Category Archives: in the garden

Rhubarb Crisp a la Mode

IMG_3259Rhubarb is among the first vegetables to be harvested in the spring; out of the garden and onto the dessert table. It is my tradition to serve rhubarb crisp during memorial day weekend for our family get together. This recipe is simple, allowing the rhubarb to take center stage. I recommend to enjoy it with vanilla ice cream (or your favorite dairy free option).

5 stalks rhubarb (about 5 cups)
5 Tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup flour (I use King Arthur’s “measure for measure” gluten-free flour)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
7 Tablespoons salted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Wash rhubarb stalks and cut into 1/2 inch rounds. Toss with sugar and pour into an 8″ x 8″ glass pan. Mix flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl with shallow sides, add the butter and mix with a pastry blender/cutter until small pea sized pieces of butter and flour are formed. Pour over rhubarb and bake till the top is just golden and the filling is bubbly, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


End of the Season Green Tomato Ketchup

8 quarts green tomatoes trimmed and cut into chunks)
2 onions; chopped
2 cloves garlic; chopped
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons natural sea salt (no iodine or anti-caking agents)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
In a large stock pot bring the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and water to a boil and cook for 30 minutes (until the tomatoes are soft) stirring occasionally. Allow the cooked tomatoes to cool then process using a food mill* to discard the seeds and skin and reserve the strained cooked green tomatoes.
*If you don’t have a food mill – Turn off heat and puree with a stainless steel immersion blender or allow to cool and puree in batches in a countertop blender/food processor. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press the puree through a sieve over a large bowl to separate the skins and seeds from the pulp and liquid.

Return the strained tomato puree to the large cook pot, add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, cook at a slow boil (reduce heat if necessary) stirring occasionally for several hours to reduce the mixture to a ketchup consistency. Depending on your tomato variety and desired consistency, I reduced mine by half. Be patient. You don’t need to watch the pot the whole time. Frequent check-ins while working on something else is perfectly fine.

This recipe yielded 10 half-pint jars for me but again, this can vary with tomato variety and final consistency. Prepare jars (more than you think as you can always use them another time but if you don’t have them when you need them that’s worse). Place jars in  a canning pot, cover with water, add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar (optional, it keeps the jars “clear” if you have hard water), bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes to sterilize. Turn off heat and leave jars in the hot water till ready to use.

Wash new lids.

Fill each jar to 1/2 inch from the rim. Wipe rims with a clean damp piece of paper towel. Put lids in place and secure with the rims. Place finger tightened jars into the canning pot with the still hot water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes and allow to cool in the hot water bath. Remove jars from hot water bath. Be sure that the jars have sealed, there should be no play when pushing on the lid. Ready to enjoy or store.

Asian Style Rice Salad with Snap Peas

IMG_05921 cup brown rice; cooked till tender
4-5 cups snap (or snow) peas; strings removed and cut into bite size pieces
2 scallions; finely chopped
8 garlic scapes; minced OR 1 clove garlic; crushed
1 bunch (1 cup) fresh cilantro; chopped
1 small bunch (1/4 cup) fresh lemon basil; chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch-1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
juice from 1 lime (3 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover and refrigerate to chill if the rice is still warm. Serve as a delicious side (I prepared this salad as a side for seared/broiled tuna steaks with Asian inspired dipping sauces) or refreshing lunch along with salad greens.

Vegetable Seedlings Planted Indoors; an Update

March 14, 2015 I started seeds indoors (nearly 6 weeks ago). Now, April 24th, you can see the progress. It is still too cold to plant these “babies” outside but by Memorial Day, my traditional planting weekend, they will be ready to go into my Connecticut garden. On warm sunny days the trays have gone outside to help harden them off. These past few days (and the foreseeable future) they will be indoors. Wow, it is a cold April.IMG_0081

April Gardening in Connecticut

Mid April is the ideal time to open up the garden in Connecticut.IMG_0092
Soil turned and prepped for warm weather crops. Rhubarb, on the left, protected with spare stakes so as not to disturb the soil around them. A few forgotten garlic and lettuce survived the harsh winter and will give a special early treat.IMG_0093
 Leaves provide a layer of mulch around berry bushes. Here are the first leaves and buds on a current bush.

