What’s up in the garden!

I’ve been busy in the garden. Which is why I haven’t written lately. Hard to write when so many things need to get done. Here’s the latest update.

WEATHER: How about this crazy weather? Hot, cold, hot. Go figure! That’s how it is this time of year. It actually hailed 6 inches last Saturday between Harry’s Roadhouse restaurant and Seton Village Drive on Old Las Vegas Highway-a very small section of land. Drove through it right after it happened-would not have want to been in that one. Luckily we didn’t get much hail at the farm-thank you universe! Just missed us. One friend of mine was not so lucky and all her veggies got wiped out. Now it is getting warm again.

HARVESTING: Still harvesting lettuces and spinach. In fact I picked almost all the spinach as it will bolt soon with the warmer weather and the lettuce will also bolt soon, so much of that is picked too. The old kale is done now. The new kale ready to go in. The rhubarb is fantastic with many stalks ready to pick. I feel a strawberry-rhubarb gallette coming soon!

PLANTING: The main garden is about half weeded-Ugh! But the beds are all cleaned up and ready for all the tomatoes that will be planted next Wednesday. Now I just have to finish weeding the pathways.

DRIP SYSTEMS: The drip systems are now up and running. I hate it when they act up. Sometimes it takes 2-3 days to get everything going and not leaking. Feels great when it’s done. I can’t believe it went as smoothly as it did this year.

GIANT PUMPKINS: My first giant pumpkin was planted today at my friend, Deborah’s house. Hope it does well out there! Still have 3 more to plant next week here in my garden plus I have some giant long gourds and 2 giant zucchini (marrows) to put in. I’ve had trouble the last 3 years with getting any of my giant pumpkins successfully grown. Hopefully one of the pumpkins will do well this year. I have a plan!

DEER!: We had some deer come and eat all the Orach (which is ok) and half of one of my grape plants (which is NOT ok). Ate the leaves and the flowers of what woulda been future grapes. I covered the rest up with row cover. Hopefully they will not explore and find the plants. There is not much in the main garden to eat so hopefully they will move on. Luckily they did not eat the garlic plants!

MORE PLANTING: The peppers and eggplants starts will be planted the first week of June and the seeds of other warm season crops will go in next week too.

Busy time of year! Phew!

 

You Little Tart!!

Lately I’ve been into making fruit tarts with our fruit harvest. The latest are these little strawberry-rhubarb tarts. The strawberries are over so I had to buy them but the rhubarb is kicking it and I’m looking for different ways to use it. A fiend of mine, Kathleen, asked for the tart recipe so here is the basic recipe for making tarts (from Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin) I like the tart pastry from Jacques Pepin better as I thought it was flakier than Julia’s so I put it in for the pastry. Get a tart pan if you don’t have one. I have both a big tart pan and little tart pans for individual servings.

 TART PASTRY (Jacques Pepin)

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter (5 1/3 oz)

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 egg yolk

1-2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, butter and sugar and mix till butter is crumbly like the size of peas using a pastry blender or food processor.  Don’t overblend. You don’t want it completely smooth as the butter pieces gives it it’s flakiness. In a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and water and add to flour mixture. Knead lightly until dough is smooth-do not over knead or dough will be tough. Form it into a ball and put in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if not ready to make. Then when ready, put it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and roll out till about 14 inches round. Peel off one side of the wrap and put in tart pan and then peel off the other side of the plastic wrap. Then I roll my rolling pin over the edges to cut off the dough. Prick bottom and sides with a fork and put in oven. Cook from 15-20+ minutes till lightly brown. Your oven may be different so check it a lot. The recipe originally said 30 minutes but that is way too long at this altitude. If the edges get browner before the center, put some foil over the edges to keep from burning. This can be done up to 12 hours ahead. Leave out-no need to refrigerate.

CRÈME PATISSIERE (Julia Child) This filling makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half or even into fourths because you want a thin amount of filling to put the fruit on. I had a ton left over making the full recipe.

6 egg yolks

heavy saucepan

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon brandy

Separate egg yolks and blend with a wire whip in a heavy saucepan (cooks more evenly). Gradually beat in sugar until it is smooth. Add flour and whip in. GRADUALLY add hot milk stirring with the wire whip until smooth. Continue stirring CONSTANTLY with the whip till mixture is thick. As it turns lumpy whip harder till lumps are out.  Lower heat and cook a few more minutes till thickened stirring CONSTANTLY. Have I said that word enough-‘constantly’? Remove from heat and stir in butter and flavoring. Put plastic wrap right on top to keep it from getting thicker at the top and refrigerate. Leftover mixture can also be frozen for later use.

ASSEMBLING THE TARTS

Several hours before serving, put a thin layer of filling on bottom of pastry. The fruit is the main star in this recipe not the filling. Put fresh fruit like apricots, berries, kiwi or strawberries neatly on top of filling. Make a glaze using apricot or currant jam. Heat up the jam and add a few drops of warm water till it is the consistency of a glaze-spoon warm glaze over fruit).

In this picture I cooked the rhubarb with lots of sugar (to taste) in saucepan and then added some cornstarch as a thickening agent. Mix about 1 tablespoon cornstarch first with a little cold water so it won’t lump up and stir in and heat till thick.  You could do this with any fruit (take some of the fruit, add sugar then cook down and add cornstarch) if you want to make a glaze instead of buying jam.

Strawberries and rhubarb galore!

Oh yea-my June-bearing strawberries are ripening and the rhubarb is kicking it.  I love both of these perennials in the garden. They are easy and productive without much trouble and they come back year after year. They are also some of the first crops to produce which is great in June while we wait for the rest of the crops to come in.

