The Potager

The Potager

Monday, December 27, 2010

Beneath a Blanket of Snow

The day after Christmas we were hit with a Blizzard that dumped about two feet of snow on us. The Potager, dressed in it's Christmas finery, was buried completely.
Beneath the snow there are roses and garlic and carrots and cilantro waiting to make an appearance this spring. Inside the warm and cozy house there are gardening catalogs with far more pages turned down then I actually have room for in my garden. This is the time for dreaming and planning!
For Christmas my husband and children remembered the garden in their gift giving - a colbalt blue glass bird bath from my youngest daughter,  baby chicks to match my chickens from my son & his wife, and herb scissors, gardening gloves and a bucket organizer from my darling husband. I also received a new camera from Hubby which will help with this blog, since my old one has been acting badly, and a new computer, which will explain why this blog has been so quiet lately. Alas, my old computer's hard drive died on me, taking all my lovely photos with it. I had planned on showing you all how the Potager was created, but the photos are gone. Lesson learned - back up your photos!
I hope you and your family had a very Merry Christmas also. Now it's back to a cup of tea and a seed catalog for me!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree” 

- Emily Bronte

And flutter they did!  And I raked them up and used them to mulch my beds for the winter.  It is late November and except for my parsley, the Potager is finished for the year. 

But I received my first seed catalog the other day. I was as excited as a child finding the old Sears or Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalogs in the mailbox!
There are way too many pages turned over, way too many things I must try next year! 

There may be no more harvests left in the Potager, but the garden of 2011 is already under construction in my mind. I'm think of an herb and perennial flower garden on the east side with a winding path and a fence. Keep watching and see what develops!

Until then, have a very happy Holiday Season with your loved ones. Merry Christmas and God bless you! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I planted my beets on August 25. They should have taken 59 days after seedlings appear to harvest. That would have been mid-November. But they didn't all germinate. And a second planting two weeks later all germinated, but totally failed to thrive and never grew bigger than two inches with no beet bulb. So this is my entire beet harvest.

 Sad, but true. Three, or more like 2 1/2, beets. My lessons learned here is that I probably should not be using old seeds, old as in  "Packed for 2008" on the package. I think the timing was fine, but they really stop growing after the first frost, or grow much more slowly, so I may try to bump up the planting by a week or so to allow the bulbs to form better before frost. The most beautifully designed garden is no better than it's gardener, so as I learn, so will the Potager grow more beautiful and more bountiful each year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Indian Summer

It was one of those rare days when you can go coat-less in a tee shirt two weeks before Thanksgiving! Lovely, but hubby and I had a bedroom to paint. Since we were using an oil based primer, we were glad to be able to open the windows! These windows look out over the looks pretty empty now.

So when he said, "That's enough indoor stuff for today," I went out to the garden to play!

I had stuck some excess asparagus in a berm of soil behind the Potager and the rains had washed the soil away from the roots, so I moved some wood around the berm and refilled it with soil. I then mulched it with leaves and composting grass. Not really pretty, but I can fix it up this spring. At least it will keep the plants through the winter.

A few months ago I was standing in Lowes waiting for the guy to mix up the paint for our patio steps (painting, painting, painting .. I do a lot of it for someone who hates it!) and I was thumbing through Mother Earth News and read a small article that said if you plant your cilantro in the fall, it will come up earlier in the spring and you will get more before it bolts, so with only that small bit of remembered information to go on, I planted Cilantro in a corner of the Potager. We will see what happens.

It is remarkable to me that there are still flowers blooming in and around the Potager.

This Salvia Ostfriesland is still sending up purple spires....

The roses keep blooming, not in abundance, but the bush is still producing buds...

And the Wave Petunia hasn't seemed to mind the frost at all!

It's wonderful to have an Indian Summer Day, but it's even more wonderful when it's a Saturday and not a work day!

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. "
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne

Monday, November 8, 2010

Still Harvesting

Today's Harvest: Bright Lights Swiss Chard!

Beautiful colorful Swiss Chard. Mine is much smaller than those you see in the grocery store. It has been surviving the frosts, but not growing much, so I decided to harvest it. A very heavy frost will kill it.

When you buy Chard in the store, the stems are thick and a bit tough. Mine were thin and tender and they cooked up very quickly.