To prepare organic vegetable garden beds I start by raking out the leaves (used to add a fresh layer of mulch around berry bushes). Sprinkle a layer of about half an inch each of composted cow manure, peat moss and compost soil over the established garden bed (see notes below if digging a new plot). The manure serves as an organic fertilizer, the pfeat moss helps condition the sandy Plainville soil (but will also help condition clay soils as well) and the compost soil does both. I use a pointed spade, push it 6 to 10 inches into the earth, lift and flip the entire area then rake it out with a bow rake.

Starting a new plot? Measure out the size garden you are planning. Remove the grass (a painstaking but essential first step). I have done this by pushing a spade into the grass, lifting then grabbing the grass to shake out the soil from the roots. My discarded grass goes into a wheel barrow to transport up into the woods where it will break down/compost with the leaves etc. Once the grass has been removed rake out to level the garden plot then follow the steps above. Depending on your soil quality you may need to add more composted manure, peat moss and compost soil. Also, if your soil is acidic like mine, add lime to “sweeten” the soil and add calcium.

The early crops I planted are snap peas, broccoli, beets, carrots, scallions, swiss chard, spinach and leafy greens. They can tolerate cool evenings and even frost (good thing because this spring has been unseasonably cool). For the snap peas I hammered 5′ metal stakes into the prepared soil and attached a wire garden fence for them to climb on. For any seeds that you are planting read the recommendations on the package and follow those. I use my grandparents’ and father’s easy method; draw a mini furrow into the soil with a hand spade sprinkle seeds cover furrow tap down with palms water and keep moist. (This will require thinning but it is fast, efficient and seed packets are inexpensive compared to the produce they yield.) The nice thing about April is that there are usually plenty of showers so mother nature will do most of the watering for you. It is important to keep the soil moist while seeds germinate and while they are delicate sprouts. I recommend investing in an oscillating sprinkler; they simulate a gentle rain and are hands free allowing you to do something else while the garden is watered.

Two weeks after planting cold weather crops there is life in my vegetable garden.

Sprouts- soon to be climbing on the fence, blooming and ultimately producing delicious snap peas.IMG_0086
Beet sprouts. They will need to be thinned but I wait until they all emerge and I see which are the strongest and healthiest.IMG_0087
Broccoli sprouts, also to be thinned as they grow.IMG_0088
The carrots are barely visible and as of yet, no sign of the scallions.IMG_0089
The spinach, planted in a large square. When it is time to thin the delicate baby greens will make a lovely salad.IMG_0090
The leaf lettuce (above) and mesclun mix lettuce (below) will also be thinned as they grow making for a lovely baby green salad mix.IMG_0091

 Arugula (above) and swiss chard (below) will be adding to the salad bowl when it is time to thin.IMG_0095

20 Days After Planting, the First “Real” Tomato Leaves Appear

DSC_0003Three weeks after starting seeds indoors the tomatoes, basil, eggplant, tomatillo and peppers have all sprouted. The sweet Puerto Rican peppers were the last to sprout, the final one just pushing at the earth this morning. I have been watering each pot as needed, after it dries a bit but not all the way through (you would think they would dry at the same rate, but they do not) and turning the trays 180 degrees each day to try and even out the light from the windows so the plants grow straight. I will continue this daily routine until the days get warm enough to start hardening off the plants outdoors. The tomatoes are starting to grow their first “real” leaves.

Peppers are Popping

2 weeks after planting my patience pays off:
DSC_0012eggplants are up,
DSC_0017peppers are popping,
DSC_0019and the plastic is removed from the growing tomato plants.

I will continue to monitor plant trays daily to rotate as they reach for the light, water with a gentle mist when the soil begins to dry and remove the plastic once the plants reach and begin to bend against it.