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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Seasons change, as they say.  But in this past few months when the leaves were turning colors and frost was putting an end to the gardening season, I was going through a lot of changes of my own.  The political consulting firm I worked for shut its doors and I found myself not just looking for work, but also looking for answers to some questions brewing in my mind.  Do I want to keep working in politics?  Or maybe do something a little different?  Do I want to stay in DC?  Try out some new city?  Or maybe go back to my native Pacific Northwest?

True to my want-it-all generation, I found myself answering “yes” to all of those seemingly mutually exclusive questions.  And then I received a terrific opportunity that let me have it all.  I’m moving to Portland, Oregon, for eight months to work on post-Census redistricting, which will keep me connected to politics but let me develop a lot of new skills in statistics and demography (and form my own consulting LLC in the process).  But I’ll be back in DC on a regular basis, and will return to my lovely (now subletted) Dupont Circle apartment after this is all over.  Relevant to this blog, I’m going to keep my garden plot (but make it really minimalist this year), and will remain actively involved in planning the next DC State Fair.

So as with the past few months, 2011 will be a bit of a hibernation for this blog.  I’ll post a few garden updates in the spring and summer, do a a tiny bit of posting about Portland, and help advertise DC State Fair events and deadlines.  And if I take this round-the-world tour of the world’s street food capitals next Oct/Nov that I’ve been dreaming about, I’ll post my culinary adventures here as well.  Expect a return to full DC gardening glory in 2012.

But for now, let me show you the last thing I made with my garden’s 2010 bounty.  Just before I left DC on December 21, I went out one last time to my garden plot, which was blanketed by an inch of snow.  But under the icy crust there were carrots, leeks, and the sweetest kale you can imagine.  I combined these ingredients with rich stock, cannellini beans,  sweet Italian sausage, and bacon to make a Tuscan soup that fed me for three solid meals.  It was the perfect way to close out my garden, and a satisfying way to leave DC for my 2011 adventure.  Happy New Year!

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Please advise me if you think I’m wrong, but I don’t think these tomatoes are going to ripen before frost:

I planted this heirloom tomato plant kind of late in the season after most of my other tomatoes failed.  But it took too long to grow big, and now these green tomatoes are just hanging around.  And even though I think of fried green tomatoes as a summertime food, there’s not a lot of other ways to make use of the inevitable green tomatoes left over at the end of the season.  I like recipes, like Gourmet’s, that use cornflakes for added crunch.  So unless I see a little color improvement on these tomatoes when I’m out in the garden again this weekend, I’m just going to pick the green fruits and have a nice little fry.

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October Delights

Alas, a trip out of town and a bad cold and life in general got in the way of blogging, but I’m back now.  🙂  After a couple weeks away from my garden I wasn’t sure what I would find when I went out there this morning.  But wouldn’t you know, my garden is still producing amazing things!

Maybe the most amazing was a small number of delicious little Tri-Star strawberries.  I gave that big one to my dad, who happens to be in town right now, and it happens to be his birthday.  Happy birthday, dad!

But there were other great things to harvest today as well.  I got almost a pound of string beans, and I think I’ll get a few more next week as well.  And I harvested the last of my Corno Di Toro peppers:

I roasted them in the oven, but haven’t used them yet.  Hmm, not sure what to do with them, but it’s never a bad idea to have delicious, sweet roasted peppers on hand.

As it gets colder out, I find I appreciate my garden’s produce even more.  I should have chard and kale and arugula through November and maybe even into December.  What a treat!

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My fall beans are coming in now, but back a month or two ago I let some of my summer beans stay on the vines until they dried up.  My intent was to save the seeds and plant them next year, saving myself a few bucks in seed costs.  And since the variety, Soleil French Filet, is an open-pollinated variety, I knew at the very least that the seeds would breed true (using the seeds of hybrids can give weird results, they say).

The problem is that the bean seeds I saved are looking kind of sad.  Here they are on the right, compared with some extra seed-packet seeds on the left:

If I plant my runty saved seeds, are the resulting plants going to be runty as well?  The seed contains nutrients that feed the sprout before it can absorb nutrients from the soil on its own, so I wonder how much a somewhat diminished nutrient packet would stunt early growth.  Hmm…  Maybe I’ll do an experiment next year and do one row with the saved seeds and one row with a new packet.

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Back in the spring, I decided on a particular way of putting a value on what I grow in my garden.  I kept track of what I was bringing in each week, entering in the values on a spreadsheet.  My expenses for the year are stored in the same spreadsheet.  And now, in this transition time between summer and fall, I’ve finally earned back the money I put into the garden!  I estimate that I’ve gotten about $210 of produce from my garden this year.

One of the things that put me over the top this past weekend was a giant harvest of basil.  This season has been bad for most vegetables, but it’s been absolutely fantastic for basil.  The extreme heat, punctuated by occasional storms, has made the basil flourish out of control.  So I kept starting more basil seedlings and planting them in the bare spots where other plants had failed.

I harvested about a pound of basil on Sunday!  So of course I made a giant batch of pesto that I put into an ice cube tray for long-term storage.  When my garden is bare and the air is frigid this winter, I’ll get out some pesto and think of summer.  That’s some tasty profit right there.

Basil and Swiss Chard at dusk

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A Still-Life of Hidden Treasures

Beets did okay this year, especially given my lack of proper care for them.  I harvested a lot of them early in the summer, and left a lot of little weedy looking ones for later.  It didn’t look like those remainders were doing much, since the beet greens never got very big or lush.  I gave up on them and decided to re-seed for fall.  And yet, when I went to clear out the bed, there were a lot of fat little red and yellow baby beets underneath the surface.  I took them home, boiled them enough to get the skins off, and then ate them with a hillock of goat cheese.

The golden beets continue to be my favorite.  The flavor is really superior.  I think next year I’ll only plant the goldens.

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This bunny likes my carrots!

This season hasn’t been great for my carrot patch.  It was too hot, and there were too many spells when it didn’t rain and I didn’t have time to water.  So my carrots never got big and juicy.  Last weekend I decided to pull up whatever little runty carrots that were left and put in some new seeds for fall.

The carrots I pulled were kind of starchy, nothing special.  But I knew one customer who’d like them anyway.  I just so happen to know someone with a pet rabbit, so I’ve been giving her my carrot thinnings and extra carrot greens throughout the season.  So even though these last carrots were a little sub-par for human consumption, the bunny certainly liked them.  He took one under a piece of furniture and seemed very concerned that we were going to take it back from him:

It’s a good lesson.  If life gives you a bad carrot season, make bunny food.

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