Garlic Out of the Ground

Made a garlic braid tonight for the first time. It came out pretty fair. I have another batch still in the ground, but I dug up the rest of this variety since, A: it has been ripe for the plucking, and B: I needed some anyway to make pesto. I whipped up two batches and popped them in the freezer–that ought to hit the spot come January. Can I say that it is amazing that I planted single cloves and they grow into plants with whole bulbs? That is my theme of the summer–amazement at how plants grow from seed to food.

So here is my garlic, now hanging over the sink to keep the vampires away.

Before Braiding

Braided, Ready to Dry

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Fine Summer Day

Perfect Summerness

We had some friends visiting these past couple of days and we got out and enjoyed them, both the friends and the days. This morning included a bike ride nearby and I was struck by the beauty of the clouds, the wildflowers, and the mountains in the high contrast light. The wind blew, bending the tall stems in the field. Smells of earth and flowers wafted about about. The river flowed cloudy with yesterday’s rain. We sat and, well, just sat for a while, before heading back home.

Queen Anne's Lace and Chicory

Late in the day, our friends headed home, I finally stained the deck. It took longer than I anticipated, as it always does, but I am glad to have that done. Now I just hope the rain holds off long enough for it to dry. I really should have 24 hours for it to dry, but I guess this will have to do. We are forecast to get rain showers by early afternoon. Maybe they will hold off until at least late afternoon. The forecast seems to change every day. It must be summer.

Field of Flowers

Drink of the Summer?

Pitcher Full of Freshly Made Maple Mint Tea

We have a big old patch of mint in the herb garden next to the house. I am always looking for ways to use it. Last summer I made fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream (and I kick myself for not having made it yet this summer). This summer I may have a new mint hit–maple mint tea. It is way simple to make, and on these hot days when I have been out sanding or painting the house, it is mighty refreshing. Here is how to make it:

  • Take 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves and add them in a pot to 8 cups water
  • Bring almost but not quite to a boil
  • Remove from heat and let steep for about an hour
  • Strain into a pitcher or, if you prefer, strain and then pour into a pitcher
  • Add 1/4 cup maple syrup and stir well
  • Cool

It takes a little time but, like I said, it is tasty and refreshing. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

First Potatoes

A Handful of Beauties

I made a summer gratin last night–fresh zucchini we picked yesterday, onions, tomatoes, garlic I dug up right before mincing, and potatoes. I had asked my wife to grab some potatoes at the market when she went out. She came home without them, however, as there were no local tubers to be had, and she just couldn’t bear to buy some from California in the summer. So I had the thought that I might find a few out in the garden. I was richly rewarded.

Let me say that the gratin came out well. Hot and saucy and flavorful, with fresh herbs in the mix. The potatoes were the game maker, however. I stuck my hand in the dirt and–BOOM!–potatoes. One plant yielded all I needed, and we have many many plants. We will not have to purchase potatoes for a long time. While I was washing them and parboiling them and slicing them and then eating them, I kept thinking how incredible it is that one can pop a chunk of root into the ground and it turns into a plant that yields ten times what you planted.

These pictured are Purple Viking. I also planted Yellow Finn, which are white. I will go out soon and dig up some of those to see what we get. I’m thinking breakfast tomorrow, maybe, some home fries with eggs? That could work.

Still, I am amazed at how I can plant something and it grows and then we have food. I paid a total of 30 dollars for seed potatoes. I will without question get my money’s worth. If I save some of them to plant next year, I will double my investment. For the moment, however, I don’t want to think about next summer. I just want to savor the yumminess of this crop. And have a great breakfast. Or two or three.

Zucchini Bread Recipe

Fresh From the Oven

As I write, a large loaf of zucchini bread finishes up its baking. We did give four squashes to a neighbor today, and I figured I had to make more bread. We do need to use up this squash, but this bread also happens to be tasty. Here is the recipe:

Prep time is about 15-20 minutes and baking time is 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Mix:

  • 3 cups fresh shredded zucchini1
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs

Slowly add to this mixture:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

I use a large loaf pan (9″) and bake it for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 375 degrees. You can also use two small loaf pans (8″) and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Let cool and slice her up.

