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2014 Garden Plans: Bed 4 – A Taste of India

I told you it got crazier, didn’t I? That said, I’m really excited about this garden! I love trying new things, and although they could totally flop, it is what keeps the garden exciting.

Bed 4 (2)One of the best things about planning for this garden is that I really wanted us to use Indian varieties, not just vegetables that are used in Indian cooking. It’s one thing to say, “They eat cucumbers in India, so let’s just plant any old cucumber variety.” It’s something different to plant a variety from India. So, when I started researching before our committee meeting, I was ecstatic to find a seed company selling Indian varieties in the U.S. – Seeds of India! The vast majority of our plants and seeds will come from them.

Before we discuss the specific things we decided to plant, I thought it might be helpful for you to see a list of the vegetables, herbs, and spices that were under consideration:

Indian Vegetables (2)You can see how it might be possible to have an “Indian” garden that didn’t seem very Indian at all, if we weren’t careful. This is by no means a comprehensive list – there are a number of other things that I didn’t include on the list, in some cases because I wasn’t sure what they were or where to find the seeds. Here’s a good guide to Indian vegetables.

So, the things we did choose to plant:

Curry Leaf – this is a tropical plant (can’t handle temps below 55!). It is almost like the bay leaf of Indian cuisine. A lot of traditional curry recipes call for curry leaf, so I’m excited to try growing it as an annual.

Cumin – This plant grows a lot like dill, with the umbels of flowers (pink!) that then produce seeds.

‘Kesar’ Carrot – This carrot is red, high in lycopene, and the Days to Maturity was listed at 120 days. We decided to plant some of the ‘Samurai Red’ carrots (60 days) as well, just in case the ‘Kesar’ variety doesn’t make it through the hot summer. We may plant a second crop of carrots in the fall.

‘Dulhan’ pepper is shaped like a tomato and is supposed to taste like a sweet pepper but with a hint of heat.

‘Jwala’ is a hot pepper that is reputed to be the most popular hot pepper in India. It looks a lot like a cayenne pepper to me, but it’s hard to tell until you can compare side by side.

On the first trellis we will have edible gourds – one snake gourd and one bitter gourd (aka bitter melon).

‘King Cobra’ snake gourd is supposed to have long, white speckled fruit that look like snakes. The gourd is low in calories and can be cooked in a variety of ways.

‘Tagore’ bitter gourd (or bitter melon) is an Indian-type  gourd with a mild bitter flavor and more rounded tubercles, compared to some of the more pointed types.

For the cucumbers, we chose ‘Poona Kheera’ (aka Puneri) and ‘Sambar.’ Poona Kheera is a salad cucumber that is white when young and turns russetty brown as it gets bigger. It is supposed to thrive in hot, arid climates. (Watch us be cool and wet this year!) ‘Sambar’ is listed as a cooking type cucumber for use in curries and stews. It is yellow with brown blotches on the skin.

Underneath the two trellises, we will plant the ‘Sagar’ spinach and ‘Basanti’ mustard greens. I have no idea if they will be different in any way from other spinach and mustard greens, but we’ll find out!

Legumes are a staple of Indian food, and so we wanted to try growing some, even though we don’t have enough space to get a great yield. The ‘Black Kabouli’ chickpeas have black/dark purple seed coats, rather than the typical brown. Black hummus, anyone? Chickpeas typically like slightly cooler summers, so I don’t know how well they will do here. Cowpeas are a traditional Southern vegetable, although the Green cowpeas are an Indian variety. Cowpeas typically do fine here.

All told, this garden could be spectacular and exciting or a source of a lot of stress this summer!

 

2014 Garden Plans: Bed 3 – MG Favorites Garden

In amongst all of the crazy things that we have planned for some of the other gardens, this one may be the island of sanity. We wanted to feature some vegetables that are favorites of our Master Gardeners, so we took nominations and chose our varieties from there. We wanted to chose varieties that are common and widely available to the average gardener as well. Bed 3 (2)

As you can see, there’s nothing too crazy going on here! (Wait until we get to Bed 4 for that!)

Tomatoes – ‘Jetstar’ and ‘Juliet’ are two very common, popular and productive varieties in this area.

Basils – ‘Sweet Italian’ and ‘Cardinal.’ Sweet Italian is what everyone grows, and we loved the ‘Cardinal’ basil so much a couple years ago that we wanted to try it again.

Cucumbers – ‘Straight Eight’ and ‘Sweet Burpless’ are slicing type cucumbers that are very productive and flavorful. They will be grown on one of the trellises.

