Gardening

Nasturtiums

orange nasturtium blossoms and green leaves
Our 2013 Nasturtiums

Easy to grow, nasturtiums provide vibrant color all summer with the added treat of edible leaves and blossoms which bring culinary diversity to simple salads.  They have been a staple in our vegetable garden for years plus they are beneficial companion plants for our raised-bed tomatoes. 

This spring, I was overzealous and planted an entire seed package with a thought to experiment with drying leaves and blooms for winter flavorings.  But, alas, unlike the fertile yield of previous years, the 44 seeds produced only five plants which we are carefully tending with a hope to enjoy the peppery flavor by summer’s end.

Gardening

First Planting

The excitement over my first, post vaccination day trip to St. Paul in April and lunch out with a friend in a restaurant which followed strict (and therefore reassuring) COVID protocols, slipped into what can only be dubbed COVID malaise.  While our neighbors have been in their yard for weeks, adding raised beds and planting, I can only claim a minimalist effort having helped Richard turn over the six, 4×4 foot vegetable squares, sans seeds or seedlings.   While the chilly temps and night time frost advisories offered the cover of an excuse, I simply lacked my annual dose of springtime, get-in-the-dirt time enthusiasm.

But then, Michelle inspired me.  During last night’s A Late Show with Stephen Colbert, our former First Lady offered her heartfelt comments about coping with pandemic anxieties.  I took her words to heart: “… push beyond … just the doing gets you out of the funk.”  After stops at two green houses for healthy plants and an assortment of vegetable seeds, we spent the afternoon planting.  Today’s in the ground tally of various varieties includes: 

4 tomato plants and 3 basil plants in square foot garden
Tender tomato & basil plants
  • Cucumber – 6
  • Tomato – 5
  • Basil – 5
  • Pepper – 4
  • Zucchini – 2
  • Kale – 1

Tomorrow’s goal (assuming the rain holds off):  Potatoes, beets, lettuce, radishes, beans, nasturtiums, and a flavorful collection of potted herbs:  more basil, plus dill, leeks, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Michelle was right – “just the doing” was the prescription I needed.

Gardening

Water – Splash and flowing

Our small Kutzky Park garden is actually several distinct patches.  Six, 4-foot square raised beds for vegetables, four fenced blueberry bushes that yielded 25 cups of succulent summer fruit that we greedily consumed only sharing two berries with our neighbor, a rain garden that replaced an old tarmac driveway and an assortment of annuals and perennials for cutting with a small solar fountain at the center.  It is not a hardship to sit on our screened porch, especially this pandemic summer and listen to the solar fountain gently splashing while often catching sight of a brilliant goldfinch perched on the fountain’s edge.

One of this summer’s home improvement projects was the refurbishing the rain garden.  Our initial attempt to direct roof runoff worked well but a decade of freezing and thawing resulted in too much water flowing into the storm drain.  Now, with new river rock spillways leading from downspouts to a catch basin, we once again capture the rainwater from the east side of our house and, coincidently, the west side our neighbor’s roof.  Just in time for this week’s cool temperatures and rainy days.  Autumn has arrived.

Baking · Gardening

Last of the season

The old wives’ tale declared rhubarb poison after the 4th of July although how a vegetable could or would negatively alter its chemical structure to coincide with a US holiday is a horticultural mystery.  In reality and referencing a much more reliable source, the University of Minnesota Agricultural Service, it is best to harvest this vegetable from early spring through the end of June allowing the remainder of the summer growing season to replenish the energy needed to winter over in our harsh northern clime.  So while Mom’s rhubarb patch is still tempting me with its verdant leaves, it is best left to rest.  Making this my last Rhubarb Crisp of the season. 

There are as many rhubarb crisp recipes as there are bakers.  This one is tried and true from Mom.  The combination of ingredients and ease makes it Richard’s and my favorite summer dessert especially with a dollop of freshly made Crème Fraîche. 

Always on the lookout for new rhubarb adventures, there have been summers when I have experimented with rhubarb’s versatility – drinking rhubarb daiquiris or grilling with rhubarb barbeque sauce.  May be it is Covid related but for this summer’s baking treats I focused entirely on old favorites:  breads, crisps, muffins, and scones.

While my trusted Joy of Cooking, © 1975, only provides seven recipes, Rhubarb Recipes by complied by Jeanne DeMars, © 1991, and Rhubarb Renaissance by Kim Ode published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, © 2012, as part of Our Northern Plate Series each offer hundreds of baking and cooking options.

Whether you have this wonderful plant growing in your yard or you purchase stalks at your local farmers’ market, explore all the delicious treats rhubarb offers but wait until next summer.

Baking · Gardening

Blueberries – first to last

When we started harvesting blueberries last month, we doubted we would meet the bountiful 24 cups we picked last summer.  But the wonders of the Great Mother never cease to amaze and we have enjoyed 25 cups from our four small bushes.  So delicious have been the muffins, ice cream glazes, and pies (two lemon sour cream and one traditional) with plenty simply nibbled that none were frozen.  While we may regret our greediness in the depth of winter blues, the fresh berries were just too tempting.  Since today’s last picking only yielded enough (0.5 cup) for tomorrow’s Honey Nut Cheerios breakfast, I am repurposing the photo from our first picking.