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Archive for February, 2010

I went out to my garden plot yesterday, thinking that maybe the snow would have finally melted enough for me to plant some sprouting potatoes.  I also thought I might be able to pull up some overwintered carrots.    Unfortunately, this is what I saw:

I was able to clear away enough snow to sow my potatoes, but finding hidden carrots was not going to happen.  So February marks the first month in which I got zero harvest out of my garden.

Still, I think it’s pretty cool that I got ANYTHING in January and December.  In December I was still harvesting tender salad greens, even if it meant clearing off snow to do it.  And at a few points in December and January I pulled up crunchy, delicious overwintered carrots and  frost-sweetened kale.

My January carrot harvest: small, but so delicious. Next year I need to plant them earlier so they can get bigger before the frost.

Steamed kale was delicious on top of a creamy kabocha squash risotto in December.

I don’t think I’ll get anything from the garden in March, either, unless the arugula  seeds I sprinkled on a bare patch of dirt yesterday somehow germinate unusually quickly.  But by April I will be pulling early lettuces and arugula and radishes (at least, if last year is any indication).   And I could always buy some turnips at the market and plant them and get some turnip greens in fairly short order, although that kind of feels like cheating.  My point is, in this area it’s totally possible to have a productive garden 9 or 10 months of the year.  Maybe next winter I’ll invest in some row covers and extend the season even more.

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After sitting around for a week doing nothing, the pepper and tomato seeds I planted were seriously starting to worry me.  I planted three seeds in each little peat pot, and yet nothing was coming up.  What if they were just rotting away in there?  But today, the Dr. Carolyn yellow cherry tomato won the germination Olympics with a wee little sprout (pictured at right) starting to open its glorious little cotyledons and a second sprout just starting to push up out of the soil.  Taking silver was the Mystery Yellow tomato, which also has a sprout just starting to poke up.  I’d imagine Cherokee Purple is not that far behind; it’ll take bronze.

Falling short of expectations, the pepper seeds have kind of been the Canadians of this competition.  Peppers were real stars of my indoor seedling garden last year, but there’s been no sign of germination so far.  I think the soil might not be warm enough.  So, as silly as this sounds, I’ve been putting a heating pad underneath the tray for a few hours and a time and slightly warming the pots from below.  Hopefully they’ll come around.  I’m rooting for you, Canada!

Technically, the very first sprouts were the basil, pictured below (if you look hard).  But I don’t really consider the basil or the marigold seeds I planted part of the same competition as the nightshades.

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It’s going to be a long time before the snow melts out at my garden plot.  And truthfully, I thought I had a few more weeks before I would need to start thinking about seed starting for 2010.  But then I saw that both Sylvie of Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardner and Kathy of Skippy’s Vegetable Garden have started planting tomato seeds already.  It seems too early!  But their posts really made my garden blogger herd mentality kick in.  And according to Kathy’s extremely useful planting planner, it IS time to start pepper seeds.

So I started enough little pots to have 2 seedlings apiece of Corno di Toro sweet peppers and Señorita mild jalapeños (a variety I grew last year).  I also started a pot of Cherokee Purple tomato (replacing my Brandywine from last year), plus one pot apiece of Dr. Carolyn yellow cherry and last year’s Mystery Yellow tomato.  Contrary to the photo above, I’m actually keeping the pots in my bathroom (away from cold windows and close to my heating unit) until the seeds germinate.

I also started some basil and marigolds, since apparently they need to be started this early.  But I may need to invest in a few tools to help me harden off all these seedlings, which will get leggy after spending so many weeks indoors.  I’ve heard that having a fan blow on your indoor seedlings can help reduce legginess.  And I might also make myself a mini-coldframe out at the garden plot so that I can properly transition the seedlings from indoor to outdoor living in April, when (presumably) the snow will have receded and the threat of frost will have passed.

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This epic series of blizzards has meant a lot of time cooped up indoors here in DC.  I’ve also found it a great excuse for doing a pantry/freezer/fridge audit.  Oh, sure, there have been stores open intermittently over the past several days, but I’m having more fun challenging myself to make do with what I have.  This has translated into a large number of simple, yet very satisfying dishes.

Fried Potatoes with Avocados and Sardines. This first one is kind of a cheat: I don’t always have avocados around, so I made sure to buy some before the storm hit.  Yes, I know this sounds like a weird combination, but I drew my inspiration from Alton Brown’s adaptation of a traditional Spanish recipe for sardines and avocado on toast (I thought potatoes would be a good alternative for someone looking to reduce her gluten intake).  I love tinned sardines, especially the ones that are lightly smoked and stored in olive oil.  The oily saltiness pairs really well with the avocado.  Simply fry up some thin-sliced potatoes and top with lightly mashed avocado pieces and drained sardines.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and (optionally) some lemon zest.

