Friday, April 30, 2010

Local Flavor Cookbooks

I find the art of mixing flavors, textures and colors a wonderful thing. I'm not very good at this art yet, but I do want to learn more about the ways to enjoy my garden bounty. On a recent visit to the library, I found two great books on cooking with seasonal foods and am excited to try out some of the intriguing recipes.

The local farmers markets will be opening this weekend and my spring vegetables are maturing as I write. I'm excited to have so many of the ingredients readily available. Tis the season for learning and cooking! If your looking for things to cook using your harvest, check out the books below.

Local Flavors by Deborah Madison has many intriguing recipes that can be made from fruits and vegetables easily grown in a home garden or found at a local farmers market.

The Farm to Table Cookbook by Ivy Manning is a collection of recipes that also focuses on local, seasonal fare. I think I'll start with the Swiss Chard and Feta Phyllo Pockets With Yogurt Dill Dip, then continue on to Spicy Minced Pork in Lettuce Bundles. Yumm!

Both authors seem passionate and intelligent about food, connection to people, and sustainability. I'm completely inspired!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Layers

Today my daughter and I went to the Grange in Issaquah and purchased six chicks to add to our flock of Ladies.  It warms my heart that she loved chickens as a three year old and still loves them at nineteen.

We brought home 2 Americauna, 2 Buff Orpington and 2 Black Australorp.

#@#&!.....Young Bucks

Remember in my last post where I talked about the European pears that took so long to blossom and how I was looking forward to eating them in the fall??? I better get some fencing before there is nothing left.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pears....Bitter and Sweet

Earlier this spring I was ecstatic to see the Asian pear trees in full bloom and have been anticipating eating the crunchy, sweet, goodness this fall. Sadly, the blossoms and baby fruit on all four trees seems to have rotted or something, and I think only one piece of fruit remains. It is a sad day indeed.  I'm not sure what happened. Maybe it was the rain and the wind we had these last couple of days, maybe something else.  If anyone has any ideas please share them with me.

This is what my trees looked like just before full bloom.

And today......bummer!

On the upside, the European pear tree has actually bloomed and fruit is now forming.  It has taken 3 years for this combo tree to produce blossoms and hopefully there will be some fruit in the fall.  

Bartlett pear

Anjou pear

My combo tree has Highland, Red Bartlett, Conference, Green Bartlett, and Anjou pears. I'm imagining how delicious they will taste this September!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden

I recently figured out that the University of Washington has a huge medicinal herb garden. There are almost 1000 species of plants from around the world.  The herbs displayed in the garden have been used through out history to treat many different ailments and are also used for seasoning, dyeing and in cultural ceremonies.

These images show only a small portion of the garden and I recommend stopping by for a visit.  It is located  just off the Burke Gilman trail, on the south end of the campus, across from the medical school.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Keep the Garden Growing

Saturday we went up to Arlington to help Les, my 93 year old father in-law plant his garden boxes that we build for him last spring. Our friends Lesley (who suggested we help plant the boxes) and her husband John, joined us for a pot luck lunch and planting activities.

My father in-law and his wife have have been fairly self sufficient with their vegetables and meat up until several years ago. At 93, Les is very healthy, but has down sized his working organic garden from a half acre to 160 sq ft. The smaller foot print is very manageable and just steps from the house. His boxes are the same design as mine and I think the bench top works well for him.  We planted lettuce, broccoli, chard, onions, cauliflower and snap peas.

Of course, Les is a gardening perfectionist and we are honored that he let us lend him a hand!

His garden boxes hold some of the most beautiful soil I've ever seen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Farm City

I just finished reading "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer" by Novella Carpenter and wish that I had been able to attend her lecture at Town Hall Seattle last summer. She must be quite a character. Her book is filled with hilarious and engaging stories about starting and nurturing a small farm in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Oakland, California.

Much of the book focuses on solving how to farm amongst the collection of unique city dwellers and feeding her well loved animals that will become meat sources. I was intrigued with her resourcefulness at recycling city garbage to provide nourishment for her increasing population of chickens, turkeys, rabbits and pigs. Novella really speaks from the heart about her connection to food, family and friends.

I feel inspired by her story and am thankful that I have a plot of land to grow my own fruits, veggies and chickens. I must admit, I've thought about butchering the chickens but haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet.

Read the book!

Raspberry Patch Evolves Into The Asparagus Bed

Earlier in the year I moved my raspberry patches. I knew that the beds where the raspberries had been would need some work to get the roots out and keep new canes from growing. After many, many days of turning soil and extracting every root I could find, I'm ready to plant my asparagus crowns. Yea!

This will be my first asparagus bed and I chose the Jersey Supreme plants because they are suppose to produce a high yield and be resistant to rust.  This spring, it is really important to let the young plants produce spears and then let the spears mature into ferns. Skipping the harvest this spring will allow the plants to establish themselves and store energy for next seasons growth. The local farmers market will have delicious asparagus and I'll wait until next year to taste mine.

My Red Gold and Gold Rush potato seeds have arrived and they will be planted in the second old raspberry bed.

To help the soil preparation process along, I've put the Ladies to work digging up the remaining shallow growing raspberry roots.  This will save me hours of stooping and bending to dig them out! Another bonus to keeping rototillers!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Blossoms in the Yard

During a recent sunburst I snapped pictures of the new blooms in the garden.

Bleeding Heart

Apricot Quince

Monday, April 5, 2010

And The Evidence Your Honor

I feel fortunate to live in a place that has a 1.2 acre open space,  great neighbors, wildlife and is twenty-three minutes from downtown Seattle.  However, the wildlife, namely the deer can be extremely frustrating and destructive. I some times wish I could relocate them to eastern Washington.

There is a look at what the deer did to my spring broccoli.

I find the deer only eat what is within easy reach of their mouths. They are lazy that way.

Luck for me, I sowed more broccoli seeds in late march. There is hope!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wild Edibles in the Yard

Today I decided to identify the native plants in the yard that are either are edible or produce something edible. Here is what I've found so far:

Oregon Grape - a sour grape that contains a natural pectin and is good for jams or jellies. The roots of this plant are yellow like the young berries and can be used to make a natural dye for fabric.

Salal - produces sweet berries that can be used for jams or jellies. When the berries ripen they must be picked quickly for they do not last. I haven't tasted these berries yet.

Salmonberry - orange yellow or orange red berry usually sweet and delicious. First ripening berry in the yard and is always yummy fresh and can be used in jams or jellies.

Red Huckleberry - super tart berry that is loved by my daughter.

We do have this beautiful nurse stump that is mother to this large Red Huckleberry bush and a Salal patch.