You start preparing Chard by cutting the stems separately from the leaves. With mine, I only had to chop to the leaves. With store bought I usually take the whole stem out of the leaves to chop separately.

The leaves are roughly chopped separately. Make sure you have washed your chard thoroughly. This is one of those sandy greens! Do not dry the leaves - the water clinging to them will be the cooking water later on.

I sliced a shallot thinly (because I had a shallot in my pantry - an onion would also work) and chopped up a clove of garlic.

The stems are then sauteed in a bit of olive oil with the shallot until the shallot starts to turn yellow and the stems are almost tender.

The garlic is then added for a minute or two (don't brown the garlic!).

The roughly chopped leaves are then added and tossed with the pan ingredients to wilt. Add salt and pepper to taste and let them cook with a lid on in the steam from the water still clinging to the leaves until tender. This will not take long.

Yummy Swiss Chard! If you have never tried it, I encourage you to do so. And if you have never grown it - make sure it's in your garden next year!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Saving Herbs

When I removed my lettuce the other day, I also pulled out all the dill and gave the parsley a haircut. The parsley can survive the early frosts. I've picked it fresh up to Christmas in the past. I wasn't so sure about the dill.

This was the dill in the garden.                                      All the dill harvested.

The first way I tried to save the dill was to simply hang it in a dry room. I used a peg shelf in the den. I put a plate under it to catch any leaves that may fall off. I also used a slip knot so I can tighten it as it will get thinner as it dries. When it dries, I'll knock off the dill leaves and store them in a small glass jar.
The second method of preserving the dill was to freeze it. I washed it and dried it very well.

 I used both the salad spinner and paper towels to get out all the moisture.

Then I simply cut off the stems so they would fit into a freezer bag and pushed as much air our as I could while zipping it closed. 
This dill will be used to flavor stocks and soups. The dried stuff will be used for when I need, say, a teaspoon of dill in a recipe.

The parsley was even easier to freeze and is a good technique for when you buy a bunch of fresh parsley at the grocery store and don't need it all.

  Again I washed it and spun it dry, then paper toweled it completely dry. I removed the leaves from the stems. I then laid the leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer and put them in the freezer, uncovered.       

 The next morning I simply bagged them in freezer bags and pushed out as much air as possible. You can see how green they are.

Both the dill and the parsley went into a larger freezer bag labeled "herbs" to double protect them from freezer burn. "Fresh" Herbs for use all winter! How lovely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Frosty Surprise!

I blame it on politics. I am so sick of political ads that I stopped watching the news. That translates into I didn't listen to the weather forecast. If I were a bit smarter, I would have checked on line, but no one has ever accused me of being smarter.
So at 6:00 AM while cooking breakfast, I casually glanced at the indoor-outdoor thermometer and almost dropped my eggs on the floor - 30 degrees! 30 degrees? What?  I dashed outside to find my lettuce coated in frost. I couldn't take photos at 6:00 AM (for those of you who are never awake at that time, it's very dark out), so I went back after the sun came up to show you my horror - of course it wasn't as bad by then:
 The beet in the top photo will be fine. They don't mind some frost, but my poor lettuce. I lost a bit, but most of it seemed to be salvageable The basil however:
Goodbye Basil.
It was cold all day and they were predicting more frost tonight, so when I got home from work , I harvested all of the lettuce.
That's a lot of lettuce! I washed it all and spun it dry and packed it airtight into a zip-lock bag. It will keep the rest of the week. But first I made a salad with my potager lettuce, radishes and tomatoes - a gardening season goodbye - oh so good!
Job 38:29 From whose womb comes the ice?
   Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Turnip Greens on Halloween!

  Remember last week when I picked the Turnips from the Potager and said I was going to make the greens the next day?

That would have been a good idea.

Things kept coming up and it was a week before I had time to cook them. I don't recommend that. They were a bit wilted. But a bit wilted fresh from the garden tastes better that store bought!

Turnip Leaves are normally sandy, so the first step is to remove the side leaves from the stem and wash them in a bowl of water. Mine wasn't very sandy. (I run a clean garden - haha)

Turnips are a bitter green. It helps to de-bitter them by boiling them for 8-9 minutes in salted water. In the south, they cook them with pork fat in water for an hour. It's really not necessary.

Drain turnip greens thoroughly.

