BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘garden

Diva Cukes and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes

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Sweet Sun Golds are finally ripe.

 

 

Raw dinner of rice wine vinegar- and-sesame oil-marinated cukes and cherry tomatoes bathed in olive oil, garlic and basil and tossed over pasta.

 

Maybe I should only try to blog during the academic term, and then I wouldn’t leave my readers hanging come summer. Believe me, I so wanted to blog these past few weeks, and have the pictures and notebooks full of musings to prove it. But the Great Firewall of China wouldn’t let me. WordPress.com and Facebook are blocked; though news sites such as NPR and the New York Times (which was in 2000) now aren’t. How I now treasure the freedom to troll the Web at leisure.

 

My first eggplants.

 

 

My first peppers, too.

 

 

One delicate zucchini. When more come, I'll turn to these recipes.

 

It’s refreshing to come home to garden-fresh veggies after two weeks of slurping down greasy sauces and fatty pork belly. Thanks our dear accupunturess friend, our tomatoes, eggplant, beans, cukes, zucchini and herbs remained watered in our absence. So today, orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Diva and slicing cucumbers, some small strawberries, basil, tarragon, some baby eggplant and gone-to-seed fennel welcomed us home. Sweet, raw goodness. For a light dinner, I marinated the cherry and yellow pear tomatoes in olive oil, garlic, basil, tarragon and salt and pepper. I shaved in a delicate zucchini and small green pepper (also from the garden) for good measure. Then we served this raw sauce over pasta. To ease the transition back from Asia, I quick-pickled the cukes with seasoned rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, red onion, garlic and a tad of salty ume plum vinegar. Dan was tired of those flavors. But somehow they still had some lingering appeal for me.

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Written by baltimoregon

August 30, 2010 at 12:28 am

Beguiled by Berries

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What are those, tomatillos? Hopefully they'll be deep indigo and sweet soon.

Just a strawberry or two to tease us.

Of all the bounty that grows in Oregon, our berries are best. We even have certain varietals–think Marionberries–exclusively developed and grown here. So naturally I’d want to try to cultivate some of these sweet gems in my home garden.

Last summer, let’s just say I didn’t get off to the best start. I bought a hanging strawberry basket that unfortunately dried up, as it got ignored while we were traveling all of July and part of August. I also had two discounted blueberry plants shrivel up when I waited to long to plant them. But a $2 gooseberry from the Habitat for Humanity Restore miraculously survived. It’s only promising about two gooseberries this spring, but that’s a start. Not that I’ve ever cooked with gooseberries. But I hear they make nice pie and jam.

A wee gooseberry or two.

To keep slugs at bay, I’ve got about a half dozen strawberry plants in small pots. The ants still seem to be crawling all over the few ripe owns. Our erratic weather just hasn’t been warm enough to redden them up. Heck, it even hailed last week, and farms suffered the damages. I can see why local growers such as Denison Farms do strawberries in hoop houses. Now I appreciate their labor. And they grow them without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, unlike my once-beloved Baugher’s pick-your-own berry farm in Maryland. When I went out to the Taneytown area farm to report my story for The Baltimore Sun, I remember some whitish and blue chemical residue around their strawberries made those bright red rubies slightly less appetizing.

Evidence of Thursday's brief hailstorm.

At least one of two blueberry plants looks like it will yield a bit of a crop. I dug two scrawny five-year old bushes (can’t remember if they were Bluecrops, Chandlers or Dukes) up from a patch Hazelnut Hill orchard wanted to clear out. Not bad for $5 a piece. But I probably didn’t amend our clay soil enough before planting those shallow rooted things at home. I did try to mix in some acidic mulch to encourage the ground to drain a bit better. Then we had a truck blow some mulch into the area. Hope it wasn’t all for naught. It did pain me to see the honeybees mostly ignore my two bushes in favor of the neighbors’ heartier berries in early May. I planted ours near their border, to encourage cross-pollination. Survival of the fittest, indeed.

Written by baltimoregon

May 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm

False Spring

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The shocking pink flowering quince have blossomed.

This shaggy shrub needs pruning.

Just when we thought spring had sprung, near freezing temperatures plunge us back down again. But apparently that’s typical for Oregon in March. I’m finally learning the rhythm of her seasons.

We had balmy weather this past month, making it hard to fathom the snowpocalypse that descended on our loved ones back East. But then snap! it turns cold here and Mom’s on the phone from Virginia, talking about her beautiful, seems like the upper 60s, spring day.

It’s hard to figure out how unpredictable spring affects one’s garden. Survival of the fittest, right? I was concerned about the rhubarb and strawberries and peas growing most vigorously, so I threw some plastic bags over them. Maybe I’ll build a plastic hoophouse for protection, oh, one of these days. For now, I’m a laissez-faire gardener. So I fitfully sowed tiny carrot, radish, lettuce and spinach seeds, allowing them to come up where they like. With them and the onions, I tend to oversow seeds too tightly together. It’s just so hard to fathom each will become a full-size vegetable. I’ll just have to remember to thin when they sprout. Now if that cold would only kill off those ubiquitous garden slugs I tend to murder almost daily.

The window treatment.

Speaking of cold, we finally got some much-needed weatherization work done on our 1939 house today. I’m most excited about scrapping the drafty aluminum sliding basement windows, which were replaced with much more insulated (and easier to climb out of in case of fire) vinyl ones. We care because we sleep in the room. We also had insulation blown into the attic. I have only kind words so far about Total Comfort Weatherization, which is also supposed to help us with paperwork for all the state and federal tax credits once the work is done.

