Harvest Monday February 19, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. We are surely in the midst of the hungry gap now, with few fresh veggies to be had even from the greenhouse. However, I did manage a small but tasty harvest of pea greens last week. I have some Petite Snap-Greens Peas growing under lights in the basement. These are grown for the fern-like leaflets, though they will eventually make snap peas. I’ve got them growing in a narrow seed tray (from Greenhouse Megastore) that’s only about 2.5 inches tall. I sprouted the seeds first in a jar before setting them on top of potting soil. According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds (where I got mine), “If cut above the first node, a second crop is possible.”

Petite Snap Greens Peas growing

Petite Snap Greens Peas growing

I cut some at the first node and some at the second node, and will see if they come back and produce more. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I had a hard time getting a pic that really does these justice. It was a small cutting (not just those in my hand!), but it added a bit of green to a stir fry I made for dinner one night. The pea greens and garlic were the only things from the garden in it though.

closeup of pea greens

closeup of pea greens

And speaking of garlic, we still have quite a bit of it in good shape in storage. I used several heads of the artichoke type called Simonetti to start a batch of Ninniku Hachimitsu-Zuke, aka Honeyed Garlic. This traditional Japanese fermented dish is often used as a remedy for a cold or sore throat, either taken straight up or made into a tea. I used the recipe in Tsukemono: Japanese Pickling Recipes by Ikuko Hisamatsu, where it is described as “an unexpectedly pleasant way to eat garlic.” The honey draws enough moisture out of the garlic to cause fermentation to start, aided by the natural yeasts present in the raw honey. The garlic flavor infuses into the honey, and the garlic itself turns sweet as candy.

peeled garlic ready for honey

peeled garlic ready for honey

The recipe is simple enough and only requires two ingredients: raw honey and garlic. You peel enough cloves of garlic to fill your jar then cover with raw honey, leaving an inch or two of head space. Put the jar in a cool place for a month, flipping the jar occasionally to make sure the garlic stays coated with honey. I also put a plate under the jar since it gets quite bubbly in the beginning and can leak out. Sarah Miller (Attack of the Killer Pickles) has the recipe and explains the process on her blog. I used a 500ml glass Fido jar with a wire bail lid, which makes it easier to get to the garlic than if I use a Mason type canning jar. You can see in the below photo it starts bubbling and fermenting in only a couple of days. The honey and garlic are ready after a month of fermenting. Then I put the jar in the refrigerator where it keeps indefinitely. I use the honey and garlic in stir fry sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. I used some from 2016 (not a typo) in the stir fry I made using the pea greens.

honeyed garlic bubbling

honeyed garlic bubbling

That’s about it on the harvest scene. The kitchen remodel is basically done except for the backsplashes. We did decide the walls needed painting in a color that better matches the counters and flooring. I let my artistic wife take the lead in color selection! We are surely enjoying the vinyl floor and the quartz counters already though. I haven’t made bread yet, but we did enjoy a pizza I threw together for dinner Saturday night. It is nice to work directly on the counters. I used some of my thick freezer tomato sauce plus slow-roasted tomatoes (also from the freezer) and the last bits of Candy onion for the pizza. We made individual pies using a white whole wheat sourdough crust, and I added a few fermented Aji Angelo flakes on mine to give it a little zip. I missed having arugula on it though, but I should have more planted in the greenhouse this week.

pizza

pizza

I’ll close with a wildlife update. The bluebirds are still hanging around, which is sort of unusual here in the winter. They have learned to use the suet feeders, and even though they are not really seed eaters I have also seen them eating sunflower seeds. I had to switch to the Hot Pepper Delight suet though, as the rascally raccoons started raiding the feeders at night. The suet has hot pepper added throughout, which gives it a reddish-orange color. The birds can’t taste the hot pepper, but mammals can. And sure enough, one of the cakes of hot pepper suet disappeared one night shortly after I made the switch. I’m guessing the raccoon clan had a hot time in the den that night! It was snowing the day I got this pic, but the birds kept on feeding. It has been a real treat to see them this winter, and it helps me stay connected to nature when it is too cold for me to enjoy the great outdoors. It is supposed to warm up this week and I hope to get some things done outside in the garden and in the greenhouse.

