Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I have had an abundance of cabbage in the garden this year and when I asked for suggestions on how to use it some months ago, a fellow blogger, I think it was Norma, suggested okonomiyaki. What a great idea!
I had heard of okonomiyaki from my son. He and his girlfriend love all things Japanese. They got engaged in Japan and they are going to Japan on their honeymoon in the fall. They live in New York City and often go out to some of the many Japanese restaurants in Manhatten and okonomiyaki is a favorite dish. It is a savory pancake made with cabbage and Japanese seasonings, topped with a gingery sauce, seaweed, bonita flakes and Japanese mayonaise. Sounds odd to western tastes, but it is really delicious.
I've never made it, but when I was given a kit and all the right ingredients to make okonomiyaki this weekend, it was time to give it a try.
 Here it is: the kit, which included directions (in four languages!), the batter mix and a packet of yam powder, which is some kind of starch I think. But it is also important to have the sauce, the mayo and the bonita flakes to be authentic. I imagine you could make the sauce and the batter from scratch, but that will be a future project for me. To all this you add eggs, shredded cabbage, chopped green onion and some meat or shrimp.
 I got a kick out of the cute directions with illustrations for the newbie like me! There is a particular way to make it. Once the batter is mixed, you add the eggs and vegetables and lightly mix them together. You fry it in a skillet for a few minutes and lay thin strips of uncooked meat on top. The pancake is then flipped so that the meat is now lying directly on the skillet and cooks into the pancake. After a few more minutes of cooking, it is flipped again so that the meat is on top once more and after
a few more minutes, place on a dish, meat side up and cover with the sauce, mayo, bonito flakes and some chopped seaweed.

And...ta-da! The final product! It turned out perfectly even though I had some trepidation when I was making it. There is lots of cabbage in there and the batter seems thin when you mix them. I wondered whether it would hold its form, but it did. Mine had pork strips on it and D's had shrimp since he doesn't eat meat. It is a keeper in this household as we both loved the final product. My next challenge is to learn to make okonomiyaki from scratch and that means sourcing some of the ingredients. We have a fair number of Asian grocery stores in our area, but it's not always easy for me to make out what is in those packages and since there are few non-Asians shopping in them, the proprieters often don't speak English. But I'll be up to the challenge and on the hunt so I can make this new favorite meal more often!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Harvest Monday

It's Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions where fellow gardeners are showing off the week's harvest. Kind of like show and tell, right? Hop on over and join the fun!
This week's harvest has been slow but steady. The champion continues to be my bush green beans. I also have Fortex pole beans, but they have not been terribly productive.
 The broccoli plants are getting old and ravaged looking, but I still keep getting little harvests of side shoots so I can't bear to pull them out yet. They'll likely be gone later this week as garden clean-up begins in earnest.
 Cucumbers have been coming in at a trickle and there is the beginning of powdery mildew on the plants. No pickles this year, but we're enjoying the fresh cucumbers and since I was able to make a batch of pickle relish earlier this summer, I'm happy.
 Likewise, the tomatoes are coming in in small batches. The plants look just awful, but I met my minimum goal of canned pints and will certainly surpass it so we will have enough canned tomatoes for the year. I'll be posting my evaluations of some of the varieties someday soon.
 Ah, winter squash. I have here four Kabocha, two Buttercup and one tiny New England Pie pumpkin. None are very big, but I'll take them! Here's the back story: Four summers ago every one of my winter squash plants died before producing a single squash. The following year, I got one tiny pumpkin. I got mad and said to myself "as God is my witness I WILL grow a winter squash someday!!!" Last summer, success! I finally did it. I got six; another pie pumpkin and a mix of butternuts and buttercups. This year I've counted sixteen, so we're getting there! They are rather small. The ones that still have a relatively healthy vine and stem are still out there, including the three small butternuts I have coming.
So there you have it! My week in harvest. I actually spent a minimal amount of time out there in the garden due to an unexpected visit from my younger son and his sweetheart, a wedding to go to and helping out a friend who's moving to a new house. Hoping this week to get out there more. But for now, I'm off to check out how the rest of you gardeners are doing with yours! I love seeing everybody's harvests and getting great ideas and inspiration from fellow gardeners across the country and the world. Have a great week, all!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