Lucky to live next to master gardeners.

Written by baltimoregon

March 10, 2010 at 1:21 am

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Albacore Doesn’t Just Come in a Can

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Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

What a difference a year makes. I never thought I’d feel at home in Corvallis (or blogging, for that matter) but here exactly a year later since the move and this project began, and I’m well at ease.

We’re frantically trying to weed and tame the yard this weekend after a summer and, well really, a year of neglect. But I’m at least adept enough to coax a few vegetables from the earth. The green (and purple and yellow) beans, tomatoes and remaining leeks are still abundant enough to source a meal.

Fresh albacore is the obvious reply to what to make for dinner this time of year.

Apparently there’s only about a week left in the season. The one-pound chunk we bought downtown today at Harry & Annette’s Fresh Fish just came in from the coast this morning. Fresh albacore is affordable, fleeting and so much more delicious and less fishy than the canned stuff. It’s not sushi-grade bluefin or yellowtail but it’s a milder still meaty fish that melds well with a range of flavors, particularly gingerly Asian marinades.

The most recent food column in the local Corvallis newspaper inspired me. Since we shy away from the grill, we roasted the fish at high-heat, 500 degrees. We whipped up our version of the fresh tomato-ginger “relish” and the hot mustard better sauce. I doubled the sweet onion in the relish since I lacked green ones. And some leftover lebni yogurt cheese stood in for whipping cream, yielding a tasty but curdled butter sauce.

My home-grown beans we steamed and sauteed with lemon, rosemary and chopped walnuts. Freshing but a tad bit bland, according to Dan. But overall a memorable meal.

I just wonder if cooking will continue to capture my attention in 2009-10 as it did, sustaining me, last year.

Written by baltimoregon

September 6, 2009 at 1:38 am

Hang On Little Tomatoes

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The Early Girls in late June.

The Early Girls in late June.

The Early Girls Now.

The Early Girls Now.

What a joy it is to return to ripening tomatoes. Thanks to watering by our house-sitter, the plants seem to have survived, albeit with some brown blossom end rot covering some tomato bottoms, due to my negligence about their calcium needs. Back in late June, I poured some whey and broke up some oyster shells around the plants to give them calcium but perhaps not enough. If they’ve already fruited, is it too late to prevent the green ones from getting this rot? At least the rot can be cut away and does not seem to really compromise the sweet taste of a ripe tomato.

Though we didn’t get home until 1 a.m. Saturday, I ran right out to the garden, fumbling around in the dark, feeling for those ready tomatoes. Nevermind that some were a tad overripe and less umami tart. I had to have a midnight snack of them with olive oil and basil, right away.

Real tomato late blight:(/Flickr Creative Commons/By Filthy Phil (Bert 2332)

Real tomato late blight:(/Flickr Creative Commons/By Filthy Phil (Bert 2332)

Blossom Butt Rot.

Blossom Butt Rot.

Fortunately, late tomato blight isn’t plaguing Oregon as it has the Northeast, where it’s decimated this year’s crop, particularly those coveted heirloom varieties. Dan Barber’s piece on the blight and how it stems from industrial agribusiness practices caught my attention in the New York Times today. Yes, this season’s surge in backyard gardening is good thing. But the poignant irony is that all those gardeners, buying contaminated starts at the Wal-Marts and Home Depots of the world, helped propel the fungal disease’s spread. It appears it’s not enough to just eschew factory farm foods trucked in from across the country. Your garden starts should come from local, sustainable sources, too. Given all the hype about heirloom tomatoes, it’s refreshing to see Barber make a moderated plea for polyculture sources, include less sexy, more resilient plants bred at your land grant universities, like here at OSU:)

Fairing even better than my OSU-bred Oregon Spring plant, though, is my massive potted Early Girl vine. Given the generally cool summer nights here, our tomatoes are slow to ripen here, shyly reading themselves for picking by late September. Next year, I’ll stick more to the trusty Early Girl. And speaking of which, she’s the namesake of a great cafe in Asheville, N.C., that serves up farm-fresh Southern fare.

My Early Girls in Pesto Pasta Salad.

My Early Girls in Pesto Pasta Salad.

Written by baltimoregon

August 10, 2009 at 12:25 am

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The Simplicity of Soup: Pea Season

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Chilled fresh pea soup

Chilled fresh pea soup

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Be sure to spring for some fresh shelled peas before it is too late! I grabbed some from Gathering Together Farm last week to make my favorite tangy “Chilled Fresh Pea Soup.” It’s a great recipe that says goodbye to spring. For a lighter touch, I substituted yogurt for the heavy cream. And I topped the soup with those purple pansies growing like weeds up through the cracks in the patio and throughout the garden.

I tried my hand at growing peas this year but got them in the ground a tad too late. Mid-to-late February seems ideal here. I also mixed up snow pea and shelling pea varieties. They must have cross-pollinated, or something, because I got some strange hybrid looking pods. But they still taste good. I folded a few of the peas into fresh wonton wrappers I needed to get rid up tonight. I also love them raw. And I feel like there’s a recipe from James Beard’s Delights and Prejudices — maybe creamed peas and potatoes? –that I wanted to try. Speaking of Beard, check out the great, albeit brief, OPB documentary of his life: A Cuisine of Our Own. It’s also a larger culinary history of Oregon. What riches there are here.

Peas in the garden.

Peas in the garden.

My pea harvest Sunday.

My pea harvest Sunday.

Written by baltimoregon

June 23, 2009 at 12:30 am

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