Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Garden Visitors - the NPR kind!!!

I had some visitors to my plot today. My local NPR affiliate WBUR has a weekday afternoon program called Radio Boston which focuses on stories pertaining to Boston and Massachusetts in general. About a month ago I was contacted by Meghan a staff member at Radio Boston. They were planning to do a story with Meg Muckenhoupt author of Boston's Gardens and Green Spaces and wanted me to speak with them about gardening, and the Fenway Victory Gardens! Early in the evening Meghan, Tom (i think that was his name) and host Meghna Chakrabarti stopped by to take a look at my garden and ask me a few questions. The interview was fun and I think it went well. Hopefully they were able to get something good enough for their piece. The program should be airing next week, once I have all the details I will be sure to share them. In the meantime here is a photo of my visitors from Radio Boston:
(Tom, Meghna, and Meghan of WBUR's Radio Boston)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Help Wanted: Insect Identification

I've noticed a few of these very colorful insects hanging out on my sunflowers the past week. I'd like to know what they are so I can be on the look out for a pest or welcome a colorful visitor to the plot. Anybody have any idea what they could be and if they are 'good' or 'bad' bugs?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harvest Monday - June 28th 2010

We harvested more greens and some herbs this week. Earlier in the week I pulled all of our poorly preforming spinach as well as some of the 2nd planting of mesclun greens. 1.5 oz ounces of mesclun and 1.1 oz of spinach. Sadly that was all the spinach we were able to grow. I think a combination of poor weeding and inexperience did us in. Next crop of spinach will be better!

On Saturday we harvested cilantro, parsley, and a salad's worth of romaine, which is doing great. We should be able to pull some more romaine in the next week and a half before the plants are dug up completely. 1 oz of cilantro (just starting to flower) .35 oz of parsley and 4.25 ounces of romaine. Here are the herbs and the romaine taking an ice bath to get the dirt off:
For the week:
1.1 oz spinach, 1.5 oz mesclun, 4.25 oz romaine, .35 oz parsley, and 1 oz cilantro.
Weekly total: 8.2 oz/232.46 g
This weeks pushes me over the 1lb harvest total. Not a major milestone, but it's nice to know that I haven't flat out killed anything yet.
Total for the season:
1.175 lbs/18.8 oz/ 532.97 g
The harvest total for the season on the sidebar has been updated.
As has the tomato watch (23 tomatoes have set fruit as of Saturday!)

If you want to see what others are harvesting or share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the home of Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Will these blackberry canes survive?

Earlier in the week a neighboring gardener was clearing out part of his plot. He had a tangle of blackberry canes and let me remove a few. Unfortunately I was not able to put them in the ground right away and they ended up sitting in the plot for two days before Gail and I were able to plant them on Saturday afternoon. This is a photo of 2 separate sections of blackberry cane that I planted together. The younger section was green and lush even after a few days out of the ground while the sturdier older section was starting to brown but still showed signs of life. We planted these right by our gate:
I also trimmed down a pair of nearly 8 foot tall canes that did not look as healthy but had a very vigorous root system attached to them and planted them in the back of the plot:
I'm going to leave them in the ground through the fall and see if they show an signs of life. Early in the spring Gail planted a cutting from a raspberry bush which promptly died back and showed no signs of life until about a week ago when it started filling in with green leaves and reach towards the sun. Hopefully these blackberries will show similar results. Ideally they will put on some new growth before winter and be able to fruit next year. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doorstep of Summer Garden Tour

With summer officially starting yesterday I thought a pictorial of my plot would be nice. So here is a photo tour of plot Z-1(aka my plot) at the Fenway Victory Gardens on the eve of summer. Photos were taken Sunday afternoon.
Walking through the gardens, below is the view as you approach my plot:
(Z-1 is the first plot on the left)
When you arrive at the gate you will notice the hi-tech security system:
(intruders beware!)
Upon entering the plot, to your left, along the front fence bed 1 - Broccoli, Carrots (poor germination), Leeks, Cabbage, and Onions (poor germination):
(Broccoli, Carrots, & Leeks in the front. Beyond the nasturtium is the cabbage and poorly germinated onions)
Moving on to bed 2 - A mishmash of Broccoli, Mint, Mesclun, Carrots (much better germination), Cucumbers, Sunflowers, Romaine and Spinach:
(The first half of bed 2: Broccoli, Mint, Mesclun, Carrots, & Cucumbers)
(2nd half of bed 2 - Sunflowers, Romaine, Spinach. The blank spot on the left housed the first planting of mesclun greens)
Bed 3- the center bed is home to the Tomatoes, Peppers, Basil, more Sunflowers, and more Nasturtiums (most of them are between the tomato cages):