This is a whining post. I've been happy to chronicle my gardening triumphs (I heard a show on NPR recently that asked whether the new social media is turning us into a nation of braggarts...hmmmm), and today I am planning to whine. About my onions.
Oh yeah, I got onions. I knew I would, but I also knew they would be a lot less than last year's great harvest. I just didn't know how MUCH less. Last year I harvested over 40 pounds of onions and I actually still have two left. They're a little shrivelly but still have usable bits. And I got over 40 pounds even thought the voles last year were having a field day eating them and by my estimation they got at least 50 of them and some of the reason I got so much poundage is because I had lots of fairly large onions in the mix.
This year, I don't know. I must have planted fewer. I also think I started the seedlings too early and the seedlings were never that robust. The onions in general have been much smaller so that would certainly affect the weight. But still...I only got 13 pounds. Wow, that's a substantial difference. Guess it'll be back to buying onions again this year. Sigh. OK, that's it for the whining. Next year will be different, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Channeling Mr. MacGregor...

Or maybe Elmer Fudd?
When I took my morning walk around in the garden I startled Bugs Bunny from the middle of my melon patch and had a jolly time chasing him around to get him out of the garden. How he got in there I don't know, but there must've been a space under the fence somewhere that he wiggled under. Thankfully no damage was done so I think I got to that wascally wabbit early in the game. I sure hope he doesn't come back!
The fellow in the photo is probably one of his compatriots. This one has gotten so used to us he doesn't even run when we're out and about in the yard. He sits under the bird feeder with all the rest of the wildlife around here munching on bird seed and living the high life. But they'd all better leave my garden alone!
 On a happier note, here are a few of my peppers, which are doing wonderfully this year. The only issue is the slugs that have been chewing on some of them. I only grow sweet peppers because I'm not into hot. If we ever could get enough tomatoes for extra things like salsa, I might add the hots, but for now, I'm sticking to the sweet ones.
 I am growing Jimmy Nardellos, and above is a variety called Bridge to Paris which is also an heirloom variety. I'm also growing bell types called Ace, Red Knight and King of the North.
This one is called Peacework. But my husband has renamed it Peacenik and as if to prove the point, the peppers on this variety like to grow upside down. Typical hippie.
And last but not least I am growing a small sweet heirloom called Lipstick. Last time I counted I had over a hundred little peppers on about 32 plants. Since we still have about a month and a half of warm weather they should be OK.
Well, the visit from Bugs did motivate me to start cleaning out all those tall weeds between the raised beds because I don't want to give that little beast more places to hide in!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harvest Monday

Can't believe that Harvest Monday has rolled around again. This summer is just going by so quickly it's hard to wrap my head around it! Daphne's Dandelions hosts Harvest Monday each week where you can go and see what fellow gardeners are bringing in this week!
It's been a good week here at the Nutmeg garden. We've had plenty of rain so I haven't had to water (what a blessing that it!) and the heat has eased off. In fact, it's definitely beginning to feel like a season change is coming. I'm going to miss summer though, so I'm enjoying it while I can.
 Here are three of five Glory of Enkhuisen cabbages. They are heirloom keepers and I got the seed from Baker's Creek seeds. I'm very pleased with them; the largest is 5 pounds!
 We're swimming in beans. There are three patches and two of them are producing at the moment.
 Still getting broccoli side shoots. These look a lot bigger than they are, but it makes for a nice little packet for the freezer. I have twelve broccoli plants that went in later and have yet to grow a main head, so I'm hoping for a little more, but my later ones often don't produce.
 Two baskets full of goodies gathered in yesterday looking pretty but representing a few hours of work both in the picking and in the processing! I think of it as my "job" now, providing the food, but it is a job I really truly enjoy.
 So excited to have peppers!!! Lots of them. Last year peppers were a bust. The red one is our first red Lipstick, a small neat looking little sweet pepper. I've frozen enough bags of green pepper that I'm going to try to be patient and let more of them turn red. One problem is that this year has been a good slug season as well and they are developing a taste for pepper.
 Here is my second Sun Jewel melon! It has been so fun to eat melon that I grew myself! I will definitely grow these again since they are so easy to grow, they are early producers and there are lots of them.
My carrots refuse to get big! I pull a few every week hoping to get bigger ones, but no dice. Most are the size of my thumbnail. Eggplants are doing great, mostly still the Swallow and my cucumbers decided to produce a little this week too. Oh, yes, there are a few tomatoes. My healthiest plant is a volunteer that popped up in one of the pathways. It seems to be a Matt's Wild Cherry and gave us a few very sweet bites. That about wraps up the week. I'm looking forward to checking out what everybody else in the garden blogosphere is bringing in.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

State of the Garden or What a Mess!

