About a month ago I pulled up my onions some of which went to seed. Below is an onion flower head in May…
and this is what the same flower head looks like today.
I left the flower head on the patio table to dry out and honestly forgot about it. The other day I walked by and noticed lots of little onion seeds scattered on the ground letting me know I needed to take care of this. To collect the onion seed I brought the flower head inside and put it in a brown paper bag…
I shook the bag vigorously and was left with this:
The seeds easily popped out and I have collected another season’s worth of onion seed. I still need to collect a few more flower heads and do the same collecting process so I get some diversity of seed.
I also cleaned up some of the onions that had dried up to put away for storage. I think a few of them are not going to store so well so I am going to have to use them up sooner rather than later. I was very pleased with this set of onions so I am glad I have some of the seed saved. These onions did really well in poor soil and with irregular watering!
Coming back from vacation is always exciting if you have a garden. Plants have grown and there is always lots to harvest. The yard long beans do not disappoint! I picked the first of my Orient Wonder beans to put into a quinoa and tofu stir fry. Just two beans weighed 37 grams and one was almost 20 inches long (50 cm)! I quickly stir fried them with lots of other veggies and tofu in a bit of sesame oil. The taste was good but I think I am going to try to pick them when they are little younger. There are not a ton of beans on the plant but when you have 20 inch long beans you don’t need too many to make an adequate meal!
I have been more than impressed with my pepper plants. My mostly green harvest today was interrupted by a few red jalapeño peppers. Today I picked 1466 grams of jalapeños which is about 3 pounds!
The other week I was able to make a few more Quick Refrigerator Pickled Jalapeño. I made 5 jars so this is plenty for my monthly consumption. Today’s harvest is going to be pickled and then canned! A gardening goal of mine this year was to grow enough to can so I could enjoy pickled jalapeños all year long. I wonder how many jars I will get with my 3 pounds.
I went to the Saturday farmer’s market in Portland at Portland State University. This is probably the best farmer’s market I have ever been to. The number of vendors was incredible and the array of their bounty varied. One of the best stands was the mushroom farm which also supplied mushrooms to their neighboring stand which had biscuits with mushroom gravy and the best sautéed mushrooms I had ever tasted. There was also a focaccia pizza and bagel stand which brought their own wood burning oven to heat their goods. Some of the stands were from the orchards we had visited on the Fruit Loop Trail. I think the main thing that stood out for me was the care and presentation of all the items on display. You could spend your whole morning here sampling local produce and eating your way through various food stands!
We stopped by Sauvie Island for a little blueberry picking on our trip in Oregon. Sauvie Island is about 10 miles from downtown Portland and is predominantly a farming and wildlife refuge. The island is full of fruit and vegetable farms offering u-pick harvests. We stopped at Bella Organic Farm. The blueberries bushes were full of ripe blueberries and we picked almost 8 pounds of blueberries. We stopped just at one farm for picking but I would love to come back and explore the island a little bit more.
We spent some time in Oregon last week and stayed a night in Hood River. The Hood River County Fruit Loop is about one hour from Portland located in the Columbia River Gorge. We spent one day exploring part of the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile loop which connects farms and orchards. There are about 32 stops along the way.
The first stop we made was to Cody Orchards Fruit Stand. We bought some cherries from the stand to enjoy throughout the day. You can also pick your own apples, pears and cherries here depending on the season. I really enjoyed the little garden right outside the fruit stand.
The second stop we made was to Packard Orchard and Bakery. They had a little fresh fruit but seemed to specialize in jams, preserves, and baked goods. They also had ice cream. The view from the orchard was beautiful and you had a direct line of sight of Mount Hood. I did like their display of pickled veg including pickled beets, jalapeños, dilly beans, ginger pickled radish, and asparagus to name a few. If you are a sweets lover this might just be the place for you with the assortment of very large cookies, and fruit-packed pastries. I don’t eat items with processed sugar added so this wasn’t the place for me but I did enjoy the view.
The third stop was to Hood River Lavender and this was one of my favorite stops! This is an organic lavender farm with beautiful views and smells! They had rows and rows of lavender which you could cut yourself plus they had lots of other flowers interplanted. They also had a portion sectioned off for wildflowers with a trellised grape entrance. This place was buzzing with bees and butterflies. The tiny shop offered lavender oil, lotions, soaps and much more. Our last stop was Cascade Alpacas and Foothills Yarn and Fiber. We were greeted by several adorable and gentle alpacas. They had been sheered in May so their coats were not as fluffy as the alpaca I remember from my trip to Peru. However, they were still really soft. They also had a few baby alpaca born just a few weeks ago! Inside the store there was yarn from their alpaca both dyed and natural colors. They also had lots of other yarns from other places in their well stocked store. If you are a knitter this is the place for you! We bought some yarn from their baby alpaca which they label with the name of the alpaca so you know which babe offered their wool to you! Plus the staff here were welcoming and very knowledgeable. They took the time to explain how they care for their animals as well as the process of making their yarn.
If you are in Oregon, I would highly recommend the Fruit Loop and the Hood River area. There is nothing better than eating freshly picked fruit surrounded by beautiful scenery!
I finally added some yarrow in my garden. This has been on my to do list for a long time and after reading about the benefits of yarrow in the garden I added two plants one on each side of my garden so if you enter from either side of the house into my backyard it will be the first thing you see! I picked these locations because yarrow is a perennial so I will have welcoming flowers and color year after year greeting me every time I enter my garden. I added one called Moonshine, which has bright yellow flowers, and another called Red Velvet with pinkish red flowers.
