The Potager

The Potager

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Menu featuring Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Ah Royal Burgundy. A bush bean that grows purple, cooks green and has a fabulous flavor. Once I discovered Royal Burgundy I never grew green bush beans again. There is no comparison.
These bean perform so well in the garden that if I could only grow one type of bush bean, it would be royal burgundy.

Grilled Butterflied Chicken
Macaroni Salad
Royal Burgundy Green Beans

A simple menu. Have you tried cooking a butterflied chicken on the grill? It is so easy. Of course I ended up burning mine a bit because I got distracted freezing green beans. But it was still juicy and tender and oh so delicious! The recipe can be found here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Potager Favorites - New Red Fire Lettuce

Yesterday, I told hubby I had picked the last of the lettuce. It was July 25th. July 25!!! And I wasn't totally honest. I still have lettuce in the garden. I had just picked the last large head of New Red Fire lettuce.
I added in some other lettuce, chard and beet leaves
New Red Fire is described as slow to bolt. That's an understatement. It has never bolted on me. I still have two left in the garden. One was crowded in by other heads and didn't form a good head and the other grew off of a cutting when I left two little leaves on the stump.
Two lonely little heads of New Red Fire
We began picking this lettuce in May. We started just picking off leaves, then as the days got hotter we began harvesting the whole head, thinking it would bolt soon. But it never did.
New Red Fire produces a loose leaf head and contrary to my photo above, has a beautiful ruby red color on it's outer leaves. The taste is really delicious, crisp and sweet. Even as the days got hot, it never got bitter.
It was the first lettuce I planted to come up so it is also an early lettuce. This small planting has kept us in salads since May. If I had known how well it would perform, I would have done the whole bed with New Red Fire. It was that good!
I purchased my seeds from Pine Tree Seeds. Lettuce seeds can be viable from 2-5 years, but some I planted from last year never germinated and I am not missing out on New Red Fire next year, so I will be re-ordering. New Red Fire - it's a Potager Favorite.
Photo from Territorial Seeds

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Wagon Ho! - A New Garden Bed

I think most gardeners would tell you there is never enough room (or time or money) for everything you want to grow in the garden. I had table and chairs by the red doors in my garden last year, but we rarely sat out there because there were too many bugs out there.
So this year I had my husband make another bed out there for some fall crops. I had started my brussel sprouts indoors in mid June. By late June hubby had built the frame for my new bed.
It took a few more weeks until I was able to fill the bed with dirt. I put a layer of peat moss in the bottom of the bed and then added dirt from our dirt pile (dirt removed from other beds and stored in a pile next to our compost pile).

 I then topped that off with compost and some store bought garden soil, because our soil is lacking in organic matter even with the compost added.
 The brussel sprout seedlings with planted along with a row of rutabaga seeds.

Then hubby made a support for a hoop tunnel. These are cole crops and they are outside the fenced in garden. I figured I could keep insects and varmints out with a lightweight row cover hoop tunnel that could stay in place until harvest time.
 I have to admit that hubby's design was brilliant! He used some flex piping that he had left over from a job - it was all scrap. Unfortunately, I did not have enough floating row cover to cover the frame, so I laid the floating row cover I had on the plants.
 Finally this week I got the lightweight row cover and put it on. The rutabagas are up, the brussel sprouts have doubled in size and the bed is now safe and protected. We call it the covered wagon bed.
The row cover is held down with bricks that are laying by the woods from an old patio we removed years ago. As I was gathering bricks, I spotted some small blueberries and looked closer. sure enough we have a little wild blueberry bush in our backyard! What a happy surprise!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Foodie Friday - Zucchini Lasagna

Even though Eight Ball Zucchini are round and small and cute, like other zucchini, they can be abundant.
And yes, they are great for stuffing but I decided to do something else with my Eight-ball zucchini - make lasagna!
First I sliced them thin and sprinkled them with salt to draw out moisture.
While they were sitting I went out in the garden and gathered a bell pepper, oregano, basil, parsley and swiss chard, and took a garden grown garlic and an onion from the pantry.
I began sauteing some grass fed ground beef and then added the onions, peppers and garlic. After they had softened, I added a 12 oz. can of tomato paste and a 15 oz can of tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of red wine and the herbs to make a meat sauce.
I cooked the chard in boiling water to soften it.
I shredded mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese, and mixed ricotta cheese with an egg.
I layered the meat sauce, the zucchini slices (patted dry with a paper towel), ricotta mixture, mozzarella, chard and sliced baby bella mushrooms, then layered the remaining meat sauce, zucchini, ricotta and mozzarella, topping it all with the parmesan cheese. It baked in a 325 degree oven for about an hour, covered with foil the first 45 minutes, then 350 when the foil was removed. I will admit, we were getting hungry near the end so I didn't keep it in the oven for the last 15 minutes, more like seven, so it is not as brown on top as it should be. It was still delicious.
You can find the original recipe here. It was a great way to use up too many zucchini.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Elsewhere in the yard - Avalon

This blog is about my garden, but my husband landscapes and hardscapes the rest of the yard and  what he does is amazing. Take last week's project for example.
We have a corner of the yard where we like to sit at day's end just to talk and reconnect over a glass of wine. We call it our Avalon.

Avalon -
noun, Celtic Legend.
an island, represented as an earthly paradise in the western seas, 
to which King Arthur and other heroes were carried at death.
It is our own little paradise on earth. Because from this corner of our yard, we look out on this:
 It's like we live on an estate! LOL. The angle make our yard feel huge. The only problem with our Avalon was that we were in grass. Not really a problem, but we talked about putting something under our chairs that would get us off of the grass, either a deck or a patio.
A few weeks ago, a friend of my husband's offered him some left-over stone in exchange for some work. The good old fashioned barter system. This was not patio stone, but stone with which he had faced his house. It was not in any way flat.

