East Sac Edible


1 Comment

Garden Clean Up and Leaf Hoarding

DSC_0346 DSC_0354 DSC_0348Well a week ago I spent some time trying to clean up the remnants of the summer garden. I always get lazy this time of year and put this off as long as I can. This year I called in my dad and he did most of the work. We took out the tomato plants, basil, tomatillo, and spent squash vines. We chopped them up with clippers and added them to the huge compost pile. I have been battling two mice who decided to live in my compost and then move into some tunnels in my raised bed. I am not sure if the mice made the tunnels or if something bigger did. For now, I disturbed the tunnels to let the mice know they are not welcome. They don’t seem to be making a home in my now open-air compost which is good and I haven’t seen them living in my raised beds lately so perhaps they got the message.DSC_0350 DSC_0349

Did you know that Sacramento has the most trees per capita than any other city in the world? This is a great thing for gardeners looking to improve their soil. Huge piles of leaves form in the streets waiting for city pick up. My property doesn’t have any large trees on it so I am lacking in brown materials for my compost. Last week I took two huge bags and helped myself to one of my neighbors piles. The neighbor came out and asked what I was doing… I’m pretty sure she thought I was a bit strange. Free material people! This stuff is gold! Some of the leaves went straight into my compost. Others I spread over my newly cleaned up garden beds. I am hoping that these leaves will decompose straight into the beds in time for spring planting. I plan on collecting several more bags of leaves to use in the spring because I tend to run out of brown material for my compost to keep the compost pile happy. I use the brown material to cover freshly added kitchen scraps which will hopefully help discourage the mice. I hope to have enough leaves to make a leaf mold pile as well.

Not much is happening in the garden although I did pick the last kabocha winter squash (Hokkori) and the butternut squashes. We roasted these for dinner the other night. The kabocha was delicious and I will definitely plant this next year. The kabocha yielded a little over 9 pounds and was happy growing out of the compost pile. The butternut was pretty good but several of them split before I picked them so I may experiment with other varieties next year. DSC_0345 DSC_0344

Another little small victory in the garden: In August I threw some Italian Parsley seed below my garden hose faucet. Every time I use the hose (which isn’t very often because of the drought) I noticed that when I turn off the water, some water backfills and leaks right under the spigot. I decided instead of wasting these few drops of water, I could plant something fairly hardy so I chose parsley and look at it today! I have never “intentionally” watered this plant. Also California is in a severe drought so every drop of water counts!

DSC_0353Also in my garden I am anxiously waiting for my Owari Satsuma Mandarins to ripen. This is the second year for this tree and although it is tiny it is pretty heavy with fruit. I had to prop up one branch with a tomato cage just to make sure it wouldn’t’ break off. DSC_0351Hope you are able to eat something from the garden with your loved ones this week! Happy Thanksgiving!


Leave a comment

Cowpea success then failure

On June 12, I started some California Blackeye Cowpeas and transplanted them into one of my raised beds on July 1. By August these were really healthy and robust looking plants and by mid September these plants were drying out ready to be stored. My daughter and I had a great time shelling the cowpeas and got a respectable haul from just a few plants.

 DSC_2631

DSC_2746 DSC_2911 DSC_0281

We stored about two mason jars full of the cowpeas which I marked down as a gardening success. In the past I have saved enough seed to replant the next year but this was my first time attempting a storable harvest for later use. Two mason jars is not a ton but would be enough to throw into one or two meals.

Well, I should have done a little more research. Once my daughter and I happily harvested the beans and put them in the jars I forgot about them. This morning when I took a closer look I saw some crawly grey insects in the beans. Bean weevils! I’ve never seen bean weevils before but this is what I gather they are. Take a closer look at the picture below (sorry my camera is not as great at close ups as I would like). DSC_0283

See those little guys about three rows of beans down from the top? Yuck! Here’s another shot of a few crawling around on top.DSC_0284So after a little reading up on these guys I have some new strategies for next time around but this harvest went straight into my city green waste bin. I think the main problem that went wrong was that my husband was trying to be “helpful.” Let me explain: My daughter was helping me sort the beans. She was really helping as much as a toddler can. I asked her to put all the beans we had shelled into a colander and move them into a mason jar. She did quite well at this task and it kept her busy on the kitchen floor long enough for me to make dinner. Well, while I was showering she had spilled many of the cowpeas onto the floor so my husband trying to be “helpful” and decided to wash the beans. Immediately he realized his error and tried to dry off the beans that were meant for storage. Well the beans dried out just fine but perhaps this triggered the eggs of the weevils to decide it would be a great time to hatch. I will spare you on the details of the weevil life-cycle because it may make you queasy.

