Sunday, July 24, 2011

I hate you squirrel. I declare war!

Yesterday, I took this photo.  I was so excited because the Glenora grapes were finally turning purple in color.  I was totally anticipating eating these.  They weren't quite ripe yet so I patiently waited.
Then today, my husband said, "we have no grapes left".  What?  What?  My only guess is that it was a squirrel since these vines are 4 feet off the ground.  Not a single red grape left.  Whatever it was ate every last red grape off this vine.  Notice how it left the green ones untouched?  Ugh!  And I didn't even get to taste one.  So.  Very.  Annoyed.
At least we have Cayuga green grapes left on one of the other vines. As of today, none of these were eaten.
In an effort to prevent squirrels from eating these, we put bird netting over this grapevine and stapled it to the 4x4 posts.  Do you grow grapes?  Have you ever had this problem with critters eating them before you do?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My first Zuke and Chinese Yard Long Beans!

Erin, over at Garden Now-Think Later, grew Chinese Yard Long Beans last year and she raved about them. She loved how easy these were to grow, and how easy they were to find to harvest them.  I grew pole beans last year, and indeed, it is hard to find those suckers behind all those leaves.  These Yard Long beans however are so long, it's easy to see them to harvest.  I grew up eating these beans, so I was so excited to try to grow them this year.  My dad gave me seeds, and my cousin gave me seedlings.  This plant will definitely be a keeper in my garden.  I'm so in love with them!
I had also planted 5 zucchini plants, and many of you told me I would be overflowing with lots of zucchini. For some reason, none of the plants are producing any female flowers, and those that do, seem to not produce a fruit that is pollinated so they turn yellow and die off. At long last, I harvested my first zucchini. I'm pretty disappointed because I was hoping to have lots of fruit by now.  I had hopes of freezing some for future zucchini breads.  Next year, I think I will forgo growing broccoli and devote that bed to zucchini instead.  This is my second year growing broccoli and I hate it.  It's just not worth my time since they get ravished by bugs.  I want to be overwhelmed with zucchini, to the point where I have more than I can handle.  It's not meant to be I guess.  I'll be lucky if the plants grow another zucchini for me to harvest.  Let's hope it does.
With the harvested zucchini, I decided to make my version of pasta primavera.  All of the vegetables are from the garden except for the sun dried tomatoes.  I added homegrown snap peas, radish greens, the zuke, and garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and parmasean cheese.  Serve warm, yum, it is quite delicious and fresh tasting. 
For more dishes featuring the Garden to Table, check out Greenish Thumb!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is that the actual temperature?

It was a scorcher today.  So hot, that I had to water the plants twice today.  They were all wilty, just like me in the heat.  Just, so hot.   I haven't seen temperatures like this in quite awhile.  It's 8:23pm and check out the temperature!  Say it isn't so!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Growing Soybeans! Edamame!

This year, I wanted to try growing different varieties of vegetables in the garden. However, I was scared to spend a ton on seed packets for plants I've never grown before. So, I did some seed swaps so that I could try new veggies, to see if I liked growing them.  I got these Edamame seeds from Allison over at The Life of a Novice.  Of the 5 seeds I direct sowed, 3 germinated.  All three have pods growing.  I am so excited.  I love Edamame steamed with sea salt.  It is absolutely delicious and incredibly healthy.  These were so easy to grow, they will definitely return to my garden!
Attention urban gardeners, I received an email the other day about an interesting event going on next Monday in Manhattan.  The event is about Growing Your Own Produce in an Urban Environment.  See details below.

(July 13, 2011 - New York, NY) PHAIDON | STORE at 83 Wooster Street in SoHo, New York and Diner Journal, are pleased to announce an evening celebrating the bounty of summer with the panel discussion “Taking Root: Growing Your Own Produce in Urban Environments,” followed by a cocktail reception. Participating in the panel will be Eric Demby (Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg), Ian Cheney (co-creator of the documentary film King Corn and Truck Farm) and Michael Grady Robertson (Grady’s Farm).

WHERE: PHAIDON | STORE at 83 Wooster Street (at Spring Street) in SoHo

WHEN: Monday, July 25, 2011, doors at 6:30pm; panel discussion to begin promptly at 7:00pm, cocktails to follow

To celebrate the book publication of the cookbook and produce farming almanac Vegetables From an Italian Garden, Phaidon Store will host an evening dedicated to teaching attendees how to grow their own produce, even in the most limited of urban landscapes. The evening will include a panel discussion on urban farming and sustainable agricultural practices with cocktails to follow.

Speaking in conversation will be filmmaker and environmental advocate Ian Cheney, co-creator of the PBS Peabody award-winning documentary King Corn and founder of Truck Farm, a “1/10000th acre farm-on-wheels,” Michael Grady Robertson, former Director of Agriculture for the Queens County Farm Museum and current owner of Grady’s Farm, a 62 acre farm in the Hudson Valley and Eric Demby, co-founder of Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn Flea food market.

To celebrate the publication of Vegetables From an Italian Garden (Phaidon, 2011).