How Do You Spell That Again?

A Few of the Many

I had wanted to plant only three plants. I figured that might even be too many, but I wanted to be safe. So I planted three, and they grew well. Then I gave my children one of the beds to grow some things. They picked zucchini as one of the things they wanted to plant. So now we had four plants. Then, a couple of days ago, as I was inspecting the pumpkin plants, I was amazed yet again at how huge one of them had become. When I turned back the leaves I saw not a small pumpkin forming, but more zucchini. Somehow at least one zucchini seed got mixed in with the pumpkin seeds. They are kind of hard to tell apart, especially if you think they are all pumpkin seeds. Apparently I am not very adept at telling the plants apart either.

So we picked some of those green squashes two days ago. I picked about ten of them. I immediately grated a couple of them to make some zucchini bread. I sliced three more to grill for dinner. Yesterday I picked more. We have a dozen now sitting on the counter, waiting to be turned into something. I will have to grill more tonight, freeze some, make more bread. And more is out there, waiting to ripen. It could be a heavy responsibility, all this food.

Any vegetable gardner knows the joke about zucchini, that it is so prolific that it is difficult to give away. It is way easy to grow, although last summer we had almost none, thanks to our friends the cucumber beetles. I have a summer gratin that is about the tastiest thing around, so I need to whip up a couple of those. Maybe I can bake two and freeze one. It won’t be quite as good after being frozen, but I need to take care of this green invasion so I don’t waste any. Winter is long and some summer food pulled from the freezer always is a comfort on cold days.

So I will keep picking it, along with the cherry tomatoes that are just starting to ripen. Peppers are getting bigger and the full size tomatoes will be ripe before long as well. I have picked  basil and garic and whipped up basil. Our broccoli (what is up with all these double letter Italian words that are a challenge to remember how to spell?) might be too assaulted by the rabbits to produce any food for us. If they ate some of the zucchini plants, we might strike a deal, but I want all the broccoli I can get.

Damn bunnies.

A Bad Purchase and Tuckered

I painted a lot over the past couple of days. Trim, siding, windows. I’ve been up on a ladder swinging a paint can and wielding a brush. It takes a long time to paint a house. Technically, I am staining it at this point, although I started last summer with paint. I realized this summer, after carefully looking over the rusting cans in the basement, that the house had been stained in the past, not painted as I had thought. Staining means no priming, which saves me a coat. Still, this ain’t no quick project.

I had the idea that I would us a sprayer at one point. I went to the Home Depot and browsed and found what I thought would be the perfect tool. It was a backpack sprayer, made by Ryobi, the One+. It holds a gallon and a half, carried like a backpack, with a spray gun. It is powered by a lithium battery so no cord needs to be lugged up the ladder. It was just what I needed, so I bought it. Once I brought it home I wondered just how much the battery might last, but the manual was of little use, so I looked at reviews at Amazon and other sites. Things didn’t look good at that point.

The reviews were mixed but were either raves or pans–nothing in between. Reviewers gave the tool one star or five stars. The bad reviews talked of leaking and poor spray power and globbing and spitting. I hoped I would have better luck. Maybe these folks were setting it up wrong? Or maybe there were just some good ones and some bad ones, you know, inconsistent manufacturing. I gulped and figured I would try it. But it wouldn’t turn on. The battery, it turns out, was defective, so my wife volunteered to get me a new one while I got started with a brush. The old fashioned way gets the job done again. One day down.

Finally, with the new battery, I was ready to try this beast the next day. I had a huge scrap of cardboard on which to practice. Practice was all I got. That thing is the worst tool I have ever used. It leaked like crazy and had really poor spray consistency. I took it apart and couldn’t get it to stop leaking after I put it back together. It was awful. I could not have been more disappointed. I cleaned it and returned it the next day. Seriously, I have never made a less satisfactory purchase. Not performing well is one thing. Not getting the job done at all is ridiculous.

So I started painting again with a brush. Now, after a day of painting, up and down the ladder, in hot sun and sometimes high wind, hands pooling sweat in latex gloves, I have made some real progress. But I am, as noted, tuckered. Early to bed and early to rise gets the painting done, however. I guess I’m on that.