Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Freddy’s Roast Potatoes




OK, after weeks of watching everyone harvest their garlic scapes and garlic bulbs, I decided I will have to plant garlic this Fall. I figure I will use the squares on the ends of the squash box where I tuck in some onion sets every year. By the time the summer squash get big enough to need the space, the garlic will be harvested.


For those lucky enough to have a pile of newly harvested garlic bulbs, here is a great recipe that uses a lot of garlic. I found it in a book called Dining In Boston (copyrighted in 1980!), a collection of recipes from famous chefs in Boston. This one is from the very famous Lydia Shire, who at the time was chef at the Café Plaza. It is named after her boyfriend, Freddy King, who gave her the recipe. She considers it “the greatest roast potato dish in the world” and so does our family. It would definitely be on my last meal menu.


The skin of the garlic must be completely intact, or the garlic will burn and go bitter. Do not use cloves with skins which are split or cracked. The garlic can be discarded or eaten, The whole roast cloves look very pretty with the potatoes.You would be totally crazy to discard the cloves. Just press on an end and the buttery, roasted clove will slide out of the skin and should be eaten with the potato.

Freddy’s Roast Potatoes

  • 4 Idaho or large Red Bliss potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cloves unpeeled garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water for exactly 10 minutes, then
    drain. This can be done up to 24 hours ahead of time.
  3. Place potatoes in a roasting pan just large enough to accommodate
    them without crowding. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add
    the unpeeled garlic cloves and dot the potatoes with butter.
  4. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until well browned,
    turning the potatoes once or twice to assure even roasting. Serve
    with or without garlic according to taste.


Updated 11 Aug 2013 to work with new design template.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Harvest Monday–25 June 2012

Harvest last week was again boring ol’ greens, but at least the peas are starting to produce. My radishes are a flop and are now bolting with no measurable bulb size. Given all the cool, rainy weather I don’t understand. On the bright side, none are showing signs of cabbage root maggot damage. I should have some white turnips to pull this week.

The escarole is being harvested now. This one went into Italian sausage with escarole and beans for Friday’s dinner.


The mustard Green Wave is looking very good and not showing any flea beetle damage. Mustard is often used as a trap crop for flea beetles, but I want to actually eat it. Maybe it is because the flea beetles have not been very present in the garden this year. I am keeping my eggplant sprayed or under cover and I just have  not seen that many after the initial onslaught. Last year they were early and continuous so you figure this year would be even worse, but so far not.

Green Wave mustard greens

More chard, Bright Lights and Orange Fantasia on the right. Some of this went into a Sunday morning breakfast frittata.

Bright Lights chard and Orange Fantasia chard

Finally, the snow peas are producing. This is Oregon Sugar Pod II and I like it a lot. The sugar snaps are flowering and I probably should get some this week.

Oregon SUgar Pod II snow peas

That’s all that is happening in my garden this week To see what goodies other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tomato Inventory 21 Jun 2012

This will be my first year for tomatoes grown in a SFG bed in the garden. Last year I quit at building 11 boxes and just planted the tomatoes right in the soil. Now I have two nifty new 4x6 boxes filled with Mel’s Mix, with 14 tomatoes (selected to be indeterminate) planted one per square. I also have a trellis system using cords and not netting, so I will see if I remember how train a single stem tomato up a rope.

Most of the tomatoes were put in June 26 so they have been in the ground about three weeks and all are looking great. We are getting some hot, sunny weather now so hopefully that make them even happier. Many have flowers and are setting fruit, particularly the cherries and my Cherokee Purple. Here’s a rundown on what I planted this year.
Sun Gold
Sungold tomatoes

I tried this cherry tomato last year after seeing it around the community garden. It’s a golden colored tomato with a tangy, fruity taste, I liked it a lot, enough to put it on my list this year. Since all I could find was a 4 pack, I decided to plant two because I really did not get enough last year.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Harvest Monday-18 June 2012

The escarole is heading up nicely. This one was harvested to give the others some space and was sautéed in butter and garlic for Monday night’s dinner. Time to tie up the rest to blanch the hearts.


