Monday, July 28, 2008

Mime Monday (well, almost)

Veggie Garden Greenery

Hawks Soar High in July Blue Sky

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yesterday's Lunch

Yesterday I took a store bought potato, a home grown light green (Clarimore) zucchini, a bit of purple onion, a couple of garlic cloves, some home grown fresh basil and parsley and sliced and chopped to make a heap of fresh veggies:

Russet Potato, Clarimore Zucchini, Onion, Garlic, Parsley & Basil

I then sauteed them all in extra virgin olive oil with a bit more garlic powder, some freshly ground black pepper, some lemon pepper seasoning and a bit of paprika. It smelled great and looked like this while cooking:

Potato Zuke Saute

After a few minutes they all cooked tender and started to carmelize bringing out their natural sugars and great taste. I was hungry so I ate it for lunch:

How did that broiled sausage (Bockwurst) get on my plate?
(delicious with horseradish deli mustard!)

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Homegrown Dried Herbs aka Kitty Drugs

Kitty Drug Stash ~ Catnip

Just a short post to show off the great "kitty drug" stash that I was gifted with from Hardware Bob a few days ago. No, it's not pot/marijuana, (although I have heard that some folks do smoke it). It is beautiful organically grown catnip that Bob grew in his garden and then harvested, bunched and hung it to dry. He then sifted it through a collander to filter out the big stems and crush the leaves. He has no kitties of his own, so he grows the majority of his catnip for me and for Joggin Jack. Between us we have 5 cats.

I keep it up high in a closed cabinet and the whole cabinet smells like catnip now. My kitties love it. I rub it on their scratching post and toys. It stimulates their nervous system and makes them a little "high". Perks them up a bit.

Oddly, it has the opposite affect on humans. Catnip tea is a mild sedative safe enough for children to drink. Calms them down and helps them sleep. Much like chamomile tea. In the cold winter months drink catnip tea as hot as you can tolerate it to help break up and clear chest congestion. Tastes pretty good, especially with a bit of honey added to it. We save the really "good stuff" for our own consumption as tea.

Jessie ~ my precious baby

My Jessie loves her scratching post, especially after I rub it down with dried catnip! Thank you Bob for the great herb stash. My own catnip crop was rather slim this year.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, July 21, 2008

Broccoli Bouquet

Broccoli in "Bloom"

My broccoli plants have been giving me beautiful plump green leaves all season, but only recently has it formed some flower heads for me to harvest. The unopened immature flower buds are the broccoli we see in the grocery stores. My homegrown broccoli produces many small flower heads and when I cut them off with my paring knife to harvest them, it encourages the plant to grow more side shoots with additional small flower heads on them. I sometimes wait too long to harvest the heads and then the little yellow broccoli flowers begin to open and attract the bees. It's still quite edible and tasty when this happens, but as in most flower stalks, the stems then become more fibrous and less tender.

I've only harvested 1/2 lb of broccoli heads so far, but more are forming out there. I try to allow the heads to grow as large as possible while still making sure they remain unopened, before I grab them for my dinner.

While I do enjoy eating the broccoli flower heads, I really get jazzed about growing my own broccoli in my garden. I consider it another one of the "2 for 1" vegetables that give me two crops for the effort of only growing one. You see, I also harvest and eat the beautiful deep green broccoli leaves! They are delicious in many dishes. Of course I use them as I would any DGLV (dark green leafy vegetable) such as chard, spinach, beet greens, collards etc, but they excel in other uses as well. My favorite thing to do with the broccoli leaves is to stuff them with meat and rice using my Mom's stuffed cabbage rolls recipe. They come out so tasty and tender, and I know they are very nutritious. I read in an organic gardening magazine many years ago that not only were the broccoli leaves edible, but also that they had more nutrients than the flower heads do. I was already growing them in my garden, so I ran outside right then and picked a few leaves, brought them into my kitchen and cooked them up. I was very pleased with their taste and performance and have been eating them ever since. It's a pity that you never see broccoli leaves for sale in the grocery stores. They are versatile and can be used in place of cabbage or even grape leaves. The smaller leaves are good raw in salads or slaws.

Grow your own broccoli. Eat the flowers, stems and leaves. Have fun. It's delicious.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back to My Roots

Golden Beets & Detroit Dark Reds

I have plucked more roots from my garden this week. A few Golden Beets and some more of my dependable Detroit Dark Red Beets. This is the first time I have grown the golden beets. I haven't cooked and eaten any yet either. I will. Soon.

Usually I try to collect enough beet roots to make up a batch of home canned pickled beets to use on our salads over the next few months. I have not harvested enough yet this season to do that. We'll see.

Same Beets ~ Now you can see their attached greens

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I like to grow beets because it's like getting two crops for the price and effort of planting only one. I like how the golden beets have light yellow stems on their green tops. It will make a nice contrast to the red stems of the DDRs when I saute both types of greens together in a stir fry or other tasty dish.

