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Posts Tagged ‘squash’

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Aug 2012!

Bean blossoms look far too complicated; I’m glad bees can figure them out. The green bush beans I planted this year have pink blossoms; a nice change from the white bean blossoms of past years. In the bottom-right of the photo, you can see a bean starting to develop.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day originates from Carol Michel’s blog, May Dreams Gardens. She wants to see blossoms all year long, and the garden blogging community rallies: post blossoms on your blog, then link to it from her blog. It’s simple, and it helps other people find your blog!

Please enjoy my Bloom Day post. Then, come back on the 22nd and participate in Post Produce. Just as Carol does, I’ll write my Post Produce post and include a Linky widget before I go to bed on the 21st. On the 22nd, you write your own post about what you’re eating from your garden, then link to your post from Your Small Kitchen Garden. I hope you’ll join me on August 22nd and Post Produce.

Here’s what’s abloom in my garden today:

If it’s Bloom Day and tomatoes are in bloom, you’re going to find at least one tomato blossom in my post! This photo is more about hairy stems than it is about blossoms. I’ve harvested about a bushel of tomatoes so far. Barring a late blight incident, I may see three or four bushels from my plants this year.

My thyme plants are struggling a bit this year. One has some seriously involved fungus that I’ve treated a few times with the copper-based fungicide I use on my tomato plants. Amazingly, the stems of that plant touch the stems of a perfectly healthy-looking thyme plant. Too much information? This flower stalk is from the healthy thyme plant.

The mint has been in bloom for weeks. It has overwhelmed the planter holding it, and blossoms hang over the sides. I fear an impending mint invasion and will be vigilant for plants that decide to germinate next to the planter.

Bush cucumber plants I set in a deck planter have grown vines as long and tendrilly as the non-bush cucumbers I planted in my garden. Cucumber blossoms look happy against the deck flooring.

Pepper flowers are among my favorites.

For flower drama in a vegetable garden, you can always count on squashes! This is a butternut blossom, and it clearly understands flower sex. For this photo, it attracted four pollinators, though the reliable pollinator was holding the camera. Despite all the bee activity among my summer and winter squash blossoms, I hand-pollinate every female flower. The bees didn’t budge when I brushed this female flower’s “parts” with a male flower’s “part.”

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day, August 2011

There are three pots of basil on the handrail of my deck. I put far too many seeds in the pots, and the poor plants grew up stunted. Still, the flowers are delicate and beautiful.

My small kitchen garden, like so many gardens in the US, has struggled through the season. Happily, things are finally moving along, though I’m afraid there is a fungus trying to kill my tomato plants.

But today isn’t about the problems, it’s about the bling! The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. You can learn more about it over at May Dreams Gardens. I failed to capture decent shots of the flowering mint and cilantro. Also, I neglected to photograph corn silk. Still, there were a lot of blossoms today. Please enjoy the photos of what’s abloom in my kitchen garden.

There are two windowsill planters of cucumber plants under the handrail on my deck. This flower snuggles beneath the handrail, and it is one of dozens that have popped in the last week or so.

A bell pepper flower appears healthy and robust. Oddly, my bell pepper plants are thriving while my jalapeno, banana, and poblano pepper plants are struggling.

Despite the appearance of something blighty on some of my tomato plants, they continue produce flowers. I don’t suspect late blight because all the lesions are on lower stems and some lower leaves. I’ve seen no signs of sporulation, so it doesn’t seem likely to move from plant-to-plant. Still, I fear for my tomato crop: it may be quite limited this season.

How’s this? I understand it’s the male flower on a corn plant. My sweet corn is growing ears, and the silk on those is, technically, the female flower. This corn tassel is red and the corn lower down on the plant is also supposed to be red. I’ve never tried red sweet corn, but I suspect it will taste a lot like yellow sweet corn.

That’s a cosmos trying to hide behind a corn leaf. I planted cosmos with my corn because I heard from an online acquaintance that this would keep away corn ear worms. The first ears are nearly ready to harvest. I don’t see evidence of worms, but they can be pretty sneaky, so I won’t know for sure if the cosmos helped until I start shucking.

