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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Le Jardin

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I finally got my garden in. The community garden plot, all 500 sq ft of it.

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This picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s hard to get a good shot beyond the row covered section. Which is about to be removed since the arugula under it didn’t do very well. I will probably add a row of green beans there.

There are four rows. The first one.

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Tomatoes and rhubarb. Two young rhubarb plants at the end. Twenty four tomato plants. This year it is about 50% heirlooms. German Johnson, Abe Lincoln, Brandywine, Rainbow, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee and Black Cherry. The rest. Old standbys like Big Boy, Early Girl, Supersweet 100, Carolina Gold, and Beefsteak.

The second row.

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Under the row cover, is some Bibb lettuce. It was also supposed to have arugula, but it never germinated. There are shallots along the edge, and four rows of onions. White, yellow and red. Tucked between the cover and the onions is some dill and my favorite African blue basil.

The third row.

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These three are zucchini. Above them is a grouping of three kinds of cucumbers. Pickling, slicing and bush crop. Today I put in two pepper plants at the very tip of that row. They are yellow sweet peppers.

The fourth row. Asparagus, mostly. It is currently slowing down just a bit, and I am letting about 20% of it go to seed.

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I still am getting beaucoup asparagus, though.

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As of today, 208 spears harvested.

I didn’t plant any canning tomatoes. I expect to get them from our CSA. They offer bulk buys of Amish paste tomatoes. 25 pound boxes. Last year they were $30 a box. I could also get them from Breezy Willow Farm. They offer bulk as well.

This was the latest date I have ever finished the garden. I don’t know if I will have tomatoes in time for the Howard County Fair. That would be a first. I have always done OK in the tomato category.

As for my freezer here from last year. I am down to one bag of blanched tomatoes. Plus, three jars of sauce and two bags of oven roasted tomatoes. I got about the right amount processed last year. Time to start replenishing the freezer.

Memorial Day

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I can’t find my flag.

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The one that we flew over the tower on 9/11 last fall. I know I folded it up and put it away in a plastic bag. So, this year no flag out there for the commemoration of Memorial Day.

I used to not get Memorial Day. How was it different from Veterans Day? Then, it hit close to home, when colleagues at the Pentagon were killed by the crashing plane. Now, it is so significant to me.

I don’t do Memorial Day Sales. Memorial Day picnics. I just reflect on what it means to have friends and relatives risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, in order for us to be free.

I think I need to find a smaller flag to hang out front. And, if I find that lost bag, to hang the large flag on the tower again.

To remind us that we are lucky to be free, because of the sacrifice of the brave.

Some Enchanted Evening

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One of my very favorite evenings to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Pleasant. And the Conservancy where I volunteer.

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Wandering around the Honors Garden, sampling wine and food from a large number of caterers. Mussels. Shrimp and grits. Lovely little mini caprese salads.

Heading up to the barn, for the Jailbreak beer.

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And Mission BBQ, and Elkridge Furnace Inn.

It was a fun evening. The only fundraiser the Conservancy does. Close to 500 people pre-registered and there were many more walk up purchases of tickets.

Makes for a great event, for a treasure in our county.

The wine was great, too. Thanks to Cindy’s Liquors for that.

Now, I get to put together those community garden baskets for the winners of the silent auction.

… Plus You Get Strawberries*

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Strawberry season is upon us.

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Gorman Farms opened this past week. Details on their web site. TLV Tree Farm is bringing strawberries to the Howard County Farmers Markets in Oakland Mills, Miller Library, Maple Lawn and HoCo General Hospital.

Larriland has a notice up on the web site. Look for picking to start sometime next week. I will probably be there, as usual.

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It doesn’t take long to fill a basket.

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One basket is roughly ten pounds of berries. Two baskets make twenty pounds, where you get the price break. I come home and start processing. This is the easy part.

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Just hull them. Clean them up a little. Flash freeze them and put them in small bags or containers in the freezer. Perfect to drop into lemonade or wine or a cocktail.

