Stacking Functions Garden

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Recipe: buckwheat crepes

Who knew that I, a cook of few skills, could have success with crepes, of all things! Very exciting, this new breakfast development. I adapted this recipe from The Art of German Cooking, a very random old book I had out of the library earlier this year.

Buckwheat Crepes
1/2 c. buckwheat flour (I used freshly-ground)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. maple syrup
1 c. whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 T. butter

Combine flours in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add combined eggs, maple syrup, and milk. Beat until the batter is smooth and runny in consistency– you want it runnier than regular pancake batter.

Melt butter in a 8-10 inch frying pan over low-med heat. When the pan is hot, lift it by the handle with your left hand while pouring a bit of batter in it with your right. Swirl it around so that the batter covers the whole bottom of the pan, making a very thin pancake. Set it back on the burner and wait for couple minutes. Test a corner with your flipper — if it does not stick, it is ready to flip. Flip it and fry for another minute, and it’s done.

Makes around eight 8-inch crepes or 5-6 10-inch crepes. I highly recommend topping them with fresh raspberries, cut-up peaches, and a dollop of plain whole-milk yogurt or creme fraiche. Roll it up and eat it like a burrito — bigger ones work slightly better in that regard.

Variation: the German way to do these is to slice up two tart apples and fry them in some butter until soft. Also very good.

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Garden update, late July

My garden is out of control. Huge behind-schedule work project + a handful of weekend getaways, and Adam has been busy with another project (you’ll find out about that soon enough). This is for posterity so I better be honest…

Here’s a view from standing on top of a chair, on the deck looking east. I love how the pumpkin and squash plants now totally dwarf the rainbarrel, the deck, the fence, and the potato tower.

Tomatoes are oh-so-close. We’ve eaten a handful of stupices and a few blondkopfchen — both are quite small and early. The blondkopfchen is the crazy one with the halo of blooms on top, on the left. After Aug. 1 I will probably start pinching off new blossoms, since there’s no point.

Lacinato kale, carrots, a cabbage in the back behind the overgrown chamomile. The kale came back beautifully from my earlier cabbage worm troubles.

Beets, turnips, celeriac, parsley, and such. It’s about time to do another beet & turnip harvest and thin these out more. Adam pulled one celeriac to see if it was ready and it most decidedly was not. It was just a mass of tiny roots, which makes me wonder whether the others will work out or not.

Variety peppers and cucumbers in the background (encroaching pumpkins/squash on the left). I need to start picking and pickling, really soon. We’ve eaten a few of each fresh.

Here’s another overview, to give you a good view of the bean trellises. In the middle is “Cherokee Trail of Tears” — a bean you can eat fresh or dried. I finally picked two tonight — my bush beans at my community garden plot have been producing beans for over two weeks.  I wasn’t aware that pole beans take so much longer. The Christmas Lima Beans, on the right trellis, have so far produced 0 pods. Plenty of blooms, though. I’m not giving up hope yet.

So did anything look different? Did things look maybe a little less crowded? That’s because we pulled out all the garlic about a week ago:

We dried it in the sun for about an hour then moved it into the garage to cure. It’s just about done, so this weekend we’ll clean it up further and move it inside and see how long we can make it last.

Our backyard prairie/native garden is also starting to take shape! We need one more stock tank (ahem, Dad), then we’ll fill in the areas around them with natives. We transplanted 4 milkweeds from a field near Adam’s parents’ house and less than 12 hours later we saw a very excited monarch butterfly in the back yard. That was fast!

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Garlic harvest 2011

We harvested our garlic today! A pretty decent haul; by far the most I’ve ever grown. How do you know when garlic is ready to harvest?  My rule of thumb is when approximately 1/4-1/3 of the leaves are brown, but other people have other rules. This morning I heard “three dead leaves down four green leaves up” — that probably applied to a fair number of mine.  I wasn’t going to go through each one counting leaves though; I needed to get this done today.