The greens look a little wilted in the photo, but I took them inside and separated them from their roots and crisped them by soaking them in a bowl of cool water for about an hour before bagging and refrigerating them for storage. They perked right up after being allowed to drink water for an hour.

A 6 Carrot Harvest ~ first of the season

More roots: Carrots.

Growing carrots gives you the roots and also the greens as well. I am sure that the carrot greens are quite nutritious, being DGLVs (dark green leafy vegetables) and all, but I don't care for their taste. The first year I grew my own carrots I did try eating the greens, but just did not enjoy them. However, my chickens LOVE them. So these beautiful leafy greens got chopped up and given to my two hens who devoured them in a matter of minutes.

The carrots in the photo are Scarlet Nantes Carrots. A short, sort of fat variety. They are good and taste sort of "wild" compared to the little organic baby carrots that I buy in bags at the grocery store. Possibly because these homegrown carrots get eaten without peeling them and the baby bagged carrots are already peeled. I like to munch the homegrown carrots as a snack with the greens still attached. Reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoons of my childhood. "Eh, What's Up Doc?" Ha! Cracked myself up! I also slice these carrots into salads, stews and stir fries. I just ran and grabbed one to snack on as I am typing this. Yum!

So now you know a little more about my roots.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bean There

2 lbs of freshpicked Green Beans~ first harvest of the season

I harvested the above Provider Snap Green Beans about a week ago. Since then I have picked twice again and have harvested a total of 4 1/2 pounds so far. They are delicous when raw and crunchy, lightly steamed, stir fried or boiled tender. I had some for dinner one night and the leftovers the next day as part of my green salad lunch with a nice vinaigrette dressing.

There are more beans waiting out there in the garden on the compact bushes. The more I pick them, the more they produce. These plants do not need a pole or trellis to climb. They grow to be about 18 inches tall and are heavy bean bearers. I plant them every summer and enjoy them for weeks.

Toward the end of summer I allow 2 or 3 plants to keep and mature their bean pods until they grow fat and start to turn a definite tan color meaning the beans inside are mature and drying. I then bring the pods inside and empty the purple beans out into a seed drying tray to keep for next year's planting. Each year my crop gets better. I think it is because the seeds adapt to the local climate and soil conditions and change for the better year after year.

That's what I've been doing in the garden this week. So how have you bean?

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Favorite Basil Pesto & More

Fresh Picked Sweet Basil

My basil plants are not that big this season, at least not yet, but I did manage to give my biggest plant an all over "haircut" and harvested enough leaves to make one batch of my favorite basil pesto so far. I usually make a batch of pesto and then freeze at least half of it in small plastic containers (recycled yogurt cups) to use later. It keeps very well in the freezer for quite a long time. My favorite way to enjoy it is on nice hot freshly boiled pasta. Bow tie pasta being my very favorite. I have also used it on pizza dough, sandwiches and in salad dressings.

Here's my favorite basil pesto recipe that I found long ago in the cookbook "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece & Rome" by Jeff Smith. I modified the recipe just a bit.

Basil Pesto

(recipe can be halved or quartered successfully if you don’t have 4 cups basil)

4 Cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, big stems removed
¼ Cup raw pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil, dark
At least 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed, more if desired
Season with black pepper or lemon pepper to taste
½ Cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese, or a blend of both

Put basil leaves in the food processor. Add the nuts, olive oil, garlic, and pepper seasoning. Process until all are chopped very fine and blended, but not really smooth. Remove pesto from processor and stir in the grated cheese. Serve on fresh hot pasta, in soups as a garnish, mix into mayo on sandwiches, salad dressings etc.

This recipe makes about 2 Cups of Pesto. Store it in the refrigerator for no more than a few days, covered. Freezes well and keeps for months in the freezer without losing taste.

Stealth Veggies

While I was in here last night blogging and boasting about how prolific zucchini can be, my zucchini plants were stealthily growing huge specimens for me to find amongst their big leaves this morning. I picked 3 large zukes totalling 3 1/4 pounds. I swear none of them were out there yesterday! Here come the zucchinis...

Sneaky Zucchinis

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lock Your Car Doors! Here Come the Zucchini!

First Zukes of the Season

I've been so busy caught up in the sweet fruit frenzy of blogging about apricot pie and ice cream, that I have fallen behind in my vegetable garden reports. Time to talk about some "hard core" summer veggies like zucchini, a type of summer squash.

While I was trying to think of a catchy title for this post, I remembered that my Mom, who grew up in New England, told me that up there the zucchini grew so prolifically that you had to lock your car doors otherwise your neighbors would fill your car with their extra zucchinis! Well, that's the story they tell up there in New England anyway. I've heard that story told about other parts of the US also, but I still think of my Mom when I think about growing zucchini.

