Monday, June 16, 2008

Garden Journal 6/16/08: The First Fresh Dill of the Year

Quick Comfort Food - Salmon Patties with Garden Scallions & Dill

So what have I been doing for the past nine days besides eating scallions? Dealing with strawberry diseases and potato beetles, clearing weed-choked raised beds, still trying to get more pepper and tomato plants in the ground, wondering if this otherwise much needed late spring rain is ruining my gorgeous garlic crop, repotting my mail order French tarragon plants (which are doing great), and even starting a few heirloom cucumber and summer squash seeds in containers (because there's no unweeded room in the garden for them yet).

Oh yeah, and we've been putting up hay—an enormous, exhausting, sweat-drenched job that takes precedence over everything. It also happens to be one of my least favorite things to do on the farm — yep, I'd rather shovel out the sheep barn than bring in hundreds of bales of hay from the field and stack them in the barn. But it feeds our animals through winter, so it's worth it. At least that's what I keep reminding myself when I can barely get out of bed the next morning.

As for the all garden goings-on, I've been learning a lot, taking plenty of photos, and am hoping to get back to my newly revived regular posting schedule very soon. Meanwhile, a girl's still gotta eat, and last Friday we showcased the first dill from the garden in one of our quick comfort food standbys—salmon patties. These healthy burgers are easy, inexpensive (we use canned wild Alaska salmon) and delicious, and thanks to the dill and our beautiful bounty of scallions, Friday's were the best I've ever made. I'm headed back out into the hayfield now so I don't have a chance to post the recipe yet, but I'm mentioning it because I wanted to make note of the first dill harvest.

The nicest thing about dill—a cold-tolerant annual that is easy to grow from seed and is almost never bothered by pests—is that once you plant it, it almost always comes back year after year on its own. It isn't called 'dill weed' for nothing. I haven't had to buy dill seeds in years.

My only complaint is that my volunteer dill is always ready to pick well before I have any cucumbers, but gardeners getting something for nothing can't be choosy. You can dry your dill, and while the flavor isn't the same as fresh (and I wouldn't recommend using it for homemade pickles), it's a lot tastier than nothing come winter.

So what's your favorite thing to do with dill?

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where we also love adding dill to homemade beer bread and herbed yogurt cheese.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 6/7/08: What To Do With 125 Scallions (Green Onions)?

Just picked bounty

I'm in a bit of a pickle. Actually it's more of an onion - scallions to be exact. I remembered to double plant my onion sets in the kitchen garden this year so I could thin them out and reap a bonus crop of spring scallions, and my plan worked beautifully.

This is definitely The Year of the Scallion

But despite my tossing extra scallions into pretty much everything except dessert for the last few days, I still have about 125 that really need to be harvested now.

There are a zillion recipes that include scallions - which are also called green onions - but these mild and tasty alliums never seem to be the star of the show. I thought I remembered seeing a delicious sounding recipe somewhere for stir-fried scallions (maybe with a teriyaki sauce?), but a quick online search resulted in lots of stir-fried things with scallions added to them, but no recipe for just the scallions themselves.

When I reported my scallion situation to my best foodie pal Beth (aka kitchenMage), she suggested I toss a pile of them with some olive oil and then slow roast them in the oven at about 325 degrees with some thinly sliced garlic. I haven't tried this yet, but I think the idea it has serious possiblities.

I think spring onions are so pretty

When green onions begin to form bulbs they're called spring onions, or sometimes salad onions. I have plenty of those, too.

Too close for comfort - but very tasty

So what would you do if you were faced with an enormous quantity of gorgeous scallions and spring onions? While I'd love to know any of your favorite ways to use them, I'm particularly interested in recipes that call for large quantities, like 10 - or even 40. You're welcome to leave recipe links from your own blog in the comments section. Thanks for the help!

Oh, and because I'm so desperate, I'm posting this plea on Farmgirl Fare as well, so if you're looking for even more fresh scallion ideas, check out the comments section of Wanted: Your Favorite Recipes & Ways to Use Green Onions.

Up next on Farmgirl Fare (well, probably after a Daily Dose of Cute or two) I'll be sharing my recipe for Swiss Chard Tuna Salad, a refreshing twist on the classic standby that calls for a healthy dose of Swiss Chard (one of the best vegetables you can grow from seed) along with plenty of scallions.

In the meantime, here are some of my other favorite ways to use them:
Sour Cream & Onion Dip
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw
Summer in a Bowl
Colors of Summer Salad
Sprinkled on top of Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza (starring spring onions)

Related Kitchen Garden Posts:
Growing Onions In The Garden
3/16/06: It's Time to Plant Onions!
4/4/06: Operation Onion Complete!
4/26/06: Companion Planting Beets & Lettuce with Onions

©, the onion-breathed foodie farm blog where an overabundance of food in the garden is always cause to celebrate, even if we're not sure exactly what to do with all of it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 6/4/08:
Growing French Tarragon Again

Looks Like They Survived Their Cross Country Journey Just Fine

Realization of the Day:
This is the first time I've bought plants through the mail.

I'd actually forgotten I'd even ordered them until I arrived at the post office today and our postmistress handed me a small square box from my beloved Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine.

Backordered seeds? I thought. And then I remembered - on a whim (and thrilled by the fact that they were only $3.98 each and there was no special shipping charge) I'd tacked two French tarragon plants onto my seed order back in March. But then a slight panic set in. I hadn't picked up the mail since last Friday. (They won't deliver our mail all the way out to the farm, and the post office is 10 miles away.) How long had they been sitting here, suffocating in a box without airholes or even a warning label that said Live Plants? (The postmistress will call and let me know if something marked 'perishable' or 'live' arrives.) Had I managed to inadvertantly kill them already?