That is just one theory I have of what happened but I shouldn’t blame my husband entirely. Wetting the beans probably only sped up the process since the eggs were already there. Another strategy I read about is after putting the beans in jars, to freeze the jars for a few days. Apparently this helps kill the eggs. Also there are strategies of preventing the adult weevils from laying eggs in the first place by planting companion plants that will repel weevils.

It amazes me that my garden feeds me anything at all given all the problems you can run across! But each time I try something new I definitely learn something new too. On to the next experiment!


Leave a comment

October 2014 Harvest Tally

DSC_0279We always love October with the cooler temperatures and Halloween festivities. I haven’t been spending too much time in the garden lately so no garden pictures this time. However, I’ve included some of our Halloween decorations in this post. I painted the first pumpkin we grew and my husband carved bigger store-bought pumpkins. Also I made this super cute ghost garlands (traced from this free printable)!

DSC_0276My total poundage for October (2014) is 58.77 pounds.

My total poundage October (2013) was 43.61 pounds.

DSC_0277So far I have harvested 342 pounds this year. My one Trombetta squash plant that has given me a whopping 58 pounds of squash with many, many more to come. October’s harvest was mainly made up of Trombetta, tomatoes, basil, kale, peppers, pumpkins, a few runner beans and various herbs. I expect the harvest to slow down a bit now that we are in November.

Also a shot of our celebratory pumpkin…

20141031_083944

 

 


2 Comments

Apple Picking at Highland Farm, Holliston, MA

DSC_2955DSC_2957On a trip to Boston we stopped for some apple picking with some friends. We went to Highland Farm in Holliston. They offer 11 varieties of apples but it was pretty late in the season so there were lots of apples on the ground. We mainly picked Pink Lady apples (my favorite!) and Honey Crisp. My daughter loved eating the apple straight from the tree with juice dripping down her chin. It is funny because each time we go out “foraging” for food, she eats a ton while we are picking but when I try to serve the same fruit on a plate she doesn’t show much interest. She did this when we went blueberry picking in Oregon and the same thing happened with the apples. Maybe eating straight off the tree… or just in nature is the trick? Or maybe she feels like she is getting a free meal? Anyone else notice this with children? Whatever the reason, we will try to do pick-your-own more often! DSC_2956


3 Comments

From Garden to Table: Soondubu Jjigae, Korean Soft Tofu Stew

I have lots of recipes but in general I stick to meals that are easy to throw together and can pack as many of our homegrown veggies in as possible. I have about 5 go to recipes that meet this criteria but was getting in a bit of a rut when I decided to look to the internets to give me inspiration. The other day I went out to Korean food with my parents. I don’t eat Korean food all that often so when I do, it’s a treat. I had a fantastic vegetarian bi bim bap at the restaurant but after we left I started thinking about soondubu jjigae. Soondubu is a kimchi soft tofu stew. It is served bubbling hot in its cooking vessel at restaurants. I just couldn’t get soondubu out of my head. Then I thought… I probably can make that myself. So I did.

And to my surprise, it was so easy AND you could throw any veggies you have in the garden into it. This might not be the most traditional of recipes but it worked for me.DSC_2943

I adapted this recipe from Chow and you can find their recipe here. Here is my adaptation:

Soondubu Jjigae (Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew)

  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Korean chili paste (gochujang; This definitely makes it spicy so omit this if you can’t handle the heat!)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Any other veggie you have in the garden!
  • 1 cup Nappa Cabbage Kimchi, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or any broth)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 (14-16 ounce) package soft tofu, drained
  • 2 large eggs (optional)
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • Steamed white or brown rice for serving

