Stacking Functions Garden

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Garden update, mid-August(!) edition

This happens every year.  OK this is really only my second year with a real garden but it happened last year too.  I get to mid-August, and I walk past the garden, and I see 2 ft tall weeds, and I think “meh.”  My sense of urgency is completely gone.  Except I do still have a decent amount of food out there to eat yet.  Let’s take it section-by-section:

beets081509What’s this, you might ask.  It used to be green beans, but they are done now.  Now it’s some weeds, but it’s also three rows of beets.  They’re kinda hard to make out right now because they are teensy.  This is my first time experimenting with so-called “late season” veggies.  Supposedly you can plant some things in mid-summer and they have a short enough growing season (and cold tolerance) that you will still be able to harvest them before the winter sets in.  So I’m trying some beets and some kale (coming up a couple pics down from here).

My biggest challenge with this whole concept is that I garden in a narrow space between two two-story houses.  The sun’s angle is definitely on the down-swing now and every day my garden is getting less sunlight.  So we’ll see if this works or not.  At least I can say I tried!

beans081509Here’s the complete mess that you could call my pole beans.  Newsflash: pole beans get really, really tall.  I should have built my little twig teepees about 7 feet tall instead of 4 feet tall.  Now I have a twining, vining mess.  But it’s covered with beans.  I’m not really sure what to do now.  I think I’m supposed to just let them completely dry out on the vine, and not harvest them until the plants are completely dead.  Most people (most normal people that is) do not raise beans for drying like this because dried beans are insanely cheap, so why grow them?  I got excited about these particular beans, called “Hidatsa Shield Figure” after reading a book about heirloom plants.  No store that I know of sells these beans, so I will have something very unique to put in soups, etc. this winter.

brussels081509My brussels disaster.  This will be my second and final attempt at brussels sprouts.  I’ve been nursing these things since February, and my dreams of a brussels feast have been all but dashed.  They have a few really loose, pathetic looking sprouts on them, but my harvest will be very small if I get any at all.  On the bright side, the lettuce underneath them re-seeded itself and I may actually get to harvest some soon!

pepperskale081519Here are my loverly banana peppers.  I picked a first round of them last week and made some pickled banana peppers.  They are freakin’ delicious!  A couple more are coming in so I may try to do another pint or two.  You can also just barely see the tiny little kale plants coming in on either side of the peppers.  We’ll what happens with those.

parsnips081509Parsnips are looking good.  Once you get past the initial anxiety of making sure the seeds sprout, these things pretty much grow themselves.

onionsandweedsI can’t believe I’m showing you this, but just look at my beautiful red onions!  Surrounded by tons and tons of weeds!  😦

cuke081509On a more positive note, here is a ripening cucumber.  Growing an heirloom variety called “Boothby Blonde” cucumbers.  They are hands-down the most delicious cucumbers I’ve ever eaten.  They are SUBLIME.  Seriously.

brandywinesEven more exciting than that, MY FIRST TOMATOES of 2009!!!  Boy howdy was the wait long and excruciating.  I did three heirloom Brandywine tomato plants this year.  I really love Brandywines, even though they do have a slightly longer growing season.  And yeah, I’m fully aware of the LOTR connection and the fact that I might love them all the more, precisely because of it.

tomatojungleHere’s my tomato jungle as it looks right now outside.

3sistersFAILOh, and here’s my awesome “3 sisters” garden.  Good grief, biggest FAIL of 2009.  Reasons why it failed:

1. For the “groundcover” plant, I should have done a vining plant like pumpkins or squash.  Just because zucchini are sorta related doesn’t mean they’ll do the same thing.

2. I should have stuck with one bean vine per corn stalk.  I tried to use one stalk of corn to support 3 bean vines.  They got too heavy (and a strong wind didn’t help either) and now the corn is pretty much bent in half.  Even after Adam tried staking it up.

overgrownmessAnd here’s the whole beautiful, overgrown mess!  We’ve been vacationing a lot the past few weeks, and our drought has suddenly lifted, and everything is going CRAZY!  It’s pouring rain right now as a matter of fact.  Tomato season has finally begun, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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New use for zucchinis

Well, I was warned.  But I really thought that 3 zucchini plants would be manageable.  WRONG.  I had zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner one day this week.  I’ve made two zucchini cakes in the last week.  Tonight Adam came up with yet another creative way to use some up:


He made some homemade spaghetti, and also cut up zucchini into long noodle-like strips and threw it right in with the noodles.  It was tasty!

