All Posts In In Season

Spring Fling: Rhubarb

by in Holidays, In Season, May 4th, 2011

rhubarb
We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Spring Fling 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Recently, we dove into the world of asparagus — today, we’re exploring rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a large reddish, celery-like stalk with large green leaves. Even though rhubarb is commonly paired with strawberries to create tarts, cobblers and pies, this lengthy root is a vegetable. It tends to be tart, needing the addition of ample sweeteners like sugar and additional fruits.

Here’s how to incorporate rhubarb in your Mother’s Day menu »

Spring Fling: Asparagus

by in In Season, Recipes, April 20th, 2011

roasted asparagus bundles
We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Spring Fling 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market.

While asparagus may be available year-round in your local supermarket, it peaks in April, making it ideal to serve on Easter Sunday. Our taste-buds spring into action when asparagus is roasted, sautéed or just stir-fried — each cooking method bringing out a subtle, nutty flavor.

Asparagus recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner »

Cold Frame

by in In Season, September 3rd, 2009

This summer, my garden was my saving grace, offering the daily promise of adventures outside despite a busy work schedule. It’s also what inspires my next meal, and what keeps me moving between them. So, at the end of the summer, I’m incredibly reluctant to let the fun end, even though today’s unseasonably cool breeze reminded me that there’s a big chill in my future.

Last winter, my friends in my community garden built a cold frame, and I watched them munch on mustard greens in March while I was still waiting for final frost. Too much hassle, I thought, too much work. But this year, after visiting Sean Conway and his glorious year-round green houses on his set of Cultivating Life, and getting my hands on his how-to guide by the same name, which gives easy steps for building a cold frame, I’m singing a different tune. I’m not going to let cool weather be an excuse for me or my greens to hibernate.

If your wood-working skills are lacking, you can buy a ready-made cold frame here that will keep your green thumb working even with woolen gloves. But if you’re up for a DIY challenge, reclaim some salvaged wood and make your own cold frame with these easy steps.

Here’s to hoping we’re still swapping our harvests for months to come.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

Late-Season Success

by in In Season, August 27th, 2009

Around here, temperatures creep above 80 degrees well into late September, making it difficult to think about cool weather food like beets and kohlrabi. But since gardeners are always planning ahead, it’s time to start thinking about planting late-harvest crops and returning seed to the soil for yet another round of delicious rewards.

The same wonderful vegetables (like radishes, lettuces and beans) that appreciate spring’s cooler evenings will thrive when planted in late August to early September, keeping your garden in business past pumpkin season. And consider planting hardy cold-weather vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, mustards, spinach and Swiss chard, as well as bulbs like garlic and onions, which will survive even longer.

For the most successful fall garden, try to identify the average date of the first hard frost in your area, and count backwards, planting only seeds whose “days until harvest” fall within this time frame. If temperatures drop quickly in your area, consider planting in raised beds and pots, where the ground stays warmer longer, and can be moved inside in the event of an early frost.

But we don’t have to worry about frost just yet, so get out there and keep digging.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens Spokesperson

One Old Potato

by in In Season, August 20th, 2009

my-uncle-harvesting-potatoes

My mother, who was blessed with a green thumb, has always loved to garden and grow plants and herbs of all kinds. As a child, I always remember her saving the pits of almost anything, sticking some toothpicks in them and placing them in water to see if they would root.

This season she tried her hand at potted terrace grown potatoes with fantastic results. She is so proud of her potatoes, and with good reason. They cook up creamy and sweet, with all the fresh potato goodness that you get from a good farmers’ market potato.

My co-workers, many of them who are urban gardeners as well, were very impressed and wanted to know more about growing your own potatoes, so I decided to ask mom some questions and get some tips that I could pass along.

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Seed Saving

by in In Season, August 14th, 2009

Now is a great time to start thinking about saving seeds for next season, which will make next year’s crop an even bigger bargain. It’s also one of the smartest ways to encourage an increasingly healthy and abundant garden year after year, since seeds you save from this season are naturally engineered toward your distinct climate and soil.

Different seeds have different needs (for example, tomato seeds need special processing), but here are a few basic tips to help you get started:

  • Chose fully ripe, healthy, blue ribbon veggies from your garden as seed saving candidates. Save seeds from peppers that have reached their final color, squash that is fully grown, healthy, and ripe, and mature, evenly-shaped beans.
  • Separate seeds from the fruit or pulp if necessary, and rinse well in a strainer. Lay the seeds out in a single layer to dry completely for two to three days. A fully dried seed should crack in half easily (discard broken seeds). Beans can be dried in their pods on the plant. Then pick, open, and drop seeds into a pouch.
  • Save seeds in an envelope in a dry, cool place, well-labeled with instructions for the next season.

Use your seeds within one year for best results, and swap them with your friends and neighbors for an even more diverse garden next season.

For a plant-by-plant guide for best seed saving practices, visit the International Seed Saving Institute at SeedSave.org.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens Spokesperson

Feeling Peachy

by in In Season, August 6th, 2009

Thou shalt not covet. I know this. But lately I’ve been feeling peachy, making it very hard not to envy my neighbor in our community garden who had the good foresight to plant a peach tree last year.

So I’m using my neighbor’s peaches as inspiration to plot my own mini-orchard. If you’re similarly inspired, now is the time to start thinking about what fruit trees you might want to plant this fall, or next spring. Spring (in cooler climates) and fall (in warmer) are the best times to put fruit trees in the ground.

What? You don’t have room for fruit trees? Oh, but you do. Some fruit-loving geniuses have cultivated small-space, high-yielding dwarf and semi-dwarf trees that have helped many a small-space gardener get one step closer to their dream of having an orchard. What you do need is a little help from a local expert (from your local nursery, garden center or farmers’ market) who can tell you what varieties will grow best in your soil and climate.