DSC_2933First of all, you can basically throw anything into this pot so if you have veggies that you need to use up this is a great recipe to try. Second note, the kimchi I bought was pretty spicy on its own so I didn’t put any of the chili paste in. It was still delicious and just the right amount of heat. Adjust to your liking. Also the original recipe only calls for zucchini as the main veggie so if you do end up adding more vegetables to the dish, I recommend adding some extra broth for a more stew like consistency.DSC_2934

The veggies I grew in my garden that I decided to put in this dish were Trombetta di Albenga squash, Sweet Canary Bell Pepper, Hungarian Yellow Wax Pepper (for some reason these are supposed to be yellow but they are ripening as red… I saved these seeds from last year so maybe I mislabeled or they crossed!?), Orient long green beans and some Lacinato kale.

DSC_2938Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a lid on medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Add salt. Add the chili paste, stir to combine, until fragrant about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and let cook for about 5 minutes if using Trombetta. This squash is harder than Black Beauty zucchini so I gave it a little more time in the pan. If you are using a softer zucchini just stir for about a minute. Add any other veggies at this time too.

DSC_2935DSC_2939Roughly chop the kimchi and add, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. The kimchi should start to simmer. Don’t forget to add in those kimchi juices!

DSC_2940Add the broth and the soy sauce and bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt if needed. Cook until veggies are almost done.

Using a large serving spoon, add the drained tofu in very large spoonfuls careful not to break into smaller pieces. Gently press down into the soup until covered. Cover with lid and simmer for another 3 minutes.

DSC_2941 Crack eggs into the simmering stew. Cover and simmer until whites are set (about 2 minutes). Dish the stew into bowls careful not to break the tofu or the egg yolks. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately with a side of rice.DSC_2942

This stew is hearty, healthy and perfect for fall. Enjoy!

DSC_2944Next on my ever-growing list to do is: grow Nappa cabbage (I already have seed!) and learn how to make kimchi!

 


Leave a comment

September 2014 Harvest Tally

Happy October! October is one of my favorite months. Since October is here I can add up how much I harvested in September.

DSC_2916My total poundage for September (2014) is 53.70 pounds.

My total poundage September (2013) was 78.4 pounds.

So far I have harvested 283 pounds of food off of my property in 2014. This number is definitely not going to get me to my 500 pound goal but I am not going to stop trying. I still have lots to harvest and I love being able to go into my garden 10 minutes before dinner, grab a bunch of veggies and cook a healthy meal. Also our 6 fruit trees have not produced much of anything the past two years (this is their second year in the ground) so I think next year if the fruit trees kick in a bit it will be very easy to get to my 500 pound goal.

DSC_2922

Lemon flower

Lemon flower

One of my most impressive harvests has been kale. I pick kale almost every other day and add it to almost any meal (stir fry, miso soup, pizza, salads, pastas etc). I started being able to harvest kale in March and it has been a steady supply ever since. Kale is great because it only gets better with the cold weather so it almost is a year round crop here for me. This year I have harvested 14 pounds of kale which I guess doesn’t sound like a lot but every harvest I only grab a handful of leaves so each 45 gram harvest really adds up over time. Also kale doesn’t weigh that much! It is really nice to have a dependable crop since a lot of my other crops have not been as dependable this year.

This year I have planted 3 very different varieties of kale: Red Russian, Lacinato and Blue Dwarf (left to right).DSC_2924

 

Hope everyone is enjoying the weather!


Leave a comment

We are just on a break…

Finally some rain!

Finally some rain!

My garden and I have taken a little break from each other. After the hustle of the height of summer, I needed a little time away. The weather changed perfectly this week to provide some cozy time inside. Last week, we had our first “real” rain in longer than I can remember. You know you are in a real drought when you have a 16 month old and she has never seen rain fall from the sky before.

Deconstructed compost bins

Deconstructed compost bins

The new open air compost pile. It looks so nice because there is an obscene amount of coffee grounds thrown on top!

The new open air compost pile. It looks so nice because there is an obscene amount of coffee grounds thrown on top!