bluebird at the suet feeder

bluebird at the suet feeder

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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Harvest Monday February 12, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. This will be a No Harvest Monday for me, as fresh veggie possibilities are limited to kale that is recovering in the greenhouse and sprouts that aren’t quite ready in the basement light garden. We have been enjoying plenty of food from storage though, and sweet potatoes from last year’s bumper harvest are a frequent visitor to our plates. I used the microwave/convection oven to bake a couple of the Indiana Gold taters last week. I had not planned on growing this one again since it was a shy producer compared to others, but the taste is great and I am now having second thoughts. We need to taste it again and do a comparison with another variety like Beauregard. I still have plenty of sweet potatoes and lots of time before I need to start slips, so the garden plan could change. Indiana Gold has moist, sweet orange flesh with a golden yellow skin.

Indiana Gold sweet potatoes

Indiana Gold sweet potatoes

We’ve also been depending on the Instant Pot for a lot of meals. I’m making a pot of veggie soup today to take to a carry-in dinner tonight, using frozen vegetables from our garden mixed with fresh ones from the grocery like carrots and celery. I also baked a batch of rolls to take using the convection feature of the microwave. I baked them yesterday since it will be a zoo in the kitchen today with contractors working in there. I had to bake them on a round pizza pan to get them to fit in the oven, but they turned out well. I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Baking for Dark and Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls. The rolls use half whole wheat and half unbleached bread flour, and have honey added for a bit of sweetness. I ground the whole wheat flour for the rolls using Bluebird Grain Farms Organic Methow Hard Wheat Berries, which makes for a flavorful high protein flour. Cocoa powder gives them the dark brown color.

Dark and Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls

Dark and Soft Restaurant Dinner Rolls

Yesterday for dinner I made a pot of black beans in the Instant Pot, pressuring them first then switching to slow cooker mode to simmer and let the flavors develop. I used some beans I got from a farm in Berea (Ky), adding the last of our 2017 Candy onion crop and some roasted New Mexico peppers from the freezer for seasoning, along with our garlic and homemade guajillo chile powder. I served them up over some yellow rice, cooked up in the rice cooker. Black beans and rice is real comfort food for us and just the ticket for a cold, dreary winter day!

black turtle beans

black turtle beans

The kitchen makeover is nearing the end, and they finished installing the floor on Friday. The countertops are coming today, and appliances and plumbing should be moved back and hooked up by tomorrow. It will sure be nice to have the stove back so we can cook with it again! Two small sections of the counters were installed last week, but then they discovered the sink was damaged in shipment so they came to a screeching halt while a replacement sink was shipped. It is nice to have a little counter space in the kitchen, and we quickly put it to use. It will look even better when the backsplash is installed!

new counter

new counter

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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Seed Starting Update

Since it’s getting to be that time of the year, I thought it was time for an update on my recent seed starting activities. In late January I started seeds for lettuce, arugula, kale and mizuna. These all went in two 128 cell plug flats. On February 1st I started seeds for more greens, including pac choi, tatsoi, mizuna and other mild mustard greens including Vivid Choi and Mizspoona. These went into a 72 cell plug flat. Those seeds have now germinated, and are growing under my fluorescent light setup in our basement. And on 2/4 I started seeds for parsley, bronze fennel and catnip. All those went into 3.5″ plastic pots, one for each variety, and have not yet come up.

arugula seedlings

arugula seedlings

Regular readers may know I am a big fan of using plug flats. They come with different cell sizes but overall are about the size of a standard 1020 nursery tray. I use either the 128 cell or 72 cell flat for salad greens, herbs, and brassicas. The 72 cell flat gives the plants a bit more room for the roots, and I generally use it for my cabbage, broccoli and kale seedlings. For a potting mix, lately I have been using Pro-Mix All Purpose Mix or Pro-Mix Organic Seed Starting Mix. I prefer to use a seed starting mix without added fertilizer so I can add my own as needed, but it is getting hard to find any locally that doesn’t have some sort of fertilizer or other dodgy ingredients added. Regardless, I will use a weak fish and seaweed fertilizer once the seedlings are a couple of weeks old, and my current favorite is Neptune’s Harvest. I’m not trying to plug all these products, but I know people are sometimes curious about what I use and I’ve been using these specific ones for years with good results.