The rest of the harvest continues to be greens, although next week I should have my first snow peas and maybe turnips. This a sampling of the lettuce I have been cutting for several weeks now: Romaine, Red Sails, Red Romaine, and Buttercrunch.


The mustard Green Wave continues to look good and is growing well. I hope it lasts another week or two without bolting. They are talking about temps in the mid 90s on Wednesday and Thursday.


The chard is also doing well, fist year I have had some success with a plant everyone else can grow easily. This is Orange Fantasia and Bright Lights. I am following advice to keep it trimmed and that does seem to be stimulating more rapid growth.


Finally, I had to remove some pac choi because they were going to bolt and were shading my cucumbers.These are Joi Choi.  I got four but gave one to a neighbor. The three below weighed 3 pounds, 6 ounces, but still are no competition for Daphne.


I also lost 4 heads of broccoli which were obscured under row cover and I failed to notice the heads were ready. I’ll try to use them anyway. To see what others all over the world are harvesting from their gardens, head on over to Daphne’s Dandelions

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meyer Lemon

Meyer lemon blossom

I used to have a Persian lime tree that I nurtured for years. It had its occasional bout of spider mites, but otherwise was an attractive, trouble-free house plant. And I actually got real limes from it. It was always tough to decide what to do with each lime, since they were so special. Eventually it got old and wasted away and I let it go. But I always wanted another citrus.

This April while looking for sources of supplies for square foot gardening, I had occasion to visit Bigelow Nurseries in Northborough, MA. In one of their greenhouses they had citrus and I purchased a Meyer lemon on impulse. It is now on the back deck and seems to be doing great. despite the days of rain and colder weather. As you can see, it is flowering like crazy now,even though it already has several fruit of varying sizes.

Meyer lemon tree in bloom

It is still in the tub from the nursery but I have purchased a nice ceramic pot for it. I am uncertain when I will move it to the new pot. I have been too busy with garden startup chores to think about it. I am also planning to use a special soilless mix and am trying to assemble the ingredients.

Apparently citrus do not like their feet wet, so you have to use a soil mix that drains very well and be careful to let it dry out between watering. In addition, they are long lived plants and the conventional potting mixes deteriorate over time, requiring frequent repotting. By using a soilless mix that drains quickly and doesn’t degrade, you can improve the health of the plant and minimize repotting.

The trick is to use a mix of granules of a uniform size that allow lots of air space throughout the pot. This will ensure quick drainage and maximize oxygen to the roots. The mix I am going to use is called “Al’s gritty mix” and is one part granite chicken grit, one part fir or pine bark, and one part Turface. The Turface is a fired clay pellet that is used for baseball infields to improve drainage and is a little hard to find. I’m still trying to find a source. I may have to substitute NAPA Floor-Dry, a calcined diatomaceous earth product used to absorb oil on garage floors.

It is a little fussy to prepare the mix since you have to sieve the ingredients to ensure uniform size and eliminate any fines that could plug up the mix and inhibit drainage. So I have to acquire a set of bonsai sieves. If you want to read more about growing citrus in soil-less mix the GardenWeb citrus and container gardening forums are a good place to look. To zero in on articles on the mix itself, try a web search for “Al’s gritty mix”.

UPDATE: The little tree is now in full bloom with multiple flowers open at once. and more to go. Meanwhile it has set 9 fruit of varying sizes, including the three large ones you can see at the top. I assume a lot of these will drop, but it is still impressive. I am wondering if I should actually remove some until the plant is better developed. Hmmm, off to research that.

