Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dreaming of Italy

Oh the Cooking Channel.  It has me dreaming of things 45 minutes ago I didn't even know of.  Some dreams, like a buying a villa in Tuscany, have been in my head for ages...but here are some things I want to remember to make when springtime comes around again:

Potato gnocchi (I still need to figure out how to make these successfully)
Home made tortelloni with fresh basil and ricotta
Corsetti, flat, round stamped pasta
These little one inch skinny noodles, like big rice...yum!

Can you imagine having an artisanal fresh pasta store in your town?

Basil cream sauce
Roasted eggplant, zucchini & peppers
Artisan bread bruschetta with grated tomatoes, olive oil & basil (never thought of grating tomatoes?)
Chestnut floor gnocchi...yum!
Pesto cream sauce, made by cooking the basil first.  I need to find a recipe...
Peach tiramisu, with white wine, vanilla,  mascarpone, whipping cream and lady fingers
Roasted plum tomato sauce, with white wine
Grilled steak, with rosemary and bay on the grill and a caramelized porcini mushroom, brandy cream sauce
Testirolli, kind of like a cross between crepes and pita bread, smothered in pesto.

I'm going to dream of food all night and wake up starving!  Mange!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Planting Tips

I cannot claim these as my own, rather excerpts from Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest (great book for anyone in a cold climate looking to extend their growing seasons!).  I would love to do cold frames, hoop houses, etc...but on days like today (-16F before wind chill!), I'm just not sure what would even survive.

Anyways...thinking of spring, here are a collection of planting tips from Mr. Coleman:
  • Beans:  Plant with the eye looking down.  Beans need to be picked daily for the best quality, and are perfect for succession planting.  Eliot recommends Johnny's "Garden of Eden" pole bean (we got "Fortex", maybe will try the Eden next year).  We'll start these from seed once the soil reaches 60F (they germinate best in even warmer soil temps), and I'll do one, four foot row up my arched trellis.  These should hopefully be good sellers at the Farmstand as well as for the freezer.  They take 60 days to maturity.
  • Beets:  Apparently, beets are tricky and need neutral soil (I wonder if that's my problem?  Another reason to do a soil test.)  They also like lots of organic matter - that I can do!  We'll also try these as transplants from the greenhouse this year.  We'll need to start these about 5-6 weeks before the last heavy frost (I'd say Mid-March).  They take about 46 days to mature.  I'll try about 20 in my whiskey barrel. 
  • Carrots:  We actually did have some success with the carrots last year (even though I completely ignored them along with everything else).  Carrots like autumn leaves in their soil (check).  We'll direct seed these in early spring, about 35.  This variety is good for storage, so hopefully we'll have some luck with these at the farm too!
  • Cucumbers:  We're only doing a slicing variety this year at our house.  We'll do these from transplants this year and run them up the arch trellis.  They need soil that is 60-70F (and it must stay in that zone) to germinate.  We'll start them about 3-4 weeks early, and I'll take one, four foot row.  They take 75 days.
  • Eggplant:  this is a new one for us.  Johnny's recommends starting seeds early, 8-10 weeks before transplanting (so first week in April?) and in warm soil temps (80-90F) until germination, 70F thereafter.  Apparently you can grown eggplants like tomatoes, staked or caged (who knew?).  I'd like about 5 plants for sure, maybe more.
  • Kohlrabi:  Another tricky one for me.  It says it's a cool season plant and Eliot only plants them in the fall - something to consider.  I think we'll try transplants, some in the spring, and some in the fall.  Kohlrabi likes leaves in the soil as well.  Johnny's doesn't say how early to start the transplants, but they can germinate in soils as low as 45F or so.  I think these should be able to go in the ground quite early, and we should start them inside about 4 weeks ahead of planting. We'll need to wait for the soil to get down into the 70s again for the second planting (we want to start these inside too).  They take 80 days and again are great for storage.  We'll try about 10 of these.
  • Lettuces:  We'll do all of these from seed, and plant them underneath our arbor trellises.  Hopefully, the trellised plants will be robust enough to shade the lettuces by the time it's warm enough for them to want shade.  I'm really hoping to get crops of spinach this year that we can freeze for the winter.
  • Peas:  We have two kinds of peas, snow and sugar snap, both of which I am looking forward to!  Peas like it super cool, so we're hoping to plant these in March.  They love fertilizer, and Eliot recommends fertilizing in the fall so the beds are ready first thing in the spring (more food for thought).  We'll be doing a row of each, four feet long on the trellises.  Hopefully these will prosper at the farm too, for selling and freezing.
  • Radishes:  these are something we do know how to grow!  We'll start these early in the spring as well, probably amongst the carrots.
  • Squash:  We'll plant the summer squash & zucchini from transplants this year, started 3-4 weeks before the last frost (Early April hopefully).  Eliot does say the younger plants produce more and better fruit, so they do a second sowing later in the year...something to consider.  We'll probably do 4-5 plants of each kind.
  • Tomatoes:  Ahh the lovely tomatoes.  I'm going to focus more on eating varieties now at my house, and utilize the space at the farm for the canning supply.  We'll put in transplants from the greenhouse, taking 2 of each kind for the planting bed as well as 2 of the Brandywines and 2 of the Rose plants in pots (maybe a wild cherry in a pot as well...but then I certainly won't need 2 in the garden).
In addition, we'll start the following from sets/transplants this year:
  • Onions & Scallions:  Onions are something we could start in the greenhouse from seed and then transplant in the spring, but we haven't tried this one yet.  Maybe something to consider for next year.  Onions want the richest soil in the garden.  Onions like to be planted in rotation after lettuce, squashes & melons (avoid planting them after cabbage family crops). 
  • Potatoes:  We'll do our two potato towers again this year as we had success with them last year, however, we'll need to improve the watering on the lower levels.  One piece of advice I read was to run soaker hoses throughout as you build the tower.  We may have to try that this year.
  • Peppers:  we'll get a few varieties of hot peppers again this year, probably the lemon drops and jalapenos again for making jelly (yum!), as well as drying into flakes.  We'll also get a few bell peppers for good measure.  Eliot recommends removing the flowers of young pepper plants to encourage a hardier plant - on the list for this year.
On a related note, I wonder if we could use the attic as our cold season storage?  In an insulated box perhaps?  I'll have to test the temperature up there this winter...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

