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Posts Tagged ‘basil’

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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On Friday after work I zipped out to my garden, hoping to do a little weeding before the sun went down (and to avoid going out there in this weekend’s oppressive heat and humidity).   I ended up spending most of the time harvesting a huge amount of produce that was absolutely ready to be picked/dug/thinned/etc.  My yellow string beans, in particular, are insane!  Last weekend I got about a pound and a half, and this weekend I probably got about three pounds!  I also got new potatoes, Swiss chard, salad greens, baby carrots, little shallots, basil, dill, rosemary, and a whole mess of mint.

Not pictured: my first cherry tomatoes of the season, which I ate along with some more beans, potatoes, and salad greens in a salade Niçoise as soon as I got home.  Still, can you believe all this?  In total, I brought home 6.5 pounds of vegetables from my garden – I know, because I sneakily weighed my sack of produce at the Wisconsin Avenue Giant before I headed home.  Good thing I can bring a lot of it to my friend’s birthday picnic tomorrow, or else I’d have way too much food on my hands.  My garden is definitely more productive this year.  I wasn’t getting heavy harvests like this until much later in the season last year.

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La, I’m so happy about the warm weather.  Here’s are some various and sundry other things that are me happy this week:

  • Cardamom gelato at Pitango.  It’s awesome.
  • Eating the little basil seedlings that I now have to thin out of my seed trays.
  • The playlist at Mid-City Caffe.  When I was there last Sunday, they were playing all my favorite mid-90s swing bands, like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Squirrel Nut Zippers.  Perfect accompaniment to the Counter Culture coffee.
  • Jenna’s illuminating answer to my question about white whole wheat flour.  I’m adding it to my grocery list next time I’m at Trader Joe’s.
  • Top Chef’s next season being filmed here in DC.  I want to meet Tom Collicchio!!

Enjoy the 70 degree weather this weekend, everyone!

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Oh, it’s glorious outside!  We’re finally getting out of this crazy winter.  And after having a cold earlier this week, I am feeling that surge of energy and optimism that you get when your sinuses are suddenly open and you can smell and taste and breathe again.  Everything’s beautiful.

Crocuses are blooming all over the place.

It won't be peak cherry blossom season for another month, but the wee buds are already developing.

The Dupont Circle Farmer's Market has pretty much the same stuff they've had all winter, but it LOOKS so much nicer bathed in sunshine. It'll be another month before spring produce arrives.

Still plenty of apples around.

I wore sandals to the market, just to make a point. Time to invest in some nail polish.

Back at my apartment, my basil starts are slowly getting bigger.

The tomato seedlings are coming along. I'll have extras, so feel free to make a request.

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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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Oh, sure, freezing is nothing special.  Everybody throws stuff in the freezer.  But for preserving summer’s bounty, there are some important tricks to freezing.  Since the cell walls of vegetables tend to rupture in the freezer, you can’t just put whole tomatoes or basil or chard leaves into a freezer bag and call it a day.  Prep work is important.

Mostly, I try to to take advantage of the ruptured-cell phenomenon and freeze things that are meant to be kind of mushy anyway. With my chard, I sauteed the stems with onions and then added the chopped leaves along with some tomato sauce, and let the whole mess simmer a bit.   This mixture, which is halfway between a sauce and a stew, went into sandwich-size plastic bags so I can defrost individual portions.   I did the same thing with a large batch of ratatouille.

Frozen Chard and Pesto (Large)

And then, of course, there’s frozen pesto, which I make a lot of.  My latest batch was an experiment that used Thai and lemon basils instead of Italian.  I’m thinking I’ll use it in the traditional ways (pasta, pizza, etc), but maybe also mixed with coconut milk and spices as a kind of green curry sauce.

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