As long as I’m confessing about planting flowers, here’s an even bigger sin: My wife ceded an ornamental bed to me so I could grow more climbing beans. I set about ten beans across the back of the bed, and then planted five or six types of flower seeds through the rest of the bed. From the looks of things, only two types of flower plants survived, and the first to bloom is a zinnia. The leaves way back against the wall of the house on the left are Kentucky Wonder bean leaves.

On the subject of beans, here’s a flower on one of my bush wax bean plants. The plants suffered heavy chewing by insects until I treated them with insecticidal soap. With new leaves, the plants show more vigor toward reproduction. I’ve harvested a serving of wax beans and anticipate being able to preserve about a gallon of them before the season is over.

Weed. There’s quite a bit of it near my small kitchen garden, and just a few stems actually in the garden. The flowers are pretty so it’s hard to go all anti-weed on them.

I had to finish with a winter squash blossom because it’s all that! This is the biggest squash blossom in my small kitchen garden. It belongs to a neck pumpkin plant and was one of about a dozen gorgeous blossoms peaking out from rain-soaked leaves this morning. Oddly, my blue Hubbard plants have produced about 8 female flowers and only one male flower. I’ve pollinated the blue Hubbards using male flowers from the neck pumpkin plants. So far, they seem to accept this hybrid pollination, but I can’t predict whether the seeds will be viable next year (and if they are, what the squashes might be like). Perhaps I’ll find out next summer?

 

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Your Small Kitchen Garden Seed Giveaway 2011

This is a paste tomato from which I harvested seeds for the giveaway. Yes, I fermented the seeds to kill bacteria and fungus, so they’re not likely to introduce disease to your garden. I believe this is an Andes tomato. It contains very little moisture and few seeds… it’s mostly meat. It tastes terrific raw, in salads, dehydrated, canned, and sauced. The plants are indeterminate, and I pluck suckers. In a bad growing season a plant yields 15 or more 8- to 12-oz tomatoes; in a good growing season, about 30.

THE FREE SEED OFFER CLOSED ON FEBRUARY 13, 2011 as stated originally at the end of this post. Chances are that I’ll have more seeds to give away for the 2012 growing season. Please check back in January or February of 2012.

FREE SEEDS! Your Small Kitchen Garden blog is celebrating its second annual seed giveaway. You might guess from the blog that I love to grow vegetables and fruit, and that I love to share my love for kitchen gardening with others. By giving away seeds, I hope to encourage other people to grow food and maybe share the wonder of it.

Last year, I gave away packets that contained seeds to grow Neck Pumpkins, Blue Hubbard squash, and Paste Tomatoes (probably of the Andes variety). I’m doing it again! Here are the details:

Small Kitchen Garden Free Seed Sets

The offer I’m about to describe ends on Sunday, February 13, 2011. A “set” of seeds contains three packets—enough to grow one hill of neck pumpkins, one hill of blue hubbard squash, and at least 20 paste tomato plants.

I’m not sure how many sets of seeds there will be as I haven’t yet butchered the blue hubbard squash. I anticipate approximately 45 complete seed sets to give away, but I’ll send some partial sets if I run out of one type of seeds. As things went last year, I ran out of blue hubbard squash seeds first and mailed a few sets that contained just neck pumpkin and paste tomato seeds. This year’s outcome depends on how many people qualify for seed sets.

One sad caveat: Seeds are available only to folks in the United States and Canada. I reviewed Australian import rules last year and realized if I tried to do that for every country, I’d be at it until the fall harvest… so US and Canada only, please.

The thing in this photo that looks like a big butternut squash is a neck pumpkin. It is remarkably like butternut (also shown): very resistant to Squash Vine Borer, orange flesh, tastes like butternut. These things can grow to 20 or 30 lbs, though my largest this year was about 12 pounds.