(the view of bed 3 from the front of the plot)

(Basil at the back of bed 3)
(Looking from the back of bed 3 towards the gate down the row of tomato cages. You can see the Nasturtium flowers between each cage)
Bed 4 is the home of the Potato Trench & Pole Beans:
(The potato trench is filling in nicely, and the trellis' are starting to fill up with pole bean vines)
Behind the 2nd bed is a small batch of chives and then the herb bed (bed 5) - Garlic Chives, Dill, Parsley, Cilantro, some Sage, more (but smaller barely visible) chives, and borage:

(patch of chives between bed 2 and the herb bed)
(the main herb bed. Garlic chives in the front left look like grass. Dill, Parsley, Cilantro, some Sage growing close to the Cilantro)
Next to the Herb bed is the usual home for 2 of the 3 tomatoes in buckets. I move these around at my whim, but generally 2 of them sit between the herbs and the final bed.

(no such thing as enough tomato plants)

Bed 6, the last bed sits in the back right corner of the plot. There are 2 rows of Beets, Zucchini, and more Sunflowers in this bed:(Beets in front, Zucchini in the middle, a few Sunflowers and Daylily's in the back)

Here is a view of the plot from the backside. The gate can be seen in the back of the photo:

(plot Z-1 in all of its glory)

Finally, the last shot is a view from the front left corner as you approach the plot:

Thus concludes the tour of my plot on the eve of summer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tomato & Pepper Watch

While working in the garden this afternoon we saw that the first tomato and peppers had set (very small) fruits:
The tomato seedlings we got at the Natick Community Farm were not properly labeled so I'm not sure what type of tomato is pictured above. My best guess would be that it is a Peacevine Cherry Tomato.
Pictured above is of our first Hungarian Wax Pepper! The camera had difficulty getting a clear shot, but it's clearly a tiny pepper.
This last photo is from one of the Yankee Bell Pepper plants.

I'll be doing inspection of the tomato and pepper plants every few trips to the plot in order to keep track of when fruit starts to set on each of the plants.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Not much to report from the garden as I've had a busy the last 10-12 days and have not been able to get to the plot very much. I stopped by after work just to quickly check on the status of things. Everything is growing well, nothing has taken a turn for the worse due to my neglect ;-)

I also managed to pick 9 raspberries before the birds and bugs got to them (8 whole ones and a 9th that promptly fell apart):
Excuse the poor quality of the photo as it was taken with my camera phone.

More pictures and more updating soon as I plan to spend some serious time weeding and doing general upkeep over the weekend!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Harvest Monday - June 14th 2010

Not much of a harvest to report for this past week:
4 oz of Mesclun greens went into a delicious salad last night
.40 oz of Basil went toward more Pesto
.65 oz of spearmint leaves. Used for: spearmint lemonade, soaked with vodka for mixed drinks and a little bit left for chewing fresh.
Total of 5.05 oz this week.
Season total: 9.6 oz (plus 2 bunches of cilantro) with an estimated value of $16.65
Harvest total & food preservation totals have been updated.
If you want to see what others are harvesting or to share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the host of Harvest Monday.

What do you do with 22 lbs of strawberries?

Gail and I visited Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, MA on Saturday morning for some leisurely strawberry picking...
...The above photo shows the end result of our 'leisurely' strawberry picking: 22 lbs of strawberries!!
What do you do with 22 lbs of strawberries? Find ways to preserve them of course!! Here is what we ended up with(along with a few delicious recipes):
(9 1/2 pint jars of jam, 8.75 lbs of frozen berries, strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette, 7 1/2 pint jars of sugar free jam, 4 lbs of fresh strawberries)

While I set off to make jams and vinaigrette's Gail cut the tops, sliced, and froze these 5 bags for later enjoyment:
I made a fantastic strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette:
This was supremely easy to prepare and It will be topping my salads for some time!
Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
yields 2.25 cups
3/4 of a lb strawberries, tops removed.
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup & 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil** (to reduce the fat I used half of a 1/4 cup, but the recipe calls for 1/4 cup)**
granulated sugar (optional)
Puree strawberries in a blender or food processor and transfer to a bowl. Add dried herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Whisk thoroughly. Slowly add vinegar and continue whisking. While whisking slowly pour oil in. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and/or pepper if desired. If it is necessary to balance out the flavors add a small amount of sugar.

As noted, the recipe originally calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil but I reduced the oil content to cut down on the fat. I didn't add any additional sugar to balance out the flavors and the vinaigrette turned out great!

