Saving Seeds with Seed Libraries

If you live in a locale where winter has settled in with its icy grip for the next few months, what’s a warm-weather-loving, green-seeking gardener to do (besides enjoying the houseplants)?  Maybe check out your local seed library… While the concept been around for a little while– some part library, somewhat seed bank, it provides a means to share rare and heirloom seeds locally and make them more available.  It’s not without controversy, as some companies have moved to protect plants that they see as their property.

2014_seed_library_usa_15210065125

(Image from Wikipedia via https://www.flickr.com/people/10293577@N03- unedited; size reduced)

 

Grilling…

grill with fire

Lit grill (from Wikipedia commons)

There’s nothing quite like grilling out, and one recipe that has turned asparagus-haters into asparagus-lovers in my family is grilled balsamic asparagus.  There are quite a few tasty yet simple variations available online.  Mine is as follows; amounts are determined by the amount of the veggie you are making.  The coriander provides a citrus-y zing that goes well with the balsamic.

This recipe is easy to make in a skillet/wok, though flame grilling provides a better flavor, IMHO.

To prepare the spears, it’s not required to trim them with a knife or peel them.  You can snap the spear in two towards the bottom (the more fibrous part will separate from the more tender part naturally).

 

Grilled Balsamic Asparagus

Bunch(es) of fresh asparagus spears

Olive or vegetable oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Coriander (crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or use powdered coriander)

 

Rinse and prepare asparagus (as noted above).  Put all ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and set in a baking pan (in case the bag leaks).  Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour, mixing at least once or twice, so all spears sit in the mixture/are coated well.  Grill until the spears are cooked to desired doneness, rotating as needed.  (I prefer to cook them until darker green, but not so much that they are mushy.)  Serve hot.

Enjoy!

(And watch for grill flare-ups due to the oil; make sure to grill safe!)

 

 

Recipe: Chettinad Tomato Lentils

I have to recommend the recipes in The Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore; we’ve tried a few so far and they’ve been excellent quality and variety-wise.  The base spice mix for this curry (from pg. 90) is my favorite so far.  There are so many curries, and they go beyond the pre-bottled store curries for sure.  We have made this recipe several times, and it is a pleasant mix of hot and spice.  It could very easily be made hotter with more/other peppers.  We’ve modified the original to be less hot to work for both of our palates.  (I’m more of a heat fan.)   The original calls for chicken as the main ingredient, but I wanted to give lentils a try as an alternate option; it’s also a little more affordable.  The lentils also hold up well in the curry, even as they are already cooked. (I was a little nervous it would be mush.)

1 lb lentils, made according to package directions

3 dried red chilies, seeds removed (I used 1 each of guajillo, ancho, and mulato chiles)

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 teaspoons cardamom

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon salt

7oz dried coconut (unsweetened)

Oil (I used olive)

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon star anise

6 oz tomato paste (I used the whole 12 oz can to use it up.)

2-3 cups water

2 tomatoes

1 fresh chili pepper (I used Poblano)

Additional salt to taste

Lemon juice

Make the lentils in a pot according to package directions.  (Ours were at medium heat – simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, and they were tender.)  While lentils are cooking, prepare the curry. (When the lentils are done, remove from heat and drain.)  Roast the coriander seeds in a pan on medium-low heat for a minute or two and remove from heat.  Put the deseeded peppers, roasted coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and salt in a blender and blend to a powder.  Add coconut and blend until fine.

Curry powder mix

Curry powder mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oil in a pan.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed.  (The onions don’t need to be completely soft.)

Onions in the pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crush the garlic- (a garlic press works well) and add to pan with the onion.  Add the ginger.  Don’t let the garlic cook too long- you don’t want it to burn.  Add the star anise and tomato paste.

Tomato paste added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in the cooked lentils slowly.  Add the water- you don’t want soup, but you don’t want it to burn.  Keep stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Lentils added

 

 

 

 

 

I chopped and added the tomatoes and chili pepper at this point (you may want to wear gloves with the pepper), but depending on how cooked you would like them, you could add them earlier.

Tomatoes and pepper added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost done!  I cooked the mixture with the added vegetables for about 5 minutes more, so they were not cooked completely through.  Keep stirring as needed, and add more water if needed so that the lentils do not stick to the pan.  Season with additional salt to taste, and top with a splash of  lemon juice.

Finished dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!!! Remember to have fun and experiment with curry!

