Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Potato Salad from the Garden and Around The Garden.

Dear Folks,

There is nothing more satisfying to a gardener to create great tasting meal options directly from the garden.

The other day I harvested onions, dried and also caramalized them in a crock pot.

I my pantry I had dried Rosemary, Celery and Mexican Oregano all harvested from my garden and dried for storage.

In mid-May I harvested a variety of colored potatoes from the garden, just waiting in my kitchen basket for use.  In the top of the picture I show some of the potatoes I harvested.  I put the small ones aside in a cardboard box in the frig for planting next January 1st.

Yesterday was Potato Salad day.

After the onions finished cooking in the crock pot, in the bottom was dried/cooked remnants called "fond" by the chefs.  I decided it would be great to flavor the cooking water for the potatoes, so I soaked the fond in water, scrapped it all up and saved.

My Potato Salad Recipe

My potato salads tend to be basic components and I "wing" anything else.  I generally for what is called "German-type" versions which call for draining the hot potatoes, and immediately add oil (I opted for Olive Oil this time, I frequently use avocado), sufficient to coat the potatoes.  Then I start adding.

This was a small batch of potatoes, so I added about a teaspoon of whole celery leaf, rosemary leaves and Mexican Oregano, ground them in my palm for about 1/2 tsp of each.  Sprinkled over the taters.  Peel, and sliced 2 hard boiled eggs.  Added fresh ground black peppers, salt and about 3 tablespoons of the sun cooked onions from the other day (this was shown in my prior post - they barely wilted).  I cooked up 3 slices of un-cured bacon to crisp.  I checked if I needed to add more oil (I did) adjusted the salt and black pepper, tossed everything, then added the crumbled bacon and tossed again.  I added 2 tablespoons of mayo to give a bit more moisture, tossed one more time and it was ready.

So to recap: I used onions, potatoes, and herbs from my garden.  Very satisfying.

To serve, I had a crazy idea and decided on a potato salad sandwich!  Yeah, I know.  Deane was skeptical too but he is such a kind taste tester.  I did not want a lot of bread.  I used those "flatbread rounds," thin sandwich bread 5 grms each of Protein and Fiber because of the high protein/fiber combo.

A bit of mayo spread on the bread stacked about 1 inch high with the salad and served with apples from the tree.

It was a hit, really.  There was something about it - maybe comfort food - but it worked great, so we decided it was a keeper.  :-)

. . .

Around the Garden

One of the tomatoes I planted this year was from seed my sister sent me several years ago from New Jersey "Golden Jubilee".

I was happily checking as it started to ripen and then took a really good look at the cluster of 3 I was looking at.  The ripest one had bugs on it and as I looked closer I saw some in/out activity on the tiniest of holes, so I picked it, made sure there were not more intruders and set aside for a BLT later today.

The other 2 ripening - one has sunburn and the other is looking good.  I am going to let the sunburn one ripen fully and harvest the seeds.

While sitting out on the patio last night just as the twilight was approaching, Deane pointed out the Crescent Moon.  Because of my angle when I turned to look at it, what I was a leaf cutter "watermelon" citrus leaf high up and just framing the moon.  It called for a picture.

Finally, I am posting a picture illustrating the main mantra I seem to be repeating right now.  It is not about shading the plants, it is about shading the soil.

The picture is of one of my 22 inch wide pots.  I transplanted 2 small sweet pepper plants in May and tucked in there if you look closely are 2 moringa trees in small pots.  They are sitting on the soil surface temporarily because I have not figured out where to plant them yet.  I allowed the purslane (edible wild vegetable) to grow up and shelter the soil surface, all while giving all the plants the direct sun they needs. The pot sits in mostly full sun all day with late afternoon shade from a tree.  See how lush they all look?  The pepper has quadrupled in size and has flower buds on it (a variety I got from Vilardi Gardens I am eager to taste.  Suzanne Vilardi has the best Arizona Grown transplants.

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Have a great rest of the week.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

I Harvested Onions, and Preserved with Sun and Crockpot.