Here are some strawberries we harvested during one picking session. There are tons on the plants this year as compared to last year when we got zero because of that super cold winter which almost killed them. I cover the strawberries with row cover after they flower but before the berries are red to keep the birds off them. Works like a charm. After the strawberries are finished I will take the row cover off them for the rest of the year. Sorry birds!

Here is the rhubarb we harvested. My variety is Victoria which is a very prolific green variety with a slight red blush instead of the red varieties that are available. There is no difference in taste with either red or green. Be sure to cut off the leaves which are poisonous. The leaves have high amounts of oxalic acid (the same as in spinach-only spinach has much lower safer amounts of oxalic acid). I cut it off about 1 inch below the leaf and at the ground level. The stalk is the part we eat. It is very tart so we need to add a good amount of sugar to sweeten it up when cooking.

So I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie! You mix up 3 cups strawberries with 3 cups rhubarb mixture with 1.5 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a big bowl and put the mixture in an uncooked pie shell. Then I put a crust on top of the mixture.

Before I could get a picture of the whole pie after it came out of the oven, everyone got into it first. Yum! Juicy and sweet.

What have I been doing?

I’ve been busy in the garden! It is ALMOST  finished. I have 8 more tomatoes to plant tomorrow that I forgot to get that are some of my standards at the SF Farmer’s Market. OPPS! But they will be ready in time.

Two weekends ago I had 7 friends/family help with planting the majority of the tomatoes. A great big THANK YOU to all that helped-Elodie, Flynn, Ronnie, Lava, Tom, Sharon and myself! I couldn’t have done it without you! I also have a few more flower seeds to plant by the entry. Otherwise it’s done-FINITO! Yea right-there is always something to do in the garden! Here are some of the things happening in the garden:

The fava beans are looking good. Here they are flowering. I like the black and white flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen black and white flowers on a plant before. They had some aphids so I sprayed them with insecticidal soap and they are looking better. They have baby fava beans on them now.

The beets and carrots are coming along quite nicely. They are outside the pole bean tent area and will fill in nicely

Here are some beet greens I harvested while thinning out the beets to give them room to grow. They are yummy in a salad and are so beautiful.

In the shadiest part of the garden I planted some bok choi and lettuce and have had it covered with row cover since planting to help keep them from the heat and bugs. They both are looking great. I’ve never grown bok choi before so I’ll have to research when to harvest as they are getting to be pretty big and won’t like the heat for too long.

The fennel bulbs are getting bigger and are almost ready to harvest. Maybe another 2 weeks. They also won’t do well in the heat. I wonder if they will get as big as the ones in the grocery store..

About half of the tomatoes I previously planted are growing out of the top of the wall of waters and I need to take them off before it gets too difficult.

It’s been fun growing some early stuff. The bok choi, fava beans, fennel and lettuce are more cool season crops and will have to be harvested soon because of the heat. Probably all of them will be harvested BEFORE July.

I also have potatoes that are growing through the roof, strawberries that are being harvested and rhubarb that is ready to pick but will save that for other posts.

Rhubarb and Asparagus starting to come up!

Asparagus coming up!

I can’t wait! It’s been 4 years since I planted the asparagus and I hope I get enough to harvest this year. About 5 spears are already poking through the straw they hide under and that is just one of 4 plants.

Rhubarb coming up too!

Last year I read rhubarb is a good companion plant for asparagus so I got 2 that were already in gallon pots and transplanted them. I got lots of rhubarb last year because they were already 2 years old. They are now coming up like gangbusters. I have them covered with row cover on freezing nights but they seem fine with cold nights. Spring is here!

Winterizing perennial vegetables

Strawberry patch shown here in July need protection now

We should winterized our perennial vegetables and fruits. I have rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries. I already winterized my rhubarb, covering it with some straw and the leaves have died back under it but the roots are protected under the straw. Next I’ve been waiting for the asparagus ferns to turn brown and they just started so now I can cut them back to 3-4 inches high and cover them with straw too. Lastly I have a pretty big strawberry patch (about 8 feet x 40 feet) and was most concerned with it as I almost lost it last year when I did NOTHING to winterize it. So after the -20°F we had last winter, I want to make sure I help it for this winter. I’m going to cover it with about 6-8 inches of straw this year. It’s leaves are still green with the underside of them red. This week I will cover them for the winter. DON’T FORGET TO WATER YOUR PERENNIALS THIS WINTER as well especially if we don’t get any snow.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb plant in the middle

This spring I bought 2 rhubarb plants from one of our nurseries that were the most pitiful plants I’ve seen but I really wanted to try to grow some and they were the only two plants they had so I bought them. They now are very beautiful and I can imagine them in other parts of my non-veggie gardens. I read they like sun or sun/part shade, rich soil and need water but not an exorbitant amount. They would give it a very lush look with their HUGE leaves. They have both grown so big that I decided to cut some and cook it up. Here is one of the plants in the middle of some asparagus ferns and ornamental japonica corn.

Here is the other one with the stalks ‘trimmed’. After I cut off the bigger stalks and discarded the leaves which are mildly poison.

Here is the rhubarb/strawberry compote I made. I cut the stalks into 2 inch pieces and cooked them up with the strawberries and lots of sugar and cornstarch. My variety of rhubarb is called ‘Victoria’ which isn’t one of the red varieties but is green instead so I cooked some of the strawberries with it for the classic red coloring.  My mom use to make rhubarb compote that she served in bowls with whipped cream that we gobbled up for desert or breakfast if we could get away with that!

I then poured the compote glaze over the fresh strawberries in a precooked pie shell.

Here is mom at 23 years old-a fabulous cook!

Thanks mom for the recipe.