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Well, it’s the end of May and I’m finally getting around to posting about April’s challenge! That’s mostly because it’s taken me this long to complete it…kind of. It’s also because my time is limited and I’ve been spending it in the garden. The challenge was hard, too, because it has so many parts to it. Not that I’m complaining…I like a good challenge! Okay, enough preliminary small talk….

Challenge Round 1 Plant seeds.

I’ve been starting seeds inside for a few years and the big challenges for me are knowing how much to start with – I usually start with too much – and having room for it all. We started in two batches this year:

Batch 1

  • head lettuce
  • broccoli

 

The earliest starts

I know, I know…use grow lights. That will be on next year’s list of projects. Yes, things get a bit leggy and it will be much better once I have the grow lights, but things seem to have worked out okay without it for now.

Earliest seeds sown outside

Hardening off the lettuce and chard

New transplants

Batch 2

  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • squash
  • cucumbers

Corn started in TP rolls – just pop the whole thing into the ground.

What’s new this year – Chinese greens, broccoli, potatoes, polycultures.

Challenge Round 2 – Pest Prevention

This is still a challenge that I haven’t quite gotten up to speed on yet. I tried to grow some catnip to deter flea beetles, but it didn’t come up. I’ll have to try that again. I did manage to plant some marigolds among the tomatoes this year. That’s supposed to be good, right?

Round 3 Build a Trellis

Finally got around to making an A-frame trellis for the cucumbers. Our neighbors bought the empty lot next to them and cleared the brush. When I asked if I could take some tree branches and sapling trunks, they looked at me like I am crazy – it’s just trash to them – but said yes. I am quite proud of the little trellis I built out of them.

 

Round 4 Grow food for your chickens

If only we had them…

Round 5 Be lazy

Build good soil, mulch, let things reseed and grow perennials is what I took from the challenge post. Hmmm…I am trying to build good soil, however inept I may be at it. Still trying to figure out what to mulch with. Planted some asparagus, have rhubarb…most of the rest is annual. Love reseeding! Happens mostly with weeds, though.

But I think I ace this round based on pure laziness. I could have all the dandelions in my flower bed, but didn’t. I now consider it my dandelion patch and since we eat it, it’s a nutrient accumulator and its roots open up the soil,  I am telling myself that it’s not lazy, it’s smart!

This is just lazy…

Round 6 Share the Bounty

Giving some away…I give away lots of zucchini when the time comes, but let’s face it, giving away zucchini is not an act of sharing, it’s a necessity! But I am inspired to look into giving some of our harvest to a food bank or soup kitchen. More on that later, I hope.

So that’s the April challenge, long since passed, but still working on it here in my garden!

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I Eat Dandelions

Yes, dandelions. The kind growing in your lawn, the weeds that no one wants. (But weeds are just plants growing where somebody doesn’t want them. And I want them! So, I prefer to think of the dandelions in my garden as a perennial crop!)

Why?

  • I come from a long line of dandelion eaters. Every spring at easter time, we’d go find dandelions to make dandelion salad. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.

"Gathering the Dandelions"
painting by folk artist Gladys Lutz

  • They are delicious bitter greens, like arugula or mustard greens.
  • They are nutritious and full of vitamins. My mother always said they are a spring tonic.
  • They are local, seasonal, organic and FREE. Luckily, I have some growing in my garden.

How?

  • Pick nice young ones, before they flower. Don’t pick them from the side of the road or from places where dogs frequent.
  • Clean them real well.

After about 5 rinses, they start to look clean.

  • You can eat them raw in salads
  • Or try PA Dutch Dandelion Salad (recipe from the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook by Conestoga Crafts)

Young dandelion greens

4 slices bacon

½ cup cream

2 Tbsp butter

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

4 Tbsp vinegar

½ tsp paprika

black pepper

Wash dandelions and pick over carefully. Rollin cloth and pat dry. Put into a salad bowl and set in a warm place. Cut bacon in small cubes, fry quickly and pour over dandelions. Put butter and cream in a skillet and melt over low heat. Beat eggs, add salt, pepper sugar and vinegar, then mix with the slightly warm cream mixture. Cook over high heat until dressing is quite thick. Pour, very hot, over the dandelions, stir well and serve. Garnish with hard boiled eggs. We usually ate it with mashed potatoes.

This is how I had it tonight, served over boiled potatoes. Yummy!!

Encouraged by the idea of foraging and the wonderful recipes I’ve found on websites, especially Fat of the Land, I am branching out.

Yesterday I braised some dandelion greens in vegetable broth and put them on my pizza.

The next step is the blossoms. I’ve never used them in cooking, but I can’t wait to try dandelion fritters and dandelion bread.

Would you ever give dandelions a try? Let me know if you do!

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