Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Southern Delight

It has come to my attention. I say, it has come to my attention that there are some who have never, I say, never sampled the southern delicacy known as fried green tomatoes. It's a travesty, I say, a travesty that this is the case. Especially when they are so easy to make you'd have to be busier than a centipede at a foot counting contest not to have time to whip up some for yourself. So why don't you give them a try? Unless you're too much of a Yankee, I say, Yankee to do so.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Second Time Around

Soon, much too soon for my taste, I know that we will probably have our first hard frost here in NWI. But the nice thing about root vegetables is that a nip of frost doesn't end their existance. So come what may, my second round of onions will probably turn out O.K.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Do you love magic? I certainly do! I've never taken the time for a serious study of it or tried to learn a trick well enough to perform before an audience, but I love to watch it. And I think I understand the basic principles involved fairly well. What does this have to do with gardening? One word, misdirection; you see the lemon cucumbers in the photo aren't produce I forgot to harvest, they're decoys. We have a couple of squirrels in the neighborhood and this is the time of year they start eating anything and everything they can get their hands on in order to put on weight for the winter. Now I don't want them munching on my tomatoes, which are still coming into their own. So I'm hoping the cucumbers will be enough of a distraction to keep the little critters busy and well fed and my tomatoes off their menu. So far it seems to be working.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maybe Next Year

It seems that beautiful blossoms are all that my pepino melon plants will be offering this year. I knew they had a long growing time, but the hot dry summer slowed them down even more. So I guess this exotic fruit won't be on my menu until next season.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Planting

For the first time I am trying some fall gardening with Tom Thumb lettuce. Its small size and quick rate of maturation should result in one or two good harvests before the first hard frost comes near the end of October.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Life's Simple Pleasures

  • Pre-made pizza crust - $2.00
  • mozzarella cheese - $1.25
  • 1 can pizza sauce - $0.68
  • several shakes of black pepper - mere pennies
  • garlic, fresh basil and fresh tomatoes -  gifts from the garden
  • the joy of eating hot tomato pizza straight from the oven - Priceless

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saga of the Siamese Twin Tomatillo Plants

Although you can't tell from the photos, these two pineapple tomatillo plants have cojoined root systems. They sprouted so close together in a small yogurt cup that it was impossible to remove one without effecting the other. So I let them grow for a while and then transplanted them and hoped for the best. Things turned out quite well don't you think?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frugal Feast Soup

Here's a way to eat well without busting your budget.


  • 1 chicken leg quarter (thigh with drumstick attached)
  • a half a cup of sliced onion
  • a small bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery ribs, split down the middle and chopped
  • 1 small bell pepper or 2 medium banana peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 - 14 oz. cans of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables
  • a half cup of long grain brown rice(not instant)
  • one and a half teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil of your choice( olive, corn, etc.)
*It's best to use disposable plastic or latex gloves when handling and slicing jalapeños. Discard them when the slicing and dicing is done being careful not to put your bare hand on the outside of either glove when removing them.

    1. In a 3-4 quart pot saute the sliced onion for about two minutes over medium high heat.
    1. Add the green onions, celery, pepper, jalapeños and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes more.
    2. Add the chicken broth, frozen vegetables, brown rice and Italian seasoning and stir them together.
    3. Remove the skin from the chicken and place the leg quarter in the pot.
    4. Cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil.
    5. Once the contents have reached a boil, lower the heat to simmer level and leave to simmer for two hours.
    6. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, carefully remove the chicken from the pot to a bowl or other suitable dish. Then separate the meat from the bones using a knife and fork. Be Careful! The chicken will be quite hot.
    7. Return the meat to the soup pot, stir and then simmer for about ten more minutes.
    8. Season to taste and enjoy!

      As you might imagine, there are an almost infinite number of possible variations of this recipe. During the growing season, I substitute fresh vegetables from the garden such as summer squash for one or both cups of the frozen vegetables. It can also be made with two chicken leg quarters instead of one.

      And if you're looking for a use for the remaining meat on the rotisserie chicken that's sitting in the refrigerator, you can slice/shave off as much as you like and stir it in after the soup has simmered for two hours.

      I have never found it necessary to add salt to this soup. Though your taste buds may tell you otherwise.

      If you want to simplify preparation, try leaving out the celery, sweet pepper and green onions. At the end you can season with a couple of teaspoons of a non-salt spice blend.