Yarrow is considered a nutrient catcher which means it has long roots that bring up nutrients in the soil. Once the yarrow is established in my garden, I hope to use it as a chop and drop mulch. This means I will be cutting back the plant and dropping the cuttings as mulch in my garden beds. Yarrow accumulates nutrients so as the cuttings rot the stored nutrients break back down into my soil. In addition, yarrow has beautiful flowers which attract many beneficials such as ladybugs, bees and parasitic wasps. Also yarrow is drought tolerant once established so I don’t have to worry about how much water the plants get!
The other day I harvested basil and made pesto so I have decided to do a post about my pesto. The first pesto recipe I used was a vegan recipe from Ida Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance. Over the years, I have changed the recipe to meet my tastes. I love my pesto to be super lemony and garlicky. I never measure any of the ingredients because it usually depends on how much basil I harvest at the time. I’ve made it so many times that I can eyeball what I need and then I always have a baguette around to taste test as I go along… sometimes I end up eating it straight out of the mixer. I also make huge batches of pesto at once usually a few quarts at a time since I harvest so much basil.
1 & 1/2 cups walnuts
About 6 cups of packed basil leaves (usually I fill my 9 cup food processor once, quickly blitz the leaves and fill it up a second time)
3 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one or two lemons
Pick your basil straight from the garden (it is freshest this way and makes for better tasting pesto). Wash the leaves, put through a salad spinner or dry on a towel. Make sure the basil leaves are completely dry before making the pesto. Toast the walnuts in a toaster oven (or regular oven) at 350°F for about 5 minutes on a baking sheet. Let the walnuts cool. If you make pesto with hot walnuts the nuts will wilt your fresh basil leaves.
Blitz the basil in a food processor (or blender) first. Then add walnuts, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Blend in the food processor until combined, scraping down the sides as you go. Continue to process while adding the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Sample at this point and add more ingredients to your taste.
You can add parmesan cheese to your pesto if you would like but honestly if you up the lemon and garlic you really don’t miss the cheese. I make my pesto without cheese and add it when I eat it. This is because I freeze pesto in quart Ziploc bags and it is better to add the cheese in right before you eat it. The pesto freezes really well in these bags. I lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet so it freezes flat, then I stack them in my freezer. When we want pesto I take a bag out of the freezer and open it up while still frozen. I transfer the pesto into a container to let it thaw (it is much easier this way and isn’t a mess trying to get the pesto out of a bag later). Making pesto fresh in the summer and freezing it allows you to enjoy pesto all winter long!
Many people make their pesto with pine nuts. I find that walnuts have a much bolder, darker flavor which I love about this recipe. Also walnuts are so much cheaper than pine nuts. When making pesto in bulk, walnuts are the way to go! I think one day I will need a walnut tree to match my field of basil. Once you make your own, you will never buy expensive, flavorless store-bought pesto again! We eat the pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, or slathered on a toasted baguette. Enjoy!
It’s finally here! Basil season! It took a little longer this year and I don’t think I am going to get as much basil as I did last year but I am so excited my kitchen counters are full of basil drying after their first rinsing. Basil is probably my most favorite plant to grow. It’s easy to grow from seed. I start basil seed under grow lights starting in February and keep sowing periodically month after month to ensure succession planting. I also broadcast some seed directly in the ground when the soil warms but my preferred method is to start basil seeds indoors.
When harvesting basil I keep a few things in mind. First of all basil is a cut and come again plant which means it will be producing all summer. The basil plant will have a main shoot up the middle and several side shoots. To create a bushier plant and encourage more growth, try to cut each growth back keeping one to two leave sets on each branch. In other words, cut the top off just above the second set of leaves from the ground. This will encourage new shoots which will give you more basil over time. I also try not to take more than a third of the plant at a time. Harvesting basil is important so do it often! Basil is quick to form flower heads so you really want to harvest often to discourage the flower heads from forming. When you return the next week to harvest more basil, your plant will be healthier and even bushier than before!
Last year I probably had about 25 basil plants around my property. This yielded me 21.01 pounds of basil. That’s a lot of basil people! What do you do with that much basil? I make pesto and freeze it in quart bags. Frozen pesto was pretty much taking over my freezer which is great considering we (and my extended family) eat it by the spoonful. I was able to harvest basil from May through November of last year so this year I am definitely getting a late start. Most of the basil plants that I put in early didn’t thrive and are already woody and flowering. The plants I put in later seem to be doing fine though so I am hoping to catch up on my pesto production. Yum!
If you are in the bay area, I highly suggest going on the Common Ground’s 8th Edible Landscaping Tour. I went last year with a good gardening friend. Although the entrance fee is a bit pricey ($35!), I really enjoyed last year’s tour. There was a dizzying array of gardens and they were pretty spread out (from Los Altos to Menlo Park) so you definitely need a car for this tour. Also we were only able to visit about 5 houses out of many, many more before we were exhausted. So when you go to buy your tickets at Common Ground, I would ask which houses meet your interests and hit those first before you tucker out! All of the houses had amazing vegetable gardens, many utilizing the front yards as well as back yards, and many gardens had animals such as ducks, chickens and bees. Also if you have never been in the Common Ground store it is worth checking out!
Unfortunately I can’t make it to this year’s tour. Here is information about the tour:
Common Ground Garden Supply and Education Center, Palo Alto, CA
Yesterday I was greeted by the most delicate, beautiful purple flower on my bean trellis. This variety of bean is called Orient Wonder (Vigna sesquipedalis). As beautiful as this flower is, it doesn’t last long before it gives you two little beans… which grow, and grow and grow… into 18 inch long beans! It is so nice of nature to give me something beautiful and edible at the same time!