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Archive for April, 2010

Photo Friday

 

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Observe:

 Somewhere in there is an asparagus patch.  A good one too!  About 12 years old and much neglected for a few years, but still produces an impressive amount. 

Even through the thick weeds and tall grass, shoots were still springing up joyfully all down this row.  You can see one right there in that picture, at the very bottom on the left.   I knew that with a few hours of hard labor, there would be a good reward with these guys.  So, Saturday morning I lathered on the sunscreen, threw on my favorite hat, and spent a few hours in the garden for the first time this year.  It was a GLORIOUS day- very sunny but not too hot with a nice breeze, and it felt good to get my hands dirty. 

The soil here is magnificent- dark and loamy and FULL of earthworms.  You can tell it was well cared for.  Ann told me when they bought the place about 20 years ago, it was terrible.   You can see it is under the powerlines, and the power company had done everything they could to keep the land clear of growth.  She said it was basically gravel.  But her husband worked hard amending the soil.  They had animals- horses, sheep, and cows, so lots of manure was turned in every year.  It took a long time, but the quality of the soil now speaks to the ability for it to build back up eventually.  Nice to know you can turn anything into a productive plot with some good old fashioned horse poop. 

Ann and I spent a few hours out there.  There was, at one point, a row of strawberries along the asparagus, but it had been lost to the weeds.  Lucky for us we found a number of little plants that have been fighting the good fight, so we dug them up to transplant to a better location.  We left some in among the asparagus that looked well-established, so maybe I’ll get some bonus strawberries this year!  There were certainly some casualties:

but in the end we had a much prettier plot:

And much happier asparagus!

They were tough weeds, a strong enemy, but we won the battle.  The war marches ever on (does it truly ever end with gardeners?), and I sure hope I can keep on top of them this year (HA!).  The weeds did get one good dig in- in my eagerness to get out in the garden, I forgot to put sunscreen on that little stripe of skin between my shirt and my pants, so I came away with an impressive strip of sunburn- Doh!  Won’t make that mistake again…I hope…

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Yesterday after work, I met Chef Jeff at his family’s house to check on our seedlings.  His step-mom (who’s a real-life farmer!) was kind enough to start our seeds for us in her wood-heated greenhouse.   We’ve got tons of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs waiting for warmer weather, and lots of other stuff waiting for the tiller to be fixed (sigh…).  Her greenhouse smelled like heaven- green things and woodsmoke.

Take a closer look at those planters hanging up!  She runs a little garden stand where she sells seedlings and eventually produce.  One of the things she sells are those planters.  They have flowers on the top and then, out of a hole she drills in the center, she has tomato plants!  Isn’t that brilliant?  I see ads for those upside down hanging tomato planters all the time, and this way you get flowers, too!  So clever…

The tomatos are really growing fast.  They have a few weeks to wait before they can go in the ground here, but she’s already started to harden them off.  They look very happy!  I only hope I can take as good a care of them as she has.

We also took a tour around her farm- she had just finished planting a field of potatoes and onions.  Big, long rows of them.   I did not envy her planting 100 feet of onions…

It was really nice to be able to visit someone with so much experience!  I’m glad I have someone who knows what she is doing to ask if I have questions- makes all the difference in the world!

Oh!  And she had these!

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And this beautiful image.  I wish I had a large print of this.  I would hang it up in my house.  (Also I think she kinda looks like me!)

Snatched from the ever-inspirational Phelan

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Recipe: Asparagus Quiche

Yesterday while I was at the hardware store, I struck gold when I discovered that they had local eggs for sale.  I’d been hoping to find a source for them, and it turns out there are lots!  When I got home, I told Ann (who owns the farm) about my find and she said “Oh yeah- you can get them anywhere!  They sell them at my gym!”  I love farming communities…

It was perfect, because the other day I came across a delicious looking recipe in an issue of Everyday Food that looked perfect- asparagus quiche.  I don’t know that there is anything that screams “SPRING” quite like that.  I made it last night (after hours weeding the asparagus patch- how appropriate) and it was even better than I thought it would be!

*a disclaimer about my recipes- I don’t tend to follow any true measurements.  I’m more of an “eh- that looks about right” kinda girl.  These are close approximations.

