Less Noise, More Green: August 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

British Food: Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak is a classic British comfort food. It is so simple to make it doesn't really require a recipe. Leftover mashed potatoes and cabbage fried until crispy golden on both sides; it is stick to your ribs satisfying,

Bubble and Squeak has been served up on English dinner plates since the mid seventeen hundreds when leftover roast beef and cabbage, from Sunday Lunch, was combined and fried in very hot fat in an iron skillet.  The ingredients remained the same until the early twentieth century when the meat disappeared and was replaced with mashed potatoes. Hard times during the depression and rationing during World War II cemented the new combination. What remained the same was the need to use up leftovers from Sunday's roast. Monday was traditionally wash day which left women with little time to cook. Bubble and Squeak was a great solution.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer's end


Times are a changin', do you feel it too? Fall is almost here, hanging around at the edges. In the garden the summer crops are holding on but the end is in sight. There is a lot of going to seed happening and much browning and withering.I thought I'd show you what is happening as summer starts to fade and then what's new for the fall in a later post.

I finally have bell peppers! They have thrived in their containers and I have a beautiful assortment of colors right now. Orange, red, black, rose and green, all glossy and ripe.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I’d rather be a Laura than a Nellie

I loved watching The Little House on the Prairie tv show as a kid. Growing up in rural England I couldn’t really relate to the whole American pioneer vibe of the show but I identified with Laura and her struggles to find her way in the world. Laura’s arch-enemy was Nellie Olson, the stuck up, spiteful daughter of the storekeeper who made Laura’s life difficult on a weekly basis.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Broccoli update

Here is a little update on my broccoli plants. I'm very happy with their progress. I transplanted my broccoli seedlings into larger pots on August 16th. At that point they looked like this.

Pretty small and weak looking. Ten days later they look like this!

What a difference a pot with room to grow in and a little fish emulsion can make for plants. My fabulous grow lights played a big part, too. I'll  be looking to transition them outside very soon.

Fall is in the air. The temperature is dropping and the nights and mornings feel crisp. Bring it on!

See you in the garden,

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Providence Journal blog entry

Read about seed collecting now for next year's garden, plus how to harvest dill and sunflower seeds.



Repost of dill pickle recipe for Providence Journal readers

This recipe can easily be doubled. I like to make small batches so I can mix up the flavorings. Next time I'm going to add red pepper flakes for a little kick.

Classic Dill Pickles
Makes three pint jars.

Sanitize the jars and lids.

Heat 2 cups of water,
2 cups of white vinegar,
1/4 cup of sugar,
2 1/2 tbsp. of pickling salt, in a saucepan until boiling.

Slice thinly, 1 3/4 pounds of cucumbers and fill the hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom.
Add 1 tbsp. of dill seed to each jar, along with a sprig of dill weed, then fill the jars with the boiling liquid. Make sure the liquid covers the pickles and run a knife around the inside edge of the jar to help release any trapped air.

Wipe the rims, add the lids and process in a water bath for 10 minutes, once the water returns to boiling.
Remove and let cool. The lids should pop. If they do not, refrigerate the jars.
For best results, wait at least one week before eating.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Edible landscaping lessons from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Love the play on color and texture

On a recent trip to Maine I visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor. I was very surprised to see the amount of edible plants worked into the gardens, in quite interesting ways. 

I am in the process of researching both the plants I want to include, and the design of the gardens I want to install, in the front of my house. I want these gardens to be beautiful and practical, containing plants that provide food for my family and plants with medicinal qualities. They also need to be low maintenance. I came away with a lot of ideas and these general lessons for designing gardens with a large edible element.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The frustrations of foraging Rhode Island style

Black currants grow wild in the British countryside

I don’t often think about the differences between my two countries, the UK and the USA, but this summer I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of foraging for food on public land. This is one area where policies are very different and I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my head around them.

I grew up in a rural part of the UK and foraging for hedgerow fruit and berries was a part of my childhood. Every autumn we would take containers down to the river and pick buckets of blackberries.  People picked sloes and elderberries for jam and wine. Public rights of way run through many a farmer’s field. You respect the land, close the gate and stick to the path. There is an understanding. Public means for everyone so when picking you don’t take it all, you leave more than you take.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Christmas in August?

Is this a new ornament for the Christmas tree? 

Actually, its a buttercup squash growing quite happily vining around an abravitae. Having a very small yard I have to take advantage of any opportunity for vertical growth! I have a row of abravitaes along a fence and have had good luck training winter squash up and around the shrubs. The fun comes when its time to harvest and I look behind the shrubs to see what I have growing on the backside. Often I'm in for a productive surprise!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A step by step guide to repotting broccoli seedlings

Poor little broccoli seedlings, completely neglected and in need of some TLC. I should have repotted them two weeks ago but there was always something more important to do and, well, you know how goes. Plants are hardly the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. At least I remembered to water them!

These seedlings were germinated in a soil-less mixture of sphagnum peat moss and horticultural perlite, which is lighter and better suited to very young seeds.  Now they are ready to move to bigger pots. One of the lessons I’ve learned this year with grow lights is to plant seedlings in as big of a container as you can once they have outgrown the germination cells. The size of the pot really affects the growth of the plant. This also eliminates the need to repot again before they are ready to be transplanted outside.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New ProJo Blog Entry

Read about taming your summer garden to get ready for fall plantings.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Using the tomato bounty

As the tomato deluge from the garden continues, the kitchen counter starts groaning under the weight of all the fruit and action must be taken. Once I see a fruit fly, the tomatoes must be processed!

When I process tomatoes to be used for future meals, I like to make simple recipes that I can flavor and enhance at the time of cooking. This keeps my options open.

One of the simplest preparations I do is roasting grape tomatoes in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. This is a great way to use up my little volunteers, especially the ones that are starting to split. Roasted at 425 degrees for 40 minutes, the tomatoes burst releasing intense flavor to mingle with the oil. This freezes really well. I add it to pasta, sauteed vegetables and use it as a pizza topping.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Maine Wild Blueberries

One of the only souvenirs I wanted from our trip to Maine was fresh Maine Wild Blueberries. Although the season was over where we were staying in Maine, sellers were driving north for several hours to harvest the fruit and roadside blueberry stands were on every highway.

600,000 acres of wild blueberries grow naturally in Maine. They are native to the state and were used by the Native Americans for both their nutritional and medicinal properties. Today, the small wild blueberry is a big player in Maine's agricultural industry and contributes significantly to the state's economy. We did our part to support the growers and bought a big box.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Party Crashers

They weren't invited but I'm glad they came.

Each summer the volunteer grape tomato plants appear wherever they want, and each summer they out produce the tomato plants I deliberately grow. 

Mother Nature is the boss of me.

See you in the garden,


Friday, August 9, 2013

Pro Jo Blog entry

Read about my first potato harvest of the year.



New arrivals

                                          Four varieties of eggplant?

Lemon Cucumber

Yellow Squash

I love variety in the veggie patch, it makes "what's for supper?" an easy question to answer.

See you in the garden,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

British Food: Flapjacks

Before we go any further, this recipe has nothing to do with pancakes, crepes, griddlecakes, or any other kind of breakfast cake. In the U.K., if someone offers you a flapjack, they are giving you one of these. Trust me, these are not granola bars. They are something else. They are flapjacks.

Now we can proceed.

Flapjacks could not be more simple to make and they are so good. Soft and chewy, but not too crumbly. They make great lunchbox treats. This recipe contains Golden Syrup and it is worth seeking out at Whole Foods or online. I am not being paid a promotional sponsorship by the company, I just love the stuff!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pretty maids...

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red russian kale and red and green cabbage are now happily planted in their beds, in their little nests of straw.

One of the reasons I purchased grow lights this year was for the control over the spacing of transplants.I am really bad at thinning out directly sown seeds. I do a horrible job at it and my yields suffer. When I plant transplants, however, I can plant at exactly the recommended spacing and not have to stress over pulling healthy plants!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Newsflash - transplants make it through the day

My community garden bed is all tucked in for the night. All the transplants made it safely through the day, even in the heat. Big sigh of relief. Straw is not pretty but it really helps with moisture retention. I made sure that the straw was not around the stem of the plant then made a little nest around the rest.  Unrelenting full sun is wonderful for growth, but not for transplanting young plants! I planted early in the morning, adding a little fertilizer into the hole before adding the plant and then watered really well.

When I went back to check on them this evening they were alive and perky. I'll water every day for the next few days to make sure they get the best start. The beet and spinach seeds will also need the soil to be consistently moist.

Art Girl gets in a pickle

I'm having way too much fun with this blog! 
More pickles, means more labels, means more work for Art Girl. 
Art Girl just gave me an eye roll. My work here is done.


Monday, August 5, 2013

New ProJo blog entry

New entry in the Lifestyle section today about why I decided to rent a plot at the community garden.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Time to plant my community garden bed

This summer, I decided to rent a plot at the community garden I volunteer at as a Master Gardener. The plot is only ten feet by five feet, so I wont be growing vasts amount of food. What this plot has, that I am sorely lacking at my home garden, is uninterrupted full sun.

I decided to rent this plot too late in the season to grow summer crops this year. Next summer I plan on taking full advantage of the sun by growing plants I've had poor results with at home. For now, the bed will do nicely for overflow of fall transplants.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dehydrating tomatoes


Today, I pulled out the dehydrator for first time this year. I love drying grape tomatoes. Many of the recipes I use call for chopped dried tomatoes and with these little guys I get to skip that step. After about five hours I start to check on them and remove the ones that are done. The larger tomatoes take a couple more hours.

My challenge is to not forget about them! Leave the machine going over night and no amount of soaking is bringing the husks back to life! Not that I know that from personal experience, of course.

Throw a handful of these into soups and stews during the month of January, and their intense flavor will bring you back to the fragrant tomato days of August. It's like capturing a little bit of summer in a jar.

See you in the garden,

After the Rain

Everything was looking very lush this morning after the rain.