      It's all up to your taste buds and imagination. Cooking is after all an art. And art is in the eye, or in this case, taste buds of the beholder. Don't be afraid to experiment.

      A heavy crusted, chewy bread goes well with this soup and really completes the meal. Bon appetit!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Grow A Row For Someone You Don't Know

I don't have "Oprah money" and probably never will(sigh). But that does not mean I can't do my part, however small, to make things a little better. So every year I donate some of my agricultural success to a local enterprise that works to make sure there are fewer hungry people in the area. There are food deserts and people in need of fresh produce all over the U.S. It shouldn't be too hard to find some food bank, charitable organization, or individual(s) that would benefit from a share  of your abundance. And should you start to think that what you have to share isn't enough to make a difference, you would do well to remember the words of Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Disgarded To Delicious

Sweet Pepper Gulp
As the photo shows, just about anything that can hold soil can be used as a container. Make sure you drill a small hole in the bottom for water to escape. And use good potting soil along with compost or organic fertilizer to provide sufficient nutrients.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Abundance From The Abandoned

Garbage Can Planter September 2012
Garbage Can Planter June 2012
It was big, blue and busted with a long crack running along the bottom. Someone had discarded it as useless garbage, but I knew it would make a perfect planter. After a thorough scrubbing I lined it with a plastic trash bag that had holes cut in the bottom for drainage. Then I filled it with potting soil and compost; planted, watered and waited. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Poor Man's Raised Bed

Pepper Patch September 2012
Pepper Patch June 2012
This is my pepper patch for this year. I would call it a raised bed except for the fact that I don't think the frame is quite as high as the ones you would purchase in a store. In fact, it's only eight inches high. It is the inside frame from the bottom of a piece of furniture that was at the end of its life. So I thought I would repurpose some of it. As you can see, it may be near the end of its life as the wind, rain and sun have certainly taken their toll and caused one side of the frame to collapse. This didn't have any effect on the peppers though. The jalapeños, pizza and sweet pepper plants are all doing just fine. And the hot, dry summer has given the jalapeños an extra kick that makes them extra delicious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We Need More Spoiled Americans

Have you ever taken a tomato that slipped into your palm with the slightest of tugs and eaten it, straight from the vine, at the peak of its glorious ripeness while it was still warm from the sun? Have you ever grown a melon that was so outlandishly sweet that people accused you of sprinkling sugar on it before you served it to them? Have you ever sliced into freshly harvested onions that were so powerfully pungent and juicy it was hard to believe that they were only half the size of their store bought counterparts? Have you ever tasted the natural sweetness of carrots pulled from the ground only minutes before, reveled in their magnificent aroma as you grated them and then savored them in a freshly baked carrot cake? If you have never done any of these things, you don't know what you're missing. You need to join those of us who have. You need to become a spoiled American.

 Indeed you will become a spoiled American once you have tried any of the things mentioned above. You will realize that what you have been getting from the local supermarket is nothing but the pale imitation of what produce is supposed to look like and taste like. And you will be loathe to ever settle for such fare again. So I invite you to join us in our spoiled ways. You don't need an acre of land or a green thumb. Got a south facing window? Grow some herbs. Got a balcony or patio that gets plenty of sun? Grow some peppers and other container vegetables. And after you have spoiled yourself, spoil a few friends. They'll thank you for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are You Ready To Tumble?

Tumbling Tom tomatoes are among several varieties that have been specifically bred for containers. In fact, they are supposed to be ideal for containers of about five gallons in capacity. But every one of the plants that I had this year seemed to want to burst out of their container and find more room. I guess the people who said they were ideal for small containers must have been using the Texas definition of small! Or maybe my seeds were from some mutant strain of this variety that insists on trying to grow as large as their beefsteak cousins. Next year I'll know better and err on the side of large when it comes to containers.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

Once again I planted sunflowers which bloomed beautifully(Yeah!). And once again the squirrels turned them into lunch before seeds had a chance to fully develop(Boo! Hiss!). The good news is that I still have plenty of seeds from previous seasons that I can use next year. And while they were lunching on my sunflowers, they left my tomatoes alone. So as they say, you win some, you lose some.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Almost Too Good Looking To Eat

The palate of colors in this Valentine lettuce is magnificent. And so is its flavor on your palate. I've also noticed that when I eat a salad made with its leaves, it fills me up without slowing me down, an added bonus that was most unexpected.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