Once the hot humid mid-summer weather hits I get pretty lax about keeping the weedy pathways clean. The growing beds get just enough care to allow the vegetables to grow as well as possible and I concentrate on bug control and harvesting. It's not a pretty sight down there!
 This is my row of brussels sprouts. The plants look relatively healthy but the sprouts are teensy. Big question mark as to whether we get any. Next to them in the forefront of the photo is green bean patch #3. This picture was a week ago, so the green beans are bigger now and should provide beans in September sometime. We are already swimming in green beans, but it'll be nice to share some with family and friends. To the far right of the photo, where the bucket is standing is my last undug patch of land within the garden fence. It will be a raised bed when I finally tackle double digging it in the Fall. My will to dig died with the coming of warm weather and planting season. I've been digging new beds for the past three years, so there will be some real celebration here when that final bed is finished! To be able to start spring with all beds ready for planting and no new ones to dig is a dream!
 The second planting of zukes is above and they are looking pretty healthy, although the squash bugs have found them so they are beginning to suffer. Behind them are the old pea and early cabbage beds with nothing growing in them. Well, not strictly true, because in the cabbage bed I have some Fall spinach coming up. I'm thinking of getting some kind of cover crop over the other long beds.
 Bean patch #2 is just now producing very well. Next year I'd like to diversify and put in a patch of beans to dry, like Jacob's cattle beans or some such. This bed was the garlic and onion bed and is now mostly empty. I really wanted to put in a lot of autumn crops, but lost the will to plant with the hot weather.
My red cabbages, most of which are cut now. The heads never got solid or big as you can see by the one in the foreground right. Note all the crab grass in the walkways between beds! Ugh, it is unsightly and just grows with reckless abandon. Now I have a good source of straw so I'm hoping to put that down next year to keep the paths neater.
The tomato plant above is deceiving in its greenness. Most of mine are very diseased and bare, with a few pathetic tomatoes on them. These are Juliets, small, but at least producing!
All around the garden fence are these monstrous weeds pushing up against it like they want to get in and take over. My vegetables should be so healthy! But for all my complaints about the state of things, the production has been great for many of the things I grow and the challenge is there to keep improving things. The gardener's mantra: there's always next year!
In the winter squash bed I have a number of small squashes that I hope will ripen before the vines completely die off. Here are three of the four kabocha squash I have. These plants all got attacked by the squash bugs too and they do not look too healthy either. But that bright orange color does lend a bit of cheer to the landscape! I'm hoping next week will be cool enough to get out there and do a bit of clean up in the garden and maybe plant a few things that still have time to grow this fall, like radishes and quick growing Asian greens. We still have a month of warm weather ahead so I'd best make the most of it!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sun Jewel

When I went to the garden yesterday morning I found that one of my Sun Jewel melons had detached itself from the vine. So it was time to take it in and give it a try.
 It looks like a giant cucumber and has a lemon yellow color.  This one weighed 2 and a quarter pounds. I think it could have used another day or two on the vine to be fully ripe. Thankfully, I have two more large ones that are almost ready. There are another four on the vines that are large but still green.
The good news is that it is very tasty. Kind of tastes like a mild honeydew melon to me. I'd read reviews online, some of which were glowing and some were not. Some people find the taste too bland. Sun Jewel is a Korean variety that is showing up in farmer's markets because it is easy to grow and prolific. For us it is the perfect melon because of its ease of growing. It's the first one I've ever been successful with and barring disaster, I should end up with at least 6 melons. Very exciting for this gardener!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let the Canning Begin

I don't have a pressure canner so my canning is limited to what can be done safely in a water bath, primarily tomatoes, pickles, fruits, jams and jellies. Tomatoes are the big one with us because we use loads of them in our cooking. Last week I thought I had enough to make a small batch of about 5 pints so I got out all my equipment and went to work. I got three pints. And one of them didn't seal.

Finally I did get enough tomatoes to can a batch of nine pints of tomatoes which is a decent start when you factor in the two previous pints. Last year I was able to can about 60 pints and still had 10 leftover from the previous year. Now I have 20 left, so if I can get about 30 done this year I know I'll have enough to get us through the year.
Yesterday I picked my woefully small red cabbages and made them into German sweet and sour red cabbage which my family likes as a side with roast pork and other German favorites. I had a hard time finding a canning recipe for it and searched the internet for the one I used. I'd prefer to use a recipe from a tried and true source, but unfortunately the closest I could find in the Ball Blue Book called for way more cabbage than I had. So I ended up using a recipe from a different source. It seems to me it has plenty of vinegar in it and I upped the sugar to suit our taste, so it should be safe. I try to grow red cabbage every year and I have to say it is not easy to grow a nice large head of it. The plants grow plenty of outer leaves which are very tough, but the heads they form are inevitably the size of tennis balls or less. Regular cabbage does so much better for me! I'm still looking for the answer to that mystery.
You will notice in the background of each picture that I have a lot of clutter in my kitchen. That is quite typical and something I'd like to conquer in the same way I'd like to conquer growing a decent sized head of red cabbage. Well, maybe not in the same way, because I get a whole lot more enthusiastic about growing vegetables than I do about decluttering the house! Anyway, let the canning begin!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Harvest Monday