To harvest hard-neck garlic (the only kind hardy to Minnesota’s USDA zone 4), you’ll want to loosen the ground around the plant with a fork, then gently dig out the bulb. We have had so much rain lately that our soil is completely saturated, so I basically just had to slightly loosen, then pull the plants right out. Another reason to harvest today: considering how wet it is, I don’t want to risk the bulbs rotting underground.

So I let them dry in the sun for an hour or two, then moved them into shallow cardboard boxes, laid out mostly in a single layer, in the garage.  They will cure in there for a week or two depending on the weather.  At that point we can then clean them up a little better and trim off most of the leaves and roots.  Hope we get an OK cure in this hot, humid weather.  Seriously, it feels like a jungle out there.

Feeling inspired to grow garlic? Fall’s the time to plant it, so you have plenty of time to scope out a spot. This is one of the easiest edibles to grow.


High season

IT’S HERE!  Raspberry Season 2011!

Oh those first few pickings are always the best — huge berries, plumped up even bigger by a nice rainfall this morning. We’ve now arrived at the time of the year where if you go into the garden, you  might as well bring a basket along. Here’s a picking from earlier this week:

Some small turnips, tiny beets, and three stupice tomatoes, which Anneke immediately ate after I snapped this. See the impatient smile on her face? That girl LOVES baby tomatoes.  We cooked and ate the turnip and beet greens, too.  There was also this:

After picking off MANY slugs, we turned this into cole slaw, which even the kids ate enthusiastically.  Now considering renaming this blog “cute kids with garden produce.”


Recipe: cheese popcorn

About a year ago, I was getting popcorn in the bulk section at Seward Co-op when an earnest young man with dreadlocks and carrying a sweet, sleepy baby in a front pack approached me. He said “I see you make your popcorn on the stovetop.”


He launched into ten full minutes of extolling the virtues, wonders and sheer ecstasy of sprinkling your popcorn with nutritional yeast.  How could I not try it after a sales pitch like that?

I was dubious that night when I broke it out of the fridge for a trial run. It looks, and even kinda smells, like fish food. But we popped up some popcorn, tossed it with melted butter, salt, pepper, and a solid 1/4 c. of nutritional yeast.

You can guess the end of this story. One time and we were hooked.  HOOKED, I tell you.  The taste is reminiscent of the Old Dutch cheese popcorn we all knew and loved. But instead of being kinda horrible for you, this version actually has some benefits. Nutritional yeast is listed here as a superfood: it’s full of B vitamins, and a complete protein. Many vegetarians/vegans swear by it.

New Dutch cheese popcorn

2 T. sunflower or walnut oil
1/2 c. popcorn
2-3 T. good quality butter
1/4-1/3 c. nutritional yeast
salt & pepper to taste

Pop the popcorn in the oil in a heavy pot on the stove (full instructions).  Toss with butter, yeast, salt & pepper while still very hot. You’ll be a convert, too.

Nutritional yeast is available in the refrigerated bulk section of most natural food stores.


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July 4, 2011

Make no mistake about it: summer is here! Whoa Nellie is it hot; it’s supposed to be hot all week. My peppers are finally growing noticeably.  Raspberries are almost there:

Last year we picked our first raspberries on the 4th, so they’re a bit later (and closer to normal) this year.  Another 7-10 days and we should be knee deep in berries.

Asiatic lilies are blooming. Here’s one nestled in some garlic and fennel.

A pumpkin bloom! The pumpkin plants are so big they are starting to take over our deck as evidenced at the bottom of the following picture:

Look at the potato tower (bottom right)! Holy moly! It has wee white flowers at the top.

Other phenology notes for July 4, 2011:

– Strawberries are pretty much done, but we’ll still get alpine strawberries here and there
– Echinacea, asiatic lilies, cucumbers, pumpkins, and tomatoes all blooming
– Couple of green tomatoes coming in
– Garlic is almost done, and so is the first cabbage

Here’s a little wide-angle shot I photoshopped for you, showing the entire garden (click to enlarge):

Things will start changing soon — I plan to pick that large head of cabbage today and start harvesting all the garlic within a week or so. Take a deep breath, here we go!