Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sizzling in Seattle - by Sue Shecket, webmaster and NW trial gardener

northwest eggplant harvestMother Nature is having a lot of fun playing tricks on Northwest gardeners this year. After sharing in the cold temps and snow of Alaska all winter, we’ve now seemingly traded climate with our friends in the Northeast.

With no real rain since mid-May, and now suffering through a record breaking 100 degree heat wave, my salad greens are just a memory and the "Sungold" tomatoes and "Asian Trio"eggplant are growing like they are on steroids. tomato cages in the garden

In the spirit of recycling, I found a use for this old Renee’s Garden seed rack frame, which has a new life as jailer for my rampaging tomatoes.

On the bright side, we’ve also traded our usual attire of fleece for cool surfer shorts, and are experiencing the pleasures of sitting outside on warm summer evenings while mastering the art of grilling all that summer squash along with our great NW salmon.

vegetable garden layoutOnce again I am kicking myself for not getting around to installing that drip irrigation system for my veggie beds, as it’s been a real challenge to keep things alive and hydrated.

Here's the view from my back deck - it's a very long climb down and up from garden to kitchen, so I get lots of additional exercise points just getting there and back multiple times daily.

colorful planted flower combinationsI’ve been enjoying experimenting with color combos in the containers on my east facing deck. Here’s a shot of some of my favorites from seed - “Stained Glass” Salpiglossis, “Chantilly” Snapdragons and “Blue Ensign” Morning Glories.

begonias in the shadeI’m also a big fan of these tuberous begonias that especially enjoy my filtered morning sun and afternoon shade.

lots of french florence poppies

My neighbors always expect something spectacular to bloom in my front garden, so this year I went for lots of poppies - the French Flounce definitely got the most attention.

garden horse
My garden also benefits greatly from the post-meal contributions of our 2 horses. Here's my boy Tazo, who is definitely the Cute One in our equine family.

fall greens including Lacinato Kale, Bright Lights Chard and Jewel-Toned Beets
As soon as our “normal” weather returns, I’ll be doing my fall planting of greens, lettuce, etc. I’ve already got a good stand of "Lacinato" Kale, "Bright Lights" Chard and "Jewel-Toned" Beets, which will be long term garden residents through the fall and winter.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Planting Out Peppers and a Recipe for Chicken Santa Cruz with Fresh Peppers

pepper plant gardening
pepper plant gardening

The Renee’s Garden office staff got their hands dirty planting pepper plants into our trial garden’s prepared beds a couple weeks ago.
harvesting spinach
Harvesting spinach

We’ve been learning the growing process for tomatoes and peppers this season and the pepper seeds that we sowed in March had grown into plants big enough to transplant into the ground. Plus our weather is now nice and warm – perfect for growing lots of delicious peppers.

pepper gardeningpepper gardening

We’ll be back in a month or so to start harvesting our bounty!

Here's a recipe making good use of peppers from one of Renee's cookbooks, Recipes From a Kitchen Garden.

Chicken Santa Cruz (Printable Recipe Click Here)

chicken santa cruz recipeThe aromatic, subtle flavors of this dish have drawn more raves than many other entrees we've prepared. Slow sauteing brings out the sweetness of the spices, herbs and onions and the rich mellow flavor of the ripe peppers. Please do try it. Don't forget crusty French bread. By the way, leftovers make great sandwiches.

4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned and cut into 1/2-inch strips
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 large fresh bell peppers -- use red, yellow, or deep green peppers (or any combination)
4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed or 1 teaspoon ground
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon ground
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot chile pepper or 1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or chopped cilantro
Sprinkle chicken strips with lemon juice and set aside. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and ribs. Cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide strips. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add garlic and cook one minute on moderate heat. Add the pepper strips, sliced onion, cumin, oregano and chile pepper. Stir the vegetables to coat evenly with oil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover pan, stir mixture, add chicken strips and stir to distribute them evenly in the vegetable mixture.
Cover skillet again and cook gently for 10 more minutes. Uncover; chicken should be cooked through and vegetable mixture should be tender and very aromatic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and serve.
Serves 4 to 6.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Northeast Trial Garden Journal - by Jay Leshinsky

The Middlebury College student garden interns and I are well into this year's seed trials for Renee's Garden. Our main focus over the 7 years at this location is building soil fertility with compost and green manures. Middlebury College produces tons of compost from food prep materials, leaves, wood chips and cardboard gathered from on campus. We use the compost to enrich our sandy, stony soil.

spreading compost on a raised bedOne of our summer volunteers, Abel is spreading compost on one of our raised beds. The plant growing in the background is yellow sweet clover which we plant for our bees and for soil improvement. This is the second year we trialed our new Gourmet Golden Beets. Golden Beets are one of our main crops and the old varieties were often inconsistent in their germination and yield. Gourmet Golden Beets outperformed all other golden varieties. Our customers love them! There was even great competition from the Dining Service chefs to obtain our beet green thinnings.

mesclun lettuce and baby spinachOur mesclun lettuce and baby spinach has benefited from the cold, wet spring here in Vermont. Our yields were heavy and the taste superb! This spring we used predominantly Farmer's Market Blend and Monet's Garden for our lettuce and Catalina for our spinach. Two of this summers interns David and Jessie have just harvested the second cutting from our first planting of lettuce and our second planting (to the right in the photo) will be ready in a few days. Once we harvest the mesclun, we wash it in our well water and then spin it dry in our 2 gallon salad spinner. enormous salad spinner

Molly, one of the other summer interns, is doing some taste testing before she spins the cleaned lettuce.We are getting our first really hot and sunny weather and our warm weather crop are finally getting some good growth. More on those in my next blog.
Don't miss our featured website article for July :
Growing Vertical Vegetables
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