Garden, Plant, Cook!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Around The Garden and Kitchen - End of 2015 - Beginning of 2016

Dear Folks,

My Celery Re-Seeded Seedlings
The very end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 I snapped some pictures of what I and the garden were doing.

I bought some organic celery because mine is just sprouting in the garden, so as I usually do I cut the bottom off of the bunch and placed it in water.

Out in the garden I snapped a picture of what this will look like planted in about 35 days (pictured one was planted November 25).

The celery was for the beef stew with herbs and my dried bay leaf from the garden for New Year's Day Dinner.  Kitchen aromatherapy at its best with every things simmering in red wine and beef broth.

Stews are probably the easiest meals to prepare.  You can find recipes all over the place but, truly, you just need some basic ingredients and steps.  Not pictured was the cut of potato (I always leave the skin on), and the beef broth and red wine I used.  Cook on the stove top (2 hours) or in a slow cooker  (7 hours approx), with both needing to come to a boil and then simmer.

I sort of measure how much meat I have cooked up and cut celery, onion, carrots and potatoes to equal about 2-3 times the amount of meat.  This is all a preference.  Stew was always meant to be extended with vegetables, but can be more meat abundant if you choose.

Sear meat all over, quickly, in a bit of fat or oil of choice.  Add all of the herbs of choice (I used rosemary, thyme and oregano, dried bay leaf and black peppercorns - no salt at this point), stir for a minute or two, add meat and enough liquid to cover.  Add vegetables at one of two points, with the meat or half way through cooking if you prefer firmer vegetables (I like firm, but Deane likes very, very tender).  Reserve about a half cup of cold broth or wine for making a slurry with corn starch or flour to add at the end to thicken.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover.  Take the cover off towards the end if cooking on the stove top for the last 30 minutes to reduce the liquid (BUT if keep some extra liquid handy to add if it is evaporating too quickly.  When the meat is tender, add about 3-4 tablespoons of corn starch in a jar with the reserved cold liquid, cap and shake well and pour in while stirring.  The stew will thicken right away.  Salt to taste.

Most of the time when making stew or soup I shred some greens from the garden to stir in at the least moment or shred into the bowl before adding the stew or soup.  It really perks up the flavor and texture.

I made some whole wheat penne pasta, shredded fresh arugula from the garden, and layered, into the bowl, the arugula, pasta and then the stew.  A tasty and satisfying meal.

The freezes around the garden have had some impact.  My nasturtiums take a hit when there are freezing temperatures, but the plants seldom die completely.  In the middle of some damage one of the lovely flowers.

Red Sails with Celery Seedlings
My Red Sails Lettuce and Celery seedlings just come up wherever and I let them as long as it is not an inconvenient location.

White Eggplant Frost Damage
My white eggplant sustained quite a bit of frost damage and I won't touch the plant until late February/Early March to prune the damage.  I'm hoping the plant will make it through and jump start production in the late spring, as opposed to mid to late summer.

I'itoi Onions
My I'itoi Onions are coming along nicely.  I harvested this past year only to split them (I used one for cooking), so now I have multiple plants and will do the same again this year, using probably only a couple of onions for cooking.

The Saffron I planted in October is coming along, and I'm hoping this new location will give me the opportunity to harvest enough for one meal!

Sweet Peppers
I have several plants in the front gardens which have some dappled shade with a western exposure.  This sweet pepper loves the spot.

Pineapple - 2 years old
Out front I also have two 2-year old pineapple plants and I have high hopes that I might get a fruit off one or both of them.  The cold is getting to them, but keeping my fingers crossed.

One final photo.  For a project, I'm sprouting garbanzo beans and green lentils.  If you have not recently done any sprouting for use in salads, soups, stirfrys or stews, give them another look.

This is 36 hours after starting the overnight soak and 3 times a day rinse, in other words day 2.  They both immediately doubled in volume from the 1/4 cup I started with.

Choose glass and any type of top to allow rinsing and air circulation.  You can see lots of roots on the lentils on the right and the start of roots on some of the garbanzos on the left.

Once you have done the overnight soaking, keep the jars on their sides to allow the beans to spread out.  I learned the hard way some years ago keeping the jars upright resulted in a tangled mess of roots and hulls.

. . .

I am going to do an update on the Caper Plants in one of the next blogs.  It has been an interesting time with them in various parts of the garden.

I hope these images inspire you to try some new things.  Gardening is always an experiment but one filled with great expectations and hope and many successes.

I am always happy to answer your email questions (and of course if you stop by at the Mesa Farmers Market on Fridays), but I also will come to your home for a garden consultation or be a speaker at an event your group or company plans.  My contact page at my website.  Or email me direct at:

catherine at herbs2u dot net

Have a great week!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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