128 cell plug flat filled with Pro-Mix

128 cell plug flat filled with Pro-Mix

The kale I started in the 128 cell flat will probably wind up in a bigger flat or individual pots since I want the plants to get some size before planting. I also want to wait for the weather to warm up, which means it will be March when I set them out. Since I started parsley seeds in 3.5 inch pots rather than individual cells, I will need to prick them out and pot them up into individual containers once they start showing their true leaves. I find if I am careful and don’t disturb the roots too much they don’t seem to mind. The same goes with the fennel and catnip. I will start some Florence fennel a bit later. It usually does better for me here with a fall planting, but I’m going to give it a go here this spring as well. I will put one parsley plant in its own 3.5″ pot, where they will stay until planting time.

starting parsley seeds

starting parsley seeds

Next up in my seed starting activities will be several colors of Wave petunias. The petunia seed will also go into 3.5″ pots, covered with plastic film like I did for the parsley. Since petunia seeds need warmth to germinate, I will put the pots on a heating mat. You can read more about starting petunias in a 2010 post I made: Do the Wave. Next I will start a few more greens for the greenhouse and cold frame, plus some extra early tomato plants. Closer to the end of the February I will start the spring planted brassicas, followed by another planting of the spring greens like lettuce, mustard and choi. I’ll start warm season crops like peppers, tomatoes and eggplant beginning in early March.  You can find my general timeline in my Seed Starting and Planting Schedule. I hope you have enjoyed this update, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings!

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Harvest Monday February 5, 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. First let me again say thanks to Michelle (From Seed To Table) for hosting HM last month. I really appreciate getting a break, as once again she has been kind enough step in and serve as temporary host. And now, on to my meager winter harvest! The brutal cold weather in January zapped much of what I had growing in the cold frames and greenhouse. Only the hardiest plants survived, and even the kale looked a bit sad after the temps finally warmed up and things thawed a bit. But there were edible leaves, and I made a cutting to go in a batch of Minestra Maritata soup I cooked up last week. The name of this Italian soup refers to the ‘marriage’ of meat and greens, and can be made with many combinations of ingredients.

kale from greenhouse

kale from greenhouse

I made the soup using our Instant Pot. We’ve been using that and the microwave to cook all our meals lately, since the stove is no longer in the kitchen. I made turkey meatballs for the soup, one of the last things I cooked on the stove before it was moved out of the kitchen for our makeover project. I also added in the last of the fall cabbage which had been hanging out in the refrigerator.

Minestra Maritata

Minestra Maritata

Even as the plants are struggling outside in the cold, I have new seedlings coming up to renew the never ending cycle. So far I have started cool weather crops like lettuce, kale, arugula and mizuna. I’ve got them growing in the basement under fluorescent lights, and they are ready for thinning.

lettuce seedlings

lettuce seedlings

The kitchen remodeling project is moving along nicely, though noisily. The ceramic tile floor is gone, as are most of the countertops, and the new and improved cabinets are back. They hung the new microwave on Friday, which was a joy since for over a month we had been trudging all the way out to the cold garage to use it there. We’ve been having fun with meal prep, since the frig is in the dining room and cabinet contents are still all over the house. We’re hoping to have the countertops and flooring installed this week, with the backsplash to come last after they take some final measurements to ensure a good fit under the cabinets. Hopefully then we can begin putting things back to the new normal.

a work in progress

a work in progress

I’ll close with a video I made recently of four Eastern Bluebirds at the suet feeder. These four have been hanging around all winter, and I believe it is an adult pair and two yearlings, though I can’t say for sure. It is definitely two males and two females and the males are more brightly colored than the females, though none are as colorful as they will be come spring. The quality isn’t great, but not too bad considering I was shooting from the inside through a window. Here’s a link to the video in case it doesn’t show up: https://youtu.be/p11VJPdouTg.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!




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