Meyer lemon with fruit and blossoms

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lamb Patties with Mustard-Wine Sauce

Lamb patties with braised escarole

One of the family’s favorite meals is lamb patties with a mustard-wine sauce. It is fast and simple to make but very tasty. We usually serve it with braised escarole and potatoes. Since I am trying to eliminate carbs in my diet, I don’t use the potato anymore. I did include the potatoes in the recipe for folks with better glucose tolerance than me. It does make it a complete meal. Both recipes are from the March 1982 issue of Cuisine magazine and we have been making it for that many years. This photo will not win me a job as a food photographer.

Lamb Patties with Mustard-Wine Sauce

•    1-1 ½ lbs ground lamb
•    ¼ tsp. salt
•    2 T Olive oil
•    2 T minced shallots
•    1/3 c dry red wine
•    1/3 c beef stock ( or use Bovril or Herb Ox beef stock concentrate diluted with water)
•    2 tsp. Dijon mustard
•    1 T butter

1.    Divide meat and shape into 4 patties each 1 ½ in thick. Keep at room temperature.
2.    Heat oil in skillet. Fry patties until red juices appear on top surface (about 12 min.). Turn patties and fry about 8 min more.
3.    Remove patties and keep warm. Drain off fat, leaving about 1 T in pan.
4.    Add shallots to pan and cook 2 min. Add wine, broth and mustard to pan, stirring to dissolve any brown bits. Bring to simmer, reduce by half. Remove from heat, stir in butter.
5.    Serve over lamb patties on warm plates, with sautéed escarole and potatoes.
The following recipe was my first experience with escarole. My dad used to grow endive, a related plant, which we used in salads with a hot bacon dressing. Escarole seemed more like a lettuce but tough and a little bitter. But just braise it with butter and garlic and it softens and sweetens and makes a great side dish. Mash in a few boiled potatoes and it becomes a substantial dish.

Escarole with Potatoes

•    4 medium potatoes (about 1 ¼ lbs.)
•    1 tsp. salt
•    5 T butter
•    1 T diced onion
•    1 clove garlic, crushed
•    ½ head escarole, washed, drained and torn into 2” pieces

1.    Boil whole potatoes and ½ tsp. salt about 30 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside
2.    In a large skillet, heat the butter.  When foam in pan subsides, add onion and the garlic clove and cook until tender.
3.    Add escarole to pan, cover and turn down heat to low. Cook until escarole is tender. Uncover and remove the garlic clove.
4.    Remove peel from cooked potatoes, cut into chunks and add to skillet. Mash potatoes and escarole together with the back of a form. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Squash Vine Borers

Squash vine borers (SVB) are larvae of the SVB moth that bore into the stems of cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, melons) and work their way up the stem. You can tell you have borers when your plant suddenly wilts. Check the stem about an inch and a half up from the ground and you will see a small hole with sawdust around it where the borer entered.

Once the borer is in the squash, the plant is at great risk. If you catch it early enough, you can slit the stem with a razor knife from the entrance hole up to where the borer is and destroy the borer with the knife blade or a wire. Then bury the slit stem under soil to keep it covered. This may or not be successful, but if you do nothing, the plant will die. If the plant can’t be saved, pull it and destroy it. You can replant squash in early July after the SVB threat is over.

The best method is to prevent the SVB from laying eggs near your squash, or provide a physical or biological barrier. If you can cover your plants with floating row cover, that keeps the moths from laying eggs near or on the plant. It also wards off squash bugs. But the cover has to be removed when the plant starts flowering so pollinators can get to the flowers.Last year I kept my squash covered, even hand pollinating them for a while.. This year with varieties like Costata Romanesco, which grow very large, I am not sure if I will be able to keep them covered for long enough, so I am interested in other possible prevention techniques.

The SVB moth does not look like a moth but more like a wasp or bug. It emerges from a cocoon in the soil the end of June or beginning of July (but remember we are way ahead of average on degree days because of the mild winter and spring). These moths fly during the day and are very good fliers, more like a wasp. They stand out because of their coloring so keep a lookout for them.

