Painted Mountain corn

Lee is growing 330 feet of Painted Mountain corn this year. He was about a month late planting it but we are hoping with the hotter than usual temps the corn will catch up.

Painted Mountian corn

Posted in Gardening | 6 Comments

Hush little zucchini

I’ve learned my lesson and only plant one zucchini per summer. While Lee and I like zucchini, we don’t love it so much we want to be inundated with it. Lee took the first zucchini of the season and grated it into hush puppy batter. Odd I know, but the combination of the two made for a much more exciting zucchini and hush puppy.

Zucchini

Posted in Gardening | 2 Comments

Dinosaur kale and smoky monsters

Lee and I love kale. We like it so much that we have no plans to grow collard greens again. Kale is flavorful but not bitter, it’s more tender then collard greens, you don’t have to cut out the stems, and it cooks faster. I love how we can start 6 plants in the spring and harvest leaves all summer. Our favorite variety is Dinosaur kale, also called Lacinato kale.

Dinosaur kale, Italian kale, Tuscan kale, etc.

Lee here. — The best collard greens I’ve ever had come from a small Alabama-style food joint in our area. (If you live in the south Willamette Valley, here’s a link. I recommend their whole menu.) Their version is slow cooked in a spicy sauce with smoked meat. It’s amazing, but it can’t be easily reproduced at home on short notice. I’ve scoured the web for a simpler spicy greens recipes and turned up empty. Either I have the wrong search terms, or the good ones are all buried under a murky lake of kale smoothies.

Since I couldn’t find a decent recipe, I invented my own. It took a few tries to get the details right, but Robin makes a good test subject for my food experiments and Sidney eats almost everything. Even if you don’t generally like collard greens, you might find that this version makes you want to work on your hypothyroidism (a potential side effect of eating too much kale).

Smoky Monster Kale Recipe

Prep time: 20 mins – Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon (or substitute 2 Tbsp olive oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1/4 cup whiskey or scotch* (it doesn’t need to be top shelf, but it needs to be smoky)
  • 1 bunch of Dinosaur kale (8 oz), chopped across the leaves into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
  • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 2 Tsp cumin
  • 1 Tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 Tsp cayenne pepper (optional, if you like heat)
  • 1/4 Tsp pepper

Method

  1. Slowly cook the bacon in a large saucepan until crispy. While you wait, chop your garlic, onions, and kale. Turn bacon occasionally. When the bacon is done, remove to a paper-towel lined plate. If the bacon was particularly lean, add a bit more olive oil.
  2. Sauté onions in rendered bacon fat over medium heat. Add garlic a few minutes later. Cook until onions are translucent.
  3. Deglaze pan with whiskey/scotch. Scrape up any bits of fond. Cook briefly until most liquid evaporates.
  4. Lower the heat a little and add chopped kale in handfuls, stirring to encourage them to wilt so they all fit. Add chicken broth or water to provide liquid for steaming. Add salt and stir. Briefly bring to a boil and then reduce heat and steam with the lid on for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add remaining spices and fresh ground pepper. Continue cooking greens with the lid off for another 10 minutes.
  6. Taste for tenderness, salt and spice and adjust accordingly. Spice experimentation is encouraged. Perhaps you’d prefer smoked paprika instead of cumin?
  7. Serve into separate bowls and top with crumbled bacon. This dish holds well in the pan at low heat, so it’s a nice one to pair with other items which have less predictable timing.

* Footnote: The whiskey/scotch provides an important smoky flavor which cannot be omitted to the same effect. We discovered the joys of cooking with whiskey a few years ago when we substituted scotch we didn’t like for the wine in a roast recipe and it turned out wonderful. If you don’t have any handy bottles of scotch you don’t like, there are a few alternative sources of smoky flavor: use extra smoky bacon, add a smoke flavoring such as liquid smoke or ground Lapsong Souchong tea (which smells exactly like a campfire), use smoked spices (such as smoked cumin or paprika), or use fresh Dashi stock as the liquid.

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Mammoth gopher defeated

For the last 6 weeks, nearly every morning has started out with an optimistic Lee running out to the garden to check his traps. Soon he would come trudging back in defeat, having found only empty traps, fresh dirt mounds, and the garden air heavy with the scent of shredded onions. It was becoming quite comical.

Each night Lee would think of some new trick to setting the traps or covering the holes. We had some serious Swiss Family Robinson traps by the end. The final trap consisted of a hole dug 18″ down to the main tunnel, a box trap (thanks John) facing one way and a cinch trap the other. A plastic bucket lid fitted over the traps and dirt was piled on top of the lid so moisture and light conditions would stay the same.

The big cinch trap was the one that got him. It wasn’t a clean kill as the gopher was so large the trap was basically just hugging him. Lee had to dispatch it.

Here is our onion and leek patch at the moment. The gopher ate almost half the onions. Some of remaining onions will not bulb well because of constant tunneling through their root zone. Thankfully it didn’t like leeks (or it was waiting for them to get bigger).

Onion rows and leek row

Posted in Gardening | 7 Comments

Summer sunflower

This is a volunteer sunflower from two summers ago. I should have saved all the sunflower seedlings that came up in the garden rather than weeding them as the sunflower seeds I planted were a bust.

Sunflower

Posted in Gardening | 2 Comments

Blue wasp nests?

We kept seeing really blue wasp nests on the ground around the garden shed in May. Lee and I are completely puzzled and Google searches turn up empty. Has anyone else seen this before?

Blue wasp nest

Posted in Nature | 6 Comments

Potato plant fruit

A couple of our All Blue potato plants have put on fruit. This is the second time I have seen this happen on potato plants. Lee suggested saving the seed balls but I don’t really want to devote the time to breeding potatoes right now. Maybe later.

Potato fruit

Posted in Gardening | 4 Comments

Blueberries

This spring we finished planting and moving established bushes to their new spot along the garden fence. We also managed to fertilize, sulfur, mulch, and get the dripper hose installed. This is the best crop we’ve had so far and hopefully with the slow release sulfer the next years crop will be even better.

Ripe blueberries

Some people put netting up for birds but so far we only have one major predator.

Picking berries

Posted in Gardening | 4 Comments

First tomato of the season

There is one Sungold tomato on the plant that is almost ripe. Lee and I are both watching it with tingling taste buds. When it is finally ripe we will have to cut it into thirds. We will cry a little when Sidney drops hers in the dirt.

Ripening sungold tomato

Posted in Gardening | 4 Comments

Pickled cauliflower

Eight pints of pickled cauliflower. I make these for me as Lee doesn’t like them. :D

Pickled cauliflower

Posted in General | 6 Comments