Earn Squash and Tomatoes from Your Small Kitchen Garden

Technically, I suppose I’m not giving away seeds; there are strings. Here’s what I ask for you to qualify for free seeds:

1. Leave a comment in response to this blog post. In it, tell me something about your preferences for tomatoes or squash. Tell me, perhaps, which you prefer, how you use them, or whether you’ve grown them… and make me laugh.

The blue hubbard squash in this photo is about a quarter the size of my chocolate lab. Thankfully, the dog didn’t fall asleep next to it or she might have awakened as a pod dog. This is a challenging squash to grow; it is very susceptible to Squash Vine Borer; all my blue hubbard plants succumbed without producing viable fruit in 2010. This year I’ll plant outdoors at the end of July… and I may use floating row covers to keep insects from laying eggs on the plants. If you get a few blue hubbard squashes from your plants, they could be more than 20lbs each. The meat of a blue hubbard is a rainbow of colors and has one of the best squash flavors I’ve ever tasted.

2. Complete and submit a form on the Contact Us page. If you want to receive seeds, I’ll need your snail mail address, so enter it into the form. Make sure you use the same email address on the Contact Us form that you use when you write your comment. Also, if you plan to promote your entry (read items 3, 4, and 5 below), please identify in the form the Twitter and Facebook identities you’ll use—and/or identify the URL of the blog on which you’ll post a link.

If you do items 1 and 2, you’ll go to the end of my mailing list to receive seeds. I’ll mail seeds on a first-come-first served basis until I run out of seed sets… but there are some twists. You can move up on the mailing list by doing any or all of the following:

3. If you’re on Twitter, tweet a link to this giveaway that includes the hash tag #skgseeds.

4. If you’re on Facebook, post a link to this giveaway and include the hash tag #skgseeds in the text.

Each day that you Tweet or post on Facebook as explained in items 3 and 4, you’ll move up one place on the mailing list. The most you can move up in a calendar day is two places—one for Tweeting, and one for a Facebook post.

5. Finally, you can get a top spot on my seed giveaway mailing list by posting something about the giveaway—along with a link to this page—on your own blog. What do I mean by “top spot?” I mean I’ll build a mailing list of bloggers who post links on their blogs. I’ll mail seeds to the entire list of bloggers (in the order that they post) before I mail to any other entrants.

At Least Get on the List!

Don’t let all these options throw you. At least leave a comment and post your snail mail address on a Contact Us form (items 1 and 2). Chances are you’ll get at least some paste tomato seeds. Of course, when you get your seeds, I hope you’ll think of me during the growing season and provide an occasional update—perhaps with a photo. I was pleased to hear from a few of last year’s winners. I enjoyed that my friend over at gardenmom29 posted photos of her neck pumpkins… I’m pretty sure the two in the 5th photo in her blog post grew from seeds she got in last year’s giveaway.

The seed giveaway ends on Sunday, February 13. I’ll mail seed packets in the week after that.

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Store Butternut Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden

Your Small Kitchen Garden catches up with a series of posts about what went on in the garden this season while the kitchen gardener (Daniel) was busy writing his book Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too.

On February 12th of this year, the butternut squash from my small kitchen garden looked a little scary. Fortunately, just one fruit had gone soft; the others were in decent shape and we continued to eat them into March. I chucked the mushy one onto the compost heap.

I harvest a lot of winter squash from my small kitchen garden. Near the end of the season, squash vines cover nearly half of my planting bed. I love the flavor of squash, and I love its versatility: it works in both sweet and savory dishes, and you can cook it into many appealing textures.

But while squash’s culinary versatility is impressive, it has another terrific quality: it keeps well. I’d guess we call winter squash winter squash because of its durability: you harvest it in late autumn, and it keeps well into winter.

Proper Kitchen Garden Squash Stores

Most winter squashes keep best where it’s cool, dark, and dry… and by cool, I mean no colder than about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, store your winter squash in a single layer with no pieces touching other pieces. Relative humidity should be 60 to 80 percent and the temperature should be 50 to 55 degrees.