Required, please email VEGETABLES to

Monday, July 18, 2011

Operation Backpack: A Good Cause

Every year, my friend Ruth and I participate in Operation Backpack.  Operation Backpack is sponsored by Volunteers of America of Greater New York, and is a program that collects donations of backpacks and school supplies for homeless children living in NYC area shelters.  From their website, There are nearly 11,000 school-age children living in New York City homeless shelters on any given day. Most of these children will go back to school in September without the basic school supplies..."   Last year over 7,000 book bags were collected.  Which is great, however, that means 4,000 kids went without.  With all the millions of residents in NYC, we can do better than that!
I look forward to this every year because it makes me feel good to know I can help a kid in need get a good start on the school year.  On the website you can print out a supply checklist for a specific grade.  I really enjoy picking out school supplies and a backpack, and this year I decided on Grade 1-4 and for a girl.  How cute is this book bag?  I would have loved this if I were a kid!
I hope the kid who gets the bag really likes it.  They really deserve it!  If you live in the NYC area, please consider participating in this year's drive.  The last day to donate a backpack full of school supplies is Sunday, July 24th.  Donations of backpacks and supplies can be dropped off at any Duane Reade or CitiHabitats in New York City. For more information, go to the website.  On the site you will find links to download PDFs of supply lists.  A deserving kid will be glad you did.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My New Favorite Treat

Literally the day after I canned the strawberry jam, I couldn't wait to bust a jar open and taste the fruits of my labor.  Hello homegrown, homemade organic strawberry jam.  You are my new favorite treat!
For more Garden to Table food ideas, check out Greenish Thumb!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A New Visitor to the Garden!

I was outside watering the plants today, and this caught my eye!  She was a hungry little lady, for she spent an entire hour flying from one hosta flower to the next.  She was in no rush, and she spent her time inspecting all the flowers!
In fact, I took these with my cellphone camera, and she was so busy feeding that she let me get up real close to snap these photos!  I just adore watching butterflies visit our garden.
But the second she saw me, she fluttered away to the next plant.  I'm not sure what type of butterfly it is, but it sure is gorgeous!  What flowers in your garden attracts the most butterflies?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Present for the Garden

Still trying to catch up on back logged posting.  I've been meaning to write about this!  Last month, the hubs' brother, Aunt and niece came down for a visit.  They came bearing gifts.  Check out the awesome crazy garden lady they gave me.  It kinda made me laugh.  It's like a wild version of me running around my yard.
This is my first decorative item in the garden, besides the plastic owl.  Hopefully she'll be a good guardian to watch over all the growing edibles!  And maybe, she'll even scare away a few critters!

A Good Deed Doesn't Go Unnoticed!

My husband helped our neighbor the other day.  While he was out gardening, she asked him if he could help her disconnect her old dryer so that a new one could be delivered and installed.  He brought over his tools and helped her with that task.  Then yesterday... she came over with this!  And by this, I mean a delicious Apple Cinnamon Cobbler!  If our neighbor asks us for help, we don't hesitate to give a helping hand and we don't expect anything in return.  A simple Thank You is all we need.  Afterall, that's what neighbors do.  But... cobbler is pretty nice too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Most Amazing Herb Plant Ever!

Back in December, I bought 4 plants from the farmer's market. Three of the plants that I bought were herbs, a Dill, a Rosemary, and a Pineapple Sage plant. I also bought a Thai Pepper plant. Well....all 4 plants died except for this one! Normally, herbs and I don't get along at all!  I seem to always kill herbs, I can't grow them at all.  Especially Dill, Rosemary, Chives and Parsley.  I have an awful time growing these.  But check out this Pineapple Sage plant.  It's been growing really well on my kitchen counter for 7 months!  Even though I trim down the little branches, the plant continues to grow new shoots. And for that, I am calling this plant the most amazing herb plant ever! 

Homemade is the Best!

Since I was away last week, I am so behind with posting on this blog.  I have to catch up with what's been happening here that I haven't had the time to write about.  Before I went away, I made a batch of strawberry jam with the 6 pounds of strawberries that I harvested from the garden.  I was storing the strawberries in the freezer until I had time to make jam.  I wanted to have the jam ready to give away to my 2 sisters and brother since they were coming to visit for a mini-family reunion.  I defrosted the strawberries and it released a lot of juices.
I took a potato masher and smashed the berries.  I looked up many different recipes for strawberry jam and all of them called for so much sugar!  I asked some friends and they said that it should be okay to lessen the amount of sugar, but it would mean that it wouldn't set as well.  So I ended up using the following recipe. 
5 cups of sqooshed strawberries
5 cups of sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 box of pectin
Cook ingredients all together until it was a rapid boil, then boil for 1 minute.  I tried to scoop up all the foam on top of the jam before putting it into the cans, however, it was hard to get all the foam, so the first few jars are foamy on top.  I'll just have to live with it.
All the jars went into a hot water bath and was processed for 10 minutes.  One batch of jam made 3 pint jars and two 8 ounce jars.  I tasted the jam and it's outstanding.  Yum!  It's too bad I didn't have any bread in the house!  This jam is so good that I will never buy store bought ever again!!  I might have to figure out a way to plant more strawberry plants, it's how much I loved this stuff!
For more Garden to Table creations, check out Greenish Thumb's GTTC!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2nd Week of July Harvest