A little harder. Make puree and freeze it in ice cube trays.

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Put one of these in a glass of wine. Chills it perfectly and makes your own wine cooler.

When we are ambitious, we make crisps and crumbles and pies and shortcake, but mostly we just enjoy the fresh berries.

*The quote from Ron Finley’s Guerrilla Gardener TED talk, a favorite of mine. “gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city, plus you get strawberries”

Hot House Tomatoes

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Not something I expected from our CSA.

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We have gone regional. I assume it is to keep customers who want vegetables all year round, and not just in season. If you watch, the Community Supported Agriculture model keeps changing, to compete with the regional food source companies. Who get more customers than the traditional models do.

I can’t say I blame them. There doesn’t seem to be an exponentially growing market out there for real food, grown locally and provided fresh in season.

Lancaster Farm Fresh has thousands of clients. Besides the CSA members, there are restaurants, schools, hospitals, grocery stores and small farms buying their produce, herbs and fruit. Some weeks our email tells us we are getting the regional LFFC labeled food, instead of the local farm food.

Toigo Farms. In Carlisle PA. Home to what they say is the largest greenhouse in the USA. Video here.

Toigo Orchards is familiar to us. We bought their fruit at the Dupont Circle market. They seem to have constructed a massive greenhouse to grow tomatoes.

Don’t get me wrong. They were OK. But not as good as vine ripened tomatoes in season. And, not as good as what we get from Hummingbird Farms in MD. Maybe I need to let them hang out in a sunny window for a few days. Yeah right. Like we actually get sun around here.

All in all, today’s basket from our CSA wasn’t bad.

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It was springtime in a basket if you looked at the green garlic, the romaine, the radishes and the rhubarb. I did a few swaps this week. I really wanted good salad material, and those greens will make a killer pesto.

Still, I will wait for this type of tomato.

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Those heirloom tomatoes.

I did make a nice Caprese salad tonight. Tomaotoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Balsamic and olive oil. Salt and pepper. IT just didn’t have that in season taste.

Spring Cleaning

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In the herb and spice world. Do you clean out your spice jars? Buy new herbs to plant in your garden? Or put out a few pots on the balcony?

For me, spring is when I do my clean out of my spice jars. Creating mixes to use up the old stuff. Planting some standbys, and trying a few new items.

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You can get many potted herbs at our farmer’s markets and at the local spots, like River Hill. Which is where I usually get my African blue basil.

This year I found the basil at Sharp’s Farm.

Still, I use enough of the dried stuff in the winter to keep most of my supply fresh and the older spices and herbs, I have a perfect use for them. Sprinkle them on the grill, or dump a tiny amount of them onto your mosquito chasing candles. Either way, the scent makes any outdoor gathering so much better.

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Try something new and different. Grow a new herb. I am really liking the bay leaf plant that I keep outdoors all summer and baby all winter in a sunny window.

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If only the weather around here would cooperate so I can get my kitchen stools back under the counter.

All Over the Map Friday

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Because. There are so many things happening that I can’t focus on just one.

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Like how happy we are to have rhubarb and garlic greens and scallions to celebrate spring cooking.

Like the fun we have in the rain while leading field trips.

Like looking forward to grilling season with all the good food we get from local vendors.

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We’ve already done the hanger steak but if the sun actually hangs around, I will be grilling chicken wings. Drenched in butter and hot sauce.

Tomorrow, I will try to hit the River Hill and Ellicott City opening day. Glenwood, I’ll save for my regular weekend trips but I want to check in with Copper Penny at Ellicott City. Their market in AACO lost its site, so I am glad they found a new home next to the Wine Bin.

Speaking of the Wine Bin, we need Rose wine. And they have lots of it.

After I help with check in for Hike to the River at the Howard County Conservancy I am off to check out the markets.

Now do you understand why this post is all over the map? There is so much going on, and it’s that time of year when we love to get outdoors. Click on my links to hear more.