I made these in between answering the door for Trick-or-Treaters. Did you know that Jack o'Lanterns originated from carved turnip lanterns made by Irish children to keep spirits away on Halloween?  I'm sure those Irish moms cooked the greens left over from the carved turnips, just like we use the seeds left over from our carved pumpkins.
So turnip greens seemed like an appropriate side dish for a Halloween dinner.
 While the greens were draining,  I toasted walnuts. I just threw them in a pan over medium heat and cooked them, turning occasionally until they looked toasted. About 4 minutes. I toasted more than I need for this recipe. The rest will go in a salad. Toasting nuts brings out the flavor.
Remove nuts to a cutting board, chop and set aside. About 1/2 cup would be plenty.
 Add extra virgin olive oil to the already warm pan, and add the turnips greens, a clove of pressed garlic and 1/2 onion, chopped . Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Saute until onion is cooked and turnips are tender, about 5 minutes.

Yummy.  Thankfully, the turnips greens still tasted fresh and delicious. Waiting a week to cook my turnip greens on Halloween gave me a treat - not a trick!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Color in the Potager

Red Merlot Lettuce with Volunteer Dill

Swiss Chard

The Lettuce Bed

The fall bed

Monday, October 25, 2010

Garlic Planting Time

This is the first year I am planting garlic. I may be going about this the wrong way. From all I've read, I should be buying garlic bulbs for planting from a gardening center. But instead I bought an extra bulb of organic garlic from the supermarket and used that.
The issue with supermarket garlic is that apparently they spray some with something that inhibits it from sprouting. I am hoping they would not do that to food they are selling as organic.
So I turned over a section of a bed, added a lot of compost, some lime and some fertilizer and separated the garlic bulb. Each clove was planted in a hole, four inches deep, about 6 inches away from the next one, pointed end up....

When I was getting the compost from my compost pile, I found a garlic starting to grow in the compost, so I planted that too!

The garlic may sprout this fall, but it will go dormant over the winter and begin to grow in earnest next spring. They will be ready to harvest in July.

"No one is indifferent to garlic. People either love it or hate it, and most good cooks seem to belong in the first group." - Faye Levy

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Today's harvest - turnips!

I have grown turnips in the past without great success, but this year, they were beautiful! I wish I had planted more.
This is my entire turnip crop.
Enough for my husband and me for one meal - actually two meals, as we will eat the turnip greens tomorrow.

 But for tonight, we are eating Maple Braised Turnips and Carrots, a favorite recipe from Jack Bishop's wonderful cookbook "Vegetables Every Day."

You need about a pound of turnips and 3 carrots. The carrots in my Potager are not mature yet, but our grocery store had organic carrots $1.00 a bag.
Peel both the turnips and the carrots.
Cut the turnips into cubes and cut the carrot into one inch sections, halved or quartered if thick.

Brown the turnips in 2 Tablespoons of butter.

Add the carrots, 2/3 cup chicken stock, 2 Tablespoons maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the pan, reduce the heat and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan and bring the heat up to high until the liquid in the pan reduces to a thick glaze (about 2 minutes.)

Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pickled Peppers

 Peter Piper isn't the only one who can pick a peck of pickled peppers! Trying to do something with all those jalapenos I harvested last weekend, I pickled some!

This has got to be the easiest recipe in the world.

Slice up your jalapenos and pack them tightly into a hot jar. I really mean tightly.

I didn't pack mine tightly enough and in the end could have fit three or four more jalapenos in each jar.

 Bring 2 cups of white vinegar and 2 cups of water to a simmer - do not allow to boil.

Add a garlic clove and a dash of salt to each jar. Add vinegar/water mix to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Pop on a warm lid and sunggly screw on a ring and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

You'll know the jars are sealed when the top pings and pressing on it doesn't make it move. You can check it the next day by unscrewing the ring and turning the jar upside down.

I made 3 pints of Pickled Peppers and 9 small jars of  Jalapeno Jelly.

I also made 3 1/2 pints of Green Tomato Relish/Salsa, but I forgot to take photos of that. You can find the recipe here: Farmgirl Fare Green Tomato Relish. It was tasty. We had some on our tacos with dinner.

I still have a lot of jalapenos to do something with. I plan on freezing some and maybe making some escabeche. The pantry will be full this winter!