Unable to rustle up a pocketknife, I anxiously tore open the box with the truck key and released my little live purchases from their captive darkness and immediately sprinkled them with a little water from the jug we always carry with us when we leave the farm. They seemed tired and a little peaked but otherwise fine. By the time I made it home they were already perking up. Now all I need to decide is if I should grow them in a pot or risk putting them in the ground. Hmmm. Maybe I'll tuck next to the rosemary, sage, and thyme in the greenhouse. Oh wait. I bought two - one for the ground and one for a pot. Duh. Or maybe it was one to live and one to accidentally murder.

Ordering plants by mail is exciting! Sure, I've bought strawberry starts and raspberry canes before, but they look more like little root wads and dead sticks than real live plants in real live pots of soil. Even asparagus roots are kind of on the dull side.

The label that came tucked in on of the containers cracked me up: French Tarragon - Sun - Unique Herb Robust Flavor - Harvest and Make Vinegar.

So have you ordered live plants before? What did you get? How did it go? And, more importantly, what do you like to do with French Tarragon? It's been so long since I've grown this perennial herb (and I can never get myself to buy those overpriced, usually sad-looking packets of 'fresh' herbs at the store) that I can't remember what I used to put it in.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and so far 2008 is turning out to be a very good year for herbs.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Garden Journal Entry 6/2/08: Planting Tomatoes Later Is Better than Never (I Think)

Eight Tomato Plants (No, Really, they're in there)

Realization of the Day:
It's the second of June and I have a pathetic total of 9 tomato plants in the ground - which is more than double yesterday's count of four. Most years I have at least 40 or 50 - sometimes as many as 80.

Oh yeah, and they're tomato plants I broke down and bought, too - not started from the couple of dozen packets of heirloom seeds still safely sitting in my office.

How did this happen? I have no idea. I'm still trying to figure out how it got to be June already. I think it has something to do with the concurrence of lambing season and seed starting season each year. While my foodie mom was visiting the farm back in April (because she wanted to be here during lambing season), the running joke was that at 10pm when we staggered back to The Shack from the barn I would say brightly, "So are you ready to go out and work in the garden now?" Instead we poured ourselves glasses of wine, scrounged up something to eat, and collapsed into bed.

Back on February 14th I was flailing around trying to figure out what I could direct seed (and get to germinate) in the greenhouse that wouldn't either a) freeze to death in the coming months (basil, zinnias, bush beans) or b) suffer from heatstroke when the temps shoot up into the 90s in there like they do every time the sun comes out (lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach). I thought about bunching onions (which I buy every year and never plant - it's like a tradition), but settled on my beloved Swiss chard instead. It's thriving, but what I really should have been doing back then was starting tomato and pepper seeds in containers. At the time, though, the thought of 2+ months of dealing with growing stuff indoors under lights seemed like a total pain. Yes, sometimes I can really be that stupid lazy.

Mr. Midnight Inspects My Work

This morning I took a break from planting to see if the guys working on our new building (the hardwood floor is looking great!) were interested in taking home some Jerusalem artichoke plants (more about growing these soon, I hope). Our contractor, who puts in a large garden every year, happily took me up on my offer even though he had no idea what Jerusalem artichokes were. His two helpers politely declined.

"I only grow tomatoes and green onions," one of them told me.

"I have plenty of green onions," I said. "But I'm really behind with my tomato plants." They nodded understandingly. "In fact," I sheepishly admitted, "I'm in the middle of planting some right now."

"Oh," they said in unison. "That is late." Being polite types, they left it at that, though I have a feeling as soon as I was out of earshot they probably had a little more to say.

In an attempt to look at this embarrassing and depressing tomato plant situation in a more positive light, I've been telling myself that since the weather is already hotter than hell and humid beyond belief nice and warm, my tomato plants will probably be big and tall in no time. The one I planted last week has already grown a couple of inches and is putting on new leaves. None of that chilly April and May stunted growth for these babies.

This will be an interesting experiment, though I really hope I'll never break this late planting record. I'm not a fan of Missouri summers by any stretch of the imagination (in fact I've already started counting down the months until fall), but I can't help hoping that our first frost arrives a little late this year.

The best thing about all is that in the future I'll always be able to console myself by saying, "Sure I'm behind with the tomatoes this year, but it's nothing like what happened back in 2008!"

And of course if you happen to be behind on your own tomato planting progress, my situation should make you feel a whole lot better - because it can't possibly be as pitiful as mine. At least I hope not.

Tomato plants already in the ground:
1 Black Cherry
4 Celebrity
4 Cherry (that's all the sign at the feed store said, but in my experience you can't go wrong with cherry tomato plants of any kind)

Next on the planting list:
27 more tomato plants (purchased)
20 Golden Bell pepper plants (purchased)
2 heirloom eggplant plants (purchased on a whim)
seeds to start: lemon cucumbers, various summer squash, more beans, several types of basil, parsley, & some other stuff

What, you thought I was only behind with tomatoes? Oh, I wish.

So what kind of tomatoes are you growing this year? Did you start your own seeds? Buy plants? Just get everything in the ground? Don't forget to tell us where you're located.

Related posts:
Growing Kellogg's Breakast Tomatoes & Colors of Summer Salad Recipe
How To Trim Tomato Plants & Why You Should
Growing Arkansas Traveler Tomatoes & How To Save Your Own Tomato Seeds
What To Do With All Those Green Tomatoes? Make Green Tomato Relish!

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where a raucous thunderstorm dropped a lovely half inch of rain on us today, and that was on top of the 1-1/2 inches we had two nights ago. Everything is growing like crazy!