Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cooking in season: Kale with mustard dressing, Warm Chard and Mushroom Salad

A huge part of homesteading is cooking is season.  Rather than going to the store and buying whatever you feel like, you go to the garden and pick what is ripe.  The choice you make is how to prepare them.  Since we don't yet have a garden big enough to really feed us, we take part in a local CSA.  This means that we pay them in advance and we get a weekly supply of fresh veggies, whatever is in season.  I think this is a great way to force ourselves to learn to cook in season.  Our ingredients for the week are: Kale, Chard, Romaine, Lettuce (not sure what kind), Bok Choi, Basil, Anise, and Beet greens.

Kale with Mustard dressing:
9 oz kale
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp agave syrup
salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Whisk all ingredients except the kale together.  Pour over kale.

Warm Chard and Mushroom Salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil 

2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 bunch Swiss chard, cut into thin strips 
10 cremini mushrooms, sliced 
1/4 cup chopped onion 
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
12 grape tomatoes, quartered (I know they aren't in season, you don't need them)
tablespoons crumbled blue cheese 
1 pinch salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic
in the oil until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard to
the garlic and cook until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer the chard
and garlic to a bowl, reserving any liquid in the skillet and
returning it to the heat.
Cook the mushrooms and onion to the reserved liquid in the skillet
until warmed, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the
mushroom and onion mixture; cook and stir another 2 to 3 minutes; add
to the bowl with the chard mixture along with the tomatoes. Gently mix
to incorporate. Toss with the blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper
to serve.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tomatoes, cover crop, and mulch

Can you find my newly planted tomatoes in this picture?

My intention was not for this to be a huge mess, but I ran out of time before I left for vacation.  The green all around the tomato plants is not actually weeds but leftover cover crop I had planted last fall.  I don't  remember what they were called, but the point was that they had deep roots to help break up the soil and then when they died they would add organic matter to the soil.  I also planted a winter rye cover crop to cut down and use for mulch.  I cut most of the cover crops down a week ago and spread them all around the garden to add organic matter to the soil, but some got away.  When I get back home, I will cut the rest down and bring in the rest of the leaves to mulch the heck out of the tomatoes.  I did get to spread most of the manure before I left though.  That way the tomatoes are well fed and hopefully it has rained at least once so that they are well watered too.  I haven't used leaves as mulch really before, so I hope this won't mean that the slugs are devouring my new plants while I'm away.  We will find out really soon!

Here they are!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Coconut pots vs peat pots

So after I somehow managed to stunt the growth of all my tomato and pepper plants.  We went out yesterday in search of bigger, and less fragile plants at Salem Herb Farm.  I walked around in the green house and found the peppers in these funny pots that the roots were growing right through.  Later that day we went to our CSA farm, Town Farm, to help them plant tomatoes.  Their tomatoes were also in these funny pots.  They explained to us that they didn't like the peat pots they had used before and were trying coconut husk pots this year instead.  I had never heard of these before.

Many environmentalists are frowning on the use of peat for gardening and are looking for alternatives that are just as good so they came up with things like these coconut pots.  They seem to be even better than the peat pots.  But why frown upon the use the peat pots?  They are supposed to be environmentally friendly.  Actually they aren't.  The peat moss we use is dead moss that is buried for many years under the new moss growth.  It is a foundation and home for the new moss and for the many creatures that live in it.  This foundation layer takes a long time to build up, so when we harvest it, it is takes a long time to rebuild.  Not to mention that the moss and creatures living on it are disturbed and destroyed in the process.  Here is a link to check it our further.  Just a little something to think about when you start your seedlings next year.

Another thing I have seen is cowpots.  These pots are made with cow manure which is really good for your plants anyways.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flower garden

This is my flower garden.  I know there aren't any flowers to speak of, but I am new at this flower gardening thing.  I never did feel the need to plant flowers.  What do I get out of flowers.  I  would much rather grow yummy fruits and vegetables.  But this is a special flower garden.  This garden is going to be full of perennial flowers that are put their to attract beneficial insects to my garden.  (Perennial flowers so they come back every year.)  Bees and butterflies help to pollinate my fruits and vegetables.  Since there aren't any of these yet, I need flowers like the Angelica in the pictures to attract these bugs so that they will hang out in my garden.  Come time for my garden to be pollinated, it will be full of helpers to do the job.

 Another kind of bug that these plants will attract are parasitic wasps.  They aren't the big wasps that you are used to, but little tiny ones that don't sting.  What they do is help to rid the garden of unwanted bugs.  Bugs like tomato horn worn can destroy my plants.  The parasitic wasps lay their eggs on the horn worm and when the eggs hatch, the babies eat the horn worn and the horn worm doesn't eat my tomatoes.  This is a much better option than nasty chemicals any day.
For more information try this link Beneficial Insects