Yesterday, we harvested all the garlic from this bed.  I planted 40 cloves last fall, and I am just thrilled with the results.  This is our first time growing garlic and it was SO incredibly easy.  I am totally growing this every year!  It is by far one of the easiest things to grow, and the hardneck variety is totally awesome!  Especially since it grew so many scapes for us.  I am planting more tomatoes in the empty garlic bed. 
I also harvested some more radishes, and one puny looking carrot.  I pulled the carrot because it was sticking out of the ground.  Radishes are probably the 2nd easiest things to grow.  30 days and voila!  It's just so satisfying to have a veggie grow so quickly!  Most of these radish bulbs are pretty small, I need to figure out a way to bulk them up more.  I use compost and fish emulsion but they still look a bit teeny tiny. Any organic suggestions you have is appreciated!
This post was meant for Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, but I'm a day late.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Foraging in Central Park!

Yesterday I went on such a fun foraging tour in Central Park with Wildman Steve Brill.  I've been wanting to learn about edibles ever since finding wild mushrooms growing all over my yard.  In my quest to learn about what edibles are safe to eat in my yard, awhile ago, Marie over at 66 Square Feet recommended Steve Brill's tours as an introduction to identifying wild edibles. 
I loved how he was dressed, in a safari hat, a backpack, water bottle, a shovel around his belt and a whistle dangling from his neck.  He looked ready to enter into the wild, the wilds of Central park that is!  :)
I had bought 2 discounted tickets of his tour from Daily Candy deals, and had an extra ticket, so I invited a fellow blogger, Aimee over at Red Garden Clogs, to go on the tour with me.  I was pretty amazed by the amount of people that showed up for the tour.  There were about 50 people!  How amazing is that?
We went off trails, climbed over fences, we definitely got some curious looks from onlookers watching us pick things and eating them!  LOL.
Every time Steve came across a plant that was edible, he would go over what it was used for, what are some best ways to eat it, and would encourage us to try it.
This is Poor Man's Pepper.  It has a very spicy flavor and does taste a lot like pepper.  I could totally see using this in a salad, or vinaigrette, or maybe even a pesto!  Steve instructed us to clip the plant's stems but to not pull the roots, so that it would grow back.  He wants us to be sustainable foragers, so that what we take grows back.
Check out Aimee's backpack.  I love how she was carrying the clump of the cuttings of Poor Man's Pepper.
This was one of the coolest plants.  It's Sassafras.  Steve said that these plants need lots of sun to survive, and since these were growing in the shade, he said we could pull these because they won't survive.  The root is the edible part, it tastes very much like root beer.  You can boil the root in water and make a tea out of it.  Add some sparkling water and sugar and you'll have a drink similar to root beer.  Pretty awesome!
The Sassafras tree is easy to identify because it has 3 different kinds of leaves on the Sassafras tree.  Here is Steve pointing out the different leaves.  One of the leaves is oval, one looks like a mitten, and the other a mitten with 3 fingers.
Another edible tree was the Black Birch Tree.  I thought this was going to taste like the Sassafras Tree, but it actually tasted like wintergreen / mint.  You can chew on the twigs like a natural chewing gum. 
We were all pretty fascinated with all the different types of edibles growing in the park and Steve was such an awesome tour guide.  He was incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  He also told a lot of jokes and was very entertaining.
The kids were especially entertained!  I was so surprised with how many kids were on the tour.  And they were all as fascinated with Steve Brill as we were.  He really worked hard to make the tour fun and interesting for the kids, and surprisingly, all the kids were eager to taste the wild edibles!  Kids I know don't even like vegetables, so it was so cool to see them want to eat the wild green stuff.
We saw a lot of wild berries on the walk, but unfortunately none were ripe yet.  These sure look great.  I definitely should go back to pick these in a few weeks!  They were growing everywhere!
Overall, the foraging tour was pretty amazing.  Not only did I learn a lot about edibles growing all around us, we also walked to some cool spots that I never seen in Central Park before.  Like this beautiful waterfall.  I love tours like this to remind us of all the beauty that nature has to offer, even in the middle of New York City.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Where Have I Been?

I haven't been posting anything all week.  It's because I went away to Mystic, Connecticut to visit family and then I had family come visit us.  So it's been a whirlwind fun and busy week.  Mystic is such a beautiful seaside town, with a harbor full of sailboats.  I could totally live here!
We were walking around town and the drawbridge was going up to let boats through.
I love this old anchor in the middle of town!  It's beautiful!
You can't go to the New England area and not get Clam Chowder.  Yum.
There were a lot of great flower garden beds all throughout town.  I just love the colors.
We also had time to go to Mystic Aquarium where we saw this. A Lion Fish!  Pretty cool.
When we returned, it was July 4th.  My brother's family was visiting us and my nephew helped me pick these veggies.
And a whole bowl of wild blackberries.  What a treat!  Hope you all had a great 4th of July week!
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