Tag Archives: garden

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.

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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

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

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Vegan Pepper Tempeh Steak

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Serve on a bed of greens or as a sandwich.

1 8 oz package tempeh
2 Tablespoons fresh pressed lime or lemon juice
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch nutmeg

extra virgin olive oil for the pan

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Cut tempeh in half lengthwise then flip on the side and cut in half widthwise. Place in a single layer on a plate or glass dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Spread half of the marinade over the sliced tempeh, flip and spread the remaining marinade on the other side. Set aside while preparing the fried peppers and onions.

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion; halved and sliced
3 peppers; cut into 1/4 inch strips- roughly 2 inches long
2 cloves garlic; halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat a skillet with a lid over medium heat while preparing onions and peppers. Pour olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the peppers and onions to the preheated pan. Cover and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir, add the garlic, salt and pepper, cover and sauté 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile preheat a large skillet over medium heat for the tempeh. Lightly oil the skillet with extra virgin olive oil, place the tempeh in the preheated and oiled pan in a single layer and cook until just beginning to brown, flip and cook until beginning to brown on the other side.

Serve tempeh with fried peppers and onions scooped over top on a sandwich (Xav had a slice of swiss cheese on his too) with a salad or cole slaw on the side OR over a bed of greens for a lighter vegan and gluten free meal.

CELIAC Note that Lightlife soy tempeh contains no gluten but is not celiac certified. I believe this is because the 3-grain tempeh contains barley. If you are gluten sensitive, like I am, this is fine but true celiac should contact the company for further information.

Vegetarian Urad Chili Stuffed Delicata Squash

DSC_00051 cup whole urad; soaked in water for at least 4 hours but up to 10

2 delicata squash
olive oil for pan

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion; diced
1 small green pepper; diced
1/2 stalk celery;  diced
1 clove garlic; crushed
2 fresh tomatoes; cubed
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 clove garlic; crushed

cheddar cheese to top; optional

Begin by soaking the whole urad in water for at least 4 hours but up to 10.
Preheat oven to 375.
Rinse and strain urad, place in a pot, cover with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook till soft (45 minutes to 1 hour).
Rinse delicata squash, cut in half  lengthwise (stem to blossom end), scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard and place halves on an oiled baking sheet/dish cut sides down. Bake in the preheated oven until soft and golden on the inside (45 minutes to 1 hour). Remove from oven.
While the urad is cooking and the squash is baking; preheat a wide skillet that has a lid over medium heat. Saute onion, pepper and celery in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, cover and bring to a simmer under a lid. Stir, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook with the lid on for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. The mixture should be a thick stewy consistency. If it has a lot of moisture, remove the lid and continue to simmer and stir until some of the water has reduced. Turn off heat and reserve until the urad is done.
Strain and rinse the urad, add the urad to the “chili stew” and mix well.
Flip the baked delicata squash halves onto their “backs” and mound each one with the urad chili and top with cheddar cheese if desired.
Return to oven and bake 10-15 more minutes until the meal is hot (and the cheese if using has melted).
Served here cut in half with a side of fresh baby greens.
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Toads in the Garden

DSC_0026Toads are beneficial creatures in the garden- consuming thousands of insects in a season during the cool nights. All they need is a cool damp place to rest during the hot sunny parts of the day. I have broken terra-cotta pots and ceramic sculptures scattered throughout the garden to provide homes but this guy was living in a natural space created by logs used as pedestals for potted plants. Set up shady spots to take advantage of this natural and pesticide free pest control.

Ratatouille with Fried Tempeh Over Quinoa

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Ratatouille can be served as a side dish (traditional) or over pasta as a meal. I served it over quinoa (gluten free) with fried tempeh making it into a hearty meal. Mozzarella is a nice option for vegetarians but not necessary for a satisfying meal.

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion; diced
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 Italian pepper; diced
3 plum tomatoes; diced
2 heirloom tomatoes; diced
1 eggplant; cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 zucchini; cut into 1/2 inch cubes
5 cloves garlic; crushed
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
large handful fresh basil; chopped (or 2 Tablespoons dry)

Heat a large wide bottom cook pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and salt, stir and cover. Stir occasionally until onions are tender and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add pepper, stir, cover and sauté another minute. Add remaining ingredients except basil and simmer with lid on stirring occasionally so the eggplant and zucchini begin to soften and break up. *this is a good time to start the fried tempeh* Simmer for 10 minutes or until the eggplant and zucchini are tender. Add the basil, stir and continue to simmer an additional 5 minutes.

*To prepare the friend tempeh (be sure to read the ingredients for gluten free, I get the soy and brown rice but there are tempeh varieties that have gluten in them so beware) preheat a large heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Meanwhile, cut tempeh into bite sized cubes. Pour a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil in the preheated pan, place the cubes in the hot oil and turn as the edges begin to brown and continue turning until all sides are crisp and golden. You may need to add more oil during the process as the tempeh absorbs the oil. Place pieces that are done in a shallow dish or on a plate to reserve for serving with the meal.*

 

Garden Zucchini Sandwich

I started the day by baking rolls knowing that I was picking vegetables to stuff them for dinner.
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 Preparing whatever comes out of the garden is wonderful; fresh and rewarding. Featured on this sandwich are zucchini, tomatoes and amaranth greens out of the garden with onions and homemade ranch dip/spread.

Ranch Dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard (I use dijon)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry basil
1/8 teaspoon dry dill weed
pinch dry thyme

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vegan Avocado Aioli
1 avocado
1 small clove garlic; crushed
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
pinch sea salt
dash white pepper

Process all ingredients in a food processor or use an emersion blender until creamy and refrigerate until ready to serve.

(optional side- Marinated Bean Salad)
11/2 cups purple beans (really, any snap bean will do); cut to bite sized pieces
2 onion rounds; cut into quarters to make strips
1 clove garlic; crushed
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Wash all vegetables and prep by slicing to fit a sandwich.
Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat, coat with extra virgin olive oil and fry the zucchini on both sides until it becomes golden with some brown areas.
DSC_0004I arrange all of the vegetables on a platter so each person can make their own stack on a roll (or for a gluten free option, the large amaranth leaves used as a wrap is perfect).
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Just a Taste of My Garden Before Stacking Wood

Some of the snap peas got away from me and are now becoming the seeds for next year. I am leaving them on the vine until they are fully ripe and dry then collecting them and setting aside.
DSC_0001I planted purple pole beans this year as a trial. I must say they are beautiful but the true worth will be known once they are ready to eat.
DSC_0011 DSC_0004The yellow wax beans were a great success last year prepared fresh and pickled so in they went again. The first harvest was more than I expected. They are washed and in the refrigerator so I can pickle tomorrow.
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The zucchini is late this year but they grow so quickly that this first little one will be ready by the end of the week and there are plenty of blossoms too.
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The Italian peppers are coming along nicely, here is the first one that may be picked green if I get impatient. These beauties are golden when ripe.DSC_0012
The hops are looking good but I need an expert. I am going to contact our local microbrewery, Relic Brewery, and offer the hops to them.
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The Elderberry bush-tree is both in bloom and forming berries.
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