It's Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions where gardeners are sharing their harvest with one another! Hop on over to see what goodies everyone's bringing in this early August week!
Even after the slowdown with all the hot weather, my harvest is ahead of this time last year so I really can't complain. But I still will. Tomatoes. Sigh. No, seriously, I am getting tomatoes and some is much better than none. I even got some canned this week.
 I picked the last of my first sowing of beets. These are Lutz Salad Leaf and they are huge! But they still cook up tender and sweet, which is very nice.
 My basket is overflowing with tomatoes, summer squash, peppers and broccoli.
 Swallow eggplants are doing amazingly well. More ratatouille coming up!
 Summer squash is starting up from my second planting. The early plants are ready to be pulled out since the squash bugs have pretty much killed them.
 Peppers are coming in strong! I counted over eighty small ones on the plants, so there should be plenty in the freezer for use throughout the year in spaghetti sauces and on pizzas.
 Green bean patch #2 just started producing and patch #1 is blossoming again, so we will be knee deep in beans again this week. It's hard to believe I'm getting them already; as you recall, patch #2 was planted in the spot where my soft neck garlic had been in the spring.
 Broccoli shoots! Wow, a nice little batch of them. This is my best ever broccoli season. My main heads were small, but I made up for it by planting lots of them and they are putting out many small side shoots. Since broccoli has always been our favorite vegetable I am beyond happy to have been able to freeze quite a few packets.
And I got a few good sized cukes. Not getting nearly enough for a batch of pickles, but enough to make a batch of pickle relish and to enjoy as a snack.
I had one more unexpected and unwanted harvest. My little watermelon fell off its stem. Maybe if I'd supported it, it wouldn't have, but the stem looked dried up so maybe it would've happened anyway. Of course, it wasn't quite ripe. Needed another week or two. That made me sad, but I ate it anyway. The pink bits were tasty and gave me an idea of what would have been. Someday maybe I'll succeed in growing a nice ripe watermelon!
Well, that's it for this week's harvest. Hope all you gardeners out there have a great gardening week ahead!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Waiting for Melons

I just got home after spending the past two days in New York City with my son and his fiancee. Good times! One highlight was a terrific outdoor farmer's market in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn and I just loved seeing all the yummy fruits and veggies for sale, plus artisan cheeses and meats. Had myself I juicy ripe peach...but I digress. This post is about melons. Or waiting for them.
 I have never successfully grown a melon. Last year I tried a honeydew variety called Honey Yellow and a watermelon called Blacktail Mountain. I got one honeydew the size of a golfball. It tasted marvelous however, so I tried again this year, plus I added a Korean variety. The watermelon in my hand didn't change size for weeks so I picked it. Yeah. It wasn't ripe.
 The Blacktail mountain above is the size of a child's bouncing ball. Small, but I'm leaving it alone and hoping at least to get a little taste of watermelony goodness. It's pretty much the only one I have because the other one or two are the size of that one sitting in my hand! The honeydews have three little guys that are a bit misshapen but if they make it to ripening we just might get a taste of them.
 But here's what I'm pinning my hopes on. The two melons pictured here are a Korean variety called Sun Jewel. They are a medium sized melon that grow quickly and are prolific. I have at least five of them sizing up nicely and they will be ready to pick when they are bright yellow. They look like large cucumbers.
 I've read mixed reviews about their taste and I really hope I like them because for my garden and my climate they are ideal. The plants are hardy and doing great.
Well, I haven't been in my garden since I was away but we got some substantial rain the past two days so things should be growing merrily. I'll have to get down there and see what's cooking as soon as I get back from church. I'm sure the weeds are loving it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sunshine in My Soul