The garden seems to be happy with the rain. In Sacramento, the summer season really seems to extend quite a long time. Last year I was still harvesting tomatoes in November! This year I think I will take down the tomatoes earlier though to get my compost piles ready. Yesterday I pulled apart both compost bins and made one huge open air pile. I like doing this in the fall so that I can easily turn the pile and things seem to decompose much faster this way. Plus I don’t have room for all of my old summer plants in the bins so a huge open pile is the way to go.

DSC_2911

Synchronized Trombetta di Albenga squash!

Synchronized Trombetta di Albenga squash!

There is still plenty to harvest. Basil, peppers, squash, kale, and tomatoes are still coming in. I planted some fall seeds directly into the ground although I still have not fully committed to my fall garden yet. I am feeling a bit tired from gardening so I might take this season off just to plant cover crops, build up my compost piles and work on soil fertility. Sometimes the garden needs a break from me too.

Corn was replaced with some fall seeds

Corn was replaced with some fall seeds

Don’t worry though… I am sure we will reconcile after we both have our space.


Leave a comment

Children’s Garden Play Space

One question I got from many visitors on the garden tour was, “What is this for?”

DSC_2834I think a lot of people thought it was so sort of shade structure for my plants. Well it is a shade structure but it isn’t for plants. It is for children! My back yard doesn’t have very much shade. Actually it has none. There are no big trees on my property or overhang from my neighbors. My daughter is loving being outside but I did want her to have a shady place she could retreat to if the sun was just too much. So I made this tent for her. It was the simplest design and very easy to make. If you want to make your own check out the instructions for your very own DIY A-frame tent. Actually this design is so simple that I might make a few more to fit over my garden beds to shade new seedlings! The frame collapses very easily because there are no nails or screws so it would work nicely in my garden since I don’t have a lot of storage space.

20140912_094224After observing my daughter in the garden, I have noticed that she loves picking up small things like the chive heads, flowers, rocks and especially the marbles in the bee bath. I am pretty lucky that my daughter doesn’t try to put too much in her mouth but I don’t want her to be playing with marbles just yet. Instead I set up her very own play space so she can freely play while I garden without me needing to hover over her.

I had a bunch of thrift store “sand toys” that I had bought for my niece when we go down to the playground. They include Jello mold tins, bundt tins, measuring cups and kitchen spoons. (Side note: It is amazing how “real” materials can offer children a different kind of play. First of all the sandbox at the park is filled with broken plastic sand toys which are dangerous and unattractive. My alternative of thrift store finds gets much more attraction from the neighborhood children. Also my niece and I picked out every item and discussed whether it would be a good toy. I had to ask her guiding questions like, “What materials would be safest in the sandbox, especially if there are babies?” and “How many of these tins should we get to make sure we bring enough to share?” She was completely part of the process which made the “toys” even more special to her.)

DSC_2890 I reused the sand toys in the backyard space. I added various rocks, decorative balls made from natural materials, dried bean shells, and dried flowers. I also planted some herbs and flowers around the area so she can freely pick. I want to move all these materials into a more permanent space by the tent, maybe a dirt or mulch pit for her to play in but the sprinklers would be a problem. I am still trying to figure the best placement for these spaces! I am really inspired by this space so I hope to create something like this over time with my daughter so we can spend time together in the garden.DSC_2891 DSC_2892 DSC_2893 DSC_2894

 


3 Comments

Play Kitchen Revamp

Even though this blog is mainly about gardening, one reason why I grow my own food and cook at home is so my daughter has first hand knowledge about where her food comes from. My daughter already loves going into the garden. She particularly loves the chive flowers and picking strawberries. Inside the house I have been working on a play area for her which allows for her to play out some of our everyday adventures in the garden and kitchen. So bare with me… this post is slightly indirectly about gardening. This is mainly going to be about kitchen play.