Squash vine borer moths

The moth lays single brown eggs on the stems of the cucurbit. When they hatch, the larvae tunnels into the vine about an inch or inch and a half off the ground. The borer itself is a big, fat, ugly thing, shown here in this cross-section. These pictures are courtesy of the University of Minnesota Extension (see http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1209.html for their advice on SVB management).

Squash vine borer maggot

Here is an interesting video that suggests using cardboard tubes to prevent the borers from physically reaching the stem and boring into the plant.

Other suggestions are to wrap aluminum foil around the stems at the soil level and several inches up. Another, more elaborate technique is to inject the squash stems with a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) solution, inoculating the insides of the stems with Bt, which will kill the borers when they try to enter the stem. Does anyone have experience with these prevention methods? I am curious to know if they really work.

This was originally posted on the Bolton Community Garden Blog and is re-posted here because I thought the information might be useful.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvest Monday-11 June 2011

I have not been posting harvests this spring because they don’t seem that interesting. I got one cutting of collards and bags of kale from plants that overwintered in the garden. I also got a few small cuttings from the salad bed, but now that bed is growing exuberantly with all the cool, rainy weather.

Below is a basket of chard (Orange Fantasia and Bright Lights). On the right is my first cutting of mustard greens. I pulled my first radish to see how they were doing. Turned out to be pithy and hollow but at least no maggots. I never have luck with radishes and stopped growing them because of the cabbage fly maggot. These greens became Sunday night’s supper: braised chard and stir-fry beef on mustard greens.

Chard and mustard greens

Sunday’s harvest of salad greens. The salad bed really likes the weather so I am getting a cutting like this every other day.

Assorted salad greens

This is kale from the Beedy’s Camden kale plants that over-wintered. It is a great kale and I realize now probably my favorite. I have planted Winterbor in the past but could not find plants last year. All the garden centers had was the red russian and lacinato types which I am not interested in growing. I bought the Beedy’s Camden plants from a neighbor in town who was selling surplus seedlings. I only needed four, so I gave the other two to a neighbor in the community garden. Three of my four plants survived the winter and both of hers. We are still cutting bags of tender, juicy leaves now well into June. What a great kale, discovered by Beedy Parker growing in her garden in Camden, Maine.

Beedy's Camden kale

This is what I harvested from my garden last week. Now head on over to Daphne’s Dandelions and see what others are harvesting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Garden Update 20 June 2012

It has been two weeks since my heavy planting effort on May 26-27, the Memorial Day weekend. All of the transplants survived and are actually thriving, despite the cool, cloudy, rainy weather. I did not have to worry about the keeping the seeded beds moist. All the rain took care of that for me. I did worry about the bean seeds, which prefer a warm, fairly dry soil of at least 60° F (16° C). That planting weekend was warm and sunny but early this week we had overnight lows in the forties. Nonetheless, everything has now germinated and is doing well.

Speaking of beans, the pole bean Fortex was one of the first to come up. They are going to be trained up a trellis on the left. The rest of the box has my kale and collards transplants along with a few remaining kale plants from last year. I have been planning to remove the old plants, so I shear them of leaves and come back to find them looking like this. I’m getting buried in kale. I also need to get them doused with bT and covered with row cover to ward off the cabbage moths floating around the garden now.

Fortex pole bean young plants

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seed Starting Woes

The past few years, I have preferred to buy transplants from local garden centers. I figured, they are the pros, let them decide when to start seeds. I will just select the healthiest, best-grown transplants for my garden. Unfortunately, the garden centers also get to choose which varieties to plant or purchase. Last year, there were a number of varieties I wanted to plant but I could not find the transplants.

So this year I chose to buy seeds and start some seedlings myself. I am not new to this. I have started seeds in the past. I have the heat mat, the domed trays, and the grow lamp on a timer with a fresh full-spectrum bulb. I purchased seeds and made a planting schedule, So how did things work out?

Actually, not so good. Usually the two problems I have with seed starting is plants becoming leggy from inadequate light and plants becoming overgrown before I can transplant them. This year, the problem was a general unhealthiness and failure to thrive, true across all seedlings I planted. So what is different this year?

In the past, I have used traditional soil-less mixes based on peat moss and perlite. This year I used a starter mix based on coconut coir placed in peat strips, and some coir pellets for the cool weather items like lettuce, chard and escarole/endive placed in a small cell tray. The cool weather items would quickly go into the garden while the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants would grow on under the lamp.

Most seeds germinated fairly fast on the heat mat with a dome covering the tray. I had problems with a few of them. The Striped Roman tomatoes all damped off and were reseeded. I only got one cilantro to germinate even after re-seeding the strip twice. The major problem was that after germinating, all of the plants seemed to struggle, showing very little growth. Initially green, they started to lose color. Fertilizing with fish emulsion and then with an inorganic soluble fertilizer did not help. The seedlings were stunted and failed to add new sets of leaves. I wondered about the coir in the planting mix, the only change from past practice. Then I came across this research paper which pretty much describes what was happening to my seedlings.
I do not have a lot of documentation of what happened because I did not set out to fail, nor was I interested in running an experiment. I was just trying to start transplants for my garden. I can show you a few examples of what happened.

Here is a Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato. The plant on the left was transplanted into my SFG on Saturday, May 26. The plant on the right is a sibling still sitting in its coir-infested peat pot. This picture was taken on May 31, five days after transplant. You can see the transplanted tomato is greener and is stretching out, actually starting to grow. Both looked similar on transplant day, I simply picked the best of the sorry lot. If you look at my planting schedule, you will see that seeds were planted March 24 and they germinated on March 31. The transplant in the peat pot you see below has been growing for TWO MONTHS and looks like this. It has been watered, fertilized and given adequate light.

Matt's Wild Cerry seedlings stunted by coir

The sickly looking transplants below are Escarole Natacha. The plants just above them looked similar when they were transplanted on April 21, a month before, but are now green and growing lushly in Mel’s Mix. I started a second set of transplants for succession planting, which are the sickly transplants below. I am hoping they will now recover and start growing as well.

Escarole seedling started in coir

Below are transplants of Endive Dubuisson, and above them the same transplanted on April 21 along with the escarole.

Endive seedling started in coir

Finally, in the middle row here are transplants of Broccoli Di Ciccio, germinated on March 22. They still are tiny plants but show less discoloration than other seedlings. The study I cited seemed to indicate that broccoli was more tolerant of coir than other species.But still, they are stunted in growth so much that I went out and bought replacement transplants, I did plant two of these several weeks ago but they are essentially not growing. I think I would do better now just direct seeding these. Come on, these plants germinated on March 22 and this picture was taken June 1.

Broccoli seedling started in coir

I can tell you now I will never buy a coir-based planting mix again. The stuff I have is going into the compost bin where its negative properties will hopefully be diluted..I do use coir as bedding material in my worm bin and that has worked OK. But as a planting medium, based on my involuntary experience, coir is detrimental to plant growth and should not be used

Friday, June 1, 2012

Things Are Sprouting

Last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, was my big planting weekend. On Saturday I set out most of my tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants. I also seeded most of .the warm weather crops (beans, cukes, and squash), figuring I can always re-seed if we get a frost or cold spell and things don’t germinate.
Today, six days later, most of the seeds (except my Diva cucumbers) are emerging. That’s pretty good considering some of our nights were in the sixties.Meanwhile, the transplants are all looking great.

These sprouts are cucumber Summer Dance.This cucumber is a Japanese burpless type and is supposed to produce long, slim, dark green fruits. It has all female flowers so yield is high. I hope I get a few before disease wipes out all my cukes again. The joi choi there may have to learn to be less exuberant and stay in its square.

Summer Dance cukes sprouting

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