I also made 9 1/2 pint jars of strawberry jam and 7 1/2 pint jars of sugar free strawberry jam:
Strawberry Jam
yields 9 half pint jars
5 1/2 cups crushed strawberries
1 package powdered pectin
8 cups sugar
Sort and wash strawberries, remove stems. Crush berries and add to kettle. Add pectin and stir well. Place on high heat stirring constantly, bringing to a boil that bubbles across the entire surface. Add sugar, continue stirring and return to a full bubbling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim any skin off the top. fill and seal containers. Process 5 minutes in boiling water bath. Let jars cool. Once jars are cool check the seals by pressing the center of the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, jar is not sealed and should be refrigerated. Once open store in refrigerator.

Sugar-Free Strawberry Jam
yields 3 to 4 half pint jars.
3 pints ripe strawberries; tops removed
3/4 cup water
1 package sugar free/lower sugar pectin
1/2 cup Splenda sweetener
Cut strawberries and crush using a potato masher or food processor Place in kettle, stir in water. Add pectin and stir until well blended. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add splenda, stirring until dissolved. Skim any skin off the top. fill and seal containers. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Let jars cool. Once jars are cool check the seals by pressing the center of the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, jar is not sealed and should be refrigerated. Once open store in refrigerator.

I made 2 batches of the sugar free jam because I thought the first batch had a poor consistency. I tried the second batch substituting 3/4 of a cup of apple juice for the water and the consistency was about the same. Both batches came out tasting like a fruit spread, so I'm not complaining!

A few of the Jams are going to be given away, but I'm guessing I'll be enjoying frozen strawberries, jams, and vinaigrette's for months to come! Anybody want to buy a jar? ;-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto!

On Tuesday I picked up half a pound of garlic scapes at the farmers market:
A scape is the flowering stem which rises from the roots or crown of a plant. A garlic scape has a mild garlic flavor without the bite of too much garlic (to me there is no such thing). My impetus for getting the scapes was pesto. Garlic scape pesto is a great alternative to traditional basil pestos. Pesto freezes extremely well so I decided to make a larger quantity for storage purposes.
1 cup of garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (approx. 1/4 lb)
1/3 of a cup of slightly crushed walnuts
3/4 of a cup of olive oil (a little less is perfectly fine)
1/2 cup of cubed or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer kosher salt)
a pinch of black pepper

First the scapes are cut into appropriate sized pieces and place them into the bowl of a food processor:
Next add the walnuts, cheese, salt, and pepper to the bowl:
Blend the ingredients until they are well combined:

Slowly add about half the oil and blend again. Repeat this process with remaining oil blending until desired texture is reached:

This yields about 6 ounces of garlicky delicious pesto. A serving is anywhere between 1 and 2 tablespoons depending on preference.
With my 1/2 lb of scapes I ended up with 2 batches of scape pesto in need of a home. I spooned them into a mini ice cube tray and froze them:

Each cube is 1.5 to 2 teaspoons worth of pesto:

Each batch yields about 36 delicious cubes. One serving is between 3 and 5 cubes depending on preference.
Now we have enough garlic pesto for the foreseeable future. It goes great with tofu, chicken, pasta (hot or cold) omelette's, pizza.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blooms, Berries, Basil

The daylilies that grow around the fencing of our plot have started blooming. I took the below photo this afternoon before the clouds and rain rolled in:
(Hemerocallis fulva - the common Tawny Daylily)

As I was leaving the plot this afternoon I was excited to see the raspberry bush along the front of our plot starting to show some berries. I wonder if the below berry will still be there when I return to the garden next:

Finally, the small bit of harvesting I managed today - .55 oz/15.6 g of basil. A nice mix of Genovese & Red Rubin:

I'm not sure what would be considered a fair value for the basil. Based on some googling and the Rodale Institute's organic price report I am estimating this quantity of fresh basil to be $2.00 worth. Does that seem fair? too high? too low?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Harvest Monday - June 7th 2010

This week saw my first harvest, and I'm happy to participate in my first harvest Monday! As mentioned a few posts back we harvested 4 oz/113.39 g of mesclun greens (shown above)about $4 worth. We also harvested 2 large bunches of cilantro this afternoon, no picture though because the camera was not with us. Estimated value of the cilantro is $5.

Prices are based on local market prices first and estimated grocery store prices second. Now that the garden has produced something edible I will be adding a harvest tally/tracker to the sidebar.

If you want to see what others are harvesting or to share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the host of Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Regional Food/Regional Plants.