3000 Years And Still Going Strong

That number is no typo. Humans started cultivating and domesticating cabbages from the wild somewhere around 1000 B.C. And they have been hooked ever since. I haven't reached my first millenium of experience growing them yet, and I have only grown them in containers; but I can certainly say they are worth the modest effort I have to put forth for them. They are a cool weather crop that loves the spring and fall of NWI. And cabbages are like goldfish. They grow to the size of the space available to them. I just harvested a cabbage grown in one the smallest containers I've ever used, about one gallon. The head was the size of a large fist,  but when sliced it provided more than enough for a nice pot of cabbage and sausage soup. The old proveb is certainly true, "Big things come in small packages." And often tasty things do as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ah, Roma!

While I am tempted to wax poetic concerning the Eternal City, the title refers not to the home of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain or gelato. This is after all harvest season. No, we shall speak of the egg shaped, meaty tomatoes now ripening in my garden. They are coming into their own and I am tempted to try canning some homemade pasta sauce or perhaps some salsa. In any case, they are great on sandwiches and in salads just like their beefsteak cousins and I have enjoyed every bite. If you have the chance, pick up some from fresh from a local farmer's market. You won't regret it. Mangia! Mangia!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

To Your Health

Minnesota Midget Melons
I've grown melons for several years now simply because they taste better fresh from the garden than anything you can get from a store. This year there was an extra benefit.They were also more safe. There was a Salmonila outbreak that was traced to several melon farms including one here in Indiana. However, there was no need for me to worry if mine were contaminated. So try your hand at growing your own. You'll get more flavor, more nutrition and greater peace of mind.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Waste Not Want Not

These past few months have been strange to say the least. A winter with hardly any snow and almost none of the usual extreme cold characteristic of this part of the country gave way to a spring that couldn't seem to make up its mind if it wanted to warm up enough to allow for planting. Then, when the warmth came, it was followed by a late hard frost that killed off most of the blossoms on the fruit trees. So if you see the price of apples, cherries and other arborial fruits going sky high, you'll know why. Eventually, the warmth did come to stay, with a vengeance. We almost matched the all time record for number of days above 90 degrees in one summer. But the heat has been great for my pepper plants. And now they are in all their glory. This beauty was harvested from a plant grown from seeds I saved from a pepper I purchased from the supermarket last winter. Fresh off the plant it was fragrant, juicy, flavorful and made a great addition to my homemade soup. I'll be saving seeds from this pepper to grow next year. Hopefully, the plants will give more juicy treasures like the one pictured above. Mother Nature just keeps on giving and we should never waste her gifts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

All Hail The Queen!

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not an entry about the present monarch of the U.K. or about the Thai princess that may soon ascend to the throne. This queen reigns in the kingdom of basil and is as exotic as the land from which she originates. You're not likely to see any other herbs adorned with such eye catching blossoms. Nor are you going to find other basils that blend their basic flavor with notes of licorice and provide a perfect complement to many Asian dishes. I've heard that there are some gardeners that grow this herb purely for ornamental purposes. Who can blame them? It's almost too pretty to eat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On A Roll

Another new thing that I'm trying this year is using sections of cut up toilet paper and paper towel tubes as planters for seedlings. I can fit four of them into plastic margarine containers. When the plants become large enough I can transplant them and the tubes will just break down over time. So far things seem to be going well. I guess you could say, I'm on a roll.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pungent Surprise

It seems that a squirrel decided to steal one of my immature onions before the first heavy snow of last year. The pungent booty was buried near the base of a tree in our backyard and thanks to the milder than normal winter it has survived and sprouted. I can only shake my head in disbelief. I never imagined that the tree roots would leave enough resources for an onion or any other vegetable to do well in that location.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Signs Of Success

My experiment in non-soil based germination has yielded some success. There have been several Golden Acre cabbage sprouts that made it to the transplant stage, but only one each of the Valentine lettuce and Copenhagen cabbage. In the photo you can see a Golden Acre sprout front and center with a Copenhagen sprout off to the right. And just peeking above its container behind the Golden Acre sprout is very young Valentine lettuce.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Something Different This Season

This year I'm germinating my lettuce and cabbage seeds without soil and then transplanting the sprouts to see how well it works out. Wish me luck.