The Potager

The Potager

Friday, June 12, 2015

Harvesting this week

A quick update of what is being harvested this week. The strawberries are still coming and the asparagus is just about done. Time to let it grow into those lovely feathery plants.
The English peas which were planted late are being harvested.
These were shelled and cooked in milk and butter, sprinkled with salt, pepper and some chopped up mint from the Potager. Absolutely delicious. I got that recipe from the back of a book I just finished, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love. I highly recommend this book.
Salads are going strong now also. There is nothing better than a salad picked fresh from your garden for dinner.

"I heard him say, "In my retirement, I just to be a simple farmer. I want...tranquillity." 
What you really want is a garden, I thought to myself. A very, very small one. 
In my experience, tranquil and simple are two things farming is not." - Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chanticleer Garden

Yesterday my friend Sheila and I spent the day celebrating our birthdays at the beautiful Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA. It was a perfect day, warm and sunny with a lovely breeze.

Chanticleer Garden is on the former estate of Adolph and Christine Rosengarten. It has been open to the public since 1993. It is 35 acres, every inch of it lovely. We kept remarking how there were no deadheads, weeds or empty spaces. Every bed was arranged to perfection by the horticultural grounds staff.  We asked a gardener how they kept all the tropical plants in the teacup garden alive all winter and were surprised to learn that the staff digs them up, puts them in a nursery pot and moves them to the green house for the winter every year.

The brochure says that they want visitors to feel like special guests of the Rosengartens and there are many lovely places to sit and admire the views. Patios and terraces with lovely patio furniture, fountains and beautiful and imaginative potted containers. Benches made of metal and wood harvested from the property tucked in the woodland by waterfalls, ponds and running streams. Chairs on the lawns also made of wood harvested on the property and painted in vibrant colors and patterns. There are also picnic areas, but we went to a fantastic chain restaurant in Wayne called Le Pain Quotidien. A most delicious lunch of salad and vegetable quiche with blackberry lemonade.
Myself enjoying a sit down break
We tried to decide which area of the garden was our favorite over lunch, but we had a hard time - all of it was lovely. If you are ever in the Philadelphia area, take a day to visit Chanticleer Gardens. You will love it!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Evening

We took a graduation present to our son-in-law this afternoon. We left home in 88 degree humid heat and got to their seaside home just after a thunderstorm - it was 67 degrees there! What a difference 30 miles can make! We are so jealous of their rain there. We are in a drought. Everyday the forecast for rain changes to hot and sunny. It rains all around us, but never on us. Fortunately we have a well drawn irrigation system that is keeping everything green and lush. Perhaps a little too lush in one shady corner of our yard. We seem to be growing large mushrooms!

I do not know what kind they are, but they are rather interesting to look at.

Tonight's harvest was oregano.
Oregano is a member of the mint family and can get out of control if you aren't careful with it. I seem to divide my clump every year! Harvesting it a few times a season is a good way to keep it under control. (I have not yet discovered a good way to keep mint under control!) When it is almost ready to flower, cut the whole patch down. Oregano tastes better dried than fresh. I still use it fresh, but the dried version of it imparts so much more flavor. I bundle my harvest into 20 or so stems each tied with a slip knot that I can tighten as it dries and hang then from my mantle to dry. As long as you have a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, oregano is easy to preserve this way.
We have a series of cup hooks on the back of the mantle for our Christmas stockings. They work perfectly for herb drying! The oregano will return and give me at least one more harvest this summer, usually more. I love using herbs that I have dried in the winter.

I also harvested strawberries and arugula tonight. The strawberries are getting quite abundant now. Tonight I made a Strawberry Arugula Salad. The dressing was simply olive oil, white wine vinegar, a bit of honey and some poppy seeds. Tossed with the fresh garden arugula, strawberries and some sweet onions. It was yummy.
Real Food experts tell us that we should eat what is in season and shop for produce grown locally. You can't get more in season or local than your own back yard potager!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The end of May

People have been asking me how the garden is growing. In spite of a late start, things are looking good.
Last night I harvested asparagus, arugula and strawberries. We have been enjoying arugula salads for a while now. And we have also been enjoying fresh strawberries on our oatmeal daily.
 Tonight I harvested kale ( plus a few asparagus and more strawberries).

We never get enough asparagus each day for a meal, but I store it and every three days we enjoy Asparagus with our dinner!
The kale has been growing under a protective row cover (along with collards, eggplant and zucchini) to protect it against this little critter:
This is a cabbage worm. Since I protected everything else against it, it decided to eat my arugula. They are tenacious critters!
The kale is safe inside the row cover, along with it''s companions. It will stay on until the zucchini and eggplant begin to blossom.
Hopefully by then all those plants will be strong enough to survive whatever insects come along.
Tonight, the very clean and bug free kale was served up in Garlicky Kale and White Beans, a recipe from one of my favorite books, Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. Along with grilled ham steaks, it was a lovely garden meal. With  fresh-picked strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.  Life in the garden at the end of May is good!

"Spring being a tough act to follow,
God created June."
-  Al Bernstein 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saint Patrick's Day

I look to Saint Patrick's Day as the starting point - the day which I can plant peas and arugula in the garden. But I am waiting this year. The garden is still too wet from the melted snow. The soil isn't ready, even if I am.
I come home from work in the daylight and breath in the air - you can smell the promise of Spring. But then the evening grows cold and the air smells of winter - frost and ice.
I yearn for the Spring, so inside I have planted peppers and eggplants for the summer months, more than I need, and I plan where I will place them in the garden, dreaming of those warm days when I am covered in dirt, but smiling, at the end of the day.
There are things to do to get ready for the garden, even if the garden is not quite ready for me! I have
the potatoes chitting - getting ready to grow eyes, then leaves, to prepare for planting.
They make me smile when I see them. They look like walruses sunning themselves to me. These are fingerling potatoes. I decided not to do the larger potatoes this year. I have Rose Finn apple potatoes to the left, purple peruvian to the right, and some that I picked up in the produce aisle of Stop and Shop for dinner Sunday in the middle.
Although I cannot plant anything yet, things that are perennial or that were planted in the fall are coming to life. The garlic is greening up and showing itself through the straw that covered it all winter.

(This is just grocery store garlic that I planted last fall)

The Chives have popped up looking strong and green.
The strawberries are starting to look stronger. The straw I covered them with seems to have blown off, but the plants survived.

And the Helleborus is in bud, getting ready to be the first flowers of Spring. I am so happy I was gifted with these plants (thank you Diane), it is such a treat to see these flowers from my kitchen window when nothing else is in bloom.
Spring is coming.  The peas may have to wait a week or two, but nevertheless, Spring will be here soon!

“That is one good thing about this world...there are always sure to be more springs.” 
                                                                                                                        -L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The first day of March has blown in with snow and freezing rain - this has been a hard winter. The potager sits with it's snowy blanket waiting for spring. Is it really only 19 days away?
Inside my trays of leeks and onions have grown large enough that I had to remove their plastic "greenhouse" covers. (I've kept them on jars in front of the seeds to keep the cats from bothering the seeds during their daily bird watching.)
The windowsill is drafty, facing south-east and there are no grow lights, but I have had better germination that I have had in years. I can't explain it. As always, gardening amazes me.

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.