it, but it would be good with just butter, salt and pepper and maybe some cheese on top. I harvested two squash from this vine and there are three babies on the way. Anybody know how many squash you can expect to get from a vine? I want more than five, but that may be totally unrealistic.

Squash Sex

In my raised beds at home I have lots of squash plants. Acorn, butternut and spaghetti. I don’t plant these in my community garden bed because they need lots of room to run and are not such good neighbors. Would you want this pumpkin vine taking over your garden bed?

pumpkin running

I also plant some squash to grow vertically in concrete reinforcing mesh cages. I made these originally for my tomatoes because they are so tall and I can reach through the openings in the mesh. Okay, I know you’re waiting for squash sex and this is just a tease. Sorry.

wire cage for vertical climbers

I have lots of squash blossoms, but not so many squashes. Here’s the skinny. There are male blossoms and female blossoms. The female blossoms have tiny squash at the bottom – see photo below which shows the little squash and above it what will turn into an orange blossom. There are lots more male blossoms than female blossoms…more opportunities for bees to pollinate the female flowers.

squash blossom female for blog

Online I read that early in the season there are not so many female blossoms and I should be patient. Not my best trait, but I’m working on it. I have lots of  male blooms. They’re very pretty and they are delicious stuffed with goat cheese and deep fried, but I want squash!

Cucurbita moschata 'Butternut'. Original descr...

Cucurbita moschata ‘Butternut’. Original description: Courges butternut (Cucurbita moschata) Photo JH Mora, septembre 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Salad on the Fly and Poop in the Garden

A group of kids from the St. Michaels Community Center come to the Community Garden on Thursday afternoons during the school year. They have two beds they are tending.

Their first job this spring was to get their two beds weeded and amended with LeafGro and composted manure. They learned quickly that gardening is sometimes about getting dirty. They actually seem to like that part.

jr gardeners preparing to plant 2013

On a Thursday in March one of the Master Gardeners worked with the kids and raided some beds that hadn’t been dug up yet for spring planting. The adventuresome kids ate salad on the fly and tried kale, lettuce and carrots that had wintered over. The community garden is a wonderful place to learn about gardening and about how fabulous food tastes when it is just picked.

carrot harvest

That day the kids planted potatoes and onion sets. They learned about the eyes of the potatoes and that the hairy part of the onion set is the roots. Nevertheless, some onions were planted upside down.

One six year old smartly observed the horse manure in a nearby bed. Poop! A teaching moment, the Master Gardener thought, only to realize that she had totally lost the attention of group of kids who now couldn’t stop hooting about poop in the garden.

A Kale Massage

Kale massage is not what you think. This is a delicious salad for your inside, not something to rub on your outside. Kale’s dark green leaves are one of the healthiest greens you can eat.

kale

I first saw this recipe prepared on a TV cooking shows. Aarti Sequeria was making a kale salad. I was thinking tough kale leaves in a salad! Who would want to eat that? The secret is in the massage. The tough center rib of the kale is removed and the kale cut into bit-size pieces. It is then massaged with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and salt. After two or three minutes the leaves turn darker green and soften. The original recipe calls for mango. I have made this salad with oranges, canned peaches, even once an apple because it was all I had. It is one of my favorite salads.

The salad lasts for days in the fridge if you don’t eat it all the first day. I think it’s even better the second day. The kale in my community garden bed is getting big enough to cut. I can’t wait to make this salad. This link even has a video of Aarti making the salad and shows how to prepare the raw kale. At the bottom of the page are many more kale salad recipes. Who knew?

Imagine my surprise to find another kale salad recipe at a recent culinary gathering at the St. Michaels Woman’s Club. I thought I was the only one who knew about massaging kale. This is Karen Thomas’ Kale Salad recipe.

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 8 ounces kale
  • 4 to 5 medium radishes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or cherries)
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking tray. Toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they bake evenly. Remove the tray from the oven and set them aside to cool.
  2. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stems and discard the stems. Use a chef’s knife to chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  3. Thinly slice the radishes (this is easier to do if you first chop off the root end so you can place the base of the radish flat against your cutting board). Add them to the bowl.
  4. Coarsely chop the pecans and cherries and add them to the bowl. Chop the apple into small, bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl as well. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately, or for even better flavor, let the salad marinate in the dressing for 10 to 20 minutes beforehand.

Even if you think you don’t like kale, give kale salad a try. Kale is also a great fall/winter crop for your community garden bed. We ate kale salad into the spring this year. The kale just got more luscious after a frost.