If you have the good fortune to have a peach tree or two of your own already (or an orchard or farmers’ market nearby) don’t miss an opportunity to show off the fruits of your labor in a simple Tomato-Peach Salad or a luscious Caramel-Peach Upside Down Cake.

For inspiration and instruction on planting fruit trees at home, I recommend The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden. And befriend a local farmer while you’re at it. They are a wealth of knowledge.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

Blight or Blossom End Rot?

by in In Season, July 30th, 2009

tomato-blight-2

Thank you to the clever reader who discovered that the “blight” on Miriam’s tomatoes was not in fact late blight, but blossom end rot. Our colleague and fellow gardener Derek Flynn concurred, sending us to the photos of blight here and here, which confirm that late blight starts at the stem and works its way down, while blossom end rot shows up at the bottom of the tomato. Upon further inspection, Miriam also noted that her plants lacked the white powdery spores and brown spots on the leaves that are common symptoms of late blight.

We’re sorry if we misled you–we’re passionate and protective gardeners (and cooks), not botanists–but we want to set the record straight in case we sent you into a premature panic. The good news is, most experts report that while you have to forgo the fruit you find with blossom end rot, it doesn’t spread or infect the plant itself, and the same plant, given proper irrigation and healthy soil, may produce perfectly healthy tomatoes later in the season.

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Summer Blight

by in In Season, July 23rd, 2009

Monday morning, I began to write about the collection of tomatoes starting to ripen in my garden, ranging from vibrant yellow beauties the shape and size of gumballs to tiny green striated torpedoes and deep purple-maroon monsters with more crevices than an elephant’s trunk.

My writing was stopped short when our sous chef and fellow gardener Miriam showed up at my desk with news of the late blight fungus that is rapidly spreading throughout tomato plants in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic and likely to hit home gardens hard. The fungus, which is also found and carried in potatoes (think Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century), is sometimes found in small amounts in August and September, but this outbreak is on a scale rarely seen by plant pathologists and agricultural experts.

Although the fungus has been around for centuries, this outbreak is thought to have started in mass-market outdoor and gardening stores. Since Miriam and I buy most of our tomato plants from heirloom producers at the farmers’ market, we thought we might be safe.

Over the next few days, we gathered around every news and gardening report, filtering through the news that that for organic gardeners (like us), there is no known cure or prevention except extracting the plants and disposing of them (in the garbage, not compost). Fungicides can help prevent the fungus from spreading, but that’s an option many aren’t willing to make.  And as an organic gardener in a community garden that lives by that commitment, my own choice is limited.

We all went home, inspected our tomatoes, coddled them, and picked and cherished every healthy ripe tomato straight from the vine. We held our breath and hoped for hot sunny days (reported to kill late blight), exchanged worried glances during the rain, and promised that we’d continue to buy tomatoes from the farmer’s market, even as prices doubled, to support those that are quickly losing their crops.

Two days later, Miriam came in with an almost-ripe orange and yellow striped tomato wearing all the signs of blight. We stood in a quiet circle, inspecting her tomato, and patting her on the back, as if to say “we’re sorry this happened to you.” To lighten the mood, we joked about giving Miriam’s tomato a proper burial, and offered to sit shiva for her crop. But the truth is, the blight is no joke, least of all for the hundreds of farmers whose living depends on it — evidence that the many principles of sustainability, most primarily biodiversity, are wise ones. Planting large varieties of any plant in any garden or farm is the best defense against total crop failure.

Wherever your tomato plants came from, and however many varieties you’ve planted, I sincerely hope they will not be affected by the blight, and that you don’t give up on gardening if they do. And I hope just as fiercely that you’ll keep eating tomatoes, keep buying tomatoes, and keep our farmers (and tomatoes) in business for years and years to come.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

Seeing Green

by in In Season, July 16th, 2009

Year after year, cucumbers have been the most dependable and prolific plants in my garden, making them an easy sell for me each spring. This year, I got so carried away with tomatoes and peppers, I almost forgot them, until my friends from Teich Garden Systems (who build our Good Food Gardens) gave me an heirloom pickling cucumber plant. I almost forgot them again until this morning, when I found the plant cleverly creeping up the legs of an old-cast-iron trellis, with two chubby cucumbers hanging heavily from its vines. These first cucumbers mark the glorious beginning of weeks upon weeks of green, as well as meals and menus inspired by their vibrant green skin.

Best picked when evenly green, firm and crisp, cucumbers should be eaten as soon after picking as possible, when their cells are bursting with water. It’s that crisp edge that makes them so refreshing raw, dipped in hummus, tossed into a Greek salad, or sliced (any size, skin on) with lemons in ice water, a spa trick that’s easy to adopt at home.

They are also the inspiration behind three of my favorite summer foods: chilled cucumber soup; pickles; and tzatziki, a garlicky yogurt-based cucumber dip that’s perfect with pita and as a topping for lamb burgers, gyros, or kebabs.

And if you happen to have a garden bursting with green, or a good farmers’ market nearby, take the color and run with it with a summer supper made of tzatziki with grilled flatbread, pesto stuffed into grilled arctic char, a summer squash carpaccio, and a peppermint and lime herb refresher. Bon Appetit!

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

P.S. If you didn’t get your cucumber plants in yet, it’s okay to plant some now for a fall harvest. Cucumbers grow quickly and like lots of space, sun, and water, so give them room to grow either out (at least two feet apart) or up (they work well when trellised or allowed to creep up a link fence) and keep the soil moist.

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