Poor hubby with an injured back lugged all that stone home and then arranged some of it it into something beautiful. He dug out the ground beneath each stone so the top would be as flat as possible and made a patio for us. It is rustic and wonderful. I love it!
Our after work re-connect time has become more comfortable and a lot more classy!

 I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day. ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Freezing Green Beans

It sometimes happens that one particular vegetable will give you a larger harvest than you can use. That's what happened with my Emerite Pole Beans Saturday and Sunday. 
This was Sunday's photo. Saturday's haul was just as large. I could not use them within the next few days, so I decided to freeze them for use this winter. Freezing beans is such as easy chore, that I often do it before work in the morning.
Simply rinse the beans and cut off the stem end. Then plunge the beans into boiling water for three minutes.  After three minutes, plunge them into ice water for three minutes.  
Drain the water off, then put into freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible. My little brother gifted me with a food saver, so I now vacuum seal them, but it works both ways.
 Label the bags and throw them into the freezer.
Green beans from the garden to eat this winter. In less than 10 minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Menu - Featuring Roasted Beets

One of my favorite vegetables to grow in the Potager is beets.  I plant them in rows. As they come up I thin the row and toss the leaves into a salad. As I wait for the beets to get to the size I want to eat, I continue to pick off leaves to add to my salad for color and flavor. Finally I look under the leaves and see what I've been waiting for - beets!
About 2 inches across - perfect for harvest!
Beets are a cardio-vasular friendly vegetable. I have read that they have unique pigment antioxidants in the root as well as in their leaves that have been found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke, lower cholesterol levels, and have anti-aging effects. They are low in calories, high in folates and rich in B-complex vitamins, such as niacin,  and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The tops are high in vitamin C and A and flavonoid anti-oxidants, which protect against lung and oral cancers. They can also help you tell if you are low in iron. Beeturia, when beets make your pee reddish, occurs in about 5 - 10% of the population and can indicate iron deficiency. Beets are high in sugar, making them not a great choice for diabetics, but for the rest of us, it makes them wonderfully sweet and delicious! Go beets!
Freshly picked beets!
 After you pick your beets, you should remove the leaves from the root as soon as possible because the leaves will rob the root of moisture and nutrition if left on. The greens should be eaten soon after harvest, but the beets can be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for a few weeks without losing nutritional value.
I like to pick my beets when they are no more than 2 inches across. Larger beets are tough and take too long to cook.
Sweet Potato Bed, beets are on the outsides

This year I planted a row of Early Wonder and a row of Detroit Red beets on the outside of my sweet potato bed. They did really well here. The Detroit red beets performed much better than the Early Wonder.  But both are producing beets.
You can eat beets raw, steamed or roasted.  If you scrub the skin, you can eat the skin on cooked beets, but I usually remove it after cooking.
My favorite way to eat beets is roasted. I rinse the dirt off the beets, remove the stems and the long root and place the beets on heavy-duty aluminum foil. I drizzle them with olive oil. (The olive oil is totally optional, but I love the flavor it gives. Plus if you want to use your beets in a salad, you can use the beet infused olive oil in your dressing!) I seal up the foil packet, and roast the beets in a 400 degree oven. Test after 25 minutes (longer if you have large beets) by sticking a fork in the beets. The fork should slide right in. Take them out of the oven and let them cool a minute, packet opened. Take a paper towel and rub the beet skins - they will slide right off. You can also remove the skin wearing food grade plastic gloves. If you do it bare handed, be warned - you will have beet red fingers for a while.
The roasted beets can be eaten as is or in a salad. I enjoy them both ways. In either case, the taste of beets improves when paired with a soft white cheese, such as goat cheese and a toasted nut, such as walnuts. That was how I served my beets on my Monday menu. 

Grilled Steak
 Steamed Fresh Emerite Pole Beans
 Baby Bella Mushrooms Sauteed with Shallots and Parsley
 Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Potager Favorites: Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is a wonderful home garden vegetable. It is reliable, easy to grow, and lasts through the summer. It adds color to the garden and yet is not plagued by many pests.
In Europe it is a very popular vegetable. It is not from Switzerland in spite of the name. It is a Mediterranean vegetable, originating from Sicily.
Swiss Chard is also one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables you can grow. It contains beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc, and many other disease fighting antioxidants.  It is, like most dark leafy greens, high in iron and calcium. You can read about all the other health benefits of Swiss Chard at this site. They say that it helps with blood sugar regulation, bone health, brain health and more.What a great vegetable! You should plant some soon for your fall garden, if you don't have any growing now.

But once you do have it growing, you will find it is a vigorous plant. As long as you pick it, it will keep growing. You can put small chard leaves in your salad, you can saute and stir-fry mid-sized leaves, but eventually, you will have large leaves. What do you do with them?

Stuff them! You can remove the stem and treat the leaf like a cabbage leaf, softening it in hot water, and then stuffing it with your favorite stuffed cabbage recipe, or make up your own recipe, like I did.

I stuffed my chard with a mixture of ground turkey meat, cooked quinoa, sauteed chopped up swiss chard stems and onions, and herbs from the Potager. Cook it like stuffed cabbage. It's delicious!

So now that you know another way to cook Swiss Chard, make sure you get some seeds and put it in for the fall. If you plant it now through early August, you will have mid-sized leaves to harvest fall through winter. I like planting Bright Lights or Rainbow Swiss Chard for the amazing color variations.  But you can plant the all white Lyon, the all yellow El Dorado or the ordinary all red varieties.  Plant Swiss Chard - You will be glad you did!