Gail and I were on the New Hampshire/Maine border this weekend for a friends wedding.
We were fortunate enough to enjoy a truly amazing regional dinner on Friday night, to support a local greenhouse in Lee, NH and to visit/shop the Newburyport, MA farmer's market.
On Friday we made the hour long drive from our hotel to Portland, Maine for dinner at Fore Street. Opened in 1996, Fore Street's menu changes on a daily basis depending on what is fresh and available.
From their website:
We believe that good food travels the shortest possible distance between the farm and the table. Our menu is founded upon the very best raw materials from a community of Maine farmers, fishermen, foragers, and cheesemakers, who are also our friends and neighbors. Most of these Maine foods are organically grown or harvested wild, each brought to us at the peak of its season. Our cooks are constantly inspired and excited by the variety and taste of these local ingredients.
In 2002, Fore Street was named Number 16 in Gourmet Magazine's Top Fifty Restaurants of the United States. In 2004, Chef-partner Sam Hayward was named Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation.

The ingredients for the majority of our truly stupendous dinner came from Maine and Quebec. Gail started with a golden beet and rocket (arugula) salad with roasted almonds, Maine farm goat cheese and a Bing cherry vinaigrette. My first course consisted of a selection of three chilled meats: Maine farm lamb shank terrine, Maine farm Russian boar rillettes, and foie gras stuffed heritage pork trotters (Carignan, Quebec) served with shallot jam and pickled green beans.

For our main course we split a side of garlic mashed organic Maine potatoes. Gail had the house made Oricchiette with fennel, sweet peppers, favas, basil and ricotta salata. I had a turnspit roasted marinated Maine farm half-chicken served with cornbread and rhubarb butter.

After our amazing dinner we were looking forward to dessert, we were certainly not disappointed. We split a warm dark chocolate, caramel, and vanilla bean torte with caramel sauce and a coffee-caramel ice cream.

The service was exceptional and every last bite was fantastic. I would undoubtedly make the 2 hour drive from Boston to Portland to eat at Fore street again.


On our drive back to Boston this morning we stopped by the Blue Bell Greenhouse in Lee, NH. On Friday afternoon, as we drove to our hotel we pulled into Blue Bell to see what they had to offer and to chat with the staff. The staff was knowledgeable and incredibly helpful and we decided to stop there on our return trip to pick up a few plants for the garden. We ended up with a reasonable haul. 3 tomato plants (1 each: Roma, Black Cherry, and Soldacki), 3 Parsley (curly) plants, and 3 Red Rubin Basil plants.

Farmer's Market

Our final stop before we returned to Boston was for some fresh produce for the next few days. We stopped off at the Newburyport Farmer's Market, which was my first market trip of the season. We ended up with a bunch of beets/beet greens from Arrowhead Farm, a MASSIVE head of royal oak lettuce from Ferry Landing Farm, a bag of arugula from Farmer Dave's, a package of delicious artichoke & boursin ravioli & a jar of 'red gravy' sauce from Valicenti Organico, and last, but certainly not least a quart of strawberries from Applecrest Farm Orchards. I usually frequent the markets in and around Boston so it was nice to see what a market north of town had to offer. Below are a few shots of our farmers market finds:

Beets/Beet Greens:

Royal Oak Lettuce (MASSIVE!):

Red Gravy:


We enjoyed a roast beet salad with a few more of our carrots and last weeks cherry tomatoes, along with the delicious ravioli for dinner. I'll be munching on the strawberries as soon as this entry is posted!

A final question: Does anybody have a recipe or ideas for cooking/serving beet greens???

Thursday, June 3, 2010

First Harvest! & (mostly) local dinner!

I'm extremely excited and proud to show off my first harvest!!!
4 oz/113.39 g off delicious Mesclun greens! Here's a great shot of Gail showing off the fruits(greens?) of our labor:
Meanwhile, I can barely resist the urge to chomp away:
In anticipation of our first harvest Gail stopped at the Dewey Square/South Station Farmer's Market for some produce to add to our greens. She brought home some delicious baby tomatoes & asparagus from Kimball Farm(both of which were pan roasted), then we added some chive blossom's which were snipped at the garden last week, as well as cucumbers and carrots from our final Boston Organics box, and a delicious feta cheese for an excellent, mostly local and delicious salad:
Along with produce Gail also picked up some Metch from Seta's Mediterranean Foods, a new vendor at the market! The Metch was outstanding! This picture doesn't do it justice:
What is Metch exactly? Known as Metch or more commonly Eetch, is a dish made primarily of bulgur with parsley, and pureed tomatoes, which gives it the red hue. The ingredient list on the metch was quite simple(and very identifiable): Bulghur, Tomatoes, Parsley, Scallions, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, & Kosher Salt! It really was delicious and I can't wait to try some more of Seta's great food!
All in all I am extremely full and satisfied with my delicious dinner of Metch & Salad and extremely proud of my first harvest!
Hopefully it is the first of many!!!