Zucchini are usually very productive plants, and this season is starting out strong in my small garden. The photo above shows 1 1/4 lb each of dark green zucchini and my favorite light green Clarimore variety. I like the Clarimore for its beauty, but also for its mild tasting skin. I rarely peel zucchini. I prefer to eat them skins and all to get color and fiber in my meals. Both of these varieties of zuke came from the same seed packet. Renee's Garden Seeds offers packets that have 3 different kinds of zucchini in the same pack. Makes it very convenient to grow a few of each kind. I don't need more than 2 or 3 plants of each variety, so one pack of seeds works very well for me.

I also planted another variety of dark green zucchini from Peaceful Valley Garden Supply. So far it has not produced any edibles. I have faith that it will soon.

So today I had a vegetarian sandwich made with sourdough bread, lettuce, a slice of cheddar cheese and layers of very thinly sliced (I used my mandolin) light green raw zucchini. A little mayo, mustard and some seasoning, and it made a very tasty and nutrious lunch. If I had had a tomato in the house, I would have added a slice or two to the sandwich.

I was also busy later in the day turning another zucchini, this one much larger than those in the photo, into some delicious pureed zucchini soup. I got the soup zucchini as a gift from Hardware Bob, who received it as a gift from one of his customers. (he is always receiving gifts like that from his loyal customers)

This big zucchini was a dark green variety and weighed about 2 lbs! I peeled this one and then sauteed it with onions and garlic in olive oil and added in some vegetable broth and seasonings. I pureed it in the pot with one of those big immersion hand blenders and then finished the soup by stirring in a cup of rice milk. The recipe called for milk or cream, but I rarely have that around. I find that rice or soy milk works well. Today I actually added in a bit of half & half that I had left over from making ice cream the other day. It made for a delicious dinner. Satisfying yet light.

Zuke Soup ~ doesn't look like much in the photo, but tastes really good
(that's a garnish of fresh basil floating on top)

There are more zucchinis on the way! Lock your car doors....

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Cool Breakfast

Apricot Ice Cream

Homemade apricot ice cream makes a wonderful breakfast on a hot day. Delicious, if I do say so myself. It turned out great, so I posted a photo as promised. I love the color.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Apricot Bounty Baking

Some of you have asked about the apricot pie that I announced that Bob would make with some of the apricot bounty we harvested from his folk's trees a week or so ago. Well, the apricot pie turned out great. He stuffed it very full of apricots and made a very big pie. We divided it amongst the 3 of us and his parents to thank them for providing the apricots. The pie is gone now, but I promised one of my blog friends, Farmgirl DK from Critter Farm Blog that I would post a "virtual" apricot pie for her. So here is your virtual pie, a photographic image of the actual apricot pie. Too bad we don't have "smell o vision" or "taste o vision" like Emeril says on his TV show.

Apricot Pie by Baker Bob

Bob also made a peach pie and some banana bread that same day. The peaches we bought while attending a local "Stone Fruit Festival" that had organically grown fruit for us to taste from different local farms. They had fruit to buy and wonderful pastries and popsicles made from that same organic stone fruit. We had a great time and brought home fresh fruit as souvenirs. Here's the peach pie and banana bread Bob made.

Peach Pie & Banana Bread also by Baker Bob

Jack made some wonderful apricot crisp this past weekend that we shared with his son who was visiting us for the holiday. Great warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream. I didn't get a photo though, and now it's too late because we ate the whole crisp. I also didn't get a photo of the cheesecake I made using a friend's recipe and then topping it with fresh apricot sauce. That was tasty too. I think I'll make it again. Tonight's apricot project is homemade apricot ice cream. I'll try to get a photo to share with y'all. Assuming it turns out well.

I think we need to go on diets now. Lots of baking (and eating) going on around here lately.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beets Me!

First Harvest Beets ~ Detroit Dark Reds

A few days ago I found a few beets ready to be harvested from my garden. They are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter and were sticking their "heads" up out of the soil. I carefully plucked 5 of them and brought them to my front porch to be photographed and weighed.

The 5 beets weighed 1 lb total, and the beet greens when separated from the beet roots weighed 1/2 lb. I like to grow beets because homegrown beets taste great and I enjoy getting two crops, the red roots and the lovely green tops, when I only planted one! Two crops for the same amount of work as one.

Clean Bright Beet Colors

When I get enough homegrown beets harvested at one time, I like to make and can pickled beets. Not sure that will happen this season. I may just eat them fresh as I harvest them little by little.

These Detroit Dark Red beauties are my favorites and are my most reliable beet variety. I have also planted a Golden Beet this year. They are growing, but are not yet big enough to harvest.

Stay tuned for more garden harvest updates in the next few days. The veggies are growing fast and wild with this heat wave.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket