Friday, June 28, 2013

Garlic Scape Pesto

If you planted garlic as a crop, the scapes are ready to pick all at the same time (click here for our post on harvesting garlic), and you might find yourself scrambling to find uses for all of them. That wonderful garlic flavor is too good to consign to the compost heap. So, what to do with a basketful of curly scapes?
A garlic scape ready to pick

Milder than garlic cloves, in the past we have chopped and added handfuls of the scapes to soups, stews, sauces, stir frys; those dishes in which garlic is a common flavoring. This year we thought of making pesto. Envisioning a plate of linguini topped with a pesto that said "garlic" instead of "basil," we tried it and were pleasantly surprised.

Garlic Scape Pesto, in addition to a sumptuous garden-fresh, mild-garlicky flavor, is colorful. The color is a shade of light green that is almost neon, and it stays that way even to the next day if you have referigerated some.

Serve on top of whole wheat linguini, or the pasta of your choice. A serving size is about one to two tablespoons.

1 cup of garlic scapes cut into 1 inch sections
1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan-reggiano cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste

Place the scapes and the pine nuts into a food processor. Pulse a few times until the scapes are chopped. Slowly add the oil and pulse until well blended., scraping the sides down a couple of times. Add the parmesan-reggiano cheese, salt, and pepper and pulse a few more times. -G.H.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It’s so... well, convenient! An Update on the Salad Garden

In fall of 2011, I posted about starting up a new salad garden. Click here for the post, and here for a 2012 update. Our salad greens were being picked from different garden areas and you had to wander around a lot to get from one to another. My thinking for the new garden was to get all or most of the salad veggies into one place to make it more convenient to go out and pick a salad. Kind of like a supermarket aisle entirely devoted to salad, except ours would have lots more variety and cost a lot less.  

I made the salad garden in the shape of a keyhole; that is, a three sided garden bed with a central pathway. It could be called a horseshoe garden if the pathway were a more rounded shape. The idea of a keyhole garden derives from permaculture. It makes better use of a garden-able area than rows; maximizing plant-growing space while minimizing pathways.

For a salad garden a keyhole seemed like a perfect shape. You can walk into it with your picking basket and pick your salad greens along one side of the path, and wander out while doing the same along the other side. This little trip should theoretically fill your basket with lettuces, greens, green onions and whatever else is growing at the time for your daily salad.   

Before making the garden, I had visualized it, mentally walking in and picking. I do this with all of my new garden areas. Visualizing, for me is a lot easier than drawing a plan on paper; a little map showing the shape of the garden bed and where to put each of the plants. A paper plan almost never pans out in reality. There are always changes. Visualizing lets me rethink things on the fly, and is a system that works. It’s only afterwards that I draw a diagram of what I did. See our earlier post on keeping a notebook. The notebook helps to keep track of what was planted and where.
The Salad Garden as viewed from the back

The salad garden that I visualized, and then shoveled and raked into existence is working very well. It’s pretty much like I had imagined it. You can walk in and pick chives, lettuce, and arugula along one side. At the far end, yank out a perennial onion and snatch some lovage leaves. On your way out, snip some pieces of upland cress, nab some nasturtium leaves and, if you like, pull up a singular clove of wild garlic. There’s also Giant Red Mustard (great stuff!), and some self-seeded cilantro is starting up. 

So many flavors all in one place!. We gather a salad every day, and this garden makes it easy and a real pleasure. It is functional, handy, and convenient. We do love a good salad, and now it’s so easy to pick! -jmm

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Organic Manure

We had a truckload of organic manure delivered the other day. Several years ago we started buying organic beef from farmer Mike whose farm is a few towns over in Lyman, Maine. Farmer Mike pastures his cows in summer and feeds them organically in winter. He has recently acquired a dump truck so that he can deliver loads of valuable cattle by products. A large pile of this precious stuff now resides at the top of our driveway.

Earlier we had gotten manure from a non-organic farmer, and we've noticed a big difference between this manure and that from farmer Mike. The veggies have become more productive, the lilacs have more flowers, and all of the perennials look better than they ever have before. We’ve written about the challenges of converting forest land into garden-able soil, and it turns out that using organic manure might be just the trick.

Because we always want to know more about things, I googled “organic manure.” Some good info was found at the Organic Trade Association site. We were already aware that in its current form, fresh manure is too strong to use on plants, and could kill them. The Trade Association let us know why: raw manure contains soluble nitrogen in the form of ammonium. This is the wrong form of nitrogen, and the manure also contains the wrong form of bacteria for gardening use. 
The ever-helpful Murphy checks out the manure

Organic standards for raw manure, according to the Organic Trade Association, call for allowing it to age for 120 days before applying it to soil where plants for human consumption are in direct contact with the soil. For veggies not in direct contact with soil, the waiting period is 90 days. Composting the manure is even better. 

We’ve posted about compost earlier, click here for the post. Composting occurs through a mixture of brown and green materials. Raw manure is green, and high in nitrogen. To create a maximum balance, it needs to be mixed with brown materials like leaves or straw. These contain carbon. The carbon and nitrogen combination make a potent elixir for garden productivity. E. coli, salmonella and other pathogens can exist in manure. Composting creates temperatures that kill most pathogens. 

Our project right now is to make compost piles out of the manure. We’re making layered stacks alternating leaves that were raked up last fall with wheelbarrow loads of the raw manure. It’s a big pile of manure, so when we get bored of making compost piles, we’ll leave the rest to age. The compost will be used later in summer to side dress plants, and the aging manure will be spread on the garden beds after the plants have been harvested in the fall. -G.H.