Life certainly has its upside and its downside. You really have to pay attention sometimes and look for the rays of sunshine wherever you can find them. I think that's why I love my garden so much, despite the work, the plagues of bugs, disease and critters. This is what greeted me when I walked into the smaller garden the other day:
It was a volunteer from the bird feeder that found a nice place in the garden to sprout and grow. And it just made me smile to see it in all its golden glory, spreading sunshine to my soul!
On a personal level, this has been a tough season. Ups and downs. Joys and sorrows. Some things threatened to take away the joy I had in planting my spring garden. But I think of the garden as my happy place and focusing on the good that comes from growing things has been a big help in coping with the downs of life. The sunflower was like God's reminder to me of all that I have good in my life: wonderful friends, family and home. And there is always sunshine in the future!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summertime Eats

 Summer has become all about food prep lately. Between harvesting, prepping and finding uses for all those vegetables there hasn't been time for much else! Much of the surplus harvest is going into the freezer. My goal is not to have to buy vegetables but to use only what I have grown. This is not a rigid plan, but I sure like knowing that I'm eating organic home-grown produce. I'm especially excited that this year I actually grew enough broccoli to have quite a few packets in the freezer.
 Hmm, I have to do something about the lighting in the kitchen. Nice golden glow on the pix, but it's hard to see clearly what's on the plate! Supper the other night really reflected the season. It included Red Norland potatoes, roasted Lutz Saladleaf beets, steamed green beans and scrambled eggs with zucchini and ham. The scrambled eggs are a legacy from my late father in law. He was a transplanted Kansas native who missed the west and he always had a small garden. I recall many a summer when he cooked up scrambled eggs with "z'cchini" for me when I stopped in. It's a nice quick and tasty meal that brings me nice memories of a dear man.
 Time to make the sweet pickle relish! This is the popular recipe from Ball's Blue Book and we love it. So much better than any store-bought relish! My younger son especially looks forward to getting a few jars to use on his hot dogs.
 In a good eggplant year, I naturally have to make eggplant parmesan. We had it last night for supper. Since my eggplants are small, long and narrow, once breaded and sauteed they look like little meatballs! This was served with a quick foccacio bread. It's a great recipe I found on the internet that is wonderful for days when I realize late in the game that I have no bread for a supper that could use it. It can be whipped up and ready in an hour and it tastes great.
I've really had my eyes opened for new cooking ideas and recipes for vegetables and I have found lots from all those bloggers out there who share so generously.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harvest Monday

It's Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions where fellow gardeners are showing off the week's harvest. Make a visit there to see what everybody's bringing in this week!
 My Swallow eggplants are producing very well this year! They are  a small to medium sized Asian type eggplant. My other varieties are a little slower, but I got a few small white Caspar eggplants. Unfortunately, they seem to be attractive to bugs or slugs, because I have yet to pick one that isn't marred with holes! The one pictured above had a little judicious positioning for the picture!
 Still getting plenty of zucchini and far fewer yellow summer squash. But the plants are just about done in by squash bugs. I have killed as many as I can get my mitts on but have not been able to keep well ahead of their damage. I have a second planting of summer squash that are just beginning to produce and they are still looking very healthy.
 Harvested about two thirds of my onions. They are fewer and smaller than last year for reasons I don't know about, but hoping there are enough to get me through the year. They are curing now and I will pull the rest when they are ready, probably next week sometime.
 I have about thirty hard-neck garlic, cured and trimmed now. Another ten of the biggest and best bulbs have been set aside as seed to plant out in October for next year. I'm very pleased with this as it is twice as many as I had for use last year and that's not including my soft-neck garlics in the count. Homegrown garlic was such a wonderful discovery last year I never want to look back! Also harvested shallots earlier in the week.
 The first decent harvest of tomatoes, about six pounds of various types. Most need to ripen a bit more, but I hope to be able to can a small batch this week.
 We're having wonderful green pepper production. I'm growing Jimmy Nardello, Lipstick, Ace, King of the North, Bridge to Paris, Peacework, Red Knight...I think that's all of them. They will be prepped for the freezer and used throughout the year.
Cukes are much much slower this year. Last year I was giving them away by the bagful, but this year I'm just hoping to get enough to make a batch or two of pickle relish that my son loves so much. The carrots look nice, but they are still so small! Any secrets out there about how to get them to grow bigger? I'm trying to leave them in the ground as long as possible, but that's always a gamble with all the voles I have trolling around looking for nice roots to eat. And in the front of the plate above, there's a handful of Fortex green beans. They are producing steadily, but the plants are not robust, so I'm just getting a few at a time.
We've had such hot weather the past week that the harvest has slowed down a bit, but this week should improve a bit. My second patch of Fresh Pick green beans is blossoming and should be giving us beans next week and the first patch is getting ready to blossom again with its second round of beans.
Hope everyone is swimming in wonderful veggies this week!