Our berry bushes (mix of blackberries, raspberries and olallieberries) have produced like never before this year. The new vines that will bear fruit next year have had to be cut back so I can get in there to pick them… a bowl like this every 2 or 3 days! I can’t make pies fast enough, and there’s already bags in the freezer for those fruitless winter months.
Time to start harvesting cabbage, lettuce, kale, cilantro, green onions, dill and beets. This year we plan to mulch this raised bed with straw instead of planting summer vegetables. Since we normally don’t get rain until October, we’re just trying to do our part to conserve water during California’s historical drought. We’ll buy vegetables at the farmers market, hoping for weather patterns to change… and plan to start back up in the fall.
These two carrots grew all cuddled up together… almost too cute to eat! We are also enjoying the last bowl of spring peas before the vines come out to make room for bush beans. So sweet and fresh, for every pod that’s harvested, one is eaten right in the garden. Peas are planted in September (along with Sweet Peas), which gives them time to shoot up about 6 inches before winter sets in. Peas don’t mind frost and cold weather, and grow like crazy once the weather warms up a little. They produced really early due to our unusually warm winter in California this year.
These vegetable seedlings are ready to transplant into the raised bed. Lettuce and Swiss chard join kale and other greens. Covered the seedlings on both sides of the peas with lightweight row cover material to help with the transition to outside… protecting from the cold and bugs, while allowing rain to penetrate.
We go through a lot of fresh lemon juice around here, and the Meyer variety is our favorite. This little tree is really loaded down with fruit this year. It’s a small tree, up against the garage on the downhill (west) side, where it’s protected from the cold. Our other Meyer lemon tree is growing lower on the grounds, and it doesn’t have any fruit, only a few flowers. Interesting that they are on such different schedules, considering they are only about 50 feet apart. Micro-climates are amazing!
New lettuce, kale and chard seedlings are sprouting up in the garden shed. The propagation mats get plugged in on New Year’s Day. Then we get busy sowing seeds, since our average last frost date is Feb. 11th. When the seeds sprout, they move off the mats to make room for more. Then a shop light on a timer (12-14 hrs/day) goes up… suspended close to the seedlings. After a few weeks, the plants are hardened off and planted on the grounds. This cycle continues throughout spring.
The compost that has been cooking for months gets turned and half gets layered with more chicken straw, kitchen waste and oak leaves. The bottom layer of rich compost will go into the garden.
The Fuji apple tree did very well this year, bearing tons of fruit, which we’re just starting to pick. Used a lot of gray water to irrigate it this year because of the drought. Planted scented geraniums underneath it a couple of years ago to deter the codling moths, and it looks like only 10-20% worm damage. The wormy apples end up going to the deer, so it’s all good.
It’s not often that our grape vine produces grapes. Most likely because it’s in a big pot and our cool summer weather. This past summer has been the warmest in years… due to the ocean temperatures that have been running higher than normal. The wasps discovered the fermenting fruit and are determined to finish it off. Keeping them busy (and maybe drunk?) has helped deter them away from our patio table.
It’s been a great year for onions in the raised bed. These started as tiny seeds in early spring. Having a few green onions when you need them is the best. Then the rest of the bunch doesn’t get slimy in the refrigerator after you paid 10 cents a piece. The onions that don’t get picked as green onions, grow up to be regular white onions. Dry them in the sun for a few days and store in a dark, cool place. They last forever.
The Nest Egg Gardens berry patch is having a record breaking season! Two years ago deer discovered the berry vines and ate them to the ground. Up went poles for a bird netting fence, using the same technique as around the vegetable garden. The bed was mulched with compost and given some deep soakings. The payoff has been weeks of picking a huge bowl every other day. Our favorite way to eat them when they are fresh is in pie form (see easy recipe below). I’ve been making pies for us (and everyone else), and freezing the rest. Frozen berries work better in cobblers or smoothies.