Food Safety

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Raise your hand if you were one of the millions contacted that you had bought possible listeria contaminated foods. That would include me. The ORGANIC edamame from COSTCO. Bought in 2014. Yep, it took two years for them to figure out they had a problem.

And people wonder why I stopped buying as much processed food. Why I run from my CSA to Friends and Farms to get most of the basic food we cook and eat. Why I do pick your own farm food, and process it myself.

We have seen three different recalls in May. CRF frozen vegetables and fruits from everywhere, it seems. Rice from Trader Joes and “pictfresh” veggies at Harris Teeter. Nature’s Promise at Giant Food. Around here these stores provide most of the pwople who live in the area with their weekly groceries.

I wonder why we have all these regulations driving our small local farmers crazy, while we allow mega producers to go TWO YEARS with possibly contaminated food.

Thankfully, that edamame didn’t make us sick. And, we haven’t bought grocery store frozen food in quite a while.

I have become convinced that the closer we remain to the source of our food, the better we have it. Since that “organic” label isn’t a guarantee that you get better quality, I think I will rely on knowing where my food originates.

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The Amish cooperative that gives us much of our food has that motto. Along with this philosophy.

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If we support our local farms and farmers, who feed their families with the same food they sell us, we wouldn’t have to worry about the industrial processing which may or may not contaminate our food.

It’s not as easy to take time to buy from small farms and producers, but at least you have a face to match to the food you buy.

Join a CSA if you want to take more control of the vegetables you get. Find a local meat producer to have fresher meat without hormones, antibiotics or questionable handling. Pick your own, at places like Larriland.

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And, by all means, don’t just assume because it’s organic, that it’s better. Farms around here take great care in growing food without undue use of harmful pesticides. They are an affordable alternative to mega-company organic stuff that costs more without being any better.

Mother’s Day Weekend

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Interesting and exciting things to do with mom.

Want to do something new? Not just that breakfast in bed thing?

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Look enticing? A Mother’s Day tea and scones social with the bonus of garden tours. At the Howard County Conservancy this Saturday. Sign up is here.

Or, a Sunday visit to a working farm. With an opportunity to make a flower arrangement, and take a hayride, and also, bring a picnic for the family. At Sharp’s Farm.

I suggest making this simple salad for mom, and bringing it to a picnic wherever you can.

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This salad is simple. Arugula. Marcona almonds. Strawberries. Berry vinaigrette. Pepper. The vinaigrette is from Breezy Willow. Arugula and strawberries from my Friends and Farms baskets. Almonds, Costco.

For other options to visit, there is always Brighton Dam, for the azalea gardens.

Or, the Sheep and Wool Festival. The largest we have heard of. We have to brave the traffic and visit the festival on Sunday.

Don’t just settle for a boring breakfast or brunch. Get out there and support local businesses and give mom something different.

Healthier Options

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I found a new recipe today, to use my spinner full of spinach.

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Spinach and cannellini bean dip. No cheese. No cream. Really great tasting. The perfect dip to serve at a Mother’s Day picnic. You should be able to find baby spinach at one of the farmer’s markets. If not, I think this recipe could be easily adapted to use arugula, or baby turnip greens, or garlic greens.

The greens are wilted in a pan that contains two minced cloves of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil. I used a locally sold one. From the Breadery. An arbequina. The recipe calls for twelve ounces of baby spinach.

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I just used fresh spinach from my Friends and Farms basket. The garlic came from there also.

Wilt it down. Meanwhile, rinse and drain a can of cannellini beans. Dump the beans, a tablespoon of balsamic, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, some salt and pepper and another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a food processor.

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Add the wilted spinach, watch the processor steam up from the heat (they do say to let the spinach cool a bit), and pulse it until it is smooth and creamy. Serve it with bread, with vegetables, with crackers. Or, like I may do tomorrow night, serve it on chicken.

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I found the recipe on my Food Network App. It’s from Everyday Italian. ¬†This one is a keeper.