DSC_1793

A few months ago I was lucky enough to score this Plan Toys play kitchen off of freecycle. Yup, that’s right folks… I got this thing completely for free. It definitely was dirty and even came with a few spiders. The wood was a little warped in some places from being left outside on a porch. The lady that gave it to me said her sons got a few good years of playing with it but she just didn’t have the energy to redo it. DSC_1860 DSC_1861

I first cleaned it up a bit just with some wet wipes. I took apart the entire thing and I sanded down some of the wood. I used Amy Howard’s Chalk Paint to give it a new face lift. I used Ballet White for the trim and doors and Lime Lime for the face. At first I tried to paint around the dials to keep the detail work but in the end I didn’t like how the orange clashed with the green. Also I wanted a streamlined look. DSC_2689DSC_2686I did several coats of each color to get a good finish. I also did some touch up paint in some areas since it got a bit dinged up being in the high foot traffic area of the garage. The top part of the kitchen had a shelf and a rack but some screws were missing and I decided to go without the shelf since I liked the look better.DSC_2690

After the few coats of paint I used Amy Howard’s Antique Wax to finish the piece. The wax will help protect the paint and will hopefully be a bit water resistant as well. I just lightly painted the wax on with a brush, let it dry for about 30 minutes and then buffed it with a clean old cotton t-shirt.DSC_2692 DSC_2693

I also had to fix the doors. There is an oven on one side and a refrigerator on the other. The kitchen came with only two plastic dowels to hold the door in place which meant that one door wasn’t attached at all. My solution was a 45 cent one. I got a 1/4 inch dowel from the hardware store, cut it to match the length of the plastic one. However, the width of the dowel was too big so I spent time striping the dowel down with a rasp (carefully as to not rasp my fingers) and then sanding it until it fit.DSC_2809

The inside shelving of the kitchen was water damaged, warped and overall pretty gross. I decided I didn’t want to paint it so I opted for removable wall paper. I wanted something that would pop from the inside but nothing too crazy. I ended up ordering this Tribal Chevron wall paper. It was a bit pricey but I justified the cost because I got the kitchen for free. Did I mention that it was free?

DSC_2811 Over the past several months I have been collecting some kitchen items for my daughter to use while I worked on the kitchen itself. We went to thrift shops and found some wooden bowls, and awesome measuring cups that she can pretend are saucepans. We also went “shopping” in our own home and found a teak container to hold cooking utensils and a jar full of wine corks. I found a sweet Etsy shop called Gems from Before where I bought some wooden bowls, plates, egg holders, wooden acorns, crab apples and eggs. Before I introduced the play kitchen, my daughter used a wine crate as her cooking surface and spent a lot of time transferring the acorns from one bowl to another with the wooden spoon.

DSC_2812 DSC_2814 DSC_2813The only thing left to do is to replace the burners so I have been on the look out for coasters or trivets that would work in the space. Over the next several months we will continue to transform the space around the kitchen. I am thinking of putting in a mirror and hooks along the wall to add some aprons and dress up materials. Also I will be on the look out for some more natural materials to add to the space like buckeyes for her pretend cooking. Overall I love how this project turned out and I am glad a simple piece of furniture will get many more years of play!DSC_2901 DSC_2902 DSC_2904

 


Leave a comment

Drying Herbs: Thyme and Oregano

DSC_2890

Herbs are one of the easiest plants you can grow especially in small spaces. Once plants are established you can pick from them when you need small amounts. I much prefer cutting herbs from my garden than buying a bunch from the store only to use a small portion. Also store-bought herbs are expensive. Picking herbs right before using offers the freshest taste as well as smell.
DSC_2892

One of my favorite herbs is thyme. I love picking fresh thyme because it smells so delicious. Currently I have about 6 thyme plants around my garden. I have tried to grow thyme from seed without much luck. I have also grown thyme from cuttings from my dad’s plant. I just took some cuttings, put them in water for a few days until I started to see little roots then stuck them in some pots. This year I have bought a few established plants from the nursery because my seed starts did not transplant well. DSC_2893

Today I also picked some oregano to dry. I have two main oregano plants. One has been established in my herb bed for two years now. The other I started by taking some cuttings off the first plant and sticking them in the ground. This plant has done amazingly well and for little to no work! Two plants for the price of one! DSC_2894I have tied up the oregano and thyme bunches with ribbon to dry. I usually dry my herbs inside because I like smelling them as I walk by. Hang them up for a few weeks and then you can separate the leaves from the stalks to put in spice jars. This is an extremely economical way of having spices and much cheaper than buying dried spices from the store.