Tuesday, October 19, 2010

March 9 2010

This is my first blog. Though I have a web site from my professional days I've not written much in quite a few years.

My intention here is to babble about my kitchen garden mostly. As well as cooking what hopefully comes out of it. And probably eating out as I get a lot of inspiration for both cooking and gardening from doing that. But anything else that comes to mind too.

While I've always grown veggies, until a few years ago my garden was mostly medicinal herbs. I used to teach Medicinal Herbalism and used the garden here for teaching and production. I had to stop teaching due to health reasons and lost my slave labor... I mean my students help.... in the gardens and so have gradually been cutting back on the size of the gardens.

I've been gardening a long time: literally my entire life as I was born in May and my Mother used to drag me along an a blanket while she worked on her flower borders. (get those kids "working" in the garden!) So literally my first memories are of the garden. My dad and I started a small organic vegetable garden behind our garage when I was in Junior High School and I've never been the same since (who knew vegetables could taste so good!)and no matter how small a space I've always at least tried to grow some veggies.

Now I live in New England, in the north east of the USA, up in the mountains.. It's still very cold here (early March) and there is snow over everything. But the sun is shining and it's in the 40's and the hope of Spring is around the corner. Hopefully.  I don't consider it Spring until mid April to be on the safe side.

This time of year my gardening is done in my greenhouse. It's the sort known as a hoophouse. I got it as a kit a few years ago and I grow mostly greens over the winter. It's solar; that is there is no other heat but what the sun brings and can be stored in the gravel around the beds. I got the idea from reading Eliot Coleman's books on Four Season Farming. You can google him if you'd like to read them. I think it was between him and Alice Waters that got the US into eating their greens.

Basically it's about growing cool weather crops over winter in zones like mine (USA Zone 4). I've put up a picture from my back window of the greenhouse (yes there are green things growing in there). It's so nice to smell dirt in Winter

I had a pretty good crop of mesclun mix and some arugula early this winter. Now I have some escarol left and seedlings of more mesclun, arugala, carrots and chard. I start some things for the main garden, like leeks this year, soon I'll be eating the lettuce but I'll transplant much of the greens into beds once the ground can be worked and before the greenhouse gets too hot for them.

I tried to transplant some broccoli from the fall garden that hadn't finished but it didn't work too well... but it's something I want to keep trying.

This will be my first year growing leeks. I read in a garden newsletter how you can start the seeds in a coldframe and then move them into the garden so I've got seeds both in my coldframe and my greenhouse to see how it goes.

So I'm at this 'tween stage right now and it seems a good time to start a blog about what I do up here. I used to keep journals so even if no one else reads this but me I'll have a good record.

As I said; at this stage of they season it's what can grow in my unheated greenhouse....

So... a plant list for in the greenhouse right now is the escarol which is just starting to regrow and seeds of: mesclun, arugala, swisschard (rainbow), carrots (regular and red ones), beets, spinach, parsley, celantro and the leeks.
The lettuces are just showing their first true leaves and won't be long before I have salad from them and the escarol.

This is the first year I've grown escarol too. There is an italian restaurant that serves an appetizer that is simply escarol sauteed with garlic and white beans that I've been hoping to recreate. They call it Scarola con Fagioli... basically escarol and beans  It's wonderful. The thing I love to do with arugala is to saute it with lots of garlic in good EV olive oil so it shouldn't be too much harder. I hope.

I'm currently working on the seed order for the garden now too. It's been a few years since I started warm weather crops from seeds but I'm blessed with some good choices in organic plants in the area so I'm going to buy them again this year. That will be the tomatoes and squash mostly. But there are still lots of things I need seeds for like green and wax beans. I'm going to try a bush black bean this year too. I grow both bush and pole beans.

Tomatoes are a gardeners leap of faith up here. I rarely get warm nights much less hot ones and so toms and peppers don't do so well. Last year was a disaster not just for me but the region as we had a very rainy wet spring turn into a very rainy wet summer and then we were hit by tomato blight. I read it was brought in by one of these large discount stores that trucked in thousands of them and it just passed in the air from garden to garden. Hard enough on me but the real tragedy was the farm markets. I watched one family tearing up their tomato plot for their farm stand. A very sad sight. On the flip side they had a great pea crop last year and I ate their peas almost every day for months. I have a hard time growing peas up here for some reason.

But I grow tomatoes every year and every so often I actually get a great crop of them that inspires me to keep trying.

So that's where my kitchen garden is to date.

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