How to replace some of your noodles with zucchini:

1. Buy or make fatter noodles so you don’t have to kill yourself cutting the zucchini matchstick size.

2. Cut your zucchini into long thin noodle-like strips.

3. When you’re boiling your noodles, add the zucchini strips right in with them  (at the beginning for fresh noodles, about half-way through for dried/storebought noodles).

Voila, you’ve just reduced the carbs in your spaghetti dinner and used up some excess zucchini at the same time!

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Adam’s Recipe of the week: Zucchini Lasagna

lasagnapieceSo, my big challenge for the week was trying to figure out something to do with the giant zucchinis in the fridge. I also wanted to use ingredients that we had on hand…the result was quite delicious.

3 large zucchinis sliced thin the long way (or 1 jumbo!)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. Butter
1 large onion diced
2-4 cloves garlic minced
1-2 T. fresh parsley
10 oz. roasted red pepper, diced
1 c. yogurt cheese* (or ricotta)
2 eggs
1 c. bread crumbs
2 c. mozzarella  cheese
1 c. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 recipe pasta sauce* (or 1 jar store bought)

Slice zucchini and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Leave rest while you prepare the other ingredients:zucchinisliced

In a large saute pan heat olive oil and butter over medium heat, add onion and cook until soft. Turn off heat and add garlic, red pepper, and parsley:lasagnafilling

In a large bowl mix together the yogurt cheese, 1/2 of the mozzarella, 1/2 of the parmesan, eggs, red pepper mixture, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Assemble in a 9×13 cake pan. Start by spreading 1/4 of the pasta sauce an the bottom of the pan, sprinkle 1/4 of the bread crumbs, cover with 1/3 of the zucchini slices and 1/2  of the red pepper cheese filling. Repeat (sauce, bread crumbs, zucchini, red pepper mixture, sauce, bread crumbs, zucchini). Cover with the remaining sauce and bread crumbs, and the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. I then added some fresh basil and oregano and another pinch of salt and pepper to the very top. Bake at 350 covered for 20 min., uncover and bake for an additional 10 min. (or until cheese starts to brown). Let stand for 10-15 min. to set.lasagnafinishedI baked this one on the grill, because I hate turning on the oven in the summer. Just make sure you don’t have the flame directly under the lasagna.

*Yogurt CheeseyogurtcheesePour plain yogurt into a colander lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth and let drain into a bowl for 2-6 hour (or overnight). The result is a nice thick cheese like yogurt. Use in place of cream cheese or ricotta.

*Simple pasta saucepastasauce

1 T. olive oil
1/2 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes 14 oz. with some of the liquid drained (or 2 whole peeled and diced)
2 T. fresh herbs (here I used basil, oregano, and thyme)
Pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer stirring and squashing tomato chunks with back of wooden spoon for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

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Mini garden update

butterflyvisitorLook at this neat visitor that we had in our garden yesterday!  We think it was most likely a “Tiger Swallowtail,” according to our insect book.


That is not a lemon!  It’s a cucumber.  I planted an heirloom variety this year called Boothby Blonde cucumers, that get kinda fat and yellow.  They are absolutely delicious.  The flavor is very delicate and sublime.  They definitely don’t taste like a supermarket cucumber (which to me, tastes like water with skin).

giantzukesFinally, a goof.  I neglected to check on my zucchini plants for at least 4 days, and look what happened.  GIANTIFIC zucchinis.  Not even sure if these are edible anymore.  I put them in the fridge, and Adam is talking about making a zucchini lasagna where he’ll use slices of these (sliced the long way) instead of lasagna noodles.

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Recipe: chocolate zucchini cake with raspberry sauce


As long as we’re on the subject of my Grandma Rensenbrink, here is her recipe for zucchini cake, which I made tonight.  The raspberry sauce addition was Adam’s excellent idea.

Chocolate zucchini cake:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 1/2 c. flour (I used a mixture of white and whole-grain barley)
4 T. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 (very generous) c. grated unpeeled zucchini (2-3 med. size ones)

Mix all ingredients together, pour into greased and floured 9×13 pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 min.  I reduced the sugar by quite a bit and substituted honey for part of it.  I also used freshly-ground barley flour for just under half of the flour it called for, but I think any mild-tasting whole grain would work fine (spelt, for example).

Raspberry sauce
3 c. fresh raspberries (or frozen, thawed)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 tsp. corn starch

1. Press raspberries through a strainer with the back of a wooden spoon to remove (most of the) seeds.
2. Whisk corn starch into strained raspberries.
3. Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.
4. Add raspberry/corn starch mixture and return to boil to thicken.
5. Allow to cool.  Makes about 2 cups… we should have leftovers for ice cream this week.

Optional variation: substitute 1/3 c. maple syrup for the sugar/water mixture if you like.