2014: A new year for gardening

Well, I have to be honest.  Last year was a pretty sad year for gardening at our house.  The garden was severely neglected - even the tomatoes were ignored.  We had a few other things on our mind.  Like a new deck.  And a patio.  Which are done!!  *insert celebratory music*

So now it's time to turn our attention back to gardens.

We've made our order from Johnny's seeds today.  It includes:
  • Tomatoes -  Last year we planted Brandywines, Matt's Wild Cherry, Speckled Roman, and Big Beef.  The first two are heirlooms so we've tried our first attempt at saving seeds from last year.  We've reordered the Big Beef, a new heirloom paste tomato called Amish Paste (the Speckled Roman had a seed crop failure), and a new heirloom to try called Rose.
  • Carrots - Bolero again.  We had some success with these in the whiskey barrels last year so we'll try again this year.
  • Beets - we're trying Moneta this year.  I still haven't had much success with beets, but I think it's maybe my inconsistent watering style (which we will try to rectify this year).  We'll try these in the whiskey barrels again.
  • Radishes - D'Avignon French radishes again.  these are delish
  • Kohlrabi - Again, we've never had much success growing these but we'll try again.  Kossak is the variety
  • Peas - we're trying the standard Sugar Snap as well as the Oregon Giants, which are snow peas.  We'll see if we can get these to go up the trellises
  • Cucumbers - We're just doing a slicing cucumber at our house (Marketmore).  The farm will have a pickling cucumber as well.
  • Summer Squash - we've got the Raven zucchini and the Slick Pik yellow summer squash for the garden
  • Arugula - this is my favorite green.  My goal is to make some really yummy salads and pizzas with our arugula this spring.  My mouth is watering already thinking of arugula, prosciutto and pine nuts...yummy!
  • Spinach - We're trying a smooth leaf spinach called Space.  Again, my goal is to stay on top of the spinach so we can cut and freeze for use in the winter.  Also, I have a new apple spinach juice recipe for my juicer that I am loving.
  • Herbs:
    • Cilantro (calypso)
    • Basil (Genovese)
    • Italian Parsley (Giant of Italy)
    • Dill (Fernleaf)
    • Thyme (German Winter Thyme)
  • Eggplant - new this year!  we're trying a version called Oriental Express, which is an Asian variety
  • Pole Beans - Fortex
  • Flowers - Marigolds (Queen Sophia, hopefully some of these will reseed from last year), Impatiens (Athena Formula Mix), Zinnias (a tall variety called Zowie! Yellow Flame, might try these in a pot in the garden instead of on the patio), Nasturtium (Kaleidoscope mix)
  • For the Farm -
    • Pumpkins & Gourds - At the farm we'll do the same pie pumpkins and gourds (Winter Luxury and an ornamental mix).  We're also doing the Honey Bear acorn squash and the Waltham Butternut, same as last year, as well as a new winter squash called Sweet Dumpling which looks fun.
    • Halona Cantaloupe
    • Jersey Knight Asparagus - more for the corn field
    • Sweet Corn - for the farm, we're trying Luscious this year.  1,000 we go!
    • All Star Gourmet Lettuce Mix
    • Romaine Lettuce - red and green (Outredgeous, & Jericho)
    • Chinese Cabbages for the greenhouse - Bilko, Joi Choi, Tokyo Bekana, Tatsoi
    • Mustard Greens - Golden Frills, also for the greenhouse
    • Brussels Sprouts - these are definitely for the farm, not my favorite (Diablo)
    • Field Peas
    • Soy Beans - Tohya (edimame anyone?)
Many of these will get an early start in the greenhouse, which I am very excited about.  It's always such a relief to know that we are thinking about spring, even when the high temperature for Tuesday is 2 degrees F and there is a few feet of snow on the ground.  Honey Bunny loves it though!

Happy dreaming of spring everyone!