Sunday, September 26, 2010

Harvesting the root veggies

This weekend I decided it was time to pull and dig up my root veggies. Luckily I picked sunny Saturday to spend time in the garden. When I was originally starting my seeds last spring I remember thinking I had a LOT of carrot seedlings. Then as I transplanted the seedlings into the garden I thought again "My, I have a LOT of carrots!" And for the third time, as I'm pulling the suckers out of the ground I remarked again "Good night, I've got a LOT of carrots!" I planted globe and multi-colored varieties; so the pile looks very colorful! I estimate I have about 12 gallons of carrots.

I pulled up all of my remaining beets at the same time and noticed that I did NOT have as many beets as I've had in past years. This year I think I got about 2 gallons of beet. Last year I had more beets than I really needed as evidenced by the 2 jars of pickled beets that are STILL in my fridge from pickling last summer. So I guess a smaller harvest of beets is ok. I also saved the beet greens. They area little tough to eat raw, although we've done it, but cooked with some garlic and parmesean cheese, they are wonderful! I'm going to freeze them for now and eat them at some point in the winter when I want a little taste of summer greens to cheer up a meal.

I dug up my whole row of potatoes and was pretty disappointed by the small number of potatoes that I found. I guess if I look at the investment in those potatoes, I should be happy with what I got. All of this year's seed potatoes came from potatoes that were in my pantry and started growing legs. We're not huge potato eaters, so sometimes they sit in the pantry for a bit too long. The ones I planted were tiny shriveled up little things so I guess if they produced anything at all I should be grateful.

I think the true winner in the garden this year is the rutabaga. One of those guys was as big as a cantalope. I can truly see how they carve those at halloween in England, although I wouldn't really want to try.

If I had to pick one job in the garden/kitchen I hate more than any other it would be washing carrots. My back aches, my mind goes numb and my hands cramp standing at the sink scrubbing all of the dirt off of my gnarled multi-legged carrots. So this year, on the advice of my friend Kathryn, I dumped all of the carrots in a Rubbermaid tote and hosed them down a few times. That seemed to do a pretty good job, but they'll still need a little scrubbing when I bring them in to eat. Right now they are drying on newspaper in my garage. I read that you can store carrots in boxes layered with newspaper and plan to give that a try this year. I have way too many to put in the crisper, so it'll have to go with it. Now to go look up carrot recipes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A somewhat disappointing year in the garden

In past years our 1800 square foot garden along with our fruit trees has provided all of the fruits and veggies my family ate (except for bananas, which are a staple around here and something I obviously can't grow in this climate). This year, however, was very disappointing. The weather was uncharacteristically cool almost all summer punctuated by a week here and there of very hot weather. My veggies got very confused by this and did all sorts of strange things.

First, at the very beginning of June my spinach bolted. The weather hadn't reached 70 yet and my spinach decided it was time to flower and go to seed. I pulled up the first batch and replanted another crop. The second crop did much better and was very yummy. I then planted another crop around the middle of august, and that one is just barely coming up now. Maybe it will produce something in the fall if it doesn't get too cold too soon.

Second, my beets bolted! My mother in law, who is an expert gardener, said she'd never seen beets bolt within a single season. A beet is a biennial plant meaning it would flower in it's second summer if you didn't pull it up at the end of its first season to eat the root. These beets were planted in May of this year and shouldn't have been flowering this year. I assume the cold/hot/cold/hot weather of this summer made the beets think they'd lived through a full 15-18 months of life rather than the 3-4 that they really lived. Beets are usually my fool proof plant that will grow and do well no matter what, but I guess that's not the case this year.

Third, my beans didn't produce anything until well into August of this year. I'm used to getting some green beans by July anyway, and then throughout the rest of the summer until early October. So, I'm expecting the total yield for beans this year to be very low.

Fourth, my corn acted very strangely this year as well. It grew fairly tall and started to put out tassels on top, but then I noticed that the ears hadn't formed at all yet and there were no silks for all of that pollen on the tassels to pollinate. Luckily we had a few days of warm weather in there and a few ears did form. Hopefully the pollen made its way to the silks, but i won't know that until I tear open a few husks and see what's inside.

I guess with any kind of farming or gardening the gardener and the crops are at the mercy of the weather. Any year may be good or bad depending on how much sun and warmth your little plants get. Maybe next year I'll try some row covers or come cloches to warm up the plants even if the weather isn't warm. It's all an experiment; sometimes the experiment works as hoped and sometimes it doesn't.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Steamed Red Bean Buns

When we were eating at the revolving sushi restaurant the other day my daughter realized that she really liked the red bean paste inside of the sesame balls. She didn't really like the sesame seed and rice flour coating, but the bean paste was a hit. So I got to thinking that maybe I could make red bean paste. I'm always looking for ways to get more protein into my kids' diets, and this seemed like it might be an acceptable way to add a bit. I looked around online and found a few recipes that had basically the same directions. So I gave it a try.

Red Bean Paste
2/3 C Small red Adzuki beans (although I'm not sure why you couldn't use any type of beans)
1/2 C sugar

1. Soak dried beans in several cups of water overnight.
2. After soaking, put soaked beans and soaking water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1.5 hours stiring occasionally and adding more water when needed.
3. After beans have cooked until they are very tender transfer beans and a small amount of water to the blender, add sugar and blend until smooth.
4. If mixture is still very liquid, transfer to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for a few minuted until water has reduced and you are left with a paste.

Once I had the paste I got inspired to make the buns that go with the red bean paste. So once again I turned to my trusty friend the internet and found a few different steamed bun recipes. Here is what I made.

Red Bean Buns
Red Bean Paste
3 C flour (recipe called for AP but I used WW)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C sugar
1.5 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 C warm water
1/2 C milk
1 T butter

1. Add yeast to warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile combine flour, sugar, baking powder in a bowl.
3. Cut in the butter then add the milk and yeast mixture to the dry ingredients.
4. Mix dough and knead for a few minutes adding extra water or extra flour as needed.
5. Form into a ball in your bowl, cover with a damp towel then let rise for about an hour.
6. After dough has risen, separate into about 12 equal sized balls.
7. Fill a large stock pot with a steamer basket, add water until it is just under the steamer basket then with the lid on bring to a boil.
8. Line the steamer basket with parchment paper and keep this basket out of the pot for now.
9. Take your dough balls and flatten each into a disk, then put a Tbs of bean paste into the center of the disk and seal the dough around it forming a bun shape.
10. Put a few of these formed buns into the steamer basket seam side down, put the basket into the pot of boiling water and cover with the lid. Steam the buns for 12 minutes then remove to a plate to cool.

My Red Bean Buns don't look like the ones you get at Dim Sum most likely because I used whole wheat flour and butter rather than AP flour and shortening. But the result turned out very yummy. We ate our treats by dipping the bun into the left over bean paste to get even more yummy goodness into each bite. :) Enjoy!

Two recipes I've borrowed and loved

I wanted to put a post in here to point you to 2 yummy veggie dishes I've tried recently and LOVED! When I'd gathered a few zucchini from the garden and wanted something yummy to make from it other than zucchini bread I tried this Garden Chowder recipe reposted by Stephanie at My Mental Amalgam. I used as many veggies from the garden as I could find and it was fabulous! I'm used to broth based soups so it was nice to have a chowder for a change.

Another one reposted by Stephanie that I made the other day was Lemony Kale Chips. Mine didn't really get crispy throughout, but they were very good, and I'd definitely make them again.

Thanks Stephanie!


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