Sun Dried-in Jars, Caramalized and Frozen
Dear Folks,

I harvested some onions yesterday and did several things with them.  I cut the roots off an replanted - I'm hoping for some green tops to harvest as needed (this works, just it maybe too hot now for the onions to sprout again.  We will see.

onion roots planted and covered
I also sun dried the green tops and cut 'scallion' separately.  The greens have a milder flavor so I have options AND, I caramelized a batch in the crockpot!.

I also distributed the extra greens through out the garden to discourage pest bugs. I don't expect it to last long as a deterrent but for now it is good.  It will dry and provide some mulch.

I already knew I wanted to dry some of the onions, but I had a lot of them.  3-4 of them filled my drying trays when chopped up.  I thought caramelized onions, but they take a long time and heat up the kitchen.  I frequently use the crock pot for cooking in the summer (I've even made bread) because I put it out on the patio and further keep the extra heat outside.

I went looking and found a recipe for caramelizing onions in a crock pot :-)

The suggestion was olive oil or melted butter.  And this was going to be different because I was not using big fat onions I was using large scallions.  I needed to get these out of the garden because the volunteer tomato and pichu berry were completely shading the onions.

(It takes about 10 months for onions to reach storage bulb size here in the desert (last year it was August.)

Cock Pot Caramelized Onions

Chop or thinly slice your onions and toss with olive oil or melted butter to coat all.  I chose to use olive oil, and put a thin amount in the crockpot first before I tossed the chopped with more.

Fill your crock pot about 3/4's full.  Turn on low and let cook for about 10 hours.

Worked like a charm.

The caramelized onions will only last about a week in the frig, so I decided to freeze in a ziplock.  The oil will allow me to break off chunks for use when I want to add to pasta, soup, or stew or use on a sandwich.

SOME NOTES:  The aroma and flavor of these is awesome.  Since I used scallions which had less density than a regular onion, I could have stopped at about 8 hours.  My wonderful scallions cooked down almost to a jam and the approximate 3 cups or so of chopped reduced to about 3/4 of a cup.  I was fine with that, but will keep the ratio reduction in mind for the future.  The recipe I based this on said 10 hours for regular caramelized onions but if you want "jam" cook for a couple more hours.

Since I was already sun drying the other onions in the sun, and it was HOT (yesterday when I started this it got to 109+) I thought I would see what would happen with a small amount of the olive oil tossed onion in the sun.  The result was significantly difference from the crock pot.  Obviously the sun did not mimic the crock pot heat and moisture.  We used most of the sun cooked onions on hot dogs last night and I'm using the rest of them when I use my potatoes for a potato salad later today.

Sun Drying Onions

After chopping the sun does all the work.  The green parts dried in about half a day, but I had to take the white/red part (these are red onion / scallions) in overnight because they were not quite dry, put them out this morning for about 2 hours and they were perfectly dry.

I mentioned before that I had an opportunity to purchase a round set of dehydrator trays (without the motor) which allowed me to have more capacity for sun drying.

You can cover with paper towel as I show or one of those picnic mesh domes.  I also sometimes stack the trays with their cover.  This is nice and compact, but you need to rotate the trays, through out the day as, the top tray and sometimes the bottom one dry out fastest.

Anything that is not completely dry, bring in overnight so they do not start to reabsorb moisture.

As with cooking, sun drying or any drying method reduces the volume of the food with the moisture withdrawn.  They store very well in mason jars and are ready to use when I need dry.  I still have some dried from last summer and they are still fragrant and tasty.  Always store in the cool, dry and dark to preserve flavor and aroma.

Here are some links to a few of my prior blog posts on sun drying.

Homemade dried vegetable bouillon - a mix of my herbs and veggies

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun Drying Fruit and Herbs

Finally, while you are harvesting, don't forget to let some of your beloved veggies and herbs go to flower and seed so you can harvest the mature and dry seed for re-sowing later.

This is "regional adaptation" at its best.  What did great in your garden will produce subsequent generations of stronger and more adapted plants.

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Have a great week in, and "from" the garden,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.