Spring/Fall Spinach/Mesclun/Radishes – Under the trellis, we will have a spring and fall planting of ‘Bloomsdale’ Spinach, mesclun mix, and ‘French Breakfast’ Radishes.

‘Beananza’ bean is a variety that one of our Master Gardeners has had great luck with. She has had them produce from June until October, so we are hoping for a similar result!

Peppers – We are going back to the ‘Big Bertha’ bell pepper that has been stupendous in the past, as well as a Cayenne pepper for something a little different but still very productive.

In the spring, we will be planting ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, ‘Detroit Dark Red’ beets, and ‘Parris Island Cos’ romaine lettuce, as well as Yukon Gold potatoes.

In the fall, we will plant a blend of leaf or Bibb lettuces, the ‘Watermelon’ radishes, and ‘Grand Duke’ Kohlrabi. The potatoes will be followed with a yellow snap (wax) bean variety, ‘Rocdor.’

In a lot of ways, this looks a lot like some of the “Family of 4” gardens that we used to do. Believe me, as I look at the rest of our plans, I’m hoping this garden is going to be the easy one!

Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Gremolata

sweet potato gremolata

1 large sweet potato (about 1 lb)
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup Pecan Gremolata Garnish:
fresh parsley sprigs

1. Wash your hands and work area.
2. Peel sweet potato, and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices using a mandolin. Stack 4-6 potato slices on a cutting board; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Repeat procedure with remaining slices.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add potato strips, and sauté 6 to 8 minutes or until al dente. (Don’t overcook strips or they will fall apart.) Add 1/2 cup Pecan Gremolata, and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.
4. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Pecan Gremolata (makes about 1 cup)
Stir together:
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley;
1/3 cup finely chopped toasted pecans;
1 Tbsp lemon zest; 2 garlic cloves, minced;
and 1/4 tsp table salt in a small bowl.

Freezing Temperatures & Frost Protection, Part 2

So, we are one day in to our wintry blast. So far the low has only been 30 degrees, which is not a big deal for most things. We also have a lovely coating of ice, which is breaking tree branches right and left. The forecast for tonight is for 26 degrees.

You can see that there’s ice everywhere, including on our garlic! You can see how the waxy leaves caused the water to run while it was freezing!

So, what do you do about ice on your vegetables? LEAVE IT ALONE! The ice is actually a small measure of protection at this point, and at any rate, you need to let things thaw normally. What about tonight? Do you cover things? It is up to you. Even if we get down to 26, you shouldn’t see much damage on things other than potatoes.

But what about fruit trees?

Iced CrabappleThis crabapple is still budding out, not yet in full bloom. For our fruiting apples and other trees, what should you do? First, no need to remove the ice. Again, it is providing some measure of protection, especially as long as it is still raining or drizzling.

The ice will probably melt this afternoon, as the temperatures get slightly warmer. So should you cover your fruit trees to protect the buds and blossoms?

First, you should look at this chart to determine what the damaging temperature would be for the stage of bloom your tree is in and determine how much damage there is likely to be: Critical Temps for Fruit Trees. If you are only looking at 10% damage or a little more, I wouldn’t bother covering your trees.

If you are looking at a significant amount of damage, you could cover your trees, if you have the means to do so. HOWEVER, they are also forecasting 12 mph wind with gusts up to 20 mph. Most likely, the wind will cause your pockets of warm air to blow away, so covering won’t get you much. I know, I’m a bastion of cheery news today, aren’t I?

Looking at the conditions, I would guess that this wintry blast is going to cause some percentage of damage to our fruit crop this year, but probably not a complete loss. But then, it looks like we’re going to get another chance next week too!

 

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

I saw this recipe and my mouth just started watering!  I know asparagus is just coming into season, and I can’t wait to enjoy it in this tasty and healthy way!

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Makes 6 servings

1½ lb. asparagus, woody ends broken off

1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into ½-inch strips

1 small red onion, sliced 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons olive oil

Optional: salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400° F.

2) Place asparagus, bell pepper, onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil on a sheet pan. Toss to coat vegetables with oil mixture.

3) Roast in oven about 20 minutes or until vegetables reach desired tenderness. Taste and then season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories — 60; fat — 1 g; carbohydrate — 8 g; Fiber — 3 g; sodium — 0 mg. This recipe also provides 60 percent daily recommended value (DRV) for vitamin C and 25 percent DRV for vitamin A. *Summer variation: Substitute raw green beans for asparagus.