Blend 3T tapioca until fine and mix in sugar (1/2-1C). Stir into berries until well coated and let rest for 30 minutes. Pie crust: Add 1T salt to 2 1/4 C flour in large bowl. Add 2/3C oil and 1/3C milk. Stir until well mixed and roll out between wax paper. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.
I got this little Cuisinart at an auction more than 20 years ago and I use it almost every day. Whips up salsa in a flash! Start with a base mixture of a handful of cilantro, 2-3 garlic cloves, a jalapeno (minus seeds), and half an onion. Pulse together until chopped (but not liquefied). This mix also works well for fruit salsa (just add chopped strawberry, peach, mango, etc., lime juice and cumin).
For the traditional green (verde) and red (rojo): Take out half of the mixture and add 3-4 tomatillos (quartered), lime juice, cumin, and garlic salt. Blend until smooth and pour into another bowl. Then add 2-3 tomatoes and pulse as before until chopped. Add tomatoes to reserved base mixture and season with a squeeze of lemon/lime, garlic salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Dig in with your favorite chips!
Saturday morning – and I’m off to the farmer’s market and to drop off consignment items at Wisteria. When I saw the pile of pickling cucumbers, I remembered we were at the bottom of the last jar of homemade bread and butter pickles. Perfect day to make pickles! So in addition to an already heavy sack of fruits/vegies/meat/eggs, I scooped up 11 lbs! On my way back to my car, I realized I forgot one thing. I threw the bags in, grabbed another and headed back up. I don’t usually make another trip, and when I got back… I didn’t have my keys UGH!! They were inside the bag, locked in the car, along with my groceries, my purse and almost all my money. Of course, there are no pay phones to be found, so I walked about a mile to Wisteria to use their phone & phonebook and got a ride back. Thank goodness for AAA (don’t leave home without it) – he quickly found me in the crowded underground parking lot and unlocked my door. So it was back again to Wisteria to drop off some succulent things and home to make pickles.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to tortilla chips, and usually fry up my own using white corn tortillas in canola oil. Mother Earth News warned recently that most of the yellow corn grown now was genetically modified – GMOs. So when I saw these chips at Costco in the organic section, I decided to give them a try. They are SO good!! All organic ingredients, gluten-free, nut-free, and non-GMO. Not bad for so-called ‘junk food’. Also, the family owned and operated company donates 10% of their profits.
One of the benefits of having your own vegetable garden, is being able to pick just the right amount of green onions (cilantro, basil and parsley too). Sure, the fresh picked flavor is wonderful (and organic). But these often used ingredients usually cost $1 a bunch at the store (that’s 10+ cents an onion), and it seems like most of the time, part of the bunch gets slimy and ends up in the compost pile.
Summer is all about the produce! These baked salty crispy chips are an addicting alternative to potato chips that are good for you. Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees. Wash and pat dry kale (1/2 bunch usually fits on 1 cookie sheet). Cut off stem and tear leaves into bite sized pieces.
In bowl add minced garlic (1-3 cloves), 2 T olive oil, and generous dose of salt. Â Mix with your fingers until kale leaves until thoroughly coated.Â Spread on cookie sheet in a single layer and bake for approximately 20 minutes.Â Watch closely at the end and pull out when they start to change color from green to brown.
In the summer, gardeners usually have an abundance of zucchini and other squash. This recipe is a healthy, low fat alternative to a deep fried appetizer that’s delicious. The simple three step process involves easy to handle (and clean up) brown paper lunch bags. Cut up squash into sticks and working with a few at a time, toss in a bag of flour mix, then dip in an egg wash, then toss in a bag of crumbs before baking.
- 1 large zucchini cut into sticks (the thinner the crisper)
- ¾ to 1 cup flour with salt/pepper to taste in a brown lunch bag
- Whip 1 egg with a splash of milk in small bowl
- ¾ to 1 cup bread crumbs and/or panko crumbs with ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese and dash of cayenne (optional)
Place on cookie sheet lined with foil with a rack on top. Spray with oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing and/or pasta sauce of your choice for dipping.