By March 24th of the year, we were down to our last butternut squash, and it was in reasonably good shape. Consider: harvested in October, and lying on the dining room floor for five months until March. Awesome!

Look closely at this five-month-old squash and you can see wrinkling and a touch of blotchiness; I’d never pay for this in a grocery store. However, the deterioration is (mostly) skin deep. With such minor surface blemishes, the squash meat inside is likely to be in decent shape.

Fortunately, air tends to be dry in winter, so low humidity shouldn’t be hard to achieve. Unfortunately, you might figure your basement for the ideal temperature, but many basements remain damp year-round.

Here’s the good news: if you keep the temperature in your house around 68 degrees, there are probably places on the floor that, in winter, are very close to 55 degrees. For example, you might have a rarely-used guest room that you don’t heat except when you have company. Or, the floor along an outside wall or under a picture window could be significantly colder than the air at chest level.

My Small Kitchen Garden Squash Store

Much to my wife’s consternation, I’ve left a heap of butternut squash on our dining room floor each fall for the past several years. The dining room has a double-wide sliding glass door onto our porch, so the floor is naturally cool in winter. My mistake, of course (besides annoying my wife), is that I heap the squash. However, I’ve had very satisfactory results. The photos tell the story.

Peeled, my well-aged squash looks as good as a freshly-harvested squash. There are differences, however…

Halved down the center, this well-aged squash from my small kitchen garden reveals evidence of aging. The fibers that hold the seeds have dried a bit and shrunk, and the squash meat, itself has dried giving rise to air pockets. Still, there are no soft spots; no rot. Cooked, the only apparent difference between this and freshly-harvested squash will be sweetness; the older squash may sweeter than a young squash.

I encourage you to keep your own winter squash into the winter. Here’s a simple strategy to employ: Estimate how many whole squash you’ll eat by March, and store that many along with a few extra (in case some spoil). If you have any more than you expect to eat by March, freeze them or can them and they’ll last until your next harvest. I explain how to freeze winter squash in Freeze Winter Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden, and how to can it in Can Squash or Pumpkin from Your Home Kitchen Garden.

Share Your Squash Stories!

I’m very enthusiastic about winter squash, and would love hear your squash stories: Which varieties do you grow? How do you store them? Do you have unusual ways to prepare them? Please leave your story in a comment.

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Mid-Summer Rabbits in my Small Kitchen Garden

Your Small Kitchen Garden catches up with a series of posts about what went on in the garden this season while the kitchen gardener (Daniel) was busy writing his book Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too.

In July, rabbits demonstrated that I’d done a poor job of patching the rodent fence… a project motivated by activities of a large woodchuck (but that’s a story for another day).

I spent much of this growing season writing a book rather than writing Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. My kitchen garden, however, demanded plenty of attention, and I took many photos intending to blog about the subjects they recorded. One of the most unexpected incidents I photographed involved rabbits.

The Small Kitchen Garden Rabbit Haven

My garden’s rabbit fence provides great protection against rabbit predators… at least that’s what the rabbits seem to think. Historically, rabbits have moved into my planting bed in early spring before I’ve started working the soil. This year, they didn’t move in until July. The rabbit fence had been in place for months, I’d already removed the spent pea plants, and the winter squash was beginning the growth spurt that comes two or three weeks after transplanted seedlings adjust to their new setting in the garden.

My first clue that rabbits had landed was their in-my-face prancing among the vegetable plants. Honestly: I saw no sign that the rabbits ate my plants or my vegetables… only that they liked to hang out inside the fence. Of course, by being there they revealed my rabbit fence had holes in it. So, I chased the rabbits away, and patched the holes… poorly.

Bunnies in the Garden, Of Course

The bunny rabbits that hatched in July were adorable. Sadly, watering the winter squash scared them out of the nest when they simply weren’t ready to leave. I fence my small kitchen garden to protect my plants from woodchucks, and to protect rabbits from my gardening. I must do a better job next season; I hate when my gardening becomes a problem for these entertaining and innocent animals.