Lime Curd: I ran out of flour early in the weekend, but still I wanted to whip up something sweet (ModernDomestic’s snowbound sweet tooth is contagious).  Fortunately, like most people panicking about the blizzards, I had remembered to stock up on eggs, butter, and sugar.  I also had a bag of limes.  So I made this fantastic lime curd tart recipe from Ina Garten, minus the tart.  If you have any kind of citrus, plus basic staples, you can make a delicious curd without leaving your house.  One thing to keep in mind: the acid of the lime juice will temporarily curdle your eggs, but stirring and heat will make everything re-integrate.  I love eating lime curd on a piece of slightly stale multigrain bread, but it’s also fantastic with vanilla ice cream.

Squash Soup: Got a squash sitting around?  Well, I usually do.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult to resist buying pretty squashes at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market since that’s basically all there is during the winter, so I end up with squash just sitting around for weeks.  A perfect thing to dispose of in my blizzard audit.  I peeled and seeded a kabocha squash, cut it into quarters, and put the quarters in a dutch oven along with a few cups of chicken stock and a little olive oil.  I put that all in the oven at 300°F and forgot about it for a while.  When I pulled it out, I added salt, pepper, a little maple syrup, and the last of a batch of butter-sauteed onions that had been sitting in my fridge.  I pureed it with a mixing wand and topped with a snowdrift of grated parmesan.

Maple Taffy: If, like me, you have a Quebecois friend, you will call this tire sur la neige.  Otherwise you might call it “that maple candy they make in Little House on the Prairie.”  It’s so simple, but so much fun.  You just boil maple syrup until it reaches 240°F and pour it in little squiggles over a bed of clean, packed snow.  Use a stick to pull up the cooling, sticky syrup and suck on the candy (or just pick up the cooled pieces with your fingers).  And if you go too far and boil the syrup too long, you’ll end up with maple sugar.  Not a bad alternative.

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In case you haven’t heard, it’s SNOWPOCALYPSE 2010!  While I know there will be a lot of negative consequences to this storm, it’s been really fun to waddle around in the snow.  I just got back from the Dupont Circle snowball fight, which was SO much fun.  It was supposed to be a North Dupont vs. South Dupont kind of snowball fight, but it really turned into a giant outer ring of people versus a scrappy crew in the middle, defending the Dupont fountain. (Update: NBC news just said there were 5000 people there!!)  Check it out:

Memorable quotes from the snowball fight:

“Umbrellas are cheating!!”

“Who brings a @#&$%! shovel to a snowball fight?!!”

“USA! USA! USA!” (after someone brought out an American flag)

“We need snow!  We’re out of snow!”

More pics and videos below:

Dupont Circle snowball fight gets patriotic. USA! USA! USA!

Lots of trees and limbs down.

Snow on my Street

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I had such a fun time at last year’s Rooting DC, a day-long free event for DC’s gardening community.  There were panels on all sorts of topics, from ornamental herb gardens to vegetable companion planting.  Plus there was a big free-for-all of donated seed packets (yes, they were leftovers from the previous year, but lots of seeds have long shelf lives).  The radishes I grew last spring, for instance, were from seeds I got at the Rooting DC forum.

This year’s Rooting DC has just been announced (see the press release reproduced below).  If you’re planning on attending, let me know.  It would be great to make it a meetup of sorts for DC’s garden bloggers.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2010

Press contact: Katie Rehwaldt
202 638 1649
Katie@america-the-beautiful.org

Rooting DC Cultivates Urban Agriculture in the District

Washington, DC – The third annual Rooting DC urban gardening conference will take place on Saturday, February 20. This event, which is free to the public, will bring together an anticipated audience of three hundred over the issues of food production and food access in the District of Columbia.

Keynote speakers include Joe Nasr (an international urban agriculture advocate and academic) Robert Egger (founder of DC Central Kitchen), Dr. James Allen and Yao Afantchao (ethnic crops researchers at UDC), and Tony Cohen (a local agricultural historian). The day long program will also include interactive workshops, cooking and preserving demonstrations, an informational fair, a film about DC community gardens, and panel discussions featuring leaders of the local food justice and urban agriculture movement.

“Concerns about access to healthy food, limiting our environmental impact, and supporting local economies are coming together to create a powerful new interest in growing your own food here in the District,” says event co-coordinator, Bea Trickett of the Neighborhood Farm Initiative.

The aim of Rooting DC is to respond to this enthusiasm by educating the public, especially those in food insecure communities, on the production, distribution, preparation, and preservation of fresh produce that is grown locally and sustainably.

This event, which will run from 9:30am until 4pm at the Historical Society of Washington (801 K Street NW), is sponsored by DC’s Field to Fork Network, a collaboration of dozens of local non-profits and agencies organized by America the Beautiful Fund.

Participants can find more information at www.rootingdc.org.  English speakers who wish to attend the forum should call (202) 638-1649 to register; Spanish speakers should call (301) 891-7244 to register.

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