Asparagus Quiche – Adapted from an Everyday Food recipe

Ingredients-

  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus (mine ended up being about 2 1/2 cups when chopped)
  • 1 large leek
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or a little more, or a little less.  I LOVE garlic, and mine is sprouting like crazy, so I’m trying to use it up.  This was pretty garlicky)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup+ shredded cheese (the original recipe calls for Gruyère, which is a really nice swiss cheese.  I had Monterey jack, so I used that and it was excellent- the tang of the cheese contrasted well with the asparagus.  I think it would be just as good with a nice sharp cheddar.  I also had some small pieces of nice Asiago and Pecorino Romano, so I threw a few tablespoons of each of those in as well.  Listen, we are talking about cheese here- anything you put in will be delicious.  Also: more is better!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pie crust (I used the Pilsbury pre-made ones from the grocery store)

1.  Preheat your oven to 350.  If you have an oven that heats from the top, put a rack in the bottom of the oven- you don’t want the quiche too close to the element.

2.  Rinse and chop your asparagus and leeks.  Asparagus cut into small, diagonal pieces, leeks quartered and thinly sliced.  Chop your garlic.

  • Here’s how to prep ANY asparagus:  Hold a spear up with one hand and the very bottom and one hand just below the tip- bend the asparagus until the snaps.  The bottom end is yucky and old and stringy- don’t use that!  The top end is glorious and yummy and fresh.  some of them will snap close to the bottom and others close to the top.  Short pieces are upsetting, I know, but you don’t want tough asparagus.  Save the old, yucky ends for vegetable scrap stock!
  • How to wash leeks:  Cut off those big glorious green leaves- you just want to use the white parts.  DON’T cut off the end- that holds everything together for washing.  Slice the whole shebang in half, along the full length of the leek.  You now have two halves of the leek, with all the layers nestling together.  You can run these under the water to rinse them, and the end cap will keep everything together.  It is very neat that way!

3.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Saute the asparagus, leeks, and garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  You don’t want to overcook anything- this is just giving the veggies a head start on the cooking they will do in the oven.  When the asparagus starts looking really bright and the leeks are fragrant, you’re done.  Remove from heat

4.  Roll out your pie crust in the pie pan- have it waiting to receive.

5.  Whisk the eggs and milk together.  The original recipe here calls for half and half, but I just used 2% milk.  It WAS a little bit watery, so perhaps whole milk would have been just fine.  It didn’t bother me, but if you think it would bother you, I’d use the half and half.  Season the egg and milk mixture to taste.  I used about a tsp each of black pepper and salt, but I am not a huge salt eater so you may like more.   Mix the cheese into the egg mixture- stir well to make sure it isn’t a big giant lump of cheese in the bottom of your bowl.

6.  Pour the veggies into the pie dish and spread evenly over the bottom.  Pour the egg/milk/cheese mixture on top of the veggies, making sure to get some cheese on every part.  Put your pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet (it may bubble over) and put it in the oven.   Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the center is set and no longer wobbly.

We had this for dinner, but it would be magnificent for brunch.  Both of us ate two pieces.  I’m probably going to go eat some more for breakfast this morning.   This is asparagus season!  Take advantage of it, and try this quiche!

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Fellow Massachusetts gardener (and author of one of my favorite gardening blogs!) took a trip to DC and got a glimpse of the garden at the White House this year.  It looks great! 

See for yourself!

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I have learned many truths since I started gardening, and this is certainly one of them:

Nothing, but nothing, is as lovely a sight as this:

I’ve taken to walking around the garden every day when I get home and every morning before I leave, in an attempt to get familiar with the land.   Last night I came across this little welcome surprise.  Lucky for me, there is already some stuff there, including this well-established asparagus patch.  Nice bonus, huh?  One of my favorite veggies, and one that you usually have to wait a few years for!  There is also a nice berry patch, with a couple of very nice blueberry bushes, a thicket of raspberries, and a few blackberries.  Off to the side of the garden, is a huge swath of native wild blueberries.  It will be a while before we see anything on those beauties, but it doesn’t mean I’m not wickedly rubbing my hands together waiting to devour them. 

I was out of town in Virginia last weekend, and this will be my first full, free weekend since I’ve moved into the house.  Everything is still way too wet to do much with, so I’m going to do some planning and clean up.  The asparagus patch needs some serious work, so that is going to be my primary focus this weekend.  It needs to be cleared and weeded.  I’m also planning on marking out the beds for the garden and digging some trenches around the perimeter to set up a weed barrier.  Let’s hope for more lovely weather like we’ve been having (and no rain, so that sucker can dry out!).

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