July and August were particularly dry in my small kitchen garden, so I hand-watered my winter squashes occasionally to keep them alive. When I watered one morning, I noticed unusual movement under the canopy of squash leaves: bunnies scampered about, apparently scared from a nest by my watering.

My first reaction: “What the…?” I had to acknowledge that my fence-mending skills are not pro-caliber. My next reaction: These bunnies were not ready to leave the nest. I shot a few photos, herded the babies back toward the squash canopy, and left the garden alone with hope that Mom Rabbit would return quickly and coral her babies.

Sadly, by the next morning, one bunny had died under the squash leaves. I suspect it Mom never found it, and it never found its way home. Apparently, as rabbit moms will do, this one carried her remaining bunnies out of the garden and found a new home for them. There has been no further rabbit activity inside the fence… or course, I made further repairs once I knew the rabbits had moved out.

The Rabbit Fence Project

As the growing season dwindles, I’m looking ahead to projects I must complete before spring. I guess it’s obvious what one of those projects will be. Are you building fences around your planting beds? How were the rodents in your small kitchen garden this year?

 

 

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Grill Squash from Your Small Kitchen Garden

My small kitchen garden sometimes pushes up so many butternut squashes that there’s no chance my family will eat all of them. This inspired me to set some on the grill. Now grilled quash provides a fine counterpoint to the baked, mashed, and cubed squash dishes I’d repeated so many times over the years.

My small kitchen garden sometimes produces way more of a particular vegetable than my family will eat. Worse: when we have too much of a type of vegetable on hand, it’s easy to fall into the trap of preparing it the same way again and again.

This happened a few years ago with butternut squash, and I developed a great urge for a quick but different way to prepare it. After some thought, I decided to exercise my grill: it seemed that a big slab of squash would perform much like a slab of beef or pork. The result made me very happy and I hope it will make you happy too. Follow the instructions in the photo captions to make your own grilled butternut squash.

If you try this, please let me know what you think—or share whatever variations you feel are noteworthy. Grilled squash goes especially well with smoked poultry or just about anything else you prepare on the grill.

Before you start on the squash, start your grill and leave it on high so it’s hot when the filets are ready. A vegetable peeler removes skin from a butternut squash; it helps to rest the squash on a firm surface and draw the peeler down toward that surface. After peeling the squash, cut off the stem and the blossom scar.

 

To cut up a squash for grilling, it helps to have a big honking chef’s knife. Be cautious and always cut toward a cutting board with the hand that steadies the squash safely above the knife’s blade. My first cut goes down the center of the squash, but notice that I start the cut through the seed end before standing the squash up and forcing the knife down through the neck.

 

I scrape the seeds out of the squash before slicing it into filets. The filets are about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch thick. Notice again that I start each cut at one end of the squash, cutting down and through (I’m not pushing the knife toward my hand in the center photo… just down toward the cutting board). This first cut acts as a guide when I stand the squash on end and work the knife down through the length of the fruit.

 

Once I’ve cut out all my squash filets, I paint them on one side with a thin coating of olive oil (left). Then I sprinkle on cayenne pepper and black pepper (center). You could add salt at this point if you like. I finish with a light distribution of brown sugar which I press into the oil with my fingers so it will adhere when I put the squash on the grill.

 

I place the squash filets seasoning-side-down on my grill and immediately paint the unseasoned faces with oil. Then I season them as I did the other sides. I put the cover on the grill and let the squash cook for just three or four minutes. Then I flip the squash and cook it for another three or four minutes. CAUTION! The squash may be soft when you flip it, so work a spatula along the length of each piece before lifting it off the grill.

 

Grilling caramelizes the sugar, but the charring usually adds complexity to the flavor of the squash; don’t reject it just because it looks singed. If six to eight minutes on the grill doesn’t get your squash filets soft, put them back on the grill or finish them off in your microwave oven. This grilled squash is soft, sweet, and savory with a touch of heat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

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