 

Also, here are some quick general spice equivalents, if you have whole spices:

1 stick cinnamon= 1 teaspoon

1 pod cardamom= 1 teaspoon

1/4″ piece ginger= 1/4 teaspoon

1 star anise pod= 1/2 teaspoon

1 whole clove= 1/4 teaspoon

State of the Garden Address

Friends and Fellow Gardeners,

My wife and I had the blessing of quite a bit of outdoor space with the purchase of our new house.  I wasted no opportunity to start our garden this spring.  I had a box full of old seeds, so I wasn’t expecting a true garden of eatin’.  Space was no issue (though I do remember the days that our patio was our garden).  It took a few passes with our trusty tiller to carve out our space.  The previous owners had no garden, so the sod stood in our way.  Given this reality, it has been quite the battle  (as you may note) to keep the weeds out.  gardenI’ve had others tell me that it takes about three years to eliminate some of that, so the tiller will be busy.

One other battle has been with the critters of the area: birds, chipmunks, deer, and rabbits.  All seem to frequent the garden at different times.  We lost most of our peas that were already on the vines, and something has been digging by/eating our potatoes!  I cannot say I have seen that before.  I had a garden out in the country growing up and had seen my share of creatures.  Being near a somewhat large highway doesn’t do much to scare anything away.

Yet another battle has been with what I think is an occurrence of a plant disease.  I mentioned something similar earlier on the blog.  So far, much of our tomato crop is in the process of succumbing.

tomato with plant disease  Whatever it is, it has also affected the nearby clover and a flowering vine.  The tomatoes have all had similar issues- the leaves have turned grayish silver and seem to have stopped growing.  We still have had some tomatoes ripen (though some critters have helped themselves…)  Regardless, we’re not planning to compost any of these so nothing spreads, hopefully.

The weather has been somewhat bizarre.  We had a cool spring, so no early start this year.  We had a steady pattern of rain, but now we are behind for July- and only one day above 90 degrees so far.

On a more positive note, our vines seem to be growing well enough.  More of the garden germinated than I was expecting, but the weeds have kept some of that in check.  The potatoes may hold out if something stops eating them.  The radishes earlier this season were robust, and the cucumbers have been producing.

Thus, there is much to improve on for next year, but a garden is a process- with fun and frustration (emphasis on the fun for me).

Keep gardening, friends!

 

What have you planted this year?  Successes/difficulties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inevitable Post about Kale…

Kale (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

Kale       (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

It was only a matter of time until I had a detailed post about kale.  And at what better time than to ring in the spring (with an impending St. Patrick’s Day!)  Seems like mostly everyone is talking about the health benefits of kale.  The ubiquitous term ‘superfood’ is thrown around quite a bit, along with smoothie after smoothie after smoothie.  And why not?

I happen to enjoy the richness in the flavor of kale.  Kale is the star in an article in Chef Fabio’s magazine.  While my wife feels that kale should be relegated back to its historical place as buffet decoration, I can say there will be some in our garden this year (for some kale chips!)  Kale chips are really easy to make and can be embellished with any number of spices.  I also like that kale holds up well in soups, as other greens don’t, and is simple to use as a base for a salad.   And that’s not all…  If you haven’t tried this veggie yet, now’s the time; make some space in the garden!

Guerilla Gardening, or “Plant some sh!t”! -Ron Finley

I enjoy this video clip for a number of reasons- first, because I love gardening, of course…  Ron Finley makes some wonderful statistics-backed points about what can be done with vacant and underutilized land to help fight the food desert phenomenon.   I won’t spoil the video for you, but he speaks about the prevalence of vacant lots and even how yards can be utilized for greater benefit.  Ron, however, had a similar problem as others have had when attempting to garden outside of the (planter) box.  Now, I semi-understand why there is the push to keep grassy, standardized lawns so that properties look pleasant, but I find it much easier to sympathize with the gardeners when the clearly conspicuous gardens are 1) more useful for food purposes and 2) well-kept.  All of the examples I have ever seen in the news for similar reasons have been gardens that were well cared for.  Just imagine how much food we could produce if lawns in the cities were converted.  Regardless of climate, quite a bit more food could be locally (and cheaply!) produced via fruit trees and plants and other vegetable plants.  I try to garden with a little extra space and in a few extra pots, but ideally, I would like a larger garden.  This is not to say that urban gardening is not without a few concerns, such as the quality of the soil.  However, the larger point in this whole narrative is that if each of us was able to plant even a bit more food locally, it could have quite a few positive ripple effects.  “Plant some sh!t!”